Executive producer Kevin Williamson clearly gets as excited and passionate about his CW drama series The Vampire Diaries as the fans of the show do. Currently in its third season, the show is exciting and dangerous, in a way that most shows strive for but never quite live up to, leaving characters in serious peril, on a weekly basis.
While at the TCA Winter Press Tour, Williamson talked about why it was finally the right time to have that Damon-Elena kiss that many have been anxiously waiting for, how Stefan is now a true tragic hero, knowing the right time to kill off a character, embracing the melodrama in a way that makes it epic, and what he’s excited about for the remainder of the season. He also talked about his latest pilot, which he’s been looking to make for 15 years, about a serial killer who escapes from prison and has a cult of killers helping him, while an FBI agent is working to bring them down. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: Why did you finally decide that it was the right time to have Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Elena (Nina Dobrev) share a real kiss?
Kevin Williamson: Well, we would have pulled it off sooner, if we could have. We felt like it was time. We just had to wait for the audience to truly respond to the kiss. We have our Elena fans, who have been craving it, but those fans would also reject it, out of hand. There are people who want Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Elena forever, and they were going to reject the kiss, so it had to be an honest thing for Elena to do. We had to make it real for her, and we had to tiptoe towards it. If we hadn’t, you would have hated Elena. Stefan had to take that turn, so she turned her attention to the one person who’s showing her the love, and she’s tempted by him. Who wouldn’t be? He’s a vampire. He has a power over her, and he’s being really good to her. And, he’s being tormented by it, too. In a weird way, he’s never going to let anything bad happen to his brother.
It’s a great love story because everybody loves everybody. No matter how much they hate each other, everybody loves everybody. It’s a perfect three-way, if they would all just come together. If they could all get along, it would be a hot time. Look, we’re in our third season. I don’t think we have a lot of new audience members, at this point. It is our fans. They’re the ones that are keeping us on the air. They’re our bread and butter. Even beyond that, we just want to be honest to the characters. You can’t just have Elena jump into bed with someone because that’s what the writer wants them to do. You have to earn it, and the character has to do it. It took us this long to earn it. From the second episode of this show, when she walked into the Salvatore mansion and she met Damon for the first time and he kissed her hand, that’s when it began. It just took us two and a half years to say, “I think they can kiss. We’ve earned it.”
Williamson: It’s hard because the sad part about it is that Stefan is such a man of character. He has such a good soul. And now, he’s taken this horrible turn, so no matter what he does, at this point, he’s never going to be able to forgive himself. So, if he can’t forgive himself, how can he ever expect forgiveness from a woman that loves him? He’s never going to be lovable again, in his eyes. He has such a journey. It’s so sad to watch because now he’s in tragic mode. He’s a true tragic hero, in the greatest sense, even more so now then Damon ever was. It is a fine line to walk, and I hope we’re playing it with just enough tragedy that the audience can hold onto him and nurture him, even though he does go down that terrible road. It is a tragic fall. I’m hoping it’s one of those situations where the audience will love him until he can learn to love himself again. That’s what’s happening. We love Damon and, every week, Damon was killing someone new. When he killed Lexi, I hated him after that, and it was my idea. I knew it would turn the audience against him.
When do you know it’s the right time to kill off one of your characters?
Williamson: Well, Lexi was a one-off. We brought her in for that birthday episode, and her purpose was to be a good friend and make Elena jealous, but ultimately impart on Elena that love is worth it. Epic love is worth epic risk, and that’s what she said to her. At the same time, she served a great purpose for Damon to throw the Council off his tracks. The good storylines start churning, and I just want to be surprising, all the time. I think, “If I do this, how would I earn it?,” and I have to backtrack and figure out the storyline and figure out how to do it. Luckily, it’s all in Julie Plec’s hands right now. How’s that for passing the buck? I’ve been working on my Fox pilot, so I haven’t been able to play as much as I’ve wanted to. Julie and I still talk at 4 o’clock in the morning. I go, “Who are you going to kill?” I’ve let her decide this year ‘cause I killed enough people. She called me up and said, “I think we’re not going to kill anybody,” and I said, “Oh, no. No, you’ve got to kill somebody.”
Williamson: I’ve been wanting to do that for 15 years. Ever since the first Scream movie, I’ve wanted to do this show.
What the premise of the show?
Williamson: It’s about a serial killer who escapes from prison. He was a college professor, and he killed all of these girls on a college campus, a la The Gainesville Murders, which was the impetus for Scream 1. He escapes from prison, and you realize that he had internet access, the whole last four years of prison, and he made a few friends while he was there. He escapes and you suddenly realize that there’s a cult of killers out there, who have been working with him and helping him kill. It’s like 24, but instead of terrorists, it’s serial killers. You’ll be routing for the FBI agent who is going to bring him down. It’s very emotional. It’s this huge, big, hybrid show like The Vampire Diaries, where it relies on the twists and turns, and the tears, where you just get so invested in the characters and you’re like, “No, not that one,” and then they die. It’s one of those shows.
Do you have a cast in place yet?
Williamson: No, not yet. It just got picked up. I’m very excited, but now I’ve got to make the show. Julie is helping me. We made a deal that, if I help her with the vampires, she’ll help me with the serial killers. We’re continuing to work together. It’s very sad and pathetic, but she lives four doors down from me now. We actually bought houses in the same neighborhood because we could not be apart from each other for too long. It’s really pathetic.
Do you ever get to a point where you wish these ideas would just stop coming, so that you don’t have to balance so many shows at once?
Williamson: Hey, I’m happy someone is hiring me. It could be all over. I’m so lucky to have a job. I’m so lucky that The Vampire Diaries happened. I’m so lucky that Warner Bros. pays me money. You have no idea. I should be on a fishing boat with my dad.
Do you see The Vampire Diaries as a nighttime soap?
Williamson: I’d be really lofty, if I said it’s not melodrama ‘cause it is. It is epic melodrama, and we now it and have a good time with it. We try to lofty it up and make it this huge, big, epic tale of life and death, every week. I feel the same way with the new show. I like emotional horror. I don’t like horror movies. I hate them. But, if you can make emotional horror movies, I’m in. If I can care and root for the main character, then I’m in. I don’t like stupid stories about people I don’t know. There is a slew of low-budget horror films out there, where you just don’t give a crap. But, once in awhile, something will come along, like Halloween in 1978, and there’s this one girl, Jamie Lee Curtis, who’s that young, sweet girl, in the midst of all of this, and you just root for her and feel for her, all the way through the chase scene. You have to figure out how to do that and care for the characters.
Williamson: I’m really excited about what’s shaking down between Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and Stefan and Damon, and that triangle, and how that climaxes at the end of the scene, with the hybrid of it all. And, there’s going to be more exposure to the Original family. And, Alaric (Matthew Davis) is going to be a lot of fun, in the second half of the season. He’s been sidelined with his grief for Jenna (Sara Canning), and we’ve been dealing with Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) and his dead ghost ex-girlfriends. Now, Alaric is ready to take a front-and-center role again and really get involved. He’s got a good storyline coming up, so I’m excited about that.
What storyline made you most concerned, but ended up being the most exciting for you to do?
Williamson: I didn’t want to kill Jenna. I did not want to kill Aunt Jenna. I still miss her. And Anna (Malese Jow), but I got to bring her back for a little while. But, Anna was probably the hardest call to make because I knew how much I loved her, and I was on Twitter every day then, so I knew the fans loved her. Part of me was like, “Kill her! The fans will get so excited by it, even if it’s not in a good way. They’ll get aggro.” I still hated doing it, though. Julie and I will sit in a room and talk the scenes out, and if she’s crying or I’m crying, we know we’re on to something.