‘The Vampire Diaries’: Julie Plec on the Series Finale and Saying Goodbye

     March 10, 2017

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The CW series The Vampire Diaries is ending its epic eight season run with an episode appropriately entitled “I Was Feeling Epic.” With executive producer Julie Plec at the helm, directing a script written by Plec and Kevin Williamson, the fate of Mystic Falls is at stake, as Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) fight their greatest enemy for one last battle. And before it’s all over, we know that Elena (Nina Dobrev) will be back, a major character will die, our hearts will likely be ripped out, and we’ll also be left with some sense of hope for whoever is left standing.

During this interview with Collider, show co-creator Julie Plec talked about the beauty and hell of ending a TV show after so many seasons, how brutal it was to say goodbye to each actor, when they knew exactly how each person’s story was going to end, Elena’s reunion with Damon, what would have happened if Nina Dobrev wouldn’t have been able to return, what being human will mean for Stefan’s future, how The Originals and Klaroline will play into things, and what she will take from the experience of making The Vampire Diaries for eight seasons. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.

Collider: I am both very happy to be talking to you about the series finale of The Vampire Diaries and very sad that it’s the last episode, ever!

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Image via The CW

JULIE PLEC: I know! That’s the beauty and the hell of ending a show, after all this time. On one hand, you get to embrace the freedom of moving forward. On the other hand, you really do have to say goodbye, a million times.

After eight seasons, which was more difficult, your final moment on set, or saying goodbye to each actor, as they wrapped their final moments on set?

PLEC: Saying goodbye to each actor was brutal because I wanted to make sure I honored them each, individually. Of course, it’s so emotional standing around in front of 150 people, crying. And there were a lot of actors to say goodbye to, so there were a lot of tears and a lot of hugs. My final moment was the whole crew’s final moment because it was the final moment for the whole show, and that was pretty beautiful. I call it an epic kumbayah moment.

It sounds like all of your cast cried when they read the finale script. Did you cry, at any point during the writing or shooting of the last episode?

PLEC: I didn’t stop crying for about two and a half months. I finally finished crying about two days after we wrapped. We had a couple of goodbye dinners that were pretty epic. After that, I don’t think I’ve shed another tear. No, that’s a lie. I then cried through the entire week-long editing process. Now, I’m done.

Obviously, you didn’t have all of the twists and character deaths planned out, from day one. So, when did you know how the series would be ending for the characters that are left in the finale, and is there anyone that you did know the ending of, from day one?

PLEC: There is nobody that we knew the ending of, from day one. Over the years, we accumulated wishes and desires for each character, but the best thing you can do, as writers, is shake that up, at any given moment, anyway, to keep yourself and your mind fresh. We didn’t land on the way it was really going to end, for each person, until about four days before we shot it.

What were the biggest challenges in doing everything you wanted to do with this last episode, and wrapping up everyone’s storylines in the bow you wanted to tied them up with?

PLEC: It’s the same challenge you always have, which is time. Time to write it, time to shoot it, time to edit it right, time to get the visual effects right, and then, ultimately, too much time in the cut that you have to then cut out ‘cause there wasn’t a two-hour finale at our disposal. We had to hit our time limit and cut out a lot of pieces of the episode. The good news is that I was able to get probably 99% of the scenes in the episode, so the cuts had to come from within scenes more than cutting elements of the plot, which I was really happy about.

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Image via The CW

We know that Damon and Elena will be together, in some way, in the finale. Was it especially important to you, if Nina Dobrev was going to return, for that reunion to happen?

PLEC: Yes! We wouldn’t have put Elena in a Sleeping Beauty spell, if we didn’t have confidence that we could bring her back, at the end, and give closure to that relationship and to her character. Had it gone the other way and disaster had happened, it would have been a really painful lesson to learn about the choices you make, two years prior, and broken promises. I would have felt like I’d broken a terrible promise to the fans, if Elena hadn’t been able to return.

If Nina had never left the show, do you think Elena would have ended up the same way does now, or do you think her path would have been very different?

PLEC: I think the minute she left the show cemented her future for us, as writers. Had she not left the show, she would have continued to have been an evolving organism, just like everybody else on the show, so there’s no telling where she would have ended or who she would have ended with.

You’ve said that you had a back-up plan, in case Nina wasn’t able to return. Once the show is done, will you let the fans know what that plan would have been?

PLEC: I don’t have to let them know what it would have been ‘cause it sucked! It would have involved a lot of footage from the past and a bright white light.

Whose story will we be more surprised by in the finale – Elena or Katherine?

PLEC: I don’t know that “surprised by” is the right way to describe it. Maybe “satisfied with.” I think both of them get an equally satisfying return to the show. 

We know that there will be a major death in the finale, and this is a show that’s ripped our hearts out, on many occasions over the seasons. Did you just want to leave us feeling all of the feelings, like you’ve done so many times in the past, or was this death just unavoidable?

PLEC: There is a huge rescue mission going on, to try to save Mystic Falls and everyone inside of it. There has to be a martyr in that scenario, if anyone is going to survive. And so, in order to really bring the season to a close, it felt like this death needed to happen. And then, in the context of the series and all of the characters’ journeys, it actually brings this character’s experience full circle, in a way that I think is really valuable to the complete picture of eight years.

After the way that Bonnie was left in the last episode, should we be worried for her?

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Image via The CW

PLEC: Yes, of course! Bonnie knows that if you push magic too far, it can come back to bite you. She hasn’t been practicing magic in quite some time, so there’s definitely a jeopardy for her, as a result of how hard she had to push to get out of that house. Nobody should assume that she’s safe.

One of the biggest surprises this season was Stefan becoming human. In this last episode, will we really get a sense of how that will affect things, moving forward, especially when it comes to Caroline?

PLEC: Yeah. It’s certainly the thing that almost prevented them from getting married, at all, so it is probably going to be the biggest question in their relationship.

You’ve said that fans will “sort of” get Klaroline in the finale, and that the end will tie into The Originals “a tiny, tiny bit.” What exactly do you mean by that? Did you want to make sure to leave that door to New Orleans open, for The Vampire Diaries cast?

PLEC: I definitely wanted to leave that door open. Our timelines didn’t match up, this particular season, but there are elements of the finale that are a little bit timeless, so we could, in fact, cross over, just a tiny bit. Caroline and Klaus, specifically, had a very vivid experience with each other. While they’ve sworn to never see each other again, there’s the never say never of any relationship. That doesn’t mean they’re making any promises about the future, with what I try to deliver, but it certainly, at least, pays respect to that relationship, which was really a fascinating relationship to watch evolve.

This is a show that’s made use of flashbacks and flash-forwards, and we’ve gotten to see various timelines. Will we see some of that in the finale, as well?

PLEC: Yes, you will. You will see some shifts in linear storytelling, in the finale. For me, it is important to not just tell the audience how the story ended today, but to give a glimpse into how other people’s stories might go on, in the future. Seeing little hints of that was important, and Kevin [Williamson] really embraced being able to see these characters, as they move forward with their lives.

Are there any storylines, over the years, that you wished you’d had more time to tell, or characters you wish you hadn’t killed off when you did?

PLEC: I think we regretted killing Grams so early, although it was important to Bonnie. It felt like that was a really powerful relationship that didn’t get to be explored, but then I think we corrected that with things like the Other Side and the moments when Bonnie and her Grams were able to find each other again. Grams remained a mentor and a source of inspiration and a challenge for her, in a way that really weighted that relationship in a way that perhaps it hadn’t had the chance to, before she died in the first season.

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Image via The CW

People always talk to the actors about what they wanted to bring home from the set, once a show is done, but was there anything that you wanted to keep and take home from the set, to commemorate the blood, sweat and tears you put into this show?

PLEC: No. You know what was so funny was that I was asked that, on the last day, and I was just so emotionally spent that I couldn’t even pinpoint one singular object, so I have nothing. I took nothing. Although, something that was really beautiful was that, for Christmas, we’d do secret Santa and two of the writers had the Welcome to Mystic Falls sign from the roadside taken down and had the whole crew and cast sign it. Now, that’s in my office, which was nice.

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