Directed by actor Daniel Gillies, Episode 410 of The CW series The Originals, entitled “Phantomesque,” the danger is ramping up to a seemingly insurmountable level, as Rebekah (Claire Holt) and Kol (Nathaniel Buzolic) return at the request of Klaus (Joseph Morgan), so that their family can stand even stronger against the devastating force that is The Hollow. With Elijah (Gillies) currently unable to help, Freya (Riley Voelkel) is working with Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin), and Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) is trying to figure out a plan of his own.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Daniel Gillies talked about the difference between directing a movie (he wrote, directed and starred in the feature film Broken Kingdom) versus an episode of television, the challenge of telling your co-stars what to do, being directed by his co-stars in return (Joseph Morgan and Charles Michael Davis have also helmed episodes), and how he hopes to direct again next year, along with the bittersweet departure of showrunner Michael Narducci (for whom Julie Plec will be taking over in Season 5), having a conclusive element to the story for each season, wanting to always be challenged, as an actor, and his character’s true motivations.
Collider: First of all, congrats on the Season 5 pick-up for the show!
DANIEL GILLIES: Thank you!
When you first signed on to do a spin-off series for a character that you started off with on The Vampire Diaries, could you ever have imagined that you’d meet the nearly impossible fete of five seasons, which so few shows get to do anymore?
GILLIES: No, I didn’t. I didn’t think that, at all. In fact, it just feels like a moment ago that I was sitting with Peter Roth in his office over at Warner Bros., discussing the potential of this show. It honestly feels like a year and a half ago, and not five years ago. It’s crazy to me. I can’t even get my head around it. And somewhere in the middle of all of that, I knocked up my wife twice, which seems like an excellent idea, in the middle of mayhem.
How did you come to be directing this episode? Do you just get whichever episode they decide to give you, or do you get any say, at all?
GILLIES: It was an Elijah episode. I actually think that the mentality – or at least what I’m choosing to believe – is that they designated me for this episode because I know Elijah so intimately and they felt that I could guide the character through the terrain that they wanted to explore. It is unlike any other episode, both on the page and on the screen. I did not choose the episode. They chose it for me. I had thrown my hat into the ring. I had been asking to direct. Having directed my own feature film, I was eager to explore directing in television and playing with all of their toys. Also, because Charles Michael Davis, Joseph Morgan and myself are so intimate with this mythology, it’s directing with training wheels, in a sense, because you don’t have to go and subject yourself to the baptism by fire of another environment, another whole show, and another mythology. So, we’re very blessed, in that sense.
Is the celebration of another season a bit bittersweet, knowing that Michael Narducci will be departing the show?
GILLIES: Michael had a lot to do with the success of this episode, and with the show, in general. I’m nervous now that he’s going, to be frank. Of course, we’ll be in the capable hands of Julie [Plec], and with her at the helm, I’m confident. It’s just that he was our dad. A number of people have left, so it’s going to be an interesting and very new ensemble, in terms of our crew and production team. We all thought the ship had sailed. Everybody was surprised, but we’re going to make it the best season of the show it’s ever been.
Does the end of this season feel like there’s a conclusion to things then?
GILLIES: I feel like with every season of The Vampire Diaries or The Originals, there’s been a conclusive element. That’s the writers and creators protecting themselves, and so they should. I would, too. If it was my show, I would totally protect myself because you never know. This business is so unimaginably capricious. You never know when you’re going to be hauled off the air. Sometimes ratings don’t even matter. Sometimes a show can be performing rather well, and it just gets hauled off. If it’s a show that’s doing okay, it can be shocking to see it just get removed from its place. You never know. So, the end of every season ought to feel like a place where you can depart. It’s only fair to the people that love the show to leave it that way.
Having already directed a film, do you have a style that you approach directing with for every project, or is this different because the TV schedule is so different?
GILLIES: It’s a different type of schedule, in that I had less time when I made my film. It was way easier to do this. Making an independent film for $450,000, as opposed to making an episode of television for a couple million dollars, there’s no comparison. I also directed half of my film in Spanish, and it was in a third world environment where my crew was getting mugged. It was terrifying, what I did before. This was nothing compared to that. I feel like I had my baptism by fire. Coming to this environment that I knew so well and had been performing within was a lot safer for me. But, my approach was very similar. I like to concentrate on the performances because it’s the thing that most television directors just don’t care about. It’s the other reason why I really was eager to direct. I just get so sick of hearing about shots. Anyone can make a fucking shot. It’s so tedious. Am I as skilled as certain directors, with the manipulation of the camera and the way it tells a story before an actor even opens their mouth? No, I’m not. I’m 30 or 40 episodes away from having the requisite skills to be able to go toe-to-toe with some of those directors. There is a beautiful simplicity and confidence in certain directorial styles. I went in and played to my strengths, which is that I like to focus on the scene itself and discuss the scene with the actors. Not all of them love to be challenged, every single take, but that’s the way I direct. I was grateful for it, when I got into the cutting room, because I could see the that show was different than it had ever been, in certain cases.