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Kevin Williamson talks about the future of 'The Vampire Diaries' and why high school is a 'horror movie'

Vamp In addition to masterminding the "Scream" trilogy, writer/producer Kevin Williamson is the man responsible for the teen angst-fest "Dawson's Creek," which became the defining show for the WB network in the late '90s. Now he's at the helm of "The Vampire Diaries," thus far the most successful original show to come from the CW since its launch in 2006. Last week, the network surprised no one by officially picking up "Diaries" for nine episodes in addition to the 13 already in the works.

Despite being extremely busy -- not only with the show, but with writing the fourth "Scream" installment (yes, it's happening!) -- Williamson carved out some time to talk to me about what we have to look forward to now that "The Vampire Diaries" is guaranteed a full season. He gave me some hints about what to expect from tonight's special Halloween episode now that bad-girl Vicki has officially turned into a vampire, and filled me in on the not-so-smooth casting process for stars Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder.

First of all, congratulations on the network officially picking up your back nine!

Thank you! It's very exciting. They ordered scripts from us early, so we had some advance warning.

You guys have had a lot of support from the network, coming in with their highest-rated premiere ever. I couldn't go to the mall this summer without seeing a "Vampire Diaries" poster at every turn.

Are you talking about the Century City mall out here in L.A.? I couldn't believe it; it was just wallpapered with "Vampire Diaries" posters. It was a nice change of pace to have so much support. The marketing team did a really incredible job with that campaign, and our numbers were good right out of the gate.

So let's talk about this Halloween episode you guys have coming up. Vicki has just been turned into a vampire, so the big question is, is Vicki going to be a good vampire or a bad vampire?

Well, you know, she's an addict. Everyone's transition is different in our mythology, and it really comes down to some key personality traits that just get magnified. All of her little addictions and quirks get magnified now that she's a vampire. It'll make for a very bipolar personality. In our mythology, when you're turning into a vampire, you're confused. Your addiction to prey and to feed is mixed into your emotions, like love and lust and desire. You always hurt the ones you love the most! So Vicki is most dangerous to people like Jeremy. It's the same way that Stefan sort of flares up around Elena - when they're making out and his eyes get all inflamed - love and lust and desire are triggers.

I can't wait for Matt's reaction to the changes in his sister. Zach Roerig has been doing a fantastic job with that character.

Zach is a guy I've had my eye on for a while. I actually brought him in to the network for the lead in "Hidden Palms," and that role ultimately went to Taylor [Handley]. Zach wasn't right for that role, but when the character of Matt came up I thought of him right away. We've been slowly exploring these characters. Our first priority was to introduce the triangle of Elena, Stefan and Damon, but we'll get further into Matt's head as the season continues.

Vamp2 What about Bonnie? I hear that we're going to learn more about her in the upcoming episodes.

We're going to learn a bit more about Bonnie's family history and her powers. We're going to see what's going on with her grandmother. We've got an episode coming up that will delve into the back story of the entire town, with the witches and the vampires and what they've meant in the history of Mystic Falls. I've always seen "Vampire Diaries" as a sort of modern take on "Dark Shadows." There's so much history there.

One of the things I love about "The Vampire Diaries" is that it takes place in a small town. It makes it a little creepier. Plus it's kind of refreshing to have this small town show, to get out of 90210 and the Upper East Side.

I can't relate to the flashy big city stuff. I was a small town kid, so that's what I know. If you look at any of my projects, it's all small towns. Wasteland took place in New York City, but even then, I was writing about a group of people who came from a small town.

I'm looking forward to Arielle Kebbel's role as an old friend of Stefan's. Is she going to stir things up for Elena and Stefan?

She's going to come in and stir things up in a good way. I don't want to give too much away, but she has a really great character, a really exciting role. We just watched that episode actually. It's very scary, but also an really emotional episode.

The show shoots in Atlanta. Do you get out there much?

I don't. I was out there when we were doing prep, but I'm so busy here in writing and post-production. Julie [Plec] gets out there a bit. We're so lucky because we have Marcos Siega, our supervising producer, and he's out in Atlanta a lot. He directs about every third episode, and he's really responsible for the look of the show and the tone. He's out there making sure that the quality stays up to our standard. We don't have a big budget, but I think we really stand up to other shows with a much larger budget, and that's because of Marcos. Give him a light bulb, and he can make anything look good.

I loved his work on "Lost Girls," the fifth episode. The flashbacks were beautiful.

We're going to have some more flashbacks. Of course we are. We haven't written them yet, but we've got an episode in the planning stages.  One of the stories I'm most looking forward to is the night that Damon and Stefan died. That's one of the biggest moments. I can't wait to tell that story of how they died and their transformations.

Vamp3 How concerned are you guys about the "Twilight" and "True Blood" comparisons? When you're writing, are you really careful about not recycling stories?

Absolutely. We're really aware of it. We don't want to step on any story lines, but at the same time, there are obvious similarities and obvious connections there. For example, vampires don't age. There was a "True Blood" episode this season where Sookie was concerned about that, and of course, it's going to come up for Elena as well. When she's 40, Stefan will still look 17. Things like that are universal in the vampire mythology. We know this isn't a new story, a human woman falling in love with a vampire, so we just do our best to tell the classic stories with our own twist. Ultimately, we're going to go where our story takes us.

As a writer, is there more pressure when you're adapting someone else's work, to take care of the source material?

Yes, there's more pressure. We want to do the books justice. We're going where the story takes us, but at the same time, we're really trying to honor the original books. A novel doesn't really lend itself to a 22- episode season, though, so there are obviously major differences. Our main concern is to honor the tone of the books and the major themes. We want to honor the love story: the romance, the betrayal.

The book's fans are hard to please. For the first few episodes, I got a lot of comments on the blog saying, "No, but Elena is supposed to be blond!"

I know! I just don't understand that. I looked back to the book and tried to figure out the significance of her hair color and... nothing. To be honest, we were looking at blonds when we were casting, because we saw that she was blond in the book. But once we saw Nina, we just couldn't get back to the blond thing. Actually, Nina came in and did an audition that -- well, by her own admission, she blew the audition. She wasn't feeling well, she was sick. But she went back to Canada and she just knew she could do better, so she sent us a videotape, and when we saw that, we knew.

Wasn't that how Katie Holmes got her job too? You like videotapes.

That's true! Katie did send us a tape! It's not just me, though. We all saw that video and loved Nina -- the network, Dawn Ostroff, we all loved her.

What about the rest of the casting? When you were casting for Stefan and Damon you must have seen a ton of people.

You know what, with Damon, as soon as I heard Ian Somerhalder was interested in the part, as far as I was concerned, he had it. He came in and met with us, and I knew he was it. But to be honest, the first time he read for Damon, he didn't really bring it. Everyone said oh, he's definitely got the look, he looks like Damon, but he just didn't bring it when he read. Still, I knew he had it in him. After talking to him, he said that this was really the exact role he'd been looking for. He wanted it so badly, so at that point, for me, it was just about getting him the role, convincing the network to roll the dice with him. Ian was a gamble. We took a gamble on him, and he delivered.

Vamp4 You obviously made the right call. He plays Damon so fearlessly. Is Damon hard to write for? You're kind of walking a careful line with his character: You don't want the viewers to hate him, but he's still a killer.

I love writing for Damon. It's just about staying true to what Damon is, and Damon is a killer. He's driven by this love for Katherine that he's trying to get back, but at the core, Damon is a killer. He's dark, and if anybody thinks he's going to suddenly soften up, they're going to be waiting a long time. He's a true predator and he needs to feed. Could the love of a woman possibly change him a little bit? Is there some humanity there? Maybe. Maybe, someday, but today is not that day. Don't hold your breath for that.

One of my favorite relationships on the show is between Stefan and Damon. It was kind of heartbreaking to hear that they were once best friends when they're so far from that now.

They're brothers. Stefan has said it a few times: "You could've killed me, but I'm still here. I'm still here." To me, Stefan has the more interesting journey here. He's going against his nature. It's his instinct to feed, and he's been fighting that instinct for so long, but you know that at some point, he's going to have to feed on human blood. It's just got to happen! So when that time comes, it's going to be a great story to tell.

"The Vampire Diaries" kind of blends your two areas of expertise. It's like "Dawson's Creek" if they were stuck in a horror movie.

I always said that the teenage years are just one big horror movie. High school is a horror movie.

It's true. When you're a teenager, who you sit with in the cafeteria feels like the end of the world, so throwing some vampires into the mix doesn't even seem like such a crazy stretch.

That's why I write about teenagers. One of the things I learned while I was doing "Wasteland" is that writing about people in their 20s - who cares? It's just a big 'who cares?' Nothing's life or death then. When you're 25, who cares if a love doesn't work out? You will find another one. But when you're 16, it's life and death. As I've discovered, it's that way when you get older too. There's your first love and your last love. Those are the epic moments. Everything else is just in between.

--Carina MacKenzie (follow me on Twitter @cadlymack)

Related Links
The CW orders a full season of 'Vampire Diaries' and more 'Melrose Place' episodes
'The Vampire Diaries' goes back in time
Elena asks the big question

Photo credit: CW

 
Comments () | Archives (46)

I have a secret LOVE for interviews with the writers behind the shows, I think it's really interesting to hear what goes on in their brains before they bring it to us on the show!!

This was an excellent interview, I think the questions you asked were right on point, and it made me excited to watch the new episode tonight. I'm really excited to explore more about the history of the small town and what has all gone down there.

Fantastic interview, Carina!

I'm really looking forward to the flashback in which we see how the boys died (and by really looking forward I mean DYING FOR.)

One thing I am interested in is knowing how the casting process was for Stefan. All three leads are doing such FANTASTIC work, and the Stefan role is so different to the types of roles I've seen Paul play in his career. Kevin touched on the casting process for the other two, but not Stefan, so I'm still hanging out for that ;)

But really, a fantastic interview, and it makes me SO EXCITED for what is coming up!!!

Great questions asked, informative and fun! Overall excellent interview!

interesting that he considers this show an updated Dark Shadows, as i've (happily) noticed many similar plotlines. nice interview, thanks.

I haven't had time to watch it since the preview at Comic Con, but you (and Kevin) have just reminded me why it's on my during-hiatus catch-up list.

Thank you so much to both of you for this wonderful interview! It's always lovely to peek inside writers' heads. I can't wait for the rest of this season!

Great interview! Just enough hints to make us want to keep watching.

Great interview! It seems like the two of you have a tangible rapport and that you're both very passionate about the show, Mr. Williamson should clearly hire you as a full-time VD-promoter!

What a fascinating interview! Thank you so much.

Thank you guys for all the comments! I love hearing what you think. I'm psyched for the rest of the season, too -- I didn't expect to enjoy the show much (I'm not a fan of Twilight or True Blood) but I'm really enjoying it.

I totally agree that it reminds me of old school WB shows - probably Kevin Williamson's touch :) Make sure and check back in the morning so we can talk about tonight's episode.

This is just the kind of interview that I'm interested in reading: insider tidbits, the creative process, a few witty throwaways and comments about the importance of hair color. Perfect. Thank you!

Argh, damn it. I will not get sucked in to this show. AND YET. I cannot resist a Dark Shadows comparison. Sigh. Fine. ONE EPISODE.

Kevin Williamson, he owned my teen heart with Dawson's Creek and reading about him again now I'm 24 I think he owns my adult one as well. Beautiful interview with a supremely talented man. I thoroughly enjoyed his take on Vampire Diaries and can't wait to see where he's headed with it all.

Great interview!

I will always love this guy for giving me Pacey Witter. Seems like he's having a blast with The Vampire Diaries! I agree with what another commenter said, it's great when TV writers clearly care about what the fans think and want without crossing that line into pandering to them.

Good interview; two thumbs up!

" There's your first love and your last love. Those are the epic moments. Everything else is just in between."
This is why Mr Williamson should own the world.

I don't watch The Vampire Diaries as often as I'd like to, not because there's anything lacking with Kevin Williamson (and Co.!)'s writing/storytelling/adaptation abilities, but because my Thursday night TV has been dialed into NBC the past five years. Besides, I done did the 'vampire' thing years ago, with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Albeit in a different, less-sparkly Twilight-ish manner. Even so, dude. C'mon. It's Kevin Williamson, creator of Pacey Witter. The man is forever indebted in my soul for creating only the world's best fictional TV boyfriend.

The main and almost blunt, in-your-face difference between this show and Twilight is the fact the leads are everything Twilight could've been, but never had the oomph to be. There's no simpering, self-pitying female who dies, she just DIES, when the dreamboat, kitty-cat vampire realizes he has a crush on her. And in the days of tweens remodeling their bedrooms to look like Bella's in the vain hope that their very own Edward can skitter up the side of their house and creepily watch them sleep, it's super refreshing to see. I love the dialogue on this show, too. Remember, way before Gilmore Girls, the alarming yet impressive speed in which Joey Potter could deliver a bitter-twinged diatribe, the likes of which you jotted down, memorized, and integrated as part of your own high school lexicon? That's what TVD does now. With vampires.

The insight into the characters, as well as the actor's initial auditions, was a joy to read--and knowing what's to come? Well, I might just have to stop being one of NBC's four viewers and start giving The Vampire Diaries my full attention.

Thanks for a great interview!

Excellent interview! A great dialogue between interviewer and the interviewed. I'm amazingly behind this show despite my Nina D. adoration, but it's so true, there's nothing like televised teen angst. Nothing.

Great interview indeed. I'm looking foward to what's gonna happen. And I'm glad he let Ian have the role for Damon, because he does it so well :)

I loved this interview so much! Kevin seems like such an intelligent guy, who knows where he wants to go with the show. I love his commentary on teenagers, and it's so very true. I think all of us can think back to that time in our lives (those of us who are a bit older!) and remember that sense of desperation he talks about.

You asked some great questions, Carina. I was wondering about Vicki and Matt as well, and I liked reading about the castings. Awesome!

This is awesome! He is so cool--I've loved him since Dawson's Creek! Thanks for asking about casting; I'm always so interested in that. And the relationship between Stefan and Damon--it's so complex, and I love that they used to be best friends and comparing that to now. I can't wait to see where the show goes with that!

 
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