Kevin Williamson talks about the future of 'The Vampire Diaries' and why high school is a 'horror movie'
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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
As a writer, is there more pressure when you're adapting someone else's work, to take care of the source material?
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
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"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)
Photo credit: CW