'Vampire Diaries': E.P. Kevin Williamson talks 'True Blood,' 'Twilight,' 'VD's' triangle & more
Given the current vampire craze sweeping the country, network TV is ready for a new blood-sucker series. Especially one brought to us by "Dawson's Creek" creator and "Scream" writer, Kevin Williamson.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Williamson just before the season opener...
So, I watched the pilot and I have a good feeling.
KW: Oh, I just saw the second and third episode. So good! We just delivered 1x02 to the network and I got all these e-mails saying how wonderful they thought [it was]. The first two episodes are so hard, they usually suck because they're so hard. But these turned out really well. [Laughs] Yeah, we're so happy.
You're of course very well known for "Dawson's Creek" and that was your show. All the characters had a bit of you in them. "Vampire Diaries," however, is another writer's creation. In this situation, are you still able to put your own stamp on the series? Are we going to see Kevin Williamson in "Vampire Diaries"?
KW: A little bit, but this definitely isn't "Dawson's Creek." There's something very romantic about L.J. Smith's book series and if you get too cynical the way I do, it comes in conflict. However, I've got a couple characters in this show, like Ian Somerhalder's (Damon), that give me a little bit of freedom to do my thing. But it's not "Dawson's Creek" where every single character opened their mouth and a lot of syllables fell out. With this, I now get to play it a little more real and we try and keep it grounded.
As long as there's a couple of those characters, that's cool.
KW: Yes, I mean, I very much want my characters in this show to live in the real world. So these kids, yes, have watched "Twilight" and they've read all the books.
KW: Oh yeah. We don't go overboard with it, but these are kids who live in the real world and so they read the books, they've seen the movies. You know, when one character finally finds out he's a vampire, the first question is, Why don't you sparkle? Why don't you sparkle, I don't get it? We even have a moment where Ian is reading, he's flipping through a book and he goes, I just don't understand this Bella chick. So we have fun with it.
So, are you a Vampire guy? Are you into "Twilight" and "True Blood"?
KW: I loooove "True Blood". [Executive producer] Julie Plec is the "Twilight"-er. I haven't read "Twilight," but I'm obsessed with "True Blood." The way we look at it is, she's sort of the earnest "Twilight" girl and I'm the bloody "True Blood" guy, and we try and put it together.
And together you make "Vampire Diaries"... you meet somewhere in the middle?
KW: Yes, that's kind of what we're trying to do, because I live for "True Blood."
Were you familiar with the "Vampire Diaries" books before you got involved in the series?
KW: No, they sent me the book like a year before we actually did it -- I think for a feature film -- and I looked at it, but "Twilight" was already in the pipeline, so I was just like, no way. I wasn't interested. And then it came back around about a year later. I was having lunch with Julie Plec and Jennifer Breslow, who is a lifelong friend, who worked for me for eight years, and now she's an executive at The CW. We were all hanging out and she said that she had a project called "The Vampire Diaries" that she was looking for someone to adapt. And I said, oh my God, I know that book. I got to page 12. [Laughs] And that's when Julie went, I love "Twilight," I want to do a vampire show! And I was like, I'll do it if you do it.
And then I read the first book and said, no way, because it was just like "Twilight." But Julie Plec was already on book three by then, because she reads faster, and she was just like, keep reading it, so I kept reading it, and I went, you're right, it's not [like "Twilight"]. I said, if we can get to the other stuff sooner, than yes, let's do it. And so we sort of rearranged things, so even though the first episode and the set up are the same -- the guy comes to school, she meets him, all of that is the same in the pilot -- once you get past that... as soon as Damon shows up, it's totally different.
Different because of the timeline?
KW: Well, no, we didn't change the timeline. But once he shows up, you're not in "Twilight" territory. The mythology of this story is so far removed from the mythology of "Twilight"... at least according to Julie, it is! And based on what I saw from the movie. I saw the movie a couple of times. ["Vampire Diaries"] takes a different path. It doesn't take "True Blood"'s path or "Twilight"'s path, it sort of has its own mythology. The only thing that's similar to "True Blood" is that we're dealing with the Civil War era, because I think vampire Bill, didn't he get turned in the Civil War era?
KW: Yeah, but they jump all over. So that's not really specific to them, I guess. But it is specific to us. Our town, Mystic Falls was involved in a big Civil War era battle that turns out not to be what the history books say it is, and that has a lot to do with Damon and Stefan ( Paul Wesley) being turned back in 1864. There's this whole mythology thing that could be happening all over again in a modern day setting, which could make it even more bloody. And so that's sort of where we [start], that's the first step of the storyline and where the first season sort of goes towards.
I haven't read the "VD" books, but it sounds like you're not on the "season 1 is book 1" path.
KW: No, it's sort of a composite. They're of course still the Salvador brothers, so they're sort of from Italy, so a lot of the storyline that we're putting into this Civil War era, because it's in a small town in Virginia, is about their Italian renaissance backstory. And it's like the book in that the whole first book culminates in this Founder's Day festival where all this stuff happens, and we're sort of building to that in the first 13 [episodes]. So we are loosely following the books. But with the characters, we added a few. In the books, I think Elena ( Nina Dobrev) has a four-year-old sister and that was a little too "7 th Heaven" for us, so we added Steve McQueen as the troubled brother instead. We needed another boy in there who wasn't a vampire.
Speaking of boys, how closely will Stefan and Damon stick to the "good boy"/"bad boy" labels?
KW: We play the journey. Damon comes to town, he feeds on people. He has no conscience, he does what his nature tells him to do. Stefan is the one who is going against the grain. He's the one who's not following his true nature. He's the one who struggles more, whereas Damon tap-dances through life. He enjoys himself thoroughly and he just kills whenever he wants.
Are we going to hate him?
KW: Oh no. You're going to love him. But the thing that is really nice with Ian's performance is it's so impulsive that you just don't feel safe around him. It's one of those roles where he's so handsome, he's so good-looking, he's so sexy, you just want him to kiss you. But he's so impulsive in his performance that you just think he'll rip your neck out. And sometimes he does rip your neck out.
Oh, yeah, I spoke with Ian about a month ago and he was talking about an upcoming scene where he left legitimate bite marks all over his co-star.
KW: Oh yes, that's Candice [ Accola], Caroline. That's a hot scene. What happened is we instantly saw in the very first dailies that they had such great chemistry on screen. So suddenly, I'm just writing. I'm like, okay, we're going to let them play this out for a while. I think Elena and Stefan have a really good chemistry on screen too. In the second episode, you feel this epic love story brewing. And then we know, with Damon, he's really good with women. He's really good with the Caroline character. We really let that story evolve. And meanwhile, he's also tormenting Stefan through Elena.
Yes, the triangle.
KW: Yes, we have these two vampires. One is good, but the thing is, he's not strong enough to fight his brother... unless of course he feeds on humans. So is he going to be pushed to that moment where he actually has to have human blood so he can take on his brother? Meanwhile, you have this evil brother who, you know, claims he has no humanity left. But then there's Elena who keeps pointing to it. Is there any good in him left? So there are two huge character arcs at play.
Do you see Elena being with one brother over the other?
KW: As of now, no.
There isn't a stronger connection one way or the other?
KW: Well, as of now, it's Stefan.
But there's so much time.
KW: But there's so much time, and the way it's playing out -- we're only [through] episode six right now -- is that you want her with Stefan, but you just love every scene she's in with Damon. You know what I mean? It's that kind of thing. The triangle is actually working right now, and following the books, I don't think that comes into play for a long time. If you've read the books, you know what happens.
Yeah, something else that differs from the books, you're missing Elena's BFF, Meredith.
KW: We originally wrote Meredith into the pilot. What happened was we had Meredith and Caroline and Bonnie. Bonnie is the sidekick, Caroline is sort of the antagonist, twitty character. And Meredith is sort of Elena's rock and her best friend. But when you read the script, there were all these girls, and you couldn't really tell them apart. The Meredith character is very much like Elena. They were almost identical. Because in the book -- this is where we changed it -- Elena is an unlikable, selfish mean girl. She's very snotty and stuck up. But we had to make her accessible, you can't have that kind of character [lead] on a show. You have to like her. And that's why everyone's upset that we didn't cast a blonde.
I like Nina.
KW: She's so good. The more she does, the more you'll realize, oh my God, this girl is such a star.
Okay, I have to ask, are you planning to have any "Dawson's Creek" alum on as guest stars?
KW: Not yet. I'm open to it though. I don't know. We're casting right now for a new character, a new leading man coming to town, and so we went through the list of who we should look at. I don't know who's free. I don't know what everyone's up to. I only stay in touch with a few of them.
Perhaps we'll see a familiar face around sweeps.
KW: I'd maybe have more fun pulling from the "Scream" crowd. That might be more fun. Maybe I could talk Neve [ Campbell] into being in it.
Oh yeah, what's up with Scream 4? Is Neve going to do it?
KW: As of now, no.
But you're still hoping?
KW: I wake up every morning hoping.
Maybe get Neve on "Vampire Diaries" first and then work on her while she's on set.
KW: I kind of put a pin in it, since we can't film until May because of Courteney [ Cox]'s ["Cougar Town"] schedule. It's sort of let me have a breather, hoping things can change in regards to the cast. But we definitely have Courteney and David [ Arquette].
Not to keep coming back to "Dawson"'s, but will "VD" have its own "I don't wanna wait..."?
KW: No. It's a score show. We have our songs, but we save them for when they mean something.
So music will be important.
KW: Yeah, we're being very selective with the music. You know, I like to use songs as score to tell a story. And I'm still doing the thing I always did where I find a song I like, and then I call up the publisher and I say, can I have the instrumental version of that song? And then they send it to me, and then I create a whole moment. But at the same time, it's not a song heavy show.
It isn't really a high school show either. You know, we weren't even going to build the high school. We weren't going to build the classrooms and the hallways and stuff. We were just going to hold off, because it's really more about people [than high school]. But we went ahead and built the classroom and hallway, because in part of the first book, the new history teacher is a big storyline. But, you know, the music will be a big part of the show. Not like "Dawson"'s, though. Not wall-to-wall.
So will we see the high school set regularly?
KW: Well the first season does have a huge storyline with our new history teacher, who comes to town with a secret agenda, so yes, there will be a high school element. Oh, and in the second episode and the third episode, Stefan joins the football team, which is a lot of fun. That was also in the book. But when I watch the show, I don't think it's a high school show. Does that make sense? Yes, they're clearly all in high school, and yes, we show them all in class, but for some reason, it doesn't come off as a high school show.
I agree, but I still want to see more parties in the woods, high school or not.
KW: (Laughs) This is a small town, so that's all they do: go to the woods and party. There's a huge component to the woods. It's in the show a lot.
I think you have a hit on your hands, I really do.
KW: I just hope people have room for another vampire show and give it a shot. But I'm having fun, that's the good news. One of the reasons I set out to do this is because I wanted to have fun again, and it has not disappointed on that level. So it's kind of like, if people watch it, that's gravy for me, because at least I get to go to work and have a good time.
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