The Vampire Diaries attracted quite a crowd at C2E2 this year - but before the panel, myself and a handful of other journalists had the opportunity to sit down with executive producer Julie Plec and stars Candice Accola (Caroline) & Michael Trevino (Tyler) for a round table discussion about how season two has developed - and where the show goes from here.
Caroline and Tyler were relegated to minor (and sometimes inconsequential) roles in the first season, but season two of The Vampire Diaries has seen them emerge as far more complex and interesting characters - due in large part to the supernatural transformations both of them have endured.
One of the benefits of putting a greater emphasis on the ensemble instead of focusing primarily on Elena, Stefan, and Damon is that it has led to an expansion of the show's mythology - something which I feel has resulted in a storyline that feels slightly more dense and dangerous than the arc of season one.
The Vampire Diaries is frequently praised for its lightning-fast pace and how confidently it juggles several complex narratives simultaneously. Even though a great deal of the plot has to be mapped out in advance, Plec told us that it's still important for the creative team to let the story wander into unexpected places when the opportunity arises:
"You have your season mapped out from the beginning and you know where you're beginning and where you want to end - and then the burden is on you to find your way through the middle. You try to come up with new moves and new turns along the way to make it feel fresh so it doesn't feel like you're stringing the audience along for 22 episodes."
She points specifically to the characters of John Gilbert (David Anders) and Elijah (Daniel Gillies) as good examples of what can happen when the writers venture into uncharted waters:
"We've had a couple of really fantastic success stories in doing that. Which is the creation of the John Gilbert character last year. That came out of us realizing that we don't want to go down a road that we were planning on going down with one particular storyline, but we still needed to fill three or four episodes before we got to the end ... the character was originally conceived as a Fell cousin coming into town and stirring up trouble and we realized we could make him a Gilbert. So he's still part of the founding families, but also a relative of Elena and Jeremy - so everything just clicked ... The same thing happened this year with Elijah who really was meant to kind of give us a little mid-season oomph while we waited for Klaus and he has grown into this tremendous character ... so we've actually had good luck kind of straying from the path."
Speaking of Elijah, Plec indicates that he and the other Originals were never intended to be around for an extended period of time. However - as The Vampire Diaries continues to develop, it sounds like they're going to become an integral and prominent part of the series:
"When we first started talking about The Originals, we never considered them to be immortals until we realized how much we liked Daniel [Gillies] as Elijah. And then we thought, well how hard can we make it to kill him and still give all those great twists and turns? So the idea of removing the dagger was something we came up with to have freedom to revisit Elijah's character. So yeah - Originals are going to be with us for a looong time."
There's been such an abundance of vampires in pop-culture lately, but what helps The Vampire Diaries stand apart from films like the Twilight series or other shows like True Blood are the more relatable relationships that have been forged between its characters. As previously stated, Caroline and Tyler in particular have taken rather intriguing turns this season. Plec explains that while those two weren't exactly used to their full potential in season one, delaying their transformations wound up having serendipitous results:
Season two has also shown audiences several new sides of Damon (Ian Somerhalder) - a character who's become somewhat less menacing than the way he was originally depicted. His relationship with Rose has been one of the highlights of the season and their storyline concluded with a moment that even had the show's creators weeping. Although making Damon more multi-faceted strikes me as a very vital evolution, Plec laughs that Somerhalder has approached her on several occasions with his objections to being softened up:
"Every now and then he'll be like 'What are you guys doing to me? I gotta be all honest and vulnerable and caring.' And we're like 'Yep, it's called a journey - a character journey.' You know, the beauty of Damon - when we learned the thing that had brought him to town was the love of a woman, that was a game changer for his character ... he really was the deepest, most powerful emotional character that we had - and he hates that. Damon hates that about himself. The battle that is going on within him between his humanity and the part of him that really actually misses being human and then the part of him that doesn't want to feel that at all - it's a series long journey for him."
One of the big questions on viewer's minds right now is when they'll see the character of Tyler again. Michael Trevino acknowledged that the show has resumed production after its recent hiatus, but that so far he has not been a part of it. So it sounds like Tyler will still be absent from the next batch of episodes, but Trevino is hopeful that he'll return soon.
The character's transformation into a werewolf is widely regarded as one of the standout moments of season two and Trevino believes that the reason it worked as well as it did was the enormous amount of foresight that the writers displayed leading up to that event:
"It's great. It's fun. I mean, the transformation scene was just exhausting and took a lot out of me. Two fourteen hour days just non-stop. But everything else, it kinda just flows - the way that they've written the story, everything's making sense. They didn't just rush it in ... there was a big, long, grueling transformation and I appreciated that they didn't rush it."
He also believes that the love triangle that was developing between Tyler, Caroline, and Matt is something that will be fully explored once Tyler returns to Mystic Falls and insisted "that has to get resolved."
Trevino's co-star Candice Accola saw her character Caroline go through an extremely significant alteration herself earlier in the season. She explained that Williamson had given her a heads up on being turned into a vampire - and Accola couldn't be happier with how the season has turned out as a result:
Accola also told us that she and the other actors live in constant fear of opening up a script and finding out their character has been killed. She also realizes what an important role that tension has played in the success of The Vampire Diaries:
"It was something that was told to us day one - 'Welcome to Atalanta, anyone can die.' As an actor, is it scary? Yes it is. As a viewer, I think it's important and badass ... because it does keep you on your toes ... I mean, when you get to third, fourth, fifth seasons and it's like well, everyone's dated everyone, everyone's fought with everyone ... that's the thing - you need fresh faces."
Based on where things left off, it looks like the show is building to a pretty epic showdown as it approaches its season finale. Be sure to check out our coverage of The Vampire Diaries panel at C2E2 - which includes a few hints about what to expect from the final stretch of season two.
Here's the full video of the Vampire Diaries panel at C2E2:
The Vampire Diaries returns with all new episodes on Thursday, April 7th at 8/7c on the CW network.