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‘Vampire Diaries’ EP Teases Tonight’s Series Finale & Nina Dobrev’s Return

Deadline logo Deadline 3/11/2017 Dominic Patten
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SPOILER ALERT: This story contains hints about tonight’s series finale ofThe Vampire Diaries. Deadline will have a full postmortem after the finale with more details about the closer and what’s next from executive producers Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson.

“It is a true goodbye to the series, and all the eight years’ worth of story, but also a bookend,” executive producer Julie Plec says of tonight’s series finale of The Vampire Diaries. With the open-secret return of Nina Dobrev as Elena for the closer, the CW series Plec and Kevin Williamson developed from L.J. Smith’s book is aiming for some familiar faces, some suprises and some resolution.

Having directed tonight’s finale as well as co-written it with Williamson, Plec chatted with me about how she wanted TVD to end and honor the show’s deep fan base. The Originals creator also teased how Dobrev will make her first appearance tonight and revealed what her favorite series finale is.

Check back on Deadline after the finale tonight for a revealing postmortem with Plec and Williamson — including whether it is really all over in Mystic Falls, and their plans for the future.

DEADLINE: So, what do you want fans to be on the lookout for in tonight’s finale and what can they expect?

PLEC: I think that people who haven’t seen the show since Season 1 will enjoy it just as much as people who have been with it for eight years. There are some familiar faces. There are little lines and moments, and music moments that call back on stuff from earlier seasons. It is a true goodbye to the series, and all the eight years worth of story, but also a bookend. A beautiful bookend I hope to these characters that we introduced in a certain way, 171 episodes ago.

So I think people who know the show intimately will catch all our little Easter eggs and I think people who haven’t watched it in many years will still have that nostalgia and familiarity that made them enjoy the show in the first place. I just really hope that everybody, whether they like the outcome or not, will have an emotional experience.

DEADLINE: Do you feel that older fans will come back for the finale?

PLEC: (laughs) I can’t predict who’s been watching the show and in what way over the last eight years. I just know that we wanted to be able to honor the people that made us success in the beginning and then honor the people that stayed with us until the end.

DEADLINE: In many ways last week’s penultimate “We’re planning a June Wedding” episode felt like a finale all its own. Why did you decided to take it one step further?

PLEC: We felt that after eight years, “it’s not just oh, thanks for watching, everybody, here’s how the story ends today.” We really wanted to say that this has been a story about eternal love and eternal beings so we need one more episode as both a season finale and series finale.

You know the final season was about the redemption, and the battle between good and evil. As well, it was about are we ever going to escape Hell and is that our final destination. So, we just felt like we really needed to take it all the way to the end, get a sense of the characters’ ultimate redemption or not. To see where these relationships would end or not, or flourish or not, and it just felt like there was still one extra piece of the story, the final epilogue that we needed to tell.

DEADLINE: It’s not secret from all the postings she and others have done on social media and the official announcement in January that Nina Dobrev is back for the finale. What impact are you going for reuniting her Elena with Ian Somerhalder’s Damon and Paul Wesley’s Stefan, and how will she return?

PLEC: I’ll say this, when Kevin and I were writing, we wanted the first glimpse of Nina to be as beautiful and emotional as it could be — so that first glimpse of her is actually a very ethereal moment. Without being too spoiler-y, it’s in a little bit of a dreamscape, and it allows Elena and Bonnie to have a scene together.

If you know the rules we’ve established on the series, Bonnie’s death is what will wake Elena up and so when the two girls said goodbye two seasons ago, they truly believed they would never see each other again. So, for them to be able to have this moment together in this otherworldly kind of brief moment in time — it’s just beautiful. I think we really wanted to honor both characters that Nina played Elena and Katherine, and give each character its proper due, and we’ve definitely done that.

DEADLINE: That bright spot notwithstanding, this final season for the saga of the Salvatore brothersand the ones they love and have destroyed was so dark. It reminded me a lot of Season 2 in many ways in that tone. Was that part of the plan as you wanted to almost bring it full circle like that?

PLEC: Absolutely. Once we realized as we were talking about the story that this was going to be the last season, everything that we did we wanted to start the timer on the countdown to the end by reaching back to the beginning. So with the first episode this season starting just like how the pilot started, with a couple driving along a country road and running into a vampire. The title of each of the episodes this season being lines of dialogue that were from key moments in Season 1, plus bringing back characters from the past, over the course of the year. We wanted to make sure we saw all of our favorites again one more time in whatever way we could and so it was fun to know at the beginning to make that decision and then to be able to break the story. I really enjoyed making those choices knowing that you’re going to the end because it just becomes one big nostalgia fest of “How can we do this?” and “When can we see that person?” and then “What’s a great title here?” We actually had a lot of fun with it.

DEADLINE: I guess in many ways that really came full circle for you and Kevin as you both co-wrote the final episode and directed it. What was that like, knowing it was the end, at least for now?

PLEC: It was a pretty wild, emotional experience, if I’m being honest. I said at the read-through to the cast, “Guys, I’m going to warn you that I cannot control my emotions right now. This is an extremely powerful time for all of us and I am at a peak cry level, and so if you look over to the monitor and I’m just quietly sobbing, just look away. It’s not about you. If I break down into tears when I call your last shot, just hug someone and don’t make fun of me.”

DEADLINE: I gather nobody did…

PLEC: No, it really was a very good, beautiful time of goodbye and closure. I couldn’t have just experienced that in my own way just by being there on-set as the showrunner watching it, but to be there as the director;  I needed to know that I was getting every minute of performance and every beat that I needed — that the show was in the hands of someone who knew exactly what needed to end up onscreen and had a relationship with the actors where we could get emotional with each other so that nobody was holding back in these final moments. It was a real thrill to be able to do it.

DEADLINE: Now that some time has passed, what are your feelings? This has been eight-years of your life, through the Originals spinoff, the debut and end of Containment, and other things you’ve worked on, but this has been the constant and now it’s over…

PLEC: If you asked this question a month ago, I would have been a basket case. It was an incredibly emotional experience finishing this show. It has been not just a beast of a thing to manage for eight years but it has been my home.

The Vampire Diaries has been my family, and it has been my friendships and everything all rolled into one project that operated on a relentless and yet beautifully chaotic timetable. So in saying goodbye to it, I couldn’t even look ahead and say oh, this is what my life will be like on the other side of The Vampire Diaries, because the experience of shooting the last episode was so full and there was so much excellent closure.

Now I actually feel like there’s this freedom of looking ahead and I can look at the show as this beautiful thing that I can be grateful to have experienced. Put it this way: I’m not carrying the weight of the good-ye with me anymore, and that’s a good thing because otherwise, I would be on the floor.

DEADLINE: With that, and the Vampire Diaries finale as an obvious exception, what is your favorite TV series finale?

PLEC: I’m going to give the prize to Friday Night Lights.

DEADLINE: Really?

PLEC: Yes, because to me Friday Night Lights wrapped up its own world so beautifully and then gave a little glimpse into the window of everyone’s future. To be honest, we sort of emulated that a little bit in the choices that we made with our finale.

The end of Friday Night Lights just was so beautifully satisfying. It said you know what. Life will go on and people will be fine, and yes, the Dillon Panthers and then East Dillon Lions are no longer what you knew them to be but now everybody is going to have learned from their experience and to move on. Life will be good, and it’s that life will be good feeling that I think when you’re dealing with ensemble shows, serialized soap operas, you just want that sense when its over. Look at our show — it could have just as easily been life in Hell. We could have blown ourselves off the planet and everyone’s dead. We could have done that too. I just didn’t feel like that was going to be as satisfying.

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