While there may be some that think the vampire genre is already oversaturated with HBO’s True Blood on television and the new Twilight saga hitting the screens this month, the CW premiered The Vampire Diaries in September and quickly proved that audience’s thirst for sexy bloodsuckers has not been quenched. To find out more about what sets this latest entry aside, how much violence and sex is okay for the CW network and the amazing abs on some of the male vamps, I rang up show creator Kevin Williamson to get the scoop.
Jim Halterman: Why did you go with the vampire genre when there’s definitely not a shortage of those types of projects out there right now?
Kevin Williamson: It wasn’t like I was dying to come in and do the third Vampire project or whatever. It was a matter of wanting to do something with Julie Plec. We’ve worked together off and on over the last several hundred years. The timing was right.
JH:: What was it about the books that attracted you to it?
KW: I’m a sucker for epic love stories and it has sort of that epic love. Also, when I was reading the book once you get past the Twilight setup it really is its own monster, it’s own story and it takes a different path from the Twilight story and True Blood story. I thought it was a sexy Dark Shadows. I loved Dark Shadows as a kid and I’ve always wanted to do a show like that. I remember talking to the WB about Dark Shadows years ago and I thought it would be kind of fun.
JH:: How closely do you follow the Vampire Diaries books by L.J. Smith?
KW: We’re using them as a template but I feel like we keep expanding on everything L.J. created and we keep what she has but we have 22 episodes so we try to hit the tent poles of the book.
JH:: It’s tough not to notice that you have some really unattractive people on the show…
KW: I know! They’re so ugly!
JH:: How difficult was it to find good-looking CW-type actors who could actually act?
KW: Well, you know, it takes a village and it took me and Julie and a wonderful casting director. You know what, [Warner Brothers Television President] Peter Roth hired us and we looked at every single actor in the universe and then we cast Nina [Dobrev, who plays Elena], who came into our lives through a video audition. She got the part through a videotape. Ian [Somerhalder, who plays evil Damon] worked hard for the role and he earned it. Paul Wesley [who plays good Stefan] came in the very, very beginning and we thought he was a great actor but we didn’t have our Elena yet so we couldn’t make a decision. So we brought him in 12 times and finally when we had Nina we brought him in to read with her and that was it.
JH:: I haven’t seen an Equinox or a Crunch anywhere in Mystic Falls but it’s difficult to not notice that everyone is in amazing shape.
KW: I know! They’re really fat and ugly! Paul just went crazy with the abs. Between the pilot and the second episode he got that 24-pack.
JH:: I don’t remember Ian being that ripped when he played Boone on Lost either.
KW: He is very ripped. Very solid. Pure muscle and he’s really good looking. And Nina has quite a nice little dancer’s body on her, too. All of them!
JH:: Are we going to see some guy-on-guy sucking, so to speak? The vampire world is always rife with homoeroticism.
KW: Well, I don’t foresee it in the near future. In the books, there were no…we do have a storyline coming up but Caroline’s Dad, who is gay. We’ve already established that and he’s going to show up with a boyfriend sooner or later.
JH:: Knowing your past work, is it safe to assume more gay characters will be popping up on the show?
KW: Eventually there always will be. At the moment, we’re just trying to tell the stories at hand with the characters we’ve established. There is something very sexy about vampires that I think appeals to men and women so I think there’s a fair balance that way.
JH:: You recently said at a Dawson’s Creek reunion event that you couldn’t get away with saying ‘man-meat’ now like you did in the Dawson’s pilot but Vampire Diaries has a lot of sex, drugs and alcohol. Have things changed?
KW: I think we’re a little stricter now and I think I have to be honest about that. You know, that Janet Jackson incident started a lot. All the conservatives really used that to make a power play so that hurt us a little bit. Everyone is a little fearful of getting fined.
JH:: In shows like True Blood and horror films, the blood and gore is a very substantial part of those projects but Vampire Diaries doesn’t show a lot of that. Is that a parameter set by the network?
KW: Interestingly enough, I have never really done a blood and guts show on TV before so this is a learning curve for me but I have to be honest, the CW has been very good about that. They want it scary so they’re being very wonderful in allowing us to go as far as we can within their comfort zone. They’re working with us and being very respectful. I mean it is vampire violence so it’s not real violence and I think that helps.
JH:: The back-story element with Damon, Stefan and Katherine is so rich. Is that something we’re going to see more of this season?
KW: I think we’ll see more of that periodically. We’re doing another flashback episode right now – episode 12 – and we’re actually going to go back in and show a little bit more and open it up a little bit. I think it’s important to do it if it’s going to propel our story forward.
JH:: The show is obviously not afraid of killing off people but what do you do when audiences connect with a character but then get mad when that character is killed? I personally was a big fan of Vicki (played by Kayla Ewell) so was sad to see her die.
KW: Yes, of course I’m respectful of that. The thing about Vicki is I thought if I did my job people would like her. It was really hard and I made sure you cared about her through Jeremy. By killing her, I thought it set a precedent that we will go there and it was so early in the show that I felt we could get away with it. I don’t want to turn off the audience by killing off a popular character but you have to do it. It’s a vampire show.
The Vampire Dairies airs every Thursday on the CW at 8/7c.