The Vampire Diaries comes to an end after eight seasons with episode “I Was Feeling Epic” on Friday. Set (mostly) in the sleepy town of Mystic Falls, the show began by centering on a love triangle between two vampire brothers, Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder), and the object of their love, high school student Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev).
Naturally, the show has gone wildly and wonderfully off the rails since then, with all kinds of crazy storylines, including elaborate deaths, the Other Side, weddings, the cure, Ripper Stefan, doppelgangers, magical pregnancies, flashbacks, and — gasp! — college life. But through it all, TVD fans have shipped their favorite characters and propelled the show to become one of The CW’s most popular of all time.
Rotten Tomatoes sat in on a farewell Q&A with Somerhalder and Wesley, as well as costars Zach Roerig, who plays the very human “Matty Blue Eyes” Matt Donovan, and Michael Malarkey, who plays vampire Enzo St. John. The actors talked about how they feel now that the show is concluding and how the finale should leave fans satisfied.
Here are 10 ways the fellas are saying goodbye to a show that shaped their lives.
Never in the actors’ wildest dreams did they think this would turn into eight years of their lives. Each of them talked about how their first moments on the show are their strongest memories.
“As an actor, you audition for something, you get a job, shoot that job,” Wesley explained. “I never knew walking into that room that it was going to be eight years of my life, starting the job as a certain kind of person and leaving a completely different person. It’s shaped my entire existence and my formative years in my 20s. This show is going to be forever ingrained in my personality, which is a major deal. I didn’t sign up for that when I walked into the audition, but I’m very grateful for it. It’s amazing.”
Roerig added, “My favorite memory would be the pilot. A lot of us were young, very early in our careers. There was a certain excitement, an electric buzz in Vancouver that we all felt. Especially around the casting of Stefan. Most of us were there in Vancouver, waiting to see who they were going to cast. I remember Kayla Ewell and Nina floating around pictures on their phones of who they might pick. I saw a picture of Paul… I’ll always remember Vancouver.
“For me it was that first episode that I shot with Ian Somerhalder, in the cell,” Malarkey said. “It felt like we were shooting this little short film. We just had this instant connection and understanding of each other, and I think when you come onto a show late in the game, it’s rare you have that synergy with one of the main actors on the show. I found that subsequently with these guys and the rest of the cast and was embraced in this world. Feel like I’d been there forever.”
Somerhalder summed it up: “The newness of it, in the beginning, was really special, with the bonding of this cast and crew. That’s what you miss most when you leave these things — it’s not performing every day, or the writing: You miss the cast and the crew. You miss all the people who make it work because you, effectively, become a family. Paul and I have been joking for years — while we’re killing each other or staking people, in the middle of it all of a sudden, there’s a fart joke, and you’re just hysterically laughing while everyone is covered in blood. There were these really funny juxtapositions, and there are just too many to count. It’s an era of our lives.”
Wesley and Somerhalder remember watching an episode early in season 1, in which they realized they probably had a hit show on their hands.
“We watched episode 5 in my apartment, with a bunch of people,” Wesley said. “I think that’s when we were like, ‘Oh shit, this show is pretty good!’ It was this episode called ‘Lost Girls.’”
“It’s my favorite episode, ever,” Somerhalder interjected.
Wesley smiled, “Mine, too. Ian and I watched the episode together, and that’s when we were both like, ‘This is really good!’ That was a great moment.”
Somerhalder continued, “My business manager was in town, and he’s like a big brother of mine. We were sitting in Paul’s gorgeous apartment in Atlanta, and the episode ended and he was just like, ‘Wow! This is gonna go, guys. This is going to be here for a while. You should probably dig your heels in.’
“Go back and watch ‘Lost Girls.’ It’s a really phenomenally crafted episode of television. It might be a teen vampire soap opera, but it’s a great piece of television,” Somerhalder said.
The guys also know the show would have been dust if it weren’t for the dedication of its creators, Plec and Williamson.
“You have to realize,” Somerhalder marveled, “season 1 and 2 almost killed Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec — legitimately almost killed them.”
“I don’t know about literally. Emotionally, maybe…,” Wesley offered.
“I would talk to them,” Somerhalder continued, “I would have a question, and I would call them. And they would call me back, and it was like 7 in the morning, Atlanta time, and I’m driving to set. I would be like, ‘Wait, isn’t it 4 a.m. in L.A.? Where are you?’ ‘We’re still in the office, we’re writing.’ They would leave the office as the sun was coming up, only to go and nap and then come back and keep writing… That’s why it had that thing that kept us all really watching, because it was a well-crafted mystery.
These cast members all are pretty amazed how the characters have changed and endured throughout.
“I’ve died 17 times, killed 18,000 people. And I’m still a hero!” Wesley laughed. “For me, the fact that a hero can be so flawed, that’s the most interesting hero: with darkness.”
Somerhalder said: “The study of the human psyche, where a man who may be 170 years old, but looks 23 can be so very flawed, so very malicious, so very selfish and so very mean, but shows a vulnerability and a little bit of humor, and an audience will embrace that character in such a profound way. It was that way with Stefan and Enzo, too. I’ve never seen anything like it. With the grotesque things that this man did, people consistently made excuses for him. It was wild! Damon could have walked into an orphanage and, in cold blood, could have literally killed 20 orphans and people would have said, ‘Well, he was really upset about Elena!’ I still can’t quite understand it, but I’m glad I was there for that ride. I take that with me. I soak it in. It’s very special.”
“Not to be too cocky, but I always thought he was going to pull through,” Roerig said of his character Matt. “If not, who’s going to be that grounding anchor? I was the human. That was my power, being the only human. Knowing our creator, Julie, she wasn’t going to kill Matty Blue Eyes. He’s the constant piece of meat, dangled in front of the dog. Matt definitely taught me that you can be the most selfless person in the world, but you still need to take care of yourself, in order to actually be selfless and take care of the people around you.”
Malarkey added, “It didn’t really surprise me, thinking about it in retrospect, but the fact that he became such a romantic and a softie. Looking back, we always knew that Enzo had that inside. That’s part of what was broken in him, that made him act out and become such a violent anarchist vampire. In a way, it’s a beautiful full-circle thing, honoring that goodness in somebody, no matter what, and getting all mushy about it.”
The actors had some emotional experiences — and one that included funfetti.
“I didn’t realize how affected I’d be,” Malarkey said. “I’m all business when I get to work, but I care deeply about what I do. I was like, I just want to treat it like any other day, smash it and give Julie a hug. So the last scene I’m doing, I think there’s going to be another take. I’m pacing around, doing my thing. Then I hear this voice, Julie coming in the doorway, saying, ‘Michael, it’s time.’ Oompfh, I’m not ready for this. But she gave a great eulogy for everybody about our place in the show. I remember being pretty deeply moved by that, and they wanted a speech. I sputtered through it.”
Roerig had the same reaction.
“I had an emotional scene to end on, so I was trying to keep myself well calibrated, and make sure my emotion was based on the scene and not because it was my last scene of the show. At the end, Julie could see my lip quivering, the snot bubbling, and she says, ‘Zach, this is a free one, just let it rip.’ And I just completely let it out. Like you said, she gave us all a really nice speech, very tender, very fitting to end with her. Not only was it Julie and Pascal and people who had been there since the inception, but like our camera operator, our good friend that’s been around for a lot of my life, to look around and see him there.”
Wesley revealed that shooting his final scene called for safety glasses: “My final scene I had my eyes closed, and someone sprayed funfetti in my face! Direct shot, boom! In my face. I was doing this emotional scene, crying and then suddenly funfetti in my eyes.”
You all had to know it was coming, right? Don’t worry, the boys don’t spoil who it is, but they do say the finale should leave fans happy.
“It’s definitely a main character,” Wesley revealed. “I don’t want to react, because I feel like this is a test, and you’re going to deduce who it is. So, I’m going to do my poker face. Someone needed to die, in the finale. If someone had not died, I would have been disappointed, personally… I read the script on the plane. I got a bit teary-eyed, and I’m a cold-hearted bastard. I took a selfie of just a little bit of red eyes, and I sent it to Julie and Kevin [Williamson] and said, ‘Good work, guys!’”
Somerhalder noted that those finales can really stick with audiences.
“I thought, ‘Wow, they really summed it all up into one 44-minute piece!’ and I think people will be pretty satisfied,” Somerhalder said. “It’s funny. When I’m on road trips, and I walk into a convenience store or getting gas, even though I wasn’t in the whole show, they’re like, “Hey man, that f—ing Lost ending!” I’m like, ‘That was like eight years ago, and I just want to get my gas and get out of here.’ You’re never going to able to satisfy everyone, but I think [with The Vampire Diaries] there’s a very beautiful orchestration to how this is laid out.”
Malarkey agreed: “The thing with a long-running show, it interweaves itself into every watcher’s life. It means so much to them, for different reasons; and hence, why it can never fully satisfy everybody because your own perception, your reality of that show, it’s become greater than the show itself. But I think we do it justice.”
When asked how they could ease the gaping hole left by the show’s absence for their devotees, Somerhalder joked, “We start shooting season 9 next week.”
Wesley laughed, “Ian and I are starting a cruise ship tour, where we’ll be dancing and performing in character. Look, all good things must come to an end, so let’s end it on a good note and a positive note. We’re going out with some pride and some dignity, to a degree.”
Malarkey offered a poignant answer.
“If I can get philosophical really quick: It’s a fundamental issue in human nature to need to possess things, to sink your talons into things, and to keep things and hold onto them. It’s in relationships, it’s in politics, it’s everywhere, and it’s a sickness. I feel like it’s important to be able to appreciate the things that come into your life, in passing, with love, and to send that outward and learn the lessons you’ve learned through these experiences, whether it’s The Vampire Diaries or Ayahuasca, and take them into your life with positivity.”
It’s been announced Dobrev and Kayla Ewell, who plays Matt’s drug-addicted sister Vicky, will appear in the final episode, “I Was Feeling Epic.” The guys shared their reactions, especially on Elena’s evil doppelganger, Katherine, possibly making a return — even though she was, quite literally, sent to Hell a while ago.
“Well, Katherine is a disaster!” Somerhalder said. “There’s nothing good about that, for anyone.”
Wesley winked and quipped, “She’s fun, though. She causes a lot of trouble. It’s just great to have old characters back.”
“It was very fitting,” Roerig added, “like we said, we started the pilot with them, and we picked this guy up along the way [indicating Malarkey] and made it even better. It was nice having Kayla come back to say goodbye, as a friend and getting to work with her again.”
Wesley: “And on that note, I think it would be strange to not have Nina come back for the finale. It’s like the whole story is about two brothers essentially fighting over a girl. Obviously, there were a bazillion other storylines but I felt like it would have been a real shame for the fans and for the show not to wrap that up to a degree.”
In a sweet turn, Caroline (Candice King), Elena’s BFF who once announced in the pilot that she was going to marry Stefan in a “June wedding,” finally gets her wish in “We’re Planning a June Wedding.” Caroline has since grown up to become a responsible vampire mom to Alaric’s twin girls and is marrying her love, Stefan, who is now a human.
Wesley laughed, “It’s funny, I heard about this ‘June wedding’ for the first time at Comic-Con. I had no idea what everyone was talking about. I still quite don’t know what it’s about, but apparently there’s some June wedding the fans talk about. So when the first time they told me we were going to have a June wedding, I was like, ‘Oh cool, like we are paying homage to the fans.’
“It was kind of amazing. Stefan and Elena were like the pair for so many years, and I never thought in a million years Stefan and Caroline would end up being — I don’t want to say true love, because I think true love can exist in many forms — but I never knew they would be equally as powerful as a couple. So yeah, it was pretty surprising to me. I think if we hadn’t gotten married, it would be a real twist. Once they dangled that carrot, it was like they are going to have to get married. It had to be paid off.”
Like its undead characters, Vampire Diaries will never die thanks to streaming services. The series’ stars appreciate that the show and the journeys of its characters can remain new to audiences just coming to it for a first time.
“There’s something beautiful about closure,” Somerhalder said. “If you think about relationships, whether it be a job, a significant other, or an animal, people and things come into and out of our lives. There’s so much beauty in that, and how it affects us.
“Now, in this digital age, television never dies. It’s called ‘Netflix,’ Somerhalder said. “I remember going into season 7 and, while our live numbers were plummeting, our engagement and viewership was actually going up.”
“And there are kids,” Wesley interjected, “who are just watching it for the first time, as if it had never been out before.”
Somerhalder: “I have people all the time — teachers, young people, anyone — who come up to me and say, ‘Oh, my god, I just started watching your show! It’s so good!’ I also think, ‘That’s so crazy, man! You’re a 14-year-old kid! Eight years ago, you were six.’ It’s never gonna die. We’re gonna continue to be able to watch it. I think that’s a really interesting, new thing with this modern digital world.”
The Vampire Diaries series finale airs Friday, March 10 on the CW