Dear diary, can you believe it’s been more than 10 years since The Vampire Diaries premiered?
And if you really want to feel old, star Nina Dobrev, who played teen heroine Elena Gilbert, just celebrated her 32nd birthday on Saturday, Jan. 9 (well, sort of).
While it was initially written off as a TV version of Twilight, the CW hit, which debuted on Sept. 10, 2009, quickly developed a cult following that turned the show into one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons in the early teens, blending together epic romances, supernatural beings (vampires, werewolves, witches, oh my!) and small town drama to create one irresistible series that helped redefine the young network.
Based on the book series by L.J. Smith, TVD was created by Dawson’s Creek creator Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec, two people who know a thing or two about iconic teenage love triangles. But Kevin almost passed on the show completely.
“In the beginning when I read it, I didn’t want to be involved with it because I felt it was a sort of Twilight rip-off, no matter which came first,” the TV legend admitted to The Independent. “The premise was exactly the same: girl falls in love with vampire, and I felt that it had been done and that nobody was going to do another vampire story. But then Julie kept telling me to keep reading the books and then I began to realize that it was a story about a small town, about that town’s underbelly and about what lurks under the surface.”
What was uncovered were the relationships and friendships that made up the town of Mystic Falls, with The Vampire Diaries turning its relatively unknown young stars into superstars, especially its main trio: Nina as Elena and Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder as Stefan and Damon Salvatore, the estranged vampire brothers who are both in love with her.
The Vampire Diaries would go on to air eight seasons and launch two successful spinoffs (The Originals and Legacies) before it aired its emotional finale in March 2017.
Here are some surprising facts you might not know about the show:
Believe it or not, The CW really wanted The Vampire Diaries to be a star vehicle for Jessica Simpson’s younger sister, but after finding Nina, the network eventually cast Ashlee on their Melrose Place revival.
Coming off of High School Musical, legend has it Ashley Tisdale was also offered the role of Elena, but turned it down to star in Hellcats, which aired for just one season on the CW.
“Half of Hollywood. I think. went out for the role, for all our roles,” Nina later told E! News of the intense casting competition. “I guess I did something right. Here I am. We had to discover and find our characters. Every episode we learned something more and something more, and eventually we created and molded these amazing, awesome characters.”
While it’s hard to imagine anyone else but Nina in the multiple-character role that Elena would ultimately turn into (she also played Katherine Pierce, Amalia Giroux and Tatia Petrova during her six-season stint), the star, who was known for her role on Degrassi at the time, didn’t exactly impress the showrunners during her first audition.
“The funniest story about the first impression of Nina is that she didn’t make an impression,” Julie explained to EW. “None of us remembered seeing her for the first time. And then she, through her agents and the casting directors, said, ‘Hey, listen—I was sick that day, I didn’t do my best work, I really really want this part.’ [She] put herself on tape, which then got sent to us and it was so magical and so perfect that she basically had the job from that minute forward.”
After Nina was announced as the show’s Elena Gilbert, fans of the original book series were furious she did not have the character’s signature blonde hair and blue eyes.
Other changes from page-to-screen included giving Elena a troubled teen brother (Jeremy, played by Steven R. McQueen) instead of a four-year-old sister Margaret, changing her aunt’s name from Judith to Jenna, changing Matt’s last name from Honeycutt to Donovan (he’s also not related to Vicki, who is his sister in the series) and making Caroline a close friend of Elena’s rather than her enemy.
After finding their leading lady, TVD needed the two male components of the essential love triangle. No easy task.
“We looked high and low to cast Stefan and Damon. So she did chemistry read after chemistry read with multiple actors,” Julie explained.
Some of the actors who read for either and/or both roles? Zach Roerig (who would go on to play Matt Donovan), Michael Trevino (who would land the role of Tyler Lockwood), Nathanial Buzolic (later cast as Kol), and 7th Heaven star David Gallagher, with Julie admitting of the latter, “He impressed us so much originally…but the whole 7th Heaven thing, I wonder if he’ll ever be able to get past that.” (She would later cast him as a werewolf after seeing Super 8.)
And then finally, they found their guys.
“Paul and Ian kind of came in late in the process. Paul auditioned like 15 times, and Ian kind of appeared out of the blue,” Julie said. As for Nina, she recalled what made Paul (who first read for Damon) stand out from the rest of the guys reading opposite her in the chemistry reads: “The only one who wasn’t trying too hard, that didn’t speak to me at any point unless we were filming, was Paul Wesley—so it’s funny to think that he did the right thing,” she told EW.
Before the Lost alum landed the role of Damon, one that would turn him into one of the biggest stars on TV, Ian actually really wanted to join HBO’s True Blood, auditioning for the role of Jason Stackhouse.
“I auditioned for True Blood. I just couldn’t convince Alan Ball that was my role,” Ian said during a Q&A of the part that ultimately went to Ryan Kwanten. “And then I didn’t get it, and I was very bummed. I couldn’t watch True Blood until now.”
Just as the series premiere was finally airing on Sept. 10, news broke that Nina and her co-stars Sara Canning, Candice Accola and Kayla Ewell, as well as celeb photographer Tyler Shields, were apprehended by authorities on disorderly conduct charges in Georgia after they were alleged to be distracting passing motorists during a photo shoot that took place on a freeway.
After they were all cooperative and paid a fine, they were released by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
Much like on the show, love was blossoming on the set throughout its eight-season run.
Paul dated TVD guest-star-turned-The Originals lead Phoebe Tonkin for several years following his split from ex-wife Torrey DeVitto, who played Meredith Fell in season three. Candice Accola and Zach Roerig were in a two-year relationship for after she briefly dated Steven R. McQueen.
And Joseph Morgan and Persia White fell in love on the set when they both joined the show in season three, going on to get married in July 2014.
Of course, the biggest IRL TVD romance was…
Delena fans were thrilled when it was revealed the co-stars were dating in real-life, going on to date for three years before calling it quits in 2013…just as Damon and Elena were finally getting together on the show.
But the former couple quickly squashed any rumors of bad blood when they joked about their breakup when accepting the 2014 People’s Choice Award for “Best Chemistry,” taking the stage together.
When Nina talked about their split in their joint speech, Ian said, And yet our characters are still dating on the show.” Nina’s reply? “It’s a good thing it’s not awkward…Well, it’s a good thing we have chemistry!”
And after Ian’s April 2015 wedding to Nikki Reed, Nina had nothing but kind words to say, and the trio still hang out, with Nina defending their friendship in 2019.
“I don’t think that’s weird at all,” Dobrev responded to a Watch What Happens Live viewer who said it was weird she was friends with her ex and his wife. “That’s great. Why can’t everyone be friends?”
While they were portraying one of TV’s most beloved new couples in the show’s first season, Nina and Paul “didn’t get along” at all during the first five months of filming.
“I respected Paul Wesley; I didn’t like Paul Wesley,” Nina admitted on the Directionally Challenged podcast. “I remember everyone would walk up to me after the show aired and they’d be like, ‘’re you and Paul dating in real life?’ because everyone thought that we had such good chemistry. I realize now that there’s a fine line between love and hate and we despised each other so much that it read as love.”
Eventually, the two sorted out their differences, with Nina explaining Paul is now one of her best friends.
“We ended up getting to a good place and it was fine, but of everyone, I think I probably see him the most and hang out with him the most [now],” she said. “We’re probably the closest, like, we hang out a lot and we’re really good friends and I love his wife. It’s so funny how much has changed.”
A huge fan of the singer, Kevin told E! News in season one he was “desperate to have [Swift] come play a vampire.”
He added, “Wouldn’t she make an amazing Kirsten Dunst circa Interview with the Vampire-type? Oh my god, I cannot tell you how hard I’m trying to get her. I would kill to have her on the show!”
In fact, he even had her in mind when creating and casting the role of Stefan’s BFF Lexi, which would eventually go to fan-favorite Arielle Kebbel.
But alas, Kevin admitted she was “too big” for the show.
While they weren’t fans of stunt-casting, Julie’s dream was to have Joshua Jackson (aka Pacey Witter) join the show.
“I think our show works so well because we don’t really stunt cast. That being said, if there’s some big hot TV star that’s available that we love, then… As I always joke, I have my Joshua Jackson fantasy: Pacey n Mystic Falls.”
Ideally, he would’ve taken on the much-anticipated role of Original vampire Klaus, a part so crucial that more than 200 actors auditioned for it before relative unknown Joseph Morgan nabbed the villainous role that would launch a successful spinoff, The Originals. If Jackson had ever ended up in the role, it likely would’ve remained a one-season arc, as originally intended before Joseph proved too irresistible to kill off.
In what was The Vampire Diaries’ one true attempt at stunt casting of sorts, the producers reached out to Buffy the Vampire Slayer icon Sarah Michelle Gellar to play Rose, a vampire who developed a connection with Damon.
Originally me and my pipe dreams had us trying to get Sarah Michelle Gellar for Rose,” Kevin once revealed to The New York Post. “She was very appreciative but just said no. She was the only stunt casting we’d have ever agreed to. [Laughs.]”
The Walking Dead star Lauren Cohan nabbed the vampire part instead.
While The Vampire Diaries’ fanbase was used to seeing many actors come and go (with a lot of on-screen deaths and resurrections), Nina’s announcement that she would be leaving the show at the end of season six stunned many.
“I always knew I wanted Elena’s story to be a six season adventure, and within those six years I got the journey of a lifetime,” the star wrote in an Instagram post, later opening up about her decision to leave the show in a SELF magazine cover story.
Julie also issued a statement, saying, “Saying goodbye to Nina is both bittersweet and beautiful,” before adding, “We will miss Nina and the four hundred characters she played, but we look forward to the insane and exciting challenge of continuing to tell stories of our Salvatore Brothers and our much-loved and gifted ensemble.”
The series went on for two more seasons without Nina, who returned for the series finale.
Way back in season two, Kevin and Julie figured out their ultimate ending while eating in a mall food court, and it’s one that probably would’ve pissed off both Delena and Stelena fans.
“Both brothers should die in the name of saving their girl and then be watching her like ghosts—because we had introduced the Other Side—as she went off into the sunset to live her life,” Julie revealed to EW, “and maybe marry Matt Donovan or maybe become a doctor, but that those brothers would be side-by-side watching her live.”
But as the series continued and the love triangle fundamentally shifted, their end-game changed. A lot. (Sorry, Matt!)
After Nina’s exit and Stefan’s relationship with Caroline, Julie and Kevin, who returned to write the series finale after leaving the show at the end of season two, debated two endings.
“There were two pitches on the table: one that gave perfect closure to the season and then another that gave closure to the whole series,” Julie explained to EW, adding they had “just as many discussions over killing Damon as we did over killing Stefan, and let me tell you, for a very long time the pendulum swung the other way.”
Ultimately, Stefan sacrificed himself, giving Damon the chance to live out his human life with Elena. And after ultimately deciding the fate of one of other TV’s other iconic love triangles with Dawson’s Creek, Kevin admitted to being torn over who Elena ended the series with.
It’s no secret I was always a fan of Stefan and Elena ending up together,” Kevin, who was a Dawson fan in the Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle, admitted. “In another universe, that would’ve been the ending, but we didn’t have time to tell that story in the last season because we didn’t have Elena. We couldn’t get them back together.”
Damon’s first line in the pilot served as the final line of the series, as the Salvatore brothers were reunited after Damon’s human death, a poignant and full-circle ending for the series and the characters’ relationship. But it was initially written to be a completely different line.
“The original version was, ‘Oh, I see they have hero hair in heaven,” Kevin revealed to EW. “Then they hugged.”