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 Exclusive: Nina Dobrev on 'Vampire Diaries' Season 2

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PostSubject: Exclusive: Nina Dobrev on 'Vampire Diaries' Season 2   Sat May 22, 2010 2:36 pm

I have to be honest – the teenage vampire romance genre doesn't always do a lot for me. Nothing against it of course. I think it's cool that so many people are excited about dark fantasy and inspired to pick up books within the genre. But hey, you like peanut butter and jelly and I like grilled cheese, you know? Still, if there's any show that has my attention these days, it's The Vampire Diaries. The reason? Her name's Nina Dobrev, the stunningly beautiful actress who plays Elena Gilbert, the show's young heroine. A few weeks back, as she was winding up her work on The Vampire Diaries' first season, I had the opportunity to speak with Dobrev about her sudden success, about the experience of playing two distinct characters on one show, and about where she'd like to see Elena go in the second season. Hit the jump for our full conversation.

Having seen the three of you on stage here in LA at this year's PaleyFest, I noticed the camaraderie you share with your costars – Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder – is very strong.

We're all really, really close, and we've become like a family, and we hang out a lot and work a lot together. That's the way you develop these great friendships – you get to know all these people. Luckily, I'm surrounded by an incredible group of people who are not only talented and professional and successful, but are also sort of great down-to-earth people.

How did you first come to the role of Elena?

I used to be on another television series called Degrassi. We shot that in Canada, so I decided to move for pilot season and try it out for one year. Vampire Diaries was one pf my very first auditions after coming to LA. I went in, they liked me, but I went back up to Canada to shoot a movie called Chloe, which is in theaters right now. And during that time they asked me to put myself on tape, so I did that, and they flew me down. And I tested with the boys and auditioned in front of the studio and in front of the network and in front of the directors and the producers. It was a very long process, and we did screen tests. And it was very nerve-wracking. You can imagine – there's people in a room watching you and analyzing your every movement. But it was definitely worth it, a year later.

As producer Kevin Williamson's pointed out, Vampire Diaries differs from Twilight, in that it focuses on a town, as opposed to a few characters.

Yeah, the show having the town as another character in itself is very true and very important for the development of the show, because as much as it's about the vampires, they all go back to this town. The fact that they all lived here, and the history of the town and everything that's happened within the town and the people's experiences. There's also the witches and all these other things. These last couple of episodes have been so unbelievably intense. It's pretty crazy.

How would you describe Elena and the journey she's on at this point in the show?

We just found out who my mother is, and we've found out that she's alive, and somewhere out there, but she doesn't want me to look for her. So Elena's having this conflict and she's trying to figure it out. She thought her parents were dead, and they are. But then she found out that she has another relative that's actually out there and living and thriving. And the fact that she doesn't want her to meet her is unsettling, and it kind of makes you feel like you're being abandoned. In a way, Elena has been abandoned. But I think she's not gonna give up. Elena's not somebody who tends to give up. She's gonna keep fighting and keep looking. She's trying to be normal and trying to function in this supernatural world that she has now discovered she lives in. Although now that the tomb has been opened there's all these vampires running around, and they pose a huge threat. But she's trying to stay out of it for the time being. But who knows how successful she'll be? Probably not very, given her history and track record and luck. She's always caught between all the vampires. [Laughs.]

There's been a developing sexual tension between Elena and Damon. How has that been affected by the fact that Damon turned Elena's mother?

Right now I think that Elena hates Damon's guts. She cannot stand Damon at all. Because somehow as soon as she realizes that he has a redeeming factor, or redeeming quality of some sort, he tends to sabotage it. He's very self-destructive in a way. And she finds out things like this, like the fact that he turned her mother into a vampire, or that he killed her. It's crazy. But the thing is, Elena's the type of person who tries to find the good in everyone. So as much as she hates him and can't stand him, she finds all these good things in him and that's what appeals to her and that's why she develops this friendship. That's what I would say the relationship is between her and Damon – they have a friendship. And it keeps developing, and she keeps on sympathizing with what he's doing, because ultimately he's doing everything out of his love for Katherine. Yeah, there's some sort of a tension. I don't know if it's sexual or what it is. But we'll just have to see where it goes and where the writers decide to take it, and if it puts any strains on her relationship with Stefan. It may, it may not. We'll see.

How do you keep the relationship between Stefan and Elena fresh, knowing the show could go on for years?

A lot of it's in the writing. I have to give all of the credit to our incredible team of writers – Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec.

In the show's flashback sequences, set in the town's distant past, you get to play a different character, Katherine. For an actor, how much fun is that?

I love playing two completely different characters. Especially because Katherine is so conniving and narcissistic and selfish – which is so unlike me, I would hope and think. So it's really a challenge and it's interesting to step into those shoes and be that person every now and then. But I think that the corsets and the costumes and all that really do help and ad to the character. Because as soon as I put that costume on, I feel like a different person, as soon as the makeup and the hair is all done. I even feel like I change a little bit. And it's so much fun. It's so much fun to go back and explore a different time and age and be a different person.

Have you read much of the books? And, if so, are there any cues that you'd like to see the show take from the books as it enters its second season?

The books are a great sort of launching pad for what we have done and deviated from. Because there's some things you just can't do or that just won't translate as well on screen as they do in the imagination of the reader. And of course every person has a different take on the books and they have their own imagination. So it's hard to cater to and please everyone. That's not what we're trying to do. We want to really make the readers happy, the fans of the books, and also make sure that we pay attention and make sure that L.J. Smith's legacy lives through the books; and then really make that translate. But I think that it's different. We change a few things. For example, in the books Elena is a little bit more of that queen bee, popular girl, kind of like Katherine is. But we changed that, because we wanted them to be different, and we wanted there to be a distinction between Katherine and Elena's personalities. Other things that we've changed – for example, Mr. Tanner, in the books he was supposed to die at the Halloween haunted house. They're using it as a great guideline, and they're taking creative liberties in opening up the tomb, and focusing more on some things. But we're still greatly inspired by these great stories, and just expanding and going further and upward and onward in different directions.

Is there any particular direction in which you'd like to see Elena go in the second season?

Yeah, I definitely want to see how her relationship between the two boys progresses; and if at some point enough will be enough, and if she will decide that being around these two individuals is really worth all the pain and heartache and all the difficulties that they really put on her life. She had problems before they showed up. But it's definitely complicated things a lot, their presence. So I'd like to see whether or not she will call it quits or keep going and fighting for what she loves.

At PaleyFest, one young member of audience said she liked Elena more than "other vampire girlfriends." You laughed at that remark. But what is the secret to playing a vampire's girlfriend?

[Laughs.] I think that what's important about Elena – being in the position that she's in, and my choice to play her the way I have – I think that I want to play her real and play her as I would react to any of these situations; and she has to have a really strong backbone, and really have high morals. And not be that kind of pushover girlfriend who takes the shit from an abusive boyfriend. She has to really stand her ground. She has to be strong.

Thanks, Nina. Have a great summer.

Thank you!

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