Saying Goodbye To 'The Vampire Diaries'

Showrunner Julie Plec and stars Paul Wesley and Candice King reflect on the series' end.
Priscilla Frank/HuffPost

After eight successful seasons, CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” is closing the doors of the Salvatore mansion and saying farewell to Mystic Falls.

The supernatural series, which starred Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, Candice King, Kat Graham and Nina Dobrev, is wrapping up on March 10, leaving behind a legacy of wacky, witchy, blood-sucking, doppelgänging storylines.

But how will it all come to an end? Below, “The Vampire Diaries” showrunner Julie Plec and stars Paul Wesley (Stefan Salvatore) and Candice King (Caroline Forbes) reflect on the show’s run with The Huffington Post, and hint at what’s to come in the series finale.

“The episode is not without its share of heartbreak. Like Elena says, 'Sometimes you have to feel pain in order to know that you’re alive.' Those are some of her words from the finale and are certainly true of the finale itself.”

- Julie Plec on death in the final episode

Bidding Farewell To The Characters

Julie Plec: I told everybody at the read-through that we would be saying goodbye to every set, every person and every important prop along the way, up to and including, literally, the last shot of Damon’s Camaro. [Laughs]

Candice King: I think the only time I kept getting choked up was at the mention of saying goodbye to Caroline. I’ve been lucky to play a character for so long that I kind of felt like I knew who she was. I didn’t really have to dive into it too much after eight years, and so whenever anyone asked me what it would feel like to say goodbye and put that character to rest, that’s when I started tearing up a little bit. This was my first show, it was my first significant job, and for the first couple of years I didn’t know if I was going to be lucky enough to keep my job because they killed a lot of characters off. So she just represents so much of who I became as an actor. I feel like playing Caroline prepared me for whatever happens next in my career, wherever that takes me.

Paul Wesley: Saying goodbye to the character Stefan and the things that came along with being on the show [was hard]. Honestly, the show went on for so long that you sort of start saying goodbye by Season 6. It’s not a sudden jolt — you’re already starting to transition into a different phase in your life. So it wasn’t like I was splashed in the face with cold water and in complete shock. I’ve sort of been saying my slow goodbye to the character for about three years now, which I’m grateful for because it makes it easier to transition.

Last Day On Set

CK: The last day on set was incredibly emotional. I knew that I needed to cry … a lot. And luckily Julie was directing and wrote the last episode and she’s a crier, so it made me feel comfortable to cry as much as I did. It felt like an important moment of closure. “The Vampire Diaries” represented the majority of my 20s. I booked the show when I was 21 and I’m about to turn 30 now, so it’s really defined a decade of my life — and a pretty significant one as far as growing up and who you become. It really did shape me, and a lot of that is because of the people I got to work with. It felt so significant to stand next to so many people that had seen me grow and change and who’ve I’ve seen grow and change. We’ve all been with each other through life and death and marriage and divorce, and to be able to all stand in the Salvatore House great room set and hold hands and put arms around each other and really say goodbye to the series was a powerful moment I’ll never forget. A lot of tears, and silly string. The silly string brought the laughs after the tears.

JP: In that last moment, we really wanted to get Paul and Ian [Somerhalder] at the same time and so I had Candice and Kat [Graham] work with the art department, props and the AD department so that they could ninja-style launch an attack with the silly string and all the poppers and the sparkling champagne and all that. So we ended up wrapping on a party note.

PW: Oh, it was really funny. It was a bit surreal. I finished my take in my final scene and literally they hadn’t even yelled cut yet and someone just sprayed silly string directly into my eye. [Laughs] I have grown up on the set of “Vampire Diaries,” and, in many ways, it’s a beautiful thing and, in many ways, I have a relatively myopic view of things because you’re on set eight months out of the year. I’m 34 and I certainly want to be able to honor some of the artistic feelings I have in terms of my taste level. “The Vampire Diaries” is a fantastic show and I am so grateful for it and I think that it’s been incredible, but it will be exciting for me to do a series or a film or a play, as an actor, that is definitely a little more focused on adult stories.

Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder as Stefan and Damon on "The Vampire Diaries."
Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder as Stefan and Damon on "The Vampire Diaries."
The CW

The Finale Script

JP: We wanted to accomplish both tying it in a bow and leaving it open-ended, and give a sense of the future for each character ― whether they lived or died, understand where they were heading in their lives and what they were feeling. So you get a real sense of what’s to come but also a real sense of feeling like, “OK, these people, in their own way, are each going to be fine.” And that was important, since the launch of the series for me personally, to give it “a happy ending” in the midst of heartbreak. And then being able to have Kevin [Williamson] there to shape the “the how,” “the who” and “the what,” and help make the choices with me, and say goodbye to these characters with someone else who’s loved them equally for eight years was a real pleasure. In the directing, the burden was on me not to mess anything up. I’d rather have that burden on me then put it in the hands of somebody else. [Laughs] So, I took it upon myself to make sure we got it done.

CK: I was so proud of the writers and what they accomplished in writing the finale — specifically Julie and Kevin, but the whole team, too. It really gives the fans of the series everything that they wanted. I read it and it felt so good as a fan of television knowing how much space they had to fill and all these doors they had to close. I felt like they did a really, really wonderful job.

JP: The first challenge was just figuring out the cleanest and most powerful way to wrap up Season 8. Then, we got into how we were going to wrap up the series. And when it all comes down to it, we were actually able to balance the two really nicely. The first half of the episode is the roller-coaster ride of resolution to Season 8 and the second half of the episode is the emotional roller-coaster of saying goodbye to all the characters.

Reuniting With Former Cast Members

CK: Season 3, we were still having goodbye parties for when people left, but by the time everyone started coming back as guest stars, that stopped. [Laughs] We’ve seen a lot of the characters come back and forth throughout the years, but it was so special to have everybody back for the wrap party. There are some more people making an appearance in the finale, so it was really fun. It was a walk down memory lane ... I don’t want to list people because I don’t want to get in trouble! But yeah, you’ll see a bunch of people in the finale.

JP: These are good people whom we’ve had good friendships with over the years and characters that we love and said goodbye to very early, so being able to bring them back into one spot and celebrate their existence as characters but also as actors who are a part of the family was really great.

“It’s just amazing how you can take people eight years later, plop them in the exact same situation, and they’re completely different human beings.”

- Paul Wesley on the original love triangle

Nina Dobrev’s Return

PW: It was wild. I kept having these kind of flashbacks of Season 1 on specific sets — I don’t want to give away the sets because I don’t know what I’m allowed to say — but I just remember we were like kids and our lives were completely different. Ian’s priorities and his sort of outlook, as well as mine and Nina’s, were all so radically different than what they are now. I had this surreal moment where I just looked at both of them and I just thought, “Oh, my goodness, we’re doing a very similar scene to what we did eight years ago yet the way our brains are wired and our priorities have completely shifted.” It’s just amazing how you can take people eight years later, plop them in the exact same situation, and they’re completely different human beings.

JP: They kind of slipped right back into their roles with each other and shooting scenes with the three of them was a nice nostalgia.

CK: We all knew from the beginning that Nina would be coming back, so it wasn’t a surprise for us. But yeah, it was great. It was nice to have everyone there for those final moments. We were all so young when the show started, so it was fun to be able to go back through old pictures from the pilot. Also, It was great to be a part of a show that encouraged female friendships as opposed to female backstabbing. This show actually celebrated women being friends and I think Nina, Kat and I were very proud of that.

Nina Dobrev returns as Elena on "The Vampire Diaries."
Nina Dobrev returns as Elena on "The Vampire Diaries."
The CW

Will True Love Win?

CK: Stefan is still human and Caroline is a vampire — and with people coming back to Mystic Falls, we’ll see what kind of chaos they bring with them. All of your questions [concerning Stefan & Caroline, Damon & Elena and Bonnie & Enzo] will be answered, and not everyone always ends up with what they wanted, but that doesn’t mean they’re not happy with where they end up.

PW: I’m not sure that because Elena has suddenly awoken Stefan is going to leave Caroline to jump into another woman’s arms. Stefan is very loyal. I’m not saying that it won’t be challenging, but there’s going to be a variety of different things that test their relationship. Look, I don’t want to give away too much but it’s definitely going to be emotional, that’s for sure.

JP: I think that “how” we wrapped up the love stories is a less answerable question than “we did.” I’m not sure how we managed to pull it off, but we did. Whatever form it comes in, everyone will have a sense of hope for what the rest of their existence will look like.

Kat Graham as Bonnie on "The Vampire Diaries."
Kat Graham as Bonnie on "The Vampire Diaries."
The CW

Death Is Upon Us

CK: “The Vampire Diaries” has never been scared of saying goodbye to characters. So as we’ll be saying hello to a lot of characters we haven’t seen in a while, we might be saying goodbye to some, as well.

PW: Look, there’s definitely a death coming, and potentially multiple. Someone is dying, I’ll tell you that right now. It is and it isn’t surprising. We’ve had people die and come back to life, but there’s no coming back [now]. This is the final episode, so whoever dies here is dead. I think that’s the difference.

JP: The episode is not without its share of heartbreak. Like Elena says, “Sometimes you have to feel pain in order to know that you’re alive.” Those are some of her words from the finale and are certainly true of the finale itself.

Spinoffs, Sequels, Revivals, Oh My!

PW: No spinoffs. There’s no going back, which is a bigger deal in many ways.

CK: Oh man, I’m not going to mess with that answer. I have no idea. But as far as this season and this series and this version of “The Vampire Diaries,” it’s answered. You kind of see where everyone [ends up]. You’re finally not going to end the episode with a bunch of questions, you’re going to get your answers.

JP: I would never say no to continuing to explore the — somebody coined the phrase for me the other day, which I love — “TVDU,” “The Vampire Diaries Universe.” I have no desire to exploit it, but I also know that there are plenty of opportunities for stories left to be told. That being said, I don’t have that plan right now, it’s just something that’s always living in the back of my brain as a future opportunity.

Candice King as Caroline on "The Vampire Diaries."
Candice King as Caroline on "The Vampire Diaries."
The CW

The Cultural Significance Of “TVD”

JP: I remember my freshman year of college sitting in my TV room at the end of my dorm hallway with one other girl watching the premiere of “Beverly Hills, 90210.” And then, a year later, walking into a room packed with college students watching “90210,” and I thought, “I wonder what it must be like to be part of a phenomenon like that.” And when all is said and done, I think that if you look at the success of this show across all international platforms, and Netflix, and on streaming, and the run that’s it’s had on The CW, it’s been that and I’m so proud of that.

PW: I really worked pretty diligently to get onto a series that I thought was going to have an impact and I thought was going to last a long time. I really wanted it to have a pop cultural significance and I think we accomplished that. What I learned from playing Stefan is to really enjoy the process. I look back and I think about the times when I was worried about how something was going to turn out or a certain character choice when I should have been enjoying the ride a little bit. Stefan, in a synonymous sense, can be a little brooding and self-serious, and I think that is parallel to my life a little bit. So whatever I’m doing now and as I’m getting older, I learn to appreciate it and be in the moment and more present as opposed to always thinking about the future and the past.

So Long, Fake Fangs, Red Eyes and Prop Blood

CK: I’m excited to see what happens next for me. I love television and I love working in TV, but I’m open to any medium that will have me. I might need to take a break from fake blood and prosthetics, and always being on the cusp of death or someone always being about to die. I just need to laugh instead of cry for a while. But I’m just so grateful that this has been a career that I’ve pursued and had some success in at this point, so I just want to keep working.

PW: I think saying goodbye to fake blood and fangs for a little while is kind of an understatement. [Laughs] It’s been a great chapter. I find genre can be an amazing metaphorical phase and can convey human stories on a very analogous level. But I know that unless it’s the absolute role of a lifetime, I don’t think I will ever be able to play a vampire again, that’s for sure. I mean, never say never. The original conceit of a vampire dating back to “Dracula” or “Nosferatu” or movies like “Shadow of a Vampire” with Willem Dafoe, they’re obviously great stories. So, I wouldn’t turn a blind eye to that, but I think in the near future I can’t imagine playing a vampire again.

JP: I want the fans to know that we loved this show over the years as much as they did and we wanted to honor these eight years by telling the best end to this story that we could. We have had a very emotional experience putting it together and are all collectively really proud of it, and so we hope that they can enjoy it along with us.

“The Vampire Diaries” series finale, “I Was Feeling Epic,” airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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