A Guide To “The Vampire Diaries”

by | September 7, 2009 at 1:51 PM | Cover Story, The Ziedgeist

The Vampire Diaries (The CW)

The Vampire Diaries (The CW)

If you’ve taken stock of what’s happening on TV sets and movie screens lately, you’ll realize a common theme – vampires have invaded. Over the past year the resurgence of the vampire drama has become so ubiquitous, that it was only a matter of time before a non-cable network jumped on the fang wagon; which brings us to The CW’s latest foray into the trend, The Vampire Diaries.

Based on the popular series of books by L.J. Smith, and executive produced by dynamic duo Julie Plec (Kyle XY) and Kevin Williamson (Dawson’s Creek), what The Vampire Diaries is at its heart is a teen drama, and what it isn’t, is everything else that’s out there right now. And although there have been critics who have cried blood-sucker saturation, Williamson hopes the show will speak to a new legion of fans. “Everything is cyclical. When I think of The Lost Boys and Near Dark, I get all excited. I have great, fond memories of that. I hope we’re building that for this generation.”

Below, a handy guide with everything you need to know about the new series just in time for its premiere Thursday, September 10th at 8 PM on The CW.

WHAT IT IS: A realistic (despite the vampires) high school drama which isn’t afraid to deal with teen issues like drinking, sex, and drugs. Set in the fictional town of Mystic Falls, Williamson describes it as a genre-crosser, straddling the line between horror and romance “there’s a lot going on here. We have the teen element, which is the teen drama aspect of it, which I guess you can compare to “Dawson’s Creek.” We’re not really going with that sort of heightened type of dialog. We’re just trying to stay true to the books in that sense. But it’s not just a teen show. We’re trying to not make it a high school show. It’s sort of more of a small-town show. Once we get past the premise of girl and vampire, we start to develop the story about a town. That’s what we love so much about the books was the mythology of the town and what they created — What L.J. Smith created was this huge mythology, and we’re diving right in. The vampires are our way into that.”

WHAT IT ISN’T: Twilight. “You’re watching a weekly show. We’re not a movie with a beginning, middle, and end. We’re actually evolving, and we get to evolve and just tell the stories, and it just sort of unrolls,” Williamson says.

Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley in The Vampire Diaries (The CW)

Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley (The CW)

THE CHARACTERS:

ELENA: Played by 19-year-old Nina Dobrev (Degrassi), Elena is the central love object of both Stefan and Damon. Wisened – and saddened – beyond her years due to the recent death of her parents, Elena lives with her aunt Jenna, and younger troubled brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen), whom she’s assumed responsibility for. Also in her orbit are a relentless ex-boyfriend Zach (Zach Roerig), who just can’t seem to let go, and a “psychic” best friend Bonnie (Katerina Graham), who is always there to lean on.

STEFAN: Dark, brooding, and classically handsome, Stefan (Paul Wesley) is a sensitive vampire who has lived in isolation for many years, feeding only on animals. He returns to Mystic Falls to pursue Elena, who bears a strikingly similar resemblance to his first love in 1864, Katherine.

DAMON: If Stefan is the good boy, then his estranged brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder aka Boone) is certainly the bad boy. Strong, vengeful, and unmerciful, Damon arrives in Mystic Falls to throw a wrench in his brother’s plans by also seeking the love of Elena. Williamson calls him “the devil who makes everyone’s life hell,” and Somerhalder himself says “he is such a bastard.”

Paul Wesley and Ian Sommerhalder (The CW)

Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder (The CW)

THE MYTHOLOGY: Everyone knows that not all vampires were created equally. So what rules and powers do the vamps of Vampire Diaries adhere to?

They have a way of “glamouring” (excuse the reference) humans, or using mind persuasion to get what they want. However, there is an antidote – vervain root.

Daylight is not harmful, as long as they wear a special “family ring.”

With training, they can manipulate their surroundings, such as creating fog before striking, or announcing their arrival with crows, as Damon does.

When they want to feed – or when they get angry – their eyes turn dark and veiny.

They must be invited inside the house of a human in oder to be allowed in.

They have abnormal, heightened senses, especially hearing and smell.

They only become stronger by feeding on humans. Vampires who choose to feed on animals will remain weaker.

They can be seen in mirrors.

Garlic, silver and crucifixes won’t kill them.

FUN FACT: Because the show is co-narrated by the dueling diaries of Stefan and Elena, the cast was all given journals to fill with their thoughts while shooting. Dobrev admits to being a bit of a nocturnal writer. “It’s one of those things where I’ll go to bed, and I wake up a lot during the night, so I’ll usually wake up and write in the diary what I’ve been dreaming and what I’ve been thinking.”

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: With one of the hottest casts on TV, including celebrity royalty McQueen (grandson of the legendary Steve McQueen), and an even hotter mysterious love-triangle storyline, it is sure to develop a cult following, especially among the female set. Plec believes girls – and women – will be drawn to the show because it taps into their secret fantasies. “It’s to me in my head if Jordan Catalano was a vampire or Dylan McKay, that naughty-bad boy that you want to believe there is so much going on behind those eyes. You want to believe that they have epic amounts of knowledge and soul and spirituality and intelligence lurking behind those eyes. And in the real men, you often don’t get that.”

Watch a clip of the cast discussing their roles below: