To make a teen television vampire show analogy, the CW’s “The Originals” is to “The Vampire Diaries” as “Angel” was to “Buffy.” It’s a more sophisticated, adult spin-off of the hit vampire show with less guilt and angst and more partying and indulgence. Showrunner Julie Plec explained the premise of the show at the Television Critics Association summer press tour panel Tuesday in Los Angeles: “This is a show that is not about struggling to be a vampire. It’s about embracing vampirism. It’s about reveling in it… It’s quite a lot more Bacchanalian, I think, in its tone.”
An episode of “The Vampire Diaries” last season served as a backdoor pilot for “The Originals.” Four “TVD” characters are making a permanent move from Mystic Falls to New Orleans: Original vampires Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gilles) and Rebekah (Claire Holt) and werewolf Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin). The formerly all-powerful “Originals” now find themselves subordinate to Marcel (Charles Michael David), who is the authoritarian ruler of New Orleans supernatural population.
Plec worked to ensure that the show will appeal to both “TVD” fans and people who have never watched a vampire show before. “We work hard every day to make sure that a new audience can feel like that it’s a new show that they’re joining along with everybody else for the first time.”
The first episode of the season will reestablish the events of the backdoor pilot but will be told from the point-of-view of Elijah, rather than Klaus. ”We’re going to see all the little bits in between, the bits we missed, only it’s going to continue a little further on in the story towards the end of it. So we really get to see what [Elijah's] about from the beginning and what his motives are,” revealed Morgan.
However, she did not rule out the possibility of crossovers between the two shows. “What we would like to be able to do first is establish a show that works, you know, as its own show, and then, as the story dictates creatively, to be able to have a little bit of a crossover element if we can work it out, simply because there are relationships and history there that we left behind that we don’t want to pretend like those relationships never existed.”
The actors and Plec previewed their characters’ arcs over the course of the season. Morgan explained why Klaus, who has a vampire/werewolf hybrid is physically powerful enough to kill Marcel, allows him to live. “Marcel has an army of vampires. He’s running the city, and he has the witches under his control. I don’t really know what the secret weapon he possesses is, but I know that he has control of all the magic in the city, and he has all of his inner circle of day‑walkers, of vampires, and all of these night‑walkers who are trying to earn their rings to become day‑walkers… He’s going to have to employ a little bit more of his kind of manipulative backstabbing methods to get where he wants to be to take back the throne rather than charging in there and being torn limb from limb by a thousand vampires.”
Klaus and Marcel’s relationship is more than just a rivalry. “We’ll learn very, very early in the series, these two have an incredibly deep history,” Plec explains. “There is a bond there that is very powerful, family bonds. And we’ll see it as it was born back in the 1800s. So I think there’s a lot of that too. In the same way that Klaus can never truly quit his family, Klaus and Marcel, hating each other and struggling with power and wanting to take each other out, also have that inherent connection in their history.”
Rebekah, who in Mystic Falls failed at both love and her attempt to experience a normal teenage life, finds a fresh start in New Orleans. Says Holt, “She always gets herself in trouble somehow, so I think she’s going to cause a little riot. She never enters anywhere quietly.” Plec hints that in the show’s second episode, viewers will learn that Rebekah and Marcel have a romantic history. She will also bond with Hayley, who is pregnant with her brother Klaus’s child. “I think she feels protective of Hayley. And she has a bond with her that she hasn’t really ever had with someone, I think. And I think she probably always wanted a sister.”
Hayley’s pregnancy will be a long-term arc. “Definitely the first season, the pregnancy will remain sort of front and center as a problem or an issue for certainly a good portion of the season,” said Plec, who resisted the urge to give Hayley a shorter “wolf” pregnancy.
Elijah will spend the season trying to forge a peace between his estranged siblings. “Elijah has been labeled, of course, the noble brother, the moral brother, the man of honor. And so his goal, as a man of honor and as the eldest remaining brother of this very, very deeply fractured family, is to try to bring them together and try to find redemption for [Klaus],” said Plec. “He’s driven by that need and sees, in the baby, that redemption. And so he is driven from a place of emotion and the power of family. Klaus is driven from a place of power. So there’s going to be a little conflict.”
“The Originals” premieres Tuesday, October 3, at 8/7c on The CW.