You might not recognize Daniel Gillies in a knitted cap and relaxed street wear as the elegant and sophisticated Elijah of “The Vampire Diaries,” and he knows it. “I look like a New Zealand woodsman or something,” Gillies joked during a recent group interview. Gillies talked to reporters about whether or not Elijah actually drank the blood-infused champagne that would bind him to his siblings in last week’s episode, which Original he’s most loyal to, and the show Gillies himself would like to model an “adult” “Diaries” after.
To drink or not to drink
When one observant reporter noted that Elijah might have pretended to drink the binding toast, Gillies confirmed that no bloody champagne was imbibed — but not because the show’s creators asked him to do it. “I’m a giant diva,” he joked. “At the best of times, and when I can, I like to create a sense of suspicion. So I just wanted to create something enigmatic. But the actors don’t know anything week to week. So [the show producers] could go down that road, but that doesn’t mean I know they will. We don’t usually know anything until about a week ahead.
Because plots turn and twist with such speed on “Diaries,” Gillies and the rest of the cast often have to wing it when it comes to reacting. He had yet to meet some of the actors cast as his Original siblings while shooting scenes mentioning them. “You don’t know what they’re like until they arrive,” he says. “In once scene, I said, ‘You’d better look out or you’ll have Kol to deal with.’ I hadn’t met Nathan (Nathaniel Buzolic) at that point when I was doing those lines. In my mind, Kol was, Nathan’s tremendous, but we were describing him as this… leviathan, this ogre. So my relationship with [my siblings] is kind of what we guess it is.”
Elena and Elijah
Although a lot of viewers have commented on sparks flying between Elena and Elijah, Gillies says any romance is just a projection. “Nina [Dobrev] and I like working with each other, and maybe we’re too flirty with each other, and that’s all it is. I like working with Ian. Not so flirty. But I like that relationship, I do. She and I that I think there’s some unsaid thing that’s happening that I like, but it’s like spiritual romance I think. They aspire to the same qualities. He’s enchanted by a nobility she’s able to uphold and he aspires to.” And lest there be any off-screen rumors, Gillies is married to actress Rachael Leigh Cook.
As far as any other romantic prospects for Elijah, Gillies has his doubts. “I think Elijah’s more about business than relationships. He’s like the consigliere of the family, like Robert Duvall in “The Godfather.” It’s the nature of his character. For him it’s duty before women.” That doesn’t mean Elijah doesn’t like the ladies, though. “Every time I’ve had an opportunity to play him as beguiled by a woman, I have, because there’s a sense of vulnerability in him.”
Mom’s dark secret
As viewers know, Esther (Alice Evans) isn’t looking for the family reunion her kids are — instead, she wants to off the whole lot of them. Gillies thinks this reveal with “destroy” Elijah, but he’s also pretty confident that, even with all of his brother’s betrayals, he may not be so quick to switch teams anyway. “I think his loyalty is more to Klaus and his siblings despite the betrayals. It’s almost a pipe dream to have them all together anyway, and she’s been extinct most of his existence.”
Why we love Elijah
Gillies notes that he’s “extremely flattered” by the attention Elijah is getting, and suspects he understands some of the interest in this old school vamp. “He appeals to the classical ideal of a vampire. We’re inundated with vampires right know, though “Hunger Games” will eclipse all of it, thank goodness. But I think he appeals to this older idea, the mythology of what a vampire actually is. Haven’t had time to look at it, unless I’m naive and people hate him, but he does represent something Bram Stoker tried to create originally. Especially with NIna. That’s what makes them fun; they have a historic quality to them. Something’s resonating between them that looks like the [ancient] vampire and the maiden.”
Up his sleeve
If you feel Elijah hasn’t been as violent as some of his siblings, part of that might have something to do with Gillies. “A few weeks ago I had a scene where Elijah was going to flare up and vamp up and the full thing,” he says. But a conversation with executive producer Julie Plec changed that. “This is how cool Julie is. I told her, just so you know, there are fans who feel they haven’t seen him vamp up, so maybe you want to keep that up your sleeve. She kind of considered it, and she was just awesome. She said, I want to hang on to that. Your guess is as good as mind [as to when Elijah will “vamp up”], but I have an idea and Julie has an idea.”
While Gillies doesn’t have designs on what he’d like to see next on the show, he’s happy to ponder some possibilities. “I think my desires are pretty irrelevant, but let’s talk about irrelevancies. I kind of want to see the adult version of the show. I’m not trying to plant the seeds, but if Julie [Plec] and Kevin [Williamson] wanted to make something a little more adult, that would be really exciting to me. I do like the idea of getting him closer to them operating discretely within a competmporary world, somewhere like New York, because I want to shoot there.” And so, what would that adult version look like? “I’d love to see a “Breaking Bad” version of this show, shot more like “Friday NIght Lights.” And you’d lose your demographic. You’ll gain a whole other one, but it would be smaller and not as profitable.”
It’s all ancient history, folks
If fans are bothered by Esther’s perfect English or the siblings’ 21st century wardrobes, Gillies suggests they’re missing the point. “Look, if you were to adhere to what would be correct, which I find so ridiculous, writers say traditionally the name was this and you’d be the Mikaelsons as they’re talking about historical accuracy. But if we were, Esther wouldn’t be able to speak anything we could identify… it would be like Beowulf. It’s a show and its fine to say that. You have to contemporarize.” Gillies, who’s just opted for a new, spiky haircut, jokes. “Did we have a haircut in the coffin? That’s not the biggest example of it, but Finn comes out looking like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ then in the next thing is very modern. You have to do that. You can imagine they’ve been schooled, but a training montage would be very dull to our viewers.” Gillies thinks about that a moment, then smiles. “It’s more of a ‘Funny or Die’ thing.”