L.J. Smith’s “The Vampire Diaries” was first published as a trilogy in 1991. That was a full decade before Charlaine Harris published the first book in her Sookie Stackhouse series and 14 years before Stephenie Meyer first begin making vampires sparkle in “Twilight.”
However, because of the variable journeys from page-to-screen, “The Vampire Diaries” will be premiering on The CW this fall and on Tuesday (Aug. 4), the show’s producers and cast had to explain to the Television Critics Association how this latest uber-swoony undead romance is different from the ones filmed before it.
[Publication chronology aside, it would be disingenuous to claim that just because its source preceded the sources for “True Blood” and “Twilight,” “The Vampire Diaries” isn’t utterly and completely indebted and beholden to those burgeoning franchises.]
Continue after the break…
With much of the cast off filming in Atlanta, stars Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev and Katerina Graham, plus co-creators Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec faced the comparisons.
Wesley, who has previously played werewolves and fallen angels, got the first query, regarding the influence of Robert Pattinson when it comes to brooding teen vampire archetypes.
“Well, prior to shooting the pilot, I had never seen ‘Twilight,'” Wesley noted. “And I specifically went out of my way to not watch ‘Twilight’ because I didn’t want it to in any way influence me because I knew that it was a similar subject matter. And now, I’ve actually never watched the movie in its entirety, but I’ve seen parts of it. And, you know, I don’t think that it would be wise for any actor to make any judgments on their character or decisions based on anyone else. I think if there are similarities to Robert Pattinson’s character in ‘Twilight,’ so be it. I take the scripts that Kevin and Julie write, and I do my honest, best portrayal. And then anything else – any, like, similarities, that’s sort of an aftereffect.”
Lest you think Wesley is diminishing “Twilight,” the “Everwood” and “24” and “Wolf Lake” veteran added, “I was impressed because it has this – not to make this about ‘Twilight,’ but it has this super sort of youthful following. And I found it pretty engaging, so I was kind of relatively surprised. You know what I mean? I didn’t think – I thought it would be a lot campier. I actually liked it, what I saw.”
Williamson, who created the temporarily oft-imitated “Dawson’s Creek” for the old WB admitted that the basic similarities are unavoidable.
“The premise is the same: you know, girl meets vampire,” he noted.
This gave him pause when he was originally brought the books.
“I worried a lot,” he acknowledged to the assembled critics. “I was like, ‘Oh, God, we’re the ripoff. That’s so great.’ No one wants to do that. And I actually said, like, ‘No way.’ And then we read the books. And Julie and I wanted to work together on a project. Julie and I have worked together on and off since ‘Scream.’ So we wanted to work together on a project. ‘Kyle XY’ was coming to an end, and I was just sitting around… Just tweeting. And so I was like, ‘Sure, let’s do it.'”
Wiliamson urges a little patience before immediately pushing “Vampire Diaries” aside as a “Twilight” knockoff, especially after the pilot.
“The pilot was very tough because it does have a lot of similarities to ‘Twilight,’ and there’s no way around it,” he said. “We had to introduce – we had the story as he comes to town, the first day of school. That is the book. So we sort of are telling it in sort of that fashion, but we’re switching things around. Once we get into it and we can establish all the characters, which is what – you know, the pilot, we had 10 characters to get out in 42 minutes. It’s tough. And so now we can get – sort of sit back and start telling stories on a weekly bases. Then it all changes. That’s when you’ll see the differences, because 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.”
That unrolling includes a closer look at the impact of a vampire incursion on a small town, especially a small town that begins to realize that it’s got a vampire problem.
That actually brings to mind more of a “True Blood” tie and Williamson admitted that at a recent Comic-Con party, he and Dobrev stalked (and met) Alexander Skarsgard of the HBO hit. [This reporter was witness to this meeting-of-the-vampire-minds.]
This led to a discussion of the enduring fascination with vampires, particularly for female audiences.
Dobrev began by stating, “There is something about a man who lurks in the dark.”
Plec added, “It’s, to me in my head, if Jordan Catalano was a vampire or Dylan McKay, that naughty-bad boy that just… you want to believe, like in reference to Jordan, 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. So in a vampire, just by definition you are getting the bad boy with the brain.”
Does that sound right, Fangbangers?
Anyway, right or wrong, I’ll give Graham the last word when she declares, “It’s not ‘Twilight.’ It’s not ‘True Blood.’ It’s ‘The Vampire Diaries.’ It’s completely different, and you’ll have to watch it
“The Vampire Diaries” will premiere on Thursday, September 10 on The CW.