11:24am PT by Marisa Roffman
Comic-Con: 'The Vampire Diaries' Panelists Preview Life Post-Elena
The Vampire Diaries marked two big milestones at Comic-Con in 2015: its first panel in the convention's biggest room, Hall H; and its first panel since Nina Dobrev exited the show.
"Of course it's bittersweet, we miss Nina," The Vampire Diaries co-creator Julie Plec said. "It's been six years [together]. We miss [co-creator] Kevin [Williamson], too."
"It's just an evolution of the story," said Ian Somerhalder. "Stories come, stories go — this is Mystic Falls without Elena Gilbert."
Candice Accola shared "you still feel the essence of Elena" in the first few episodes of the show's upcoming season, while Paul Wesley praised the opportunity for the show to change things up.
"When a show's been on for seven years, [and] Nina decided to leave — you need a shift in dynamic," Wesley noted. "And it created a new world, in a way."
And with Elena gone from the show, for now — "She's just taking a little nap," joked Somerhalder — her loved ones will attempt to move on in her absence.
"The challenge for Damon is Elena said to him to please live your life and be who you are," Plec said. "The [question] is, 'Who am I without this girl by my side?' … The line is going to get a little crooked, and he's going to hopscotch over it. We're going to get a lot of naughty Damon trying not to be naughty."
"The old f—ing Damon, the Damon we really fell in love with," Somerhalder said. "The volatile sexy scary s— … I'm bringing that back."
And that new Damon might have a bit of a complicated relationship with Bonnie (Kat Graham). "I've know that Nina was leaving for a long time. I think it's a really clever way to keep Elena there and keep her presence there," Graham said. "It creates an interesting dynamic in season seven for Bonnie and Damon."
"I think the beginning of season six with Bonnie and Damon was the best stuff ever," Somerhalder said. "These two people hate each other, they love each other … it's the recipe for a lot of drama."
On a lighter note, Stefan and Caroline will continue with their push-pull relationship when the show returns. "[They'll have] a lot of very unexpected twists and tuns, actually," Plec teased. "The fun of this couple is they're just coming together, they're just getting cemented in their status. She's trying really, really hard not to be ready."
Cracked Wesley: "She can't resist."
But in all seriousness, he admitted he liked where the relationship between Caroline and Stefan is going. "I do like the fact there is so much history between the two characters," Wesley said. "I really like Steroline."
"I love a good slow-burn relationship in a television series," Accola added. "I like the characters together."
As the show looks to next season's Big Bad, "the challenge for the writers in season seven is topping the villain from the previous season," executive producer Caroline Dries said. "And by bringing in Lily's (Annie Wersching) family, it's the first time we've seen our characters go against them and they go, 'Oh, we don't know what we're doing.' It's very hard. … The real mystery will be how did Mystic Falls get to be the way we saw it at the end of season six."
"I love the fact that there's a succinct dilemma this season [for Enzo]," Michael Malarky said. "Does he go with Lily and the heretics, or does he go with Damon?"
Additionally, the show is adding a few "nasty, nasty, nasty girls" next season, whom Plec teased would be fun.
And, no, they're not planning on season seven being the end. "I actually do not foresee the show ending after next season," Plec shared. "We have more story to tell, and we have this gorgeous family that's not ready to split up next season."
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