'The Vampire Diaries' Bosses, Nina Dobrev on Elena's Emotional Exit

Plus, EP Caroline Dries talks to THR about season seven's Mystic Falls mystery, Damon's life after Elena, the new Big Bad and more.
Tina Rowden/The CW

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from The Vampire Diaries' season six finale.]

The Vampire Diaries said its goodbye to Elena (Nina Dobrev) during Thursday's season six finale — and it came complete with a twist.

Though Elena survived the hour, thanks to a pesky linking spell which connected her to Bonnie (Kat Graham) — which said that as long as Bonnie was alive, Elena would remain asleep — she ultimately sacrificed herself in a bid to let Bonnie live her life.

"The whole six years, I always respected [The Vampire Diaries executive producer] Julie Plec's opinion," Dobrev told The Hollywood Reporter. "What she does is for the best of the show and the characters … it's a beautiful episode, a tribute and a sad goodbye."

Plec, meanwhile, told THR that though the series knew it would eventually have to write Elena out of its story, producers always knew their beloved character's exit wouldn't be fatal.

"I knew, fundamentally, killing Elena Gilbert would be the worst possible way to say goodbye to that character," Plec shared. "I don't know if anybody — Nina Dobrev herself! — could have talked me into that. We had to tragically put an end to a character for the moment and make it seem final and permanent — which it is — [while] also leaving a door open with hope for the future. Which there is. That was what we set out to do, and I think we succeeded in doing that."

But for now, The CW drama will continue, as its characters face life sans Elena in Mystic Falls. Here, The Vampire Diaries executive producer Caroline Dries talks with THR about what's in store for next season, including the (familiar) new Big Bad, which romance will be the "heart and soul love story" and more.

What was it like watching the episode with the fans via Twitter?

The CW asked us to live-tweet, so I got to endure the emotional wrath of the fans as they watched; it was like I was watching it with them. It was very interesting to see their reaction to stuff.

What reaction surprised you the most?

I think it's the vocal minority, but the knee-jerk reaction to kill Bonnie [so Elena could wake up] was extreme and surprising to me. For the most part, I was just pleased that the fans of the shows — not necessarily the 'shippers, but the fans of the show — got what we were doing, which was to give Elena that tribute she deserves.

With Christopher Wood (Kai) and Michael Trevino (Tyler) exiting, what was the juggle in the writers' room to send them off, while also paying that massive tribute to losing Nina?

We knew going into the season this linking spell we did was going to be how we ended things with Elena. We thought it would be most appropriate she'd make this sacrifice for Bonnie, after Bonnie has given her everything. It's a really good gift and a symbolic ending to the Elena-Bonnie story.

There were some beautiful goodbyes for Elena in the hour. Was there anything you intended to air that didn't make the cut?

We did have to trim some stuff for airtime purposes. Lines of dialogue here or there. With every goodbye, too — the Stefan (Paul Wesley)-Elena goodbye, they were the show for so long. How do we tell this story as succinctly as possible? It's not easy.

How much of a balance was there in writing that goodbye to properly pay homage to their past while also, clearly, setting up their futures with other people?

That was the point [we had to hit]. Julie really pushed for that scene with Caroline (Candice Accola) and Stefan in the hotel room. "This is what the fans need to know, and Stefan and Elena's story needs to end here. We need to start Caroline and Stefan up." That was the significance of that hospital scene, and the Elena-Stefan goodbye was supposed to be symbolic of their hike together when she confessed she didn't want to be a vampire. The reason we did it there was because it seemed like she was returning to the Elena she was in seasons one and two, where she was a human with a life outside of being a vampire.

Read more Nina Dobrev on Her 'Vampire Diaries' Departure and Finally Getting to "Graduate"

Elena told Damon (Ian Somerhalder) he couldn't pause his life while waiting for her. How much of that was the writers also trying to tell the fans the same thing, because you don't know how long the show will run, and how long he'll have to be without her?

Exactly. It's not going to be easy to move on with his life because his life has been Elena. It's interesting now going into season seven, to write scenes where he's not all about Elena, but at the end of the day, that's kind of what his big story is: life after Elena. How is he going to cope with that? It'll be interesting. We have a good plan for season seven, but a big question is who is Damon Salvatore without Elena in his immediate life.

I imagine this would be significant down the line, but is there room for him to have another romance, despite knowing his true love is still out there?

She told him, "Go live your life. I'm going to be here when I wake up, and we can be together." She doesn't want him sitting around like a monk, being chaste in the meantime. But Damon's still in love with her. It's not like he's going to start sleeping around or having girlfriends. He needs to grieve, and see who he is. Any girl we set him up with, or we tried to force him into a new relationship with, the fans would just hate it — hate her, for sure — so it would just never click. We're very much aware of that, and we don't want to see that either.

We got a little glimpse of Damon's future in the last scene of the finale. Since you're now writing the premiere, does season seven pick up with that madness, or will we go back in time and lead up to that?

Good question! I'm not going to tell you, because it's spoilerly, but we did move ahead in that last shot there. So, the mystery of the hiatus break while people are still thinking about the show is what actually happened to Mystic Falls? Why did it go to shit after Elena went down? It will be answered in the premiere, and it's not what you think.

Will those answers be just confined to the show, or will we get any sort of web series, etc., to fill in some blanks?

It'll just be in the episode. But I never thought about the web thing, that's a good idea.

Alaric (Matt Davis) has suffered an incredible loss. What is his mindset next season?

Alaric ... there's no normal way to snap out of what happened to him. He's going to start in a very dark place, and go through the process of grief: denial, anger. He'll be forever changed as a character by what happened here. We have a cool story for him coming up. He's very much a new man.

How will his relationship with Damon be changed now that they've both lost the women they love?

Damon is Alaric's best friend, and can relate to Alaric better than anyone at this moment. And so he's going to be there for him as a brother and be a shoulder for him to cry on.

Speaking of brothers, how is Damon and Stefan's relationship going to be changed with Elena gone from their lives?

They're going to need to come together, because, as you saw, Lily (Annie Wersching) has reconnected with her family. We're teeing up the big crisis of season seven, which is Salvatore's family versus Lily Salvatore's heretic family. They're going to be the main conflict of season seven once we launch into it.

Where does Lily rate in terms of Big Bads?

She's dangerous because she's very calculating, and has such a calm demeanor. Her evil is thoughtful, and so her power is really that she has these boys, and even though Stefan and Damon don't get along with Lily, they still see her as their mother, and they still feel this pull toward her even though they hate her on the surface. She's very capable of being able to manipulate them. She will be dangerous, psychologically and emotionally. And then her family — the heretics — are vampires who can do magic and can use magic against people. They're her power, physically, because they're such badasses. She's got all of her bases covered.

How will Enzo (Michael Malarky) fall into that, given his relationships with both Lily and Damon?

That's exactly how he's going to play into it. He has a twisted dynamic with both sides, and his crisis is going to be, "Who do I team with, because I like them both, and at times hate them both equally. What choice do I make?"

Now that Caroline knows Stefan loves her, how does that change her path and their relationship?

Next season will be the big "will they or won't they" Steroline story. And so we'll be rooting for them to get together. It's the heart and soul love story of next season.

Will there be other people in their lives? Or will it just be themselves trying to figure out their own stuff as they go back and forth?

They'll have other people in their lives. A blast from Stefan's past, Caroline has some baggage from her mother's death. And then there will be external conflict also tearing them apart.

Is the person from Stefan's past someone viewers know, or someone new?

It'll be someone who is new to the show.

How is Bonnie dealing with the aftermath of Elena's decision to sacrifice herself for her friend?

We thought we could play Bonnie feeling guilty and sad, feeling terrible this happened, or we could let her be empowered by Elena's words to her, and say, "You know what? This is the life Elena gave to me. She's letting me live, and I'm going to be a badass." So we're going to let Bonnie continue to be the badass self she's evolved into this season. She'll have a closeness with Damon. They're going to remain friends, but he's going to rub off on her a bit. It'll be fun to watch them together.

What did you think of Dobrev's exit? Sound off in the comments below. The Vampire Diaries returns in the fall on The CW.

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