'The Vampire Diaries': Michael Malarkey on Enzo's Origin Story, Nina Dobrev's Exit

'The Vampire Diaries' star talks with THR about the "unlikely connection" between Enzo and Lily Salvatore, which leads to a "strange triangle" involving the Salvatore brothers.
Courtesy of The CW

In the two seasons Enzo (Michael Malarkey) has been on The Vampire Diaries, only a little was known about his background — and much of it revolved around his friendship with Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and his tragic romance with Maggie (Heather Hemmens).

But in this week's hour, "I Could Never Love Like That," fans will see flashbacks going much further into Enzo's past, to a time before he was a vampire.

Malarkey spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about diving into Enzo's "origin story," his character's connection to the Salvatore family, and Nina Dobrev's upcoming exit.

How much did you know about Enzo's history before you filmed these episodes?

Not much! They keep it pretty under wraps for us. They had some hints that there would be an Enzo backstory, but I never know anything until I get the episode on my desk.

What can you preview about what we'll learn about him?

It's the Enzo origin story. So we see how he became a vampire, how he ended his human life, and the unlikely connection he has with Lily Salvatore (Annie Wersching), who is the one who ended up turning him.

 

What kind of a man was he as a human?

He's very different as a human. Enzo was in an orphanage when he was a kid. He didn't really have a family. ... He's a lost soul. But he basically started off a bit more common, as they say in England. His accent was a little more London, and over the years, he had been trying to better himself. So when we do see him, he's a little bit more well spoken. He's a lot more fearful and scared of dying. It's an interesting dynamic to play him while he's younger.

Before Lily turned him, what was their relationship like?

Well, he was basically dying of tuberculosis, and he's trying to get on this passenger ship to New York, which apparently has this doctor on board who claims he can cure tuberculosis. He meets Lily literally on the docks as he's trying to board the ship. He's having trouble getting on, and she takes pity on him, and helps him board the ship, and makes these promises to him, and ends up turning him. He's just met her at that moment, so there's no relationship before [he's a vampire].

What is their relationship like post-turning?

It definitely starts off maternal in the flashbacks. He's very much a victim of circumstance, and she takes him under her wing. And in the present day, he's confronting her about what happened on the ship, and all that stuff. The relationship they do develop when he finds out the truth of what happens, is more of a kinship as opposed to a maternal thing. I wouldn't say straight away there's a romance [angle], but I think we've left the door open for it to go any which way. There's definitely a chemistry there that is deep-rooted. 

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Damon is one of Enzo's only friends. How does the fact that this is Damon's mother impact the preset-day relationship between Enzo and Lily?

We haven't really had a chance to explore that too deeply. I think Damon's pretty shocked as it is. But I think that will be one of the storylines we explore in season seven.

Looking at the other Salvatore family members, he's been on quite the roller coaster with Sarah (Tristin Mays). Where do you see their relationship right now?

It started off as something sinister — he wanted to corrupt her to get back at Stefan. He ended up developing this soft spot for her. She's an attractive girl and that can't be disputed. He starts to think about the fact that he's really been endangering her by all of the things he's been doing, so he ends up feeling a little bit more remorseful about that. You'll see what happens at the end of the episode between him and Sarah. It all comes to a head.

How does confronting his own past change the way Enzo moves forward in life?

Basically, all of these deep-rooted feelings of loss and his trust issues are pushed to the surface, and he's forced to endure all of that. It's all surrounding the situation with Lily. And at the end of the season, we end up seeing how strong their connection is. 

The Vampire Diaries co-creator Julie Plec mentioned on Twitter over the weekend that she felt the show "fumbled the ball" on making Enzo so focused on making Stefan (Paul Wesley) miserable. Aside from the backstory arc for Enzo, have you seen his focus shift in what you've filmed for the rest of season six?

Julie realized it, and Enzo has realized it. (Laughs.) There was a futility to the Stefan debacle. Thankfully, this storyline pushes my character into a different realm of connectedness with the Salvatore brothers, which I'm excited about.

How does this change his relationship with Stefan now that he isn't purely focused on revenge?

Well, he still thinks Stefan's a d—, but he's realized what he was doing was pretty futile and petty. That's the thing with his situation: He was locked up for so many years, he tends to fixate on small little things like this and vendettas and stuff. That's [a reaction] to him being so abused in his past, and tortured and all of that. It was justified to a certain extent, but it got to the point where it was like, "We've explored it. Let's move on to something else."

What is Enzo's role as the action heats up in the final episodes of the season?

Enzo is still an outsider. He doesn't turn up for births, marriagesor deaths. ... But the thing with Lily is what's infiltrating him to the group. It'll be an interesting dynamic now with this strange triangle between him, the Salvatore brothers, and Lily, and the different pulls that are happening to him because of it.

One of the big elements of the show right now is Nina Dobrev's upcoming exit. Without spoiling how she leaves, what were your thoughts about her decision?

She wants to move on and do films and do other stuff. She's still young, and I think it's the right decision for her to go right now. It's something she had decided she wanted to do ages ago. She knew she had a time on [her run on the show]. There's been a lot of speculation about why she's done it, but I know it's just for the same reason any actor would want to leave a show: To move on and do other work. The best thing about our job is we get to live in different characters, in different worlds, and meet new people. That's exciting. For someone who's in her position, she's still young, she's entitled to do that. We're going to miss her, but I think it's the right thing for her.

The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW. 

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