Comic-Con 2011: Kevin Williamson on John Carpenter, 'True Blood' and How 'Dark Shadows' Influenced 'The Vampire Diaries' (Q&A)

The showrunner, who also will be presenting "The Secret Circle" at the convention, says Twitter helps provide a consensus for fan reaction.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Williamson

With hundreds of thousands of people attending San Diego Comic-Con every year and the July 20-24 event quickly approaching, The Hollywood Reporter chatted with the big names in television to discuss their favorite memories and tips for attending the annual event. THR’s Live Feed will talk Comic-Con with actors, writers and producers in the days leading up to the event so check back soon for interviews and the latest news on panels and screenings.

Kevin Williamson
Geek cred:
The Vampire Diaries, Scream 1-4, The Faculty
Upcoming: CW’s The Secret Circle
Comic-Con panels: The Vampire Diaries, Saturday, July 23, 3:30-4:15, Ballroom 20; The Secret Circle, Saturday, July 23, 5:15-6 p.m., Room 6BCF.

THR: What’s one thing that stands out from your first Comic-Con?
I believe my first Comic-Con was in 1998. Back then, they actually had comic books there: rows and rows of booths and booths of comic books. There were more people in costume. It just felt fun; it was totally my speed. They don’t have that stuff where I grew up. I was actually shocked that there was this thing, that there was a convention center that was so big that could support an audience for this stuff. Clearly the studios really saw that, too. They began diving in deeper and deeper as the years went by. It’s now a big huge expo, which is cool.

THR: What’s the biggest difference you’ve seen in Comic-Con over the years?
The studios have invested in it and it became really to show off their slates. It’s a really great way for the fans to interact with that and to get them involved. It’s good interaction between fan and project. Where else do you get to go and have a stupid time?

THR: What do you remember about your first panel?
I remember being nervous and going out there and staring at everybody and all the lights and everyone asking me questions. I was scared I was going to be stupid. The first panel I actually went to, I remember sneaking away and going to hear John Carpenter speak. That was the first panel I actually sat in and watched.

THR: How did you feel?
I loved it. I kept raising my hand and trying to get to the microphone to ask questions.

THR: What would you have asked had you gotten the chance?
I would have asked him about his scoring because I know he scores all of his movies. I felt like he married his music well to the music at the moment. He was such a musician, and how that affected him as a filmmaker. It was a Kevin geek question that I always wanted to know.

THR: What’s your favorite part of the Comic-Con experience?
The best part about Comic-Con is to see people I haven’t seen since last year at Comic-Con. I ran into Matthew Lillard last year and I haven’t seen him in 12 years. To catch up with people I might have worked with 10 years ago and interact with someone who does the same thing I do. Hanging out with the other genre people who are actually writing or acting or in shows. It’s play time because you get to interact with everybody: From the street corner all the way back to your hotel, it’s like college, like a party town for the weekend.

THR: What questions do you recommend fans not ask during panels?
There’s always a clunker in the bunch. The worst question is the one where the person stands up and says, “Can I please audition for you? Here’s my picture and everything.” And you’re with 4,000 other people talking about The Vampire Diaries, and you’re like, “It’s not going happen right this moment, honey.” That’s kind of the embarrassing question. There’s another way in. Comic-Con is probably not the place to get discovered; it’s the place to have fun.

The No. 1 question in my entire career is usually “what scares you?” I get that question a lot. It’s the same thing that scares everyone: the dark. The bump in the night. I get scared. Imagine what scares you, it scares me. That’s how you appeal to the audience.

THR: What panel would you stand in line all day for?
If I could go to one panel, it would be True Blood because I’m a geeky fan of that show. They all know it because I stalk them. Happens all the time.

THR: What tips do you have for Comic-Con first-timers?
It happens so fast, just enjoy it. I wish more people would dress up. I feel like more people used to dress up years ago. Now not as many people do it. I’m hoping this year that I see a lot of wild costumes.

THR: If you could be a showrunner on another series, what would it be?
I’d like to do a really dark, gritty, scary, profiler show. I think Criminal Minds is cool, I watch that. I’d like to do a procedural, having not done one.

THR: Three things you’d do if you were running someone else’s show?
More sex and violence on True Blood.

THR: What show would you most like to reboot?
I always wanted to reboot Dark Shadows, and that’s by the vampire guys. That was the goal, to do a show like Dark Shadows. Vampire Diaries is my version of that.

Comic-Con 2011: Full THR Coverage

THR: What are you working on?
I’m working on a little murder-thriller, a scary little movie. I’m halfway through. I’ve had to put it aside for the TV stuff. I’m having such a good time in TV because once you get on the run, you go with it. When there’s a break, I’ll jump back to the movie.

THR: What can you tease about Season 3 of The Vampire Diaries?
We’re having a lot of fun with the originals, the original family. Elijah has surfaced and he’ll continue to wreak havoc.

THR: What have you learned from Diaries?
As a storyteller, I always felt that this type of storytelling -- I call it hybrid – is part high school, part drama, part family, part vampire, part horror. I felt like all these types of shows when you see them on TV go too slow. I felt like it needed to have an energy to it. After watching eight years of 24, you can see what an adrenaline show can be like. I wanted to bring that adrenaline to a melodramatic horror soap opera. I didn’t want it to be slow and gothic and boring. I wanted it to be alive, and pulsating every step of the way, whether it’s through action, great emotion or epic love. I wanted to tell a big, huge epic story and I feel like the fans who watch it religiously understand that. And I hope more people will watch it. It’s just that little show on the CW still.

THR: How much does fan response on Twitter influence you?
You can sort of see if people responded to something or didn’t respond to something. You’ll get a collective consensus. You can tell the difference between what a fan wants to happen versus whether they just liked it or not. You get a consensus, and read it. You follow it along and weigh everything when you read.

THR: If you were to attend in costume, what would it be?
I’m a horror geek. I’d go as Michael Myers. However, I’d love to try on the Alien suit at least once in my life.

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