'Vampire Diaries' and 'Originals' EP Julie Plec on End Dates, Avoiding "Mystical Mines" and Adding New Faces

Julie Plec Headshot - H 2015
Courtesy of Ricky Middlesworth

Julie Plec is already juggling two shows: The Vampire Diaries, which just entered its seventh season, and The Originals, which just kicked off its third. Later this season, Plec will add an ambitious third project to her plate: the midseason entry Containment, about the immediate aftermath of a deadly outbreak.

Thankfully, Plec isn't working on the three hour-long CW dramas alone. She has an established a group of executive producers – Caroline Dries on The Vampire Diaries, Michael Narducci on The Originals, and Chris Ord and MattCorman on Containment – who have been vital to everything running smoothly. 

Plec spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about "mystical mines" that come with having two shows in the same universe, the key to introducing new characters and the biggest showrunner lesson she's passed onto her team thus far.

The Vampire DiariesThe Originals and Containment are in very different stages of their lives. Do you find yourself needed more in certain areas (writers' room, post-production, etc.) for certain shows?

I would say I try and get into the writers' room of The Originals as much as possible because season three is always such a crucial season for storytelling. You kind of get your groove and you have to keep on proving you can do better and better.

When you a launch a season on one show, most of the heavy lifting comes in production, so I've been in Atlanta a lot more than usual for Containment; just dealing with logistics and the simple details of putting a show on its feet on the production side. I've been lucky. The writing has been so great, and [they've] been so great, that the scripts have been fantastic from the get-go; that's almost unheard of in a season one show, so I've been incredibly lucky there.

In Vampire Diaries, not a single cut gets locked without me putting my hands all over it. I love my time in post-production on Vampire Diaries.

When you look towards ending shows, do you want to do a set number of years? Or do you want to write for these shows as long as the studio and network will let you?

I would love to keep telling stories in these worlds for as long as possible, as long the people who help me tell the stories want to do it. In that category are the actors who bring these characters to life, as the writers who have a point of view on how to tell the stories, as the studio and the network who have to write a check to do so. It's a big group decision, frankly, and it's fascinating; the behind-the-scenes of it all is so interesting. When you get to a show that has run this long, you get to a group of people who dig in to their desire to keep doing it -- it's wonderful. We shall see.

You've built quite a group of showrunners who work on your shows. What is something vital that you've taught them? 

(Laughs.) You know, ironically, just when I finally taught myself how to delegate, how to not be a control freak, not to be an obsessive micro-manager, I've trained a collection of control freak, micro-managers who bust their asses and work so hard to make these shows happen. So I get to go to sleep at night and dream peacefully, and they get to suffer.

We all have to go through it, you know? You have to know what it means to have to have your fingerprint on every detail before you can start to release those details to other people. I think being that deeply invested in a show is what makes a good showrunner. I think I am grateful and lucky to have, across the three shows, three exceptionally good partners. Not to mention a lot of writers underneath them who are ready to step up as soon as there's an opportunity.

The Vampire Diaries and The Originals exist in the same world, but they don't do crossovers. What kinds of challenges have you found that poses?

We get into what I'll call mystical mines every now and then, where we'll be going down one road and I realize it [contradicts] the mythology of the other show, and we have to course correct to make sure we're not breaking our own rules.

More often than not, the general rule is to keep everything grounded enough in a believability, and so the mythology tends to match show to show, because of a desire to not go so ridiculously over the top we can't keep track. Obviously we mess that up every now and then, but it's not as hard as it probably could be.

The Vampire Diaries and Originals both introduced a whole lot of characters this year. What kinds of challenges do you have in introducing a multiple new faces at once?

All you have to do is call up the country of Australia, and tell them that you're hiring. And then things just work out. (Laughs.) The best part of introducing new characters is that you have fresh new bodies to write for, you have new actors who come in with enthusiasm and excitement. You get to welcome them into this little family we've built here in Atlanta, and then watch as they come to love it. It's always a crapshoot when you have really high hopes for a character, and if you feel like you've missed on a casting choice, that's the most stressful thing. Anything you wanted to do with that character goes out the window.

We, fortunately, almost never have that problem. I can count on, maybe, one hand where an acting mishap has resulted in completely sandbagging a journey of a new character. But with this particular year with [The Vampire Diaries'] heretics, and what I call The Trinity over on The Originals, we've just hit the jackpot.

Have you figured out if you will you be directing again this year?

The answer is yes, I just don't know when. I just had to give up a slot because I've been too busy. (Laughs.) So now I have to figure out when the next opportunity is. My plan is to try and hit one, if not two, of the shows this year.

Originals or TVD?

What would be safe and comfortable would be for me to do Vampire Diaries again. What would be challenging and daring would be to dive into The Originals. So, it depends on how up to the challenge I am at any given moment.

The Vampire Diaries and The Originals air Thursdays at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively, on The CW. Containment premieres midseason