'Vampire Diaries': Nina Dobrev on Elena's Strife, Damon's Void and "Divided" Season 6

"The events of the finale are going to test and change who she is as a human being," she tells THR
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'The Vampire Diaries'

Is Elena ready to move on?

The Vampire Diaries picks up months after Damon and Bonnie disappeared on the Other Side, with everyone dispersing across the region in varying attempts to move on (or not). "It does feel very divided — everyone's gone their separate ways," Nina Dobrev tells The Hollywood Reporter. "The show feels a little bit different but not in a bad way. It's almost like everyone's pressed the reset button."

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Mystic Falls continues to be a supernatural-free zone, thanks to the Travelers' spell, but an unexpected nuisance threatens the town's temporary bliss. Even as Elena attempts to pick up the pieces as her sophomore year at Whitmore College begins, an undeniable void remains. "Something feels like it's missing, which is good for the audience to feel like there's a loss among all [the characters] being pulled apart," she says. "But hopefully the difficult times will draw them [all] back together, and all the relationships will be stronger because of it."

If there was worry over Damon and Elena's love story taking a backseat, the creative team behind Vampire Diaries reassures that that is simply not the case. "We definitely keep the love stories alive," executive producer Caroline Dries recently said, alluding to Damon's mysterious whereabouts. "We might not play it out in a traditional way, but they will feel very satisfying."

Ahead of the premiere, Dobrev took a few minutes to chat with THR to preview season six.

The Vampire Diaries ended on an emotional note last year with deaths of Damon and Bonnie. Even with several months to grieve, Elena hasn't been dealing with her losses well. What's her mindset like at the start of the season?

It's eerily happy, unconventionally so, and confusing for a lot of people — for her, for her friends and for the audience. She's not really dealing with it. She's sort of masking it and pretending that it never happened in a way. It's a ticking time bomb. She's just delaying the inevitable. It's not healthy, and it hurts people around her, and it makes her do things that she probably wouldn't otherwise. It's like a drug addiction. She goes off the deep end.

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Where does Elena believe Damon and Bonnie ended up? Is she holding out hope that they're not gone?

I feel like she doesn't have any hope of [Damon and Bonnie coming back], which is why she does what she does because if she did have hope, then that would be what kept her going. But the fact that they are dead, for all intents and purposes, in her mind, means that she can't ever see them again, she can't ever be with Damon again, she can't ever see her best friend again. And so she thinks they've just gone to heaven or hell, or whatever you believe in. They're just dead. She cannot grasp that concept and will not accept it to be true, otherwise she will literally die of a broken heart.

Did losing Damon and Bonnie toughen Elena up? What kind of an Elena will be seen this season?

The events of the finale are going to test and change who she is as a human being. She was defined by her relationship [with Damon], and now she has to start either a new life with new friends and a new existence and press the reset button or continue to grieve as she has now. Ultimately it's going to change who she is in a really, really big way.

What's the likelihood that she'll ponder getting back out in the dating game again?

I don't think she's in a place where she's going to be able to date or think about dating. That doesn't mean other people aren't going to pursue her in that time, because they don't know her situation. Who knows? Day by day, things might change, but in the beginning — for a while — she's not going to be in a place to pursue anyone in that capacity.

How does Elena feel about Caroline's mission to undo the magic spell that's forced them to disburse?

Caroline is the one who is most hell-bent on getting our home back. Elena is of the opposite mindset. She's hell-bent on starting a new life and not being there because everything she does and everywhere she goes in Mystic Falls reminds her of Damon and Bonnie. She isn't stable enough to deal with that. If anything, it's a blessing for her but not for Caroline. That'll definitely cause a little bit of tension between the two of them.

Elena starts off the year studying premed, which isn't exactly an easy major…

No, especially when you haven't gone to school or attended any classes for the past five years. (Laughs.)

How does she balance that along with everything else she has to deal with?

It's one of her coping mechanisms. It's one way to deflect and be in denial and pull your energy and time and thoughts into something else, when you're trying to avoid what you really want to deal with. It gives her something to do and something to focus on — that's part of her goal to get over everything.

Elena has a new mentor in Jo (guest star Jodi Lyn O'Keefe). What is that dynamic like?

It's cold in the beginning. Jo is a full-on doctor, and she doesn't have any relationships with anyone in our world. And so she does the tough-love approach to everything. It definitely works, but with anyone, she has a softer side, and we get into that a little later in the season.

With Alaric now teaching a class on occult studies, which Elena happens to be enrolled in, how is their relationship different?

It's really great that Alaric is back. He's a support system for Elena. He's also a parental figure in her life. It's also been really great for me to get to work with Matt Davis again. I loved working with him, so it's been exciting to have him back on the show. It's been a good thing all around.

The season starts off with everyone on his or her own path, but how strong is Stefan and Elena's bond this season?

Stefan is completely isolated from everyone. He has a very similar but very different way from Elena's grieving process in that he wants to start a life separate from everyone because everyone reminds him of his brother. It's probably one of the most difficult things that could happen to anyone, to lose a family member. They're not really close. Stefan made it a point to shut out everyone from his life.

The Vampire Diaries returns Oct. 2 on The CW.

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