6:00pm PT by Marisa Roffman
'The Vampire Diaries' Postmortem: Producers, Star on the Heartbreaking Death
[Warning: Major spoilers ahead for The Vampire Diaries' "Stay."]
Over six seasons, The Vampire Diaries has killed off countless characters, but during Thursday's episode, "Stay," the series dealt with one of its most grounded (and heartbreaking) farewells as Sheriff Forbes (Marguerite MacIntyre) succumbed to her cancer.
"[MacIntyre] came on thinking she was going to appear once or twice and then be killed, because she was a terrible sheriff," The Vampire Diaries executive producer Julie Plec told The Hollywood Reporter. (MacIntyre is also Plec's longtime friend: the duo have known one another since working together on ABC Family's Kyle XY.) "But every year, she thought it was such a miracle [Sheriff Forbes] was alive. And it got to the point where over the six seasons, she'd become a beloved fixture in our characters' community, and the world of Mystic Falls — she has a connection with everybody that's really special. When you have a character like that, sadly they become ripe for the killing."
"We wanted Caroline (Candice Accola) to go through something profound," Plec continued. "We wanted to tell a death that mattered. This is the first one since [the loss of the ability to communicate with] the other side. She's not supernatural, obviously, but there is no resurrection, there is no supernatural saving grace. This death will be permanent and it will matter. And it's so emotional. Every time we've [talked about] it , the day we pitched it, the day I agreed to it, the day we broke the story beats, the day I wrote my story [for the following episode], I cried and cried. When we were shooting it, everybody was crying. It's just beautiful."
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Given the show's supernatural roots, Forbes' death allows the series to explore mortality in a way it hasn't before.
"This week's episode and next week's episode, we like to hit the theme of the ordinary business of dying and death," Plec told reporters during a recent screening. "Because there's so much emotion attached to it, but there's also so many logistics attached to it: from planning the funeral to picking out flower arrangements, and all these things we've done along the way with Caroline, in spite of the supernatural circumstance, that was created with her mom getting a very human disease. She's had to deal with what books she puts on her bedside table, so the last book she reads brings her joy. I think we really enjoyed that exploring just the simple, basic, logistics of having to accept the death of someone you love and literally and figuratively put them in the ground … it's surprisingly emotional. If you've lost anyone and think about even picking out which outfit you're going to wear to the funeral. It kind of kicks you in the gut a little bit, and we wanted to make sure we captured those moments."
But with a topic naturally this dark, the studio and network became a little worried about the original draft of Forbes' final (conscious) scene.
"When [The Vampire Diaries co-executive producer/"Stay" co-writer] Brian [Young] and I were trying to think of what the theme of this episode is with the sheriff dying, we liked the idea that there was no mystery to Elena's (Nina Dobrev) parents' death; [just like] cancer just chooses you, there's no silver-lining to it," The Vampire Diaries showrunner Caroline Dries said. "When we wrote the scene where [Sheriff Forbes] was sitting with Damon (Ian Somerhalder) [right before she lost consciousness] and it was a very dark scene, and the studio and network read it, and they were like, 'Can there be some silver-lining? This is so depressing. There's no answer to Elena's parents' death, there's no upside.' And I'm like, 'There's no upside to cancer, that's the whole point!' And they're like, 'It's so dark!'"
Plec reached out to MacIntyre (who is also a writer on spinoff The Originals) to see what she thought Forbes would want to say to Caroline, if she could speak to her at the funeral. MacIntyre wrote down some thoughts, Plec passed them along to Dries and Young, and it ended up being the fix to the scene's problem. "We [then] added the speech that the sheriff says to Damon about Caroline being extraordinary, but [Forbes] is exceptionally ordinary," Dries shared. "And that kind of sparked from what Marguerite had written about her own character. It did add the silver-lining to her being okay with that. And even though I was like, 'Ugh, this note is annoying,' [after it was all in, I could admit,] 'This is much better.' So it was a group effort."
For her part, MacIntyre relished the chance of being able to acknowledge and embrace the reality of her character's place in the show's world.
"I loved it — if you think what it's like for her, she is ordinary … let's face it, she really tried, she lost a lot of deputies, things have been rough," MacIntyre acknowledged. "Her successes are sort of few, except for her relationship with her daughter, and the face that she loves this town … I didn't know I'd last six years; you watch the show, and [I thought] I'm a short-timer from the word go. I have developed all these relationships with people. Initially, I was like, why doesn't she run? There's vampires here, go! [And] it's because she loves this town. She loves these people. It's important to her…there is this feeling she's this ordinary touchstone. And she's OK with it. It's someone being OK that they're dying — not happy about it, but OK with it — and also recognizing what's so special about her daughter. For me, it just felt like inside her head, the most important thing she'd want [Caroline] to know is … she was extraordinary and how she felt about her, and that she understood that. Inside her head, that would be the message."
The Forbes women spent very little time together in "Stay," as the good sheriff attempted to close all of her opened cases and Caroline set out to create a perfect relaxing environment for her mother's final days, but that almost wasn't the case: an early version of the episode had the women trying to knock out the character's bucket list.
"The original idea for the episode was Caroline creates the perfect day for her mom, but there was no conflict in the story," Dries explained.
"We even asked Marguerite, 'What would be in the sheriff's bucket list?'" Plec recalled. "And Caroline and [Sheriff Forbes] were going to have the perfect bucket list day … the original pitch was she was going to do the bucket list, and she was going to take a turn for the worse before they could do the last thing. And then Caroline was going to go inside her mind to give her that last thing. Once we broke the investigative storyline involving the parents, the closure of that mystery was going to be the thing that put her to sleep, so to speak, we went this way instead."
And though Caroline got to say goodbye to her mother by going into one of their shared memories, the trauma of the death will, understandably, shape her going forward.
"She's going to have to go through a life-changing experience," Plec allowed. "This whole season has been how these other characters have dealt with grief, what their coping mechanisms have been. Caroline's going to discover the hard way about what grief does, and how she herself deals with it."
Adding to Caroline's potential tension is the fact that she and Stefan (Paul Wesley) shared their first kiss hours before Sheriff Forbes passed away, and have yet to really deal with it.
"What's the first conversation you have after your first kiss?" Plec questioned. "Right now, something pretty dramatic has happened, and the next episode is all about judging where and when that first conversation is going to go."
As the impact of Sheriff Forbes' death ripples across the community, Caroline won't be the only one reeling.
"The two people who are carrying the most weight in the next episode, as far as their emotional status, is Caroline, obviously, and Damon," Plec said. "When all is said and done, [Sheriff Forbes] was like a surrogate mother and best friend to him. A lot of what we talk about in the next episode is that he's now been tasked with the burden of writing the eulogy. So he has to stand in front of the entire town and honor his friend. He has a line where he's like, 'This is ridiculous. It's making me have to be a nice person; I don't want to be a nice person. [She's] is laughing at me from beyond the grave.' He's struggling with hero Damon, as always. He wants to do right by his friend, he wants to fix a mistake in his past, in regards to his mother. But it's putting him outside his comfort in a way that's really messing with his head."
And while the death is real, "Stay" won't be the last viewers see of Sheriff Forbes. "We see her next week, because it's her funeral," Plec shared. "She's one of my best friends, and so, I was like, 'I'm writing you an open casket in one of the scenes, so they have to bring you to Atlanta so we can drink wine [before] I'm directing [my first episode]. And you can be there while I'm directing.' Because it was my first episode directing, I thought, how perfect to have Marguerite there, for at least a day."
Going forward, Sheriff Forbes' job is "going to remain vacant for a while," Plec teased.
"[Who will replace her is] an answer that's going to come in season seven. But her death is definitely going to put a lot of people on new paths, and make them make choices about who they want to be: the kind of person they want to be and what they want to do with their lives. Maybe someone's path will be in that direction Once we get through the Sheriff Forbes chapter, which is basically the end of next week, we start to explore the backstory of Enzo and why he is the way he is, and what makes him tick."
And while the characters (and fans) grieve the loss of Sheriff Forbes, they won't be alone.
"The hardest thing for me has been that everybody knew [the death] was coming," MacIntyre shared. "For weeks beforehand, people have been very emotional with me. And I'm like, 'Dudes, I'm fine [in real-life].' Especially Ian, weirdly, every time he'd see me, he'd be like [Quiet], 'Hi.' When we did the table read when there was the first scene that there was some trouble, after the table read, he was like, 'I've got this, I got that, and by the way, you get well, right?' And I was like, 'Uh, no.' And he was like, 'What?!' And literally from then on he's been very clingy."
"Nobody thought we'd actually kill her," Plec added. "Nina was like, 'You're not really going to kill the sheriff, right?' And I was like, 'Yeah, we are dude.' And she was like, 'Come on! Why would you do that?' And I was like, 'Because it's very important.'"
Are you shocked the show killed off Sheriff Forbes? Or just simply heartbroken? The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW. Click here to read our postmortem with Steven R. McQueen about Jeremy's exit.