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Dobrev’s exit comes in a year when the series has lost several key players — including her onscreen brother, Steven R. McQueen (Jeremy), as well as Marguerite MacIntyre‘s Sheriff Forbes; Michael Trevino (Tyler) has booked ABC’s The Kingmakers pilot — but the departure of the veteran drama’s female lead is a particularly deep loss. During The Vampire Diaries‘ six-season run, Dobrev also has played Elena’s dopplegangers Katherine, Amara and Tatia, in addition to serving as the central love interest for stars Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder.
Rumors of Dobrev’s departure first circulated over the holiday weekend when crew members shared photos on social media from a group trip featuring the cast and exec producer Julie Plec with the hashtag #ninawewillmissyou.
“Saying goodbye to Nina is both bittersweet and beautiful. After six-plus years together, the entire cast and crew of The Vampire Diaries has reached a level of closeness that I don’t think any of us ever expected,” Plec said in a statement. “Nina is excited to spread her wings, get some rest, travel the world and also take it by storm, and we support her a thousand-fold. We will miss Nina and the 400 characters she played, but we look forward to the insane and exciting challenge of continuing to tell stories of our Salvatore Brothers and our much-loved and gifted ensemble.”
Meanwhile, co-star Trevino’s role in Kingmakers puts the actor’s future with The Vampire Diaries in question as the role is in first position. (Meaning should the pilot move forward, he would leave The CW show.)
“Michael has been a beloved member of the Vampire Diaries family since Day 1,” Plec said in a statement. “Even though he’s also going to be out in the world exploring new opportunities, we look forward to finding creative ways to make sure he and his character Tyler Lockwood always remain a part of the show.”
Previously, The Vampire Diaries’ Plec told THR there were big things ahead for Elena and her on-again boyfriend, Damon (played by Dobrev’s real-life ex-boyfriend, Somerhalder) to close out the remainder of season six.
“There is quite the doozy of a storyline coming for Damon and Elena, which is all about their relationship, and how it will work, and how they want to make it work,” she said. “The nice thing is they found their way back to each other, and that’s good, we want them to have made their way back to each other. But that comes with hurdles. And when you throw a mother and some other surprises into the mix, it definitely tests them in fun and really dynamic ways. Which, while bringing them together and keeping them strong, has them asking a lot of questions about how their future will be together, and what they want out of a future together — in a good way!”
No longer the network’s flagship series, The Vampire Diaries, eclipsed by Arrow and its even more successful Flash spinoff, still drives some of The CW’s biggest ratings. Season to date, it’s averaging a 1.4 rating among adults 18-49 and 2.7 million viewers. That’s the tally after seven days of a DVR, though The CW gets atypical bumps from its own hosted streaming — where a significant chunk of younger viewers watch the show.
Dobrev, meanwhile, has become a fan favorite for her work on The Vampire Diaries. She has earned numerous Teen Choice Awards as well as People’s Choice Awards for favorite actress and chemistry with Somerhalder. The series has helped make her a star — she has nearly 5.5 million Twitter followers — and has launched into a film career with feature roles, including in Let’s Be Cops, The Roommate and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. She next has horror comedy The Final Girls — which she toplines — debuted in March.
Dobrev and Somerhalder dated for three years and split in 2013. Somerhalder is now engaged to actress Nikki Reed, whom he’s been dating since 2014.
Lesley Goldberg and Michael O’Connell contributed to this report.