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The Television Critics Association exists to serve its membership of full-time TV critics, most of whom do not live near the entertainment capitals of Los Angeles and New York. The twice-yearly TCA press tour, then, represents an unparalleled opportunity to gain access to the people who make television. The reporting our members do at press tour creates story material year-round as well as valuable face-to-face contacts with network executives, producers and actors.
Here's the question I'm sure everyone is asking: Why vampires? Why are they so big now?
It's all cyclical. I remember when I was growing up we had those Lost Boys, and then there were a few shows after that. . . . I'm sure there's some psychological ramification to the psyche of America and culture at the moment and politics and the state of the world. I'm sure we could go analyze it till the cows come home. But I think they're cool, they're fun, they're sexy, and they took off. Julie's the one who coined the phrase "They're the new James Dean," and she's got a point. They're the new version of a bad boy, and for a whole new generation.
With so many other vampires out there, what will make this show stand out?
I read the first book and was like, "This is Twilight. This is just like Twilight." . . . I was like, "No way." And then Julie was three books ahead of me and she was going, "Keep reading. Keep reading." And then I kept reading and was like, "Oh, OK, I get it." This is a different show. This is a story about a town. This is a story about a family. . . . The premise is the same but the themes are different. It goes beyond just a love story and really goes into everything that goes bump in the night. It's more sort of a Dark Shadows. This town has a lot going on in it, and we just start with the vampires.
Is it easier or harder to be the new vampire show right now?
It's really tough. We were just saying there's a hundred reasons that are working against us. And one of them is my favorite show, True Blood. . . . Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? I personally have room for one more vampire show in my lineup. It's a coming of age story, it's a drama show, I get to have a little fun with the humor of it, I'm trying to put our characters in the real world. They're in the world of it — these are high school girls who actually read Twilight. We just wrote the scene where one of the girls finds out Ian Somerhalder's a vampire, and her first comment is, "Why don't you sparkle?"
You don't have a big main cast at the start — it's really just Elena and the two brothers. So I imagine casting was really key.
It was so hard to cast these roles. We had to play with the ages and stuff. We're getting away with it with the two vampires, cause they're 145 years old. So OK, they don't look 16? But Nina [Dobrev, who plays Elena] — Nina came in for us one day to audition. She was sick, she had the flu, worst audition ever. We didn't even look at her a second time. And she went home, went back to Canada, and she was just miserable. She's like, "I was sick, I was just awful, I can do better than that." So she put herself on videotape and she sent that tape through and we put it in and we were like, "Who's that?" "Oh, she came in and auditioned." "No, she didn't." "Oh, the sick girl?" She was a totally different girl, totally. And so we took it to Warner Bros., to Peter Roth, and we said, "Look, we have all these actresses out in the hallway, or you can watch this." I had such luck with that with Katie Holmes back in the day, with videotapes, and so I said, "Let's see if we can get lucky again."
Have you given your vampires a distinctive look?
They're hot and sexy. We're not doing the pale thing. They look like they look. Paul Wesley comes with that olive skin, so he kind of has that vampire look anyway. Since the pilot he's been getting into vampire mode, which means he's been just working out. He looks great. And Ian is just a rock. They look really, really good. What we're doing differently is when they turn into a vampire . . . we're going with the philosophy that once they get engorged the blood starts racing to their body. They're angry — any sort of hot emotion, anger, love, sex, anything that's really heightened — and so the blood rushes to the eyes. You see the blood rush into the eyes, and then the teeth come out.
It seems like a pro and a con that the books come with a built-in fan base that's very passionate about the work. How are you dealing with that?
We've had to make some hard choices, and we've made some changes. But what I loved so much about what LJ Smith did was she created a world and a mythology that is a writer's dream. That is the hardest thing to do, is come up with the backstory. She's laying that there for me — she's there as a mine that I can just go to every week. We're going to keep the essence of her books, the themes of her books about friendship and betrayal and deception and redemption. All of those themes that were so prevalent in the first three or four books will 100 percent be on there. And yes, some of the plots will change and the Founder's Day ball may not happen exactly where it did [in the books], it may happen in episode three, you know, and the Halloween episode may be sixth and in the book it was reversed. We're plotting it out for longevity and we're plotting out all of the character arcs. If your character doesn't resemble the one that it did in the book, maybe we backed it up and started it somewhere else so maybe they can grow into that character, because we're a series and we have to tell a story every week. 
Here are a few fun quotes I got from the big three — Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, and Nina Dobrev — at the Winter TCA. First take a peek their sexy new Nylon cover, then check out the highlights where they dish on werewolves, alter egos, and upcoming episodes:
Paul on whether or not we can expect werewolves: "I know that in the books that happens, but it hasn't been confirmed. It's been insinuated, and if you want my personal opinion, I think it would be fantastic."
Nina on what we can expect from Katherine: "There's going to be an episode soon where you see a lot more Katherine. And you see how crazy she is, and how everything she does is for herself. Like boys, and how she likes to use them for her toys. They're just there for her amusement."
Paul on Stefan's dark side: "I want to explore that. I think he indulged as a vampire for a little bit. And now, if things don't go his way, and Damon gets his girl, and things are coming to an end, he may have to resort to violence and some malicious activity."
Ian on what he wants to see from Damon: "I told Kevin [Williamson], I need to find Katherine soon. This brooding, not eating people, not having a lot of power Damon is killing me. I want to be munching. I want power. I want to be flying. I want to be eating people. And I want to be having a blast."
To see what else Nina had to say about what's in store for Katherine and what Ian would be doing if he wasn't an actor, just read more.
Nina on playing Elena and Katherine: "I did read the books, and at first when I read them I was kind of excited to be that bad girl. Elena, in the books, is one of those mean girls that gets what she wants, popular . . . and she's blonde and blue eyed. Kevin specifically told me that the angle we wanted to go for was the relatable, nice, girl next door, who the audience roots for. So he made a conscious decision to change that. And that's why she contrasts so much with Katherine, because Katherine is that conniving, narcissistic, bitch. I think have one of the coolest characters on the show — I get to play two completely different people on opposite sides of the spectrum and I just have so much fun doing it."
Paul on his favorite TV shows: "I love Six Feet Under. There are certain shows I'll get on DVD, I just started watching The Sopranos for the first time, but I've never watched live television. That's why I still haven't seen Jersey Shore.
Ian on what he'd be if not an actor: "I'd probably be a marine biologist." 
Candice Accola Talks About Having Sparks With Tyler, Stefan, and Matt on The Vampire Diaries
Candice Accola, who plays Caroline Forbes on The Vampire Diaries, made a stop at the Winter TCA to talk about her role. She touched on how her character Caroline has transitioned into the life of a new vampire and what's next for her romantically. We talked about all her potential love interests — yes, even Stefan!
Were you shocked when you first found out that Caroline was going to be a vampire?
Candice Accola: It had been hinted. I guess I was shocked at the extreme at which she kicked ass so much within that episode too; it wasn't a slow build. And the fact that they gave her the opportunity to catch on and to be very dominant in the sense that she killed people. When the people you work with on a day-to-day basis look at the blood on your face and have to turn away . . . it was pretty graphic. I'm glad that they allowed the character who's so perky and vain to just get dirty.
When did you find out?
I was very happy to get a phone call from Kevin [Williamson] before we went back for season two, so I did know that it was going to happen, but things do get brought up and changed. It wasn't until I saw it on the paper that it was like, this is real, this is happening.
You and Michael Trevino (Tyler) recently had a very moving scene when Tyler transitioned to a werewolf for the first time.
It was moving just to be in the room. It was a smaller set and a smaller crew and it was shot over two 12- to 14-hour days, and it was really hard to watch. Trevino obviously wasn't wearing very many clothes, the chains he had on in the episode, they were real chains. He was bawling his eyes out. It was really tough to watch. You know, Trevino is a dude, he is a full-on, very masculine man and so to watch him get so vulnerable, it definitely created a very open space in which [I was] able to feel what was going on.
To find out what Accola had to say about potential romance between Caroline and Stefan, just read more.
Where is the relationship between Caroline and Matt going?
There's obviously a love triangle; and what's missing in one, the other one has. I think Matt is Caroline's first true love, but I think that Tyler, she can really be her real new self in front of. It's really up to the writers to decide where they want to take it. But I love that their [Tyler and Caroline] relationship didn't start out as a sexual one, there was no sexual tension, it was purely friendship, purely "if you've got my back, I've got your back." And Caroline hadn't had that yet in the season.
Caroline and Stefan have struck up a friendship; do you think anything romantic will ever happen between them?
It's always fun when you have new faces in front of you, and Caroline and Stefan didn't really have a lot of scenework in the first season, so I think that's what everyone is talking about in regards to the second season. They've got a great banter, you know. [But] He's got enough to worry about with Elena. And that's the other thing, it's another friendship; yes, she was attracted to him back then, but at this point it really is just stemming from the friendship, and I just need help. It's refreshing because it's that old question, can men and women just friends? 
9:45 a.m. We should be starting any second. Don't get anxious!
9:50 a.m. We start with a Damon/Klaus Bad Boy montage, which features topless Damon dancing. We'll see if The CW makes this available, because it's lots of Devilish Damon/Klaus, if you like that sort of thing.
9:51 a.m. Somerhalder is wearing a hat. "Thank you all for coming and wasting your time with us," he says. Morgan appears to be wearing a black suit?
9:52 a.m. "The last thing I shot was me walking in with a bag full of severed heads," Morgan says of whether Klaus has become less evil. "We do really terrible things for good reasons now," Morgan notes. "It's ill-intent, but for righteous reasons," Somerhalder agrees, clarifying that such people are also the people we fear in the real world as well. "We're trying. Damon's trying," he says.
9:53 a.m. Morgan says that being big and evil can be cathartic. He's got an overnight flight tonight and he and his wife are fostering a new dog and "Phoebe is going to get all of my tired and angriness." Julie Plec says that it's the same for the writers.
9:54 a.m. Julie says that she and Kevin Williamson came up with a perfect ending. They stuck to that for many years, but now the show has gone on longer. She says that they're still on the same path, but it's evolved. "Well that could not have been more evasive," Ian says. Somehalder recalls having a conversation with Damon Lindelof towards the end of "Lost" and now with the "Vampire Diaries" team. He's full of respect for the writers and what they do. "I just wanted to take a second to appreciate these three people up here who continue to give us these stories every week," he says. "It blows my mind what you guys do," Somerhalder says.
9:56 a.m. Morgan says that there's some week-by-week changes in the way people respond to Klaus and the show on social media. "Our audience is very involved, I think," Morgan says. "VERY involved," Somerhalder says. "They've actually used their fanbase for the power of good," Plec says, noting Somerhalder's environmental causes and Morgan's book club. Somerhalder agrees that the world has shifted with social media spaces. "Then all of a sudden it becomes this crazy organic beast, if you will," Somerhalder says. "It's really changed the whole face of the planet," he says. "There's no middle man there. You can have direct access with the fans of the show," Morgan agrees. He likes the passion of fans, both positive and negative, saying it's better than a lack of passion. "It's kinda double-edged sword," Plec says. She says that at one hand you get a focus group, but on the other hand you can't be influenced any more than you'd be influenced by research numbers or focus groups. People are prone to yelling at her on social media and she was recently wondering if, going back, she'd do anything differently. She likes the arcs that they've done and would do the same. Dries notes that the fans of the show are polarized in what they want, so you can't please all of them. "It is very tempting and new for us to be able to watch an episode and, in real time, see people's responses," Dries adds. Somerhalder says no writers/showrunners have ever been able to get this immediate response like this before. Narducci says that they're writing the stories they love, regardless of ratings and he notes that he got blasted by some fans on Twitter for not appeasing the fans. They say that their level of passion wouldn't be the same if they just did what fans wanted. Plec requires a time that Narducci almost missed a flight because he was in the middle of a Twitter fight with a super-fan. "Harvard brain, football body it's a little bit menacing," Somerhalder says of Narducci.
10:04 a.m. Narducci says that sometimes they find out that the storyline they're wanting to do on "Originals" is already happening on "Vampire Diaries." "First one who comes up with it wins," is Plec's rule, but she'll break it if necessary. Plec says that they have thick documents and story bibles, but "the dumbest things will get by us." She says she'll watch finished episodes and realize that they broke the rules of her mythology. "From the actors standpoint as well, there is a lot of mythology, but in the heart... this is a story about people. It was a story about relationships. It was about this town," Somerhalder says, noting that this "Vampire Diaries" season has been about getting back to the people. Morgan agrees that when he started, he used to get notes to be "less vampiric" so that Klaus could be more human. "Yeah, sure they're a thousand years old, but you take these relationships and amplify them," Morgan says of the family dynamics.
10:07 a.m. What's coming up in the spring on the shows? Dries says that the main through line will continue to be learning more about The Gemini Coven. Kai has now absorbed all of Mystic Falls' magic and he wants to Merge with Jo and become a leader of the Gemini Coven. Dries says there will be a lot of drama "and death" continuing through the season. "We've got Damon and Elena finally working their way back towards each other," Plec says, noting that Damon and Elena may actually achieve a comfortable relationship without internal conflict. "We get to see part of the relationship that we didn't get to see the first time around," Dries says of the four months of happiness we skipped before the start of the fifth season. And "The Originals"? In the midseason family we saw Esther getting neutralized. We see Finn and Mikael becoming bigger threats and then we'll hear more about the origins of Esther as a witch and the deals she had to make to become a mother to this family. The big question is what will Klaus do to protect his child and what would happen if somebody else in his family has a different strategy for protecting her? Klaus won't necessarily be ready to follow orders.
10:11 a.m. Julie Plec will be directing this spring. "Finally I realized that in a lifetime you're lucky if you get one series on the air that lasts six, seven, eight years," she says and to have this opportunity may not come along. "It's the coolest directing experience ever," Somerhalder says. Somerhalder is directing the episode after Plec's directing effort and they're now on-stage holding hands in solidarity. Somerhalder remember his last-minute rush back from Vegas to audition and how long they've been together. They were up together drinking wine and touching up the last edit of the pilot. "It's just her team. These are the people who will not let us fail. It's really special," Somerhalder says. "I'm excited. I hope I don't screw it up," he says of his own time behind the camera.
10:14 a.m. Morgan says he likes it when he gets to be in town with the writers so he can grill them. They're shooting episode 14 at the moment and he's looked at 15, but that's all he knows. Plec says that with Morgan, when you tell him information, he'll spill it to the other actors. "It's the audience and it's the media that keep this show alive, so thank you for allowing us these opportunities to continue this. Even when you don't like us," Somerhalder says.
10:16 a.m. "You don't typically get to see Damon in a space and time when he's truly happy," Somerhalder says, adding that you also don't get to see Elena happy often. "They're very deserving of it," Somerhalder says of Damon and Elena's happiness. "Love trumps all, so when you see love, you want it to win," Somerhalder says.