The stakes (literal and figurative) are higher than ever for The Vampire Diaries, which is heading into its eighth and final season this Fall. We, along with a handful of journalists, got to sit down with show creator/vampire master/overall badass Julie Plec at Comic-Con, and she let us in on a lot. Is Elena returning for the farewell? How many episodes will the last season be? Can we expect any crossovers or new characters? It's all right here!
One of the Easter eggs you dropped during the panel was about how the new episode titles are going to be lines from season one. Are there any other things that you can point to that will pay homage to that first season?
Julie Plec: We are just in the early stages of writing the scripts, but every day in the room we talk about different ways we can celebrate the first season. There's a pitch on the table now about the Miss Mystic Falls pageant, the Decade Dance, and Founder's Day, going back to the root of the founding families, even so much as seeing the history of season one played out from a different perspective, so there's all kinds of different tricks and tools and fun things we're trying to do. We'll see if we actually do them, but that's definitely our intention.
Are there any crossovers in the works?
JP: There's no crossover specifically because the timelines don't match up this year, but I was just saying to someone else that that doesn't mean before we run end titles on the last image of the finale that we won't pay some sort of homage to what's happening on The Originals. Conversely, my hope is that The Originals will continue to live on, as can any of these characters with it.
Do you see there being any other spinoffs?
JP: I have thought about it. I would say it's not out of the question. I don't have it right now. I have nuggets, ideas of, "Wouldn't it be fun to do this? Wouldn't it be neat to try that?" Nothing that's even cemented enough to say, "Oh, I got something in the works." I do think that when you stumble upon a world that makes so many people happy, and in this case the world of Mystic Falls, you should always keep your mind open to exploring it in other ways.
Can you tell us anything about the return of Elena?
JP: I've been in here for 35 minutes and you are the first person to ask me that. I've had nine questions about the June wedding, and not a single person has asked about Elena. All I can say, because there is nothing written in stone, but Nina made me a promise when she left that she would come back and be part of the goodbye, and I intend on holding her to that, and I'm sure she intends on living up to it as well. We just have to figure it out: the how, the when, the what. But it would be a real tragedy if we couldn't bring that story back around full-circle.
And about the June wedding?
JP: I will say nothing, other than what I've said nine times, that we are well aware that that line exists in the pilot and that was Caroline's intention from minute one. It's the final season and we don't like to leave a lot of things hanging, so we'll see.
Is it harder for you to have a shorter season?
JP: No, it's so good. We're doing 16 episodes. For seven years we've been complaining. We are very grateful for our jobs. We love our jobs, but 22 episodes a year for seven years is so hard. It's hard to maintain a level of quality, it's hard to maintain a level of sanity, and to be able to do a 16-episode season is the greatest gift that we could be given. And to be able to do it knowing you're approaching an end date of the entire series means every minute counts. Every episode counts. There's not fluff episodes, there's no stall, there's no, "Eh, I don't know about that one" — every episode is gonna matter.
Is it almost like leaving a family finishing this last season?
JP: Yeah. I'm the girl who, when it came time to graduate high school, my parents were moving out of town so in my heart I knew I'd never see most of those people again, was crying in the corner of every graduation party. Beer in hand, just sobbing. I get very nostalgic about this stuff, I'm very emotional, and I love these guys so much. The good news is, we all work in the same business. We'll all have opportunities to work together again. I was so sad about Containment ending, and I've already hired half the cast across the two shows. It's gonna be tough emotionally. It's like growing up with the same group of people and then finally saying goodbye. I'm looking forward to it because it's beautiful, but it hurts.
Is there a possibility that after it ends we might still see a Vampire Diaries person show up on The Originals?
JP: I would love that. I'm using that to hold the network hostage and say, "Listen, keep The Originals on the air and at some point we'll try to find a way to work everybody through those doors." Because why not? It's a great world! Vampires are not done. People still like vampires, and there's no other vampires on TV that I want to see. I'd love to keep it going.
Are there going to be new cast members this season?
JP: Speaking of Containment, we're putting Kristen Gutoskie into the role of Seline, the new nanny — from a teacher role to a nanny role. She's someone that Caroline is still trying to figure out when Alaric hired the hot nanny instead of the old nanny. We've got Demetrius Bridges, who was Xander on Containment, playing Dorian, who is one of Alaric's new interns. We've just cast Natalie in a role, this great Australian actress, in the role of Cybil. There's many more to come.