EW caught up with Julie Plec & Nina Dobrev to take a trip down memory lane and say their goodbye to Elena Gilbert.
Plec: We had the pitch on how to exit her ready at the beginning of the season. We’d all come up with the idea, and felt really good about it and thought it would be a great story generator if we were stuck with that as our only option. There were a lot of conversations, and a lot of time spent trying to decide whether that would happen at the second-to-last episode of the season, the last episode of the season, the first episode of next season, or the tenth or eleventh episode of next season. So we had the story in our pocket, and we had versions of how to do it all quickly, or to do it over a long period of time and create more story out of it. So we just kind of had to keep juggling that in our minds until we knew for sure that her exit would be at the end of season 6.
[Nina] was actually willing to come back and do the culmination of the storyline in the first episode of season 7. But we then realized like, that’s such a horrible wink. [To] cliffhang Elena over the finale and then say goodbye at episode 1 would just be so, so mean. So we made the decision to be very appreciative of her willingness to do that for us, but we thought that would probably get us killed—so we decided to say goodbye in the finale.
Dobrev: It’s not something we decided last minute. It’s been a couple years, I’d say. Not that I knew for sure. I knew that the character would go on a journey—and yes, this is a show about vampires, but ultimately, I’m a human and I have to go live my human life now. Six years is a very long, great, great time. We did more than 100 episodes, which is in my eyes considered a huge success.
Once I did announce that I was going to start my next journey and the next chapter in my life, it was really cool to see people posting videos and hear their favorite moments. It made me kind of relive the last six years and realize how lucky and how incredibly grateful I am, and appreciative of this experience that I’ve had. But this is one of hopefully many that I will have in the future, and although I’m very very sad to leave my family and to not be around them every day, I’m really looking forward to the next step and seeing what’s going to happen. Because it’s currently unknown, and that’s what’s exciting to me—not knowing, because anything can happen at that point.
Plec: I’ve been getting a lot of heat about [why we’re not just ending the show], but it never occurred to us. [Laughs] Not because we don’t think the character is vital to the show, but because we think that losing the character from the show actually creates a tremendous amount of emotional opportunity and story for all these other characters that we love just as much.
Dobrev: [The Vampire Diaries] was actor bootcamp. I got to do drama, and comedy at times with Katherine, and stunts, and action. There’s so many different things I got to experience and do—green screens and split screens and multiple characters. It was like a college experience in many ways. So I learned a lot, and I quite literally grew up on camera, and got to travel the world. This experience has been a rollercoaster ride. It’s been pretty epic.