In 1998, Kevin Williamson brought the cult series Dawson’s Creek to TV, which told the story of four teenagers struggling through adolescence. But genre fans already were well aware of the producer/writer from his films Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Back in the genre mode, Williamson is the Executive Producer for the new series The Vampire Diaries, based on the novels by L.J. Smith, about Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley), a strange new student at Mystic Falls High School who is hiding a dark and deadly secret – the fact that he’s a vampire.
When a student at the school is attacked and left bleeding from a savage bite to the neck, Stefan immediately realizes that his older brother, Damon (Ian Somerhalder), is in the vicinity unleashing his brand of vicious brutality. But Damon has no intention of leaving town, especially when he sees Stefan’s fellow student, Elena (Nina Dobrev), who looks exactly like a woman that both Stefan and Damon loved more than a century ago. I spoke with Kevin Williamson about his new venture into The Vampire Diaries.
Can you talk about the importance of having a counterbalancing innocence to this? It’s almost like vampires coming to Dawson’s Creek.
(he laughs) There’s a lot going on here. We have the teen element, which is the teen drama aspect of it, which I guess you could compare to Dawson’s Creek. We’re not really going with that sort of heightened type of dialogue and stuff. We’re just trying to stay true to the books in that sense. But it’s not just a teen show. It’s more like a small town show. One you get past the premise of girl and vampire, we start to develop the story about a town. And that’s what we love so much about the books was the mythology of the town and what L.J. Smith created was this huge mythology, and we’re diving right into it. The vampire start is our way into it.
It’s very similar to Twilight.
The premise is the same, girl meets vampire, but when you read the second book you start to realize, ‘Oh, my God, there is a fork in the road. It really does separate itself from Twilight.’ So we’re getting to that fork in the road really quick. And we’re telling the story about a small town and all the evil that lies underneath this town and how this vampire comes to town and stirs it all up.
What do you like about the character of Stefan?
That he may be 150 years old, but he’s a teenager, and he still can’t get it right. Stefan hasn’t fed on a human in years, and so he’s weaker as a result, he’s not as strong has his brother, Damon. The only thing that would make him as strong as his brother is to have human blood.
How many episodes is Ian Somerhalder going to be in?
Ian plays Damon Salvatore and he is in every single episode. In the book, he doesn’t show up in the first book, and so in the pilot he shows up later in the pilot for the big reveal. But once he is there, he is there. He has no intention of leaving Mystic Falls. He has an agenda and it’s huge and big and it goes actually beyond Elena and it’s a lot of fun. So he is the devil. He comes into town and he makes everyone’s life hell.
Your special effects seem very subtle, is there a reason for that?
We wanted to do something that we can actually do on a weekly basis. I hate cheap effects and I hate when it gets really cheesy and you don’t really have money or the time to do things to any sort of big budget scale and everybody who is watching this show has seen what you can do with $150 million on a feature film. So it’s kind of hard. We want to do something a little more subtle and just keep it to a physiological response to when they get excited we just see the blood rush under the skin, so they have bloody eyes. And then, of course, they have teeth, but we wanted to do something to keep it simple so that we don’t have something we can manage and do a good job with every week.
What are the basic rules for the vampires in this show – do they go out in the day time?
It all starts in one place and every vampire is an extension of those original role.s I’ve never read Twilight so I don’t know how we are like it, but I know we can go out in the sun. Sunlight kills vampires but they have this talisman ring that they wear, wit this blue lapis stone, this is from the book, that protects them. It has been spelled, so it is a special ring. They can wear it and go out into the sun, but if the ring comes off they are in trouble.
In the pilot, you’ve got this rare thing of dueling diaries, are you going to keep doing that, and are you to keep ending each episode by interchanging the two diaries?
Yes, it is really a nice way to open up a story, begin a story and close a story. It is a really great bookend. We are going to use it. We will do the dueling diaries, we will do the separate ones. We’ll try to be careful with it and not overdo it.