In a pop culture landscape full to bursting with vampire stories, the TV series The Vampire Diaries still manages to enthral audiences over a decade after its premiere. And why shouldn’t it? Elena, Stefan, and Damon were a love triangle for the ages, and the show’s cast of characters is one bloody good time. But even after all these years, there are still secrets fans don’t know about. We’re here to uncover them.
1. Nina Dobrev Screwed Up Her Audition
Nina Dobrev is the definitive Elena Gilbert, but the actress messed up her audition in the most embarrassing way possible. She was completely unremarkable. As executive producer Julie Plec put it, “The first impression of Nina is that she didn’t make an impression.” Ouch. So what did Dobrev do to earn her spot? Something drastic.
2. Dobrev Made A Desperate Plea
As Dobrev later confessed, she was sick on the day of her big audition for Elena, and she knew in her bones she hadn’t quite hit her mark. She was so desperate for the part, however, that she recorded an entirely new audition when she was feeling better and sent it to producers. Obviously, the ploy worked. But then the backlash started.
3. Fans Hated Elena’s Casting
It’s pretty common knowledge that The Vampire Diaries is based off the L.J. Smith book series of the same name, but few know how different the show is. For one, in the books Elena Gilbert has blonde hair and blue eyes…two things Nina Dobrev definitely doesn’t have. When fans heard about her casting, they were furious at the difference. That wasn’t the only change, either.
4. Elena Is Much Different In The Books
In the books, Elena Gilbert isn’t your average heroine. She’s actually a mean, popular girl who is always able to get what she wants. Nothing at all like the TV Elena, right? That’s because the show made a conscious decision to make her a relatable “girl next door.” Still, if you think that’s surprising, just wait until you hear about this next character.
5. Katherine Was The Opposite
Although Elena is supposed to be a popular girl in the book series, the creators made even bigger changes when it comes to her doppelgänger Katherine Pierce. In the show, Katherine is evil and malicious—but in the books she’s the exact opposite. She’s actually naïve and innocent in contrast to Mean Girl Elena. Yep, the creators did a big switcheroo with the characters.
6. A Popstar Almost Starred On The Show
Obviously, there was some stiff competition when it came to Elena, and when Dobrev blew her first audition, she left the door wide open for very different actors to be considered. Need proof? Before landing on Dobrev, producers were looking at either High School Musical alum Ashley Tisdale or Ashlee Simpson for the part.
7. Nina Dobrev Got Into Big Trouble
Just like the characters they play, the show’s cast members don’t have clean pasts. On August 22, 2009—weeks before The Vampire Diaries premiered—Nina Dobrev got into very hot water. Officers in Georgia said they received 9-1-1 calls from motorists claiming she was hanging over a bridge “flashing cars,” and they detained her for disorderly conduct. A little too much fun at Mystic Grill, maybe?
8. Ian Somerhalder Sabotaged His Own Audition
Like Elena Gilbert, whoever ended up playing Damon Salvatore was getting a plum role. Ian Somerhalder is nothing short of dreamy as the naughty sibling, but he also had major trouble at his audition. According to Somerhalder himself, “I bombed it,” which he blamed on a bad case of nerves. Like Dobrev, he also had to re-audition to convince the panel of producers. Except the entire time, Somerhalder was hiding a secret.
9. Somerhalder Was Almost On A Totally Different Vampire Show
When Somerhalder auditioned for The Vampire Diaries as Damon, it wasn’t his first merry-go-round on a bloodsucking show. A year before, he’d auditioned for the part of Jason Stackhouse on True Blood, but he never managed to cinch the part. Lucky for us, Somerhalder always wanted to play a vampire or be in a vampire show, and he kept chasing the dream.
10. Paul Wesley Had A Nasty Breakup On Set
As we’ll get to, there were some big romances on the set of the show, but Paul Wesley, who plays Stefan, really got the short end of the stick. He dated and then married Torrey DeVitto, who played Dr. Meredith Fell on the show. Although they were together for a long time, tying the knot seemed to curse them: They divorced after just two years together as man and wife.
11. The Salvatores Had Completely Different Names
Although Damon and Stefan Salvatore are iconic characters in both the TV series and the original book series, the writers almost made a huge mistake. Taking a page from every bad adaptation ever, the producers of the show originally had Damon and Stefan’s last name as “Whitmore” for seemingly no reason. Thankfully, they changed it back to “Salvatore” before the show went to air.
12. Paul Wesley Originally Tried Out For Another Role
Damon Salvatore was a hot part in more ways than one. Other Damon hopefuls included a stack of future cast members, like Michael Trevino, who ended up playing Tyler Lockwood. Even Paul Wesley, who obviously won the role of Stefan, initially auditioned to be the moodier Salvatore brother. But he…really messed up his chance.
13. The Show Runners Didn’t Like Paul Wesley
When Paul Wesley tried out to be Damon, and then tried out to be Stefan, things still didn’t go his way. Actually, it became downright mortifying. Until the show locked down Nina Dobrev as Elena, they didn’t really like Wesley for any part at all. In fact, show runner and co-creator Kevin Williamson was downright insulting…
14. Nina Dobrev Helped Wesley Get The Role
After Wesley came in again and again, Williamson confessed he was sick of seeing him. As he said, “Paul came in like 100 times and every time he came in we’d be like, ‘Alright, here’s Paul Wesley again.’” It was only when Wesley had a great screentest with Dobrev that Williamson paid any attention. Williamson recalled thinking, “Who is that? It’s the guy we passed on 15 times.” Ouch. Show business is hard, people.
15. Katherine Was Originally A Minor Character
Nina Dobrev has gone on record saying that Katherine Pierce was one of the most fun characters for her to play during her time on The Vampire Diaries, but she was almost out of luck on that front. Katherine was originally supposed to be a minor character and only in the show for a season, but the positive audience reaction brought her back in a big way. And that’s not the end of her lore, either.
16. Katherine Was Supposed To Be German
In the books, Katherine’s old name is Katherine von Swartzchild, and she comes from German roots. Meanwhile, we know her as Katerina Petrovna in the television series, which is a much more Slavic sounding name. And unlike with the Salvatore brothers almost being the Whitmore brothers, there was actually a smart choice behind this change…
17. Dobrev Brought A Hidden Skill To Set
Nina Dobrev’s real first name is Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva, and the actress is a full-blooded Bulgarian. Like, she speaks Bulgarian fluidly. Obviously, the show runners couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that, so they switched up Katherine’s nationality, and every time you see her speak Bulgarian on the show, it’s really Dobrev speaking.
18. The Cast Has A Surprising Favorite Episode
All of the main cast members—Dobrev, Wesley, and Somerhalder—have the same favorite episode, and it might not be the one you’re thinking. They have all said the episode nearest to their hearts was season 1, episode 6’s “Lost Girls,” which shows a flashback to Stefan and Damon meeting Katherine for the first time. Methinks it’s time for a rewatch.
19. The Creators Called The Show Embarrassing
Alright, this one hurts. When show creators Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec first launched the series, they were overwhelmingly “embarrassed” about it. They worried that, by 2009, the Twilight vampire craze had passed, and that their ratings would tank. As Plec said, they thought “this would be the thing that spawned 1,000 articles about how vampires are over.”
20. The Show Has A Fifty Shades Of Grey Connection
One of Ian Somerhalder’s other failed auditions inspired a hidden moment in a Vampire Diaries episode. Somerhalder tried out for the role of Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, though he didn’t nab the part. As a nod to his efforts, though, you can see Damon reading the scandalous book in Season 8, Episode 1. Damon so would.
21. The Ending Was Almost Different
Spoilers ahead on some of these next ones. As the show wound down, there were a lot of ideas about how it should come to a close—and some of the endings are downright scandalous. The show runners agonized over which brother should die, and “the pendulum swung the other way” more than once. The thing is, they almost went with the worst ending possible.
22. Both Salvatore Brothers Were Going To Die
Way back in season 2, Williamson and Plec actually settled on a heartbreaking close to the series: Both Damon and Stefan Salvatore wouldn’t make it out of the conflict alive, and the show would end with their ghosts sadly watching Elena as she moved on with her life. It looked like they were going to go through with it, too, until one twist of fate interrupted.
23. Elena Was Forced To End Up With Damon
When Nina Dobrev decided to leave the show (more on that later), it threw a major wrench into the plot lines. It also led to only one ending. The show had to speed things up, and Dobrev’s last episode in season 6 included her promising herself to Damon. In season 8, the show honored that promise and made Damon live and Stefan die. But it was almost very different.
24. Elena Was Going To End Up With Stefan
Show runner Kevin Williamson really wanted Elena to end up with Stefan as the curtains closed, and he tried his hardest to make it happen. By the end, however, Damon and Elena had covered too much ground together. According to Plec, there was “no choice,” and the writers’ room shot Williamson down. What could have been!
25. The Show’s Last Words Have A Secret Meaning
At the end of the series, Damon and Elena have lived a long, happy, and human life together, and Damon goes to the other side and tearfully meets his brother Stefan for the first time in years. When he does, Damon says, “Hello, brother.” This actually has a heartbreaking meaning behind it. These are the first words Damon speaks in the pilot episode of the show.
Then again, these final words were originally completely different.
26. The Original Last Words Were Sassy
Before they landed on those iconic words that brought everything full circle in the show, the writing room originally wanted Damon’s words to be the classic smarm we love him for. In the first ending, the former vampire looked at Stefan and said, “Oh, I see they have hero hair in heaven,” before the brothers reunited and hugged. That sure sounds like Damon.
27. Damon And Elena Might Not Be Dead
Okay okay, I know I said that Damon and Elena live a long life together before passing, but the truth might be much more complicated than that. The show runners actually say that the ending of the series doesn’t necessarily mean that Damon and Elena are dead, and that it’s actually “open to interpretation.” Hmm…get on this, Internet sleuths.
28. One Cast Member Cried At The Finale
The series ending was hard for everyone on the set, but it might have hit Paul Wesley hardest of all. After playing Stefan for eight seasons, the actor admitted that he cried when he first read the script for the finale episode, and even sent a photo of his reaction to the show creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson. “I thought how it ended was powerful,” he said.
29. There Could Be Another Spin-Off In The Future
Hidden within the final moments of The Vampire Diaries, there’s an opportunity for a spin-off show—and no, I’m not talking about The Originals. Julie Plec has said she’s very interested in writing a show about the boarding school that Alaric and Caroline run at the end of the eighth season…and it all leads back to a letter.
30. One Letter Could Restart The Show
If you haven’t seen the finale of The Vampire Diaries in a while, you might not remember that Caroline receives an absolutely gut-wrenching letter from her old flame Klaus, which contains the words “however long it takes.” Plec says that, along with the boarding school, there might be a whole show idea contained in this one letter. Yes, please.
31. Season 6 Has An Easter Egg
The Vampire Diaries has rabid fans for a reason, and the show put clever easter eggs all through season 6. In that season, Elena and Damon go back into the 1990s to try to save Bonnie, so the show runners decided to name every episode in the season after a classic 90s song. Some choice hits included “Black Hole Sun” and “Welcome to Paradise.” Later on, though, they would hide something even more important in the titles.
32. The Final Season Pays Homage To The First
When The Vampire Diaries came to an end after season 8, Williamson and Plec knew they wanted to give the show a proper send off—but they did it in a way that only true fans would notice. All the episode titles from season 8 are actually lines from season 1. Now that’s how you do a proper goodbye, if I do say so myself.
33. Nina Dobrev Was The Only One Who Believed In The Show
Of all the people on the cast and crew, Nina Dobrev might have been the only one who was sure the show was going to take off. She even did something foolish. She bought a house in Atlanta, where the series filmed, right when shooting started. Although everyone initially made fun of her, they soon saw the wisdom of her ways after eight seasons.
34. There Were SO Many On-Set Romances
Hollywood sets are notorious for secret affairs and flings, and The Vampire Diaries was no different. As it turns out, practically all of them were sleeping with each other. Candice King, who played Caroline Forbes, dated both Zach Roerig, who played Matt Donovan, and Steven R. McQueen, who played Elena’s little brother Jeremy. Of course, as we’ll see soon, Dobrev and Somerhalder were probably the most dramatic couple.
35. The Show Almost Didn’t Get Made
It seems a bit ridiculous to think of now, but the series almost never got made. L.J. Smith published the books way back in the 90s, and a studio asked Kevin Williamson to do a television series shortly after the publication. Guess what? He turned it down, making us wait all the way until 2009, when he changed his mind and came on board.
36. The Books Have Even More Supernatural Elements
There’s a lot to The Vampire Diaries that fans won’t know if they’ve only seen the television series. For example, the creators made a decision to limit some of the supernatural elements of the books, but that means huge plot points in the book—like the fact there are animal spirits and angels—don’t even rate a mention in the series.
37. Buffy The Vampire Slayer Almost Made A Cameo
The show runners usually didn’t go in for big cameos, but they admitted there was only one “stunt casting we’d have ever agreed to.” They wanted the vampire slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, to play Rose. It didn’t go the way they wanted at all. Gellar turned down the role, though her rejection was supposedly “very appreciative.” Yeah, I bet.
38. The Show Rejected An Iconic Actor
Believe it or not, David Gallagher—AKA Simon from 7th Heaven—was gunning for the role of Damon too when the show was first casting for actors. Maybe even weirder, Gallagher almost got it…until his sitcom pedigree tripped him up. As Plec admitted, “He impressed us so much originally…but the whole 7th Heaven thing, I wondered if he’d ever be able to get past that.”
39. Taylor Swift Inspired A Character
Even Taylor Swift has a connection to the show—though it’s a sad one. The character of Stefan’s bosom buddy Lexi, which eventually went to Arielle Kebbel, was originally inspired by the singer-songwriter and her long blonde tresses. Williamson was “desperate” to get Swiftie on the show, but once more, it wasn’t to be.
40. Pacey Witter Could Have Been On The Series
Every show runner has a dream guest star, but The Vampire Diaries missed out on an iconic cameo. Kevin Williamson had created Dawson’s Creek, and Julie Plec always wanted breakout star Joshua Jackson on the show. Obviously it never happened, but a girl can still dream of a revival. Oddly enough, though, that’s not the only Dawson’s Creek connection.
41. Another Sitcom Star Tried To Win A Role
In more Hollywood sliding doors, Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek tried to continue his revival in the new millennium by auditioning to be a part of The Vampire Diaries. The character he tried to chase down was vampire hunter Alaric Saltzman. Sadly, Van Der Beek clearly didn’t get the part. Better luck next time, Dawson!
42. The Mystic Grill Is Real
One of The Vampire Diaries‘ iconic locations is a very real place that you can visit. The Mystic Grill, home to so many secrets and so many revelations, was based on a real bar in Vancouver, Canada of the same name. The show runners loved the place so much, they even built an identical set on location in Georgia for the cast to hang out in.
43. They Ended The Show For A Reason
So why did they end the show at all? During an interview with Hollywood Reporter, show runner Julie Plec said that she decided to end The Vampire Diaries because it felt as though the story had come to a natural conclusion. They didn’t want the story to continue to drag on just because it was popular, and she would have rather ended it at a natural cadence.
44. The Show Earned A Huge Achievement
Some fans thought that after Nina Dobrev’s departure in season 6 (and even more on that decision later), The Vampire Diaries should have just called it a day. Well, to that I say: You’re wrong. But also, if they’d done that, they would have missed out on a big honor. At eight seasons, The Vampire Diaries is the longest-running vampire TV show. Ever.
45. The Show Was Ahead Of Its Time
The three main actors—Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, and Nina Dobrev—all made $40,000 per episode. Yep, you read that right; they all got the exact same salaries. Despite the fact that some of the other stars got lower pay checks, the majority of the main actors became millionaires while working on The Vampire Diaries. Not a bad life if you can get it.
46. Ian Somerhalder Thought Damon Was Boring
Ian Somerhalder said that he enjoyed playing the “bad” Damon a lot more than the moralistic Damon. In fact, he confessed that once his character started going soft, he hated it at first and thought there wasn’t anything for him to do. However, any fan of the show knows that even Damon’s “good side” still includes a lot of extra violence and sass.
47. Elena And Damon Were A Real-Life Couple
Elena and Damon’s chemistry throughout the entire show is palpable—I mean, there’s a reason why the show ends the way it does—but casual fans might not remember the steamy reason behind the sparks. Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder took their characters home with them, and dated in real life for three years. When they split, though, it got awkward fast.
48. The Show Had An Extremely Awkward Breakup
Sometime around the sixth season of the show, Dobrev and Somerhalder broke things off, which was painful in more ways than one. First, they had to keep working together—though not for that long. That’s because Dobrev actually quit the show after the sixth season. Coincidence? Probably not entirely. But Dobrev did have another reason for quitting.
49. Nina Dobrev Left The Show For One Reason
Fans have long speculated about why Dobrev left the show rather abruptly, and the rest of cast were pretty quiet about it, too. But recently, the actress finally revealed her motives. Dobrev said that if she had stayed on the show any longer, she worried about being typecast forever in fantasy girl roles and vampire movies.
50. Age Tore Dobrev And Somerhalder Apart
So what really broke up Elena and Damon—uh, I mean Nina and Ian? It’s sadder than you think. Somerhalder is a decade older than Dobrev, and he wanted to settle down and have a family. Dobrev wasn’t ready for such a big step, and made the tough decision to break it off and focus more on her acting career. Ian is currently with his wife Nikki Reed, and they have a daughter together.
51. Nina Dobrev Annoyed Paul Wesley
Although Damon and Elena dominate the show, a Stefan and Elena pairing had some definite fans, especially at the beginning of the series. Wesley and Dobrev also had a lot of chemistry on-screen….except when the lights went out, things were much different. Wesley later confessed that they got “on each other’s nerves” for the first season. And Dobrev’s words were even harsher.
52. Stefan And Elena Hated Each Other
On the podcast “Directionally Challenged,” Nina Dobrev admitted that she and Paul Wesley “despised each other” while filming, at least at first. As she said, “I respected Paul Wesley, I didn’t like Paul Wesley,” though she tried to keep the rivalry under wraps. Still, in the end this might have been a good thing—because it led to a surprising outcome.
53. Dobrev Had A Love-Hate Chemistry With Wesley
In actuality, Dobrev credits her hatred of Wesley with giving Elena and Stefan some serious sparks in the first episodes. As Dobrev confessed, “I realize now that there’s a fine line between love and hate, and we despised each other so much that it read as love.” Afterward, the pair patched things up and have a great friendship now.
54. Damon Gave Elena An X-Rated Surprise
Damon and Elena have tons of steamy scenes together throughout the show, and one day Somerhalder decided to prank Dobrev with an very risqué stunt. During one of their nude scenes, he taped prop elephant ears on either of his thighs, so that when she looked down at his crotch, she’d see…an elephant. As Somerhalder put it, “The reaction that we got was [freaking] amazing.”
55. Ian Somerhalder Almost Couldn’t Shoot One Scene
Vampire Diaries didn’t always run smoothly, and Ian Somerhalder has actually revealed what was the hardest scene to film. Somerhalder admitted that episode 14 in Season 2, where Jessica finds Damon in anguish lying on the road, was the most difficult for him. It “was such a cathartic scene for me to shoot,” Somerhalder said.