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10 December 2023

Vampire Diaries takes a bite out of regional television

From left: Ian Somerhalder (Damon), Nina Dobrev (Elena), and Paul Wesley (Stefan). (SUPPLIED)

By Rachel McArthur

Vampires are the new James Dean. That is according to statements from Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec, writers and producers of The Vampire Diaries, one of the hottest new shows to hit UAE TV screens.

"It's true," Plec says, commenting on the current vampire craze in entertainment. "You like the guy that's on the outside… who's a little bit of a loner, a little bit moody, and a little bit dangerous.

"There's an allure to that. In great love stories throughout time, it's about the idea of that guy – that crazy, mysterious, scary guy – and he likes you, he picked you. That's part of the fun of the love story."

The American supernatural-fantasy horror series, which premiered to rave reviews in the US last September, finally reaches regional free-to-air TV this month by showing on MBC Action.

Based on the book series of the same name by LJ Smith, the show follows the life of Elena Gilbert (played by Nina Dobrev), who falls in love with vampire brothers Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder). As well as the gripping love triangle, the drama also focuses on the lives of Elena's friends and other inhabitants of the fictional town of Mystic Falls in Virginia, US.

Yes, you guessed it. It does sound a bit too similar to the Bella, Edward and Jacob three-way romance in the Twilight movies, a franchise which has already raked in more than $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) in box-office revenue worldwide (and that's only from two releases in the series).

And that's precisely the reason why screenwriter Williamson had reservations about taking on this project. And he knows what he's taking about, having already been responsible for the hugely successful films Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Faculty, as well as teen drama Dawson's Creek, which made Hollywood stars out of Joshua Jackson, James van der Beek, Michelle Williams, and Katie Holmes.

"I had a lot of reservations about taking this on," he says. "In fact, I got the book sent to me a year or two years ago, and that's when Twilight was being made.

"I was like, 'No way. There's just no way I'm going to step on Twilight or even get close to that.' It's such a phenomenon you just don't want to be the rip-off project that comes after the project. So I said no straight away."

Williamson said no a couple of more times – once after Twilight had been released in theatres, and another after reading the book again. It was thanks to Plec's insistence that he started to change his mind.

"Julie – who has been my partner on and off since Scream – was like, 'keep reading, keep reading. It's totally different. Keep reading.' And sure enough, beyond the girl falling in love with a vampire, it all changed.

"In the back story – the whole mythology – everything is completely 100 per cent different, and so I got into it.

"And because of Twilight and because of True Blood is why I'm here. I love those projects. I'm here to be a part of it, because I wanted to do vampires as a result of those other vampire shows."

Plec adds: "What The Vampire Diaries, Twilight and True Blood have in common, and what Buffy The Vampire Slayer had in common, is that any great vampire story has to have a sweeping love story at the centre of it.

"Two people who have no reason to be together, and yet fit so perfectly with each other. So I think a vampire show without that at the centre would be a little sad."

Williamson continues: "We're going to try our best to honour the book and keep the spirit and essence of it, but we are a TV series, there will be some changes."

Thankfully, UAE audiences will not be far behind viewers in the US. Having premiered on September 10, the initial 13-episode order was expanded to a full 22-episode season on October 21. However, due to the Christmas season, The Vampire Diaries was placed on an eight-week hiatus on November 19. The next episode airs on January 21.

Meanwhile, Williamson has not only got his hands full with this project. The screenwriter has revealed he is interested in resurrecting the Scream franchise.

He says: "I pitched Scream 4, 5 and 6 and we're in the process of writing Scream 4. Wes Craven, Courtney Cox and David Arquette are returning."

And what about Neve Campbell?

"As of now, no, but I would like to see her return… 100 per cent. And I'm doing everything I can, except stalking her on a daily basis to get her to return. I very much want her back in the film. Fingers crossed. One day I'm all excited, the next day… no."

The Vampire Diaries. Airs every Wednesday at midnight on MBC Action


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