Like most, I fell under Phoebe Tonkin's spell quite quickly thanks to her intoxicating performance on 2011's The Secret Circle. But when she moved over to The Vampire Diaries after The CW shuttered that witchy series, fans weren't as in love. In fact, they actively disliked the character, Hayley, since her arrival threw two of Caroline's relationships into a state of dramatic flux.
But Tonkin and Julie Plec are getting a second chance to make audiences love Hayley with The Originals, The Vampire Diaries spin-off that moves Klaus, Elijah, Rebekah, Hayley and the action to New Orleans with positively stellar results. Thursday's premiere, which I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at, seamlessly establishes these familiar characters in their new settings while also laying the groundwork for their first bloody good season. I recently traveled down south to hit up The Originals set where I sat down with Phoebe Tonkin to talk about the incredibly important task of getting the audience on Hayley's side.
ETonline: The fans love you, the fans loved TSC's Faye, but they didn't so much love Hayley. Why do you think that is?
Phoebe Tonkin: I get very involved in TV shows too, so I understand how it feels when you have one character coming in between two characters people have grown really fond of, but I don't think Hayley was ever really a threat to Caroline and Tyler or Caroline and Klaus. It just happens they were unsafe, so now they're dealing with the consequences of something that wasn't supposed to go beyond on night. In terms of the fans, Julie and I have discussed this and she really enjoys the challenge this presents because the fans have already decided how they feel about this character, and now it's up to Julie and the writers and me to get the fans on Hayley's side. That's an exciting challenge. I believe the fans can empathize with Hayley.
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ETonline: How do you plan to make them feel that empathy?
Tonkin: We only saw bits of Hayley on TVD and she has a lot of backstory that we just never saw. I mean, I've never had as much backstory for a character as I do on this show. She was orphaned at a young age, so she makes rash decisions and then deals with the consequences after. If anything, she's one of the most human characters on all these shows because she does these impulsive things, and then says, "Oh God, now I'm in this terrible position." It's between showing a bit of Hayley's history, which we delve deeper into throughout the series, and playing off the fact that all the other characters are pretty accepting of their supernatural-ness. Hayley is stuck in this world with this crazy family, but doesn't know her own past or her own family. She doesn't know anything past the fact she's a werewolf. I think exploring that, and showing why she's made some of the decisions she's made, is going to make the fans learn to like her.
ETonline: In talking about her backstory with the writers, have you learned the specifics of how she came to be orphaned?
Tonkin: Basically, Hayley lost her biological parents when she was really young and was put into foster care, but as soon as she turned, her foster parents kicked her out because obviously she'd done something bad. I'm excited to explore that and to see exactly whose life she took. I hope we have some flashbacks. I also hope we get to see her turn [into a werewolf], especially now that she’s pregnant. I think it would be so cool to see what happens when a pregnant werewolf turns.
ETonline: Speaking of, how pregnant is Hayley going to get? Have you been outfitted for a fake belly?
Tonkin: I got to play with a belly, but I don't think it's for anything that's coming up. I just wanted to put it on and take a photo of it so I could send it to my mother and scare the sh*t out of her [laughs].
ETonline: So it's a slow pregnancy.
Tonkin: Yeah, it's realistic. One episode spans like 12 hours, so it'll be a while. I think we'll get there by the end of the season, but it'll be a ramp up. We won't be like, suddenly, "Bam! Here's a baby!"
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ETonline: You're co-starring on another show with Claire Holt, your best friend. What's Hayley and Rebekah's relationship like?
Tonkin: It's been amazing. Hayley and Rebekah are quite similar as characters. They both have these sad, scary upbringings in these crazy families that made them feel like they were a little bit on their own. I think they both feel quite protective.
ETonline: Elijah also seems incredibly interested in this baby.
Tonkin: I think Elijah sees this baby as a chance to finally have a normal family and a central focus for the siblings. They act quite selfishly pretty often, but the stakes are much higher now because it's not just them any longer, there's a baby to protect. And it doesn't have a say about the world it's being brought into.
ETonline: It strikes me that Rebekah and Elijah may only feel protective of Hayley while she's pregnant. How conscious is Hayley of her longterm survival?
Tonkin: Very. She feels safe as long as she’s pregnant, but we quickly learn that this is a very special baby and Hayley is going to need to make some allies to protect herself and her baby, so that when she does give birth, those loyalties remain intact.
ETonline: What are you excited for the fans to see with The Originals?
Tonkin: A new and interesting take on the werewolf, vampire and witch world. A lot of movies and shows about the supernatural world have them hidden in the shadows. In this show, they're embraced, albeit cautiously, like another gender or species that's a part of the world. And I find that really cool. Because it's less hidden, it changes the dynamic between humans and vampires. It's a less fear-based dynamic. When Julie explained the trajectory of our show I thought it was a really interesting take on a world that's been explored a lot. Especially over the last few years.
The Originals premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on The CW.