Creator Julie Plec on the Scene That Proved 'Vampire Diaries' Was More Than 'Blood, Fangs & Brooding'

by Leanne Aguilera 5:05 AM PST, February 06, 2015
Photo: CW

No one loves a great scene more than the person who first dreamed it up - the writer. We're asking iconic shows' creators and writers to tell ETonline all about the moment on their series that they most loved getting to see make it from script to screen.

Since launching in 2009, The Vampire Diaries quickly became a foundation for The CW's programming slate, and even spawned the network's first successful spin-off, The Originals. As the drama's co-developer and executive producer, Julie Plec's gut-wrenching twists and character-developing turns helped the drama obliterate early criticisms that the series was merely a small screen Twilight knock-off.

Now in its sixth season, Plec is looking back to an early TVD episode that shines brightest amidst the show's dark and bloody history. In TVD's 2011 episode, "The Descent," Rose, played by guest star Lauren Cohan was on the brink of an extremely painful, werewolf bite-induced, death.

"Damon [Ian Somerhalder] realizes that she is suffering," Plec told ETonline. "So he decides that he is going to put her out of her misery." With Rose in his arms, Damon manipulates his friend's subconscious to give her a peaceful final memory in her favorite childhood place. "She is getting the warmth of the sun, and feeling safe, and comforted as he talks her through her last moments of life," she said. "Then he stakes her and puts her out of her misery."

Even now, Plec couldn’t talk about the scene without getting emotional. " she died feeling the warmth of the sun," Plec said with tears in her eyes. "It's my favorite because it's so sad -- and I love it."

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ETonline: What is it about this scene that has stayed in your heart for all of these years?
Julie Plec:
It was a very powerful death for a character that had been alive for a really long time. I think just the universal idea of being at the end of your days, and being at the end of time, and having to face your own mortality is a big thing. It was a moment of selfless compassion for Damon who, that early in the series, hadn't quite been showing that [emotion] much. We knew that he loved Elena and that he wanted to be a good guy, but his actions said otherwise. So to see him just be kind to someone who really needed kindness in that moment was really important.

What visual element did you want to include when taking this scene from paper to production?
JP: Marcos Siega
directed it, and just — excuse my language — shot the hell out of it. It had beautiful scope, it had everything I wanted it to have in terms of looking like a feature film, and having that beauty. Everybody was just on their game.

How do you feel like this scene furthered the characters' evolution?
When Rose showed back up in season four and said Damon challenges her and there's a good person in there, it felt like she knew from experience that Damon was worthy of Elena in some way. And that kind of affirmed what some of the audience wanted to hear, and so it was a nice bookend for her character.

Take us back to the writers' room when you were first coming up with this scene. How did it come to fruition and what was the main goal you wanted to achieve?
JP: Gosh, it was a long time ago so I hope I don’t screw it up, our goal with every episode, no matter how much we want to scare someone, or no matter how much we want to be suspenseful, [is that] we always need that emotional 'Wow.' And we were talking about how to make Rose's final moments an emotionally impactful scene. When you know that you're killing a character and you're building up to that, there's a lot of different ways that you can go: It can be ugly, it can be beautiful, it can just happen suddenly, it can just be drawn out. We came up with the idea of Damon being able to get inside her head and everybody was just so moved in the room by the pitch that we figured it would probably work.

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On the day this scene was shot, what was the atmosphere like on set?
I wasn't there so I can't speak to it, but I do know that the end result was gorgeous. I know that they had to travel like an hour and 45 minutes to get there, so I'm sure that there was plenty of unhappiness attached to it. It was episode 12 which was probably early November and nobody seemed like they were shivering, or frozen, or angry so I think we probably had a nice sunny day and it was probably pretty beautiful.

The Vampire Diaries fans are a hugely passionate and vocal group, what was general consciences you received from viewers for this scene?
JP: It was really great because a lot of the fans were really divided on Rose. Those who wanted Damon to be with Elena already did not want Damon shacking up with anyone else And then a lot of fans found her to be really fierce and really interesting. I think that no matter how you had felt about her as an element in Damon's life, in that moment they were able to cry with him and her as she peacefully drifted off into her own bliss as she died. That kind of unified fans, in a way, around her character that they hadn't necessarily felt before.

Will this scene go down in Vampire Diaries history as one of the most impactful deaths of the series?
No, I wouldn’t say that, because we've killed Alaric, and we've killed Aunt Jenna, and we've killed some characters that have been more deeply embedded in all of the characters' lives. But I will say as far as setting an emotional tone, it really made it clear that this show was not just blood and fangs and brooding vampires. There was a deep humanity to it, and that's something that we've tried to live by ever since.

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Since Plec was not on location the day this scene was shot scene for the day of shooting, ETonline also sat down with TVD star Ian Somerhalder to get an actor's perspective.

What do you remember most about the Season 2 scene in "The Descent" when Damon gave Rose a peaceful ending?
Ian Somerhalder: That was a really, really powerful moment because it is the scene I am most proud of too. I know I'm not a showrunner, but after six years you feel like it is all your blood sweat and tears. In the same vein when he gave Rose that really peaceful death, it was a really beautiful scene and to be honest with you, I fought that sh-t tooth and nail.

Why were you so opposed to having Damon in this scene?
Because it showed this soft side of Damon that I hated — I hated it. I was so vehemently opposed to that stuff and Kevin [Williamson] and Julie [Plec] had to beat it into my head. "Damon cannot just be a one-trick-pony. He cannot just be a one-dimensional villainous character. This is the 100-episode arc of this man going through this journey—give into it, appreciate it, dive into it head first and live it." And I thought, 'I've got to do this.' It ended up being a really beautiful scene, which lead to Damon becoming so introspective and so hurt by not being human after he saw what it was like in her own visions.

The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.