Over the course of four fantastic seasons, The Vampire Diaries has introduced a cadre of recurring characters for fans to sink their teeth into -- but no supporting player is more endeared to fans than Elijah, Klaus and Rebekah's immortal brother, played by Daniel Gillies.
The fan-favorite not only kicks off a multi-episode arc with tonight's episode, but is one of the stars of The CW's hopeful spin-off, The Originals (a backdoor pilot for the series serves as TVD's April 25 episode). To find out what we can expect from Elijah's return in tonight's episode, and what The Originals looks/sounds/smells like, ETonline rang up the always delightful Daniel Gillies.
ETonline: Fans were thrilled when it was announced Elijah would be returning tonight. First, what's it like to have created a character people are passionate about?
Daniel Gillies: I'm completely bewildered by it, to be honest. I feel immensely grateful, obviously, but I don't know how you make sense of that kind of passionate adoration. It's immensely gratifying and really humbling.
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ETonline: What brings him back to Mystic Falls?
Gillies: It's his brother -- it always is [laughs]. Elijah can maintain a low profile for only so long, and he's spent the better part of a millennium in pursuit of his brother and tidying up his little disasters. This is no exception. This race/contest for the cure necessitates his presence in Mystic Falls.
ETonline: As a character, do you find him easy to segue in and out of?
Gillies: It's always difficult to get back into the groove of a character. Elijah is very specific and I made some really distinctive choices in creating him because there was no real guidelines at the outset, so it's a little bit of a gearshift to slide back into Elijah. Honestly, it takes me 2 or 3 episodes in a row to be firing on all cylinders, but I've been doing this job for long enough that I won't let anybody see behind the curtain, as it were.
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ETonline: What was your reaction to getting the spin-off phonecall?
Gillies: The idea has sort of been ruminating for some time. It's been two years since I started hearing Julie [Plec]'s quiet aspirations, which then became overtures to the network, which then became a full-on assault [laughs]. There's always a sense of disbelief. Even when I was filming the pilot, I didn't quite believe it. We're so blessed to do this. I mean, it's enormous. The show already has such a built-in following. This opportunity is huge.
ETonline: Did you feel more pressure filming this show than you did any other pilot you've made?
Gillies: I won't lie to you, there were a lot of voices when we shot the pilot. As there should be. It's expensive and everyone wants to do it right. I felt more pressure filming that episode than I've felt filming anything else. I can understand that pressure, but that crew is so good about supporting your creativity that I'm excited to see what could happen next.
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ETonline: Did you guys have fun filming in New Orleans?
Gillies: That was a strange concept. You're in the most decadent place on earth, but you're doing something that requires all your professional fortitude [laughs]. Luckily, this was the fourth time I'd been in New Orleans this year -- I went for New Year's with my wife, for the Super Bowl, which was extraordinary, courtesy of Beyonce and then a third time, so I'd done my share of bacchanalian nonsense and by the time I got to set, I was already in my third episode of The Vampire Diaries, so I had a good stride. But it's distracting. That town has this frequency of mischief that is wonderful -- not only visually for the pilot, but it penetrates everything.
ETonline: Tonally, how does the show compare to The Vampire Diaries?
Gillies: It doesn't feel like another episode of The Vampire Diaries. You're taken to another world with another mythology, another web of trouble and danger. Julie did a lovely thing by book-ending the episode with our heroes in Mystic Falls, so fans won't be left feeling insulted. She wasn't irreverent, but she had to take us away from there in order to introduce this whole other element. I think she did it really beautifully, poetically, successfully and sexily.
ETonline: What excites you about the spin-off's potential?
Gillies: The advantage the show carries is that, because Klaus, Rebekah and Elijah have been alive for a millennium, we can bounce all over time. Different timelines mean different things in different regions of the world. Because they're invulnerable, it makes everything kind of fun -- if people are falling in the streets because of the Bubonic Plague, it's awful, but they're resilient. Or if you take them to the time when Jack the Ripper is threatening the streets, that could be kind of amazing. I would love to see them as they develop their powers, I'd love to take them to Asia. I would love to see what they could do in The Middle East or among The Vikings -- although I might regret some of these answers when we're placed on a ship for two months traveling to these places, but it's all so exciting.
The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.