The PaleyFest Diaries
On Saturday, March 6th, I attended The Vampire Diaries’ panel at PaleyFest, at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. It was fabulous. As anyone who reads my blog regularly knows, I have become quite the fan of this new vamp show, so this was a real joy. Previously, I had never been to a Paley event, or any TV-related or fan event for that matter. This opportunity was made possible by Vee (of Vampire-Diaries.net), who invited me to attend the panel, and even took care of the transportation to and from L.A. She is beyond awesome. We were joined by our friend Connie (@conallen on Twitter), and the three of us had quite the adventure that weekend. Such fun! Once in L.A., we met up with several other awesome tweeps for dinner before PaleyFest. After the panel, we joined up with others for drinks. There were many cocktails and laughs to be had, and friends were made. But what am I waiting for? You probably want to read about the actual panel.
When we walked into the theatre (only just in time, I might add), I was very pleased to be seated in the orchestra front section, where we quickly found seats in the second row. Exciting! First we were treated to a clip from the Paley archives. Now, there have been many many many shows honored at Paley, but which one did they choose to show that particular night? A Buffy clip from “Once More with Feeling”! It’s like they knew that I was coming. Kismet. It was the opening number of the Buffy musical episode, “Going through the Motions.” Perfection. “Every single night, the same arrangement, I go out and fight the fight.” Buffy on a big screen! It’s a miracle I survived to watch the rest of the panel.
Then, a man by the name of Craig Hitchcock (at least that’s how I heard it) came out to introduce our moderator for the night, Craig Tomashoff, executive editor of TV Guide Magazine. He gave a silly, but funny, introductory speech about vampire puns, and engaged (some of) the audience in participation. Tomashoff then introduced Kevin Williamson, executive producer on the show, and familiar to everyone of my generation as the writer of Scream, and creator of Dawson’s Creek. Which reminds me: I marathoned the complete series of Dawson’s Creek over December and January, and have yet to write up my thoughts. Ugh. That shall be a project over my Faux Spring Break, which is fast approaching. But back to Paley. Here’s the exciting part: Kevin introduced a screening of the upcoming March 25th episode, “A Few Good Men.” Woo hoo! But I don’t want to spoil the crazy for you, so I’ll save any tidbits about the screening until the end, following a spoiler warning.
Once the screening was over, and my heart jumped back out of my throat (it was touch and go there for a minute, and I may have engaged in some terrified arm grabbing), Craig Tomashoff came back out to introduce the panel. First introduced was Bob Levy, executive producer. Next was Julie Plec, executive producer, who is pretty frakin’ awesome and hilarious. Then Paul Wesley came in, followed by the lovely Nina Dobrev, and Ian Somerhalder. Finally, Kevin Williamson came out again, and the entire panel was seated. A great group, but sadly no Matt Davis (*swoon*), Zach Roerig, or Katerina Graham. Alas, alack, sigh. But there was PLENTY of fun to be had with this group, so no regrets. I have compiled my notes from the question and answer segment of the panel below (which are certainly not comprehensive).
Notes from the panel:
- The discussion began with compulsion, and Ian joked that he wished he had that power so he could use it on the producers. Every actor’s dream, right?
- The moderator was very casual and at ease. However, I was pretty sure that he doesn’t really watch the show and is not really a fan. Dear Powers That Be: I nominate Carina MacKenzie (@cadlymack on Twitter) to be the next moderator at such an event.
- In response to a question, Kevin talked about how the show came to be. In reading The Vampire Diaries book series by L.J. Smith, Kevin noted the unfortunately obligatory Twilight comparisons, but said that after reading further, he realized that it was much more Dark Shadows. I really need to watch this Dark Shadows nonsense. Sadly, my only previous exposure to the supernatural soap is a number of references to it in a Gilmore Girls episode. Sookie made it sound so appealing. Kevin explained that they just had to “get past the pilot,” which contained the love story elements resembling Twilight, and then they could really tell a story that was different. He even referred to this as “Twilight Gate.” Hee.
- Another reason Kevin gave for wanting to do the show was that he really wanted to work with Julie. After witnessing their rapport, it is no surprise why. They are clearly having a lot of fun in that writers’ room … er, IHOP. (That reference will be explained later.)
- In continued discussion of the early days of the show, Julie told a funny story about Nina being cautious about the project, because it was “so Twilight.” Apparently, in the initial script, some of Elena’s lines were exactly the same as Bella’s in the movie, so Nina asked for them to be changed. Nina told Julie that she couldn’t say that. The lines: “Say it.” “What are you?”
- Henceforth, there should be a moratorium on the Twilight comparisons. The show has earned that. Let’s compare it to more fun things, like Buffy! (Kidding! Sort of.)
- Of course, the other inevitable comparison is True Blood, which Kevin and Julie addressed. They pointed out that director Marcos Siega, after reading a script, said: “I directed this episode of True Blood.” Uh oh.
- There was then some discussion of living arrangements, and Paul, Nina, and Ian joked about moving in together. Nina: “I get the walk-in closet.” For the record: those three do NOT live together.
- Kevin talked about the choice to film in Atlanta. There was some discussion by the cast of the fact that this means they are away from the glare of Hollywood, blah blah blah. Ultimately, however, Kevin explained that it’s the tax rebate. Ian( or was it Paul?), who had been spouting more lofty aspirations for the out-of-the-way location, quipped, “Thank God for taxes.” Ha!
- Julie Plec pointed out how great the whole cast is, noting that’s not always the case. “Imagine being stuck in Atlanta with a bunch of assholes.” Well said.
- Kevin said that he wanted the show to slowly evolve, and to make it as real as possible. I think he has done a great job of making that happen.
- Julie talked about the cinematic quality.
- Kevin mentioned the show 24, and how that was an inspiration for him. He wanted the show to have that “puts you on the edge of your seat” quality. Mission accomplished, right? I know those last 10 minutes of every episode always leave me breathless.
- Ian referenced going to see a chiropractor, saying that it was Paul’s doing. When the moderator asked Paul what he did to Ian, Paul responded: “What did I do to him? He was being Damon and I had to …” Cue the laughs.
- Ian joked about using Damon as an excuse for bad behavior in real life. Hee.
- Julie (wearing fabulous dark red patent leather wedges, by the way) mentioned a story about the boys leaving Nina at the airport. Nina confirmed that it was on her birthday, and that they didn’t want to wait for her bags. Apparently they never check bags, but Nina does, so they tire of waiting for her baggage. Bad vampires! She says that they treat her like a little sister, and pick on her. Very adorable. But Paul and Ian are now on my list. A lady’s need for checked baggage is unquestionable.
- Then the moderator asked the panel to psychoanalyze their characters. Ian begged off, so the question turned to Paul: “I think Stefan needs to stop analyzing.” Ha! So true.
- In response to a question about the flashbacks, we learned that the cast loves them. So do I! (I know, no one is shocked.) Paul likes them because his character doesn’t have to think. The implication is that the present day Stefan is a stress-inducing forehead-brooder, but back then he was just a 17 year old human boy, who didn’t have the weight of the world on his shoulders. Then the subject of corsets came up. Nina said that she has a love-hate relationship with the corsets. Ian jumped in at that point to correct her, saying that she loves them. Nina acquiesced. Ian described the contraption for her to lean against while in her corset, since she can’t sit.
- Then Julie talked about the books vs. the show. They were worried about the fans’ reactions, and were much relieved that so many book fans embraced the show. They point out that eventually most fans realized that the books and the show are two different things. Julie and Kevin had very kind words to say about the book fans, sending out lots of much deserved praise to Vampire-Diaries.net.
- Next, the moderator asked a question about the vampires turning into animals, which often happens in the books. Kevin explained that it would have looked cheesy on screen, so they only did so a couple times with the crow, and never actually showed the transformation. After some explanation of the filming process with the actual crow, Paul added by way of explanation: “Birds are uncooperative.” Hee. He got a big laugh. Julie [I think]: “There’s not PETA people out there are there?” A really fun exchange.
- The moderator asked them all about their favorite moments. Julie said the party bus. She explains that they rented it while filming the pilot. Apparently it had stripper poles. Paul quickly inserts: “But no strippers.” Paul was surprisingly funny. By the way, I have been on a party bus as described, in San Francisco, and it was lots of fun. But very hard to dance while holding a drink, while the bus is moving. Messiness ensued.
- As for their favorite episodes, Julie said “Friday Night Bites.” Kevin agreed. They talk about how that was when they really realized they had a show. Things finally came together for them in that episode, and they realized it was sustainable as a series. I’m paraphrasing here, but that was the gist.
- Then the moderator asked a question about IHOP. At first, I thought “Random!” But Julie and Kevin soon revealed that they recently had a writers’ meeting there. Hilarious! Ian joked, “Our lives, our characters, are dictated by what happens at IHOP.” Ha! I’m sure that I’m not doing a good job of conveying the hilarity here, but this is now a guaranteed inside joke in the fandom for the rest of the series. Someone else on the panel (I didn’t write down the speaker) joked, “They should nickname it IWRITE.” Unintended side effect: it made us hungry for pancakes the next day, though I went with French toast.
- The moderator asked whether they modeled their characters on anyone. Ian talked about Cary Grant being a inspiration for Damon. Ian: “Damon is Cary Grant. […] I think Damon secretly wants to be Cary Grant.” Um, as someone who has watched Cary Grant films countless times since infancy … no comment. Nina said that she copied Damon to get Katherine’s character, since Katherine taught Damon everything he knows. Makes sense.
- Then there was a question about the orange peeling, from the book. The moderator clearly didn’t understand the question, so Julie explained about the significance of the orange-peeling scene to the fandom. Spurred by this discussion, Paul asked whether he has ever eaten anything on the show. When it was confirmed that he hasn’t, he asked: “Why can’t I eat anything?” Big applause and laughs met that question. Ian joked that Stefan should stop being so cheap, and take Elena out to a restaurant. He paused a beat and then quipped, “Take her to IHOP.” Hehe.
- Then the questions were turned over to the audience. A woman from the audience (@paulwesleylover on Twitter), wearing a Team Stefan shirt stood up to ask a question and got some cheers. Paul: “I’m also Team Stefan.” See? He’s kind of funny. She gave a hilarious speech, and asked about the sex scenes. Then Paul actually stood up and left the stage to give her a hug and kiss. The encounter has been captured on video by Carina: See @paulwesleylover have her moment with Paul Wesley. It was actually quite sweet.
- Then someone asked about the casting process. Kevin talked about Nina’s audition first, describing it as “The stuff of legends.” Paul jokingly complained that he had to audition about 9 or 10 times.
- An audience member asked Kevin about Dawson’s Creek. She was sad that Joey didn’t end up with Dawson. Blech. Apparently there is at least one Dawson/Joey fan. Who knew? Kevin explained to the girl that Joey and Dawson ARE together: “Joey and Dawson are forever … She’s having sex with Pacey.” That got a big laugh from the audience, and from me especially. Kevin echoes these thoughts on the dvd commentaries as well, explaining that there are a lot of different ways to be soul mates.
- Then someone asked a question about the jewelry. Kevin revealed that he Googled “vampire rings” for ideas on how the rings should look. My immediate comment was, “You mean, he Binged it, right?” That comment will make even more sense when Bing makes a return appearance on March 25th.
- Kevin: “I had a hard time, like accepting the compass.” Thank you! Me too. He explained that he was ok with it once a scientific reason was revealed—magnetized polarity to dead flesh, or something like that. Hmmm.
- Ian joked that one of the reasons Paul got the job was that he already had his own fangs. Hee.
- In one of the questions, an audience member commented to Nina: “I really enjoy your acting, compared to other vampire girlfriends.” Ha!
- There was really only one worthless question, by a girl who wanted Kevin and company to check out her headshots. Puh-lease. However, there weren’t any juicy mythology questions, and no one asked about Julian Sark David Anders. Sorry, Alias fans. I was too shy to ask a question.
So, that was it for the panel, or, more correctly, my so-so recollection of it. I took notes throughout, but I must admit that there were several scribblings that I could not translate. And I did tend to get caught up in the moment and forget to take notes. I was also busy snapping pictures. For a look at the photos I took from the panel, you can check Heroine TV’s Facebook page: Photo Album: PaleyFest 2010.
Keep reading if you want some tantalizing hints of what’s to come in the March 25th return of The Vampire Diaries, “A Few Good Men.” Major spoiler warning!
- We find out what has become of that vampire from the end of “Fool Me Once,” who escaped from the tomb.
- Elena makes some major inroads in learning the identity of her birth mother … and the identity of her birth mother’s killer.
- Caroline and Matt have a hot and steamy scene.
- Julie Cooper Melinda Clarke guest stars!!! And her character, Kelly Donovan, does not like Caroline.
- We get some more flashbacks featuring Alaric and his wife, Isobel.
- We get a brief glimpse of Anna and Pearl.
Many more heart-pounding moments took place, but I don’t want to spoil you too much. I can’t wait until everyone has had a chance to see it, and we can freely discuss the awesomeness. Until then, discuss the panel, and the show in general, in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.