Find out how Nina Dobrev completely failed her first audition and needed a second chance to land the lead role in The Vampire Diaries.
Nina Dobrev’s performance as Elena Gilbert is a key part of The Vampire Diaries. And the actress did not play just one role in the series, but rather three: three look-alikes – or doppelgängers in the original version – of Elena, with different personalities. So imagining the famous CW series without Nina Dobrev, at least in its early stages, seems unthinkable and yet the actress almost didn’t take part.
Indeed, his audition for the main role of the series was… completely banal! And it’s the creator and executive producer of the show, Julie Plec herself, who said it: “The funniest story about Nina’s first impression is that she didn’t make an impression. None of us remember seeing her for the first time”. On the day of her big audition, Nina is indeed sick and does not convince the crowds.
The show’s producers, anyway, are on the hunt for a blonde, blue-eyed Elena, as depicted in the books that inspired the hit show. Ashley Tisdale, the former student of High School Musical, and Ashlee Simpson are then approached for the role.
WHEN DARING FINALLY PAYS OFF
But Nina does not budge and finally contacts the producers by going directly to the point: “Listen, I was sick that day, I didn’t do my best, I really really want this role”. She then passes a brand new audition, the recording of which is sent directly to Julie Plec: “It was so magical and so perfect that she got the part in the minute”. (Entertainment Weekly, May 2015).
So the ploy worked and the coveted role is hers. Elena will therefore be brown… and will have to face the criticism! Fans of LJ Smith’s books are furious. But the filming continues. It wasn’t until the series unveiled that fans discovered that it wasn’t the only thing that changed: in the books, Elena is a popular “mean girl” while in the series, she became the “girl next dorr”, kind and well mannered. And conversely, Katherine, her look-alike, is innocent and naive, while her television version is devilishly evil. The creators therefore swapped their personalities, which still does not please some.
IAN SOMERHALDER FAILED IN HIS TURN
But Nina Dobrev is not the only one to have had a complicated start. Imagine that Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley also had small casting problems. The interpreter of the famous Damon Salvatore first successfully passes his first audition against the studio executives producing the series. But when the time comes to convince the leaders of the chain, things get complicated. “Was it too much coffee or that shot of [vitamine] B12 that I made myself, who knows? I was stuck”, says Ian Somerhalder. When he leaves the room, Kevin Williamson, the co-creator of the series, takes him aside and says to him: “That wasn’t good, was it?”. But fortunately, Williamson, him, is convinced that Ian is made to embody Damon and gives him a new chance. As he prepares to re-enter the room, the actor then remembers having seen another candidate who was waiting to pass his audition, and at that moment, he said to himself: “You know what ? I have nothing to do. This role is mine. It’s not his”. Determined, he returns. “I walked in and did it and, oddly enough, I ended up getting the call. But after 10 days of virtual hell!” (Paleyfest, March 2012).
PAUL WESLEY? WE ARE SUFFERED OF THIS KID!
For the one who played Stefan Salvatore, however, the auditions were even more complex. “It was one of those auditions that everyone was fighting for, all the young actors were fighting over [le rôle de] Damon and Stefan […]”says Paul Wesley. “And [les producteurs] didn’t want to let me audition for Stefan because they thought I was too old. [Rires] So I walked in and read for the role of Damon”.
The actor is then called back for a new audition: rather a good sign. And then…nothing until he got another call because the production was having trouble finding someone. “Stefan was the hardest to find. It’s the kind of role where you can’t just play the pretty boy because there’s such depth and loss and loneliness in that character. So you need a real actor”, specifies Julie Plec. Thus, once Ian Somerhalder has been cast, Paul is back in the race: he is younger than Ian so the role of Stefan could finally suit him…
According Paul Wesleyit is the casting director, Lesli Gelles-Raymond, who will insist that he be received again. “Lesli was like, ‘Just watch it one more time!’ And they said, ‘Okay, we’ll see Paul Wesley again, whatever. We are sick of this kid.” [Rires] So Lesli put me back in the room, this time for the role of Stefan”. And there… it’s still not won! The producers fail to see him in the role and almost miss out on a great opportunity.
It is only when the time comes for the famous “chemistry readings” (alchemy tests) with Nina Dobrev that the luck finally turns. At the audition, almost 15 potential Stefans are present, all ready to compete for the role. Paul then remembers adopting a strategy: not talking to Nina Dobrev before the audition, like the others did, and having their first words exchanged be as Elena and Stefan, and this for a question of authenticity. .
Therefore, at the end of the audition, when the actress is asked with whom she had the most affinity, she answers: “Certainly not with this guy, Paul Wesley”. But there is nevertheless a certain chemistry between the two actors since Kevin Williamson finally begins to see the actor in a new light. “We didn’t want Paul until we met Nina. Paul came in about 100 times and every time he came in we were like, ‘Okay, here’s Paul Wesley again.’ I liked him; I just didn’t love him. And it wasn’t until we found Nina and put them together that I was like, ‘Oh, he’s really good, who is he? He’s the guy we’ve seen 15 times.” [Rires] (Entertainment Weekly, September 2019). Finally, all’s well that ends well for the flagship trio of The Vampire Diaries. “Apparently, my stupid little plan worked”, adds the one who finally holds the role of Stefan. All these failed auditions were ultimately a blessing in disguise and contributed to the success of the series which propelled Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley to the rank of celebrities.
AlloCiné interviewed Nina Dobrev at the Monte-Carlo festival in 2011!