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Peacock's 'Vampire Academy' showrunners want to do the beloved book series justice
Showrunner Julie Plec has been wanting to make a TV show out of the hit book series for a long, long time.
The new Vampire Academy TV show — Peacock’s adaptation of the hit YA book series of the same name — has its origins in a place not commonly associated with vampires: On a beach in Cabo.
Showrunner Julie Plec tells SYFY WIRE that she and fellow showrunner Marguerite MacIntyre became friends while they both worked on the CW series Kyle XY in the mid-’00s, and that they would regularly go on little vacations to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico where they would primarily read suitcases full of books. One of those books on one of those trips was Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy, the 2007 book that kicked off the series. From the jump, it was a series that Plec wanted to plant her flag in one day — or perhaps, sink her teeth into.
“I said on Twitter, once, that it was my dream to make a Vampire Academy series,” Plec recalls. Shortly after that, she went to the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con, and while eating sushi, producer Don Murphy approached her. He explained he owned the TV rights to the series, and that he’d heard about the tweet, and asked if she was interested. There was only one problem.
“I said ‘I would love to do it, but I can’t do it right now because I’m literally about to launch my own vampire boarding school television show.’” Plec says, as she was working on another vampire TV show, The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, which aired eight seasons from 2009 to 2017. “But, I said ‘If you are willing to wait for me, let’s have this conversation once a year until the timing’s right.’ And he did, he waited for me.”
The Peacock series follows two vampires — Rosemarie "Rose" Hathaway (Sisi Stringer), a type of vampire called Dhampir who typically serve as the muscle in the series’ vampire society, and her best friend, princess Vasilissa "Lissa' Dragomire (Daniela Nieves), a ruling-class Moroi vampire. The show, as with the books, focuses on the pair’s relationship and their love interests, along with a good amount of court politics as they navigate vampire society and deal with the threat of a third type of vampire, the almost feral Strigoi. However, although Plec and MacIntyre have clear reverence for the books, the show distinguishes itself in a few ways.
“We decided not to open up in the same specific way that the books open. We decided to tell a lot of the story that has happened in the past, in the books, as story that is the present, in our show,” Plec explains. And once we kind of took the lid off of that, we were able to create a lot of new things, tell a lot of new stories, but always knowing that there were elements of the book series that we wanted to make sure got up there on screen.”
This is not the first time that Vampire Academy has gotten a live-action adaptation. A film version came out in 2014, though it was a commercial and critical failure. The show will have nothing in common with the film, and in some ways represents an attempt to get it right this time.
“Neither Julie nor I have actually seen the movie,” MacIntyre says. “Julie has said that, because when she saw the trailer, it didn’t quite feel tonally how she responded to the books and she thought, 'Well, I’ll just take a pass.' She loved the books and kept it at that. I had never seen the movie, and when I knew we were doing this, I kind of didn’t want to see the movie because I wanted to stay fresh with our take on it. In some ways it’s not really about the movie at all.”
MacIntyre adds that, although the books are over a decade old, the series really speaks to this moment in time.
“The time to tell this story is now because it’s really about a world that’s fraying at the edges,” she says. “There’s regime change, there’s a lot of unfairness in the inherently unfair society that these two young women are suddenly about to inherit, and they’ve been a little bit blinkered, a little bit protected by their friendship and their family … We think that the time of a revolutionary friendship between two strong, wonderful women is now.”
“It’s not just another vampire show,” adds Plec. “It really truly does feel like something wholly unique and I’m excited to show it off.”
Vampire Academy premieres on Peacock on Sept. 15.