Why Vampire Diaries' new girl isn't at all what you think

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

Let's see if we understand this correctly. The CW was casting its upcoming supernatural drama The Vampire Diaires, based on the books L.J. Smith, and for the role of Elena Gilbert—a blond and blue-eyed beauty caught between vampire brothers (Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley)—they chose Nina Dobrev, a brown-haired, brown-eyed beauty.

"I know!" Dobrev—a Canadian actress best known for her long run on Degrassi: The Next Generation—said during an exclusive telephone interview last month. "I look nothing at all like the character. Nothing. And that's the thing; we're loosely following the books. We're trying to be as close as possible to the books because of the fans and how much they love the books. The premise is awesome, but there's only so much you can really translate into a television show. We have to tell an ongoing story."

Dobrev added, "And the thing about my character specifically is that she was depicted in the books as kind of an insensitive bitch, when you think about it. She was the queen bee of the high school. In order for the audience to even want to root for her, they have to like her. So they made specific changes to address that. They wanted Elena to be nicer and more sympathetic. And the physical aspect, I'm not blond or blue-eyed by any means. I guess that just wasn't that important to them. There was no discussion about me dyeing my hair or wearing contact lenses."

More than a few people will give The Vampire Diaries the benefit of the doubt in large part because of its executive producer, a guy with a knack for smart casting choices: Kevin Williamson. He, of course, wrote the Scream trilogy and wrote/created/produced the hit television series Dawson's Creek, which launched the careers of Joshua Jackson (Fringe), Michelle Williams (Halloween H20), Katie Holmes (Batman Begins) and James Van Der Beek (The Storm).

"What's funny is that I missed Dawson's Creek," Dobrev said. "That wasn't really my generation. [Vampire Diaries co-star] Kayla Ewell is my roommate, and we decided to Netflix all the seasons of Dawson's Creek, and we're watching it right now. What's cool is there was this one thing that happened in an episode that I thought was really interesting. I was curious about it, so I texted Kevin to ask him about it. I was like, 'Hey, Kevin, you know that story in episode duh-du-duh-duh? How did you think of that?' And he'd text back, 'Oh, my mom told me a tale when I was young ...' It's been so weird to watch Dawson's Creek and be able to text the guy who created it and ask him questions directly."

Dobrev continued, "Kevin is great. And he's such a good writer. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold, basically. I hope the same happens with our show."

Dawson's Creek ran for six seasons. That's a feat—and a fate— Dobrev would welcome for The Vampire Diaries.

"I am so ready," she said. "I'm so excited. And I can't talk about it too much yet—it'll come up throughout the season—I might be playing a second character. That'll be fun. That's why I'm excited and ready for this to go for a while, because there will be a lot for me to play."

The Vampire Diaries will premiere on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET/PT.