Determining their place in society and ultimately fighting for the existence they want to lead is a vital rite of passage for adolescents in any culture. The teen protagonists of the new fantasy horror television series, ‘Vampire Academy,’ are no exception; they’re struggling to decide and accept their true personalities at their titular school, despite being supernatural beings and not having complete control over their humanity at all times.
The drama, which is based on the late 2000s YA novel series of the same name by Richelle Mead, was co-created by showrunners Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre. The duo also served as writers, executive producers and directors on the series’ 10-episode first season. ‘Vampire Academy’ serves as a reunion for the pair, who previously worked together on fellow supernatural vampire YA television shows, ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ ‘The Originals’ and ‘Legacies.’
‘Vampire Academy’s first seven episodes are now available to stream on Peacock. The series’ remaining three episodes will premiere every Thursday until October 27.
‘Vampire Academy,’ which is set in a world of privilege and glamour, follows the friendship of two young women, Rosemarie “Rose” Hathaway (Sisi Stringer) and Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir (Daniela Nieves), who transcend their strikingly different classes as they prepare to complete their education and enter vampire society. Rose is a dhampir, a half-vampire/half-human guardian-in-training who’s learning how to protect Lissa, a royal Moroi vampire, against the savage Strigoi vampire breed that threaten to tear the girls’ society apart. That is, if Moroi royal infighting doesn’t destroy their own society first.
Besides Stringer and Nieves, the show also features an ensemble cast. The supporting actors includes Kieron Moore, André Dae Kim, J. August Richards, Anita-Joy Uwajeh, Mia Mckenna-Bruce, Jonetta Kaiser, Andrew Liner and Rhian Blundell.
Plec generously took the time this weekend to talk about co-creating and serving as the co-showrunner on ‘Vampire Academy’s first season during a roundtable interview at New York Comic Con 2022. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed how she and MacIntyre currently don’t have any plans to bring any characters from the ‘Vampire Diaries’ franchise into ‘Vampire Academy,’ as they want to keep the universes separate. She also mentioned that she often writes her vampire to be fighting to get their humanity back, but she also embraces the fact that she can have diverse characters on the new series – romantic representations of vampires in the Moroi, and relentless monster representation of vampires in the Strigoi.
Question (Q): How many seasons of the show would you like to see in total?
Julie Plec (JP): At this point, I think when you’re working in streaming, you’re desperately hoping for three (seasons), but this [show] can go for four or five (seasons), plus there’s a spin-off in it, too. There are all kinds of opportunities to expand this world.
Q: Are the dhampirs going to have powers?
JP: They’re not going to have powers, per say, but they have extra strength. Their agility is above and beyond, and they’re able to punch harder and run faster. They’re also able to survive a little bit more damage.
Q: Speaking of spin-offs, you introduce the alchemists (humans assigned to help Moroi and dhampirs keep their existence discreet) pretty early on in the season. What went into developing their new, sleeker tattoo design? Does this mean we meet Sydney this season?
JP: We’re not going to meet Sydney this season, but I certainly plan on introducing her eventually. We do meet Adrian, however.
In terms of the alchemist face tattoo, I couldn’t quite visualize the golden lilies as a design that would hold up. But we might revisit it as we move forward because it’s not like I love the one that we did.
We’re definitely teasing the alchemists this season as something that’s going to be more important next season. So we have some room to figure it out.
Q: You’ve changed a few of the characteristics. Is there something that you may want to do something differently with Sydney that we haven’t yet seen?
JP: No. I think when it’s time to introduce Sydney, we’ll have to go back in and research her and who she’s supposed to be. I love her and Adrian so much, so I’m excited to tell that story at some point, but it will probably be at least a season away.
Q: Is there anyone from ‘The Vampire Diaries’ universe that you want to come onto ‘Vampire Academy?’ Do you have any characters in mind?
JP: The franchises are truly two separate worlds. The mythology of ‘Vampire Academy’ is that the humans and vampires made a decision a long time ago to live separately and signed a treaty, and breaking that treaty is very bad for civilization. We’ll get more into that in future seasons, in order to understand what the treaty is, how it all came to pass and what the rules are for it.
Q: Speaking about the cast, how did you approach casting the main characters for ‘Vampire Academy?’
JP: Casting was very intense because it was over Zoom. It was when we both (MacIntyre and Plec) were trying to break the story for the pilot, write the script and prep a show that was about to shoot in Europe.
So we had to write fake casting material because we hadn’t written the script yet. So we were trying to ask, “Does this voice feel right for this character or not?”
We then watched a ton of (audition) tapes. But when all was said and done, we read Sisi really late, so I think there was a fear that we hadn’t found our Rose yet. But we found Daniela really early, and she was a no-brainer that she was our Lissa.
But then we started mixing and matching people. We had Daniela read for Rose, and Sisi read for Lissa. We also had Rhian Blundell, who plays Meredith, read every part. (Plec laughs.) So when we finally landed on everybody, we felt really proud of ourselves that we got it right.
Q: In terms of the set design, especially for the academy itself, how much input did you have on how the school looks? Is there anything that you may have hidden or moved around?
JP: What I do when I get on any set is that I walk through and rearrange everything. I take away anything I don’t like and move things around to make sure that the cool stuff is on camera.
I can’t think of anything specific to answer that question. But you definitely rely on your set decorator to come in and build this little world that fits the characters and story. When they’re good, your job is very easy. In this case, our set decorator, who has an Oscar, is very good, so I stayed out of her way.
Q: A lot of this first season is focused on backstory, so how much of book one and two will featured on the show by the end of this first season?
JP: You’ll surprisingly see a lot of book one, but minus the bulk of it, which is the teen party and lust charm. So you’ll see the bones of book one, but also half the bones of book six.
So we’re moving a lot of pieces around in different ways, and that’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully that will be fun for the fans, as well, because they don’t quite know what to expect.
If you love a book series, it’s fun to see it play out [on screen] as you remember it in your head, but it’s also fun to see where we ended up seeing things. At any moment, you can be surprised by a little detail that you thought we had forgotten.
Q: You mentioned that the lust charm is something you’re not doing. Is there anything else from the books that you don’t want to get into?
JP: I think that was the main one. It was Rose not being 18, Dimitri being her teacher and the lust charm where we drew the line. It was fun when I was younger and it was 2008, but it just doesn’t feel right anymore.
Q: It was also interesting to see on the show how a Moroi can’t always stop themselves, and then turn into Strigoi.
JP: I agree; that was an interesting part to the story. When I read the books, I thought Richelle Mead had made up all of that. I then realized that Strigoi was from Romanian folklore.
When I write vampires, I write moody, broody, romantic ones who might go dark for a little while, but are always fighting to get their humanity back. What I like about this (franchise) is that you can have these romantic representations of vampires in the Moroi, and the vicious, primal, feral, relentless monster representation in the Strigoi.
I haven’t been able to do that very much, and have always struggled with the question of if my vampires are too likeable. I like that we’re in a monster show here, and they’re not going to turn good or be nice.
They also seem to be organizing in a way that they didn’t used to do, so you’re seeing the evolution of a seris in real time, which is cool.