Julie Plec is a busy woman and has been for a long time, but she’s managed to carve out a few hours to sit down and talk to the fourth estate at this year’s New York Comic Con.
Let’s give you a brief history of this amazing woman: Plec, it could be argued, is responsible for the second renaissance of The CW. When the station was near failing and rumored to be sold-off, The Vampire Diaries became a massive hit – saving it. This allowed The CW to steadily build a roster of successful shows over the ensuing years, including spinoffs of its savior: The Originals and Legacies. Eventually, they gave boosts to other new shows and helped ring in the CW’s DC era.
But, Plec has moved onto the streaming realm, specifically NBC’s Peacock. Her newest project is Vampire Academy, a show based on a six-part YA series of the same name which follows the complicated friendship of two girls living very different lives. Rose Hathaway (Sisi Stringer) is a dhampir (half-vampire-half-human) who is being trained to become a guardian. Her best friend Vasilisa Dragomir (Daniela Nieves) is a moroi (good vampires) princess who has been thrown into the royal deep end after the death of her would-be-king brother. And, as if those personal problems weren’t enough, their entire existence is threatened by the strigoi (evil vampires) mindless killing machines who are immortal and neigh impossible to kill. Fun times, right?
Luckily there’s a whole cast of characters to lighten the load including hunky guardian trainer Dimitri Belikov (Kieron Moore), loving godfather and Lissa’s legal guardian Victor Dashkov (J. August Richards), and handsome misunderstood moroi outcast Christian Ozera (André Dae Kim) who’s folks turned strigoi, just to name a few! Let’s face it, there are definitely a lot of names and faces to keep straight but to see how they’ve been brought to the small screen here and what new parts some of them play is worth the effort for fans of the book.
Especially since, way back in the mid-aughts Vampire Academy had a pretty loyal movie adaptation that flopped hard, so while the show has made some dramatic changes from the source material it might be for the best.
And, that’s not the only show Julie has on her plate this year. She’s very excited about her newest acquisitions: We Were Liars, the bestselling YA novel and its prequel Family of Liars, which she is giddy to turn into the next hit show. I’ve never read either but given the critical feedback, and having seen what she’s done with Vampire Academy, I know the product will be thrilling!
We Were Liars follows the Sinclair family, specifically Cadence, and takes place over the span of two “summers”, when Cadence is fifteen and when she is seventeen. Telling more would risk spoilers, but let it be said that the story is a twisty, mind-bending thriller that takes the adult novel trope of the “unreliable narrator” and sets her firmly in the YA space complete with a reasonable YA explanation for her unreliable nature. I’m highly curious of how this book will translate to the screen.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
On color-blind casting:
Julie Plec: Our approach was just full inclusivity…if we limited ourselves to Slavic characters it’s a show of white folks…I have learned a lot over the years about representation in shows…I was really proud that at the end of it all we picked the best people for the parts and ended up with seven out of ten characters of color.
On keeping the vampire lore fresh:
Plec: This show was particularly easy to take on because the vampire world build is so unique…[Richelle Mead] borrowed from Romanian culture, and she borrowed from old vampire lore, and she made a lot of it up, and so that was fun…especially…the strigoi who are just evil, and there’s no…’Oh they’re just misunderstood’, no they’re just feral…I loved being able to create actual monsters.
On the projects she chooses:
Plec: The sad thing about being a busy TV writer is that you stop reading…I read now, basically once a year….I read so much as a kid…I prefer to work with stories that I know I like as opposed to trying to come up with stories that are just born completely from my own head…I like being able to say ‘I can see this world, I can see the characters in this world’…in the case of Vampire Academy it’s such a unique and interesting world and so well told that I get to have the fun of building around it…
On which elemental power she would like to have:
Plec: I feel like I would be most excited about being a fire user…I finally saw Mia throwing water at somebody…I finally saw the visual effect cut in and it’s so cool…so maybe I’m a fire and water combo…
She’s a steam user ladies and gentlemen! Done!
Vampire Academy is currently airing its first season on Peacock.