The Vampire Diaries at Comic-Con 2015: What Will a Nina Dobrev-Less TVD Look Like?

SDCC The Vampire Diaries panel
Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, and The Vampire Diaries cast teased what's to come in Season 7 now that Nina Dobrev is gone. Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Missing Nina! The Vampire Diaries cast and producers took the stage at San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday, July 12 for the show’s very first panel without star Nina Dobrev — and its first time in the gigantic, 6,000-plus seat Hall H.

Because TVD Season 7 only began filming less than a week ago, there was no new footage to share, but Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, and company teased a little of what’s to come now that star Dobrev — and her central character, Elena — are no longer on the series.

“Of course it’s bittersweet [to be here without Nina],” creator Julie Plec said. But Elena is not dead (instead is essentially sleeping in a coffin for the next 60-70 years until BFF Bonnie, to whom she is supernaturally linked, eventually dies), and her presence is still felt in the new season.

“I thought it was a really clever way to keep Elena there and keep her presence there and keep the door open in a lot of ways for her to come back,” star Kat Graham (Bonnie) added. “But it also created an interesting dynamic going into Season 7 for Bonnie and Damon and them to have to deal with the fact that Bonnie’s alive and Elena’s not.”

Read on for more highlights from the panel, including scoop on the show’s other favorite relationship — Steroline! — and more.

Damon’s Back

Despite all of the elder Salvatore brother’s growth over the past six seasons, Somerhalder teased that Damon will regress now that the love of his life is gone.

“It’s the old f—ing Damon, the Damon that we really fell in love with. That’s the goal — let’s bring that back, that energy, that sexy, volatile, fun, scary, dangerous — a lot of that s—- that made you guys fall in love with him to begin with,” he told the crowd. “I’m bringing it back!” 

Another Damon tidbit: Somerhalder plans to direct another episode after making his directorial debut in Season 6.

Stefan and Caroline: Together At Last!

Candice Accola, aka the show’s remaining leading lady vampire Caroline, is excited that her character’s budding relationship with Wesley’s Stefan finally seems to be coming to fruition. “I love a good slow-burning relationship in a television series that you get to watch build,” she said.

Wesley, meanwhile, just likes to make his costar feel as awkward as possible during their on-screen love scenes. “I just love making Candice feel awkward on set. Candice is married; I’m friends with her husband; I love when we get to do make-out scenes because it’s uncomfortable and so funny.”

Shirtless Stefan?

Stefan said he’d wait and give Caroline time to find herself before he pursued a relationship with her, but “she can’t resist,” Wesley teased. As to what you can expect from their budding courtship, “shirtless stuff every episode,” Plec joked.

“That was Season 1, when I was a youngster,” Wesley shot back. “Times have changed!”

The Heretics

“The challenge for the writers in Season 7 is constantly topping the villain from the previous year, and we thought [Season 6’s] Kai was one of the best villains we’ve ever had on the show,” executive producer Caroline Dries said. So this year’s big bads — the group of vampire-witch hybrids led by Damon and Stefan’s estranged mother, Lily — are worse than ever.

Plec described some of the “really great new characters” as “nasty, nasty, nasty girls.” Intriguing!

The End?

After a fan asked about whether a TVD end date was in sight, Plec said she had no plans to end the series any time soon.

“I do not see the show ending after next season. I think we’ve got more story to tell and I think we’ve built this gorgeous family that’s not ready to split up yet,” she said.

But when the time comes, she already knows what will happen. “I know how it ends, Caroline [Dries] knows how it ends, and no matter what happens between now and when it ends I see it ending that way.”

The Vampire Diaries returns to The CW on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. ET.

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