Image Credit: Quantrell Colbert/The CWWhen EW first talked to Daniel Gillies last January, he explained that as an actor, he had to make certain guesses about Elijah’s motivations in order to play The Vampire Diaries‘ new villain. As we approach tonight’s season finale (The CW, 8 p.m. ET), it’s a good time to ask: How close was he? “You know, I suspected the ties of family between Klaus and Elijah, and I’m grateful that I went in that direction. I also suspected a deeper relationship and history with Katherine, and interestingly enough, that played out also,” he says. Executive producer Julie Plec did end up revealing that Elijah and Klaus were half-brothers before Gillies had to read it in a script. “She trusted me,” he says. “She didn’t even ask me to keep it under my hat, but I did anyway because I didn’t want to ruin it for the other cast members or in case anything got leaked.'”
Gillies is equally tight-lipped about Elijah’s involvement in season 2’s final hour, but he confirms that we will see him. “It’s furthering this pact that Klaus has made that he knows where the family is and he’ll reunite me. We’re gonna explore that,” he teases.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I wasn’t surprised — or all that angry even — that Elijah made the decision to save Klaus to get to his family.
DANIEL GILLIES: Neither was I. It’s funny, we’ve been talking about him being so noble all the time. When people said he’s a man of his word, he’s honorable, I was sort of conflicted. There was a few things that he’s done that I don’t think were very honorable, actually, that fans overlook. Like, when he was almost ruthlessly pursuing Damon and Rose in the beginning, and I picked up those coins out of the busker’s guitar case and threw them at the window — I thought that was the opposite of nobility to include all those innocent people in his mayhem. A lot of the fans, that’s their favorite shot of me, and that’s actually the least noble thing that’s done on the show. His agenda is thousands of years old, so the fact that he turned and destroyed the plans of Stefan and Bonnie doesn’t surprise me at all. Other cast members came up to me and said, “Oh, how do you feel about that? Oh, man, it’s terrible, right?” Like it’s a bad thing. I personally love characters when they f— up. It’s exciting to me. When someone like Elijah — who almost seems robotic at times in his execution, the economy of his motion — does something like that, you actually see his humanity. I love the mistakes that people make. In a sense, for me at least, it brings me closer to them.
My question is this: If Klaus hunted down the rest of Elijah’s family, was he searching for Elijah all these years? What’s your take on that?
I think Elijah was difficult. I think that Elijah was elusive, extremely intelligent. [Laughs] Much more intelligent than I. I think also there was probably a part of Klaus that couldn’t quite bring himself to pursue Elijah with real vengeance. I think that there was a part of them that was extremely close for centuries, and I think that on whatever level, he probably resisted hunting Elijah as he did the rest of the family. But I also think that Elijah is probably extraordinarily good at eluding him.
Fans have been talking about the chemistry between Elijah and Elena. Do you think that’s just because he sees in her what he saw in Katherine or the person Katherine reminded him of? Or is it something more than that?
I think that he sees Katherine, but I think that it’s even deeper. I think Elena is so much more heroic than Katherine because she’s got so much more to lose. That’s not to say that Katerina didn’t have a lot to lose back in the day, but I think that Elena represents even more heroism. I think Elena reminds Elijah of everything he liked about being human and continues to like about being human.
Do you think we’ve seen him soften through his run?
We have to an extent. It’s an interesting issue. A good and a bad thing as an actor is sometimes you become good as exposition, and I think that I was relatively good and am relatively good at exposition. So therefore, necessarily, I became a sort of device for opening up the past. Which meant that I kinda couldn’t be this cold guy on the outskirts saying four words an episode and murdering five people. I couldn’t be this cowboy for as long as I wanted. It wouldn’t have worked. I basically had to open the door into the past, and so they had to create in me a degree of diplomacy/approachability.
When we chatted in January, we had a great conversation about who you’d love to see play Klaus. Any suggestions you’d like to share for members of Elijah’s family?
Oh, man. We can dig up some of those old names. I loved that you printed that…. I must say that Joseph Morgan [who was ultimately cast as Klaus] wasn’t impressed when he came to set. He gave me a punch on the arm and was like, “Jonathan Rhys Meyers?! Ian McShane?!”