Vampire Academy Creators On Casting And Changes From The Books - Exclusive Interview

After the 2014 film "Vampire Academy" didn't do so hot at the box office, fans of Richelle Mead's books have clamored for their favorite series to return to their screens. The Powers That Be have teased other attempts over the years, without any tangible information until 2021. Now, Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre's iteration of Mead's world is finally coming to the streaming service Peacock

"Vampire Academy" isn't the first time the showrunners have worked together, nor are they strangers to the vampire genre. Plec turned "The Vampire Diaries" books into a successful TV series in 2009 and even helmed two spinoffs. Meanwhile, MacIntyre played Sheriff Forbes on the series, later joining Plec as a producer on "The Originals" and "Legacies" spinoffs. When it comes to YA vampire content, the show couldn't have found a more qualified duo to take on the project. 

In addition to the vampire components of the series, "Vampire Academy" offers hard-hitting commentary on class wrapped up in the politics of a monarchy — which couldn't be more relevant today. The series focuses on the Romanian and Albanian mythology of Strigoi, Dhampir, and Moroi vampires. Suffice to say, it's a vibrant and expansive world to take on, but Plec and MacIntyre were up for the challenge.

During an exclusive interview with The List, Plec and MacIntyre discussed how their work in the TVD universe informed their "Vampire Academy" vision, what inspired MacIntyre's career change from actor to showrunner, and what prompted the series' most significant changes from the books.

From Legacies to Vampire Academy

Julie, you've been a staple of vampire TV shows for over a decade. Did working on "Vampire Academy" soften the blow of the abrupt "Legacies" cancellation, and how did your work in the TVD universe help inform your direction in "Vampire Academy"?

Julie Plec: Nothing could soften the blow of "Legacies," meaning its untimely demise. Believe me, that is something I will take with me for quite some time. That being said, it is always nice to have your next job before you lose your first one. What was so great about having spent the last 13 years in that franchise is feeling like, "I've done so much of this. So, now, how can I challenge myself to do it differently?" Not just relying on my old tricks and freshening up my suitcase of story ideas, so to speak.

Marguerite was so good at that because she was coming in also having lived through the last 13 years of vampire life, but with a really clear point of view about what she wanted this story to say about the world that we live in. That's what made it feel so fresh and so unique, not to mention the fact that we shot in Europe, and we have castles, ballgowns, and tiaras and all these amazing things that if there's a little love of "Bridgerton" in your soul, you'll certainly feel some delight at the way the show looks as well.

Two showrunners are better than one

Marguerite, you worked with Julie for years on "The Vampire Diaries" as the sheriff and Caroline's mom, and then later on the production side of the spinoffs. What prompted that change in career focus, and what excited you most about taking on this new vampire journey with Julie?

Marguerite MacIntyre: It's funny. I'd always written as well as acted, but I'm one of those people who follows the flow, and when certain opportunities came to me through you [Plec] and another friend of mine as a writer, I took the opportunity and loved it. I really loved it. 

I don't close the door on acting [again] someday. You never know, it might pop up somewhere, not on this show. I took the ride and liked it and found that all that experience as an actor actually helped me as a writer and producer — particularly when you're doing showrunning because there's my love for actors, my love for the process, [and] my love for crew. My husband's a cinematographer. I see it from a lot of points of view, and that has been really helpful. Coming up in this world and learning a lot along the way has been really helpful.

This particular story appealed to me, as Julie said, because I loved in the books. This class system that is really not cool. It's falling apart. It's stressing everyone, and it's so relevant right now. [It's] a better time [now] that even if you'd been able to tell [this story] 15 years ago, it wouldn't be the same story. This feels like the best time. We get to say something really relevant while having castles and all the things. It was a pretty perfect opportunity, especially getting to do it together. It's awesome.

Plec: Awesome fun.

The journey from books to TV

Julie, the "Vampire Academy" TV series has quite a few changes from the books. I know that you were a big fan even before you got into "TVD." What prompted some of the character changes like Sonya Karp's new backstory, making Rose and Dimitri British, de-aging Tatiana, and then some of the other changes as well?

Plec: In a nutshell, we wanted to cast whoever was best for the part and not have to deal with dialect coaching and all those things. Some Australians are really good at American accents, and some are not. I didn't even want to know. I wanted people to be their most pure, authentic selves. 

I wanted to make sure there was really great representation in this show in a way that the book, the last names of everyone in the book didn't necessarily indicate much outside the area and universe. To the point of a Sonya Karp or even Liz's family, when you read the first book of the series, there [is] so much incredible rich backstory. There's so much that happened to these characters in the past that we never got to see. We thought, "Gosh, not only did we have six books to work with, but we have an entire mythology of the past that we could use as story."

Let's use it. Let's tell the story. It's about taking all the tools in the toolbox and then deciding what order you want to use them in and we can assure fans of the books that if you love something in the books, odds are good you will see it in the series — maybe not in the right order, except for the lust spell, my apologies. That was one of the casualties of updating these books into today's time — that and Rose's age, the age of consent, and all those things. Otherwise, we tried to honor the source material while also having fun, adding details of our own.

The first four episodes of "Vampire Academy" release September 15 on Peacock, with subsequent episodes releasing Thursdays.

This interview has been edited for clarity.