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The Real Reason These Actors Left The Vampire Diaries

Based on the widely read book series of the same name by L.J. Smith and jumping on the vampire popularity train prompted by the 2008 release of Twilight, The CW premiered The Vampire Diaries in fall 2009. Its pilot episode garnered the largest audience for a CW premiere since the network began in 2006. Breaking a record for a network that had existed for just three years may not seem like much, but The Vampire Diaries continued to have consistent ratings throughout its eight-season run. Even later seasons were averaging over three million viewers a week.

Set in the fictional Mystic Falls, Virginia, the series introduces protagonist Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), a teenager whose parents have recently died in a car crash. She soon falls in love with a 162-year-old vampire, Stefan (Paul Wesley), who is stuck in his teenage body and masquerading as a high school student. Stefan, a good-natured vampire who doesn't harm humans, is thrown off by the reappearance of his seemingly malevolent brother, Damon (Ian Somerhalder). Damon has returned to Mystic Falls (the brothers' hometown) because he has a plan to bring back Katherine Pierce, the woman whom he and Stefan were both in love with — and who, mysteriously, looks identical to Elena.

Ending in 2017, the show managed to keep the bulk of the original main cast for its entire run. But there were some cast departures, including the protagonist. Here is a rundown of the actors who moved on from the show and the reasons behind their decisions to leave.

Nina Dobrev wanted to grow as an actor in other roles

As the protagonist of the series, it was quite surprising to fans when Nina Dobrev announced she was declining to renew her contract and leaving the show after six seasons. Dobrev portrayed Elena through many ups and downs, including heartbreak over losing loved ones, a dramatic love triangle between her and two vampire brothers, and eventually becoming a vampire herself. She also portrayed Katherine Pierce, Elena's vampire doppelganger and one of the series' antagonists. She sometimes acted opposite herself, as both characters within one scene; Dobrev was, undeniably, integral to the show.

Dobrev took to her Instagram account to let fans know about her departure from the popular series. In the post, she explained that she always wanted Elena's character arc to be a "six season adventure" and called her experience "the journey of a lifetime." She also thanked the fans for giving her "more love, support and passion than anyone could have ever imagined seven years ago."

In an interview with Self Magazine, she further explained her reasoning for leaving, which mostly came down to her wanting to grow as an actress by taking on other roles. She expressed how much she would miss the cast and crew, who she became close to over the years, and told Self, "I know this is a new exciting step in the right direction for me, but it's going to be so strange not to be with them."

It was time for Steven R. McQueen's Jeremy to depart

Steven R. McQueen portrayed Jeremy Gilbert, Elena's younger brother, for the show's first six seasons. During that time, Jeremy went through a lot of heartbreak, including the death of two girlfriends, as well as dying and coming back to life multiple times. When Jeremy eventually left, it wasn't because of another death, but because he decided to go off to art school (an unusually conventional sendoff within the chaotic world of TVD).

Before the sixth season premiered, creator Julie Plec confirmed that the 14th episode of the season would be Jeremy's last. Plec told The Hollywood Reporter that she felt it was time for his character to part ways with the show. She explained, "This year, we realized that Jeremy has truly grown into a man, and as the victim of so much pain at the hands of the supernatural universe, we felt like it was time for him to go out on his own and start a fresh new life."

McQueen, in an interview with JustJaredJr., he compared his own sendoff as an actor to that of his character. He said, "I was on this show for six years and a lot of the people on the cast, crew, the writers, they are family at this point. So in one regard, it's like going away to college. It's tough to say goodbye. But in the other regard, it's exciting. It's exciting to see what comes next. But I will of course miss my other family."

Plec decided to kill off Sara Canning's Jenna

Sara Canning played Jenna Sommers, Elena and Jeremy's aunt, for all of season one and some of season two before her character was killed off. As the siblings' sole guardian and the last family they had left besides each other, her death was a surprise to some viewers, although it did raise the stakes.

Canning talked to TV Line about her character's death and her experience on the last few days of being on set. She explained that she had short notice about her departure — about three weeks — because the show plans often changed very quickly. With other projects lined up — including a Lifetime movie — she had other characters to focus on, but still expressed interest in returning for guest arcs if the right moment arose (many characters came back from the dead over the course of TVD).

With her final script, Canning described giving everything she could to the character in her final opportunity: "I wanted to wrap what Jenna meant in the show as best I could in the amount of time that was left for the character." She also addressed how much the fans' reactions meant to her; many expressed their upset on social media. She said, "I was overjoyed by the situation on Twitter. I was just so happy and grateful for every single person who felt that Jenna was an integral part of the show, because I felt that way as well."

Michael Trevino felt Tyler's storyline was becoming repetitive

Michael Trevino portrayed Tyler Lockwood, a high school jock turned werewolf, for six seasons of The Vampire Diaries. Along with Nina Dobrev, he left after the sixth season when contracts were up, choosing not to renew. Trevino's Tyler was the one of the first werewolves to come into play within the show's plot, making him a pivotal part of the overall storyline. However, after a while, Trevino found his character becoming less and less essential to the show.

While speaking with People Magazine, Trevino confessed that he thought the writers had to "stretch out" his storyline to make it through his six contracted seasons, which he says he is "grateful for." He said that keeping him on any longer would have resulted in "a repetitive storyline," which, he says, wouldn't have been fair to either him as an actor or the fans. He continued, "As the show evolves, you have different characters come in because you need new energy. It was just a bit difficult to not have to repeat ourselves, when it came to Tyler, so it was just best to move on at this point."

Trevino ended the interview by saying that he would "absolutely" be willing to return to TVD for future guest appearances or flashbacks. And he did: Tyler was a recurring character through the final two seasons after his departure.

The writers wanted to up the stakes by killing off Kayla Ewell's Vicki

Initially a part of the main cast, Kayla Ewell only made it seven episodes into the first season of The Vampire Diaries before her character, Vicki Donavan, was killed off. Vicki was the sister of Matt Donavan, another main character, as well as a love interest to both Jeremy and Tyler. She was also one of the first human characters to transition into a vampire.

Vicki's death in the first season's seventh episode came as a shock to fans, but co-creator Kevin Williamson felt it was necessary. He spoke with MTV.com about the decision, stating, "I don't want to be that show where there's no jeopardy ... [Some shows] are all very predictable in the sense that, well, 'We know this is the lead character so we know he won't die.' Or, 'That's a regular, so he won't die, it'll be a supporting person."

Williamson added that he wanted the audience to understand that they won't be able to predict what's coming, in terms of which characters get to stay alive. He said, "We will kill the main characters. This is a show that will go there."

There were creative differences over Matt Davis's Alaric

Matt Davis's character, Alaric Saltzman, was initially introduced as Mystic Falls High School's history teacher. It was soon revealed that he was a vampire hunter and had returned to Mystic Falls to track down the vampire that killed his wife. Throughout the series, Alaric developed close relationships with many of the main characters, becoming a father figure for Elena and a very close friend to Damon.

While Alaric returned for later seasons, Davis originally left the series at the end of season three, with the intention that it would be the end of the road for his character. In an interview with TV Guide, Davis admitted that he and co-creator Julie Plec had "creative differences" about his character. He said, "I'm very opinionated and when you're put in a position where you're getting the story lines that are not necessarily what's cranking at the back of your mind or digging at the potential of your character and you have to sit on your hands, that's frustrating. And being a secondary character is equally frustrating."

Davis got his wish to play a lead character with the 2013 show Cult, which also aired on the CW. However, that only lasted one season and Saltzman soon returned to TVD in a recurring role, only to be made a main cast member again for the final three seasons. He also had a guest arc in TVD's spin-off, The Originals, and is a main cast member in the second spin-off, Legacies.

Joseph Morgan, as Klaus, left TVD to star in The Originals

In 2013, it was announced that The Vampire Diaries was getting a spin-off show titled The Originals. The spin-off, which lasted for five seasons and ended in 2018, focused on the Mikaelson family, who were the first vampires in existence. The Mikaelson characters were introduced in season two of TVD, with Klaus, played by Joseph Morgan, in particular playing a major role as a prominent antagonist.

In an interview with Collider, co-creator Plec discussed expanding the Mikaelsons' story into their own show, citing how much potential was in their backstories and futures. She said, "We felt like, 'We can't let this group of people who are so dynamic overshadow or overwhelm the heroes that are really the center of The Vampire Diaries.' So, giving them their own show and their own forum to tell those stories was a no-brainer."

Morgan himself spoke with AssignmentX about beginning the new series and where he wanted to see his character's arc go. He stated, "I'd like this in the long term perhaps to be a story of Klaus' redemption. I think gradual redemption."

Daniel Gillies as Elijiah and Claire Holt as Rebekah also joined The Originals

The other two Mikaelson siblings were Elijah, played by Daniel Gillies, and Rebekah, played by Claire Holt. Elijah was introduced in The Vampire Diaries in season two, alongside Klaus, while Rebekah came in during the third season. Gillies and Holt kept recurring roles in TVD and ultimately left to star with Joseph Morgan in The Originals in 2013.

In an interview with JustJaredJr., Holt talked about the support she had gotten from the fans that had transferred with her over to the spin-off. She said, "The fans have always been really loyal to Rebekah, I think, whether she's the mean girl or the nice girl...But [I've] had such great support and definitely felt the love all throughout my journey on the show, but especially recently with the new spin-off and the potential for a new show."

Meanwhile, Gillies, while discussing the new show with ShowBizJunkies, revealed that Plec had told him about her ideas for The Originals from his earliest days on set. He told a story of being with Plec while she was looking at footage of scenes that he and Morgan had done together: "She just said, 'Boys, this has to be a show.' She's just sitting there giddy, looking at it. She goes, 'This has to be a show.'"

Phoebe Tonkin's Hayley was introduced to segue from TVD to The Originals

Phoebe Tonkin's character Hayley first appeared in The Vampire Diaries in early season four. Hayley is first introduced as a friend of Tyler's, but later becomes more prominent after her one night stand with Klaus, from which she becomes pregnant (Klaus, at one point revealed to be only half vampire, is able to procreate). Her pregnancy then becomes a major storyline at the start of The Originals (and her daughter, Hope, subsequently becomes a main character of Legacies, the next spin-off in the TVD universe).

In a feature for Entertainment Weekly, Tonkin recounted her early experiences on TVD, revealing the intentions behind the character of Hayley. She detailed, "I knew I was going to do the Vampire Diaries spin-off from the moment I signed up. So whatever character I was going to play on Vampire Diaries was going to be in the spin-off if we ended up being able to shoot that pilot...No one else knew that, so it was hard to keep that a secret."

On the subject of her short time on TVD, Tonkin describes it as wholly positive: "Obviously, my time on Vampire Diaries was very special and was a big launching pad for the next four years of my life. I'm very, very grateful."

The death of Taylor Kinney's Mason was always planned

Taylor Kinney made his Vampire Diaries entrance in the first episode of the second season as Mason Lockwood, Tyler's uncle. He returns to Mystic Falls after the death of his brother (Tyler's father) and it is soon revealed that he is a werewolf. His role confirmed the existence of werewolves and aided Tyler's eventual discovery of his own werewolf nature.

Kinney told Entertainment Weekly that he always knew that his character's arc had "an expiration date," so his departure was no shock. It was the way his character died — by being tortured and then killed by Damon Salvatore — that was unknown to him up until receiving his final script, which he found "great" and thoroughly surprising.

He also spoke about being open to returning to the show, saying that he has kept a close relationship with the cast and crew members and that "you never know" what could happen in the world of The Vampire Diaries. Like many other characters who found themselves dead, Kinney did indeed get to return to the show — in season three, when he appeared as a ghost. It turns out it's true what Kinney added in his EW interview: "Anything can happen in Mystic Falls."