The co-creator of The Vampire Diaries has explained why Damon’s story got complicated for the writers. Kevin Williamson dished the behind-the-scenes happenings that went into writing Ian Somerhalder’s fan-favorite character, and doing so proved trickier to navigate than you may have thought. When The Vampire Diaries began, Stefan’s brother was a villain before he took center stage in the love triangle that helped define the series.
Walking the line between villain, redeemed hero, and perpetual rogue proved a tempestuous one. Fans’ reaction to the wild Salvatore brother ended up influencing things quite a bit as The Vampire Diaries progressed. Trying to turn the audience against Damon became an insurmountable obstacle for the writers. Discussing the situation at New York Comic Con, Kevin Williamson said (via Digital Spy):
You do respond to what works. When you are in the writers room and you have this really great twist and this really great moment where, 'Aw, I know, why don't we let Ian [Somerhalder] kill Elena's brother? That's the way to make him bad again, that's the way to turn Elena against him. He should be the villain.
As The Vampire Diaries progressed, fans could not be swayed into turning against Damon. The Salvatore brother had come in with a huge amount of devil-may-care abandon before redemptive arcs began to reform him. Then, countless storylines attempted to bring Damon back to his bad boy days, only for them to have no impact with fans who loved him.
As a viewer, it was tough to forget the character development in lieu of a twist that saw him return to his former life as an edgy antagonist. Did The Vampire Diaries go there too quickly? Fans will probably debate that for the countless years beyond its 10th anniversary. After Damon turned into an anti-hero of sorts, Kevin Williamson acknowledges it was hard to turn back the clock. Williamson said:
Once we made him nice we couldn't turn Damon into a villain to save our lives. The audience loved him no matter why. And we kept trying to turn the audience against him again just so that we can win him back again and it was really hard. . . I think the trick is... I try not to read twitter, I try not to let it influence me.
The Vampire Diaries was one of the first shows to have its audience’s reaction right at its fingertips. It is interesting to contemplate how much of a role that played into shaping the story. The battle between “Delena” (Damon/Elena) and “Stelena” (Stefan/Elena) was always impacted by Damon taking a step backward in his redemption.
As a viewer, you could feel Vampire Diaries trying to reverse Damon’s moral progress, but it was too late. You could not undo what had already been done. Damon either had to get redeemed or risk going beyond redemption, which would have meant not being able to root for him and Elena.
Damon’s legacy continues to live on. The Vampire Diaries’ spinoff is introducing a new vampire for Season 2, and one of the series’ stars has said he is Ian Somerhalder 2.0. Please take a moment to imagine that Somerhalder had not been able to overcome that rough process to get cast as Damon. Would the character have had the same impact without him? It seems doubtful.