When The Vampire Diaries premiered on The CW over ten years ago, plenty of fans fell in love with bad boy vampire Damon Salvatore, played by Ian Somerhalder. While the character’s quick wit and brooding and sarcastic personality won over fans, it started to cause some issues for the show’s creators early on in the series.
In a new interview for EW's podcast “EW Binge,” TVD co-creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson discussed all things The Vampire Diaries Season 1, and the two shared what it was like having Damon as such a fan-favorite character when the series first started. While it was great that he was so loved, both Plec and Williamson admitted that they ran into some issues with the storyline, saying:
Kevin Williamson: We can't have a lovable villain. That's great and that's a fan-favorite character, but that doesn't bring you real storytelling and real stakes.
Julie Plec: We had this magnificent villain who could do no wrong in the eyes of the audience and we thought, 'Let's give him something really wrong that is unforgivable so we can buy ourselves another year of Damon as the villain and Stefan as the hero.
Damon Salvatore's villainous introduction didn't stop him from quickly becoming a fan-favorite, despite Paul Wesley's Stefan clearly being set up as the tortured but heroic Salvatore brother. The fan reaction surprised Julie Plec, as she thought they had created a villain, when in truth they created someone who Damon fans felt was simply misunderstood.
They [were like], 'Poor Damon, poor Damon, he's so misunderstood! He just loves Elena so much.’ We were aghast. We were like, 'What have we wrought? We have basically accidentally created the poster couple for toxic masculinity.' The women loved him and we couldn't understand it at all. That was a moment.
It's not surprising that fans immediately fell for Damon, as the “bad boy trope” has been used everywhere in shows and movies. However, recently, Julie Plec brought up the whole “bad boy” scenario and how different The Vampire Diaries would be if it were made today because of it. Even though fans fawned over Damon, his personality and relationship with Elena were toxic, and not healthy. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not a good guy deep down, as Elena changed him for the better. But it is pretty hilarious knowing how distraught the creators were when they realized just how popular Damon was when he was supposed to be an unpopular character. It’s always the villains that some fans have a soft spot for!
Damon Salvatore will always be a fan-favorite, and Ian Somerhalder is probably the only guy who can do it, but it does make you wonder just how different Damon would be had he not been a villain. If the roles were reversed for Damon and Stefan and Paul Wesley played Damon, would fans feel the same? Team Damon vs. Team Stefan might still be a thing!