The Vampire Diaries’ Annie Wersching on Living in the Grey Area

The CW
The CW

The Vampire Diaries post-Elena has been a whole new sort of animal. There have been adjustments and shifts in focus ever since the de facto protagonist fell into that long, Kai-induced nap when portrayer Nina Dobrev decided to leave the series. Luckily, Season 7 abounds with new and interesting characters to direct our attention to, chiefly in the form of Lily Salvatore and her Heretic Family.

Lily (Annie Wersching) was first introduced in the last half of Season 6 as Damon’s (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan’s (Paul Wesley) slightly unhinged mother, but has quickly revealed herself to be more complicated and multifaceted than a simple “villain,” with clear (and actually sort of understandable) goals beyond chaos and destruction. The TV Junkies sat down with Wersching to talk about Lily’s maternal motivations, how the character was originally conceived, and her complicated relationships with several of the existing and incoming cast members.

The TV Junkies: You have a tendency to come into these long-running TV series relatively late in the game and take on these roles that become immensely popular with the fans. I’m thinking specifically of Renee on 24 and Amelia Joffe on General Hospital and now Lily on TVD. What do you credit as part of your success in doing this effectively?

Annie Wersching: Specifically, in terms of characters like Amelia Joffe and Lily, both being sort of villains, I try to still find a way to make them redeemable and likeable and human and real. So I think that definitely helps. Fans are able to sort of identify with them. I mean, Renee [on 24] was a little bit easier because the second they saw her kicking ass people were sort of like ‘YES!!!’ Y’know? [laughs] But I don’t know, I guess trying to find the humanity in the character can go a long way in making fans have a connection with the character.

TTVJ: Do you consider Lily a villain at this point?

AW: It’s funny because when the season finally started a few weeks ago I kind of forgot where she started a little bit, you know? And I’m already in the headspace of where we are now, in filming, which is a little bit different. And so when, after the first couple of episodes. fans were like ‘I HATE LILY, I WANNA KILL LILY!’ I was like ‘Wait, wait, wait, what?!’ [laughs]

I kind of forgot that she was a little bit more hardcore of a villain in these very first couple of episodes just with taking Elena and all of that stuff. She’s definitely not your typical villain. Or your typical mother. [laughs] There are definitely mothers in television that are representative of just sort of bad mothers, but the interesting thing with Lily is that you do see her being maternal and caring and loving towards other people. Just not her biological children necessarily (yet). And so it’s a very strange dynamic. Because the fans want so badly for her to be sweet, loving, and maternal to her boys. It’s kind of a fun little dichotomy.

TTVJ: Speaking of Lily’s relationships with her biological children, how would you characterize the differences between Lily’s relationship with Stefan and her relationship with Damon?

AW: I think for Lily, Stefan definitely is her baby, her baby boy. He was only 10 years old when she died as a human so you know in her mind he’s still really a sweet, gentle soul. Even though they do share that Ripper side. With Damon, when she was human, he’d already had a bit of his teenager attitude—she and Damon just butt heads a little bit more. And especially now that he’s the Damon that he is [laughs]. He’s just always making excuses for things and she just sees right through him, I think. They’re very similar in a lot of ways.

TTVJ: You have two young children, so as a mother, what’s your take on Lily’s lack of maternal behavior with her biological sons versus this kinship that she feels with her adopted family, the Heretics? Can you understand any aspect of her actions or her attitudes towards them?

AW: I mean, I’ve kind of had to. I’ve had to make myself figure out how that would even be possible, which of course is hard to imagine as a mother of two amazing little boys, you know? But actually in Episode 7, you see a little bit more of the backstory of Lily’s existence in the world when she was a human and her marriage with Giuseppe and you understand why she did and didn’t do some things and I think once she was a vampire she found her strength and found herself. Once she found out that her boys were okay and she thought they had moved on and were doing well, she felt like it was better for her to stay away. But yet, she was still mourning this loss of being a mother and sort of transferred that relationship to these other misfits that needed some guidance and needed some family. It’s definitely a strange [laughs], strange scenario, but in her mind it definitely works. If she had her perfect way, they would all be one happy family. If the world was perfect and there was no conflict in the show.

TTVJ: Right. Then you’d have no show of course!

AW: Right, exactly. We’d just sit around and be happy and people would turn the show off. [laughs]

TTVJ: At the end of Season 6, it did seem like Lily and the Heretics were going to be the “Big Bads” of Season 7, but now it seems like that’s not so much the case. Was it always going to be the plan to have Lily as this morally grey character or did that develop as the role came into being and you inhabited it?

AW: I’m not 100% sure about that answer just because I’m not exactly sure what the writers had set out initially. I do know that the plan for Lily was at first just four episodes last season. So I think they liked the dynamic that I had as Lily and how things were panning out with the relationship with Damon and Stefan. The other thing is, their season is so long that they always have about three sort of different ‘arcs.’ They get going and then they settle and then they start a new storyline a little bit and then they settle and then the finale. So I’m pretty sure it was definitely set out that Lily and the Heretics were going to be the Big Bads. It’s way more interesting this way, I think. Obviously, their bad evil side is up in your face but it’s interesting to see what makes them tick and see them vulnerable and see dynamics to a character as opposed to just cookie-cutter bad guy.

The CW
The CW

TTVJ: Can you comment on Lily’s relationship with Enzo? That took a turn recently!

AW: Yeah! The Enzo thing is so interesting because even Lily doesn’t quite know what to make of that sort of confession that he had. I think there’s always been something about Enzo that made him not really seem like the other children but yet he’s not necessarily romantic. It’s like he’s always been in sort of his own little section [laughs] and she just tried to care for him as best she could. But there was always something sort of different and I don’t think she necessarily knew what it was. Unfortunately for Enzo, there is this Julian character who is about to come back into the show in a big way that is a long lost love of Lily’s and so the timing of course isn’t great with Enzo’s recent confession. I mean, he should have confessed at the end of last season! [laughs] And maybe things would be a little bit of an easier path for Enzo and Lily. I mean, I love it, I love that it’s, again, not your cookie cutter sort of possible romance. It’s more like, ‘what exactly is this?’ And those relationships do exist in real life, where you don’t see it coming necessarily and then you’re like “Oh my god, yes!”

TTVJ: Was the relationship with Enzo something that was originally intended by the writers or was that something that was influenced by your chemistry with Michael Malarkey [Enzo]?

AW: I think in the show in general they have their ideas but then also like to wait and watch and see how the chemistry is between two actors and two characters. So I know that they definitely enjoyed our screentime together. And I also think one writer told me this—can’t remember who it was—that it was something that they had always toyed with, this idea of Enzo and Lily, in terms of whether it would go romantic or not. And they’d sort of been building it and building it and they just decided “Okay, let’s do this.” I think it was always a possibility and they were just kind of waiting to see to make sure it was a good fit and chemistry and all that.

TTVJ: You mentioned Julian’s return to the show in a big way. Can you preview what we can expect out of his return?

AW: There’s pretty much no one – well maybe a couple of the Heretics—that are really wanting Julian back in their life [laughs] besides Lily. Clearly Valerie does not want him anywhere near her or anyone. And Enzo does not really want him to come back into Lily’s life. But he comes back! And it’s in a very interesting way and it definitely steps up the game in terms of he definitely has a villainous side to him and Lily is a little sort of gob-smacked/love of her life, over him. So he ends up having a little bit too much of an influence on her which she has to figure out how to be her own person again.

TTVJ: She clearly has a blindspot when it comes to his bad side.

AW: Yes! And she had no clue. I mean, to her, he’s literally the love of her life. So there’s no way in a million years she would even believe that if someone told her that. But currently, she has no clue about that awful thing he did to Valerie.

Annie Wersching
Annie Wersching

TTVJ: What are Lily’s main goals and her motivation this season? What she’s aiming for by staying in Mystic Falls? A lot of fans have been wondering, why do Lily and the Heretics need to stay in Mystic Falls specifically now that they’re free? Can’t they just go elsewhere?

AW: I mean, as far as Lily’s sort of overall goals, like I said, in her mind I feel like she’s trying so hard to keep the peace and get people to stop killing each other and she’d love to come to a nice even playing field with Damon especially and also at the same time get her Heretic family under control so that they can live out in the open and so they aren’t hunted down by a coven again and banished to a prison world. She’s trying to do right by everybody and be a mother figure to everyone and help shape their lives. So she would like to help Damon stop acting like a jackass [laughs], she would like to help her Heretic children stop slaughtering people. Of course this is an uphill battle. And I don’t know necessarily where else she would go? Cause she does have a lot of ties to Mystic Falls now. Enzo’s there. Stefan.

TTVJ: That makes sense. And now she has that great house, so why would she leave?

AW: Exactly! [laughs]

Do you consider Lily to be a straight-up villain or just a character who is complicated and morally grey? Are you looking forward to seeing Julian’s arrival in town to stir up drama and chaos? Sound off by commenting below!

The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on the CW and CTV Two.