SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details about tonight’s series finale of The Vampire Diaries

Nina Dobrev The Vampire Diaries

In the end, amidst a flurry of familiar faces, Nina Dobrev’s Elena was brought back to life and reunited with her family on tonight’s series finale of The Vampire Diaries on the CW.

With that, and the conclusion of the eight-season saga of the Salvatore brothers and their friends, family and foes in a now-safe Mystic Falls, we saw the Paul Wesley-portrayed Stefan sacrifice himself but eventually be reunited in the final scene with his brother Damon, played by Ian Somerhalder. Really two finales in one, with the end of Season 8 and the end of the Julie Plec- and Kevin Williamson-developed show based on L.J. Smith’s books, tonight’s TVD also opened the door to more — especially with a certain letter and $3 million check that Candice King’s now-widowed Caroline Forbes received from spinoff The Originals‘ Klaus Mikaelson, played by a tonight unseen Joseph Morgan, to fund the school she opened in the long-living Salvatore siblings’ name.

I spoke with executive producers Williamson and Plec about the finale they co-wrote and that the latter directed about how they got to the end they wanted, and is it all really over? The longtime collaborators also revealed the hurdles in securing Dobrev, and why they weren’t able to get everyone back for the ender that they wanted. Plus, the duo discussed what to look for in new

season of The Originals debuting next week, their admiration for a certain resident of Sunnydale, CA, and what’s next.

DEADLINE: So, that ending with the multi-year jump in time, Elena alive and at medical school, the letter and money from Klaus to Caroline and brothers Stefan and Damon reunited, is The Vampire Diaries really over?

WILLIAMSON: The Vampire Diaries is over.

DEADLINE: That sounds so definitive to almost be coy…

PLEC: No. I’m not trying to be coy about a spinoff. I do not have a spinoff in the works but yes I have spinoff ideas in my brain.

Here’s the problem with more of this show — I think Ian and Paul have said it best recently that no one is going to find them credible in about another six months as eternally youthful vampires. So, any spinoff ideas probably involving those two probably are pipe dreams, but certainly, I’m constantly looking and layering in ideas for where to take this genre universe and this franchise, so it’s not out the question that I would explore other ways to keep the universe alive. But certainly I’m not purposely trying to tell people that there’s a Damon Salvatore spinoff coming because there is not.

WILLIAMSON: Look, Caroline and Alaric opening up the school for special children is one avenue we could go down for potential storyline for its own series – maybe. I’ve always wanted Klaus and Caroline to have another moment, another storyline, another some sort of future. So, we opened up that world to sort of suggest that they did, when it was Klaus that donated all the money to start the school. But nothing is in the works.

PLEC: I don’t see any reboot or spinoff opportunities right now. I think the point of the finale was to say goodbye.

That being said, it is during that window where the timeline would line up with what’s happening in The Originals, and so I think that certainly there’s an opportunity, not yet planned, but an opportunity to bring some of those stories forward over into what’s happening in the land of the Original family.

DEADLINE: So, will we see some seeds bloom when The Originals returns for its fourth season March 17?

PLEC: (laughs) There are seeds planted to bloom inside The Originals should opportunity present itself. There are seeds planted for a new version of a show that tells a different story than the story that’s been told so far with different people. There’s lots of opportunity, and now it’s all a matter of which roads we should go down.

DEADLINE: Now, would those new ones be based on the characters from the original books or would that be something entirely new?

PLEC: Oh, it would be something that springs out of The Vampire Diaries television universe that we’ve created.

DEADLINE: In that TVD world, let’s go back to where you guys almost ended things in the finale. Elena, back alive. Elena reunited with Damon and her family, but Damon disappears as the two of them hold hands walking down the street in those last few minutes. What does that all mean?

PLEC: That is the one singular moment in the episode that in my opinion is open to individual interpretation. To me, what it means, is that last little walk is representative of a life well lived for them. Like the idea that life well lived with family, with children, whatever it is that they wanted and then them parting at the end of a long life, and her finding her peace and him going to find his.

Not to say that their peace doesn’t include each other, but you know there’s reunions to be had first before you settle into whatever your life looks like after you pass. That’s my interpretation. It’s the idea that goodbye doesn’t need to be goodbye forever

DEADLINE: What ever happens or doesn’t happen next, ultimately was this the finale you guys wanted and envisioned, and were you able to put everything together the way you wanted?

PLEC: I would say the answer is 99% yes, and the one percent is stuff I’ll never talk about. Kevin and I both knew we wanted an emotionally satisfying finale. We, over the course of the experience, had lots of debate about what that meant to each of us. We had a room full of writers who waited. We, at one point, had things going a different way, but when all was said and done, the idea of representing peace as the button to a show that was about loss in the very beginning, how to get through life when faced with a terrible loss — which is how we met Elena having just lost her parents, and to reunite her with her family, and give a glimpse of what peace might look like for her is totally, exactly the thing that we wanted to accomplish from the beginning. So I’m glad that we found her way there.

WILLIAMSON: I would agree with that assessment. We got 99% of what we wanted. You know, we got the emotion in there, we wanted it to be epic, and you know the idea that Stefan was finally able to repay his brother by sacrificing himself. We wanted to resolve that relationship because the show has always been about loss, and grief, and rebirth, and we wanted to end the show in a beautiful moment of rebirth. And then of course, we concluded it with the final reunion of our two brothers because it’s always been about family.

DEADLINE: It also really felt like the finale was two different things – a season finale and a series finale. Was that balancing act where the unspoken 1% is?

PLEC: A bit. what I love about this particular episode is that the season finale ends about 22 minutes in and then the next 20 minutes is the series finale. I’m glad we were able to do that. I wish we could have had more time. I wish I didn’t have to cut nine minutes out of the episode just to get to time. But really the 1% is little personal choices that I wanted to do. I lost the battles for whatever reason and to circumstance and one day in the book, maybe I’ll tell tales but until then, I’ll just keep it to myself.

DEADLINE: Was this the way you say it all ending, compromises and all, Kevin?

WILLIAMSON: Well, I always thought it would be Stefan and Elena. They were sort of the anchor of the show, but because we lost Elena in Season 6, we couldn’t go back. You know Nina could only come back for one episode – maybe if she had came back for the whole season, we could even have warped back towards that, but you can’t just do it in 42 minutes.

DEADLINE: You weren’t able to get Nina back for more than the finale, but you got a lot of people back — though not Bianca Lawson and Joe Morgan. Why?

PLEC: When you’re dealing with time to invite upwards of 15 people to come back and play in a very narrow scheduling window and you don’t write the script until about the week before it’s happening, and then you’re a little bit at the whim of other people’s availability and unfortunately, Bianca who plays Emily Bennett and Joe Morgan who plays Klaus were not available to be there with us. So we had to, unfortunately, write Bianca out of that scene with Bonnie and all of her ancestors. Also then we had to find a compromise, which I’m perfectly happy with, truth be told, for Klaus’ appearance, which is what we ended up doing in that letter.

DEADLINE: And getting Nina herself back, you had to have her back, right?

PLEC: Yes but there were so many hurdles in locking in Nina that it gave me high blood pressure for like six months. I will tell you that.

What it all came down to, although, she emotionally very much wanted to be there and always intended on being there, was that she had a commitment to XXX for the launch of that movie. It had a series of international press tours that were happening basically right in the window of when we needed her to shoot. So we had to go through a lot of nail-biting moments trying to figure out if and when she would be available to us and for how long. There were seriously conversations where we wondered if we were going to have to call the president of Sony to help us out. But when all was said and done, the timing worked out in that the portion of the tour that they knew they needed her for, which was to go to China, was not starting until the day after we wrapped our episode. So we got to have her for a solid week and we got to use as much of her as we wanted to and she got to be a very substantial part of the finale – which was great.

DEADLINE: I know we’ve talked about that letter from Klaus to Caroline right a the end of the Vampire Diaries finale but are we going to see substantial crossover into the new season of The Originals from the world of Mystic Falls?

PLEC: You will see elements of Mystic Falls filter into the season that’s about to start airing. It’s been announced that Alaric Saltzman shows up in episode eight and we’ll actually see him not once but twice before the end of the season. He comes into lend a hand but also, of course, is there to mention this school that he and Caroline have been so busy running and how it might be beneficial for young Hope Mikaelson who is dealing with being a very powerful seven-year-old witch.

DEADLINE: To go a bit 30,000 feet for a sec, Vampire Diaries really jump started the CW in many ways – Kevin, you came back this season but what was like in the beginning on the show?

WILLIAMSON: Crazy! We wanted every episode to be sort of the cliffhanger, to be the must-see television with the hook, the twist. We had so many twists going for those first two years that they came fast and furious. I mean that was when Julie and I and the writers, we didn’t sleep. That first year was torturous as we were trying to find the perfect balance of emotion, character, and plot twists so that people would keep coming back for more.

In the first two years, I think running on all of our cylinders really well. Then as the show wears on and you move into season after season, you get a little more fatigued with your storylines, and so. But in the beginning, it’s all exciting, and new, and fresh, and the romance worked, the actors clicked. Everything was lightning in a bottle

DEADLINE: Eight seasons is a long run, did you have any idea back in 2009 that it could possibly go so long or even a plan if it did get renewed?

PLEC: (laughs) If you would have asked us at episode two, what Season 2 looked like we would have laughed in your face.

The beauty of this show is that it was so chaotic from beginning to end that each season we were like well we’re done. Then it was, Oh, no, we got more ideas and so at a certain point, the ideas just kept coming and it wasn’t until I started feeling like they were coming at a slower pace, and harder and harder to come by that I even thought about calling it as ending. In that sense, it felt like it happened sort of the right time where we were just starting to really wonder how much story we had left in us.

DEADLINE: Today is not only the finale of the Vampire Diaries but also the 20th anniversary of Buffy The Vampire Slayer – besides the obvious connection, I always thought the two series had deep connections – or is that looking too hard?

PLEC: You know the best part of The Vampire Diaries and its roots, and Buffy is that I was a massive Buffy fan and I don’t know that Kevin had watched the show with any regularity. So when we were sent the books to see if we wanted to do the show, I remember starting to read before Kevin did and saying oh, no, this isn’t going to work, this is too much like Twilight, there’s no way it’s going to work.

But as I got to later in the books where the town really became a character, and it reminded me so much of Sunnydale and how much the desire to protect that town was as much a part of the Scooby Gang’s willingness to save the world in Buffy. How the existence and the future of Sunnydale itself was always in such peril and the town was a character in and of itself in that show. I remember calling Kevin and saying I think this can work because I think it can be a show not just about a girl and a boy, and a brother, but about the people that live in this town that live in the supernatural hotbed and don’t even realize it, and so it’s sort of a love for Buffy is what made me confident that there was a show here.

DEADLINE: I’ve probed you both enough about potential spinoffs but what is next for you guys – literally come Monday morning?

WILLIAMSON: I’m going to be smiling, I mean I’m smiling now. You know, we’ve been saying goodbye for a year. We’ve had party after party. We’ve had dinner after dinner. You know, the blessed part about all of this is I’ve done this before with Dawson’s Creek. It was beautiful and it was sweet and it’s awesome. You know, I’m always about the future. So it’s it’s just a lot of tears and you just sort of move on.

PLEC: Monday morning I am going to sleep in, watch some television, catch up on my shows, maybe read a book, have a walk around the block. Then I’ll start the process of clearing my head, and doing a little bit of a creative purge and a creative rebirth because for the first time in a decade, I have time to look inside my own mind and say what stories do I want to tell next and what is next for me. I don’t know the answer to that yet other than that it’s coming and I’m excited to about having the time and the enthusiasm to actually pursue it.