SPOILER ALERT: This article includes details about tonight’s premiere episode of Legacies.
If you think the premiere episode of Legacies was going to be all about Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell) and her time at the Salvatore School — think again. The third installment of The Vampire Diaries universe introduces us to a whole new story told through the eyes of the earnest and adorably awkward Landon (Aria Shahghasemi). Well, at the end of the episode, you probably won’t think he’s that adorable.
The pilot sets the stage for what we can expect from Legacies when it comes to this supernatural coming-of-age story that takes place at the Salvatore School which is surprisingly like Hogwarts — and show creator Julie Plec is certainly aware of that (we get into that later).
In addition to Hope and Landon, we are introduced to a roster of students with special powers at the school overseen by Alaric Saltzman’s (Matthew Davis). In addition to Hope, there’s his very different twins Lizzie (Jenny Boyd) and Josie Saltzman (Kaylee Bryant); high-energy and playful vampire MG (Quincy Fouse), newly-minted werewolf Rafael Waithe (Peyton Alex Smith) — and then there’s Landon, who is introduced to this world and is thrown for a loop.
The episode takes us through the angst and issues of these supernatural students, but the focus is on Landon and Hope and what we can expect from their relationship. Landon tries to get used to this supernatural lifestyle of witches, vampires and werewolves — and he surprisingly gets used to it quickly. Maybe too quickly.
After he learns of this witchy world, Alaric decides to keep him on campus until MG can erase all memories of what he has seen. When they let him go, it turns out that his memory hasn’t been erased and may or may not have supernatural powers after Alaric and Hope discover that he has practically annihilated a bus full of passengers. From the ashes of this disaster grows Hope’s change of heart for Landon who she thinks may be evil now.
Plec, who is set to direct the 10th episode of the CW drama, spoke to us about the twists and turns of the pilot, the fun Harry Potter references folded into the episode, and the future of Hope and Landon’s relationship.
DEADLINE: There’s an expectation that the pilot episode of Legacies would focus on Hope, but it was very Landon-centric. Was this the intention for our introduction to this new chapter?
JULIE PLEC: It’s funny, Hope is coming into this series with so much history — basically nine years of television in some form or another. I was afraid how to unravel all of that to the audience if I didn’t have somebody new coming from the outside. I decided to embrace my inner-O.C. and make Landon the Ryan Atwood of the Legacies pilot and introduce the world through his experience. It ended up him being an entry point into the world…and, of course, he pulled the ultimate fast one on the audience at the end.
DEADLINE: Has Landon’s “supernatural surprise” been in the works all along?
PLEC: When we introduced him before, I knew he was going to be the character we were going to bring back into this world for the show and I thought he would be the forever human character of Legacies — the Matt Donavan of Legacies. When I was writing the pilot and laying out the ideas for the first episode, I realized I was hinging so much on a successful romance — almost emulating Stefan and Elena. If it doesn’t work, then I got nothing. My brain started running through the scenarios of what I could do to lead the audience down a path of what they want to see and then turn it on them.
Based on having cast Aria, who had a lot of edge to him in addition to having the ability to be sweet, he has a mystery about him. So it just felt suddenly that I could take that character and take him in a completely opposite direction than I had intended. Then I created two great twists in the last 10 minutes of the show — which is always nice, too.
DEADLINE: The Salvatore School in Legacies is very reminiscent of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and even Xavier’s School for the Gifted in X-Men…but you cleverly slip some fun Harry Potter references in the pilot. Was that a wink and a nod to the audience to let them know that you were aware of the similarities?
PLEC: [laughs] Well, in the same way that everybody thought that Vampire Diaries was destined to be a Twilight ripoff, I just felt like we were showing lots of love to Harry Potter — which I have loved for 20-plus years. And why not celebrate that love and hang a lantern on it and not address it?
Obviously, (Legacies) a completely different world and a completely different story and it has nine years of mythology leading into it — so it stands on its own. I just loved being able to say, “Yup! This is a love letter!”
DEADLINE: With Legacies and shows like Charmed and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, why do you think the occult is in the zeitgeist — specifically witches?
PLEC: I have to assume it has something to with the utter embracing of female power and the aspirational side of young women being as strong and fierce as they could possibly be. I think that in a world where everything feels uncertain, being able to embrace the idea that with a chant or spell that you cannot only fight evil but save the world, it ties into this theme that I certainly notice — that young people are our salvation. The more power we give them, the better off we are.
For me, when I was writing Legacies, I was so excited to embrace the idea of these young, raw, determined, powerful, emotional and sometimes hilarious kids who literally have the power within them to make a complete change of the surroundings. I was sort of paying my own homage to the Parkland kids, who I have found to be so inspiring. That happened around the same time when I was putting all this on the page.
DEADLINE: The cast of Legacies is very inclusive. You have many women, people of color and queer representation in the main cast. When you wrote the characters did you specifically want them to be a certain race or LGBTQ?
PLEC: I used to say I didn’t see color for years because that’s true. Then, in the last couple of years of paying attention to the world, I felt that was not a responsible enough method of character development and storytelling. You have to make choices about color and culture when creating the characters. I was very specific about who in this world would be of a certain ethnicity. My next hope in my writing would be able to represent the cultural and sociological aspect of that with equal confidence.
As far as the queer representation, I had a really amazing conversation with my cousin last year who is a high school teacher in Chicago and I asked her how the kids at her school are dealing with sexuality and the conversations surrounding it. She said, “Everyone’s fluid! Girls like girls one week and boys the next! It’s non-gender discriminatory.” I thought that was so great. I love that because that is how the world should ultimately work so why not have representation of that in Legacies as well?
DEADLINE: Even though they exist in the same universe, Vampire Diaries and The Originals had their own tone and storytelling. What kind of path have you created for Legacies?
PLEC: What I wanted to do when putting together this show was to basically live in the coming-of-age experience that we mostly skipped over in The Vampire Diaries — which hit massive, brutal, emotional and hardcore life or death stakes very early. While we are dealing with similar stakes (in Legacies), there is still an innocence to these kids despite who they are and what they can do. I wanted to give each of them a distinct problem that they have to deal with that kind of mirrors a lot of things that young adults have to deal with — whether it’s an imbalance in their brain chemistry, anger issues, trauma, if they’ve been orphaned, or highly ADHD. I started with all these kids that have all these unique characteristics in a world where they need to work twice as hard to rein their problems in for fear of what could happen if they don’t. It evolves from that once I brought Brett Matthews in as my co-showrunner. He has a much broader voice than I do and was able to instill this world with this great irreverence and comedy that you’ll see in the upcoming episodes. The show lives equally in the angst of Vampire Diaries as it does in the hilarity of Buffy.
DEADLINE: I want to circle back to Landon’s supernatural surprise because it really does throw you for a loop. What kind of dynamic can we expect between Hope and Landon considering what happened at the end of the pilot?
PLEC: It’s difficult to say anything without giving anything away because the entire next episode is built around Hope having decided that Landon is this demonic evil that must be destroyed and wiped from the face of the Earth. We’re still, as the audience saying, “He seems nice!” And that question will carry her through the episode because she’s gonna hunt him down and when she finds him she’s going to decide whether he is still a cute moppet head, blue-eyed boy or is he the evil that she decided he is? We’ll have to wait and see!