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Vampire Academy showrunnners on adapting the popular YA series for Peacock

When it comes to vampire adaptations on television, you’d be hard-pressed to find two better showrunners than Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre. Over 13 years, Plec created three successful series involving vampires: The Vampire DiariesThe Originals, and Legacies. MacIntyre, who played Sheriff Liz Forbes on The Vampire Diaries, joined Plec’s staff as a writer for the subsequent series. Now, the duo is teaming up again to adapt Peacock’s Vampire Academya new fantasy series about these mythological creatures.

Based on the young adult series by Richelle MeadVampire Academy chronicles the friendship between Lissa Dragomir, a princess, and her guardian-in-training, Rose Hathaway, at St. Vladimir’s Academy. The series intertwines issues of class, privilege, love, and loss into the story of a female friendship. Plec and MacIntyre met with Digital Trends to talk about the challenges of adapting a bestselling novel series, the appeal of vampires in television, and the relatability of Vampire Academy in today’s political climate.

Rose and Lissa embrace and talk in a scene from Vampire Academy.
VAMPIRE ACADEMY -- “Earth. Air. Water. Fire.” Episode 102 -- Pictured: (l-r) Daniela Nieves as Lissa Dragomir, Sisi Stringer as Rose Hathaway -- (Photo by: Jose Haro/Peacock)

Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity. 

Digital Trends: There was a Vampire Academy movie adaptation in 2014. However, it was negatively received and did poorly at the box office. Julie, what are the challenges of adapting a novel series when the first media adaptation of the material was considered a failure? 

Julie Plec: Well, I think the book series actually had quite a nice run of success. It topped The New York Times bestseller list for years. I didn’t see the movie, I must confess. I think what was fun about diving in to adapt the books, from having loved them as a fan back when they were published, is I could now treat them with fan treatment as a storyteller. I will say that I’m pretty sure Vampire Diaries didn’t sell a lot of copies when it was around the first time, so I’m definitely an old hat at taking on a story that deserves to be told and hoping to entertain as many people as possible with it.

You’re both back in the world of vampires. Marguerite, what about these creatures makes you want to keep telling stories about them?

Marguerite MacIntyre: Well, especially with these creatures, this is a different incarnation again. I loved Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and Legacies. I loved how each of those had its own tone so, already, there are a lot of ways to tell even a story from the same root. This is a completely different kind of world. Our Moroi are vampires who actually are mortal. They can die. I mean that’s a big deal. That’s a big change. There’s also the Strigoi, these monstrous, live-to-feed kinds of monsters in there, too.

This world, to me, is very resonant of the day we’re in. This is a political story about a class system that’s kind of going awry in the books. That’s one of the reasons [why] now is a good time to tell the story. These two young women are being pressured by what’s going on in society and trying to decide what that means for their friendship and what this means for potentially changing the society they’re in. I think a lot of people are questioning a lot of stuff now, so it felt timely.

Vampire Academy | Official Trailer | Peacock Original

Julie, when you’re adapting novels into television series, do you find that it’s important to stay true to the text to appeal to the book-reading audience, or do you just want to create a compelling television show at the end of the day?

Plec: Both, for sure. I think that there are certain things that if I were to set out to develop, I would not touch a word for fear of being murdered on the sidewalk and left for dead with my dog, the only one to notice that I was missing. [Laughs] And then there are adaptations like Vampire Diaries, which is taking the fun and the great characters introduced in the book, and the tone of the spirit of the book, but then creating a brand new story from that.

I put Vampire Academy square in the middle of that. I have so much respect for the source material, but the source material is almost 20 years old. With that, comes the liberty to be able to update, modernize, and contemporize it. That opens the door to different approaches to the way to tell the story. I can say confidently, to fans of the book series, that everything you love, you will see somewhere in this series. But, also be prepared to have it told to you, maybe in a way that you weren’t expecting.

The first four episodes of Vampire Academy start streaming on Peacock on September 15, with new episodes weekly on Thursdays.

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