Though both series are based on novels by LJ Smith, the world of the 'Secret Circle' witches will not intersect with the established magic in 'The Vampire Diaries' -- Williamson was fast to dispel any notion of a crossover between his supernatural dramas. "We need to start at ground zero and create our own story and create our own mythology and build from there, so that we can tell just as great a story as 'The Vampire Diaries'," he pointed out.
The series focuses on Cassie Blake (Britt Robertson), a seemingly normal teenager whose world is turned upside down by the mysterious death of her mother and her subsequent relocation to Chance Harbor, Washington -- a town where everyone seems to know her name, whether she likes it or not. Magic, murder and secrets spanning generations soon come to light.
Check out highlights from the panel after the jump.
Aside from the magic, the driving force behind the series seems to be the love triangle -- surprise! -- between Cassie, Adam (Thomas Dekker) and his girlfriend Diana (Shelley Hennig), three members of the titular 'Secret Circle' coven of teens who join together to explore their powers. Diana quickly establishes herself as one of Cassie's supporters, but Cassie's burgeoning chemistry with Adam looks set to cause friction in the group, though Diana won't simply be positioned as a villain or someone to root against.
Dekker explained, "Since the pilot, we've filmed more interaction between Adam and Diana so it's been good to find out our history together. But we're finding out more and more that it's not just a teen lustful attraction between [Cassie and Adam] -- it's linked to our blood and our ancestry, which is the core of the whole show. There's a destiny for the two of us, but there's also a massive amount of loyalty between myself and Diana, so it's probably the central inner conflict for my character. Another is I don't think he would have been someone to choose to be a witch, but he's also probably the most informed about how their powers work and in many ways becomes Cassie's instructor. But of course, that also brings us closer together, which is dangerous [for all the same reasons]."
Diana might not be the villain of the story, but her father, played by Gale Harold, is certainly toeing that line. "I'm not sure if he's even sure what he's up to," Harold wryly admitted. "He's very drawn to bringing back something he thought he had his hands on when he was younger. He needs this new generation [of witches] to come and bind together and through that, my character and Natasha [Henstridge] utilize that. He has to make sure that everyone around him assumes that he's just an upstanding nice man, that he's not just a bad guy."
If the writers do their job right, though, "you'll understand why the villains are doing what they're doing," Williamson said. "There's a reason for their actions, and their kids will come to understand their parents in ways they never would've expected from the pilot."
One of the draws of the series for Williamson (aside from the "betrayal, the deceit, the murder, the mayhem -- all of that is my happy place") is the multi-generational aspect, since the series will focus on the newest circle as well as their parents' and grandparents' circles.
"There are questions to explore -- what happened 16 years ago, what chased Cassie's mother from the town, our new circle tries to uncover that," Williamson teased. "There's a world here, these six families with the lineage of the circle, but there are other witches in the town, perhaps."
Williamson also dropped a few hints about what fans can expect from the new season of 'The Vampire Diaries,' revealing that Bonnie and her particular brand of witchcraft will be "front and center" throughout next season, as she becomes entangled in both Jeremy's new storyline involving the ghosts of girlfriends past, and in the story of the Original family.
"Bonnie is very pivotal, the man she loves is seeing dead people, and they happen to be the only other two women he's ever loved ... [We ask] what are these entities that Jeremy sees roaming around his house, what does it mean in our supernatural world? A witch is at the root of the Original family too, so [Bonnie's] going to be right in the center of all of it."
Similarly, the Tyler/Caroline/Matt love triangle will come "right alongside" the Damon/Elena/Stefan romance for the first half of the season, especially for Matt, who is practically the show's one remaining human. "[Matt] is now in the know," Williamson observed, "and so that's going to get fun; 'my best friend a werewolf, the girl that I love is a vampire, and where do I fit in all of this?'"
Still, despite the darkness and convoluted plotlines of his shows, Williamson admits that the subject matter in Smith's books is always a pleasure for him to delve into. "I love L.J. Smith -- the betrayal, the deceit, the friendship, the loyalty, the love, the murder, the mayhem, all of that stuff is my happy place," he enthused.
As for how 'Secret Circle' will differentiate its witch mythology from that of 'Vampire Diaries,' executive producer Andrew Miller chimed in, "We are trying to build our own sense of witchcraft and magic and mythology, not as a reaction to 'Vampire,' but this starts at a very elemental place that's focused heavily on water, air, fire, and earth. And we are just trying to draw from various cultures in the power of these basic elements, and our witchcraft comes out of that. When they use magic, it's a process, and they tap into an energy in the world that they become a part of -- it's not a result based thing, it's an organic experience, and I think, in that way, we are a little bit different from 'Vampire' and from a lot of the other witch shows of the past."
'The Secret Circle' premieres Thurs., Sept. 15, 9PM ET on The CW.
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