When Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan) debuted on The CW's highly underrated supernatural melodrama The Vampire Diaries during the tail end of the second season, producers and Morgan himself expected the mythical original vampire wouldn't survive the third season. Then, during that year, his mythology expanded with a rich history. It turns out he's the bastard son of an ancient family, also original vamps (and thus, virtually indestructible), and a brat with abandonment issues so intense that he uses special daggers to render his siblings comatose when they go against him.
Fast forward a season and the Mikaelsons, with their supernatural Dynasty-esque drama (which include their parents, fellow immortals who view them as abominations that must be put down), had essentially monopolized the show from characters who existed a full two seasons before their introduction. Much of the blame can be attributed to Morgan and his co-stars Daniel Gillies and Claire Holt, older brother Elijah and younger sister Rebekah, who immediately inhabited the roles with assured performances that made them fan favorites. The show couldn't dare kill them off, and their dysfunctional dynamics provided too much material to write them out. The solution: a spin-off, of course.
Now they headline the simply titled The Originals and in a mere half season, have managed to step out of TVD's shadow into a supernatural series that is mature, darker, and yes, sexier. Complex talked with Joseph Morgan the same day The CW announced a no-brainer season two renewal, and according to him, they're just getting started.
Read below as Morgan previews what's to come and reflects on how the show came out buzzing right out of the gate, and why he and his "siblings" just had to have their own show in the first place.
Interview by Frazier Tharpe (@The_SummerMan)
You came into the universe as a guest star and a villain. Fast forward two years and you’re headlining your own show. At what point did you and Julie Plec realize that you couldn’t kill Klaus off?
Around about season three episode nine. We had just done episode eight which is called “Ordinary People” and is centered around the past of the Original family and it went back 1000 years to Viking times and it showed my brother and sister and my mother and father. In the episode after that set in present day, we find out that my father Michael is hunting us and I had a big stand-off scene with him in the doorway where I ended up killing him. I remember after that feeling like, I’m really having a lot of fun here.
Me and my team and my manager Richie always said one year and we’ll be good, because how long can you keep a villain around before he just becomes one of the good guys? I'd always made that a point of saying that I just wanted to do this for one year. Then after that [episode] I thought like, "I could do another year, they’re writing pretty good stuff for me, I’m having a lot of fun and I’m starting to like Atlanta."
I went to see Julie Plec [TVD executive producer and Originals creator] and was honest with her like, "I just want you to know I think there’s a misconception that I want to be killed off at the end of this season and I’m actually having a lot of fun and want to stay on another year if you’ll have me." She was a bit taken aback by it. I think she thought I wanted to leave after that year. So a little while later she wrote me an email saying, "You’re 100% going to live until next season, we cleared it with the network and the studio had always assumed that was the case anyway." So it was great, I got to do another season then around about the end of season 3 was when little whispers of the spin-off started to materialize. It was a long time before [The Originals] became a real thing.
Was the decision to spin-off more based on fan reaction, or you, Julie, and the writers deciding there was so much more to do with the character?
I mean, ultimately it had to be from fan reaction. Because if there wasn’t any reaction to these characters, no matter how much we love them, I would’ve died in Mystic Falls, as would my brother and sister. So there had to be something there for people to latch on to and relate to. The fans were incredibly supportive of me from the start, even though I was the villain. Partly, I was pretty vocal about my own kind of passion and interest in genre stuff, particularly vampire and werewolf folklore. I’ve read a tremendous amount of fiction and seen a lot of films, so I already was a fan myself, and I tried to make that clear.
There were a lot of fan-made trailers for The Originals. The fans sort of decided it could be a show before anyone else did. It was really fun watching that. Once me and Claire decided we wanted to do something about it, we thought we could present the idea to Julie. But before we ever got the chance, they came to us with a spin-off offer.
During the negotiation period where we were trying to figure out what it was going to be and how it was going to work, Claire, Daniel, and I stirred the pot by retweeting pictures of ourselves amd posting things that were like mock posters for The Originals. We were generating buzz about it because we felt like it would happen.
If I could separate The Originals from The Vampire Diaries in a nutshell, I’d say that The Vampire Diaries is more coming-of-age, and we’re more these monsters reveling in who they are and what they are. It’s the end of days for us Mikaelsons.
You brought up not wanting to stay around for too long because the villain just becomes soft and eventually maybe even a hero. That really hasn’t happened with Klaus. He’s pretty much remained a bastard and now on your own show you’re more of an antihero than a lot of current TV shows out. What is it about Klaus that makes him such a fan-favorite?
It's those little moments of vulnerability that we’re allowed to see of him. The writers are very good at giving me these terrible things to do then these tiny moments where you get a glimpse into his soul that makes you think he's really not that bad. Everybody forgets the terrible things that he’s done in those moments.
When I am Klaus, I keep in mind that my evil comes from the fact that I had a dysfunctional childhood, my father wasn’t my real father, my mother and my siblings rejected me so I’m striving for love and I want affection and I’m lashing out because I’m not getting it. All of these things that build the backstory for the character. When the audience is allowed to glimpse that backstory, to see Klaus as a child or young man, that allows them to sympathize with him. And to a certain extent, to justify some of the things he’s doing in the context of this fictional world.
Klaus has this bratty, middle child-syndrome kind of deal. Does Klaus’ family dynamic relate to your own in any way?
No, I just have one brother, younger than me. I didn’t grow up in that way, and my parents stayed together and were very loving. One thing I can relate to is the closeness and the value of family. We moved to Wales when I was quite young but we frequently visited the rest of my family especially my mother’s side. Woe to anyone who does them wrong.
Speaking of Klaus' siblings, there were two others who were killed off on The Vampire Diaries. Now with the spin-off, is there any regret in doing away with those two brothers? Is there any chance we’ll see them in flashbacks or in the present even?
It’s not my decision to regret. [Laughs.] We always hear whispers of storylines to come, and about 50% of them pan out. The writer’s room constantly adapts and changes things and goes with characters that are making an impact and kills off characters that aren’t, latching on to certain storylines and working around other actors’ schedules. There’s all these factors that come into play.
But there’s possibilities to bring them back in a 1,000 years worth of flashbacks, and secondly, we are a supernatural show. There’s always a chance an incantation can be found, or some kind of loophole that the witches never saw coming.
You mentioned being a big fan of this horror. It’s so popular right now. What would you say The Originals brings to the table that other TV dabbling in the supernatural doesn’t?
We’re a more adult show than the show that we came from. The city is very much a character. We’re very into the reputation that the city has for decadence. And then the idea of a war, I feel like we’re among the most epic shows in that respect. We’re dealing with these beings who are a thousand years old, these Originals. They could only have existed in Mystic Falls for so long before it became a little ludicrous, in my opinion. The stakes are so high for creatures like that. They need to be involved, they need to have epic action, they need to be involved in a war for their species. What we’re really trying to do is grow the scale a bit.
We’re still finding our feet too, don’t get me wrong. We’re a first season and I feel like episodes 14, 15 and 16 are the best we’ve done, and it’s because we’re starting to find our tone, our groove and step out on our own. To say, this is the show we are, and it’s a little darker, a little more psychological than its predecessor.
If I could separate The Originals from The Vampire Diaries in a nutshell I’d say that The Vampire Diaries is more coming-of-age, and we’re more these monsters reveling in who they are and what they are. It’s the end of days for us Mikaelsons. They’ve come to New Orleans to eventually self destruct, to kill each other or love each other, but it’s all going to happen in that city.
You’ve been playing this role for a couple years now, your biggest role to date. You also just won the People’s Choice award for Favorite Actor in a New Series. Now that your fame is blowing up, have you had any crazy run-ins with fans?
The fans are so incredible and so incredibly determined. In New York, I was late for an event for the Upfronts. I was with my girlfriend and there were a lot of fans of various shows camped out outside the hotel, so you’d get a lot of people shouting for photos as soon as you walked out. I was so late so I jumped into the car they provided, and we were just trying to make it there. And a couple of these girls ran down the road after the town car, just running through the streets of New York, and they kept running.
And we kept going for six, seven blocks, and it was like, they’re still there! Then we stopped at a light and I thought, "We’ve gotta get out and take a photo with these girls because this is crazy." That they would want that so much was so bonkers to me. That was a moment of realization for me that people really like this show.
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