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The Originals Director Daniel Gillies Praises 'Outstanding' Phoebe Tonkin Performance (Plus, Watch a Clip)

After playing Elijah Mikaelson for almost seven years — don’t forget he started on The Vampire Diaries! — Daniel Gillies is finally stepping behind the camera on Friday’s Originals (The CW, 8/7c), an opportunity he calls “a bit of a gift horse.”

“To be a participant in a show and to have played a character for as many years as I have, I know the universe and the mythology, as well as the tone of the show,” Gillies tells TVLine. “Just by osmosis, you inherit a complete understanding of what needs to be delivered in an episode. It’s a beautiful thing for an actor who has aspirations of directing, because you have training wheels. You’ve also developed a degree of intimacy with the crew, which is another hurdle you don’t need to leap as a guest director. There are so many things stacked in your favor.”

As for his approach to directing, Gillies says he pulled from his earlier theater days, “where it’s all about the words and the actions.”

“I felt really strongly that one of the aspects that’s most overlooked and forgotten is the thing that needs to be examined and treasured the most, which is the acting itself,” he explains. “When you work in television, particularly television with a fast turn-around, you’re often left to fend for yourself in terms of making decisions for your character. I guess I just wanted to see if I could create an environment where all I did was speak with the actors.”

And while all of his co-stars were “magnificent,” Gillies has particularly lovely things to say about Phoebe Tonkin, whose character is tasked with entering Elijah’s shattered mind in an attempt to put the pieces back together.

“Perhaps because I had the most to do with her character, but Phoebe was just outstanding,” he recalls. “In the cut that I delivered, I thought she did some of the best work she’s ever done on the show. She was so willing and committed. I really hope it’s as good as I remember it being.” (Something tells us it will be.)

As a thank-you for reading this, here’s an exclusive first look at tonight’s episode, in which Marcel and Josh hatch a (likely disastrous) plot to bring back Sofya using The Hollow’s blood:

Hit PLAY on the video above, then drop a comment with your hopes for the rest of Season 4 below.