The Vampire Diaries lost a few good (wo)men Thursday night, but one death was more painful and poignant than the others. Before we name this doomed character outright, I’ll offer up a big Spoiler Alert, and advise you to move ahead — with caution — to find out how the offed actress really feels about her Mystic Falls fate.
Sadly, Sara Canning — aka Elena and Jeremy’s beloved Aunt Jenna and Alaric’s gal pal — was one of four actors to see their alter ego bite the dust in Thursday night’s jaw-dropping installment of The CW’s sophomore drama, and the most important one at that. Here’s what the actress exclusively told TVLine about her too-soon Vampire Diaries departure.
TVLINE | It was so sad to see you go last night! How are you feeling about everything the morning after?
I actually haven’t seen it yet — I’m a bad student! [Laughs] I’m sure I’ll see it at some point, though. I had seen a lot of the death when I was doing ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement), so I had a taste of it.
TVLINE | I see that you’ve also had a taste of just how loyal Vampire Diaries fans can be. The outcry on Twitter over Jenna’s death was outrageous — in a great way.
I was overjoyed by the situation on Twitter. I was just so happy and grateful for every single person who felt that Jenna was an integral part of the show, because I felt that way as well.
TVLINE | How do you feel about how Jenna died? Do you think it was an honorable way for her to go?
I think so. It was a little sudden, but besides that, I wanted to wrap what Jenna meant in the show as best I could in the amount of time that was left for the character. We’ve seen her in the past few episodes realize that a lot had been hidden from her; she hadn’t been protecting Elena and Jeremy as well as she thought she had been. Granted, she wasn’t given the chance to do so because she was kept in the dark about what was going on, but what was nice about Jenna’s final act was that it was her piecing the puzzle together when she went to kill Greta. The absolute last thing she could do was throw a wrench in the sacrifice plan. It was very perceptive on her part to realize that the witch was an important cog in Klaus’ wheel, and that she needed to take her out — even though she wasn’t successful. [Laughs]
TVLINE | How far in advance did you know that Jenna would be killed off?
About three week — which is quick, but that’s sort of what you get with a show like Vampire Diaries because things change so quickly. And things change for [executive producers] Kevin [Williamson] and Julie [Plec] quickly, as well. So, it was a quick transition — both literally for me, and on the show.
TVLINE | What was your reaction upon receiving your final script? Were you surprised at all to discover the manner in which Jenna would be leaving?
Julie had explained Jenna’s death to me beforehand, so I wasn’t terribly surprised. I actually didn’t know that it would focus so much on Jenna and Elena, and what she feels her faults have been. Our characters had a similar moment in the beginning of Season 1, so it was challenging for me to try and address something that’s really at the heart of their relationship — Jenna going from Elena’s friend to her parental figure. It was really interesting to deal with that in the middle of all the fear.
TVLINE | Speaking of “the fear,” there was something subtle yet unwavering about Jenna’s transition into a vampire. How did you approach that scene?
I tried to set some specifics for Jenna’s transition and what that was like for her, because we’ve seen a number of characters on the show transition into vampires. I wanted to hold true to those characteristics but also put her own spin on it. We all know that when humans on the show turn into vampires, different qualities from their human/mortal lives intensify, so it was a lot to try and touch on in one episode — other than the actual sacrifice itself and wrapping up Jenna’s journey.
TVLINE | It’s no secret that the Vampire Diaries cast is a close-knit group, so I imagine your last day on set was an emotional one. Did any of your real-life feelings spillover into Jenna’s death scene?
Paul Sommers directed the episode and he really wanted to shoot it in sequence, which I thought was great of him to give such consideration. It was such a large buildup to go from turning into a vampire, to the conversations within the ring of fire, to seeing Jules’ death — which was so violent — to deciding to try to fight, so it was great of him to do that. The next night, after shooting the death scene, I was on set again for some shots just lying on the rock as a dead body. [Laughs] So it was an emotional peak… and then just lying there. Which is fine! It was really emotional, though, since [the show] has been my home for two years and I made a lot of close relationships in Atlanta. But for me, the scene ended up being about the last two seasons of Jenna more so than Sara leaving.
TVLINE | At least we know that dead people on Vampire Diaries usually pop-up again down the road!
I’m very grateful to Kevin and Julie for bringing me aboard this show and I really think the world of the cast and crew, so of course I’d come back. It would be much different to return to the show in that capacity, but I’d be open to it.
TVLINE | What’s next for you? Any immediate plans?
I actually have a few things that I’m doing right now. I’m working on a short [film] that’s a noir piece, and I’m really excited about that. I also am doing a film at the end of this month for Lifetime called The Hunt for the I-5 Killer, which is based on true events. I’ve been auditioning, but I just got back to Vancouver a week ago, so that’s just a huge move to deal with.