With the premiere of Peacock’s Vampire Academy, school is officially back in session at St. Vladimir’s. And whether your knowledge of the franchise stems from Richelle Mead’s original book series, or from the 2014 film adaptation, you’ll be surprised to discover that the fabled institution has undergone a few changes.
Yes, the school remains a training ground for human-vampire hybrids known as “dhampir,” as well as full-blooded vampires of the spell casting variety known as “moroi.” But you won’t find it in the great state of Montana, like in the books, nor would you have to travel all the way to Pennsylvania to visit the vampires’ royal court.
“One thing that will be a surprise for fans is that, not only is the show not set in Montana or Pennsylvania, but it’s in this beautiful, epic setting because we were able to shoot it in Spain,” co-showrunner Marguerite MacIntyre tells TVLine. “So you get all this visual candy, plus the whole world comes together in one dominion. Nothing is separate anymore. It’s a cool way to tell the story.”
The show’s international scope also extends to its diverse cast. As co-showrunner Julie Plec explains, “No one told us that we needed to have uniform accents or any kind of cultural uniformity. They let us celebrate casting from all over the world, letting these actors be their true, authentic selves, rather than just casting based on what it says the character looks like in the books.”
Another key change involves the story’s main characters, best friends Lissa Dragomir (played by Daniela Nieves) and Rose Hathaway (Sisi Stringer). The relationship between this princess and her guardian-in-training remains the heart of Vampire Academy, but the show won’t necessarily present their story “in the way you think you’re supposed to see it.”
“So much of Rose and Lissa’s friendship — what they experienced growing up, the things they saw, the trauma that happened to them, the losses they suffered — was told as part of their backstory,” Plec says. “The first thing we did was ask, ‘Why would we want to tell that as a memory when we could watch it happen in real time?’ So we backed up the beginning of the story in the context of the girls’ friendship, while still doing other elements of the story that were specific to the first book.”
As for the ill-fated Vampire Academy movie — whose cast included the likes of Claire Foy, Sarah Hyland, Cameron Monaghan and Dominic Sherwood — Plec says she didn’t bother watching it while developing this TV adaptation.
“With complete respect to the filmmakers who made the movie, I took great umbrage with the company that decided to market it like Mean Girls with vampires. I mentally boycotted the movie as a fan of the books, so I never saw it. Once we decided to do the show, I chose to remain pure and not see where they succeeded or failed, so we could build the show the way we really wanted to.”
The first four episodes of Vampire Academy are now available to stream on Peacock. Weigh in via our polls below, then drop a comment with your full review of the TV adaptation.