'Vampire Diaries' Shocker: Star Nina Dobrev Exits

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The Vampire Diaries will return for a seventh season, but it will be without its leading lady.

Series star Nina Dobrev (Elena) is exiting at The CW drama, the actress announced Monday afternoon.

“I’ve just spent the most beautiful weekend on Lake Lanier in Georgia with my own TVD Family, the cast and crew of The Vampire Diaries. I want to be the first to tell you that it wasn’t just a holiday celebration, it was a goodbye party,” she wrote on Instagram. “I always knew I wanted Elena’s story to be a six-season adventure, and within those six years I got the journey of a lifetime. I was a human, a vampire, a doppelganger, a crazy immortal, a doppelganger pretending to be human, a human pretending to be a doppelganger. I got kidnapped, killed, resurrected, tortured, cursed, body-snatched, was dead and undead, and there’s still so much more to come before the season finale in May. Elena fell in love not once, but twice, with two epic soulmates, and I myself made some of the best friends I’ll ever know and built an extended family I will love forever.”

Dobrev’s exit comes in a year when the series has lost several key players — including her on-screen brother, Steven R. McQueen (Jeremy), as well as Marguerite MacIntyre’s Sheriff Forbes; Michael Trevino (Tyler) has booked ABC’s The Kingmakers pilot — but the departure of the veteran drama’s female lead is a particularly deep. During The Vampire Diaries’ six-season run, Dobrev has also played Elena’s dopplegangers Katherine, Amara and Tatia, in addition to serving as the central love interest for stars Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder.

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Rumors of Dobrev’s departure first circulated over the holiday weekend when crew members shared photos on social media from a group trip featuring the cast and exec producer Julie Plec with the hashtag #ninawewillmissyou.

Previously, The Vampire DiariesPlec told THR there were big things ahead for Elena and her on-again boyfriend, Damon (played by Dobrev’s real-life ex-boyfriend, Somerhalder) to close out the remainder of season six.

“There is quite the doozy of a storyline coming for Damon and Elena, which is all about their relationship, and how it will work, and how they want to make it work,” she said. “The nice thing is they found their way back to each other, and that’s good, we want them to have made their way back to each other. But that comes with hurdles. And when you throw a mother and some other surprises into the mix, it definitely tests them in fun and really dynamic ways. Which, while bringing them together and keeping them strong, has them asking a lot of questions about how their future will be together, and what they want out of a future together — in a good way!”

Though The CW’s television series has significantly diverted from the L.J. Smith book series, (spoiler alert!) Damon and Elena did end up together in the book series.

No longer the network’s flagship series, eclipsed by Arrow and its even more successful Flash spinoff, The Vampire Diaries still drives some of The CW’s biggest ratings. Season-to-date, it’s averaging a 1.4 rating among adults 18-49 and 2.7 million viewers. That’s the tally after seven days of a DVR, though The CW gets atypical bumps from its own hosted streaming — where a significant chunk of younger viewers watch the show.

Dobrev, meanwhile, has become a fan favorite for her work on The Vampire Diaries. She has earned numerous Teen Choice Awards as well as People’s Choice Awards for favorite actress and chemistry with Somerhalder. The series has helped make her a star — she has nearly 5.5 million Twitter followers — and has launched into a film career with feature roles including Let’s Be Cops, The Roommate and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. She next has horror comedy The Final Girls — which she toplines — due to make its debut in May at SXSW.

Dobrev and Somerhalder dated for three years and split in 2013. Somerhalder is now engaged to actress Nikki Reed, whom he’s been dating since 2014.

Lesley Goldberg and Michael O'Connell contributed to this report.