'Vampire Academy' showrunners Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre unpack that epic season finale

Vampire Academy is not showrunners Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre's first stab at a vampire series — pun intended. Both been around the blood-sucking block, having worked on the series The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Legacies, and now this latest show, which is based on the books by Richelle Mead. Arguably, of all their adaptations, this is the one where they've separated most from the original text, which has equally upset loyal book fans and excited audiences happy with the surprises.

With the airing of the season finale, "Ascension," on Peacock last night, SYFY WIRE got Plec and MacIntyre on a Zoom call to assess how they feel about the first season as a whole, the big 'ship moments and where they hope Season 2 may go.

***Spoilers below for the season finale of Vampire Academy***

Neither of you are strangers to heated fan discourse, but putting that outside feedback aside, what are you both most proud of regarding the new story paths you created in Season 1?

Julie Plec: We were just kind of patting ourselves on the back and saying how proud we were that all the big swings we took at the beginning of the process, and throughout the year, seem to have worked. The story works. We wanted to take everything that we loved about the book, and that was we knew the fans loved about the book, and we wanted to make sure we were really respectful of those things and that we honored the spirit of all of that. But we also wanted to build out the world and build out the other characters and really gnaw on the juicy snack of the palace intrigue. And that meant kind of putting the whole thing in a blender and letting the dust settle where it was meant to settle, story wise. That's a big risk. And yet, looking at the whole season as a piece, we feel really proud of how it ended up.

Marguerite MacIntyre:  They stem from a great book series by Richelle Mead. She made a great world and then we put her world into a world that we wanted to shoot with a different visual. You know, The Originals felt so different from The Vampire Diaries. I also wrote on Legacies, which also felt so different. Those were part of the same world but they all had such a different vibe and I was so impressed by that. And then here's a world different to the booksm so we had this beautiful world to leap into and say, "What a great sandbox!" It feels different to other vampire shows and it just feels unique, in and of itself. We were like, "We're either crazy and this is just going to be a big mess, but let's dream a little." I feel like we did that and that was also beyond just the big swings of each individual storyline. I watched it and it's not like anything else. I feel excited by that.

Amongst the death and bloodshed, the finale also gave us a lot of satisfying snogging from burgeoning couples like Rose/Dimitri, Lissa/Christian and Mia/Meredith. They aren't what some book fans expected, but which are near and dear to your hearts?

Plec: Rose (Sisi Stringer) and Dimitri (Kieron Moore) is this beautiful no brainer, right? It just exists to be special and to be perfect and to be magnetic and all those things. Everybody else is a supporting player to Rose's story in the books, including Lissa (Daniela Nieves), her partner in crime. She is a character we really only get to feel through Rose's point of view. Now, Rose is in her head and knows what makes her heart sing and all that, but we don't know what Christian's (André Dae Kim) thinking. We didn't know what Dimitri was thinking. We don't know what any of these people are thinking other than what Rose is projecting. I personally love the Lissa/Christian relationship, because we got to break out of just where Lissa stood with it. We really got to feel and understand where Christian stood with it and how meaningful and important it was to him and what he was going through. If I could just pick one thing, I think it would be that.

MacIntyre: I would just add yes to everything that you said. But I also feel really good about Mia (Mia McKenna-Bruce) and Meredith (Rhian Blundell). Mia was somebody in the books you kind of love to hate and eventually get a bit redeemed. Meredith was just not all that present. We have great actresses playing these roles and they have beautiful chemistry. It became this beautiful love story that there's a lot still to tell about that love story. I feel very, very successful about that. And I'm excited for that.

Vampire Academy Season 1
Vampire Academy Season 1

Vampire Academy Season 1 Photo: Peacock

With Tatiana's machinations all season to seize the crown, was it always your endgame to finish with her succeeding in that pursuit?

MacIntyre: I think we knew that pretty early on. Tatiana (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) became delicious to us and very clear, and it really felt like a great end of the season, especially when you pair that moment with the Andre (Jason Diaz) moment. You can't do one without the other.

Plec: And the Tatiana thing was a conversation that was ongoing up until the bitter end. We knew everything we wanted to do very early on. But we didn't know how far we were going to take it. Did we want to introduce a villain who was only villainous? And yet hinting that there might be more to the story but not getting the end of the story at all? Deciding to hold that until Season 2, we were debating that up to the bitter end. The end result is what works best in the story in the moment as we got there. We had more in Episode 10 then we cut back.

MacIntyre: Seeing a lot more political jockeying to get her crowned, we felt like we played that. And also I was we've only hinted that she did it for love. Love of who? She thought she was gonna see somebody in The Reckoning. What did that mean: "I'm not going to be queen for long"? We laid the what is interesting about her going forward, and I was probably very excited to get there.  I do love the juxtaposition of her and Andre.

Let's talk about that Andre twist. It was enough to have him ripped from Lissa after a millisecond of a reunion. But to show him turned — that was not the character turning most were likely expecting.

MacIntyre: We knew we needed a surprise. Tatiana being a bad person who is going to crown herself queen is not shocking. We were like, "Oh, the bad guy is the bad guy." [Laughs.] To me, the shocking thing for her is saying, "I won't be queen long." We've got those nice little twists in there, but then we knew we needed the other thing.

You have this beautiful character of Andre... and as we were breaking the part before the family dies, and what their effect on Lissa was, and what the hope was for Andre in this world, and what was lost when he was gone, he gets more and more real. He's so in her head, obviously. She keeps touching back to that relationship all the way through the season. We knew we needed to pack a wallop at the end. And it was a good one.

The ending with Rose and Lissa heading off in that car feels like you could take the series anywhere. Have you talked about doing a time jump or a major structure deviation around just the two of them in Season 2?

MacIntyre: Julie has said before, and all of us would be excited to see these women in the human world. I don't know what it'll be but I can imagine jumping a little bit ahead and seeing who they are and what their way of dealing with the world has become in a little bit of time to adjust to this completely different life. I think that's something we really, really want to see. How long that lasts is for a room and breaking. And we do have a lot on our wish list. Think about all the questions that we teed up at the end of the season. There's like a billion. What I weirdly loved, and I'm gonna shout out to [director] Geoff Shotz for how we shot the last two scenes between the two couples, it almost felt like an indie movie ending. Wondering like what is this whole vibe going to be like? I want to see where does that go before eventually being pulled back into the world of the books. They can only run for so long, but we really do want to see them out there.

As there isn't an official pickup announcement yet, how many seasons do you foresee needing to tell this story right?

MacIntyre: Four feels minimum to me to do this.

Plec: I think there's at least four seasons once you consider that book characters like Adrian and Sydney were able to spin off into their own book series. But certainly, if we kept them as part of this series, could drive story for extra seasons, as well. If we are in love with the characters and the audience remains in love with the characters, then you reach that Game of Thrones point where everybody doesn't want to show to end and now we get to really just tell whatever story seems like it suits these characters the best because we've run out of [book] story, right? I think that would be a great problem to have.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Season 1 of Vampire Academy is available to stream on Peacock.

Reginald the Vampire
Reginald the Vampire