'The Vampire Diaries' spinoff explained: How backdoor pilots and planted spinoffs work

the-originals-marcel-klaus-charles-michael-davis.jpgIf you watch tonight's episode of "The Vampire Diaries" and think, "Man, this feels like a completely different show!" don't be alarmed. It is, for all intents and purposes, a completely different show.

For those who don't religiously follow TV news, the episode may seem to come out of the blue. Titled "The Originals," features Klaus as the lead character, instead of a secondary player. It leaves behind Mystic Falls and the Salvatore brothers to introduce several new characters in the decadent setting of New Orleans' French Quarter, and strikes a much more adult, dark, complicated tone than we've seen so far on "The Vampire Diaries."

We've been seeing a lot of confusion around Twitter, so we thought we'd answer some of your questions about the backdoor pilot to help ease the transition to "The Originals."

Q: What is a backdoor pilot/planted spinoff, anyway?
A: A planted spinoff (also known as a backdoor pilot) is an episode of a current TV show that essentially serves as the first episode of another, new TV show. The best example in recent years is the "Grey's Anatomy" two-parter "The Other Side of This Life, Part 1" and "Part 2." It featured Addison traveling to LA and interacting with new characters in a new setting -- which would ultimately become the foundation of the new show, "Private Practice." This episode of "The Vampire Diaries," "The Originals," is meant to show fans and TV execs what we can expect if The CW picks up "The Originals" as its own separate spin-off.

Q: So what happens next year?
A: If fans and TV bosses like what "The Originals" have to offer, The CW will pick it up as a completely separate show from "The Vampire Diaries," to begin airing next fall. We'll find out definitively on May 15 at the very, very latest, and then "The Originals" would begin airing its own episodes in October next year. If fans and TV bosses don't like it, then business will continue as usual and "The Originals" will just be a wacky experiment we look back on fondly, like these gems.

Q: Does this mean that "The Vampire Diaries" is ending soon?
A: No. "The Vampire Diaries" is already picked up for a fifth season, and the lead actors are locked into their contracts for a potential sixth season as well. "The Originals" would function as a completely separate series and its length wouldn't impact "The Vampire Diaries" length.

Q: Which actors will be leaving "The Vampire Diaries"?
A: Usually, when a show does a spin-off, there's only one character who makes the jump to the new show. In this case, it'll be a little bit different. We can expect Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies), Rebekah (Claire Holt), and Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) to leave "The Vampire Diaries" and join forces with Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), Camille (Leah Pipes), and the other characters we meet tonight.

Q: If "The Originals" doesn't get picked up, will the Original family just go back to "The Vampire Diaries"?
A: Season 5 of "The Vampire Diaries" is currently being mapped out without the Originals, but if the new show doesn't get picked up, they'll evaluate the situation to see how the Originals might fit back in.

Q: But how will "The Vampire Diaries" go on without all those people?
A: Look for a few new characters to be introduced in Season 5 of "The Vampire Diaries" to fill the hole. After graduation, Elena, Bonnie, Matt, and Caroline will start interacting with some new faces.

Q: Seriously? No more Klaus on "The Vampire Diaries"? I will die.
A: No, you will not. Maybe he'll return to "TVD" once in a while -- but for the most part, no. We know it's scary, but just think about the possibilities! You'll get way further into his head, his heart, and his history with a whole show focused on him and his siblings.

Q: What about Klaus and Caroline's love story? Is it just over? Will characters be crossing back and forth between shows?

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A: It isn't over. Julie Plec and Joseph Morgan have both said that the connection between Klaus and Caroline will be something that they can continue to explore even after Klaus moves to New Orleans. "The Originals," if it gets picked up, will be shooting right next door to "The Vampire Diaries" set, so there will be ample opportunity for characters to move between shows on occasion -- after "The Originals" gets established as a separate entity, of course. When "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" spun off "Angel" onto his own show, there was still plenty of interaction between the characters on the separate series. Julie Plec has already stated that she hopes to carve some time out of Nina Dobrev's schedule so that Katherine can go stir things up in New Orleans. Similarly, Rebekah could always go back to Mystic Falls to visit the truck she gave Matt.

Q: Who will be in charge behind the scenes?
A: Executive producer Julie Plec isn't walking away from "Vampire Diaries," but she's ceding much of her responsibility to one of our favorite writers and co-executive producer Caroline Dries. Caroline wrote fantastic episodes like "Before Sunset," "The Sun Also Rises," and "The Sacrifice." On "The Originals" side of things, Plec will be in charge, with some of the responsibility going to Michael Narducci, who wrote such episodes as "The Killer," "The Reckoning," and "As I Lay Dying."

Q: Will someone who has never watched "The Vampire Diaries" be able to watch "The Originals"?
A: Yes. The show is designed to appeal to "The Vampire Diaries" audience, and also to bring in new viewers -- that's why the tone is a little bit darker and slower. Just as we began "The Vampire Diaries" in the middle of Elena's life, we begin "The Originals" in the middle of Klaus's life. On the occasion that reference is made back to something that happened in his past in Mystic Falls, it'll be explained enough for newbies to understand.

If you've got more questions, drop them in the comments section below!

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