Melinda Clarke on ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ ‘The O.C.’ and her new CW pilot


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When news broke that Melinda Clarke would be joining ‘The Vampire Diaries’ as Kelly Donovan, Matt and Vicki’s absentee mom, fans who knew her from her work on ‘The O.C.’ and ‘C.S.I.’ were thrilled.

After three episodes, Clarke has already left a considerable mark on Mystic Falls. Her character convinced Jenna to let her hair down, hooked up with Damon, preyed on Caroline’s insecurities, and likely did a number on the town’s liquor supply. Clarke’s shining moment, however, came when Kelly Donovan learned Vicki’s body had been found after months of assuming she’d just run away.

In a scene without any dialogue, Clarke made Kelly’s grief believable and powerful. Thursday night’s episode, ‘Under Control,’ is the last of Clake’s four-episode stint on ‘The Vampires,’ but that’s not to say we won’t be seeing her again. Melinda sat down to talk about Kelly’s chances of returning to Mystic Falls, her experiences working with the cast and crew, and even the pilot she recently shot for The CW.

Thursday night is your last episode of ‘The Vampire Diaries’!

For the time being, I think.

Will we see you again?


You never know when a character might die on this show, obviously, but I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that it’s a possibility. I saw a quote from [co-creator] Kevin Williamson recently where he said that I’d been established now as Matt’s mom and that they’d have me for as long as I want them. He’s cute. I’ll say this: There’s definitely a climax to Kelly Donovan’s arc in this episode. You may or may not see her the rest of the season, and I will always be open to the idea of being around for ‘The Vampire Diaries.’

Did you enjoy your time out there in Atlanta?

They had one of the most extreme winters they’ve ever had, and it was really chilly for this California girl! I mean, I’ve been in snow, but I’ve never driven in snow. The best thing about Atlanta is that I’m a complete foodie, and they have fantastic food.

Was shooting difficult with the weather?

In last week’s episode, it was raining, and Nina’s hair actually froze into icicles. People don’t realize that when you’re shooting a nighttime show, you start at 6 o’clock at night and you actually shoot until seven in the morning. For the extreme conditions, it’s actually one of the nicest crews I’ve ever worked with. They’re very positive and happy, with great energy.

On paper, Kelly Donovan looks a lot like your character on ‘The O.C.,’ Julie Cooper.

We definitely were concerned about similarities, but for me, the characters are very different. Julie Cooper was motivated by money. She wasn’t an alcoholic, in any way, shape or form. She was a successful, strong woman. Kelly Donovan has demons that we haven’t even scratched the surface of. She has a substance abuse problem, and we still don’t know why she’s been such an absent woman.

For me, the way I thought about it, she’s probably got something very dark in her past that kept her from being a successful parent. Julie Cooper, though flawed and motivated by the wrong things, strived to be the best parent that she could be.

We still don’t know a lot about why Kelly is the way that she is.

The mystery is very smart for a series in its first season. You don’t want to give everything away if you want longevity for the show. I think everyone agrees that on ‘The O.C.’ Season 1, every episode was like a season finale cliffhanger. I think it was a lesson, maybe, for [‘O.C.’ creator] Josh Schwartz, because some of the storylines got burned out. Kevin and Julie [Plec, co-creator] have been very strategic in deciding what storylines get told now and what stories can wait until Season 3 or 4.

Kelly had some very, very emotional scenes last week when she found out that her daughter’s body had been discovered. How’s she going to process her grief?

What’s great about ‘The Vampire Diaries’ is what’s not said. Kevin and Julie give a lot of credit to the audience, letting viewers read between the lines. Let’s just say that based on Kelly’s track record, I wouldn’t expect her to get any mother of the year awards after Friday night. There’s a pretty intense thing that happens between her and Matt. These stories are a little bit of a tickle and a taste of what’s to come. I have no idea what will happen in the future, but for right now, we leave Kelly in a very, very satisfying place.

What do you think has made the series so successful so far?

There was a bigger-than-life, humorous quality to Julie Cooper, but the way Kevin Williamson explained ‘The Vampire Diaries’ to me was a little different. He said, ‘Of course we have the supernatural aspect, but we really, really want to have real human drama and real human emotion.’ I think there’s a great balance because to me it’s a human drama that has a small aspect that’s supernatural, and it’s the human drama that’s going to keep people hooked forever.

I hear you’ve got a role in a new CW pilot.


I just got home from filming it in Toronto! It’s a new, updated version of ‘La Femme Nikita,’ called ‘Nikita.’ It’s a fantastic new script. It stars Maggie Q, who has credits like ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Die Hard.’ She’s amazing. It’s a great cast. We’ve got Shane West -- all the ladies love him -- and Lyndsy Fonseca, Ashton Holmes, and Xander Berkeley. My character is Amanda, one of the division operatives, who of course is in charge.

Nikita is an Asian female lead, which is great, but we’ve also got a new young recruit named Alex who is probably 19 years old. That’s how it’s going to hook into The CW’s young, female demographic. Alex is going to become a young Nikita. The show focuses a lot on these young people who are being held against their will and forced to become assassins. It’s like a younger version of ‘Alias.’ The job is a real adventure.

I hope you’ll still be available for ‘The Vampire Diaries’ next season!

I’m always open to it. They’re all so hard-working and grateful and I see it going for a long time. They’re creative with their storylines and they keep it well balanced as a human drama that just happens to have some vampires in there. And a lot of dead bodies.

Don’t miss Melinda in Thursday night’s all-new episode of ‘The Vampire Diaries’ on The CW at 8 p.m. EDT. In the meantime, let’s speculate on the intense climax that may drive Kelly Donovan away from Mystic Falls again. Leave your ideas in the comments section and check back here Thursday night for my full recap.

--Carina MacKenzie (follow me on Twitter @cadlymack)

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