‘The Originals’: Does Elena Gilbert Appear In the Series?

The Originals might be the most successful spinoff series of the CW’s long-departed hit The Vampire DiariesThe network, which at any given point has several shared universes, knows how to milk every idea for everything it’s worth. In the case of The Originals, however, the creators of one of the channel’s first big hits have found a way to call back to earlier days while remaining fresh and new. 

(L-R) Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, and Ian Somerhalder smiling in front of a white background
(L-R) Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev, and Ian Somerhalder | Jason LaVeris/Getty Images

Who is Elena Gilbert?

According to Fandom, The Vampire Diaries kicked off with a seemingly human protagonist named Elena Gilbert. Played by Nina Dobrev, Elena made special contact with her vampire counterparts for three seasons until it was revealed that she was not a human, either, but a doppelganger. Several other doppelgangers who looked like her were introduced, but Elena was ignorant of it for most of her life. Dobrev’s Elena was a fan favorite for several years as the show helped launch the CW into the place it is today. Now with The Originals, Dobrev was able to retire Elena while coming back to join the fun. 

Does Elena Gilbert appear in The Originals?

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The Originals focuses on a time before The Vampire Diaries and shows the origin story to several characters, events, and traditions that are on full display throughout the source series. While the show has its own tone, cast, and feel, however, it still has to serve the series that inspired it, and to do so they turned to some familiar faces. Several actors from The Vampire Diaries returned for the spinoff series, such as Stefan Salvatore, Tyler Lockwood and Caroline Forbes.

If someone wasn’t paying attention to the names on screen, they might even think that Elena made a grand reappearance. However, if Tatia looks familiar to them, it’s because she’s played by Dobrev, who returned to the universe in an entirely different form. While it might seem strange to bring back the actor behind the beloved character and make her into something different, Dobrev’s interview near the end of her stint on the source series explains that this particular arc was done with. 

“I always felt Elena’s journey would be a six-year journey, and I felt that I did so much in those six years, and I wanted to always feel that passion, and that excitement, and fond memories. And I do. I have nothing but love for every single person there. The show must go on, and it is going on, and I’m excited to see what next season is going to be like,” Dobrev told The Hollywood Reporter at the time of her exit. 

Nina Dobrev has played many doppelgängers

While Dobrev may have thought f you ask Michael Narducci, Dobrev’s turn as another doppelgänger helped the actor stretch her skills and give the mythology that eventually let Elena become a beloved part of the franchise. 

“I feel like she’s the purest of them all because she is the original doppelgänger. She doesn’t have anyone that proceeded her that affects her life and that she has to live up to or whose history will haunt her in the future, so she has no preconceived notions. She doesn’t have all the vampire drama before her existence, so she’s just pure love and hope and innocence in a way … until things get complicated, as they always do,” Narducci told Entertainment Weekly

By going back in time and establishing others with similar origins the creators get to bring back actors who pique the interest of fans of the expanded universe. However, in doing so they may also run the risk of making people ask for characters who do not fit in the other universe. Still, mythology as rich as this shows why the CW has built a Marvel-like universe around one of its biggest shows.