When fans of The Vampire Diaries talk about the best storylines in the series, the 1994 Prison World plot comes up more often than not. It ticks so many boxes, like putting familiar characters in an unfamiliar place, and pairing off Ian Somerhalder with Kat Graham.
The Season 6 storyline was fun to watch, and the Prison Worlds added a crucial piece of lore to The Vampire Diaries universe. According to Somerhalder and Graham, it was one of the most enjoyable storylines to film.
The 1994 prison world storyline might be the best part of ‘The Vampire Diaries’
According to Fandom, the Prison Worlds are magical traps created by the Gemini Coven and codified as spells in the grimoires of the Bennett family — originally intended for use on Kai Parker. This banishment spell was used for a different purpose when it was first seen during the Season 5 finale, though.
As the Other Side collapsed, Sheila Bennett made good on her promise to protect Damon Salvatore and Bonnie Bennett from assured destruction: the 1994 Prison World. The pair quickly piece together the fact that they’re stuck on a particular date, May 10, 1994. Like the movie Groundhog Day, each day loops back to its start. Only Damon and Bonnie remember what happened before.
The two would spend the entire season together, culminating in an emotional finale. It was a massive shift for the characters, who started off as fierce enemies. And for Somerhalder and Graham, it marked a critical moment in their professional relationship. The two butted heads on set during the yearly seasons of the show. But they came to form a friendship and strong respect for each other’s craft.
Ian Somerhalder and Kat Graham look back fondly on the prison world plot
As Damon and Kat grew closer, Somerhalder and Graham matured as actors by being taken out of their comfort zone. With the actors buying into a similar dynamic as their characters, there was some on-screen magic to the pairing.
“That was my favorite stuff that we’ve ever done,” Somerhalder said during a San Diego Comic Con panel in between Seasons 6 and 7, available on YouTube. “These two people, you know, they hate each other, they love each other, they resent each other, they’re stuck together. It’s sort of an amazing recipe for a lot of cool drama.”
“One of my favorite episodes was actually the one that Ian directed,” Graham said. “It was the first time I’d ever been in a scene where the director is also an actor. So we had some really cool stuff.”
Somerhalder jumped at the chance to direct an episode set in the 1994 prison world
Somerhalder’s very first directorial effort taking place during his favorite storyline on The Vampire Diaries was a perfect fit. The Downward Spiral was a lore-heavy episode exploring the concept of shutting off humanity. It also delves into the existence of the other Prison World, which traps people even further back in 1903.
Somerhalder lobbied for the opportunity to direct, and it paid off handsomely. He went on to direct two more episodes of The Vampire Diaries. Most recently, he sat in the director’s chair for an episode of the Netflix series V Wars.
The actor expressed interest in directing an episode of Legacies. Unfortunately, he’ll have to find his next opportunity elsewhere, as that series officially ended with the Season 4 finale.