by Robyn Ross
Hell hath no fury like a 2,000-year-old woman scorned.
After almost a full season since the character was first mentioned, Vampire Diaries fans finally got to meet the show’s most powerful witch, Qetsiyah, in the flesh. Turns out Tessa (Janina Gavankar), the Mystic Falls newcomer determined to take down Silas (Paul Wesley) was also the witch who created the immortality spell, the other side and the cure.
“I didn’t know I was playing Qetsiyah! I thought the character was some snarky girl named Tessa,” Gavankar tells TVGuide.com about learning the real role she had landed. So how long will this very angry witch stick around Mystic Falls, who will she connect with along the way and will she help her descendant Bonnie (Kat Graham) return from the dead? We checked in with the show’s newest supernatural.
When you got the part, did they explain how important the character was to the show’s entire mythology?
Janina Gavankar: I knew nothing. I was in Washington D.C. waiting for my sister to have a baby, I got a call that The Vampire Diaries wanted me to do an arc, but if I wanted to do it I had to leave tomorrow. So I got on a plane and flew to Atlanta. As usual I said, “Fantastic. Let me read the material.” They send me sides, which give me no information, but when I got a script it ends up being 18 pages of monologue. I was ushered to my dressing room with a bunch of DVDs in hand and stared at the wall for a second like, “What have I gotten myself into?”
How did you ultimately prepare for the role?
Gavankar: I came thinking I knew some sh– because this is my third vampire show. Meanwhile, this show is so different from True Blood. This is a show about doppelgangers. I love swimming in backstory soup, so the first thing I did was sit down with the writer of the episode, Rebecca Sonnenshine, and I waded through all of it with her and figured out the whole thing. I had more hair tests and makeup tests than any other show.
Could Tessa develop feelings for Stefan simply because he looks the same as her first love, Silas?
Gavankar: Absolutely, that’s inevitable. But he’s not the first [dopperlganger] she’s watched, so she has a lot of restraint. But it is hard. You’ll see moments of her staring at him and trying not to fall in love. I read comments with people already ‘shipping “Stessa” and I’m like, “You might not want to do that because she will kill anyone who stands in the way of her ultimate goal no matter who they are.”
Does she have any other motivations aside from getting to Silas?
Gavankar: That is her No. 1 goal, but she’s had 2000 years of watching these doppelgangers find each other over and over and over again. So, she warns Damon about his future, that he has no shot, because she identifies with Damon a lot. She feels bad for him.
What about Bonnie? Will she help her return from the other side?
Gavankar: If she helps her, it’s only because it will further her own plan which is to kill Silas and trap him on the other side.
Will fans like Tessa as the arc progresses?
Gavankar: I think in moments they will root for her because anybody who thinks about her position will understand why she’s doing things. But I do think that they’re going to find her to be a bit extreme and scary and ruthless. So, people will either love her or despise her.
Any final teases about Qetsiyah/Tessa?
Gavankar: It’s a bloody arc. My hands were stained for days.
Were you excited to finally meet Qetsiyah? Do you think she’ll kill Silas once and for all?
The Vampire Diaries airs on Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of the CW’s parent companies.)