‘The Vampire Diaries’ Star Opens Up About That Shocking Death And ‘Bittersweet’ Final Day On Set (INTERVIEW)

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*** This post contains major spoilers from the Friday, April 29, 2016 episode of The Vampire Diaries.***

This week’s episode of The Vampire Diaries threw fans for a loop with one huge plot twist.

After hundreds and hundreds of years as a huntress, Rayna Cruz met her demise tonight in shocking fashion: She stabbed herself to death, and in turn, saved Bonnie’s (Kat Graham) life. Of course, nothing is ever that cut and dry on TVD, and Rayna’s final act didn’t come without another surprise of its own. Rayna did a great job of convincing Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Bonnie that her intentions were only to help, but it turns out, she was merely pulling the wool over their eyes. Instead of just saving Bonnie, Rayna effectively transferred her powers to her, making Bonnie the new huntress. Now, when Bonnie wakes, she’ll do so with an intense hatred for Damon and the rest of the vampires in Mystic Falls.

We caught up with Rayna Cruz herself, Leslie-Anne Huff, before the big episode aired to talk about her character’s grand exit. During our chat, Huff revealed that she was just as shocked as we were to discover that Rayna’s death would be such a game-changer.

“The clues were there,” Huff told People’s Choice. “I was sort of wondering, ‘Okay, so what is really going to happen? How is this all going to play out?’ And then, when I read [the script], it was bittersweet, but also good.”

Despite the fact that Huff is sad to be leaving The Vampire Diaries, she also explained that she was very happy with the way her character exited the series.

“I loved this episode because I think my idea anyway was to kind of trick the audience into thinking, ‘Okay, Rayna really is going to go through with this and is really sacrificing herself,’” explained the actress. “In the end, she gets the final laugh, and she gets to go out with a bang.”

Check out the rest of our interview with Leslie-Anne Huff below:

People’s Choice: We’ve seen Rayna carry the burden of being the huntress for quite some time. As you were going through the season, did you know her whole story arc would be leading up to this final moment where she essentially sacrifices herself? Or was it shocking for you to learn that she was going to die?

Leslie-Anne Huff: Yeah. That’s kind of what’s fun about it, you have to just find things out as you go. It was a shock for me. Playing Rayna, I have always thought of her as somebody who would never give up, but I just loved how this isn’t really her giving up because she knows how this is all going to work and how this is all going to go down and her legacy, and her life’s work is going to go on through Bonnie, and I think that’s a really interesting choice.

Tell us about your final day on set. What was the vibe like?

It was so great— everyone was so sweet to me. What was really fun actually, it just worked out that my last day was also the day I shot the final scene. Just because of how production works, that doesn’t necessarily always happen. So it timed up perfectly and it was just an epic way to go. Everyone was so sweet to me, and excited about just having  me, and thanking me for being there. It was bittersweet, but it was really fun. And everyone kept telling me, “This is The Vampire Diaries, so we may be seeing you again.”

And that’s the cool thing about this show — there’s always the glimmer of hope that some of our favorites will return— we’ve seen that firsthand with Alaric, for example, so with that being said, would you be interested in returning if the offer was on the table somewhere down the line?

Absolutely. Any chance to play Rayna— I would take that in a heartbeat.

Or how about having her return to New Orleans? Would you be interested in seeing her head over there to shake things up with the Mikaelsons on The Originals?

That would be an interesting twist. Again, like I said, any chance to play Rayna in any capacity would be fun. I did the crossover episode with The Originals and The Vampire Diaries, so I did get to to down to the Bayou where they shoot The Originals, and that was so fun. They’re such a great crew over there so I would love it. If Rayna can find a way to phoenix herself back, it’d be fun.

You already talked a bit about your epic final scene, which you seem to love. Would you say that’s been your favorite to shoot or is there another moment that really stands out in your mind?

There’s been so many that I’ve loved. I loved the scene where Rayna breaks out of the armory and uses the full force of her body to break free of the glass that’s keeping her in, but I also really loved the flashback scenes that we got to do. We had some flashback origin scenes that we got to do with her father where we find out exactly what happened to her to make her this huntress and to motivate her to kill vampires, and then we got to see her get her final revenge on Julie. I just love that stuff. I love the magic on the set those days where we created the flashbacks and the scenery looks different and the lightning looks different. Also, my favorite, I have to say, is that it was a dream come true to get to wear period costumes, which was not something I’d gotten to do yet in my career so I was dying when I was in wardrobe fittings and I was loving it all. Thankfully, because of the stunts, I did not have to wear an uncomfortable corset. But it was just like a dream come true— I think those stand out as some of my favorite scenes.

Rayna’s gotten to do so much, but looking back on your character’s whole story, is there something you wish she could have gotten to do but didn’t? Or was there something you wish the show had had more time to elaborate on?

I think it was such a pivotal and interesting moment when she lost the phoenix sword. That was such a bittersweet moment for me as an actress to have to part with that prop. I don’t know that I would have done anything differently, I guess I just wish I would have gotten a little bit more time with the sword, a little bit more time being badass and doing stuff. But again, I feel like that was such a pivotal point in the character’s story, and I thought it was interesting to see how she had to function without it. So, to see the vulnerable side of her was really cool.

Earlier, you teased your epic final scene with Bonnie and the shaman. Tell us a little bit about what it was like to film that on your end.

It was quite emotional, I would say, just because in my mind I was thinking this was going to be it, at least for now, but it all worked. Rayna would have been emotional because it was the conclusion of hundreds and hundreds of years. She’s had kind of, not the best relationship with Damon so it was a little bit fun for her to get to trick him in the way that she did, and the way the writers wrote it was just perfect. That turn of just spilling the beans right before she stabs herself was just super epic. It was really easy to go into Rayna’s brain. Obviously she’s spent years stabbing other people, but this is it. She’s ready.

What was the most challenging part about filming those final moments as an actress?

Keeping a straight face because I kind of thought it was so funny the way I think Rayna turned it on Damon. There was a little part of  me that felt like I was tricking him and pranking him. I wanted to kind of smile the whole time, but obviously that would have given it away too much so it was challenging, but fun.  

At the end of this episode, we get the biggest plot twist of all when we learn that Bonnie is now the new huntress. How do you think that Bonnie is going to fare now that she has to carry the burden of these new abilities?

Well, Bonnie has been through so much and always perseveres and I think that after the initial excitement and happiness of realizing that she’s not going to die, this is going to be a new frontier for her, not to kill the people she loves. I think that that’s going to be a big challenge for her character, but that’s what makes it so fascinating and so interesting. she’s just having this romance with Enzo, and that’s all blossoming and great, and now she’s basically going to be compelled to kill everybody in her path. It think that’s going to be so interesting, but very, very challenging for Bonnie.

Finally, what’s coming up next for you?

There’s a few things coming down the pipeline, but one thing I can talk about now is I am joining a weekly show at the Groundlings Theater here in LA. The theater is a super popular sketch improv comedy theater. You may not be able to tell from my performance as Rayna, but I also do a lot of comedy and this is a place where some of the greats in comedy have come from like Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell. It’s such an honor. We’re going to be doing a weekly show where we write all the material every week and the show is all new every week on Sunday nights starting in May.

(Answers have been edited for clarity.)

What did you think of Rayna’s exit from The Vampire Diaries? Let us know in the comments!

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