The Real Reason Nina Dobrev Left Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries premiered on The CW in 2009, and it was instantly a hit. Fans couldn't get enough of the teen drama, which was set in the fictional town of Mystic Falls, Va., and followed Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) as she tried to navigate life after her parents were killed in a car accident. Elena ended up falling in love with Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) — a vampire with nearly two centuries under his belt — but when his older brother, Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder), came back to town, Elena was involved in a tricky love triangle.

Behind the scenes, Dobrev — who also played witch Katherine Pierce throughout the series — and Somerhalder were getting close as romance rumors swirled in 2010, but the two eventually broke up in 2013, per Insider. These days, Somerhalder is married to Nikki Reed, but it seems like Dobrev is on good terms with her ex. 

"... [W]e didn't break up because anything bad happened or because there wasn't love or friendship. I love him and the friendship is still strong, and I think he's great and I care about him," she told E! News in 2015. "And that didn't change. Yes, we're professional and that's fine. We were friends long before we dated and we still are now."

It seemed like Dobrev's career was on the up and up, but in 2015, fans were thrown for a loop when she did not sign on for season season of TVD. So, why did the actress decide to leave the series? We investigate.

Nina Dobrev always knew she was going to leave 'The Vampire Diaries'

Of course, after Nina Dobrev revealed that she wasn't signing on for the seventh season of The Vampire Diaries, viewers were curious as to what happened. Was it because she couldn't work with her ex-boyfriend, Ian Somerhalder? Or was there some sort of drama off-screen? Spoiler alert: It was none of the above; Dobrev explained this was always what she wanted to do. "That was the plan from the get-go," she told Harper's BAZAAR in August 2017.

"If anything, the fact that [leaving] terrified me drove me even more," she confessed. "I needed to feel that fear of 'Oh, my God, what if I never get a job again?' That just made me want to work five times as hard to make sure that didn't happen."

Ultimately, Dobrev was thankful for her time on The CW show. "It's been a great journey, but at the end of the day, I'm not actually a vampire," she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. "The fairy tale has to end, and the next chapter has to begin. I knew this was my time, and I'm excited for the next step." 

She continued, "I am very sad that I'm not going to get to spend every day with my favorite people in the world, but, that's why we have FaceTime and phone calls. Friendships are like vampires: They'll last forever if they're real."

Nina Dobrev wanted to 'grow outside' of 'The Vampire Diaries'

It's normal for celebrities to outgrow their roles on television shows, especially after they have played the same character for years. For Nina Dobrev, that certainly rang true when it came to playing Elena Gilbert on The Vampire Diaries. "I've always wanted to take big risks," she told Rogue Magazine (via Just Jared Jr.) in October 2017. 

"I started Vampire Diaries when I was 20, and I was playing a young teenage girl," she explained. "I also played Katherine, this ancient vixen who was manipulative and crazy. Then I grew into myself as a woman — I found that part of myself while playing that role — I grew with the show and I wanted to continue to grow outside of it."

At the end of the day, the CW star was interested in furthering her career in other ways. "Mentally, it was a crazy time," she acknowledged. "I was 27 when I left the show, I was ready to do something different. I wanted to prove everyone wrong who said I would play this one role my whole life or be stuck playing younger roles."

Since The Vampire Diaries wrapped, the Canada native has starred in a few movies — Crash Pad, Flatliners, and Then Came You — and the television series Fam, but she made it clear she is "picky" about the roles she chooses, per Harper's BAZAAR.

Why Nina Dobrev was 'happy' with the finale of 'The Vampire Diaries'

While it was upsetting for fans to not have Nina Dobrev star in the last two seasons of The Vampire Diaries, the actress did return for the finale of the show in 2017 as Elena Gilbert and villain Katherine Pierce, and she couldn't help but rave about the experience. "I think the show had a satisfying, awesome [end]," she said during an episode of Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen in January 2019. "For me, it was great because I got to go back and be part of the finale and say goodbye and pay homage to characters," she gushed. "I was really happy with it, for sure."

Even though Dobrev didn't stay for all eight seasons, she explained how much the show has meant to her over the years — something she doesn't take for granted. "This is my true final goodbye, as today I shot my last scene of The Vampire Diaries forever," she wrote on Instagram in February 2017. "Coming back for the series finale has been a whirlwind of emotion, nostalgia, love, tears of joy, and bittersweet endings. It feels like the beautiful closure we all needed, myself included, and I couldn't have been happier to come home to be with my TVD set family and friends."

As the saying goes: when one door closes, another one opens.