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Bitten by a deadly romance

'I'm dying to do a period piece, like Keira Knightley. I'm a big fan of hers," says Bulgarian-born Canadian actress, Nina Dobrev.

Period romps will have to wait though as Nina's currently starring as the lead in The Vampire Diaries, the latest series to satisfy our thirst for attractive fanged figures.

Based on the phenomenally successful books by LJ Smith, and reworked by Kevin Williamson (the writer behind Dawson's Creek and the Scream franchise), the TV show has already proved a ratings success across the Atlantic and looks set to do the same here.

In the show, Nina plays 17-year-old Elena Gilbert, a teenager struggling to come to terms with the death of her parents.

"Elena's a girl who has gone through a lot," says Dobrev (21). "She loses her parents in a car accident and her brother goes on a downward spiral and has alcohol and drug addiction, so she tries to be the parental figure in her household."

On her first day back at Mystic Falls High School, Elena meets the brooding and mysterious Stefan Salvatore, played by Paul Wesley. The chemistry between the two characters is instant but Stefan's hiding a dark and deadly secret -- he's a vampire.

Havoc

"At first Elena has no idea that he's a bloodsucker," explains Nina laughing. "They have an attraction that neither of them can explain but she just goes about life and then things start to go crazy. People start dying, people go missing, people are found with their bodies drained of blood. Everyone is wondering what's going on in the town."

It soon transpires Stefan's older, bitter brother, Damon, played by Lost's Ian Somerhalder, has come to town to wreak havoc and set about claiming Elena for himself.

So in real life, which of the brothers would she be attracted to, the sensitive good guy or the elusive bad boy?

"I like a guy who can be caring or sensitive and determined and take care of me, but at the same time everyone likes a bit of a spark, a little bit of a bad boy to spice things up. If they had a brother that was a combination of the two of them, that's who I'd be with," says Dobrev.

In the flesh, Dobrev is not dissimilar to Katie Holmes, the actress who made her name in Kevin Williamson's teenage drama, Dawsons Creek. Slim and petite with shoulder-length, brown hair and delicate features that earned her a modelling contract at the age of 16, Dobrev's pretty but not in a way that might alienate the show's teenage-girl fanbase.

It's something Dobrev is aware of, particularly in light of the furore over a brunette being cast as Elena.

"Everyone [the fans] was like, 'Why is she not blonde? Elena is blonde!' but we had to change it because in the books Elena was a little bit more of a Queen Bee, the popular high school girl. The creators just wanted to make her more of a girl-next-door, who you can root for. You need to love her, you can't hate her," says Nina.

Bloodsuckers

The Vampire Diaries is the latest addition to a genre that some critics had assumed had reached saturation point, coming in the wake of the Twilight films and True Blood TV series, but Nina had no reservations about signing on to another series about bloodsuckers.

"You know, it seems people just can't get enough of vampires. Just like vampires themselves, they're timeless."

As for what Dobrev believes to be the appeal of vamps, she says, "I think there's something mysterious and sexy about somebody who not only has the power to take your life at any given moment, who's fighting this urge to kill you, but at the same time has an equal urge because he's so in love with you. There's this passion and sex, and as you can see, the boys in the show are gorgeous!"

The Vampire Diaries begins on February 2 on ITV2


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