Nina Dobrev

Vampire Diaries fans, mark your calendars for September 15. That's The CW drama's third-season premiere — and a special day for Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev). "Our first episode is Elena's 18th birthday," spills exec producer Julie Plec. What's in store for the birthday girl?

"There will be a small time jump [from where last season ended] as we celebrate Elena's birthday," says Plec. "But as is the pattern in Mystic Falls, the event never reaches its climax." Elena will now be a senior in high school, but don't bank on a season-ending graduation.

Now that she's 18, "Elena and Jeremy technically don't need a parent living in their house [following Aunt Jenna's death]," says Plec. "She will be taking care of herself."

On the romantic front, might the show now capitalize on the real-life romance of Nina and Ian Somerhalder (Damon) and have their characters hook up? While Plec stresses she would never exploit her actors' personal lives, she hints that "over the course of the season, Elena will be struggling with a deep, deep attraction toward Damon. That's going to be a big problem for her." As will Rebecca, a yet-to-be-cast vampire from Stefan's "darkest ripper days who loves that Stefan's back to his bad behavior." She's not the only one.

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