Candice Accola Candice Accola

She Plays: Caroline Forbes, high school cheerleader-turned-"the little vampire that could," says exec producer Kevin Williamson. "She's the strongest character on the show." Adds Accola: "The writers gave me a character that started off as this archetypal bitch, and then she was given a chance to mess up and come out the other side a stronger, more secure person. She's finding herself and growing up."

Where You've Seen Her: After moving from Orlando to Los Angeles her junior year, the daughter of a surgeon and an environmental engineer won small roles in such indie films as Juno and the controversial Deadgirl, as well as several TV guest spots (Supernatural, Greek).

Why We Love Her: How can you not? Her bubbly, mischievous charm shines through even when she's acting all nasty vamp. "This little girl whom I had never seen before came in to audition and just made me smile," recalls Williamson. "She's poised and polished, and also vulnerable — all the things that Caroline Forbes is supposed to be."

Musical Notes: As demonstrated on a recent episode, Accola also has musical chops. At 17, she cut an album of what she calls "sassy-girl pop rock," then "got to live out [my] rock-star fantasies" as a backup singer on the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus tour and the resulting Best of Both Worlds concert movie. "I'll never forget it," the 23-year-old actress says with, yes, a lovable giggle.

The Vampire Diaries airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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