[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Legacies series finale. Read at your own risk!]
The Legacies finale was a true family affair for Candice King. Caroline Forbes returned to the Salvatore School to take what we will happily call her rightful place as headmaster, and to finally pay a visit to her teen vampire daughter. She also brought along her real life daughter Florence May, who got to make a cameo in the finale, and served as King's one condition for returning to the Salvatore house. "We've been talking about Caroline Forbes getting her butt back over to the Salvatore School for a very long time, so by the time this finally worked out, I jokingly said to [executive producer Brett Matthews], 'Well, I have one very strong condition. I would like a featured extra role for a precocious six-year-old,'" King tells TV Guide. "And with a laugh, he was like, 'We'll make it happen.'"
Florence's appearance is quite the full circle moment for King, because her existence essentially birthed the idea for Legacies, in a way. "Going into season 7 [of The Vampire Diaries], I threw Brett and Julie Plec a huge curveball, telling them I was pregnant. And a few storyline pitches later, I've got a real baby in my belly, but the storyline is that the Gemini twins are being hidden in Caroline's belly. So the conception of my daughter Florence was also the conception of the characters Lizzie (Jenny Boyd) and Josie (Kaylee Bryant). So for my daughter to be able to stand next to me in that final scene, in a room in which I was pregnant in front of that fireplace, and she, as a baby, crawled in front of that fireplace…it was very sentimental."
All these years later, it's funny to think about how we've just simply accepted that once upon a time, Alaric's wife was murdered by her twin brother Kai (Chris Wood), so her unborn babies were magically transplanted into Caroline's uterus. King recalls filming those scenes, wondering when someone was going to change their mind. "It was wild," she says. "I was like, there's no way. This is probably going to change. Everyone just kept waiting for someone else to go, 'Are we just gonna let this happen?' And then look at that. I gave birth to a baby, and Julie gave birth to another television series."
Because Caroline was the mother (in every way aside from DNA) of two of the main characters of Legacies, she was intrinsically tied to the show, even without ever appearing on it. She did once lend her voice in a letter to her daughters, but otherwise, Caroline was always off in another country, researching witch curses and other important supernatural things. In real life, Candice was taking a break and starting her family.
"The root of the matter is by the time I wrapped up on Vampire Diaries and played on The Originals a bit, I realized I was working and filming throughout my whole pregnancy and that whole first year of my daughter being born," she explains. "Those are long days, and I was away from my family, so to have the opportunity to have our whole family unit at home for a while was important to me, and to us, so I felt like I needed a moment. I felt like I'd personally earned that time to really be able to focus on family, and it was fantastic. So by the time I was like itching to be back on a set consistently and we were gearing up for what it would be, of course, 2020 happened, and I found out I was pregnant again. So in lieu of wanting to try to transfer any more babies into Caroline's vampire uterus, we held off."
Then, the right time came. "Brett gave me a phone call and was like, 'Hey, this is either going to be a series finale or a season finale. What do you think?' And I'm like, I'm in, I'm in, I'm in."
King said the experience of stepping back onto that set was surprisingly physical. "Once I actually got there, it felt like coming home," she says. "It just brings up all those feelings of just joy and awe. You can even see the physical reaction she had in a video King posted on Instagram of her walking onto the Salvatore School set and almost not being able to speak. "Basically, if you watch that video, that's how it felt going back."
Caroline doesn't actually have a ton of things to do in the episode, and even spends several scenes simply standing there. ("My favorite kind of acting," she says. "That's what I'm trained in.") However, she does take over as headmaster after Alaric (Matthew Davis) leaves, suggesting a future where Caroline could have stuck around without making Caroline's return the center of the story. That was all intentional, as a way to make sure the finale was honoring the show, and not just a highly anticipated guest star or two. And had the show returned for a fifth season, Caroline returning a little more full-time was not off the table. "We tossed that around," King says. "Of course we started to discuss what if Caroline were to come back and what that would look like, but first and foremost, it was creating a finale, whether it was a season or series finale, that would really honor the hard work that everyone had done, especially keeping up these incredible storylines during a pandemic. What a feat."
Caroline, unfortunately, did not get to interact with her one-time hookup Klaus (Joseph Morgan), who appeared via what was essentially a video message from Heaven for his daughter. But the fact that they both appeared in the episode in completely separate storylines was not lost on King. "Oh, I had a very big meeting with Julie and Brett about this," she says with a laugh. "We did have a laugh where it's like after all these years of Klaus and Caroline…it's just funny to think that both of these characters are back in the episode and have nothing to do with one another. It's like this cruel twist of fate for that fandom, but you know, it wasn't in the destiny."
King has now played a relatively important role on all three of the shows in the Vampire Diaries universe and is looking at its ending with an optimism fitting for Legacies. "I think it's a really beautiful closing chapter. For this three-part trilogy of the world of Mystic Falls, the Salvatores and the Mikaelsons, I think it's a really beautiful way to see it out," she says. "I have no idea what it would be in the future. I don't think any of us anticipated that it would become what it was, so if we couldn't have even predicted it then, there's no freaking way to predict it now."
For Florence May, the future is all about when her mommy will let her finally watch that show she was on. "She asks me every day to watch it. She's dying to watch it," King says. "But the reality is that Caroline…she made her way around that set. I don't think my six-year-old daughter needs to be watching me make out with every single person she's grown up meeting in her life quite yet. We'll get there."