Elena Gilbert, portrayed by Nina Dobrev since the pilot, is the series’ female protagonist. Elena lives with her younger brother, Jeremy Gilbert, and her aunt, Jenna Sommers, who became her legal guardian after her parents died in a car crash. Her best friend is Bonnie Bennett, who later discovers she is a witch, and she is frenemies with Caroline Forbes, although when Caroline is turned into a vampire they become good friends. Before the beginning of the series she was in a relationship with Matt Donovan, who still carries a torch for her in the beginning of the series. She later begins a relationship with Stefan Salvatore, whom she discovers is a vampire. Stefan’s brother Damon also falls in love with Elena. At the end of season one, Elena discovers that her parents aren’t actually her biological parents, but that she is actually the daughter of John Gilbert, who she thought was her uncle, and Isobel Flemming, who was turned into a vampire. In season two she learns that she is a Petrova doppelgänger, just like Katherine Pierce, which means that she has to be sacrificed to release Klaus’ werewolf side. The sacrifice later happens, but Elena is saved, because John sacrificed himself for her after being put under a spell by Bonnie. However, her aunt Jenna is turned in to a vampire and, as part of the sacrifice, is killed by Klaus, leaving Elena without a guardian. In the season two finale, while Damon is dying due to a werewolf bite, she forgives him for forcing her to drink his blood and kisses him with the thought that it might be Damon’s last day, however Damon gets cured by drinking Klaus’ blood.
Paul Wesley portrays vampire Stefan Salvatore.
Stefan Salvatore, portrayed by Paul Wesley since the pilot, is the series’ male protagonist. Stefan was born in Mystic Falls in 1847. Both he and his brother, Damon, fell in love with the same girl, Katherine Pierce, a vampire. In 1864, Stefan was turned into a vampire after being shot by his father with Katherine’s blood in his system, before unwillingly killing his father. Damon, who was turned into a vampire as well, promised Stefan an eternity of misery as he was angry that Katherine had turned Stefan as well. Stefan was unable to resist human blood and became addicted, killing lots of people, until he was taught to control it by a vampire named Lexie Branson, who later became his best friend. After decades of absence, Stefan returned to Mystic Falls after he saved Elena Gilbert from a car crash and noticed that she looked exactly like Katherine. Stefan and Elena begin a relationship and he reveals to her that he is a vampire. However Damon returns to Mystic Falls too and he also falls in love with Elena. Further on in the series, Damon and Stefan start to bond as brothers again and it becomes apparent that they do love each other. Because of his addiction to human blood, Stefan only drank animal blood in the beginning of the series, which made him weaker than other vampires. In season two Stefan starts to take small amounts of Elena’s blood each day to mitigate its effect on him and to increase his strength. When Katherine returns it is discovered that she has always been in love with Stefan and not with Damon, however Stefan is in love with Elena and not interested in her. Stefan starts to build a friendship with Caroline Forbes after she is turned into a vampire. In the season two finale, Stefan offers himself to Klaus in order to get Klaus’ blood, which will cure Damon from his werewolf bite. Klaus makes Stefan addicted to human blood again and Stefan ends up killing a girl.
Damon Salvatore, portrayed by Ian Somerhalder since the pilot, serves as the series’ anti-hero. Damon was born in Mystic Falls in 1844. When Katherine Pierce came to town, both he and his younger brother, Stefan Salvatore, fell in love with her. In 1864 he is turned into a vampire after being shot by his father with Katherine’s blood in his system. His transitioning was completed after Stefan, also now a vampire, convinced him to kill a woman. Damon, angry that Katherine had turned Stefan as well, vowed to make Stefan’s life miserable. More than a hundred years later, Damon returns to Mystic Falls to free Katherine, who he believes is locked in a tomb there. Damon meets Elena Gilbert and, still hating his brother, decides to bring havoc to her relationship with Stefan. When he finds out that Katherine is not in the tomb and has been alive the entire time, he finds comfort in Elena. He then starts to fall in love with her. His relationship with Stefan also improves and it is shown that Damon actually does care about his brother. In the beginning of the series, Damon kills people impulsively, but as the series progresses he starts to act more humane and stops killing people. He even starts friendships with others, such as Alaric Saltzman and Sheriff Forbes. When Katherine returns in season two and tells him that she has always loved Stefan and not him, his love for her vanishes and he starts to hate her. He becomes close to another vampire named Rose. When Rose is bitten by a werewolf, Damon is left with no other choice but to stake her and briefly falls back into his old ways, killing a young girl. Damon then starts a relationship with a reporter called Andie Star. He compels her to agree to him taking her blood and uses her to distract himself. However he later tells her to leave, for he is afraid that he won’t be able to control himself. Despite these relationships, Damon still loves Elena deeply. When Damon is dying, due to a werewolf bite, Elena tells him that she forgives him and they share a kiss, however Damon is cured after drinking Klaus’ blood brought to him by Katherine.
Jeremy Gilbert, portrayed by Steven R. McQueen since the pilot, is Elena Gilbert’s younger brother, later revealed to be her cousin. In the beginning of the series he is emotionally damaged by the death of his parents and uses drugs. He is in love with Vicki Donovan, who uses drugs as well, but she is dating Tyler Lockwood, which causes a rivalry between the two boys. Vicki later breaks up with Tyler and starts a relationship with Jeremy. However Jeremy later witnesses how Vicki is killed by Stefan Salvatore after Damon Salvatore had turned her into a vampire. Elena, afraid that Jeremy couldn’t handle this, asks Damon to make Jeremy forget this and take away his pain. This causes Jeremy to become more stable and to stop taking drugs. Jeremy then starts a relationship with a vampire named Anna, but Anna is killed by John Gilbert, Jeremy’s uncle, at the end of season one. Jeremy, not wanting to deal with this pain, tries to become a vampire by overdosing while having Anna’s blood in his system, but he fails. He is later given John’s ring, which protects him from a death caused by any supernatural. In season two, Jeremy falls in love with Bonnie Bennett and they start a relationship. Jeremy later loses both his aunt and uncle on the day of the sacrifice, leaving him and Elena without a guardian. In the season two finale, Jeremy is accidentally shot to death by Sheriff Forbes, but brought back to life by Bonnie. However the spell Bonnie used has consequences and at the end of the episode, Jeremy sees Vicki and Anna.
Jenna Sommers, portrayed by Sara Canning in seasons one and two, is Elena and Jeremy Gilbert’s aunt. She is the sister of their mother, Miranda Sommers Gilbert. After her sister and her sister’s husband were killed in a car crash, she took Elena and Jeremy in and became their legal guardian. In the beginning Jenna has trouble coping with her new role as an authority figure, for she used to be a partying college student, but as the series progresses she becomes better at it. She begins dating news reporter Logan Fell, who had cheated on her in the past. However, Logan is turned into a vampire by Anna and then killed by history teacher Alaric Saltzman and Jenna is told that he has left town, which hurts but doesn’t surprise her. She later begins a relationship with Alaric. In season two, John Gilbert begins to cause trouble between Jenna and Alaric, and Jenna begins to suspect that Alaric isn’t completely honest with her. When Isobel Flemming, Alaric’s supposed dead wife, shows up at Jenna’s door, Jenna becomes angry with Elena and Alaric, who then tell her everything about vampires. Jenna is later turned into a vampire by Klaus to be used in the sacrifice that will release his werewolf side. She attempts to kill Greta Martin, Klaus’ witch, to stop the sacrifice and save Elena, at which point Klaus stakes her to death. Jenna is buried near Miranda, Grayson and John Gilbert.
Bonnie Bennett, portrayed by Kat Graham since the pilot, is Elena Gilbert’s best friend. She is also good friends with Caroline Forbes. In the beginning of the series, Bonnie discovers that she is born from a line of witches and that she is also a witch. Her grandmother, a witch too, helps her learn to use her powers, which causes them to create a strong bond. When her grandmother dies, Bonnie is devastated, but she keeps training and as the series develops she becomes more and more powerful. In the midst of season two, she starts a relationship with Jeremy Gilbert, Elena’s younger brother. She later discovers from warlock Luca Martin that the only way to kill Klaus, the original vampire who wants to kill Elena, is for her to get the power of one-hundred dead witches, which she later gets. She then pretends to be dead, a scheme of Damon’s, in order to trick Klaus. But when she brings Klaus to the brink of death, Elijah does not kill him, as planned, and carries him away before she could react. In the season two finale Bonnie is able to save Jeremy from dying after she tells her dead ancestor Emily Bennett that she loves him.
Caroline Forbes, portrayed by Candice Accola since the pilot, is Elena Gilbert and Bonnie Bennett’s insecure friend. Caroline is the daughter of the sheriff of Mystic Falls, Liz Forbes, with whom she has a troubled relationship. Her father left her and her mother when he came clean about being gay. In the beginning she is shown as shallow, self-absorbed and jealous of Elena, however during the series Caroline becomes a nicer person. She later starts a relationship with Matt Donovan. In season two Caroline is turned into a vampire after drinking Damon’s blood, being killed by Katherine and unwillingly killing a boy and feeding on him. Stefan Salvatore helps Caroline to control her lust for blood and they start to build a friendship. After turning, she also becomes closer to Elena. She discovers that she is not able to control her lust when she is around Matt and therefore tricks him into breaking up with her for his own safety. When Tyler Lockwood is turned into a werewolf, Caroline helps him and he starts to develop romantic feelings for her. However Caroline is still in love with Matt and they get back together as soon as Tyler leaves town. Caroline tells Matt that she is a vampire, but he freaks out and later asks Caroline to use her abilities to make him forget. However Matt has vervain in his system and merely pretends to forget, which is a plan Liz came up with after he had told her about Caroline. Matt later ends up confessing to Caroline that she never made him forget and that her mother knows of her being a vampire as well. He then breaks up with Caroline due to the fact that he has many problems and doesn’t want to deal with the fact he’s dating a vampire. Later, her mother finally accepts Caroline as a vampire as Caroline shows her she has retained her humanity and is still her daughter. Tyler also returns to Mystic Falls and comforts her after her break up with Matt.
Matthew “Matt” Donovan, portrayed by Zach Roerig since the pilot, is Elena Gilbert’s ex-boyfriend. Vicki Donovan is Matt’s older sister, who he has to take care of all by himself, for their troubled mother has left them. When Vicki dies, Matt is devastated. He is best friends with Tyler Lockwood and the quarterback of the Mystic Falls High School football team. He is also employed at the Mystic Grill as a busboy. Elena had broken up with Matt after her parents had died and in the beginning of the series Matt still has feelings for her and wants to get back together with her. However he later starts a relationship with Caroline Forbes. When Caroline is turned into a vampire in season two, she breaks up with Matt, for she can’t control her lust for blood around him. However later they get back together. Caroline then tells him that she is a vampire, which upsets him for he thinks Caroline had something to do with Vicki’s death. Matt asks Caroline to make him forget, however he doesn’t forget for he had vervain in his system, which was a plan Sheriff Forbes came up with after he had told her everything. However he finds out he still cares for Caroline and tells her about the plan. He then breaks up with her due to the fact that he has too much to handle with work and school and doesn’t want to deal with the fact that Caroline is a vampire.
Victoria “Vicki” Donovan, portrayed by Kayla Ewell as a series regular in the first seven episodes of the first season and as a guest star in the season two finale, is Matt Donovan’s older sister. Vicki is a troubled girl and is addicted to drugs. She is being taken care of by Matt, for their mother has left them. In the beginning of the series she is dating Tyler Lockwood, however Jeremy Gilbert also has feelings for her. Vicki, acknowledging that she has feelings for Jeremy too, later breaks up with Tyler and starts a relationship with Jeremy. She is later turned into a vampire by Damon Salvatore. As a vampire she isn’t able to control her lust for blood and when she starts attacking Jeremy, Stefan Salvatore kills her with a stake through her heart. Stefan and Damon make it seem as if Vicki has left town. Later in season one, her body is found by Caroline Forbes, causing a devastated Matt and Jeremy. In the season two finale, Vicki appears to Jeremy, after he was brought back to life by a spell of Bonnie Bennett’s, which was said to have consequences.
Tyler Lockwood, portrayed by Michael Trevino since the pilot, is the son of Mayor Richard Lockwood and Carol Lockwood. He plays for the Mystic Falls High School football team and is best friends with Matt Donovan. Tyler doesn’t have a good relationship with his father, who sometimes acts violently towards Tyler. However when his father dies, Tyler is shown to be genuinely upset. In the beginning of the series Tyler is arrogant, selfish and a bully. He is dating Vicki Donovan, but she later breaks up with him due to her feelings for Jeremy Gilbert, which causes a rivalry between the two boys. Tyler is also shown to have a short temper and in season two Tyler learns from his uncle, Mason Lockwood, that he acts this way due to his family carrying the werewolf gene. After Tyler accidentally kills Sarah, a classmate who was compelled by Katherine Pierce to provoke Tyler, his fears come true as he has triggered the curse. Caroline Forbes, a young vampire who wasn’t his friend, offers her support to him, helping him through his first transformation and preparation for his new life. Tyler eventually falls for Caroline, but when Jules, another werewolf, comes to town and tells Tyler that Caroline and two other vampires, Stefan and Damon Salvatore, are responsible for his uncle’s death, Tyler feels betrayed. After Caroline is taken captive by a group of werewolves and Tyler hesitates to come to her rescue, Caroline breaks off their friendship and Tyler later decides to leave town with Jules. However he returns when his mother is in the hospital and after Caroline and he make amends, he decides to stay in Mystic Falls.
Alaric Saltzman, portrayed by Matt Davis since season one, as a recurring character from episodes nine till thirteen and as a main character from episode fourteen onwards, is the history teacher at Mystic Falls High. Alaric originally comes to town to kill Damon Salvatore, because he believes that Damon killed his wife. However it is later found out that his wife, Isobel Flemming, isn’t dead, but that on her own request she was turned into a vampire by Damon. He then starts to become friends with Damon. Alaric owns a Gilbert Ring, which he got from Isobel, which prevents him from getting killed by anything supernatural, however John Gilbert later claims the ring. Alaric starts a relationship with Jenna Sommers. In the second season John starts causing trouble between Jenna and Alaric and when Jenna meets Isobel, she knows that Alaric is keeping things from her and she leaves him. His body is later possessed by Klaus and he uses this ruse to gain the group’s trust. Eventually Klaus releases Alaric and he gets back together with Jenna, but soon afterwards Klaus has her turned into a vampire and killed for his sacrifice ritual, leaving him heartbroken.
Katherine Pierce, portrayed by Nina Dobrev since season one, is one of the main antagonists of the series. Originally known as Katerina Petrova, she was born in Bulgaria in the late 15th century and later banished to England after having an illegitimate child. Upon meeting Klaus and Elijah, two of the “original vampires”, she found out that she is a Petrova Doppelganger, which means that she has to be sacrificed to release Klaus’ werewolf side. She used a vampire named Trevor, who’d fallen in love with her, to escape and tricked vampire Rose into turning her, so she would no longer break the curse. Klaus, however, wanted revenge, so she spent her entire life running from him. Hundreds of years later, Katherine arrived in Mystic Falls, where both Stefan Salvatore and Damon Salvatore fell in love with her. When all the vampires in Mystic Falls were rounded up, she escaped. During her stay in Mystic Falls she had given Damon and Stefan her blood and turned them into vampires after they were shot. Damon, who thought Katherine was locked up in a tomb, spent 145 years loving her and trying to find a way to free her. When he does, he finds out that she is not in the tomb and was alive this entire time. In the last episode of season one, Katherine returns to Mystic Falls. She tells Damon that she has always been in love with Stefan and tries to break up the relationship between Stefan and Elena Gilbert, Katherine’s descendant and the current Petrova Doppelganger. It is later revealed that her real reason for returning is to get the moonstone and offer it and Elena to Klaus, in order to be free from him. However she is locked up in a tomb by Stefan and Damon, which has a spell that makes sure vampires can’t leave and when the spell is broken, she is compelled by Elijah to stay. However Elijah gets killed and Katherine becomes free again, but she chooses to start helping Stefan and Damon. When Klaus comes to Mystic Falls, he kidnaps her and keeps her in Alaric’s apartment, where he tortures her. However he later tells her that she can leave, telling Stefan that she won’t be far.
Joseph Morgan portrays hybrid and original vampire Klaus.
Played by Joseph Morgan as a recurring character in season two and as a series regular in season three, Lord Niklaus, more commonly known as Klaus, is the oldest of vampires and one of the main antagonists of the series. He and his family, including Elijah, became the very first vampires. It was later found out that his mother had committed adultery and Klaus’ biological father was a werewolf, which made Klaus the only vampire/werewolf hybrid. However his werewolf powers were bound to the moonstone by a band of witches. To release his werewolf powers a ritual, in which a werewolf, a vampire and a Petrova dopplegänger have to be sacrificed, has to take place. He created a fake curse, the curse of the sun and the moon, in order to have two species look for a Petrova dopplegänger. The first Petrova dopplegänger Klaus found was Katerina Petrova, but she escaped Klaus with the moonstone and made a vampire turn her, so that she would be useless for the ritual. Klaus then wanted revenge on Katerina, causing her to spend centuries running from him. Hundreds of years later, Klaus finds Katerina and Elena Gilbert, the next Petrova dopplegänger, through Isobel Saltzman. He kidnaps Katerina and makes her torture herself. He also takes over the body of Alaric Saltzman in order to spy on Elena. After collecting the moonstone, a werewolf, Jules, the Petrova dopplegänger, Elena, and turning Jenna Sommers into a vampire, he begins the ritual. However, Bonnie Bennett and Elijah, who was angry at Klaus for killing his entire family, come up with a plan to kill Klaus after the ritual is completed and he is transitioning. When Bonnie, with the power of a hundred witches, has Klaus weakened and Elijah is going to kill him, Klaus tells Elijah that he could tell him where the bodies of his family members are. Elijah then saves Klaus, but when Klaus returns to full strength he kills Elijah. He then blackmails Stefan Salvatore into becoming addicted to human blood again.