Zach Roerig on ‘The Vampire Diaries’ Season 8: “Everyone’s Conscience is Analyzed”

Photo: Jordan Nuttall/The CW

Photo: Jordan Nuttall/The CW

After many years of grief, heartache, and absolute chaos, it’s safe to say that pretty much every Vampire Diaries character has been dealt a bad hand at one point or another. However, no one has endured more real-life struggles than our favorite human, Matt Donovan.

Forsaken by his family as a kid, he’s not only had to work hard to put food on the table and pay the bills, but also to stay alive in a world full of blood-sucking demons, monsters, and unaffordable healthcare. He’s been force-fed vampire blood, used as bait in people’s wicked schemes, and had his neck snapped more times than we can count; yet by some miracle, he’s defied the odds and remains standing strong to this day. And after leaving Mystic Falls at the end of season 7 in search of a normal existence, he’s officially back in action, ready to protect the community that he loves from imminent danger and new supernatural threats.

On that note, wondering what’s in store for Sheriff Blue Eyes in season 8, especially now that he’s reconnected with his estranged father, Peter Maxwell, and has lost yet another close friend to the forces of darkness? Well, according to what Zach Roerig told our team during a recent interview, his character’s upcoming journey will be a meaningful one indeed, full of reflection, revelations, and self-growth. Check out the Q&A below for all the exclusive details!

Alloy Entertainment: Honestly, we’re worried about Matt – more so than usual. He’s always trying to kill Damon and is constantly unsuccessful. What will this failed attack mean for Matt?
Zach Roerig: I think it means that if it at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

Alloy Entertainment: Will this intensify the animosity between them?
Zach Roerig: The obvious answer to that would be that it would intensify like crazy. However, Damon is also the kind of guy who admires someone with some brass – someone who isn’t afraid to step up to him. He’s the type of bully who respects someone who says, ‘No, eff you.’ You’d think that Damon is going to immediately kill Matt. Then again, he might also be, ‘Well, I’ll be darned. Ol’ Matty Blue Eyes has some balls.’ [Laughs]

Alloy Entertainment: In other surprising news, Matt’s dad has re-entered his life. How will their relationship grow and/or change over the course of the season? There’s a lot of unspoken hurt there.
Zach Roerig: Yea, there is – the abandonment issues, the lies, the deceit. Hopefully we will see it grow, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it blossoms because that implies that it’s pleasant and pretty. There’s some resolution and finally a sense of peace between them, but I also think it’s a cool dynamic to watch; Joel [Gretsch] is a great actor, and the chemistry between Matt and Peter is fantastic.

exclusive interview with Zach Roerig

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Alloy Entertainment: Seriously! Even just the physical resemblance alone is on point.
Zach Roerig: Not only that but [Joel] actually grew up in Minnesota, about an hour away from where my father did, so we have a lot in common.

Alloy Entertainment: You know, aside from being the lone human in Mystic Falls, one interesting aspect that separates Matt from most of his friends is that he doesn’t come from one of the founding families. With his dad back in his life, will we be learning more about his family’s legacy – whether it’s the Donovans or Maxwells?
Zach Roerig: Well, yes, that’s an interesting question. Matt has always felt abandoned and — I hate to use this word — like a “bastard”; whether cast aside by his peers or his family, he’s always been kind of that lost dog in the alley. But we finally find out the truth about Matt’s family history and it will fill him with a sense of peace because so many things will finally start to make sense. You also see where Matt gets his inherent strength from and why he has always felt such an integral attachment to this town, even though he’s not necessarily from one of the “founding families.”

Alloy Entertainment: Speaking of the founding families, Tyler was the last remaining Lockwood and now he’s gone. That scene in which you break down over his death was as heartbreaking as it was powerful. How will such a profound loss impact Matt’s journey in season 8? Will he get more involved with the Armory’s initiative, especially since Tyler left him a mysterious box containing photos and research on the sirens?
Zach Roerig: Matt has always been a man of his word, a man of integrity. He’s someone who respects and honors his friendships more than any other character on the show, so I can definitely see Matt picking up where Tyler left off. How much Peter helps him out remains to be seen, but he seems genuinely interested in repairing the past with his son and making amends. We see Peter on a path to redemption, seeking forgiveness, and at this point he’d do almost anything for Matt to have some regard for him.

Matt Donovan - recap for The Vampire Diaries Season 8 Episode 4 - An Eternity of Misery

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Alloy Entertainment: That being said, Matt has been through so much on this show over the past eight seasons. Do you, as the actor who’s brought this character think Matt should forgive his dad that easily?
Zach Roerig: I was twenty-four when I booked the [show] and I’m in my thirties now, and there are definitely certain things I would have reacted differently to back then compared to now. I feel like when we first met Matt, he was feeling abandoned and hurt by his mom, his friends, and his circumstances in general. He was a little angrier then, but he’s been through so much at such a young age that I want believe that Matt could find some space in his heart to allow his father to earn his forgiveness. I mean, think about all the things he’s forgiven people for up til now! [Laughs]

Alloy Entertainment: Now that Cade has made his official debut and is eager to suck up troubled souls, will he cross paths with Matt at all?
Zach Roerig: Somehow Matt always finds himself in the thick of things: in the wrong place at the right time. So I can’t say yes for sure, but if I was in Vegas I’d bet on it.

Alloy Entertainment: It seems that Cade isn’t necessarily a black-and-white kinda guy; he’s all about that gray area of morality. And even though it was a complete accident, Matt technically did kill Penny in season 7. Will this be addressed at all this season?
Zach Roerig: Yea, everyone’s conscience is analyzed this season; everyone’s going to have to take that test. I think you should stay at the edge of seat until Friday and a lot of these questions will be answered.

Alloy Entertainment: One of our all-time favorite TVD moments occurred in “Our Town,” when Matt helped Elena say goodbye to her former life on Wickery Bridge. We were also really touched by the way he tried to console Bonnie about Enzo’s situation in episode 8×06. Matt always seems to offer his friends a shoulder to lean on, but will he ever have anyone to console him in return?
Zach Roerig: His dad comes into play with that a lot and Alaric surprisingly helps him out in that area as well. He’s always served as a father archetype to these lost, wayside boys and there’s a bit of that this season. He became a father to the twins, filled that role for Jeremy, and even shepherded Tyler a bit; now he’s there for Matt, which is really nice.

Elena and Matt on Wickery Bridge - The Vampire Diaries Season 3

Photo Credit: The Vampire Diaries / The CW

Alloy Entertainment: So many new characters have been introduced on TVD this season. Is there anyone in particular you’d love to shoot more scenes with?
Zach Roerig: I wouldn’t mind having more scenes with Cade. He’s a really cool character, very suave and articulate. You don’t have to ask him to repeat a sentence twice.

Alloy Entertainment: In the spirit of Christmas — after all, this is TVD’s last one ever — what is your favorite holiday tradition to enjoy with your family?
Zach Roerig: Well, we don’t do it anymore really, but it used to be going to pick out a Christmas tree together at this place where they served apple cider and hot chocolate. The whole experience was exciting. Also, tobogganing. We grew up in northwest Ohio where it snowed a lot, so it was a huge deal. Hopefully we get some snow this year for Christmas while we’re home!

Alloy Entertainment: If you could give Matt Donovan any gift in the world, what would it be?
Zach Roerig: Oh! [Laughs] I would give him a flask filled with some vervain-laced drink…or maybe he should have a Gatling gun that shoots wooden bullets mounted on top of his sheriff’s jeep. That would be badass.

Interested in learning more about Zach’s upcoming projects? Be sure to give him a follow on twitter at @zach_roerig for more updates, then drop us a comment telling us what you hope to see happen for Matty Blue Blue — whether it’s to hunt vampires with his dad, or to move somewhere far away and fall in love — in the show’s eighth and final season!

*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.* Catch a new episode of The Vampire Diaries this Friday night at 8/7 c on The CW!