High School Musical actress Ashley Tisdale could have starred as a completely different character in The Vampire Diaries, but had to turn it down.
The human-meets-vampire trope arose in popularity due to the tremendous hype/mass hysteria after the film release of Twilight in 2008. A year after Twilight’s first film adaptation, another vampire book series received an adaptation, but for The CW instead. L.J. Smith’s The Vampire Diaries novels were initially published in the 1990s, but its television adaptation released in 2009.
Similar to Twilight, The Vampire Diares — also known as TVD — starred a high school student protagonist who just couldn’t decide between two men. Thus Team Damon and Team Stefan were created, like Team Edward and Team Jacob (but with two vampires who were brothers instead). Like how Jennifer Lawrence almost played Bella Swan in Twilight, TVD almost looked a lot different, because Ashley Tisdale almost played Elena Gilbert.
Elena Gilbert was the main protagonist of The Vampire Diaries, who became immediately entranced by the Salvatore brothers — Damon and Stefan (the latter played by future Star Trek star Paul Wesley). After discovering the charming sibling duo were brothers, Elena found out she was also a Petrova doppelgänger with a downright cruel vampire named Katherine Pierce. Elena accidentally turned into a vampire at the end of Season 3 when she drowned with Damon’s blood in her system. Elena eventually married Damon, and they lived happily ever after in Mystic Falls. Damon and Elena’s daughter Stefanie appears in The Vampire Diaries spin-off Legacies, which also includes werewolves.
Degrassi: The Next Generation’s Nina Dobrev was hired to play Elena, along with her doppelgängers. Dobrev left The Vampire Diaries at the end of Season 6, but briefly returned for the emotionally heavy series’ finale. Dobrev’s ability to play multiple characters on the show with vastly different personalities was definitely worthy of applause. Her Bulgarian roots also helped with her portrayal of Katherine, who hailed from Bulgaria in the TV series. Despite her spectacular performance, Dobrev wasn’t the first choice for the role. Disney’s High School Musical’s Ashley Tisdale was originally approached to star as Elena, and the series wouldn’t have been the same.
Tisdale was coming off the hype of High School Musical 3: Senior Year when she was offered the role of Elena. However, she turned the part down due to prior commitments to another The CW series. Tisdale starred as Savannah Monroe alongside Aly Michalka in the cheerleading drama Hellcats. Unfortunately, the series didn’t “Bop to the Top” when it was canceled after merely one season. The Vampire Diaries wasn’t the only popular teen series Tisdale could have starred in. She also turned down the chance to star in Pretty Little Liars for Hellcats.
Both The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars would have been great opportunities for Tisdale to further her career. Although, it arguably worked out well that she turned down TVD because of how well Dobrev portrayed Elena. In an attempt to play more mature characters, Tisdale appeared as Jody Sanders in Scary Movie V, but it was ultimately a disastrous film. She has since moved on as a panelist on The Masked Dancer — the dance counterpart to the long-running series The Masked Singer — and focused more on her music career.