Daniela Nieves is intimately aware of what she’s stepping into, and what it means to be where she is. The actress, who talked to Remezcla in the leadup to the premiere of the new Peacock adaptation of Vampire Academy, stressed the importance of friendship and the real-life messages in the show, but above all, how good it was for her, personally, and for other people in our communities to experience this story, that wasn’t really centered on identity, feature one of ours in a lead role.
“Sometimes, being Latina,” she shared, “you don’t want to see a show or a movie about being an immigrant,” or at least, you don’t want every show or every movie that features people from our communities to be like that. “I was an immigrant,” Nieves shared, adding that she knows what that looks like, and how it feels. But for her character, she wanted “I want to see her being a fun princess and I want to see her falling in love and getting the magic.”
Vampire Academy has that, in spades. In fact, Nieves described the show as having a little bit of everything, telling us that “there’s romance, there’s friendship, there’s loss, there’s action, there’s sexy scenes,” which in many ways, is just like life. We all go through those things – maybe not all at once, but they’re part of the experience. And we learn to deal, we grow, we adapt. Which is exactly the journey for Lissa Dragomir. And she’s not doing it alone, something that was crucial to Nieves.
Lissa’s friendship with her best friend Rose is at the center of Vampire Academy. And according to Nieves, the show going to great lengths to center them is a great message for younger viewers. “So many times you see young girls make their romantic relationships the center of their world,” she told us, confessing that she sometimes looks back and wishes she would have put less importance into that, and more into the friendships. “And so the fact that this show is centered around two female best friends is just so beautiful, and it makes it feel so real for our age, for these girls that are growing up in this society.”
We get to see Lissa outside of that friendship, though, just as we get to see her outside of her romantic relationship. Nieves described her character as “super sweet and super compassionate,” but also “privileged and very out of touch with reality.” And how Lissa sort of processes that and grows is part of the journey. Supernatural aside, Vampire Academy is just another show about young people finding their path – and not one that will avoid stepping into real-life issues, they will just discuss them from a different perspective.
“It’s a metaphor,” Nieves explained. “There’s dhampirs and moroi and we don’t really talk about the fact that I’m Latina or the fact that Rose is Black, but there’s discrimination and there’s classism and there’s all these things that are so relevant today.” The show isn’t shying away from that, even if the world these characters inhabit is very different. Sometimes transcendent, sadly. And fiction cannot always escape the commentary.
As for the future – of Lissa, of Vampire Academy, Nieves isn’t sure, though she’d like to see much more. The first season of the show doesn’t even get into the first book – it stays firmly in the what happened before – so, the possibilities are endless. And Nieves would like to play this character for a long time. In fact, when she got the role she started reading the books and got up to book four before deciding not to continue. She didn’t want to know the ending, because she didn’t want it to end.
Neither do we.
The first four episodes of Vampire Academy, starring Daniela Nieves, are available to stream on Peacock. New episodes will be released on Thursdays.