March 26, 2023

Contributor, PEOPLE
Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev spent six seasons together playing Damon Salvatore and Elena Gilbert on The CW’s supernatural teen drama The Vampire Diaries. During that run, they also dated off screen from 2010 until 2013.
As the actress told Seventeen in October 2012, falling for a cast mate was the farthest thing from her mind when she started on the series.
"I didn't want to be dating one of my costars — my goal on the show was to be professional," Dobrev admitted. "But sometimes you can't help who you have a connection with, and you can only fight it for so long — which I did for a really, really long time."
The couple kept a relatively low profile throughout their relationship, occasionally offering a peek into their romance while cuddling during trips abroad and enjoying music festivals. They eventually went their separate ways in 2013, but maintained a professional and personal relationship after their split.
From meeting on set to their post-breakup friendship, here's a look back at Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev's relationship.
Life imitated art for Somerhalder and Dobrev, who fell in love after working closely together as lovers Damon Salvatore and Elena Gilbert on the The Vampire Diaries.
Somerhalder celebrated his 32nd birthday in an unconventional way on the set of The Vampire Diaries. The actor confirmed he spent the day filming a nude scene but was tight-lipped on whether Dobrev's character was involved.
“I was naked with a beautiful girl all day,” the star revealed to PEOPLE. “I had a shower scene that led into another scene where I was kind of half-naked and wet.”
The private couple appeared on the MuchMusic Video Awards red carpet in Toronto. Dobrev — a Canada native and former Degrassi: The Next Generation star — and Somerhalder were on hand to present an award with Selena Gomez.
The costars didn't confirm their romance but were introduced on the red carpet as a "beautiful couple." And when Somerhalder was asked who he looked forward to seeing at the show, he quickly responded, "Who am I most excited to see tonight? Nina Dobrev."
Dobrev, in turn, gave him a shoutout onstage, saying to the crowd: “He’s hot. Right guys?”
As rumors swirled that Dobrev turned down a proposal from Somerhalder, the couple laughed off the reports.
“I’d heard some crazy story that I’d been proposed to, but I would be wearing a ring if I had one,” Dobrev told Access Hollywood on the People’s Choice Awards red carpet in Los Angeles. “Not true at all.
"I mean, that's not my [style]," she added. "I'm young. I'm really young."
"It's not like back in the day where you have to get married and have your children by 18," Dobrev continued. "I'm a career woman and a young, very driven woman, and I've got a lot I have to accomplish before I settle down and have kids and do any of that."
Somerhalder also weighed in on the rumors, saying, "It's not true. If it were true, I would admit to it, 'cause getting turned down builds character!"
Somerhalder and Dobrev were among the stars at the annual Coachella Music and Arts Festival in 2012. The duo were spotted kissing, cuddling and posing for photos.
Somerhalder hosted The Influence Affair, an environmental benefit, at a private home in Bel Air, California. Though Somerhalder and Dobrev were both in attendance, they arrived separately and didn't pose together on the red carpet. However, the pair didn't remain apart for long.
An onlooker told PEOPLE, “They sat together at dinner, and when Ian noticed Nina was shivering, he offered her his blazer to keep her warm. There was no overt PDA, but there was a certain lovey way about how they looked at each other.”
The couple also slipped away for some alone time during a mansion tour. "They were holding hands during the tour," the source added. "They seemed very close and comfortable together."
Amid birthday celebrations for The Vampire Diaries executive producer, Julie Plec, in Paris, the couple took a romantic stroll in the City of Light. Photos showed the pair snuggling and chatting during their evening outing.
The pair attended the Met Gala afterparties together in May 2012. Somerhalder was decked out in a classic tux for the glam event, while Dobrev opted for a black and metallic gown.
In the November 2012 issue of Self, Dobrev shared the qualities she values in a partner.
"He has to be a happy person," she said. "You'll laugh and enjoy life more."
The couple got quite the scare when their pet kitten, Moke, fell ill. The actress shared the ordeal on social media, writing, “Driving sleepy to work… Barely got any zzzz’s due to scary trip to kitty hospital in the middle of the night. #concernedparents.”
Dobrev also posted photos of a somber Somerhalder comforting a cone-clad Moke. In another picture, she snuggled with the sleepy kitten.
"Kid is doing much better now. Passed out on the good stuff, wrapped in mommas jacket. #phewsighofrelief," Dobrev wrote.
Somerhalder and Dobrev called it quits on their romance in May 2013. Before a source confirmed the news of the split to PEOPLE, Somerhalder tweeted, “A THOUGHT FOR TODAY: People change and forget to tell each other. -Lillian Hellman, playwright (1905-1984).”
But despite initial speculation about the cryptic tweet, Dobrev later confirmed that the breakup was drama-free.
“I’ve said this before, that we didn’t break up because anything bad happened or because there wasn’t love or friendship,” she told E! News. “I love him and the friendship is still strong and I think he’s great and I care about him. And that didn’t change. Yes, we’re professional and that’s fine. We were friends long before we dated and we still are now.”
Dobrev was by her ex’s side when Somerhalder’s rescue dog Nietzche went into labor in October 2013. Somerhalder posted a picture of himself snuggled next to the pup with the caption, “Live from the whelping box In Atlanta! Panting, pushing, contractions – Wow. Make no mistake about it-Ladies rule…Women of every species blow my mind…Incredible what mamas go through! Love to you mamas-all over the world. Jeez.”
Dobrev also shared an update, posting a photo of the new mom on her now defunct WhoSay account with the caption, "Birthing little Nietzsches …Such a beautiful + equally terrifying thing to witness. The miracle of life 🙂 #Wow."
The friendly exes proved there were no hard feelings after their split. The costars appeared at the People’s Choice Awards, where they walked away with the trophy for “Best Chemistry.” Somerhalder and Dobrev engaged in some cheeky banter as they collected the award.
"This is crazy. Can you believe this is almost five years in the making?" Somerhalder said to Dobrev.
"We started dating on the show," began Dobrev.
"We started dating in real life," continued Somerhalder.
"And then we broke up in real life," finished Dobrev.
"And yet our characters are still dating on the show," added Somerhalder.
"It's a good thing it's not awkward," Dobrev joked, adding, "Well, it's a good thing we have chemistry," as Somerhalder planted a kiss on her cheek.
Somerhalder married Twilight alum Nikki Reed in April 2015. Just ahead of her Vampire Diaries exit, Dobrev told E! News that she was thrilled about her former flame’s marriage.
"When I heard about the wedding, I thought it was beautiful," she said. "They look happy, and I am happy, and so I don't see why there should be a problem with that. The drama is in the media, it's not with us. But, of course, we're on a teen drama show, everyone's going to look for drama. If there's no drama, there's nothing to write about. I just ignore it."
It was “all love” as Dobrev hung out with Somerhalder and Reed. The trio posed for a cozy photo that Reed had taken, where the Twilight actress stood in the center, flanked by Dobrev and Somerhalder smiling on either side.
"Can't believe how time flies," Dobrev captioned the snap. "Farewell dinner with team Somereed! So good catching up with these goofballs. All ❤"
Reed also posted a photo from the dinner with her arm draped around Dobrev. In the caption, she addressed what she called “baseless rumors” about the trio.
"For the last few years we thought addressing any baseless rumors with silence was the best way. Besides, who wants to respond to made up stories about 'friends backstabbing friends,' 'cheating exes,' or 'cast members exiting shows,'" she wrote, in part, before explaining that they felt they had a "moral responsibility to young girls" to end the narrative about any alleged drama between her and Dobrev.
"So here's to putting an end to all those fake stories of on set jealousy, betrayal, made-up-friendships lost & women hating women," Reed continued. "Let's shift what we put into the universe starting now, & hopefully we will start to see a shift in the way we treat each other & view ourselves."
During a visit to Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, a fan called in to ask Dobrev whether it was “weird” that she still went on dinner dates with Somerhalder and Reed. The actress replied, “I don’t think that’s weird at all. I think that’s great.”
She added, "Why can't everyone be friends? I think they have a beautiful baby, and they are happy and so am I. What's bad about that? I don't see any problem with that."
Dobrev and Somerhalder’s Vampire Diaries costar, Claire Holt, shared that the former couple were total professionals after their off-screen breakup.
“I was on The Originals at that point so I don’t know the timing,” Holt recalled during an appearance on Dear Media’s Not Skinny But Not Fat podcast. “But honestly, they were really — they kept it super professional, it never got weird, like props to them.”
"They did a great job at managing that," she continued. "But it's hard, like for a lot of people it's really tough."
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