Welcome to the 18th article in our 2020 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
Although The Vampire Diaries universe has had trouble with misrepresenting its LGBTQ+ characters in the past, the universe has unequivocally turned itself around showing diversity with its third installment, Legacies. The show champions their characters’ sexualities, including that of Josie Saltzman, played by Kaylee Bryant. Josie first appeared in The Originals, The Vampire Diaries’ first spin-off series as a little girl. She is a siphoner witch, meaning she can only take magic from other sources in order to perform her own magic. Josie attends the Salvatore Boarding School for the Young and Gifted with her twin sister Lizzie Saltzman (Jenny Boyd) that is run by her father, Alaric. In the show, Josie is remarked as pansexual. The distinction is an important one; Josie’s feelings and stories are just as validated as the rest of the community.
Although there are several instances where there are mentions of her prior relationship with Penelope Park, both seasons of the show, as well as various teenage crushes along the way, Josie’s sexuality does not define her as a character. The way that the show handles these important storylines is a commendable act in itself; the teens are free to be whoever they wish not only in Mystic Falls but also at the Salvatore Boarding School.
In an interview from 2018 with KSiteTV, Kaylee had this to say about playing Josie:
I don’t know anybody in my friend group who is very set with who they are sexually, and I feel very honored to represent that with Josie, because Josie just feels love and she sees love. She doesn’t see gender. And I’m really excited for people to see that representation on screen.
In a scene from season one with Josie’s sister Lizzie the girls air out their frustrations with each other. Lizzie asks Josie why she would drive a wedge between her and Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell). Hope enters the room, curious about Josie’s reasoning. Josie admits that Lizzie made a comment about Josie being obsessed with Hope, and she then tells the girls she made up a lie about not liking Hope because she says mean things about Lizzie. When confronted by Hope, Josie says she didn’t want Lizzie to know the truth; Josie had a crush on Hope. She admits she wrote a note to Hope disclosing her feelings, but she regretted it so she did a fire spell to get rid of the note. In season two, Hope briefly admits she had a crush on Josie when they were 14.
Lizzie: “Why would it matter that I knew?”
Josie: “Because my whole life, any time I’ve ever liked anyone, you go for them. You always win.”
Hope: “You had a crush on me?”
Josie: “Of course I did. Who wouldn’t.”
As season one develops, the relationship between Penelope and Josie becomes clearer. Exes turned frenemies, the two share several intimate moments throughout the season together. We first see the pair in the very first episode, clearly on the rocks and still harboring feelings toward each other as they navigate through their breakup. By episode five, Penelope is undoubtedly acting as Josie’s protector. In a conversation with Lizzie, Lizzie asks Penelope what she did to make her hate her so much. Penelope says it isn’t about Lizzie at all, it’s about the way Lizzie treats Josie.
Penelope writes Josie a letter in season one, episode 14 explaining that her mom took a job in Belgium and that they have a witch-only school. When Josie eventually reads it at the end of the episode, the pair are both overwhelmed with emotion. Penelope also gives her recordings and logs of everything written at the Salvatore School. She tells Josie to read about the merge, letting her know she can’t bear to wait around to find out what happens to Josie. The two share an intimate moment that included an “I love you” and a goodbye kiss before Penelope eventually leaves the Salvatore School, leaving both parties distraught.
Throughout the beginning of season two, Josie and Landon Kirby (Aria Shahghasemi) are noticeably getting closer over the summer and into the school year, and a relationship eventually grows between the pair. Due to Hope jumping into the Malivore pit at the end of season one, nobody remembers her or the fact Landon and Hope were together. At the annual Salvatore football game against Mystic Falls in episode 3, Josie gets jealous when she thinks there is something going on between Hope and Landon. Her suspicions are further proven when she finds the magical spy pens Penelope left for her writing in the book that logs all of the information behind the walls of the boarding school. Inside of the book, there’s an entry from Landon of a song written about Hope in episode 5. This storyline really tests Hope and Josie’s friendship. Landon eventually ends up like a rock in a hard place having to choose between Josie and Hope — he chooses Hope.
After Josie is left single once again, a moment is shared between her and Jade, a vampire that was trapped in the prison world. When Josie fell into a dream, she ended up kissing Jade and when she wakes, Lizzie accuses her of having an inappropriate dream to which Josie quickly shuts down. Soon after, Jade is late to a session with the guidance counselor and a group of the Salvatore school’s finest, which included Josie. When explaining why she was late she says, “Hi, sorry I’m late. Weird dreams.” After this, she shares a look with Josie.
Bryant has stated on Twitter that although the season got cut short, this won’t be the last we see of Josie and Jade.
Unfortunately due to our production being cut short jade and josie’s story is waiting for you guys towards the beginning of season 3
— Kaylee Bryant (@BryantmKaylee) March 19, 2020
Although time and time again Josie is left on the backburner, it doesn’t stop her from being the strong-willed young woman she is. So far, the series has shown that Josie really gets to spark her individuality as well as her strong suited powers. Josie has proven that she doesn’t need a significant other to thrive — despite her believing she’s a co-dependant that just wants to fix everyone. Hopefully, Josie will get the opportunity to further explore her sexuality.
The first half of Legacies season two recently dropped on Netflix. The show previously halted production due to COVID-19, but the cast and crew promise new episodes as soon as it’s safe to resume filming.
Stay tuned for the rest of our Pride spotlights!