When Nina Dobrev left her star-making role as Elena on The Vampire Diaries in 2015, fans were shook. How could the lead on a popular show walk away from the series during the height of its fame? Now, in a new interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Dobrev is opening up about why she left.

“That was the plan from the get-go,” she told Harper’s Bazaar of leaving the show at the end of her original, six-year contract. “If anything, the fact that [leaving] terrified me drove me even more. I needed to feel that fear of ‘Oh, my God, what if I never get a job again?’ That just made me want to work five times as hard to make sure that didn’t happen.”

The Degrassi: The Next Generation actress has limited her film roles since leaving her CW show, but she has a very good reason for it. “The things I want to do aren’t necessarily the things that are expected of me,” she explained. “I don’t want to play a teenager anymore. I want to play adult roles and be challenged and work with great filmmakers and tell incredible stories, and that has meant being really picky.”

In the future, Dobrev hopes to flex her producer and director muscles too. She’s been writing and producing and even taking time to work on her improvisational skills thanks to The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, the improv theater that Amy Poehler cofounded. “It’s scary,” Dobrev said of her acting study and newfound artistic outlets. “I might crash and burn, but that’s how I’m going to get better at it.”

As for life after the heartbreaking death of her lifelong companion, her cat Lynx, Dobrev has found love again in the form of her puppy, Maverick (named, of course, after Tom Cruise’s Top Gun character). “She rescued me as much as I rescued her,” Dobrev admitted. “I was so lost after Lynx passed, but Maverick brought me back to life.”

Have you ever taken a bold career leap? Tell us @BritandCo.

(Photo via Pascal Le Segretain/Getty)