The Vampire Diaries” hit Comic-Con for the seventh consecutive year in a row, but a familiar face was not on the panel — Nina Dobrev, who announced her departure from the series earlier this year.

“Of course, it’s bittersweet. We miss Nina,” said creator Julie Plec on Sunday morning in San Diego, Calif. “She’s been with us six years.”

Ian Somerhalder commented on “The Vampire Diaries” future without Dobrev, saying, “It’s just an evolution of the story. Everything changes. Stories come. Stories go.”

Paul Wesley added that Dobrev’s exit, if anything, will bring a freshness to the CW series. “When a show has been on for seven years,” he said, “You need a shift in dynamic, and I think it created a new sort of world in a way. So I think it’s a fresh take on a show that’s been on for over half a decade.”

The cast also reminded the crowd at Con that while Dobrev left the show, her character Elena Gilbert isn’t dead. “You still feel the essence and the spirit of Elena,” said Candice Accola. Plec added, “What’s nice about it is there’s still a really intense core of romance…Damon [Somerhalder] has put the love of his life away.” Somerhalder joked, “She’s just taking a little nap.”

“I’ve known Nina was leaving for a long time,” Kat Graham said. “I thought it was a really clever way to kind of keep Elena there and keep her presence there and keep the door open for a lot of ways to bring her back.”

Despite cast member’s exiting “Vampire Diaries,” Plec set off loud cheers in Hall H when she said she would like to continue with the show past Season 7, which premieres this fall. “I do not foresee the show ending after next season.”