Once in a blue moon, a TV show is introduced that seems doomed to fail based solely on the title. Buffy the Vampire Slayer seemed like it would be one of those sure-to-fail TV shows. Few people – including critics – even knew what a vampire slayer was, much less who would watch such an odd program.
Instead of failing, though, the show gained critical acclaim and was embraced by young and old viewers alike, based on its charming lead actress Sarah Michelle Gellar and her stellar supporting cast. During its six-year run, the show remained fresh and exciting. It was constantly defying the standard TV genre conventions. Here are some facts about Buffy the Vampire Slayer that you may not have known.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator and head-writer Joss Whedon had a clear vision of the theme song he wanted for the show: one that began with “this scary organ and then devolves instantly into rock ‘n roll.” He tried a band known for creating good theme music, but he didn’t like the result. Cast member Alyson Hannigan, then, suggested the Indie music group, Nerf Herder, and it was immediately a hit. Nerf Herder was already known for their single “Van Halen,” a tribute, so now they composed and performed the theme music for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Play It Again, Joss
Joss Whedon first sold Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a movie in the late 80s. The comedy-horror movie starred Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Luke Perry and David Arquette. As you probably already know, it’s about a Valley cheerleader who learns that she’s destined to hunt vampires. While the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie was a moderate success at the box office, and it received lukewarm reviews, it just didn’t have the sinister-and-creepy feel Whedon wanted. So, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series was his chance to get it right. And he hit his target.
Head Of The Cast
Many characters take weeks or even months to cast, but the role of Rupert Giles was promptly given, without discussion, to Anthony Stewart Head on the first day of casting for Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. Joss Whedon and casting director, Marsha Shulman, agreed that Head was the perfect balance of stuffy and sexy that they wanted for the character. According to Shulman, “He was just it.”
It turns out that Head accepted the part, and perfectly imbued the father-figure Watcher for Buffy Summers (played by Sarah Michelle Geller). While you probably remember him primarily for his role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also appeared in a few episodes of the Angel spin-off TV series.
Buffy On Location In The Same Ole Digs
Due to stringent budget considerations, the first indoor episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were shot in a gargantuan warehouse in Santa Monica, California, not a sound stage. As Joss Whedon explained, “We were very much on a tight budget. This hall you’ll see a lot of in the first 12 episodes. It is the entire school. We only had the one hall, so we use it over and over again. It’s really kind of sad, actually.”
Torrance High School in Los Angeles was used as the fictional Sunnydale High and was also seen in Beverly Hills 90210, She’s All That, Not Another Teen Movie, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Most of Sunnydale University was also shot in the warehouse as well, though some shots were also taken at UCLA.
Walking The Dog Finally Pays Off
The part of Buffy’s vampire-boyfriend, Angel, was hard to fill. After days of readings with no luck, Marsha Shulman’s friend told her about a guy walking his dog in their neighborhood. According to the friend, “You know, there’s this guy that lives on my street who walks his dog every day and I don’t know what he does but he has all the things you’re describing.”
Even after a “very good read,” Joss Whedon wasn’t completely sold on David Boreanaz until he saw women on the set swoon when he walked in. As Whedon said, “I had to defer to them—they seemed to know better than me, and thank god I did, because David turned into a great star and a very solid actor.”
High School Horrors
Katie Holmes was offered the role of Buffy before her role as Joey Potter, on Dawson’s Creek, but she opted to finish high school. So, Sarah Michelle Geller got her shot at the part of Buffy on Buffy and the Vampire Slayer.
Ryan Reynolds declined the role of Xander based solely on the fact that he didn’t want to relive the hell that he’d just been through. As he explained, “I love that show and I loved Joss Whedon, the creator of the show, but my biggest concern was that I didn’t want to play a guy in high school. I had just come out of high school and it was awful.” And speaking of role playing…
Sarah Michelle Gellar read for the part of the domineering high-schooler Cordelia Chase and Charisma Carpenter went for the role of Buffy. But neither actor really “fit” the part they’d read for. Casting-Director Marsha Shulman and her staff thought Gellar was too nice and approachable to pull off the part of Cordelia. The young women eventually switched roles and everything fell into place. Shulman admitted, though: “It took us a while to come around to Sarah being Buffy.” So, it may actually be more happenstance or fate that everything really came together as well as it did in the end.
Joss Whedon parted ways with some of that ancient vampire legend and lore for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but there was a good reason. He wanted to keep his vampires flightless and unable to transform into bats because he thought those traits were “silly.” Besides, there was that pesky reality of the low budget. They really just didn’t have the money for the special effects. He followed the many of the lower-budget traits, including an aversion to fire, the sun, crosses, and garlic. And, as everyone who knowns vampire lore will tell you, Whedon’s vampire creations still were susceptible to beheading and a stake through the heart.
Casting Buffy’s best gal pal, Willow, was tough. Joss Whedon wanted the science nerd to be quirky and shy in real life, with a tinge of vulnerability mixed in with her brilliance. The first choice for that role played Willow in the pilot, but it was immediately clear that she just wasn’t right for the part. So, they were left scrambling. Whedon and Casting-Director Shulman immediately knew that Alyson Hannigan was a perfect fit for Willow, when she read for the part. As Whedon says, “I wanted somebody who really had their own shy quirkiness. … Alyson Hannigan slipped under our radar. She came in and we didn’t really know that she was going to be the guy, and then when she read for the network we were just blown away.” He added: “She brings so much light and so much tenderness to the role, it’s kind of extraordinary.”
Joss Whedon made sure the victims all looked like horrible monsters, so that the actions of his young-and-innocent slayer would appear justified. As he explained, “I didn’t think I really wanted to put a show on the air about a high school girl who was stabbing normal-looking people in the heart.” Of course, we also know that, the mostly “normal” vampires in the original movie was a departure from what Whedon had envisioned. He also said, “[W]hen they are clearly monsters, it takes it to a level of fantasy that is safer.” Of course, as part of the monsterification, the vampires were reduced to dust with a stake through the heart. But, that element was more about ease in clean up when each show wrapped. With dust, there were no dead bodies to clean up.
Fun & Games
As if the scripts for Buffy the Vampire Slayer weren’t entertaining enough, Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz made the set more fun by sabotaging their love scenes. “We were the worst,” Gellar revealed. “We would do horrible things to each other. Like eat tuna fish and pickle before we kissed. If he had to unbutton my shirt or trousers I would pin them or sew them together to make it as hard as I could. Once I even dropped ice cream on him.” While such antics likely relieved the tension between the two in those moments, it must have been maddening for the producers. The pair certainly attempted to keep everyone on their toes. The ice-cream bit, in particular, must have been cringe-worthy.
Strictly Speaking The Buffy Part
Sarah Michelle Gellar grew up in New York, so the Valley Girl-style dialogue on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was challenging. In 1998, she admitted, “Joss has his own sort of language that’s difficult for us mere mortals to understand.” Quite simply, she explained, “I grew up in New York. We didn’t have Valley girls.”
Even in the audition, she was stuck asking the meaning of “What’s the stitch?” She felt that she’d instantly blown the reading, but she must have pulled it off well enough. After all, she managed to land the role, and the rest is history.
A Familiar Face
You may have felt stymied by why the Master, the Big Bad from Season One on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, looked so familiar even with his face covered with vampire makeup. On the show, he was a centuries-old vampire, bent on opening a portal to hell under Sunnydale High School. He was the head of an ancient order of vampires, and the Master had been entombed for 60 years.
About the familiar look, though, you weren’t imagining things. The role was beautifully executed by Mark Metcalf, who played Doug Neidermeyer in Animal House and The Maestro on Seinfeld, among many other TV and movie roles.
Three-Way Love Affair
As you can probably imagine, Joss Whedon was looking for anything that would spice up the plot. After Episode 2, when Julie Benz played the role of Darla, he decided to extend her part. Since she was Ange’s sire (she turned Angel into a vampire), Whedon knew Darla would add tension to the relationship between Buffy and Angel. Darla did eventually die in a later episode, but not before she caused a ton of chaos. It was also easy to revive her in later Seasons, and even for the Angel spin-off. She’s just too good of a character to simply let her peacefully pass away.
Instead of schlepping to a Hollywood graveyard to shoot, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer crew built a cemetery in the parking lot outside the warehouse where they shot the show. It’s actually a miniature graveyard but expert camera angles and lighting make it appear as large as a real one. Production-Designer Carey Meyer explained, “We do go to another cemetery for much wider shots, but the majority of our cemetery stuff actually takes place in [a] little tiny parking lot.” It must have saved time and hassle to have a cemetery to easily accessible, even if it was miniature.
Sarah Michelle Gellar had a natural knack to express pain on cue with remarkable believability on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This unique talent prompted Joss Whedon to give her the nickname “Jimmy Stewart,” since one of Stewart’s many trademarks of great acting was to look so realistic when suffering, either physically or emotionally. He went on to say, “We realized every time we turned the screws on Buffy, the show got better.” That means, of course, that the. role of Buffy was designed to be difficult, but also that Whedon had faith that she could full it off. It’s also quite a compliment for Gellar!
Making It Up As You Go
Admittedly, many of the references and situations on Buffy the Vampire Slayer were borrowed from classic horror movies and scary fairytale myths. There is, after all, nothing really new. But one word was used a lot on the show, and it was created by writer David Greenwalt in the first episode.
When the dialogue stalled, Greenwalt called out, “For God’s sake, don’t touch the phlebotnum in Jar C!” No one knew what he was referring to, but it stuck. Joss Whedon has since said that it means “any magical or mystical force or event that arises in the process of inventing the Buffy mythology/or advancing the plot.” It makes sense now, right?
Silence Is Golden
Joss Whedon admits that he wrote the episode “Hush” to challenge himself to be creative without dialogue for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. The episode featured the most frightening bad guys, The Gentlemen, who steal the townspeople’s voices so they can’t scream when the monsters carve their hearts from their chests. It really was a challenge, since you’ll hear only 17 minutes of spoken dialogue in the entire 44-minute episode.
For his part, Whedon said, “I wanted something scary and kind of dream like. The idea that something like that is floating at me and I can’t scream is a creepy child story dream.” Whedon’s true brilliance was further recognized when the episode was nominated for an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.”
During the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy’s character turned much more sinister and Sarah Michelle Gellar found the transition difficult (she hated it). Willow had resurrected her, pulling her straight out of her heavenly bliss, which left Buffy in a depression. Giles was gone to London, Dawn turns klepto, and everyone they know and love is affected in one way or another by darkness, pain and death (Willow almost destroys the world.)
As Geller said, “It just felt so foreign to me… We love her, and I think it was hard for all of us to watch her suffer… It was a tough time. And I think that’s what came through in the end, and that was great. When Buffy herself resurfaced, we sort of found our voice again.”
Cat Out Of The Bag
Fans and cast members were stunned when Gellar revealed in the 2003 Entertainment Weekly cover story that Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be laid to rest at the conclusion of the seventh season. Her co-stars had no idea before the issue was published. Fellow actor Alyson Hannigan said in 2013, “I was devastated. I was just very shocked.”
“Chosen” was the series finale for the TV series, but the story did continue by way of a comic book, The Long Way Home, in 2007. For that last episode of the series, though, David Boreanaz only had seven hours available for filming. Also, on the show, Dawn asks the apt question: “What are we going to do now?”
Although the cast was saddened and shocked when it was announced that there would not be an eighth season, the show could not possibly have done any better. Buffy the Vampire Slayer received so many awards, the crew doesn’t know what to do with them. The show was named one of the “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time” by TV Guide and Empire, and one of “Hollywood’s 100 Favorite TV Shows” by The Hollywood Reporter. It also made TV Guide’s “Top Cult Shows Ever” list, and Time Magazine’s “100 Best TV Shows of All-Time.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer was awarded three Emmy Awards and had TV critics up in arms when they were snubbed for other awards.
Where Are They Now?
Seven seasons is a long time, and while the cast members were in shock when the television series ended, the majority of the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer went on to be take on lead roles of their own, with very successful career and happy lives. But that wasn’t the case for all of them. There’s also much more than enough of the tragic, sad, tear-jerker, or just troubling tales to last several lifetimes. You may wish it were all as fictional as the show they all played on, but it’s all brutally true. What do you think happened to the players from Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Sarah Michelle Gellar Was Working Overtime
During her years filming Buffy the Vampire Slayer, between 1997-2003, Sarah Michelle Gellar also played star roles in smash hit teen films including Scream 2, She’s All That, Cruel Intentions and Scooby-Doo. She was one of the most recognizable starlets of the ’90s, and fans heartily approved when Gellar and her I Know What you Did Last Summer co-star and heart throb, Freddie Prinze Jr., officially became a couple in 2000. You’ve gotta love a good old-fashioned romance, and with all the heartache you’ve seen her go through on screen, you just want Geller to find real, long-lasting happiness off-screen.
Buffy Brought in the Big Bucks
Yes, Sarah Michelle Gellar proved to be a perfect fit for the role of Buffy in the hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, but she was also very well compensated for her stardust effect. In Seasons 1-5, Gellar earned $75,000 per episode. For Season 6 (2001), she earned $100,000 for each episode, and by the time the final Season 7 rolled around, she was bringing in $350,000 for each episode! That’s one of the top salaries for a TV actor. But, that hefty salary was also only peanuts compared to the money she was pulling in from films she starred in, while still playing Buffy.
Gellar also earned six Teen Choice Awards, the Saturn Award for Best Genre TV Actress, and a Golden Globe Award nomination.
Net Worth $15 Million
From Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all the other roles she took on, Sarah Michelle Gellar was able to amass quite a fortune. Her net worth is now estimated to be around $15 Million, and she’s still a household name, which means that she must still bring in bucks from residuals. And, you’d love to see her in a film anytime she makes the leap.
Speaking of households, check out her beautiful villa in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Freddie Prinze Jr., and two kids. Other than her beautiful big villa, she maintains a relatively modest lifestyle. She even drives a Lexus, which may shock you. She was endearingly called out for selling her first car, a 1995 Chrysler Le Baron, on Craigslist for $2,995. All that fame and fortune didn’t go to her head.
Everyone Still Loves Gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar hasn’t slowed down since her Buffy the Vampire Slayer days. She continually worked on films and she’s made guest appearances on a wide range of television shows, including Saturday Night Live, and Sex and the City. As you’d expect, she’s also taken on voice-over parts on The Simpsons, Robot Chicken, and American Dad!
Gellar was also featured in a myriad of magazines: Nylon, Marie Claire, Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, FHM, Rolling Stone, and Elle. In 1999, she became the face of Maybelline, the first female celebrity spokesperson since Lynda Carter. She made Maxim’s “Hot 100” several times. The list of her appearances and accomplishments goes on and on.
Alyson’s American Pie
Alyson Hannigan is another alum from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who continued to have success after the show wrapped. She played Michelle Flaherty in American Pie and the two films that followed — to make up the teen-movie trilogy. She also played Lily Aldrin in the hit TV series How I Met Your Mother which filmed from 2005-2014.
Hannigan had starred in My Stepmother is An Alien when she was 13, so you could say that she was preparing herself for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all her future roles. Like Gellar, though Hannigan used her downtown on Buffy to audition, and land the American Pie role.
She Found Love on Set
Alyson Hannigan fell in love with Buffy the Vampire Slayer co-star Alexis Denisof, who played Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. They married in October of 2003, and they now have two daughters together. He also held a recurring role on How I Met Your Mother. The couple lives in Santa Monica.
While she may have a happy life off-screen, she appears more in photo spreads and blog interviews than TV or movie roles. Too young, yet too old, she appears to be caught in the typical maelstrom of ageism, sexism and fan expectations.
Charisma Poses for Playboy
Charisma Lee Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase, posed for Playboy Magazine in 2004 following the birth of her son. She told People Magazine, “I did Playboy for a very specific reason. Not only was it a good financial move, but it was about the place I was at in my life. I had just had my son and I’d gained 50 lbs during pregnancy. I wanted to get back to my old self. I wanted to feel desirable and sexy. So I thought, ‘What if I went full throttle?'”
For Carpenter, the Playboy shoot sent just the right message, and seemed to make her feel empowered.
Nicholas Brendon Alcohol Problems
Nicholas Brendon played Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but he has also been very open with his struggle with alcohol abuse after news of his arrests reached mainstream media. He was arrested in March 2010 and charged with four misdemeanors, including resisting arrest and two counts of battery against a police officer. He checked into a recovery center two months later. He was arrested again in October 2014, February 2015, and March of 2015.
In August of 2015, Brendon went on the Dr. Phil show to talk about his battle with drinking. “It’s minute by minute, day by day, and I’ve unfortunately stumbled,” he said on the program. “I’m very happy to say that nothing like the events of last year have occurred, and I am committed to making sure that they never do again.”
Nicholas Brendon Arrested & Charged
Unfortunately, they did. Nicholas Brendon was again arrested in October 2016, which was now his fourth time being arrested that year. Alcohol was also involved when Brendon was arrested and charged with assault for strangling his girlfriend in his hotel room in New York. His girlfriend reported that he asked her to stay the night, and when she refused, he broke her cell phone, took her keys, and pinned her against the wall, strangling. He was arrested, with a bail set of $20,000.
Even with his legal troubles and his struggle with alcoholism, his net worth is estimated at $3 million. Before his role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, his dream of becoming a professional baseball player was crushed by an arm injury, and he went back to school to study medicine. He was also a Plumber’s Assistant, Veterinary Janitor, Day Care Counselor, Waiter, and Production Assistant TV show Dave’s World.
Seth Green Is All Over the Industry
After Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seth Green, who played Daniel “Oz” Osbourne, continued his career at full speed. Feature films he appeared in are: Airborne, Party Monster, The Italian Job, Can’t Hardly Wait, Without a Paddle, and the Austin Powers series.
Green also began wearing different hats in the entertainment industry, adding the titles of director, producer, and post-production to his resume. You already know that he’s an actor, but he’s also a comedian, writer, and most frequent voice of the Emmy-winning stop-motion sketch comedy TV series Robot Chicken. He also took on many other voice-over roles, including the part of Leonardo on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon.
Net Worth $24 Million!
Seth Green is great at making people laugh and cashing in on the laughter. You could say that he laughs all the way to the bank. The actor now has a Primetime Emmy Award, multiple Annie Awards, and even a Spike Video Game Award. He worked with his idol, Robin Williams, on the comedy film, Old Dogs.
Green was also a special guest host on WWE Raw. He competed with his six-man-tag team, and they won by default. He’s been in 59 movies so far, and some 90 TV shows. He’s appeared (or done voice-overs) in everything from Tales from the Darkside, The Wonder Years, The X-Files, Batman Beyond, Sesame Street, and many more.
David Boreanaz Cheated On His Pregnant Wife
David Boreanaz played the character Angel on the show and he also went on to star in the Angel spinoff. He also plays the lead role in the TV series Bones.
In 2010, he was caught and he admitted to having an extramarital affair with one of Tiger Woods’ former flings, Rachel Uchitel. Illicit text messages were also released on the Internet, which explicitly revealed the nature of their relationship. The affair was even more offensive to his second wife, Jamie Bergman, who was pregnant with their daughter during the time of the affair. Whatever his various sins and wandering eye, his wife didn’t divorce him. They now have two kids.
Michelle Trachtenberg’s Spy-dom
Michelle Trachtenberg began her acting career at three-years old, and she had already starred in Harriet the Spy and Inspector Gadget before joining the Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast. After the show she made appearances in many TV shows and played a main role in Gossip Girl, Mercy and five episodes in the HBO series Weeds. Of course, she also appeared in EuroTrip (2004), Ice Princess (2005), Black Christmas (2006), 17 Again (2009), Cop Out (2010), and Killing Kennedy (2013).
She’s dating rapper Scott Mescudi.
Joss Whedon’s First TV Show
Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon is a third-generation TV writer, so you won’t be surprised that he had the “natural talent” for writing a successful TV series. His father Tom Whedon was the screenwriter for Alice and The Golden Girls, while his grandfather was part of the crew of The Donna Reed Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Quite a rich, even illustrious, history and pedigree.
Soon after graduating from Wesleyan University, Joss created his first TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Clearly, it was a hit. He credit his mother as being the deepest influence on his writing, and that’s probably why we can say that Whedon is a Feminist.
Whedon is a Feminist
Joss Whedon was tired of seeing the female consistently play the victim role in drama and horror tv and films. And, he described his mother as an “extraordinary inspiration” on his writing. She was, as he describes her: “A radical feminist, a history teacher and just one hell of a woman.”
When it came to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he decided to create a character who exemplified “female power” and who would fight back against the vampires, demons, and evil characters. Whedon wanted to show a female lead character who would take her demons head on, and come out on top. Female empowerment was embraced by the TV series. Whedon said, “The very first mission statement of the show, which was the joy of female power: having it, using it, sharing it.”
The Show Exploded Vampire Culture
Joss Whedon’s vision of vampires changed the way that entertainment and popular culture depicted the creatures. Whedon chose to show vampires with the common vampire traits like not being able to see their reflection in a mirror and having aversions to fire, sunshine, crosses, and garlic.
Whedon showed them more like people with vampire features, instead of being portrayed as different creatures altogether. Of course, they still had special powers. Buffy the Vampire Slayer tapped into a real and growing fan base, who went wild for vampires. That rock-solid fan base was later solidified and further enlivened when Twilight mania began to surface.
Buffy Inspired a Comic Book Series
The comic book series based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was created in 1998, published by Dark Horse Comics. Most were written by the creator Joss Whedon, or they were at least supervised by him. The plot lines began in comic format but were then adapted into trade paperbacks. The comic books and trade paperbacks also offered a broader platform for story and character development. You’ll see that some of the characters introduced in the comic books or paperbacks did not appear in the tv series. Considered to be part of the official Buffy merchandise, the comic books were successful from 1998-2004, and then revived in 2007.
Buffy and Comic-Con
Since the comics and trade paperbacks were such a continuing hit, you began to see Buffy the Vampire Slayer at Comic-Con. You can’t be shocked by that one! With a huge fan base, men and women alike wanted to dress like Buffy. Comic-Con is such a great way to see, experience and impersonate your favorite characters. It’s just a lot of fun. To make the experience all the better for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, you may have noticed that James Marsters, Nicholas Brendon, Camden Toy, and Clare Kramer all participated in Comic-Con events. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has taken on a life of its own, with evolutions, adaptations, and reinventions that Joss Whedon may never have dared dream of. Then, again, he may just have perfectly foreseen all this mania… Who knows?