25 Little-Known Facts About ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer came out at an interesting time in the horror genre. Joss Whedon stated that he wrote Buffy as a response to the helpless damsels in distress characters he saw in typical horror films, as he felt women needed better screen idols to look up to. Buffy debuted just a year after Scream, a film that heavily commented on the sexist representations of women in horror cinema. Sarah Michelle Gellar would appear in Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Both were penned by 90’s screenwriting wunderkind Kevin Williamson, who was also behind Dawson’s Creek.
2. Before accepting the role of Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar was also up for the part of Sabrina Spellman in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. In landing Buffy Summers, she beat out Selma Blair and Katie Holmes, who both ended up on other WB shows — Dawson’s Creek and Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane. (Blair also got to be the voice on the phone when Gellar is murdered in Scream 2, which is a consolation prize, I think.) Gellar initially auditioned for Cordelia, but Whedon and company felt she would make a better Buffy. Good choice.
3. One of the things that prompted Joss Whedon to make a TV version of Buffy was his feeling that the movie version was bungled, as too much of the original script was rewritten. (Donald Sutherland improvised a lot of his scenes, which Whedon felt made the dialogue lack coherence. Joss now refers to Donald Sutherland as a “dick.”) In the movie version, Buffy states that her four life goals are to “graduate, go to Europe, marry Christian Slater and die,” and through the TV version, she achieves three of those four things. (Slater unfortunately starred in Interview with the Vampire instead of cavorting with Buffy Summers. Jerk.)
4. Although Whedon states that the film version should not be treated as canon, there are a number of interesting connections with the movie version. Kristine Sutherland, who plays Mrs. Summers (#neverforget), created her stage name as a tribute to Donald Sutherland, the “dick” who plays the original watcher. Seth Green and Ben Affleck both appear in the original film, although Green’s part was cut down to that of a glorified extra. Affleck officially entered the Buffyverse in a Season Three episode of Angel in an uncredited role. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was future two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank’s first film role, but she has yet to come back to Whedon. I guess she’s all booked up with dat New Year’s Eve and P.S. I Love You. Busy, busy.
5. Another almost casting fact from the movie: Alyssa Milano and Joan Chen were both originally slated to appear in the film, before the roles went to Kristy Swanson and Paul Ruebens instead. Chen had already starred in Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s deliciously quirky cult phenomenon, and Milano later was cast in Charmed. Both of these shows share a very similar audience with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Charmed featured Twin Peaks’ Grace Zabriskie and Billy Zane and Buffy’s Charisma Carpenter in multiple-episode arcs.
6. Charisma Carpenter also auditioned for Buffy, as did Julie Benz, Mercedes McNab, Julia Lee and Elizabeth Anne Allen, who all pop up on the show in other roles. Whedon regular (and sex on legs) Nathan Fillion tried out for Spike, and another actress was originally meant to play the part of Anya. She declined the role when she found out the character only had a two-episode arc, and Emma Caufield was cast instead. Anya proved such a popular character that she would be upgraded to a series regular. This is why you never say no to Joss Whedon. You will be sorry.
7. Carpenter was one of the few actors to recur on both Buffy and Angel, playing Cordelia Chase for seven years before she was eventually killed off in Angel’s 100th episode (after being in a coma for some time). Her 86-ing came after prolonged creative and personal differences with Joss Whedon, matters that also included Carpenter’s pregnancy. Carpenter only agreed to appear in the 100th episode if Cordelia didn’t die, and only found out after the signing the contract for the episode that she would, indeed. Despite her love for Joss, Carpenter states that their relationship became incredibly strained after that incident, which got even worse when she was not invited to be a part of Dr. Horrible. (She assumed she would be, but Felicia Day was cast instead.) Carpenter and Whedon later patched things up and now say they would gladly work together again.
8. After playing a “bitchy” character on Aaron Spelling’s short-lived Malibu Shores (which Carpenter was one of the stand-outs in), Charisma Carpenter was initially reluctant to take the part of Cordelia. She felt she would be typecast. However, her agent bluntly informed her that you can’t be typecast if no one knows who you are, so she took the part. This made her one of the oldest actors ever to play a teenager, as she was 27 when the show first aired. The only older members of the young cast were David Boreanaz and James Marsters, which is fine because they were playing the undead. Marsters turned 50 last year.
9. Despite sporting a fairly flawless British accent, James Marsters is not actually British. He’s from California. When he auditioned for the role of Spike, Marsters did so with a Texas drawl, but the producers felt a London accent would be more appropriate for the character. Anthony Stewart Head served as Marsters’ dialect coach to get the accent right, as Spike’s dialect is closer to Head’s natural speaking voice than Giles more formal English accent. (Side note: Hearing Marsters speak in his actual voice is weird.)
10. By playing the role of Dawn — the show’s most universally disliked character — Michelle Trachtenberg started a tradition of playing characters viewers loathed. Trachtenberg would go onto play Georgina Sparks on Gossip Girl, a character I kind of like, even though every other loyal GG watcher hated her with the fire of a thousand suns. People also apparently hated Trachtenberg on Weeds, but as that was late-period Weeds (which wasn’t great then anyway), I chalk that one up to bad timing.
11. The characters of Dawn and Joyce were considerably altered from their original conceptions, which is that they weren’t supposed to exist. Originally, Joss Whedon didn’t want audiences ever to see Buffy’s family but realized that might be a stretch for viewers—because of the outlandish trouble Buffy gets herself into. Instead, he decided to make Joyce a single parent and give her a recurring role in the series. When Dawn was originally brought into the show, she was supposed to be able to speak to the dead and be telekinetic. Those were thrown out, presumably to enhance her powers of being incredibly annoying.
12. Like female-centric shows Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls and The L Word, the fashions of the series get noticeably more stylish as the series goes along. Usually this is the doing of the network, who wants to make the show more appealing and chic to viewers, but in the case of Buffy, the wardrobe upgrade came at the behest of Sarah Michelle Gellar. After the first season, Gellar allegedly demanded to wear more designer labels — to appeal to her burgeoning “It Girl” status.
13. Gellar hated when fans referred to her as “Buffy,” afraid she would be pigeonholed as Buffy Summers forever. (Which pretty much happened.) Despite that, Gellar says that she was always respectful of the show’s fanbase and hoped she would be a role model to young women. She often kept out of the public eye, especially when partying, so Buffy “wouldn’t be seen with a drink in her hand.”
14. Before appearing in Buffy, Alyson Hannigan got her start on television in the show Free Spirit — in which she also played a witch. Before that, she starred in the movie My Stepmother is an Alien, a role in which she also dated Seth Green. After Buffy the Vampire Slayer wrapped, Hannigan later appeared in How I Met Your Mother with Neil Patrick Harris. This is interesting because in one episode, Willow mentions that she wrote Doogie Howser fanfic as a youngster. If that’s not enough Hannigan for you, Hannigan is also related to Marilyn Manson’s drummer.
15. The show’s producers were often worried that Nicholas Brendon was getting too fit to play Xander, who was supposed to be a riff on the nerdy sidekick, and advised him to stop working out. (This is weird, because the role was initially offered to Ryan Reynolds, who is the opposite of nerdy.) On set, the cast and crew called him “Nicky,” befitting the Xander character’s lovable goofiness. This became a problem when Miss Calendar began her run on the show, as her original first name was “Nicki.” Because that was confusing, they switched her name to Jenny.
16. The actress who plays Jenny Calendar is Robia LaMorte. Her last name means “death” in Portuguese, an unfortunate coincidence considering her character’s fate. Although LaMorte is most popularly known for her role in Buffy, she got her start as a dancer and music video girl. After appearing in a Debbie Gibson video, Prince pursued her to be Pearl on the cover of his album Diamonds and Pearls. La Morte then got to travel all over the world with Prince. Not bad for an unassuming high school teacher from Sunnydale.
17. Eliza Dushku (whose last name is pronounced “push-koo”) comes from Mormon folk, which was a conflict of interest while filming controversial sexual material on Buffy. Her grandmother called to complain. For probably non-Mormon reasons, Dushku refused to do nude scenes, until her role in 2008’s The Alphabet Killer. However, she has been dating Rick Fox since 2009, who I imagine she does nude scenes for.
18. On the set of Angel and Buffy, David Boreanaz had a habit of pulling down his pants between takes, to see if the other actors in the scene could keep a straight face and not break character. Boreanaz also tended to improvise his lines, especially during Angel, and actors often commented that they had no idea what he would say next. (In a good way.) After Angel wrapped, Boreanaz was actually offered the part of Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot, based on his dark yet witty take on Angel. He turned it down. He also turned down a part in the Resident Evil series and almost declined the role of Seeley in Bones. Do with that information what you will.
19. Because the Buffy masterminds were very into the ideas of duality and dopplegangers, Spike and Angel’s birth names are shown in flashback to be Liam and William. Liam is the Irish equivalent of William.
20. Most of the first season of the show was already shot and in the can before the pilot ever aired, which allowed Whedon to reshoot necessary scenes to tweak them. When Buffy Summers tells viewers, “It was my first day…”, this was actually their last day of filming at the fictional Sunnydale High School. This location was the same one that 90210 used for West Beverly Hills High School, and U.C. Sunnydale was actually Santa Cruz.
21. Buffy Summers has three different birthdays throughout the show’s run. Although the show celebrated Buffy’s birthday around January 19 every year (on an episode around that date), her student records claim otherwise. The first time her records appear Buffy was born on October 24, 1980. Buffy is a sophomore. Later she will be born on May 6, 1979 and be a senior.
22. After Joss Whedon’s Firefly was unceremoniously cancelled (#dontgetmestarted), Whedon migrated Firefly regulars over to his other shows. Nathan Fillion became Caleb on Buffy and Gina Torres and Adam Baldwin moved over to Angel. (Firefly’s Alan Tudyk later appeared in Dollhouse, which was also cancelled before its time.) Although Whedon initially felt that maneuver might seem “incestuous and weird,” his actors assured him that no one watched Firefly so no one would notice. Call it one of the perks of having Fox totally bungle your show.
23. Dolly Parton was (technically) an executive producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sandy Gallin, who was one of the executive producers of Buffy and Angel, managed Parton’s career and held a long-standing production partnership with her. Interestingly, this also makes Dolly an unofficial producer of the Andrew Dice Clay special “The Diceman Cometh,” Fly Away Home, the Steve Martin version of Father of the Bride and Noah Baumbach’s directorial debut Kicking and Screaming.
24. Series creator and geek overlord Joss Whedon initially got his start writing for shows like Roseanne and Parenthood, the first TV adaptation of the beloved film, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Thora Birch and David Arquette, who later appeared in the Buffy movie. As further proof that Whedon gets around, Roseanne would feature during its run Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tim Curry, Stephen Dorff, George Clooney and Alyson Hannigan and also gave TV demi-gods Judd Apatow, Daniel Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino their starts. I think that makes Buffy the weird cousin to Family Guy, Gilmore Girls and Freaks and Geeks.
25. Proving that the Emmys kind of suck, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was never up for an award in any of the major categories (despite a consolatory writing nod in 2000). Like other WB shows (namely Gilmore Girls and Felicity), the show was routinely snubbed, although all were recognized by the Golden Globes. (Felicity’s Keri Russell even won.) If it makes Joss Whedon feel better, Buffy joins the ranks of The Wire, Freaks and Geeks, Oz, Battlestar Galactica, Sports Night, Community, Party Down and Veronica Mars of great critically-acclaimed shows that never got the Emmy love they deserved. He also has that Avengers money, so I think Joss is doing just fine.
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