By all rights, Buffy the Vampire Slayer shouldn’t have been a TV show. The film was panned by critics and certainly didn’t remain true to Joss Whedon’s feminist horror movie script. Luckily, he was granted a second chance to realize his vision when he was approached about resurrecting the idea on television.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer shattered the illusion of what we thought TV could do. Constantly subverting expectations, challenging gender roles, and delivering so much more than its title promised, the series also gave us one of the greatest feminist icons of all time. Buffy Summers was Joss Whedon’s response to the petite, blonde girl he watched being victimized in pretty much every horror movie ever. He imagined a world in which that girl was not only ready for whatever attacked her, but actually took it down!
Here we are almost twenty years later and BtVS has and will continue to endure – the comics are now up to Season Eleven! Buffy buffs are a dedicated bunch, but in honor of the show’s upcoming 20th anniversary, we’ve decided to dig up some interesting facts. Here are 15 Things You Might Not Know About Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
15. Nicholas Brendon has a twin and he’s been on the show
Remember “The Replacement”, the episode in which Xander was split in two? The villainous Toth was aiming for Buffy, attempting to divide her into two parts: the Slayer and Buffy. Sure, the Slayer half would be virtually unkillable, but the Buffy half? Not so much. However, Toth split Xander by mistake, dispersing his weakest and strongest qualities into two separate bodies. This was also the episode where we finally got to see Xander do the Snoopy dance!
During those scenes where both Xanders are standing side by side, it was actually Nicholas Brendon and his twin brother, Kelly Donovan. While Donovan hasn’t really done much acting in Brendon’s stead, he has been in more than that one episode. Brendon was sick when “Intervention” was shot, so Donovan stood in for him during the scenes where Xander was in the background. Aside from that, Donovan has done set dressing for the show as well.
14. Alyson Hannigan isn’t the original Willow
The actors who participated in Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been immortalized by it. Imagining those beloved characters played by anyone else is nearly impossible. However, the Scooby Gang wasn’t set in stone from the beginning. It was actually an actress named Riff Regan who originally played Buffy’s bestest bud.
Joss Whedon shot a pilot, which remains unaired – for good reason – to pitch Buffy to the network. Regan just didn’t quite gel with the rest of the cast. There was absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. The show had no choice but to search for a new Willow.
Whedon was adamant that he didn’t want a “supermodel in horn rims” to play the character and really liked Hannigan’s interpretation of what she read. She imbued Willow with both strength and vulnerability, and made her pretty much the easiest member of the Scooby Gang to love. While it is difficult to see Regan in the part, that was hardly the strangest changeup to happen throughout the course of casting the series.
13. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Charisma Carpenter Traded Roles
There was a bit of musical chairs before the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was completely solidified. Gellar initially won the part of Cordelia, but the network later thought she was better suited to play Buffy. It seems crazy to consider anyone other than Gellar as the titular heroine, and also to imagine anyone else filling Cordelia’s designer pumps. Carpenter auditioned for Buffy and she certainly wasn’t the only member of the future cast who hoped to wield the Slayer’s stake.
Julie Benz (Darla), Elizabeth Anne Allen (Amy), Mercedes McNab (Harmony), and Julia Lee (Chantarelle/Lily/Anne) also auditioned for Buffy. Bianca Lawson, who later appeared as Kendra, was actually originally cast as Cordelia, but had contractual obligations that wound up making it impossible for her to accept the role. Both Danny Strong (Jonathan) and Ryan Reynolds auditioned for Xander. Reynolds was actually offered the part, but turned it down, because he didn’t want to play a high school student.
12. David Boreanaz was discovered while walking his dog
The search for Buffy’s impossibly gorgeous beau was fraught with disappointment. Seriously, how easy can it be to cast the dreamiest guy you’ve never seen? Luckily, Buffy writer Marti Noxon’s close friend saw just such a man walking his dog by her home.
Boreanaz was an unknown with one small acting credit from Married with Children on his resume. According to Whedon, what really cinched the part for him were the palpable reactions of all the ladies in the room when Boreanaz auditioned. Although the actor didn’t really have to strain any muscles to land this career-defining role, his stellar work on the series earned him his own spinoff, Angel.
Joss Whedon has said that Angel was often the most difficult character for him to write, because it was tough to make someone so perfect interesting. Writing for Angelus on the other hand was far less of a struggle. In the DVD commentary of the second season, Whedon said of writing the bedroom scene in “Innocence”, “I actually felt like an ugly person. I didn’t know how I was able to write this so easily.”
11. Several characters survived much longer than they were supposed to
The first character granted a reprieve by Whedon was Darla. She was meant only to make it to the end of the second episode. However, he chose to keep her around in order to create more tension between Buffy and Angel. Although Angel dusted her just a few episodes later, she continued to appear in flashbacks and was resurrected at the end of Angel’s first season. Even more surprising, Angel himself was never meant to last beyond season 2.
Believe it or not, Spike was supposed to die after a mere five episodes. Fortunately, the popularity of Spike and Dru, in addition to everything that James Marsters brought to the role, granted him a quasi-permanent stay of execution. It’s difficult to imagine what BtVS would’ve looked like without him.
Oz (Seth Green) was supposed to die at the hands of Angelus, but Whedon decided that he wanted to do more with that character, so Jenny (Robia LaMorte) died in his stead. Anya wasn’t meant to make it past her initial appearances in “The Wish” and “Dopplegangland”, but Emma Caulfield made so much of an impression that Whedon not only kept her around, but allowed her to cheat death once more in the season 5 finale.
Faith was actually supposed to commit suicide – crazy to consider – but she had become a fan favorite, so Eliza Dushku got to stick around. Wesley (Alexis Denisoff) wasn’t planned to last long either. He was supposed to meet his end in “Graduation Day Part 2”.
10. James Marsters isn’t British
Buffy has been off the air since 2003 and many people still think the man who brought Spike to life is as British as the vamp himself. You can’t really blame them; James Marsters’s accent is impeccable. Seriously, hearing the California native speak without Spike’s trademark cockney speech is a little unnerving. Early on in the series, much of the show’s crew didn’t even realize that Marsters wasn’t from England.
Marsters originally auditioned for the role of Spike with a Texan accent, which did land him the part. However, the writers chose to go in a different direction with the character, making him British instead. It was Anthony Stewart Head who wound up becoming Marsters’s vocal coach.
The way that Spike speaks is actually much closer to Head’s own accent. Although Giles is also from England, Head still had to alter his own speech in order to play the Watcher. During “Band Candy”, when Giles reverted to a teenager, was the one time in the series that the actor was able to use his real accent.
9. There was almost an animated series
Although this project was greenlit in 2002 by Fox, no network actually bought it. The pilot was written by Joss Whedon and Jeph Loeb (comic writer turned head of Marvel TV) and featured the entire original cast, sans Gellar. It is unknown why no one in the entertainment industry cared more about it; the four-minute trailer on YouTube is awesome. The idea was thankfully revisited in an issue of Buffy season 8, but it’s not nearly as satisfying as an actual cartoon would’ve been.
There were several other potential Buffyverse spinoffs as well. One of these undeveloped projects was called Ripper and followed the early life of Rupert Giles. Faith the Vampire Slayer was also under consideration, but Eliza Dushku passed in order to star in the short-lived series, Tru Calling. There was also talk of a film about Spike and a possible spinoff about the newly minted slayers. Although none of these projects came to fruition, many of these ideas were worked into Buffy’s canonical comic continuation. If you’re not reading those, it’s time to start!
8. Xander could have been gay
Joss Whedon knew that one of Buffy’s pals was going to come out of the closet, but it wasn’t always going to be Willow. Long before Willow met Tara, Whedon toyed with the idea of Xander being gay instead (those conversations with Larry would’ve taken on a whole new meaning). After careful consideration, though, Whedon decided that this development made more sense in Willow’s narrative.
Initially, some were unhappy with the change to Willow’s character and hoped that Oz would return for good. At this point, it’s hard to believe that Willow’s sexuality was such a big deal, but it’s just one of the many reasons that Buffy was so groundbreaking. Besides, the naysayers were far outweighed by the positive reactions from fans who were given so much hope by one of their favorite characters coming out. The relationship between Willow and Tara evolved organically and became one of the first long-term relationships between a same-sex couple to be portrayed on network TV.
7. The first lesbian sex scene on network TV was in “Touched”
Metaphor always played a hugely important role in the way that Buffy the Vampire Slayer told stories. Whedon used werewolves, witches and demons to explore complex themes of desire, female empowerment, and addiction. Let’s also not forget that Sunnydale High was on a literal Hellmouth. So, because of the WB’s unfortunate aversion to showing any affection between Willow and Tara, magic was used to explore their growing connection.
As crazy as it seems, “The Body” – a year into their relationship – is the first time that we see Willow and Tara kiss onscreen. That kiss was a hard-fought win by Whedon, who actually threatened to quit without it. It was a much-needed moment of comfort shared between two grieving characters and the time for subtext was over.
Thankfully, UPN was much more amenable to treating same-sex relationships like any other. When BtVS switched networks, it led to more freedom for Willow and Tara. The song they shared in “Once More With Feeling” was a prime example of this. While that scene was fairly explicit, it was still bound by the constraints of metaphor.
It wasn’t until Willow’s relationship with the far less beloved Kennedy that Buffy had its first lesbian sex scene, which was also a first for network television. While the distinction may not seem like much now, it was revolutionary in 2003. Willow and Kennedy were undeniably having sex and magic was nowhere to be seen.
6. Andrew wasn’t supposed to be in the Trio
Remember that long-running gag about how no one could remember Andrew’s name? Everyone only knew him as Tucker’s brother. Well, Tucker was originally the Trio’s planned third member. However, actor Brad Kane, from “Prom”, was unavailable at the time of shooting. In the original script, Tucker was the Trio’s leader, but it was clear that Andrew would play a another role. Tom Lenk brought a very different energy to the part, which informed how the character was written after he was cast.
Andrew Wells is further proof that Whedon doesn’t write throwaway characters. Easily the most two-dimensional of the villainous trio when they were introduced, Andrew was further fleshed out in Buffy’s final season. He was able to find redemption by the end of the series and remains a prominent figure in the Scoobies. Although his ambiguous sexuality was oft alluded to on the show, he didn’t officially come out until his story continued in the comics, earning him the distinction of being the first gay male character in the gang.
5. The Gentlemen came to Whedon in a dream
When Whedon wrote “Hush”, he basically eliminated a key facet of the series that Buffy was so often praised for: its brilliant dialogue. In many ways, he did this to challenge himself. The result was a forty-four minute episode, with a mere seventeen minutes of dialogue! The gambit paid off, as “Hush” remains one of the series’ greatest triumphs. It’s a flawless episode, but one of the most memorable aspects of “Hush” is most certainly the Gentlemen. Before writing the episode, Whedon was visited in his sleep by what would become the inspiration for the creepiest monsters ever to appear on BtVS.
The story was very much a case of show, rather than tell, and it did force Whedon to push his creativity to new heights. Aside from that, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Christophe Beck’s incredible score. His addition during Season Two of the series created a backdrop that truly elevated the show. The music basically became another character on Buffy. “Hush” wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without Beck on board.
4. Sex scenes between Gellar and Boreanaz were not sexy
Few couples in television history had better chemistry than Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz. Those make-out scenes may have steamed up the screen, but in Gellar’s opinion, onscreen kissing is the “unsexiest thing in the world.” As she and Boreanaz became better friends, they did everything they could to make it interesting for themselves. According to Gellar, “We would do horrible things to each other. Like eat tuna fish and pickles 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.” Aside from that, Boreanaz was known for dropping his pants on set in order to see who among the cast could keep a straight face.
The spark between Buffy and Angel was so believable, which makes it almost impossible to imagine that the whole time, the actors were pranking one another. Seriously, though, it does make their acting in those scenes that much more impressive!
3. Gellar and Brendon pitched a Xander/Buffy romance
Sometime between season 6 and 7, Gellar and Brendon came to Whedon with the idea that Buffy and her long-term pal should be more than friends. Thankfully, he shot them down, feeling that Xander’s love was better left unrequited. While it’s understandable to want to put those characters together, it would’ve basically undermined all the relationships on the series up until that point. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was never one of those shows that threw its main characters into romantic relationships when the writers were out of ideas.
Besides, if season 7 had seen Buffy and Xander getting together, that would’ve robbed us of some pretty great Xander/Anya moments, as well as Buffy and Spike’s arc. By that point in the show, Buffy and Xander were more akin to siblings than anything that could’ve potentially blossomed into a romantic relationship. The friendship between Buffy, Willow, and Xander was at the heart of the series and upending that would’ve been a mistake.
2. Buffy’s death was foreshadowed in Season Three
There are plenty of examples of foreshadowing on BtVS. Xander’s eye patch in “Halloween”, for one thing. Vampire Willow for another; she was both evil and into girls, which are two things that Willow would most definitely become. Okay, so she wasn’t really evil, but she did attempt to end the entire world (“Bored now“), so we’re calling this one.
As impressive as these instances are – and there are more – the most notable example of foreshadowing would have to be Buffy’s death. In “Graduation Day Part 2”, during Buffy’s dream sequence with Faith, the rogue slayer tells her, “Little Miss Muffet, counting down from 7-3-0.” At the time, there was no way of knowing that Buffy would be dead in exactly 730 days, but Whedon obviously knew.
That wasn’t the only important allusion that was made. We all know what Little Miss Muffet ate and it’s the same thing that crazy guy says to Dawn in “Real Me”: “curds and whey.” This wasn’t the only Dawn reference either. In Buffy’s dream sequence during “Restless”, Tara tells her to be “back before dawn.” Again, at the time, it was just some dream talk, but season 5 proved it to mean so much more.
1. Amber Benson was meant to return as Tara
The loss of Tara Maclay hit fans harder than any other death in the history of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her presence was missed until the series ended– and beyond. There is still a huge outcry for her to return in comic book form.
“Conversations with Dead People” – although it was one of season 7’s finest installments – was supposed to play out a bit differently. Amber Benson was asked to return as Tara, aka the First. It was intended for Tara to be the one who came to Willow in the library, not Cassie, but Benson refused to return. She wanted fans to remember Tara as she was, not as a Big Bad.
That wasn’t the only time Benson was asked back, though. In an early episode idea for season 7, Buffy gets one wish from “The Powers that Be” (usually an Angel thing) and she uses it to bring back Tara. Interesting choice, considering Buffy’s own experience with coming back from the dead, but still, it could have been a beautiful moment. The episode never came together, which is probably for the best. The fact that Buffy herself has defied the laws of mortality more than once, doesn’t mean that death shouldn’t be permanent in the Buffyverse. If anyone who dies will just come back to life, then death loses all meaning.
Although fans have never stopped clamoring for her return, perhaps Tara’s memory is better off left intact.
Are there any fun facts about Buffy the Vampire Slayer that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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