Buffy the Vampire Slayer earned its massive fan base not just by virtue of its off-the-wall premise, but because of its awesome ensemble. In seven seasons, it introduced us to slayers, witches, vampires, demons, and some pretty awesome humans to boot. While Buffy was the undisputed leader of the Scooby Gang, the team wouldn’t have survived without the help of her mentor, Giles.
He played a lot of roles during his time on Buffy: watcher, librarian, shopkeeper, and father figure among them. What makes Giles one of the series’ best characters, though, isn’t just the role he played – it’s that there’s so much more to him than meets the eye. He’s a complex man who transformed from a stuffy stickler for the rules into an essential member of the Scooby Gang. Giles doesn’t always get the attention that some of the series’ flashier players receive, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve a little recognition for his awesomeness. Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Giles.
15. He was the first character cast on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It’s almost impossible to imagine Buffy without Giles, and even more difficult to think of him being played by anyone other than Anthony Stewart Head. Apparently, that’s exactly how the crew behind the scenes felt, too, because they rushed to put him in the part. Casting director Marsha Schulman revealed in a behind-the-scenes feature that she saw him audition for Giles on the very first day of casting, and instantly knew he was perfect for the role. Creator Joss Whedon, too, has weighed in on why casting Head was such an easy choice. In the DVD commentary for Buffy’s pilot episode, he said that as soon as they saw him, they instantly knew he was the only person capable of playing the role.
By hiring an actor as versatile as Anthony Stewart Head, the series’ writers were able to take the character in a lot of unexpected directions. The nuances that Head brought to the role, from his sputtering frustration to his deep emotional depths, made him one of the most beloved and unforgettable characters in the entire Buffyverse.
14. He was murdered and resurrected by Angel
Remember when Angelus killed Giles’ girlfriend, Jenny Calendar in Season 2? Yeah, that was really horrific and depressing. Unfortunately, history repeated itself in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, the comic book continuation of the franchise’s epic story. A new threat, a sinister dimension called Twilight, emerged throughout the season, and Buffy and the rest of the gang assembled to try to stop it. Angel became possessed by the essence of Twilight, though, and snapped Giles’ neck while he was attempting to help Buffy in battle.
All hope was not lost, though. Wracked with grief and desperate to make things right, Angel worked with Faith to resurrect Giles’ spirit, and they succeeded in supplanting his soul in the body of a 12-year-old boy. So while he currently looks more like Harry Potter than the Giles we’ve come to know and love, he is still with us in essence, which is definitely better than nothing.
13. His middle name is Edmund
Let’s get this out of the way: Giles’ name isn’t Giles. It’s Rupert. It’s okay if you didn’t know that, since Buffy, Xander, Willow, and just about every other character were much more likely to call him by his surname. Though the Scoobies were on a mostly last name basis with Rupert, he did have his share of nicknames as well: G-Man, Ripper, Rupy. Heck, even Joyce Summers called him Mr. Giles more often than not.
In other words, those who knew and loved him tended to call him anything but his actual name. So it’s not surprising that we didn’t get a chance to learn his full name until well after Buffy had wrapped up on air. His middle name was finally revealed in a Season 8 comic, though under decidedly tragic means. After he died, the Gang read his will, which printed his name in all its stuffy, librarian-esque glory: Rupert Edmund Giles.
12. He was born to be a watcher
When Rupert Giles was growing up, he wanted to be a fighter pilot. His dreams of aerial glory would unfortunately never come to fruition, though, because his future had already been decided. Giles’ father and grandmother were both watchers, and he was next in line to inherit their legacy, whether he liked it or not. He learned of this fate when he was just 10 years old, and was soon after sent to the Watchers Academy to train.
Giles wasn’t in love with his calling at first, and he resented his father for locking him into it. After a training exercise went wrong and four of his fellow watchers-in-training died, he abandoned the profession entirely for a while. He enrolled at Oxford and then dropped out, started a punk rock band, and got mixed up with some pretty shady characters. He eventually found his way back to being a watcher after his foray into bad behavior, and his dabbling with darkness arguably made him a better mentor in the end.
11. He became an essential part of the international slayer organization
Everyone remembers Giles’ existential crisis during Season 4. He wasn’t technically Buffy’s watcher anymore, and after Sunnydale High burned down, he was out of a job as a librarian, too. The Magic Box helped him find his professional mojo again, but it wasn’t until the TV series ended that he truly found his purpose once more.
When the gang got back together in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comic series, Giles found himself with a tremendous responsibility: overseeing and managing potential slayers. As head of Slayer operations in England, he served as a mentor to many young girls, much in the way he did for Buffy in her early days as the Chosen One. He’s not the only Scooby Gang member to take on such an important role; Buffy and Xander found similar work in Italy, and Andrew had his own post in Italy. There’s no denying, though, that guiding slayers on a global level is a job that he was more than capable of performing, and one that served both him and his charges well.
10. He eventually teamed up with Faith
When Faith Lehane first arrived on the scene, Giles was one of many who had a hard time trusting her. With good reason, too, since she had a habit of shirking her responsibilities, lying about murder, teaming up with the Mayor to destroy Sunnydale, and stealing other slayers’ bodies. By the time the Scoobies fought their last big battle, though, she’d proven herself as a worthy ally to all.
Still, it was a bit surprising for many fans when Giles and Faith teamed up in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics. After helping Buffy launch the Slayers organization, he ended worked in secret with Faith to assassinate Genevieve, a rogue potential slayer who was hell-bent on using her powers for evil. Buffy was, understandably, dismayed that her former watcher had gone behind her back, and the two parted ways for a time. Giles and Faith then paired up to track down more potentials that were struggling to come to grips with their destiny. It was fitting work for both of them, and helped Giles continue his legacy of helping young slayers find their power.
9. He’s a super powerful magician
When most people think of Giles, things like books and tea probably come to mind. That’s because for much of his time on Buffy, he acted in an advisory capacity, and rarely exhibited any supernatural powers. It’s easy to forget that he had some pretty impressive magical prowess, and that he used it on more than one occasion. When he was just a child, he used magic to save his aunts from a demon. That inherent skill stayed with him through his days as a rogue dark magician. Then, he later harnessed the abilities of a powerful coven to try to deter Willow from her dark magic-fueled vengeance bender. During that time, he was able to teleport and use telekinesis, and though those powers were temporary, they reaffirmed his natural skill with the magical arts.
8. He can hotwire a car
Anyone who remembers “The Dark Ages” or even “Band Candy” knows that Giles had a bit of a wild side. You could chalk his smoking, carousing, and anti-establishment behavior to typical adolescent growing pains — except for that thing where he had a tattoo that summons demonic forces, that was a little extreme. While Buffy’s watcher clearly sowed most of his wild oats before he set down roots in Sunnydale, he definitely still retained some of the street smarts he picked up on during his rebel days.
That was never clearer than in “Dead Man’s Party,” where he quickly and efficiently hotwired a car to get himself out of a pinch. Even with zombies breaking through the car windows, he barely paused before managing to get the vehicle up and running again. He even noted to himself that his keys-free approach to operating a motor vehicle felt like “riding a bloody bicycle.” While we may never know the full extent of his juvenile delinquent exploits, this little trick was one of the first moments to remind us that he wasn’t always a stuffy librarian.
7. He’s the only good guy in Buffy to kill an innocent human
There’s an obviously gray area where evil is concerned on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Vampires can be good, slayers can be bad, and even most of the human characters fell somewhere in between from time to time. However, despite how fine the line may be between good and evil, there was one rule that was pretty much always a given: don’t kill people. When Faith accidentally killed a mayor’s aide, she had a total meltdown, and her subsequent actions moved her firmly into the “villain” category for quite some time. Willow killed Warren, but she was in full evil mode at the time, and he was hardly an innocent, given his recent murder of Tara. Buffy killed a few of the Knights of Byzantine, but in her defense, they were trying to kill her, too.
Many forget, though, that Giles also killed a human, and one who had really tried hard to do no harm. In the Season 5 finale, he suffocated an extremely injured Ben to prevent Glory from using his body as a human vessel any longer. While it was a necessary step to take to prevent that whole end of the world thing, there was something very chilling about his willingness to snuff out an innocent life for the greater good. Then again, they don’t call him Ripper for nothing.
6. He was an American Libraries cover boy
While not an immediate hit, Buffy the Vampire Slayer became quite a cult sensation during and after its time on the WB and UPN. In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, when the show was reaching its pinnacle, stars like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan and David Boreanaz regularly adorned the covers of teen-focused magazines, but that was mostly as themselves, not as their characters.
Giles, on the other hand, earned a pretty prestigious cover story of his own in September 1999. He and Buffy shared the spotlight on American Libraries, though the accompanying article was all about how Sunnydale High’s head bibliophile was helping to fight the forces of darkness with his keen insight and research skills. In some ways, the magazine’s examination of Giles’ impact was ahead of its time; many other publications have since discussed, at length, the ways in which Buffy changed pop culture for the better. Plus, Giles fans can flaunt the fact that he isn’t just a genius, a scholar, and a grade-A mentor — he’s also a magazine idol.
5. Joss Whedon accidentally-on-purpose turned Giles into a rock star
Before he played Rupert Giles, Anthony Stewart Head was an accomplished singer and thespian. He showcased his musical talents as a backup singer for Red Box, and performed on stage in productions of Godspell. He even played The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Dr. Frank-n-Furter on the West End in London. While he was always a fan of ASH’s singing, Joss Whedon didn’t immediately find a way to integrate his talents into the series until Season 4. Eventually, he found some interesting ways to broadcast Head’s talents to Buffy fans.
In “Where the Wild Things Are,” the Scooby Gang found him hashing out his midlife crisis and singing The Who at the local coffee shop. A couple of episodes later, he sat alone in his apartment playing guitar and crooning “Free Bird.” Then there was his dream sequence in “Restless,” where he sang about warning Buffy about danger. Finally, he was a standout in the oft-lauded musical episode, “Once More With Feeling.” The only drawback to Giles’ transformation into a pseudo-rock god is that it didn’t happen sooner in the series.
4. He has an awesome record collection
Some say that if you want to truly know a man, you should look inside his medicine cabinet. The same could also be said for a music collection, too, and if that’s the case, then Giles is definitely one of the coolest characters in Buffy history. Like so many other aspects of his life, Giles kept his musical tastes mostly to himself. On several different occasions, though, we had a chance to glimpse his record collection, and it revealed some serious layers of cool.
In Season 3’s “Band Candy,” Giles and Joyce jammed out to Cream while reliving their youthful glory days. Then, in Season 4’s “The Harsh Light of Day,” he got the ultimate musical seal of approval. The Scoobies’ resident musical connoisseur, Oz, fawned over his vinyl hoard – especially his copy of The Velvet Underground’s Loaded. We never got a chance to see the full collection, but given Giles’ penchant for belting out The Who and Lynyrd Skynyrd in later episodes, it’s safe to say his taste in music is excessively cool.
3. He’s proficient in at least six languages
It’s no secret that Giles is one smart cookie. Throughout his time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we watched him make the best of his Oxford-educated brain. He decoded ancient texts, outsmarted some incredibly savvy villains, and used his extensive knowledge of demonology, history, folklore and magic to save lives and defeat evil. There’s one part of Giles’ intellect, though, that often goes underappreciated – and that’s the fact that he’s fluent in several different languages.
Over the course of seven seasons, he displayed a mastery of Latin, ancient Greek, Sumerian, and Japanese. Plus, he showed a working understanding of German, or at least enough to where he could translate it in a pinch. While it may seem to some like Giles went a bit overboard with his linguistic exploits, let’s not forget that evil is cross-cultural. The fact that he’s able to uncover and destroy it using so many different languages is pretty damn impressive.
2. He’s one of only five characters to appear in both the Buffy series premiere and finale
When Buffy the Vampire Slayer first hit our TVs in 1997, the focus of the season was on four core characters: Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles. Over the next seven seasons, the ensemble grew to include fan-favorite characters like Cordelia, Oz, Tara, and Anya. For many of us, though, the original Scooby Gang always held a special place in our hearts. After Season 6, Giles became a recurring character, so we didn’t get to see him quite as much. He returned from England to see the gang, and the potential slayers, through to the big final battle, though, and thus became one of just five characters that appeared in both the series premiere and its epic finale.
His presence helped provide closure and infused Buffy’s final moments with some serious nostalgia. One scene in “Chosen,” especially, called back to a simpler time in the series premiere when Giles was annoyed by the teens’ flippant attitude toward apocalyptic-level events. It showed that while quite a bit changed throughout the course of the show, some things – like his impatience with Buffy’s extracurricular interests – never changed.
1. He might get his own spinoff series
From a successful spin-off series to a long-lasting comic franchise, Buffy has certainly managed to keep its lore alive over the years. However, there are many parts of the Buffyverse that remain unexplored, partly because there are a number of planned spin-offs that never made it to production.
One of the most intriguing ideas that Joss Whedon concocted was creating a series called Ripper, which would follow Giles through a series of supernatural encounters in his native England. Though the creative minds involved have been playing around with the idea since 2001, a number of factors have gotten in the way of the series making it off the ground. Anthony Stewart Head has been busy working on series like Merlin and Dominion, and Whedon has been pretty busy himself with that whole Avengers thing.
As of last year, though, the spinoff idea wasn’t totally off the table. So, if you need us, we’ll be sitting here, re-watching our favorite Giles-centric episodes and anxiously awaiting the return of the Ripper.
What’s your favorite fun fact about Giles? Let us know in the comments!