“Seize the moment, ‘cause tomorrow you might be dead.” Over twenty years after its premiere, Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains just as groundbreaking, influential, and beloved as it was when the show was still on the air. From its opening scene, the series subverted every expectation viewers had, shattering notions about what television was truly capable of. The TV landscape would never be the same.
With Buffy Summers, Joss Whedon created a feminist icon for the ages. She was “one girl in all the world,” but she wasn’t beyond reproach, and that made her relatable. Buffy was still just a teenage girl dealing with the weight of the world pressing down on her tiny shoulders. Whedon grounded fantastical situations in very real emotions, elevating a genre show to a show that transcended genre altogether.
We all want to believe that everything ran smoothly behind the scenes: that the actors were all best friends and that everyone was respectful of one another. However, as much as we all love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, everyone can agree that the people working on the show were only human.
If you’re ready to learn the truth, then read on for 16 Secrets Behind Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
16. Tara and Willow’s kissing was banned by the network
Without context, it can be difficult to understand exactly how groundbreaking Buffy truly was. In 2017, lesbian relationships portrayed on television barely get an eyebrow raise, but when Willow and Tara started dating in 2000, the TV landscape was quite different. It wasn’t even explicitly stated that the two were dating at first.
The actors had to deal with a fanbase that was divided on Willow’s sexuality – some of whom were incredibly cruel, especially to Amber Benson. Aside from that, the WB adamantly refused to let Willow and Tara show much affection at all, let alone kiss. This led to Joss Whedon’s creative use of witchcraft as a metaphor for their relationship.
Despite their romance beginning mid-season 4, the pair didn’t have their first onscreen kiss until about a year later. Whedon shot the scene for “The Body” and threatened to quit if it wound up on the cutting room floor.
15. Sarah Michelle Gellar hated season 6
The sixth season is probably the show’s most divisive. Dealing with depression, addiction, and abuse, it was thematically darker than any other year. This did not resonate with all viewers and they weren’t alone; Sarah Michelle Gellar wasn’t a fan either.
Gellar found Buffy’s behavior incredibly disturbing, feeling that “it betrayed who she was”. Whedon had stepped down as showrunner, leaving those duties in the capable hands of Marti Noxon, who many blamed for the creative shift. However, Noxon had been shaping the series with her excellent contributions for years.
Whedon still vehemently defends the season. The writers had resurrected Buffy Summers and that had to be earned. This hardly would’ve happened if, when she returned, things went back to the way they’d been before her death. That would’ve been the true betrayal. While Buffy’s strengths made her a hero, it was her weaknesses that made her human.
14. Eliza Dushku’s Mormon upbringing affected her scenes
Fun fact: Mitt Romney was not only Eliza Dushku’s bishop, but also her first crush. Seriously, she named more than one of her Ken dolls after him. These days, Dushku has distanced herself from the religion due to disagreements with the church’s stance on issues such as women’s rights and homosexuality. However, she was cast in BtVS at only seventeen, during which time she was still active in the church.
For religious reasons, Dushku refused to do scenes that were too revealing. This fundamental difference between Dushku and the character that she played – who had no issues flaunting her sexuality – caused a lot of conflict over certain moments in the show. Faith’s sex scene with Xander left Dushku’s family members completely mortified. Her grandmother actually called to complain!
13. Nicholas Brendon’s ongoing struggles addiction
Buffy fans are a loyal bunch. We’ll support the actors and creators responsible for bringing our favorite characters to life through just about anything. Nicholas Brendon has had a rough time of it since BtVS came to an end. His struggles with drugs and alcohol have led to multiple arrests, as well as a rather disastrous appearance on Dr. Phil. Brendon opened up about his issues on the show, but walked off stage after the titular host mentioned that he smelled like alcohol.
These very public problems with substance abuse have led to Brendon’s arrest on multiple charges, including robbery, destruction of property and more than one incident of domestic violence. Hopefully, he finds a way out of his downward spiral soon.
12. David Boreanaz didn’t want Nicholas Brendon at the reunion
This one comes straight from the mouth of Nicholas Brendon. Many fans noticed that Brendon was absent from the Entertainment Weekly 20th anniversary cast sit-down, but then, so was Anthony Steward Head. However, a photo that Brendon appeared in, despite being absent the moment that it was taken, raised more questions. At the 2017 Wales Comic Con, Brendon opened up about the reason why: David Boreanaz.
Apparently, Brendon’s former costar didn’t want him at the photoshoot and Brendon was given a later call time because of it. He was afforded the opportunity to reunite with certain members of the cast, but not everyone, and was later Photoshopped into the picture of the group. Brendon didn’t give much information beyond this, choosing to end the uncomfortable moment with his famous Snoopy dance.
11. Gellar told a magazine the show was ending… before anyone else in the cast knew
Towards the end of Buffy’s seventh season, Sarah Michelle Gellar did an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Fans had been speculating about the show’s fate for some time and Gellar put all rumors to rest when she announced that the current season would also be the final one. According to the actress, she and Whedon were in total agreement on the subject.
Fans weren’t the only ones devastated by the news. The cast was crushed as well once they discovered that they were all out of a job! Whedon had not broken the news to anyone else, so when Gellar dropped this bombshell, they were just as surprised as everyone else.
Alyson Hannigan and Gellar – who were once as close as Willow and Buffy – had been drifting apart for a while and this only furthered the damage to their relationship. Luckily, the former besties were able to reconcile after they both became parents.
10. Whedon didn’t want Buffy in the Angel series finale
Many fans were disappointed when Sarah Michelle Gellar didn’t appear in the final installment of Angel. David Boreanaz had showed up for “Chosen”, so why couldn’t Gellar do the same for “Not Fade Away”? Well, for as much hate as the actress got over her absence, she isn’t the one to blame.
It was meant to be Gellar appearing in “Your Welcome”, but she pulled out due to the death of a beloved aunt and Cordelia was given a sendoff instead. Contrary to popular belief, Gellar was never supposed to show up in “The Girl in Question”.
Gellar did offer to make an appearance in the Angel series finale. However, Whedon felt that her presence would overshadow the actual star of the show – and pretty much everything else – so he turned her down. There was speculation that this was also due to his annoyance over her pulling out of “You’re Welcome”.
9. A fired stunt coordinator wrote a takedown of Gellar and Whedon
No one likes getting fired, but few people would go so far as to write an elaborate fantasy version of their experience and post it on the internet. However, that’s exactly what former stunt coordinator Jeff Pruitt did. Buffy’s stuntwoman, Sophia Crawford – who was married to Pruitt – was fired at the end of season 4. Pruitt wasn’t far behind her. After venting to someone he trusted about what a diva Gellar had become, that person forwarded the emails to Whedon.
Pruitt took to the internet with a vitriolic story entitled, “The Knight’s Parable: SMG Unmasked”, casting himself as the knight, Crawford as the handmaiden, Whedon as the king and Gellar as the princess. Whedon responded to the story with a long sentiment that included, “But this isn’t a fairy tale…It’s a gruelingly hard job, ten months a year, thirteen hours a day, with fifty or more people…driving each other crazy.”
8. The reshot pilot and the recast Willow
Even most diehard Buffy fans will admit that although season 1 had obvious potential, it was not really indicative of how amazing the series would go on to become. It was all there: the brilliant dialogue, lovable characters, and supernatural elements as metaphor for real life issues. However, Whedon needed to figure out what worked in television, the actors hadn’t yet gelled, and the show required a bigger budget.
None of these issues are more apparent than in the original pilot Whedon shot to pitch the show to networks. People love to criticize the actors’ performances, the shoddy production value, and the casting choices. Whedon himself has denounced the pilot. Sure, Buffy was a brunette, the Master was absent, and a completely different actress played Willow – Riff Regan was replaced at the network’s request after the series was picked up – but the show’s genius was always apparent.
7. Dushku turned down a Faith spinoff series
When Buffy the Vampire Slayer was wrapping up, several different spinoffs were discussed. At various points, there was talk of a Ripper miniseries, a Spike movie, a slayer school show, and a series that revolved around Faith.
A show about Faith, the Cain to Buffy’s Abel, probably made the most sense, but without Dushku, it was never going to happen. She actually turned down the role to star in the short-lived True Calling.
For BtVS fans this seems unthinkable, but after five years of playing Faith, Dushku was ready to move on. She was also concerned about the “really big boots to fill” in Buffy’s absence. Luckily, Faith’s adventures continued in comic book form and Dushku went on to work with Whedon again on another series that ended before its time, Dollhouse.
6. Charisma Carpenter was playing a 16-year-old at 27
While it is true that there is a grand tradition of older actors playing teenagers, from The O.C. to Smallville to Beverly Hills, 90210, Charisma Carpenter holds the distinction of being one of the oldest actors to ever play a teenager on TV. She was twenty-seven, playing a sixteen-year-old student. It’s not like she was the only one, though. Nicholas Brendon is only a year younger than Carpenter.
The only actress who was the same age as the character that she was playing was Eliza Dushku. Sarah Michelle Gellar was close behind; only about four years older than Buffy. Although Carpenter was quite a bit older than Cordelia, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else filling those designer pumps. Plus, at forty-seven, she looks amazing!
5. Canceled animated series
The most soul crushing aspect of knowing that there was almost a Buffy the Vampire Slayer animated series is learning that the reason it never came to be is because no network was willing to buy it. Whedon actually worked on the undeveloped animated series with Jeph Loeb back in 2001. It would take place sometime during season 1 and the majority of the cast was set to reprise their roles.
The show was going to run on Fox Kids, but when that ceased operations, no other network wanted to purchase the series. Alas, the closest we ever got to a fully realized version of the show was Season 8 #20, penned by Loeb and drawn by Georges Jeanty, “After These Messages… We’ll Be Right Back!”
4. Whedon didn’t warn Carpenter of Cordelia’s fate
Season 4 is regarded as Angel’s worst, with the writers scrambling to work around Charisma Carpenter’s unexpected pregnancy. She wound up possessed by the Big Bad who took her over in order to… give birth to itself. This storyline ended with Cordelia in a coma, but Carpenter assumed that she would still be returning for season 5.
It wasn’t until she got a call from the press that Carpenter realized that Cordelia was no longer a part of the series. It has long been rumored that this was due to negative feelings on Whedon’s part over the timing of her pregnancy. He convinced Carpenter to come back for “Your Welcome” – Gellar was unavailable – but her one caveat was that Cordelia survive the experience. Whedon agreed, but killed her off by episode’s end anyway. Ouch.
3. The “Seeing Red” scene
Sometimes the way an actor sees their character and the that way a writer does are two very different things. Much like Sarah Michelle Gellar was unhappy with Buffy’s choices in season 6, James Marsters was equally mortified by Spike’s behavior, in particular the infamous bathroom scene. “I was curled up in a fetal position in between takes,” is how he has described the experience more than once. Marsters has also stated, “That was the hardest day of my professional career. It was one of the hardest days of my life.”
Apparently, the idea came out in the writers’ room when Whedon asked everyone to recall their worst day. This experience was that of one of the female writers, although she had been the one who tried to force herself on an ex-boyfriend. Marsters still feels that switching the genders didn’t have the effect that the writers were hoping for.
2. Spike is Joss Whedon’s favorite character
You might think that Whedon’s titular heroine is his favorite character in the Buffyverse, but the auteur has a soft spot for the second vampire with a soul. Once you know this, it’s easy to see the truth of it. Spike was supposed to be killed off after a mere five episodes, but James Marsters earned a near permanent stay of execution. He was not only beloved by fans, but he was also the actor that everyone in the cast wanted a scene with.
Whedon feels that Spike became the most fully developed character in the series. There’s a reason for that: he had an incredible arc. Rather than killing him off, Whedon chose to have him find redemption. He even revived Spike for Angel‘s final season.
1. Joss Whedon cheated with female employees
Kai Cole, Joss Whedon’s wife of sixteen years, recently came forward with a scathing essay about his years of infidelity. This has led to a rather heated discussion about whether or not Whedon is really a feminist at all.
When finally getting honest, he took zero responsibility. Whedon wrote a letter to Cole that included, “When I was running Buffy, I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.”
Well, he certainly did “touch it”. Although the jury may be out on whether this makes Whedon less of a feminist, everyone’s in agreement that it makes him more of a jerk.
Do you have any other Buffy the Vampire Slayer secrets to share? Let us know in the comments!
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