Ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s debut over twenty years ago on the fledgling WB network, audiences have taken notice and gotten on board. The idea to reboot a middling feature film about a teenage hunter of vampires into a serialized television show doesn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence.
Admittedly, Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer might have initially faced challenges being taken seriously, but once the show hit its groove it became one of the most popular genre shows on television as well as a marker of what is possible on the medium. Whedon’s thoughtful, suspenseful storytelling model would soon become the filmmaker’s signature.
Buffy is a series that’s easy for pop culture obsessives to latch onto and it shouldn’t be surprising that those that are a fan of Buffy are a fan of it in a big way. As a result, the Buffy fan base is one of the more dedicated communities out there and they know all sorts of behind-the-scenes details and show secrets. Even though a lot of Buffy’s production details are well known, there are still many deep cuts that fans have no clue about.
Here are 15 Things Even Die-Hard Fans Don’t Know About Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
15. Buffy’s Family Was Originally Never Going To Be Shown On Screen
The most important things to Buffy are her friends and her family, so it’s somewhat shocking to learn that Joss Whedon’s original plan was to keep Buffy’s family out of the picture. The rationale with this idea was that Whedon thought it would be difficult to have Buffy constantly explaining her whereabouts and mysterious behavior to parental figures back at home. Whedon just wanted to focus on the drama and the action of Buffy’s vampire slaying and not have to worry about the messy aftermath.
After some consideration, Whedon caved in and gave Buffy a single mother, Joyce, and then later on added her sister, Dawn. These two may not have been a part of the show’s original plan, but they become huge focal points for the series and are much more than just background characters.
14. The Mutant Enemy Logo Monster Changes
Most die-hard Buffy fans have likely noticed the quirky production company card that concludes each episode of the series. Whedon’s Mutant Enemy logo features a crudely made monster that moves across the screen while he says, “Grrr Argh!” The silly phrase has become somewhat iconic for Whedon aficionados, but only the most observant of fans will notice that on a few rare occasions the Mutant Enemy monster changes his behavior.
Perhaps the most obvious example is that at the end of the musical installment, “Once More With Feeling”, where the monster sings his catchphrase. On top of that, the monster dons a graduation cap as Buffy and company complete their high school education in the season three finale, “Graduation Day, Part II”. However, after the end of the brutal season two finale, “Becoming, Part II”. the monster actually cries and whimpers, “I need a hug.” Amen, brother.
13. Selma Blair And Katie Holmes were almost Buffy
It’s not easy to cast a television series. Many shows crash and burn because of cast members that don’t connect with audiences. A television show doesn’t get to seven seasons and spawn a successful spin-off when it’s full of unlikable cast members. Clearly Buffy found the right cast to make its magic, but the show’s title character very easily could have been played by some other impressive talents.
Everyone sees Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers (sorry, Kristy Swanson), but some of the other people that were in the running for the role were Katie Holmes and Selma Blair. Not only that, but Gellar was also up for the role of Sabrina in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which also could have led to a very different future for many people.
12. The Relationship Between Willow And Tara Made History
The relationship between a show and its audience can be a very tricky situation, especially when it comes to romantic pairings. There are many fans that still think that Willow and Oz are the be-all end-all relationship in the series. There are even people out there that still push for Willow and Xander after all of these years.
Willow’s had a few memorable partners throughout the run of the show, but without question the one that made the biggest dent in pop culture and society was Willow’s relationship with Tara.
It was certainly exciting and groundbreaking when Buffy welcomed a lesbian character onto the show, but their love actually made history. Willow and Tara’s relationship is considered to be the first depiction of a long-term relationship between a lesbian couple on a US prime time television network.
11. A Different Actress Plays Willow In The Unaired Pilot
It’s not unusual for television shows to go through changes in the pilot stage. After all, a pilot is designed to be a pitch tool to a network and if a certain element or character isn’t clicking, then it presents the perfect opportunity to make such a change.
Buffy’s pitch pilot is a very different beast than the “Welcome to the Hellmouth” series premiere that kicks off the show. All of the core elements remain the same, but the pitch pilot is only a half hour and the biggest change is that a different actress plays Willow Rosenberg.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Riff Regan, but she feels more like someone from out of Heathers than the meek character that Willow’s supposed to be at the start of the show. Regan was, of course, replaced with Alyson Hannigan and the rest is history.
10. Dawn Was Going To Be Telekinetic
Buffy’s sister, Dawn, was a very controversial character when she literally entered the series from out of nowhere in the show’s fifth season. A bratty, younger sister might seem like a character specifically designed for the audience to hate, but people still hold a strong grudge against Dawn.
Dawn ends up to be a “mystical key” that a vengeful God is on the search for, but despite that, she’s not a character with superpowers. When Whedon was developing the character, however, he almost went in a very different direction.
Whedon’s original plan was to give Dawn the ability to talk to the dead and be telekinetic. This was scrapped, but it would have let the character fill a niche that otherwise goes unfulfilled in the series. In the post-season seven canonical comics, the series has had some fun by making Dawn more magical in nature.
9. Xander Was Originally Supposed To Come Out
Buffy’s Willow Rosenberg is a tremendous LGBTQ icon and role model, but Whedon nearly went in a different direction that not only would have erased Willow’s important status, but would have put a very different character in the spotlight instead.
The first few seasons of Buffy get a lot of mileage out of Xander’s outsider, powerless status, but the series then begins to lose focus of the character and he definitely loses his purpose. It’s perhaps for this reason that Whedon’s original plan was to play with the idea that Xander would be gay and explore that direction for his character.
Once the unexpected chemistry between Willow and Tara became apparent, Whedon started to switch gears as they seemed like the more organic route to go down. It’s interesting to imagine how a gay Xander and a straight Willow might have changed the scope of the show’s final years.
8. Season Five Was Meant To Be The End
It’s funny that in the current age of television, where canceled shows get revived on new platforms or series are allowed to go on lengthy hiatuses between seasons, a dead show never truly feels dead anymore. The idea of a show ending and then moving to a different network isn’t groundbreaking now, but it was super unconventional back during Buffy’s sixth season.
When Buffy ended its fifth season on the WB— you know, the season that ends with Buffy’s death— that was intended to be the end of the show. However, UPN came to Whedon with a whole lot of money to bring the show back and help anchor their struggling network.
7. There Was A Buffy Animated Series… Kind Of
One of Whedon’s biggest Buffy-related regrets is that he wasn’t able to get an animated iteration of the series up and running, even though the idea sounds like a no-brainer.
The animated Buffy series would have been set during the show’s high school years and it would give the show an excuse to return to that era of stories. The series would also accentuate Buffy’s more comedic sensibilities as opposed to the heavy drama that the show brings with it at times. The series didn’t get officially green-lit in the end, but production got as far as the Buffy staff writing seven scripts for it.
Over the years, animation tests and scripts for the animated series have surfaced. Certain stories have even found themselves re-worked into comic form, so it’s nice that this creative idea could still find some sort of home.
6. Ryan Reynolds Was Offered The Role of Xander
Sure, Katie Holmes or Selma Blair as Buffy Summers would be shocking, but that’s nothing in comparison to the fact that Ryan Reynolds was offered the role of Xander Harris. Reynolds was still an up and coming talent at the time, but it’s safe to say that if he had been cast in the role that his career would look very different.
It’s hard to imagine that he’d have done something like Blade: Trinity if he was in Buffy. Would he still be Deadpool? Who knows!
Reynolds turned down the role because he had just finished high school and apparently had an awful time there so he wasn’t keen to re-visit it, even in television form. Nicolas Brendon does exceptional work as Xander, but perhaps the character would have been much cooler if Reynolds did take the role. It’s hard to picture Cordelia giving him a hard time.
5. Faith Almost Had A Spin-Off
A number of spin-offs and ancillary side projects have been discussed throughout the run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the one that always had the most traction was a series that focused on Eliza Dushku’s renegade slayer, Faith Lehane.
Faith became a major player in the final season of Buffy and played a crucial role in season four of Angel. She left such an impression on both shows that after the end of Angel, there were very real conversations about giving Faith her own show.
The series would have looked like “Kung Fu, but with Faith,” but Dushku instead opted to expand her horizons (although she’d star in Whedon’s follow-up vehicle, Dollhouse). Curiously, many of the ideas intended for Faith’s spin-off would later make it into Buffy’s canonical season eight counterpart.
4. Their Theme Song Was Originally By An Unknown Indie Band
The early days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are rather charming for their frugal nature and the show’s low budget. Buffy (and Angel) would, of course, turn into one of the WB’s flagship programs, but the show’s first year was much more of a gamble on the network’s part.
As an extension of this, in order to find a theme song for the series, the production put out an open call to independent bands and treated the endeavor like a contest of sorts (with a cash prize to match).
In the end Alyson Hannigan eventually recommended the independent band, Nerf Herder, to Whedon. The relatively unknown band would get the gig in the end and turn out what’s probably their most popular song. Interestingly, Nerf Herder re-recorded the theme song in the second and third seasons in order to deliver a better quality version of the theme.
3. Joss Whedon Taught Himself To Play The Piano To Write The Musical Episode
For the longest time Whedon would say that Buffy’s silent episode “Hush” was the biggest challenge that he had faced on the show. Then he decided to do a musical in the show’s sixth season. To pull a musical together on a television show’s hasty schedule and still make it look impressive is not an easy feat. For this reason alone, it intimidated Whedon for years, but he started to put in extra effort to help turn this dream of his into a reality.
One of the ways in which Whedon helped make “Once More With Feeling” come together is that he taught himself how to play the piano. By doing this, Whedon would be able to personally write and edit the music for the episode. Details like this are why Buffy’s musical is such an incredible piece of work and one of the series’ best episodes.
2. The Series Continues Through Comics (Now In Season 11)
Buffy might have had seven seasons on television, but after the show’s conclusion, Whedon couldn’t resist the urge to tell more Buffy stories and decided to continue the series in comic form. Whedon and many of the writers from the television series approached comics in a unique way that would structure the medium like the season of a television show. This would prove to be so successful that Buffy continues into its eleventh season through comics and even Angel has seen an extended canonical life into a lengthy sixth season.
Whedon holds these comics up to a very high standard and while his involvement has wavered through the years, they still tell a satisfying story within the Buffy universe. Furthermore, the medium of comics allows the story to do things that the series never could – like turn Dawn into a giant.
1. Angel Was Supposed To Stay Dead
There’s still a lot of debate as to whether Buffy’s best season is its second or third season, but there’s no denying that the second season finale “Becoming” became the new standard for the show to strive towards. “Becoming” beautifully brings everything together from Buffy’s chaotic second season, but most importantly it brings the Buffy’s feud with Angelus to a close.
Many people didn’t think that Whedon had the guts to have Buffy kill Angel. It was a tragic moment for many fans, but it was also apparently something that Whedon planned to be permanent.
Angel’s resurrection in the show’s third season is some of the best material that his character has seen, but it never would have happened if producers and network executives didn’t urge Whedon to revive the character. They loved the character and saw massive spin-off potential for him and suddenly the wheels were put in motion for his return.
These are all of the biggest Buffy secrets that we could find, but are there any massive things that we’ve missed? Now’s your time to grab your stakes and sound off in the comments below!
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