Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Angel, Dollhouse. What do all these shows have in common? The name of Joss Whedon is no doubt familiar to anyone even remotely aware of the fandom surrounding his many enterprises, even giving rise to this awesome drawing of Joss Whedon’s brain, which documents the mighty power of the "Whedonverse" in the TV landscape.
Starting with the '90s classic Buffy, these shows were vehicles for previously unknown actors to stretch their acting muscles and many of them ventured onto other highly successful shows outside of the 'Verse. Previously, we followed up with where the actors from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are today. The below list is more expansive and showcases familiar faces from Whedon shows that went on to star in at least one well-known, successful, and/or critically acclaimed show in a significant recurring role or as part of the main cast – excluding non-Whedonverse Joss Whedon projects, of which there are certainly quite a few!
We did mention those collaborations when applicable, however, and opted to include only actors that appeared on those Whedon shows that came before the currently airing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Regardless, there’s definitely a lot of exciting stuff here.
Note: if you haven't seen the above-mentioned Whedonverse TV series, be wary: this post may contain spoilers!
22 Seth Green
Fans will forever remember him as Oz, the endearing werewolf who was Willow’s first boyfriend on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fortunately for us, Seth Green still makes regular appearances at Comic-Con and is involved in myriad of voice-acting projects, including his stint on Phineas and Ferb as the voice of Monty, as A-Bomb on Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H, Chris Griffin on the Family Guy, and Leonardo on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show.
Perhaps most remarkably, he is also the creator of the supremely hilarious animated series, Robot Chicken, which recently wrapped its eighth season and has guest-starred numerous fellow Whedonverse alums, from Sarah Michelle Gellar to Nathan Fillion. The show has been nominated for several Emmys for Outstanding Short-format Animation – including one for this year – and won the category in 2010.
Green is also an executive producer on the stop-motion show, SuperMansion, where he voices the character of Adolf Hitler. In 2012, he appeared on an episode of How I Met Your Mother, reuniting with Buffy co-star Alyson Hannigan.
21 Emma Caulfield
The comic relief provided by Anya, the outspoken demon-turned-human on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, remains poignant to this day and the mere mention of bunnies can still crack us up by conjuring up the brilliant moment on the show where Anya sings about her peculiar rabbit phobia.
After Buffy, Emma Caulfield went on to star in a critically-acclaimed but short-lived CW show, Life Unexpected, and created and starred in a satirical comedy show called Bandwagon, which aired on YouTube. She also started a YouTube channel wittily named ESSNEMMA, which was part of the My Damn Channel comedy network. Caulfield made a guest appearance on an episode of Daily Grace, the MDC hit hosted by Grace Helbig.
In 2012, she made a cameo appearance on Buffy writer Jane Espenson’s web series Husbands, and starred in season one of the ABC hit Once Upon a Time as the Blind Witch from the Grimm fairytale “Hansel and Gretel,” a recurring character who was last seen on the latest season conspiring with Cruella De Vil.
20 Michelle Trachtenberg
The youngest star of the 'Verse debuted on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in season five as Buffy’s mystical sister Dawn, Michelle Trachtenberg was part of a plot line that confused viewers by her integration as a main cast member out of the blue, with no explanation. After it was revealed that the character was integral to the season’s Big Bad story, she remained on the show until its end as part of the ensemble, appearing in every episode.
Her next role after Buffy was the recurring character Celeste, a pop star on HBO’s Six Feet Under, in its fourth season.
In 2009, she had a short stint as a main cast member on the NBC show, Mercy, as a nurse alongside lead Taylor Schilling, of Orange is the New Black fame. She also had a multi-episode arc on FX’s Weeds in season seven and guest starred on Seth Green’s Robot Chicken and SuperMansion.
Most famously, she starred in CW’s Gossip Girl, playing the manipulative socialite Georgina Sparks for six seasons.
19 James Marsters
After playing Spike, perhaps one of the best vampire characters to ever grace the TV screen and a key character on both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Marsters has stayed busy with guest appearances on the CBS show Without a Trace, as well as sci-fi shows like Torchwood, Caprica, and Smallville, where he played a recurring role as the A.I. named Brainiac – also known as Milton Fine – over the span of four seasons.
In 2002, he collaborated with fellow Buffy actor Amber Benson on her indie film Chance, which also starred another Buffy star, Adem Lenk. More recently, he starred with yet another Whedonverse alum Daniel Dae Kim in Hawaii Five-0.
Marsters is another name on the long list of Whedon alumni who have guest starred on CW’s Supernatural-- his episode co-starred fellow alum Charisma Carpenter, as his wife and rival witch. In 2014, he starred in season two of Lifetime’s Witches of East End as recurring character Mason Tarkoff, a warlock from Asgard.
18 Charisma Carpenter
Carpenter initially auditioned for the role of Buffy, but went on to play Buffy's blunt, no-filter classmate Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Cordelia eventually becomes an unofficial member of the Scoobies for three seasons, before joining forces with Angel in Los Angeles as part of the main cast on the spinoff. Angel saw Cordelia having probably one of the weirdest character journeys ever seen on TV – she was in turn a psychic, an angel, and an evil spawn.
After departing from Angel, Carpenter made a guest appearance on season seven of the WB series Charmed and starred in Veronica Mars for two seasons as con artist Kendall Casablancas. She also played recurring character Tegan Walker on ABC’s Greek and had brief guest appearances on Supernatural, Sons of Anarchy, and Chicago P.D.
In 2012, she joined the cast of The Lying Game as Rebecca Sewell, where she remained until the show’s early cancellation.
17 Alexis Denisof
Denisof first appeared in the Whedonverse as an initially minor character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, who was sent to Sunnydale as a replacement for Giles in season three. The character began his journey as a bumbling Englishman who has an awkward fling with Cordelia, but went on to become a major, multilayered character on Angel, who turns against his friends and sleeps with the enemy before redeeming himself all too late.
Alexis also starred in Dollhouse as Senator Daniel Perrin before moving on to How I Met Your Mother as the cheeky reporter Sandy Rivers, where he shared the screen with his wife, and fellow Buffy alum, Alyson Hannigan. In 2012, he reunited with his Angel co-star Amy Acker for Joss Whedon’s Shakespeare indie, Much Ado About Nothing.
On the small screen, he appeared on three seasons of NBC’s Grimm as Viktor Albert Wilhem George Beckendorf and joined the main cast of the MTV's teen thriller, Finding Carter. He also makes the list of Whedonverse alums who have guest starred on Robot Chicken.
16 Adam Baldwin
The character of Jayne Cobb on Firefly can probably best be summed up with a certain goofy hat. Heartless and selfish, as well as caring and endearing in turn, the character was "the muscle" onboard Serenity, a mercenary hired by Captain Mal for his fighting skills. Baldwin also appeared on the last season of Angel as villain Marcus Hamilton, an evil spawn of the firm Wolfram & Hart.
Baldwin was also the voice of Finn on the animated show Jackie Chan Adventures and made guest appearances on several shows starring other Whedon alumni, including Bones with David Boreanaz, Castle with Nathan Fillion, and Leverage with Christian Kane.
From 2007-2012, he was a main cast member on NBC’s action series Chuck, as the gruff John Casey, an agent of the NSA and member of the Marines. Baldwin can currently been seen playing main character Captain Mike Slattery on TNT’s post-apocalyptic show, The Last Ship, now in its third season.
15 Christian Kane
A close friend of David Boreanaz before appearing on Angel, Christian Kane played one of the original antagonists on the show, the lawyer Lindsay McDonald at Wolfram & Hart, who later teams up with Angel against a common enemy.
After returning to Angel for its final season, Kane appeared on Steven Spielberg’s Western mini-series, Into the West, and was part of the main cast of the CBS crime drama Close to Home, which ran for two seasons.
In 2008, he joined the TNT drama Leverage as one of the main characters, martial artist Eliot Spencer, and remained until the show was cancelled in 2012. He is currently part of the main ensemble of another TNT show, The Librarians, a spinoff of the film franchise, where he plays the genius Jacob Stone. The adventure show received great ratings from critics and audiences alike and its third season is set to be released later this year.
14 Eliza Dushku
Eliza Dushku’s credits include a total of three Joss Whedon shows, starting with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where she first appears in season three as the reckless slayer Faith, who then appears on Angel in seasons one and four as part of significant storylines, before ultimately making a comeback on Buffy’s final season. Wanting to showcase her unique talents, Whedon later cast her as the lead on Dollhouse, where she plays the self-aware doll Echo, who engages in many assignments where she must assume different identities.
At the end of Buffy, Dushku was involved in a discussion about a potential spinoff starring Faith, but ultimately went on to star as the lead on FOX’s short-lived fantasy drama Tru Calling. She also did significant voice acting as the character of She-Hulk on Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and is one of many Whedon alums to appear on the web series Con Man.
Her most recent TV appearance was on the latest season of HBO’s Banshee as FBI agent Veronica Dawson.
13 Dichen Lachman
Although pretty much all characters on Dollhouse have painful storylines, this alum had a particularly painful arc on the show as Sierra, who is manipulated with drugs and put into a psychiatric facility before being recruited into the Dollhouse, where she gets raped by her handler.
Moving on from this dark story, Lachman made guest appearances on Hawaii Five-0, Torchwood, and The Guild, a web series created by fellow alum Felicia Day. She starred in another web series, Hollywood Hitmen, with her Dollhouse co-star Enver Gjokaj.
Most memorably, she had a significant arc on CW’s The 100 as the grounder Anya, as well as on Shameless as recurring character Angela. She briefly rejoined the Whedonverse as a major guest star for season two of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., playing the nearly immortal Jiaying.
Her latest project is The Last Ship – starring another alum, Adam Baldwin – where she plays the recurring character Jesse, a helicopter pilot.
12 Summer Glau
“I can kill you with my brain.” Those seven words sum up Firefly’s badass, damaged genius River Tam in a nutshell. But before joining Firefly, Glau first appeared on season three of Angel in an episode where she plays a prima ballerina trapped in a time loop forced upon her by an obsessed lover.
Her third Whedon show was Dollhouse, where she recurred as another troubled genius, Bennett Halverson, a love interest of Fran Kranz’s Topher, who meets a tragic end at the hands of Whiskey, played by Amy Acker.
Glau’s other recurring roles include Crystal Burns on David Mamet’s The Unit on CBS, Tess Doerner on the sci-fi thriller The 4400, as well as Skylar Adams on Syfy’s Alphas. Other brief guest appearances include a cameo on The Big Bang Theory, where she plays herself, a two-episode arc as a nurse on Grey’s Anatomy, as well as Hawaii Five-0, and Castle.
She was also one of the leads on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as terminator Cameron, and guest starred on season two of Arrow. She has also appeared on two notable web series, Sequestered and Con Man, the latter of which was created by fellow Firefly alum Alan Tudyk.
11 Felicia Day
Another wearer of the goofy hat, Day joined the Whedonverse in the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Vi, one of the young slayers-in-training. Since then, she has sung along with Nathan Fillion in the cult-favorite independent project Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and made appearances on Dollhouse and Con Man.
But most notably, she is leading the kingdom of geeks with her popular YouTube channel, Geek and Sundry, as the creator of such famous shows as TableTop, hosted by co-creator Will Wheaton, and Co-optitude, which she co-hosts with her brother Ryon Day. She has written and starred in her own web series including The Guild, which won her 2 Streamy awards, as well as Dragon Age: Redemption.
On top of this impressive body of work, Day also had a seven-episode stint on CW’s Supernatural, as fan-favorite Charlie Bradbury, and starred as recurring character Holly Marten in Syfy’s Eureka.
10 Anthony Head
As Buffy’s beloved watcher Rupert Giles, Head starred in all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a vital player in the Scooby Gang. Like the character, he returned to England to star in several notable projects, starting with the BBC’s comedy show, Little Britain, where he played the Prime Minister.
Apart from his movie credits that include Imagine Me & You, The Iron Lady and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Head also starred as King Uther Pendragon in BBC’s Merlin for three seasons, before being killed by Morgana.
He also made a guest appearance on the sci-fi thriller, Warehouse 13, created by Buffy writer Jane Espenson, as well as on the second series of Doctor Who, as a villain against David Tennant’s the Tenth Doctor. Most recently, he was a main cast member for two seasons as the ambitious Senator David Whele on Syfy’s Dominion, until its cancellation in 2015.
9 Amy Acker
We first saw Amy Acker on Angel, as the traumatized genius Winifred “Fred” Burkle, who gets rescued by the Angel Investigations gang during their journey to the demon realm of Pylea. The show saw some seriously fantastic performances from her, especially towards the end of its run where she transitions into the powerful demon Illyria, who takes over Fred’s body.
Acker also starred in Dollhouse as yet another double-layered character, Whiskey/Dr. Claire Saunders. Aside from her numerous collaborations on other Joss Whedon projects over the years, she also guest starred on Alias in its last season as Kelly Peyton, an agent who works for the terrorist organization Prophet Five.
In 2015, she appeared as an actress on Alan Tudyk’s web series Con Man and on Suits, Gina Torres's show. She's best known today as Root, a brilliant, wild-card hacker, who appeared in all five seasons of the CBS show Person of Interest.
8 Gina Torres
First seen by Whedon fans as the deceptive demon Jasmine, who takes over Cordelia’s body on season four of Angel, Gina is best remembered in the 'Verse as the even-keeled Zoe Washburne on Firefly. We’ve been able to see her quite a lot since, starting with her recurring role on season three of 24.
In 2005, she made a comeback on Alias as the assassin Anna Espinosa, adding to an impressive list of guest appearances on shows such as Boston Legal, Bones, Criminal Minds, Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, Gossip Girl, Castle, Revenge, and The Vampire Diaries.
After starring as a main character on both the short-lived Fox drama Standoff and the one-season ABC show Huge, Gina went on to join the main cast of the USA hit legal drama Suits, where she plays the lawyer Jessica Pearson. The show is currently in its sixth season.
Gina also had an important run as a recurring character on three seasons of Hannibal, playing Bella Crawford, the wife of main character Jack Crawford and a patient of Hannibal Lecter. She also appeared in Con Man and voiced a character on the hit animated series Star Wars Rebels.
7 Morena Baccarin
The role of the graceful courtesan Inara Serra on Firefly was Baccarin’s TV debut but she has since appeared on numerous shows, first going on to Buffy writer Marti Noxon’s short-lived Still Life as a main cast member, then as a guest star on season three of The O.C.
Her other guest credits include How I Met Your Mother, where she played Marshall's crazy date Chloe, as well as Stargate SG-1, The Mentalist, and The Good Wife. Baccarin was a main cast member on the ABC sci-fi show V, playing an alien, and starred as Jessica Brody on the Showtime hit Homeland.
In 2015, she joined the DC Comics show Gotham as recurring character Dr. Leslie Thompkins, and is now the real-life wife of the show’s lead, Ben McKenzie. She was also seen on the big screen recently in the Marvel movie Deadpool.
6 Julie Benz
Julie Benz holds the distinction of playing the first-ever character to appear on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, whom we meet as the high school girl Darla in the show’s teaser. After luring a guy, she transforms into a vampire, thus introducing us for the first time to the notorious vampire mask worn by many actors over the course of the show’s seven seasons.
Initially killed off on Buffy, Benz returned to Angel as a key character, playing the newly resurrected – and human – Darla, who turns into a vampire once more after being bitten by Drusilla, only to meet a tragic end in season three.
Fans have been able to enjoy more of Benz’s awesome acting on Dexter, where she was a series regular for the first four seasons as the girlfriend and eventual wife of the titular character. She also played a recurring character on season six of Desperate Housewives, the stripper Robin Gallagher.
From 2013 to 2015, Benz was part of the main cast of SyFy’s Defiance as Mayor Amanda Rosewater and most recently appeared on the latest season of Hawaii Five-0. There she portrays recurring character Inspector Abby Dunn, girlfriend of Lieutenant Chin Ho Kelly-- who is played by fellow Angel alum Daniel Dae Kim.
5 David Boreanaz
Cast on Buffy the Vampire Slayer after his neighbor saw him walking the dog and recommended him for the role to writer Marti Noxon, Boreanaz first joined the Whedonverse in the show’s pilot as Angel, Buffy’s dark and brooding vampire love interest. He remained a part of the main cast for three seasons before starring as the lead in the spinoff Angel and occasionally returning to Buffy for crossover arcs while the two shows ran simultaneously in the early 2000s.
After the end of Angel in 2004, Boreanaz was cast as a lead opposite Emily Deschanel on Fox’s comedy-crime-drama Bones, where he plays FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth, a character who also appeared on Sleepy Hollow in a crossover arc. Bones is set to run its twelfth and final season starting in 2017, marking the end of one of the longest-running shows of all time. He has now spent more time on Bones than all his time on Buffy and Angel combined.
4 4. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Gellar’s portrayal of Buffy the Vampire Slayer made television history, spawning academic majors and studies dedicated to the series, and inspires discussions to this day – nearly a decade after the show debuted on the WB in 1997.
After the show’s end, she starred in several high-profile movies, including The Grudge and Scooby-Doo 2, as well as appearing in smaller films like Veronika Decides to Die and The Air I Breathe, with future Whedonverse star Clark Gregg. She was also the lead star in two short-lived shows, the CW’s Ringer, where she plays a set of twins, and the CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones, alongside the late Robin Williams.
Sarah has done a lot of work in the animation front as well, voicing various characters on 13 episodes of Robot Chicken, and playing the Seventh Sister on Star Wars Rebels, also featuring her long-time husband Freddie Prinze Jr.
As of June, Variety reported that her latest project, a TV reboot of the 1999 film Cruel Intentions, was still in the works.
3 Nathan Fillion
Before cementing his position as fan-favorite Captain Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly, Fillion debuted in the Whedonverse on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the villain Caleb in the show’s final season. Since then, he has been a favorite go-to actor to cast among his fellow Whedon alums and has appeared in numerous projects, from Seth Green’s Robot Chicken to Alan Tudyk’s Con Man, to Felicia Day’s The Guild, to Buffy writer Jane Espenson’s web series Husbands, and of course, Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
Outside of the 'Verse, he appeared on Wisteria Lane as Adam, the husband of Katherine Mayfair on Desperate Housewives. Most notably, he played the lead on ABC’s Castle as the show’s titular character, a best-selling author who helps solves crimes. In May, the network announced that they would not be renewing the show after the eighth season, which just ended its run, but not to worry – fans will soon be able to catch Fillion in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, set to be released next year.
2 Alyson Hannigan
One of the core members of the Scooby Gang on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hannigan, as the shy nerd-turned-powerful-witch Willow Rosenberg, broke down LGBTQ barriers by playing one of the first openly gay characters on TV and uniquely played both the show’s hero as well as the villain, during her stint as Dark Willow in the show’s sixth season.
Outside of the Whedonverse, Hannigan most famously played the geeky and kinky Michelle Flaherty in the worldwide box office hit American Pie franchise, before going on to star in nine seasons of the CBS smash hit How I Met Your Mother as Lily Aldrin alongside Jason Segal’s Marshall Eriksen, making up one half of one of the most famous and long-lasting TV couples of all time.
Her other guest stints include CW’s Veronica Mars, also featuring her Buffy co-star Charisma Carpenter, Seth Green’s Robot Chicken, and That 70’s Show.
1 Danny Strong
Originally a minor character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Danny’s Jonathan Levinson eventually ended up playing a crucial part throughout the entire run of the show, becoming one of the main villains in season six as a member of the Trio, a group of goofy nerds that become increasingly dark and twisted as the season progresses.
After Buffy, Strong went on to play the quirky Doyle on four seasons of Gilmore Girls, had a recurring role in the final season of Justified, and was featured as one of the copywriters for the firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on Mad Men. He has also written screenplays for several award-winning movies such as HBO’s Game Change, for which he won two Emmys, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and both parts of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. He currently serves as the co-creator, alongside Lee Daniels, for Fox’s biggest hit show, the critically-acclaimed hip-hop drama, Empire, which will air its third season this September.
Wow. We’re not sure how many big shows these actors starred in altogether, but it’s definitely more than a handful. Did we miss an actor you think should have made the list? Let us know who and why in the comments!