While Joss Whedon’s involvement in the DC Extended Universe remains up in the air, his impact on modern television is inarguable. The writer/producer/director has been responsible for some of the most indelible shows of the past couple decades, with hits like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse just to name a few.
His ability to mix longform narratives with biting humor is second to none, while his knack for writing quirky yet complex characters has skyrocketed actors as varied as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nathan Fillion and Seth Green to stardom in the process. For additional success stories, be sure to check out our list of the 22 Whedonverse Actors Who Went on To Other Successful Shows.
Unfortunately, not every cast member in the Whedonverse has been so lucky. For every Gellar or Green, there are a dozen actors whose careers peaked with their beloved arcs and whose prominence in Hollywood waned following their show’s conclusion. Subsequent roles in Whedon projects like The Cabin in the Woods, Much Ado About Nothing and his MCU installments (The Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) will not be counted, as they were likely the result of previous collaboration. Being a Whedon regular is a great gig if you can get it, but it won’t save you here!
Here are the 15 Whedonverse Stars Whose Careers Ended With Their Show.
15. Tom Lenk
Andrew Wells could be a dislikable character, whether through his actions or the sheer fun he seemed to be having along the way. He summoned demons and committed murder the way other teenagers knock over trash cans or bust up mailboxes. That we can relate to him at all is a testament to the acting chops of Tom Lenk, who gives an eccentric sheen to all of the character’s devious transgressions.
So successful was Lenk, in fact, that Wells became a regular during seasons six and seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and had cameo roles in a pair of Angel episodes (“Damage,” “The Girl in Question”).
But, while Wells continues to live in the Buffy Season Eight comic books, Lenk has been unable to find as notable a character since. Like the others on this list, his array of appearances on television (Witches of East End, Nip/Tuck, Fresh Off the Boat) have largely been overshadowed by his reunions with Whedon in The Cabin in the Woods and Much Ado About Nothing.
14. J. August Richards
J. August Richards never had the chance to appear in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but he got the next best thing when Whedon cast him as Charles Gunn in the first season of Angel. Named after Whedon’s close friends (and future MCU peers) James and Sean Gunn, Charles proved to be a formidable ally for Angel, joining his detective agency and fighting alongside him for the duration of the series. Barring leading men David Boreanaz and Alexis Denisof, Richards actually appeared in more episodes than any other cast member.
Sadly, this consistency has failed to translate beyond the Whedonverse. Richards may be recognizable as the star of short-lived shows like Raising the Bar, Conviction, and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, but none have struck a chord the way Angel did in its heyday. The closest Richards has come to the spotlight in recent years has been on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where he plays Marvel anti-hero Michael Peterson/Deathlok.
13. Ron Glass
Like Fimiani, Ron Glass was a veteran of film and television before joining up with Whedon. To older audiences, Glass is perhaps best known as detective Ron Harris on the beloved sitcom Barney Miller, where his propensity for earnestness and intelligence was on full display. These characteristics once again came in handy when Whedon cast him as Shepherd Derrial Book, the mysterious passenger in Firefly’s pilot episode. His mysterious background, coupled with his unbreakable faith, made him a prominent force amidst a cast of equally intriguing characters.
The cancellation of Firefly, coupled with the lukewarm release of Serenity, cut short what would have otherwise been a career resurgence for Glass, who spent the rest of his career guest-starring on shows like CSI: New York, Dirty Sexy Money, and Major Crimes. He passed away at the age of 71 in 2016, but not before reuniting with Whedon for a pair of entertaining Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes (“Pilot,” “The Magical Place”).
12. Juliet Landau
As the daughter of legendary Hollywood couple Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, Juliet Landau etched her own place into pop culture as the seductive villainess Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her dark sense of humor and propensity for non-sequiturs made her a foe unlike any that Buffy had previously faced and the warm reception to the character in season two led to her crossing over into Angel for a handful of episodes. For her efforts, Landau was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2000.
It appears as though Landau has had a difficult time shaking Drusilla’s spell, however, as her more recent roles have flown under the radar. Reeling from the onscreen spotlight, she’s seemingly transitioned into voice over work, with her recents credits including direct-to-DVD films like Green Lantern: First Flight and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, as well as the Cartoon Network series Ben 10: Alien Force and its spinoff, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien.
11. Carlos Jacott
Carlos Jacott is perhaps one of the least recognizable names on this list, but he has the rare distinction of starring in three shows across the Whedonverse: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. It’s clear the series creator saw something worthwhile in Jacott, especially given the fact that he plays virtually the same manipulative role in all three of his appearances.
In the Buffy episode “Anne,” he plays a mysterious figure named Ken who befriends the titular hero, only to wind up dispatched (i.e. dead) at the bottom of a demonic pool. He also turns up as an Ano-movic demon trying to wed a human in the Angel episode “Bachelor Party”, and as Dobson, the menacing informant in Firefly’s pilot.
Following his Whedon hat trick, however, Jacott has struggled to find lasting success. He continued to appear in episodes of popular shows like CSI: Miami, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and 2 Broke Girls (all of which have been cancelled), but it stands to reason that your average viewer wouldn’t be able to pick him out of an actor’s lineup.
10. Jonathan M. Woodward
Jonathan M. Woodward, like Mr. Jacott, has had the honor of crossing into three separate strands of the Whedonverse. He made standalone appearances in the Buffy episode “Conversations with Dead People” and the Firefly episode “The Message,” but his most notable role has been that of Knox in Angel. As a scientist at Wolfram & Hart who was also a worshipper of Illyria, Knox was a major component of the show’s fifth and final season; particularly through his doomed relationship with Fred.
Woodward adored the role, saying that Knox was “a complete indulgence in all of the parts of myself that I am most shy about” and that his sinister turn towards the end of the season was brilliant because “because it took Knox from all of the ways you thought Knox would be.”
Woodward has largely remained silent on the acting front since 2003, with only a handful of television appearances. His most recent credit to date is the 2010 film Drones, which is directed by fellow Buffy alums Amber Benson and Adam Busch.
9. Andy Umberger
Andy Umberger is our third and final entry to have three notches in his Whedonverse belt, starting out with a memorable turn as D’Hoffryn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. D’Hoffryn is the ruler of the hell dimension of Arashmaharr, and the creator of vengeance demons, a title he thoroughly earned in each of his four appearances.
Umberger returned in Angel, where he played Dr. Ronald Meltzer, a perverse surgeon with the power to severe and reattach his own body parts. Meltzer may have required less prothestics than D’Hoffryn, but it’s a testament to Umberger’s acting that discerning which one is more deranged is a tough call.
Umberger appeared briefly as a Dortmunder Captain in Firefly, but his discontinued affiliation with Whedon has seemingly given way to less memorable roles. Granted, he’s made the rounds on sitcom staples like Friends, Malcolm in the Middle, and Will and Grace, but it stands to reason that when audiences hear his name, demonic force or pervy doctor will be what comes to mind.
8. Julia Lee
Few Whedonverse characters have had as confusing an arc as Anne Steele. Some may know her as “Sister Sunshine,” others as “Chanterelle,” and a handful maybe even as “Lily.” Whatever name by which you call her, however, she was always an impulsive force who prompted horrific scenarios for the heroes and delightful fun for the viewers. She put Buffy through the ringer in the third season episode “Anne,” where her infatuation with a boy named Ricki led to the duo being stranded in a hellish dimension where humans work as slaves. Her subsequent appearances in Angel toned down the shenanigans only slightly.
As played by Julia Lee, Steele is one of the few recurring characters to appear in multiple episodes of Buffy and Angel; returning in the latter’s series finale. Lee’s longevity has been a bit bumpier than her onscreen counterpart, with her most recent credits being a pair of short films and her appearance as ghost Constance Hatchaway on Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction.
7. Jeff Ricketts
With his piercing eyes and threatening demeanor, Jeff Ricketts was a perfect actor to slip into the supernatural lore of the Whedonverse. His portrayal of Weatherby, a member of the Watchers Council Special Operations Team, was one of volatility and rage, adding a different dimension to both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Ricketts made it clear that Weatherby would do whatever it took to achieve justice, whether or not it meant crossing a few moral boundaries. Who doesn’t love a baddie with his heart in the right place?
As one can assume given the track record of actors on this list, Rickett also popped up in a pair of Firefly episodes (“Ariel,” “The Train Job”), playing one of the two Blue Glove Men. Outside of the Whedonverse, the actor has continued to pursue villainous roles, though, as evidenced by the string of shorts and TV films on his IMDb page, they’ve been less than stellar. Hopefully his role in 2017’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle leads to a few more interesting parts.
6. Bob Fimiani
As Mr. Ward, actor Bob Fimiani lent an air of mystery to the already fantastically mysterious fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ward was a high-level official within the United States government who was overseeing “The Initiative,” an agency tasked with capturing and researching demons for military purposes. As to be expected from a seedy government facility, things eventually go awry.
Ever the versatile performer, Fimiami also made notable appearances on Angel as an aging Codger demon and the wonderfully named “Unidentified groundskeeper” who was the titular hero’s first victim back in 1753. To further pad out his Whedonverse credentials, Fimiani made a brief appearance in the Firefly episode “Our Mrs. Reynolds.” Not much can be learned about Fimiani beyond his IMDb page, however, which lists his role as Agent Kelsey on Magnum, P.I. as one of his most memorable.
5. Reed Diamond
Reed Diamond brings a wonderfully smarmy demeanor to each of his roles and nowhere is this more apparent than in Whedon’s Dollhouse. As Laurence Dominic, the head of the titular agency’s security force, Diamond suffused his character with a boisterousness that masked a deeper, less certain man lurking beneath. His drunken apology to Echo (Eliza Dushku) is one of the show’s most nuanced and heart-wrenching moments. Of course, with Dollhouse’s cancellation cutting things short, Diamond has had to look towards less prominent– and less skillfully written– characters.
These characters have led to brief and forgettable tenures on shows like The Mentalist, Desperate Housewives, and Wayward Pines. It seems as though Whedon is still head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to properly utilizing Diamond’s talents, as evidenced by his recurring role as Werner Reinhardt/Kraken on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and his deliciously pompous turn as Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing.
4. Andy Hallett
Andy Hallett’s involvement in the Whedonverse is actually due to Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole. Hallett worked as a personal assistant for Cole while the couple were developing Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her recommendation led to the actor landing an uncredited role in the episode “Hush.” Hallett clearly impressed Whedon enough to keep him in mind, and when it came time to cast Angel, the creator offered him the role of Lorne, a member of the Deathwok Clan. Hallett went on to star in 76 episodes in total, becoming a regular during the last two seasons and earning a Satellite Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
The actor/songwriter would greatly reduce his output in the years that followed, lending his voice to the animated film Geppetto’s Secret in 2005. Tragically, Hallett was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy that same year, and, after a series of emergency hospitalizations, died of congestive heart failure in 2009. Though he was robbed of the opportunity to appear in subsequent Whedon projects, his likeness will forever live on as the rambunctious Lorne.
3. Fran Kranz
Fran Kranz made a huge impression when he debuted in Whedon’s thriller series Dollhouse. As the hyper-intelligent and emotionally stunted Topher Brink, Kranz was the breakout, earning many of the show’s biggest laughs and a female fanbase that Urban Dictionary has officially termed the “Fran Girl.” That’s fandom you don’t see every other day.
Kranz was poised to increase his stardom after Dollhouse’s cancellation with a standout role in the Whedon-penned The Cabin in the Woods, but the film suffered numerous delays, and by the time it hit theaters in 2012, the actor’s “hotness” had fizzled out. A charismatic turn in Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing did little to reignite the flame.
Since then, Kranz’s film career has been passable at best. He’s starred in lukewarm indie fare like Last Weekend (2014), The Truth About Lies (2015) and Rebirth (2016), and notched a supporting role in the 2017 disaster that was The Dark Tower. On the bright side, he has continued to earned critical acclaim on the stage, appearing in Broadway productions of Death of a Salesman in 2012 and You Can’t Take It With You in 2014.
2. Sean Maher
Dr. Simon Tam was always something of an outcast on Firefly, what with his stuffy demeanor and pretentious attitude towards his grizzled shipmates. That said, he was always a man of principle, and his loyalty to his sister, coupled with his belief in having manners when no one else was watching, made him a character worth rooting for. Noble might as well have been his middle name. Sean Maher captured this persona wonderfully in all fourteen episodes of Whedon’s beloved series, as well as the 2005 big screen sequel, Serenity.
Sadly, despite earning positive reviews from critics, Serenity underperformed at the box office and Maher, a relative unknown compared to fellow cast members like Fillion and Alan Tudyk, was one of its casualties. The past decade has seen him alternate between bit parts on The Mentalist and Arrow, and a voice acting gig as Dick Grayson/Nightwing on direct-to-video flicks like Batman vs. Robin and Justice League vs. Teen Titans.
1. Mercedes McNab
Mercedes McNab made a splash when she appeared in the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Playing popular high school student Harmony Kendall, McNab nailed the character’s insufferable vapidness and contrasts to the grounded and quick-thinking Buffy. This, of course, was turned on its head when Kendall became a vampire in season four, further blurring the line between teen angst and supernatural drama (as per Whedon’s speciality). McNab was called upon to reprise the role in Angel, and proved so adept in the spinoff that she became a series regular during the final season.
McNab’s hot streak has cooled considerably in the past few years. Her most notable roles have been that of Misty in the 2006 horror film Hatchet and its sequel, along with sporadic guest spots on crime shows like Psych and Criminal Minds. This could just as easily be the result of motherhood, however, as McNab and her husband Mark Henderson welcomed their first child in 2013.
Which of these Whedonverse stars would you like to see get more roles in Hollywood? Let us know!
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