Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains culturally relevant by virtue of its influence continuing to pervade popular culture across several mediums of entertainment. Many members of the show’s cast, however, are not all able to say the same about how their careers have fared beyond Buffy’s seven season tenure on television. Some cast members have found success that makes their time on the cult classic seems like little but a distant memory; meanwhile, several others are still primarily, or solely, known for a role that brought them to the fore two decades ago.
David Boreanaz (Angel) is considered the most prolific of television actors in the last twenty-years, as he’s consistently starred in hit series after hit series since exiting Buffy to lead the Angel spinoff in 1999. Alyson Hannigan (Willow Rosenberg) has been comparably triumphant in her post-Buffy career, landing a starring role on CBS’ How I Met Your Mother that saw her incredibly busy from 2005-2014. Similarly, other staples in the long-running series like Seth Green and Anthony Stewart Head have persistently grown beyond their roles as Oz and Giles, respectively. That in mind, this list highlights 15 actors who haven’t been in the limelight since the Sunnydale Hellmouth was closed.
15. SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR (BUFFY SUMMERS)
As one of the women to lead the charge in bringing heroic female characters to the fore, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s contribution to popular culture is of the most inspiring. After Buffy saved the world, again, in the show’s final season, the real world was Gellar’s for the taking. By the early ’00s, she’d made waves as Daphne in the live action Scooby-Doo film and was gearing up for its sequel. Audiences were eager to see what was next for the former Slayer; eager most remained.
Like other Buffy alum, Gellar hasn’t exactly been starving for work. She starred in The Grudge and The Grudge 2, led a couple of TV shows that didn’t make it past pilot season, and has voiced roles in Star Wars: Rebels and Robot Chicken. Business ventures beyond entertainment keep her busy, too, but many fans still hold out hope for Gellar’s come back.
14. JULIET LANDAU (DRUSILLA)
Juliet Landau’s Drusilla was introduced as Spike’s sire and lover during Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s sophomore season. From then on, the soften spoken vampire recurred fairly irregularly throughout the Buffyverse, also featuring in a handful of Angel episodes. Landau’s live action appearances on film and television have been similarly spotty since then. However, the actress has made a mark elsewhere, packing quite the fascinating résumé when it comes to work in animation.
Landau’s more notable voice over roles includes a bevy of work for the various iterations of Ben 10, voicing BioShock’s Little Sisters, and appearing in DC animated projects such as Green Lantern: The Animated Series, where she played the villainous Drusa, and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis. No role, as of yet, has had the impact or garnered Landau the attention of Buffy’s Drusilla.
13. NICHOLAS BRENDON (XANDER HARRIS)
Featuring in as many episodes as Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers, Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris is considered a reasonably integral aspect to Buffy lore, despite his being the average man character. Being one of the original Scoobies certainly has its perks; yet, for some reason, Brendon never exactly caught on after the show concluded its seventh and final run.
The actor has kept busy, sure. His most notable post-Sunnydale work is arguably his casting as a recurring character, Kevin Lynch, on CBS’s Criminal Minds for several seasons. Beyond that, though, Brendon only pops up every so often on film and television. Akin to other actors on this list, none of his roles have been as significant as the one he’s most beloved for thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
12. MERCEDES MCNAB (HARMONY KENDALL)
One of Sunnydale High’s notorious mean girls, Mercedes McNab’s character, Harmony Kendall, didn’t end up having a good go of it once all was said and done. Bitten during the turmoil at the Sunnydale graduation in season three, vampiric Harmony would go on to have a relationship with Spike, before later taking a job as Angel’s secretary on Angel. McNab has only been featured in a handful of projects after her brief stint on the spinoff series came to an end when Angel was cancelled in 2004.
Unfortunately, none of McNab’s work following her tenure in the Buffyverse is particularly of note. With a slew of guest star appearances on various television series, and a few minor roles in TV movies, the actress’ career didn’t gain the traction many may have assumed it would.
11. KRISTINE SUTHERLAND (JOYCE SUMMERS)
For five seasons, Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers helped in keeping both the Slayer and the series grounded. She acted as the hero’s moral compass, when other character either couldn’t or failed at trying. As such, her passing in the unforgettable “The Body” is still shocking, and Sutherland’s performances in the episodes leading up to her character’s death were consistently moving. Therefore, it’s a wonder she never returned to the mainstream once her tenure on the shows came to its harrowing end.
Other than guest starring in a few television series, in the nearly two decades since exiting Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sutherland has not been too busy career-wise. Perhaps it’s by her own design, the why of it all isn’t public knowledge. Whatever the case may be, the actress most significant part remains as that of the Slayer’s mother.
10. AMBER BENSON (TARA MACLAY)
Amber Benson, who played fan favorite Tara Maclay, didn’t disappear per se. Benson’s been around, just not in a capacity that sees her at the forefront of popularity akin to her role as Willow’s girlfriend on Buffy. Plenty of on-screen work has kept the actress hard at work; however, it’s behind the scenes where she seems to have been the most prolific following Tara’s tragic death in season six.
In addition to guest starring in numerous television shows and featuring in a myriad of smaller film projects, Benson also produced Ghosts of Albion — an animated film series that’s crossed into other mediums such as books and a role-playing game. The actress has also had her hand in developing comics, some of which were Buffy expansions starring Tara and Willow. While Tara Maclay may be Benson’s most famous role, it certainly won’t be all she’s remembered for.
9. ROBIA LAMORTE (JENNY CALENDAR)
In the grand scheme of things, Jenny Calendar doesn’t play a big part in Buffy. However, her time early in the series does greatly inform the behaviors of characters for a time after actress Robia LaMorte’s departure. Killed by the soulless version of Angel, Angelus, Ms. Calendar’s death left many of the Scoobies skeptical of Angel, evil or good. LaMorte’s character, then, is fondly remembered. But LaMorte’s stardom never rose above her brief stint as a trusted ally to Buffy and Giles’ small crew.
After Buffy, LaMorte made a few guest appearances on a series of television shows. In fact, the actress has been inactive for well over a decade, but the decision was hers to make as LaMorte has since retired from acting. She is instead heavily invested in Christian ministry.
8. MARK METCALF (THE MASTER)
Mark Metcalf played the part of one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s more fascinating big bads — The King of Vampires, The Master. The season one villain wasn’t too often visible on screen, typically acting as an ominous threat behind the scenes. Yet he was still formidable enough to give the then nascent Slayer pause and wreak considerable havoc on Sunnydale. Despite his minimal inclusion in the series, it is fair to argue the actor hasn’t followed up the role with anything of note since.
Be that as it may, Metcalf has still kept busy, thanks to guest roles on a number of television shows. In addition, the actor’s also been cast in several smaller films over the years, such as Playback and the Corey Feldman-starring Operation Belvis Bash.
7. IYARI LIMON (KENNEDY)
As Buffy the Vampire Slayer drew to a close in its seventh run, one thing became abundantly clear to the Scooby Gang: They were in desperate need of help to defeat the First Evil. Thus, numerous would be Slayers were called to the front, trained to fight, and soon thrust into various combat situations. One such potential Slayer was Iyari Limon’s Kennedy, one of the more callous recruits and Willow’s eventual lover. Limon only guest starred in the back half of Buffy’s final season, but the role is undoubtedly the actress’ most extensive work to date.
After the series concluded, Limon continued to guest star in a few television series, including The Brothers Garcia on Nickelodeon and a more recent appearance on My Crazy Ex. Interestingly, she also provided the voice for Nicole Brennan in the original Dead Space, though Limon didn’t reprise her role in the sequel.
6. GEORGE HERTZBERG (ADAM)
George Hertzberg didn’t debut as Adam until the back half of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season four, but his character was fairly integral to the overarching plot due to his ties with The Initiative. Acting as little more than a glorified bio-weapon/demon hybrid, Adam probably isn’t one of the better villains in the show’s repertoire of big bads. Nevertheless, the role is Hertzberg’s stand out part.
Following Adam’s death in season four, and the villain’s temporary return at the start of season seven, Hertzberg remained relatively under the radar. After Buffy, Hertzberg accepted guest roles in a limited number of television series, such as Friday Night Lights, and appeared briefly in 2008’s Taken. Since then the actor’s been inactive, not having worked on anything in just under a decade.
5. JAMES C. LEARY (CLEM)
Featuring in just a few episodes in Buffy’s latter two seasons, the loose-skinned demon, Clem, quickly became a fan favorite addition to the cast. An ally to the Scooby Gang who was often in-the-know about Sunnydale’s stranger happenings, and an acquaintance of Spike, Clem couldn’t have been a better recurring character. The actor beneath the loose-skin and floppy ears, James C. Leary, has yet to star in a role as beloved.
Some video game voice work and a few guest starring roles on television have kept him active after Clem’s fleeing Sunnydale in Buffy’s final season. Leary’s work since hasn’t been anything of note, especially when compared to the hit series. But being a happy-go-lucky demon on a Hellmouth is probably difficult to top.
4. TOM LENK (ANDREW WELLS)
Tom Lenk as Andrew Wells debuted on Buffy in early season five, yet didn’t make a splash until season six, when Andrew, Jonathan and Warren, The Trio, become the season’s main antagonists. The final run of the series explored a redemptive arc of sorts for Andrew, as he was begrudgingly taken into the Scooby Gang in season seven’s back half. The Trio was a divisive group, and remains so, but Lenk eventually came into his own with the role of Andrew, being consistently fun to watch and bringing an interesting dynamic to Buffy’s darker qualities.
In the years since the show’s conclusion, and his few appearances on Angel, Lenk continues to feature primarily in guest starring roles on various TV series. While he seems to never be in short supply of work, the actor has not been prominently cast in anything as notable as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
3. EMMA CAULFIELD (ANYA)
Prior to Anya’s introduction in Buffy’s third season as a vengeance demon, Emma Caulfield had already come into her own, starring in Beverly Hills 90210 and General Hospital. Once her tenure as a reformed vengeance demon concluded with the end of the show, of which she’d become a regular in season five, Caulfield began guest starring in myriad shows and featuring in made-for-television movies.
It seems the actress has never gone long without work, as she has continued to accept guest gigs on television, recently appearing in shows such as Supergirl, Once Upon a Time and Training Day. Not too dissimilar from many of her Buffy alum, however, none of Emma Caulfield’s numerous roles have been as involved or as transformative when compared to her time playing Anya.
2. CHARISMA CARPENTER (COREDELIA CHASE)
Apart from Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku, Charisma Carpenter is perhaps the most surprising of the Buffy alum whose star didn’t rise considerably after the Buffyverse came to an end on television. Carpenter’s dynamic performance as Cordelia Chase gave layers to a character who early in the series was decidedly one-note. Cordy considerably improved when the character transitioned from Buffy to Angel, after the former show’s high school years concluded. Unfortunately, things didn’t end well for her, which continues to perplex many.
Charisma Carpenter has never been out of work. She featured in several Veronica Mars episodes, appeared often on The Lying Game, and can always be found guest starring on television series such as Sons of Anarchy, Scream Queens and Lucifer are some of her notable guest appearances. However, her leading role opposite David Boreanaz on Angel made it seem she was primed for much more.
1. ELIZA DUSHKU (FAITH)
Eliza Dushku’s Faith is so integral to many of Buffy’s more fascinating storylines that it’s hard to believe she was only a recurring guest star, featuring in a combined two dozen or so episodes across both Buffy and Angel. After aiding Buffy in saving the world from the First, Dushku took on a myriad of TV roles, some leading parts, such as the short-lived Tru Calling and Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. Arguably, nothing has quite hit the way her role as the merciless Slayer did.
The actress has also done plenty of voice work, starring in Behaviour Interactive’s Wet, voicing Catwoman from time to time and playing She-Hulk in Disney XD’s animated series, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. No one can say Dushku isn’t active, but many still hope she has a chance at being a dominant figure in pop culture again.
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