Buffy the Vampire Slayer has established itself in the pop culture zeitgeist as a fundamental television experience. The seven-season phenomenon first aired on our screens in 1997; since then it’s become a firm fan favorite and one of the most important and influential touchstones for an entire generation of geeks. At this point, it feels like the entire nerd community is split between those who have watched Buffy and those who want to.
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In the 20 years since its release, the careers of those involved have spread in many different directions. It made the career of creator Joss Whedon, whose name has now become synonymous with geek culture. Since Buffy, he’s gone on to create multiple further television shows (including the much-missed Firefly and its follow-up movie Serenity), as well as direct one of the biggest, most successful superhero movies ever made, 2012’s Avengers. The show itself might have ended in 2003, but the Buffy-verse has been kept alive as a comic book form, which entered into its eleventh “season” in 2017. The series continues on, but what of its original cast? CBR takes a look at the 15 biggest stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and asks the question: Where Are They Now?
15. SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR (BUFFY)
Playing the eponymous hero of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar shot to fame thanks to her nuanced, funny and deep portrayal of the teenager suddenly burdened with overwhelming responsibility. Prior to her playing Buffy Summers, Gellar won a Daytime Emmy for her role in the soap opera All My Children, before leaving the show and auditioning for the role of Cordelia Chase! Eventually, she was cast as the titular hero.
Since the show’s end, Gellar has appeared in numerous movies, including The Grudge and The Grudge 2, Southland Tales and The Air I Breathe. She took a two-year break in the late 2000s to give birth to and raise her daughter, before returning to the small screen where she has been working consistently ever since. She’s starred in shows like The Ringer, The Crazy Ones and most recently filmed an unsuccessful pilot for a Cruel Intentions series.
14. ALYSON HANNIGAN (WILLOW)
As the mousy, nerdy best friend of a Vampire Slayer, Willow had arguably one of the strongest character arcs of the entire series. Skillfully portrayed by Alyson Hannigan, Willow Rosenberg moved from perpetual bookworm to competent and powerful (not to mention scary) witch, as well as coming out as gay and forming numerous meaningful romantic relationships.
Since Buffy ended, Hannigan has taken on many prominent roles in both film and television, including most notably Michelle in the American Pie movies, Trina Echolls in Veronica Mars and Lily Aldrin in How I Met Your Mother. She married her Buffy co-star Alexis Denisof (who played Wesley Wyndam-Pryce) in 2003, and as well as starring in the West End in a stage adaptation of When Harry met Sally… she has hosted Penn & Teller: Fool Us since 2016.
13. NICHOLAS BRENDON (XANDER)
Xander Harris rounded out the Holy Trinity of the show’s core, with Nicholas Brendon playing the perpetual man-child with the heart of gold. Brendan’s comic timing provided much-needed levity throughout the show, as well as some of the funniest moments of the entire series. He also had a strong emotional arc, forming a strong romantic relationship with the demon Anya and losing an eye in the final season against the evil preacher Caleb.
After Buffy ended, Brendon starred in numerous television movies and pilots, including the show Kitchen Confidential which was canceled after 13 episodes. His most recurring role has been as FBI analyst Kevin Lynch in Criminal Minds, who he has played since 2007. His real-life battle with alcohol addiction has led to several arrests and stints in rehab, but recently he’s worked as a writer on the Buffy comics from Dark Horse.
12. DAVID BOREANAZ (ANGEL)
Tall dark and handsome, David Boreanaz’s Angel was the mysterious love interest of Buffy Summers with a dark side and a deadly past. In a cruel twist of fate, Angel was really Angelus, a cruel vampire who’d murdered indiscriminately until his soul was returned to him by a Romani curse, forcing him to feel the overwhelming guilt of his actions and consequently his perpetual need to do good.
Boreanaz’s portrayal of Angel, as well as the strength of the character, spawned a spin-off series to Buffy. Called simply Angel, the show ran for five years, running for a full season after Buffy ended. Since then, Boreanaz has had numerous small roles, but most prominently has starred opposite Emily Deschanel in the crime procedural series Bones, as FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth. The show ran for 12 seasons before ending in March 2017.
11. JAMES MARSTERS (SPIKE)
Let it not be said that Buffy Summers doesn’t have a type, as in later seasons of the show, she became romantically involved with Spike, a vampire, and frequent enemy. James Marsters’ portrayal of the Billy Idol-esque punk vampire was so beloved by fans that his role was greatly expanded as the series progressed, leading to his character returning from his death at the end of the show to star in spin-off series Angel.
Since the end of both Buffy and Angel, Marsters has maintained a close working connection to the fantasy and sci-fi genre, starring in many beloved fan franchises. He’s had small roles in shows such as Smallville, Torchwood, Supernatural and Warehouse 13. He’s also voiced the audio dramas of Jim Butcher’s supernatural series The Dresden Files, and he’s due to star as Victor Stein in the upcoming Marvel series Runaways on Hulu.
10. ANTHONY STEWART HEAD (GILES)
Starring as the mentor and father figure to Buffy, Anthony Head’s Rupert Giles went from the straight-faced and somewhat inept librarian to a fully realized and vital member of the team. The British Watcher was a cornerstone of almost every episode for the first five seasons, with Head reducing his role significantly in the sixth season due to family commitments.
Since the show ended, there was a planned spinoff series due to revolve around Giles, entitled Ripper, which never made it past development. Anthony Head has since maintained a prolific and varied career, starring in shows such as Little Britain, Merlin and Warehouse 13. He has worked in numerous roles for the Doctor Who franchise, including starring in an episode of the show and providing his vocal talents to documentaries, animated episodes and audio dramas. He also released a solo musical album in 2014.
9. CHARISMA CARPENTER (CORDELIA)
Initially auditioning for the role of Buffy Summers, it’s hard to imagine Charisma Carpenter playing anyone but the scene-stealing queen of the Mean Girls, Cordelia Chase. Carpenter starred prominently in Buffy for its first three seasons before expanding the role of Cordelia in the spin-off series Angel alongside David Boreanaz.
Since the end of Buffy and Angel, Carpenter has had recurring roles in Charmed, Veronica Mars and Greek, as well as starring in episodes of numerous popular shows, including CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Supernatural, Scream Queens, Blue Bloods and Sons of Anarchy. She had a minor supporting role in The Expendables and its sequel, and was a series regular on ABC’s The Lying Game. Carpenter also hosted the Investigation Discovery show Surviving Evil, in which she herself featured in the premiere, due to her narrow escape from serial rapist Henry Hubbard Jr. in 1991.
8. SETH GREEN (OZ)
As the dry and witty musician and Willow’s love interest Daniel “Oz” Osbourne, Seth Green became a firm fan favorite in his recurring role on Buffy and guest appearances on Angel. Oz was discovered to be a werewolf in an early episode, but firmly remained a member of the Scooby Gang until his departure from the show.
Aside from Buffy, Green is more prominently known as the voice of Chris Griffin in Family Guy, the son of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers trilogy and the co-creator, actor, director, writer and executive producer of Adult Swim series Robot Chicken. Green has had many voice-acting roles, including “Joker” in the Mass Effect games, Jimmy Bender in Greg The Bunny and Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also had an uncredited cameo as the voice of Howard the Duck in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
7. EMMA CAULFIELD (ANYA)
It’s safe to say that Anya’s growing popularity as a character among fans is directly down to Emma Caulfield’s performance. Much like Spike and Drusilla, Anya started out as a villain of the week, but the strength of the character shone through in Caulfield’s performance, and Anya went from a recurring character through seasons 3 and 4, to a main cast member for the following 3 seasons.
During Buffy, Caulfield starred in the horror film Darkness Falls, and since the show’s end she’s starred in numerous television and movie roles, including Monk, Gigantic and Life Unexpected. She won a “Best Performance” award at the Sydney Film Festival in 2007 for her role in the short film Hollow, and most recently she’s been seen in Once Upon a Time, Supergirl, Training Day and an upcoming guest appearance in Fear the Walking Dead.
6. MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG (DAWN)
Many fans were confused by the introduction of Dawn Summers as Buffy’s previously unknown younger sister in season 5 of the show. Bringing in such an important character that late into the series, especially when she’d never been heard of before seemed clumsy at best, until it was revealed that her retcon was entirely the point of her story.
Trachtenberg was a child star before Buffy, appearing in The Adventures of Pete & Pete, All My Children and the movie Harriet The Spy. After Buffy, she went on to star in a remake of Black Christmas, as well as becoming the host of Truth or Scare for Discovery Kids. She had prominent recurring roles in Six Feet Under, Weeds and Mercy, as well as becoming a series regular on later seasons of Gossip Girl, as the manipulative Georgina Sparks.
5. KRISTINE SUTHERLAND (JOYCE)
As the oblivious but kind-hearted Joyce Summers (mother of the Slayer), Kristine Sutherland had the often unenviable task of being the stern voice of authority, that provided many a frustrating roadblock in Buffy’s frequent attempts to save the world. The character soon became a vital part of the show’s dynamic, however, so much so that the death of Joyce in the show was a pivotal, painful and emotionally realistic episode that stands out as a high point in the show’s history.
After Buffy, Sutherland set up a photography studio specializing in portrait photography, but has maintained a modest television and movie career. She provided the voice of Haru’s mother in the english dub of Studio Ghibli’s The Cat Returns, as well as starring in the TV miniseries Comanche Moon. Most recently, she had a guest appearance in the series The Following, starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy.
4. AMBER BENSON (TARA)
As the cripplingly shy Tara Maclay, Benson quickly became a recurring character as the girlfriend of Willow and fellow practising witch. Her growth as a character was well played by Benson, as she brought the character further out of her shell. Her murder in Season Six was a painful moment, and one that sparked a downward spiral into (temporary) darkness for Willow, as she turned her magical power to the dark side.
Benson is a prolific writer, director and producer. She co-wrote the movie The Theory of the Leisure Class, as well as producing her play — Albert Hall — and acting, directing, producing and editing the film Chance, all while being in Buffy. Since then, she has starred in, produced and directed numerous projects, as well as authoring her own series of novels, both as a solo writer and with her frequent collaborator Christopher Golden.
3. ELIZA DUSHKU (FAITH)
Thanks to Buffy’s brief death at the hands of the Master, it became possible for two slayers to be roaming the dark alleyways of Sunnydale, despite the “There can be Only One” prophecy. Faith was the wayward and rebellious Slayer that soon settled into the role of frequently misguided antagonist, jealous of and reacting to Buffy’s moral strength and friendship group.
Dushku maintained a close working relationship with Buffy creator Joss Whedon after the show ended, returning to the role of Faith on sister show Angel, as well as taking the lead role in follow-up series Dollhouse, which she also produced. She starred in Fox’s Tru Calling show, as well as many movies that include Wrong Turn, Bring It On and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. She’s done voice acting for animated DC and Marvel productions, and most recently had a recurring role in Banshee.
2. DANNY STRONG (JONATHAN)
Jonathan Levinson was a classic case of a background character rising to prominence thanks to positive fan reaction. He started life as a quiet, often endangered nerd, but Strong’s portrayal saw the character take on more depth and nuance as the series progressed, being the subject of multiple episodes, and plotting with his friends Warren and Andrew to take over Sunnydale, becoming the main villains for most of Season 6.
Strong is also known for his recurring role in Gilmore Girls as Doyle McMaster, but it’s behind the scenes where his talent really lies. As a screenwriter he has worked on blockbuster movies (scripting the two-part Hunger Games finale, Mockingjay parts 1 and 2) and TV, including HBO movies Recount and Game Change. He co-created, wrote and produced Fox series Empire, and has to date won two Emmys and numerous other awards for his writing.
1. ARMIN SHIMERMAN (PRINCIPAL SNYDER)
After the unfortunate death of Principal Flutie, Season Two of Buffy saw the introduction of Armin Shimerman as the twisted and petty Principal Snyder. Snyder provided constant for Buffy and her friends, and became even more dangerous when he colluded with the evil Mayor of Sunnydale in Season 3.
Shimerman is also most commonly known for his role as Quark the Ferengi bartender on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Stan the Caddy in Seinfeld, both roles he played throughout his time on Buffy. Shimerman is a prominent Shakespearean actor, even meeting his wife in a performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost. He’s an associate artistic director at The Antaeus Company theatre in North Hollywood, and most recently announced he will be a Shakespeare professor at the University of Southern California.
Know what happened to any other Buffy alums? Let us know in the comments!
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