Since it first aired in 1997, and now over 20 years later, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still considered one of the best television series of the last several decades. It was celebrated as a genre-pushing teen series with heartfelt drama, clever dialogue, and innovative storytelling. It deftly blended special effects with practical magic on a shoestring budget, but never came to rely on cheap camera tricks or thrills to appeal to its fanbase. The show may have followed the adventures of Buffy Summers and her friends fighting evil forces, but it’s supernatural premise didn’t make it inaccessible or unrelatable for normal teenagers or adults. Like the best genre projects, the Scooby Gang’s conflicts with vampires, demons, and demigods were a means to explore themes of friendship, loyalty, love, and loss.
While crazy storylines may have been happening on screen, behind the scenes was just as entertaining. Whether there were feuds erupting between actors, pranks being pulled on cast members, or allegations of harassment surfacing, there were more secrets than the inventory of the Magic Box. Whether you’ve seen every season of Buffy or are just figuring out who Mr. Pointy is, CBR has found 15 behind the scenes secrets that would impress even The First!
15. ALYSON HANNIGAN AND SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR FOUGHT A LOT
Though they seemed like the best of friends while Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons, tension lurked beneath their friendship like the Hellmouth under Sunnyvale. Alyson Hannigan, who played Buffy Summer’s best friend Willow, wasn’t the actress who originated the role in the pilot. However, when that actress wasn’t right for the part, her perky charm and personality won Whedon over.
What started as an underdog series about a group of teenage misfits battling the supernatural, it became a fixture of primetime cable’s lineup and the cast suddenly got a lot of exposure. Hannigan said that Gellar, struggling to deal with newfound fame, seemed to pick fights with her out of nowhere, and generally be hostile with her at the beginning of the third season.
14. SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR FELT PRESSURE TO BE A ROLE MODEL
While most young adults were out partying and doing things they’d later regret, Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar was taking her position of being a role model for young women very seriously. On the series, Buffy Summers went through the trials and tribulations that any teenager does: smoking, drinking, hooking up, etc, all while fighting vampires, demons, and magic users.
When she was off the set, she kept out of the spotlight because she didn’t want any of the activities in her personal life to carry over into the perception of her character on the screen. She kept her life outside of Buffy the Vampire Slayer private, and in the years since has said that the pressure made her feel like a lot of her formative years were spent isolated, but that she didn’t regret it.
13. DAVID BOREANAZ FREQUENTLY EXPOSED HIMSELF ON SET
There’s no denying the sex appeal of David Boreanaz, who’s smoldering good looks and animal magnetism made the brooding vampire Angel a fan favorite on the show. A vampire with a soul, Angel was Buffy’s great love in season one, and they shared plenty of steamy scenes together involving very little clothing. However, Boreanaz took things a step further between takes.
A fan of doing anything he could to make his co-stars break character, Boreanaz would do all kinds of things to get a reaction from his fellow actors, including dropping his pants when they least expected it. He became well known for doing it mostly when a particularly dramatic scene had just wrapped to lighten the mood. As far as anyone knows, his co-stars found it hilarious.
12. NICHOLAS BRENDON GOT TOO BUFF TO BE A NERD
When the series began, Nicholas Brendon played Xander Harris, one of the three original members of the “Scooby Gang” including Buffy Summers and Willow. Xander was an awkward teen with big ears, a dopey grin, and a goofy sense of humor. He was smart, congenial, and though he was afraid of the supernatural baddies Buffy had to face as the Slayer, he proved his bravery time and time again by sticking by her side.
As the series progressed, and Xander changed from a gawky kid to a young stud, a lot of the metamorphosis could be attributed to Brendon’s workout routine. He got so buff at one point, that creator Joss Whedon specifically told him to tone it down because his body type wouldn’t be believable belonging to a nerd.
11. SEASON SIX DEPRESSED SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR
Season six was a turning point for Buffy the Vampire Slayer — it was darker, grittier, and dealt with more brutally adult themes than any of the previous seasons. While the series had seen Buffy, Willow, Xander, and the rest of the Scoobies grow into competent young adults, their experiences with loss, grief, love, and death had all been communicated through the lens of tongue in cheek humor.
Comedy was sparse in season six, which saw a newly resurrected Buffy pulled from the afterlife by well-intentioned friends, but unsure of her path in a world she wasn’t certain she wanted to still inhabit. Sarah Michelle Gellar fell into a deep depression during this season, often challenging Joss Whedon on his creative choices for her character, and even questioning her commitment to the show.
10. JOSS WHEDON WAS ACCUSED OF HARASSMENT
In recent years, as Joss Whedon has gotten more notoriety for making films such as both the Avengers movies, stories of his behavior on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer have come to light. His ex-wife has reported to numerous sources that during their marriage he constantly made inappropriate comments to the young female stars on the set.
It’s not a surprise that Joss Whedon, like anyone famous, would have negative detractors proportionate to his rising fame. It’s also not a surprise that Joss Whedon, as he became increasingly powerful, would allegedly decide to abuse that power by coercing the young women around him, many of whom trusted him as an employer, mentor, and friend, into doing things they didn’t want to do for the sake of maintaining their careers.
9. THEY COULDN’T AFFORD A SOUND STAGE IN THE FIRST SEASON
Buffy the Vampire Slayer might as well have been known as Buffy the Budget Slayer, because it became well known for working within the parameters of an extremely thin monetary grant. Unable to film on a soundstage in Los Angeles, the crew had to film in a warehouse in the Valley, which reached record temperatures in the summer.
The warehouse where they filmed contained one hallway, a hallway they would dress and redress over and over to depict different corridors of Sunnyvale High School. Creator Joss Whedon hoped nobody would notice that it was the same set every time. When filming in a real cemetery became too costly, they built one outside the warehouse and, though it wasn’t nearly as big, they moved headstones around when it needed to look like the characters were walking through different sections.
8. ELIZA DUSHKU REFUSED TO DO CERTAIN SCENES
Faith was a character brought to the series because Joss Whedon wanted to show other types of slayers and highlight the difference between their personalities and Buffy. While Buffy’s archetype was originally based on the blonde cheerleader in classic horror movies being lured into a dark alley and then getting murdered, she was made tougher specifically to counteract it. Faith was already tough and confident, sure of her place in the world of the supernatural in a way Buffy would grow to be.
Having grown up a Mormon, Eliza Dushku refused to do nude scenes on the series, and even had to get signed waivers to work long hours on set because she was a minor. This moral stance is indirect contrast with Faith’s depiction as an “up for anything” free spirit.
7. XANDER WAS ALMOST GAY
Buffy the Vampire Slayer can be praised for being one of the very first network television series to depict a genuine and authentic same sex relationship. It revolves around Buffy’s best friend Willow, and her fellow witch and lover, Tara. Joss Whedon always knew that he wanted at least one of the main characters in the cast to be gay, but he didn’t know which.
Originally, he thought he might make the character of Xander Harris, the other member of the original Scooby Gang, the gay lead. This would have brought another male character into a predominantly female cast, which he felt would balance it out better. Ultimately though, he loved the actress who played Tara, especially her on-screen chemistry with Willow, so he wrote them as a couple.
6. “HUSH” WAS MADE TO PUSH WHEDON CREATIVELY
The episode of “Hush” that takes place in season four was one of the most well-received (and incredibly terrifying) episodes of the series. The entire episode takes place without sound, as evil beings called “The Gentlemen” have entered Sunnyvale and removed its citizens ability to speak (and also cut out the still beating hearts from people’s chests and put them in a box…).
Fearing he’d fallen into a torpor writing the same types of episodes every week, Whedon wanted to push himself creatively by writing an entire episode where no one could talk. He felt that the humor and heart of the show could be communicated just as effectively non-verbally, and he was right, as the episode would go on to earn him an Emmy.
5. FAITH WAS SUPPOSED TO END HERSELF
When Faith, a slayer character like Buffy (and her antithesis in every way) shows up in Sunnyvale, all Hell(mouth) breaks loose. Faith is depicted as a troubled young woman who makes her own rules and breaks all the others. After she accidentally kills the Deputy Mayor, Whedon decided her character would be so wrecked by guilt that she would take her own life.
Not only would that act prove extremely unlikely for someone with Faith’s tough personality, it also meant losing Eliza Dushku from the cast of recurring characters. Luckily, Whedon came to his senses and rewrote Faith’s eventual exit from season three, allowing her to reappear as a guest star in the later seasons of the series and become one of Buffy’s most powerful allies.
4. JAMES MARSTERS COULDN’T HANDLE THAT BATHROOM SCENE
From enemies, to begrudging allies, to friends with benefits, and finally to lovers, the tempestuous nature of the relationship between Buffy and Spike was anything but romantic. Though she hadn’t had the best track record with human love interests, Buffy’s first love was a vampire named Angel that made her swear off supernatural suitors altogether by the time Spike realized he was in love with her.
When she decides once and for all that their love can never be in the episode “Crush”, Spike insists that Buffy still loves him and goes to her house, forcing himself on her in a scene that left actor James Marsters in the fetal position between takes. He stated in interviews that he could never condone what Spike did to Buffy, and it was extremely difficult to get into the headspace of someone that would do that to another person they cared for.
3. SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR AND DAVID BOREANAZ WERE GROSS
While many Buffy/Angel fans hold their relationship in high regard and think they should have ended up together by the time the show ended, a look behind the scenes of their interactions during season one paint an altogether less romantic picture of their tristes.
While David Boreanaz was known to do whatever he could to make co-stars break character between takes (including taking his pants off), he probably didn’t expect Sarah Michelle Gellar to go to similar lengths. Because they spent much of season one lip-locked, the two stars decided to eat the most disgusting smelling foods they could (sandwiches loaded with pickles and onions, entire gloves of roasted garlic, pickled herring, etc) before they had a makeout scene to see who could gross the other out more. Ahhh, love!
2. MANY CHARACTERS CAME BACK WHO SHOULD HAVE DIED
Due to the nature of butt-kicking and vampire slaying associated with the show, lots of undead creatures bit the dust, but there were many more breathing characters that should have ate it too. Many major characters like Cordellia, Tara, and Faith were all characters that were intended to only have multiple episode arcs, not last entire seasons, much less become recurring cast regulars that would show up every once and awhile.
Creator and writer Joss Whedon spent a lot of time investing in the storylines of his characters, but even more time watching how those storylines interwove due to certain actor interactions. Sometimes chemistry was undeniable, or audience affection so palpable, that he was inspired to write more action for characters that had relatively bit parts to begin with.
1. SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR LEFT BECAUSE SHE FELT DEVALUED
There are numerous rumors as to why Sarah Michelle Gellar decided to leave Buffy the Vampire Slayer behind her. An extremely popular series that by it’s last season showed no signs of creative fatigue, nevertheless ended after seven years on network television. The final season had introduced a lot of promising plot points, from the formation of the Slayer Academy where potential slayers honed their skills, to Sp27ike finally acquiring a soul in the hopes of winning Buffy’s undying love. What made it’s lead star walk away?
Gellar has said that after seven years she wanted to broaden her acting career, and to have a stable personal life. She had also been feeling for some time that she wasn’t getting back as much as she was giving for the role, and that feeling underappreciated and devalued ultimately was the stake that broke the Slayer’s back.
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