‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Turns 20, Cast and Creator Look Back
Two decades ago, The WB’s teen drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer first staked the hearts of viewers — adolescent or otherwise — with supernatural and ghoulish tales serving as metaphors for larger themes like maturity, self-reliance, and girl-bossness.
And today, on the 20th anniversary of the show’s premiere on March 10, 1997, the cast and crew are looking back on its resonance within the pop culture zeitgeist…
“That first season, we liked to think of ourselves as the little show that could,” star Sarah Michelle Gellar wrote on Instagram today.
“While we knew the potential, I don't think any of us saw the lasting impact our show would have.”
“As an actor, you wish for that one role where you can leave your mark and forever be remembered,” the 39-year-old continued.
“With Buffy I got so much more. She’s a feminist challenge to gender hierarchy. Buffy may have been the Chosen One, but I was the lucky one.”
20 years ago today, I had the greatest privilege to bring Buffy to your tv screens for the first time. It was a long and challenging road to get there. First the movie, then a passed over pilot presentation, and eventually a mid season time slot on a little known network. That first season, we liked to think of ourselves as the little show that could. While we knew the potential, I dont think any of us saw the lasting impact our show would have. As an actor, you wish for that one role where you can leave your mark and forever be remembered, with Buffy I got so much more. Shes a feminist challenge to gender hierarchy. Buffy may have been the Chosen One, but I was the lucky one. Thank you to Gail Berman for always believing there was a show in that movie. Thank you to Joss Whedon, for trusting me to give life to one of the greatest female characters ever created. Thank you to David, for always being my Angel. Thank you to James for understanding that while Buffy and Spike may have been love/hate, I have nothing but love for you. Alyson, as any woman knows, you are nothing without the love and support of great female friends, so thank you for being that. Michelle, you will always hold a key to my heart. Thank you to all the incredible actors for seven seasons of amazing performances. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the incredible crew that worked tirelessly (and also really tired) to bring this show to life. And lastly, but most importantly thank you to all of you, the fans. We made this show for you, and your unwavering support has kept this show going long past our seven years. You are everything. And always remember..."if the apocalypse comes, beep me" #buffyslays20
Anthony Stewart Head — who played Buffy’s librarian-mentor, Giles — echoed those sentiments in an op-ed he wrote for The Guardian, saying the scope of the show is especially evident at the very end.
“In the final season, [writer-producer Joss] Whedon started to build up this young group of ‘Slayerettes’ around Buffy. I was confused,” the 63-year-old wrote.
“‘Where is this going? Isn’t he diluting what makes the show special?’
“But after seven years, in the series’s final moments when Buffy handed over the mantle to all womankind, he encapsulated the true message of the programme.”
Some aspects of the show haven’t aged well over the last two decades — the fashion is high ‘90s, for example — but James Marsters, who played snarky vampire Spike, says the show still holds up today.
“Oh, my god, it’s so relevant,” the 54-year-old told A.V. Club.
“The world is hard. The world is not perfect, but we can’t give up. If I could condense the theme of Buffy into three words, it’s those: ‘Don’t give up.’”
Talking to A.V. Club about his role as trusty sidekick Xander, Nicholas Brendon also pinpointed perseverance as Buffy’s defining legacy.
“I’ve had so many people come up to me, whether they lost a parent, whether they were battling depression or had suicidal thoughts, they’ll find something in that show and watching that show will get them through that,” the 45-year-old said.
David Boreanaz has fond memories of both Buffy and the spinoff he led, Angel, especially because he landed the part of lovelorn vamp Angel after years of struggling as an actor.
“It happened so quickly, but in order for things to happen quickly when you recognize them, you have to be ready; when it hits, it’s quick,” he told Entertainment Weekly.
“It’s been a fantastic journey and I’m still climbing … I have a desire to do more and show more, which is the exciting part.”
Alyson Hannigan was at a loss for words on the anniversary today, so the actress behind the bewitching Willow is counting on Joss for a scripted assist.
“Wow. #20YearsOfBuffy,” she tweeted. “@joss What can I possibly say to thank you? No really, what can I say?! I need YOU to write it!”
“And I need you to say it ????” Joss wrote back.
“With Buffy, I obviously wanted to make a feminist show … I wanted to see something that I felt I needed to see,” Joss explained to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I felt this girl wasn't being represented. I wanted see a woman taking charge and men who were comfortable with that. That's my thing. That's my kink.
“What we were hoping for was a show that made people feel stronger — something that made people understand the idea of female leadership and internalize it as normal.”
“I wanted people to take teenagers seriously,” the 52-year-old added.
“There was a certain disregard for what people go through in that time. Speaking to that particular well of pain was important to me.
“And to make a feminist show that didn't make people feel like they were being lectured to.”
20 years later, it’s clear Joss and the cast and crew, well, slayed it.
Read more of Wetpaint’s TV nostalgia coverage below: