Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the brainchild of Joss Whedon who was tired of seeing the blonde girl running away from monsters and wanted, instead, to see the blonde girl kick the monster’s ass. Buffy kicked vampire ass for seven seasons, receiving critical and popular acclaim, and frequently listed as one of the greatest TV shows of all time.
2017 marks Buffy’s 20-year anniversary and, to celebrate, here are a few facts about Buffy and her Scooby Gang that you might not have known.
48. Made For TV
Buffy the Vampire Slayer started life on the big screen, and the movie of the same name starred Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, and Pee-Wee Herman and became more of a disappointing broad comedy than Whedon’s original vision. Luckily, he was approached years later about turning it into a TV show and he had the chance to do it right.
47. In Joss We Trust
Warner Bros really wanted the show to be called Slayer but Joss Whedon refused. His rationale was that Buffy the Vampire Slayer sounded silly, nobody would take it seriously, and as a result, it would fly under the radar and punch viewers in the face with how serious and emotional it could be.
46. The Witch Switch
Before accepting the role of Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar was up for the lead role in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch another sassy teenage girl who discovers she has magical powers.
45. A Proper Role Model
While she was on the show, Gellar purposefully kept out of the public eye so that young fans wouldn’t see Buffy with a drink or a cigarette in her hands. Only murder weapons.
Katie Holmes and Ryan Reynolds were offered the roles of Buffy and Xander respectively. Holmes turned it down because she wanted to go to high school and Reynolds turned it down because he didn’t want to go back to high school. According to Reynolds, he “had just come out of high school and it was [redacted]ing awful.”
43. The ‘Ol Switcheroo
Charisma Carpenter, who played popular Sunnydale High cheerleader Cordelia Chase, was originally up for the role of Buffy. Gellar, on the other hand, was actually up for the role of Cordelia. However, because Gellar was already a star from her previous work, producers insisted she get the role of Buffy instead.
42. Keeping it Real
Carpenter was reluctant to take on the role of Cordelia because she had just played a sassy character on Aaron Spelling’s Malibu Shores. Her agent reportedly told her that she wasn’t at risk of being typecast because nobody knew who she was yet. Ouch.
41. A Watcher worth Watching
The first actor cast in the series was Anthony Stewart Head who played Rupert Giles. According to Whedon, Head made Giles sexy.
40. That Deserves a Good Willow Wallow
Riff Regan, who played Willow in the unaired pilot, was replaced right after the show got picked up.
39. How Angel Got His Wings
When trying to cast Angel, described as “the most gorgeous, mysterious, fantastic, incredible man on the face of the earth,” Whedon and the casting director saw a number of guys who couldn’t live up to that description. The casting director’s friend said there was a guy who walked his dog on her street who fit the bill. They brought David Boreanaz in, every woman in the room turned into a puddle, and history was made.
38. London Calling
James Marsters, who plays British vampire Spike, wasn’t himself British. He’s actually from California and he auditioned with a Texas accent. Producers decided the character would be better off from London and Anthony Stewart Head served as his dialect coach.
37. Blondes Have More Fun
Marsters had to bleach his hair every eight days for six years to maintain Spike’s platinum blonde look. It’s incredible that he still has hair.
36. Roam These Halls
When Buffy first began, they didn’t have much of a budget. Instead of shooting on a soundstage, they used a huge warehouse in Santa Monica. They only had one hallway, and they used it over and over again. According to Whedon it was “really kind of sad.”
35. Double Duty
The exterior of the warehouse doubled as the entrance to Sunnydale’s only club, The Bronze. They only shot it twice because outdoor night shots are very annoying to do.
34. After School Special
Torrance High School in Los Angeles served as the exterior for the fictional Sunnydale High. Torrance High was also used as a school exterior in Beverly Hills 90210, 90210, She’s All That, Not Another Teen Movie, and more. We’d like to think that all these shows/movies took place in the same universe as Buffy and, somewhere and somehow, Luke Perry was eaten by a vampire.
33. Battle of the Bands
Dissatisfied with an early version of the theme song, Whedon turned it into a contest of sorts to local indie bands. He wanted something that began with a scary organ and devolved into rock ‘n roll, spelling out exactly what the show was about. Santa Barbara brand Nerf Herder won the contest.
32. Curtain Call
Nerf Herder was the musical guest in the episode “Empty Places” and was the very last band to play at The Bronze, Sunnydale’s local hangout.
31. The Monster Within
Whedon wanted vampires to look like regular people who only turned into monsters at feeding time so that he could increase the sense of paranoia. But it was important that they turned into monsters because a high school girl stabbing normal-looking people in the heart would not have been fit for television.
30. Face Off
The vampire makeup took an hour and twenty minutes to put on and was, by all accounts, annoying. Also, removing the makeup was a painstaking and delicate process. You couldn’t just rip it off lest you remove your face with it.
29. Dust in the Wind
When vampires died in the Buffyverse, they turned into dust, clothes and all. This is primarily so that every episode didn’t end with fifteen minutes of cleaning up bodies.
28. At Least They Didn’t Sparkle
While the creators drew on traditional vampire lore, they picked and chose what they would include. In the Buffyverse, vampires didn’t fly or turn into bats (with Dracula being the one notable exception). However, they didn’t have reflections, couldn’t enter houses unless invited, and were vulnerable to garlic, crosses, sunlight, fire, and holy water. They could be killed by beheading or via a stake through the heart. To be fair, a lot of things can be killed by beheading or a stake to the heart.
Dracula, as portrayed in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
27. Gag Me with a Spoon
Buffy was known for its witty dialogue, referred to as “Buffyspeak” and inspired by California Valley Girls. Gellar didn’t always understand the language though, and during her audition, she asked the meaning of “What’s the sitch?” not knowing it meant “situation.” What an awkward sitch.
Much of the exposition, delivered expertly by Anthony Stewart Head, for the monsters they would face happened in the library. It got to the point where cast and crew hated shooting those scenes. Not because of Head, but because, well, libraries are just naturally boring.
25. Because Geometry, That’s Why
Darla (played Julie Benz), the vampire sired by Angel, was supposed to die in the second episode after being doused by holy water. But Whedon kept her around because he thought Buffy and Angel’s romance would be more interesting as a triangle because, apparently, ancient Gypsy soul curses weren’t interesting enough.
24. Kiss of Death
Before their kissing scenes, Gellar and Boreanaz would eat horrible things like tuna fish and pickles just to mess with each other.
23. Dead Bodies Not Included
In the first season, Buffy shot several scenes in an actual graveyard, which meant going out all night until sunrise. In the second season, they decided to just build their own graveyard in a parking lot to make their lives easier.
22. It’s a Not-So-Wonderful Life
Because of all the emotional suffering he put her though on screen, Whedon gave Gellar the nickname “Jimmy Stewart” because “he was the greatest American in pain in the history of film.”
21. Born to be Bad
Buffy double dipped a couple times when it came to casting their villains. Brian Thompson played the vampire Luke and also The Judge while Camden Toy played one of the Gentlemen in “Hush,” a skin-eating demon named Gnarl, and super vampire Turok-Han.
20. Ratted Out
During season 2, when Gellar needed time off to host Saturday Night Live, the writers turned Buffy into a rat, which is certainly one way to do it.
19. Perfect Attendance
Gellar and Hannigan are the only two Buffy stars who have appeared in every single episode of the show. Nicholas Brendan missed one episode.
18. AKA MacGuffin
Phlebotnum was a term coined by writer David Greenwalt that referred to a plot moving device in each episode. At one point, they were trying to figure out what Buffy would be doing and Greenwalt just shouted, “For God’s sake, don’t touch the phlebotnum in Jar C!” Nobody knew what it meant, but it ended up sticking.
David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf.
17. Challenge Accepted
Whedon was often praised for his dialogue, but he feared that he was starting to rely on them as a crutch. He challenged himself to write a mostly-silent episode, “Hush,” which quickly became a favorite amongst fans and critics alike.
16. Can’t Even Shout, Can’t Even Cry…
The Gentlemen from “Hush,” who were some of Whedon’s creepiest villains, appeared to him in a dream. He drew a picture of them, gave it to his makeup and special effects people, and voila, a whole generation of traumatized kids.
15. Mommy Dearest
One of the most critically acclaimed episodes was “The Body,” in which Buffy’s mother Joyce dies of natural causes. Whedon said that Joyce was the hardest character for him to kill. And given how many characters he killed, that’s high praise indeed.
14. Knowing is Half the Battle
In a season three dream sequence with fellow slayer Faith, Buffy was given a riddle which foretold the appearance of mystery sister Dawn and her own death. Joss explained to Gellar what it meant, so she actually knew her character was going to die three years in advance.
13. Take That Bechdel!
Many fans were confused by the sudden appearance of a sister. As Whedon explained, the reason for manufacturing a sister literally out of thin air was for Buffy to have an important and intense emotional relationship that wasn’t a boyfriend.
12. He Flipped a Coin
Whedon knew that he wanted one of either Xander or Willow to come out as gay, but it took some time for him to decide for it to be Willow, who became one of the first representations of a lesbian character on screen.
11. A Defender of Gay Rights
Whedon received significant pushback from the studio on the romance between Willow and Tara and was even told to cut the kiss. It was the first and only time he ever threatened to walk off the show.
10. The Not Fast and the Furious
Marti Noxon, one of the writer/producers, had a cameo in the musical episode “Once More With Feeling” as the woman who received a parking ticket.
9. The Couple that Slays Together…
Alyson Hannigan, who played Willow, ended up marrying Alexis Denisof, who played Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, Faith’s very British Watcher. She would later share the screen with him again in How I Met Your Mother, where she played Lily Aldrin and Alexis played the philandering newscaster Sandy Rivers.
8. The Prinze of Darkness
Dracula was almost played by Sarah Michelle Gellar’s real life husband, Freddie Prinze Jr.
7. The Role She Was Born to Play
Britney Spears wanted to be cast as April the Robot in the episode titled “I Was Made to Love You,” where Warren (who goes very bad) creates a robotic girlfriend. Stiff acting? Sculpted body (back then, anyway)? Dead robot eyes? She would have been perfect.
6. Finding the Buffy Within
Gellar said that the hardest season for her to film was Season 6 as she encountered many situations where she felt Buffy wouldn’t have acted as the script demanded. “Maybe I was struggling the same way she was struggling to find out who she was,” Gellar said. “It was a tough time. And I think that’s what came through in the end, and that was great.”
5. Walk Through the Fire
Gellar was terrified of the musical episode and admitted to “begging” to be let out of it. It didn’t help that instead of the two years of classes and six weeks of rehearsals she would have wanted, the cast and crew only got four days. We’d be terrified too. That being said, we weren’t getting paid $100,000 an episode to not be terrified.
4. Buffy the Cartoon Slayer
Seven scripts for an animated Buffy series were written and the entire cast had signed on to voice the characters. Alas, nobody wanted the show which, to this day, Joss Whedon still finds “incomprehensible.”
3. Pulling Up Stakes
Geller revealed in an Entertainment Weekly cover story that Buffy was going to end after seven seasons. Unfortunately, this was also the first time the rest of the cast was hearing the news, which is a pretty horrible way to find out you’re losing your job.
2. Penetrating Insights
Buffy has spawned a series of academic studies including books full of essays, conferences, and college courses. An informal 2012 study conducted by Slate found that when it comes to pop culture academia, Buffy is the number one subject of choice.
1. To Be Continued
Although the television show ended, the story continued in a series of comic books which saw Dawn turn into a giant, a reunion with Angel, and the return of Dracula. Many of the show’s original writers worked on the comic, and even James Marsters got in on the action, penning an original story about his vampire character, Spike.
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