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Far from Buffy’s Weakest Lenk

By Daniel Fienberg

Tuesday 25 March 2003, by Webmaster

Last month , news broke that Sarah Michelle Gellar was driving a stake through the heart of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and moving on to other projects after this season. That same afternoon, at least one member of the ever-expanding "Buffy" admitted that he isn’t worried about his how the show’s end will affect his livelihood. Tom Lenk is, after all, just happy to be alive.

Last season, Lenk’s Andrew made up one third of the show’s Evil Troika, along with Danny Strong’s Jonathan and Adam Busch’s Warren. The Troika plotted nefarious ways to take over Sunnydale, but mostly ended up turning once-nerdy Willow into a psycho witch bent on destroying the world. The season ended with Warren flayed and Jonathan and Andrew fugitives south of the border.

"I always expected I’d be the first one killed, so this year has been quite a pleasant surprise," Lenk, a 26-year-old UCLA grad, tells Zap2it.com.

Lenk returned early this season, inadvertently controlled by this season’s "Big Bad," the primal evil force known as The First. Thus far he’s spent most of his time under house arrest surrounded by training perspective slayers and the show’s central Scooby Gang.

"Most of my stuff last year was like the one-liner jokes of the scene, and it’s been nice to have a meatier part," Lenk says. "I’m sortta a neurotic person and I stressed out more last than this year, but now I just feel more comfortable and at ease with the character."

The character’s expansion has been brought about by a change of venue. No longer an uncertain and geeky wreaker of evil, Andrew has become an uncertain and geeky young man determined to redeem his soul.

"I see the same dynamics I had in The Trio," he points out. "I’m still sortta the butt of the jokes in the group, but I like that he’s a fish out of water. He’s funnier in a situation where it’s not comfortable and he’s trying to make himself comfortable and he’s trying to make friends. He’s just been such a fun character to play."

The increased part has opened the door to extensive Internet debate on the character’s most intriguing aspect, an ambiguous pansexuality. Speculation about Andrew’s true desires amuses Lenk.

"I only play what’s on the page and the writers don’t tell me who he really likes," the actor hedges. "I don’t know, because last year everyone was convinced he had a thing for Warren and I read the Dawn thing and Xander and maybe he’s obsessed with Anya or Buffy. He lives in his own world where he just sortta sees what he wants to see."

"I don’t know if the character himself is aware" Lenk theorizes. "He’s so naive. He’s such a grown kid. I don’t know if he would know the difference between lusting after someone and wanting to be them."

This appealing and open-ended portrayal earned the actor the ultimate "Buffy" tribute — an Andrew-centric episode that aired on Feb. 25, in which Andrew, armed with a digital camera, attempted to document an entire week’s adventures for posterity.

"I had no clue that it was going to happen," says Lenk. "In fact the episode before I was only in one scene and I was like, ’They’re mad at me. They hate me.’ So I guess I just needed a break before I got my own show."

"Storyteller," written by the series’ comedy master Jane Espenson, gave Lenk the chance to sing ("I would like to make a disclaimer that I was directed to sing poorly" ), prance in a fantasy world and display the emotional vulnerability to carry a show by himself.

Speaking the day after the episode aired, Lenk declares, "I will say, after last night, I think I’m ready for my own show. I was happy with the result. I was a little nervous, but I had a little screening with my friends and after the rewarding sounds of glorious laughter, I think I’m ready."