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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Paley Fest 2008 Buffy Reunion - Ign.com Report

Tuesday 25 March 2008, by Webmaster

Paley Fest: Discussing the past and possible future for the series.

US, March 24, 2008 - The Los Angeles branch of the Paley Center for Media is currently conducting their annual William S. Paley Television Festival, AKA Paley Fest. This two-week event spotlights a group of noteworthy television series and television luminaries, with each night devoted to a different show or person. Be sure to check out the rest of IGN TV’s coverage of Paley Fest 2008.

Considering fans were paying upwards of $1000.00 for a single ticket on eBay, it’s safe to say the Buffy the Vampire Slayer reunion night at Paley Fest was the most popular one this year. A few key people were notably absent, including David Boreanaz ("Angel"), Anthony Stewart Head ("Giles") and the originally scheduled Eliza Dushku ("Faith") & Alyson Hannigan ("Willow"), but still it was a very impressive group that reassembled for this event. In attendance were Joss Whedon (Creator/Executive Producer), Sarah Michelle Gellar ("Buffy Summers"), Nicholas Brendon ("Xander Harris"), James Marsters ("Spike"), Marti Noxon (Executive Producer), Emma Caulfield ("Anya"), Michelle Trachtenberg ("Dawn Summers"), Charisma Carpenter ("Cordelia Chase"), Amber Benson ("Tara Maclay"), Seth Green ("Oz") and David Greenwalt (Co-Executive Producer).

The night began with a screening of the extremely popular musical episode, "Once More, with Feeling," and the panel was asked what it was like making that episode. When Whedon said, "I’m gonna go with fun. It wasn’t the hardest. It wasn’t harder than ’Hush,’" Marsters countered with, "This was total terror!" Marsters pointed at Whedon and recalled, "You wouldn’t let anybody off the hook, and the thing is, none of us signed up to be singers in front of millions of people. Tony Head and I were already recording and we were kind of comfortable with it, but like a lot of the actors, we weren’t professional singers. The thing that I really loved about it is how everyone really screwed their courage to the sticking place and did it and came through for you, because they knew you had a great script. We ended up flying with it and having a great time. But what was so impressive to me was just the courage of the cast, to do something that they weren’t really expert at, especially Sarah frankly." Gellar said that rather than having to sing, she "prayed for Buffy the rat. I kept thinking ’Bring the rat back.’"

Turning to "Hush," Gellar agreed it was the hardest episode to make, saying, "I think it was one of those moments were I thought, ’Oh this is great! A whole episode with no lines!’ I was like, ’This is a breeze!’ And boy was I wrong." Whedon added that, "Writing it I was terrified. I was more terrified than with the musical that I just couldn’t pull it off. When we were shooting it, everyone knew their action, but there was no lines, there was no rhythm, there was no cues, so everyone would do everything all at once." Whedon laughed that this made scenes "like ten seconds long" and that, "We had no way to communicate a rhythm." Brendon joked this was "Because we also didn’t talk to each other when the cameras weren’t rolling either."

Whedon remembered Marsters saying in an interview, "If we don’t have the s**t scared out of us at least once a year, we’re not working hard enough." Trachtenberg recalled that she was so "petrified" of having to sing in "Once More, with Feeling" that she got a form of tonsillitis. However, Marsters noted, "I think the people that were most terrified were the writers. The writers had to actually write truth and the things that truly terrified them or the days that they really humiliated themselves. The worst day of their life, when they made the worst mistake of their entire life, and then they put fangs on it."

Asked if he’d like to ever do a full Buffy Broadway musical, Whedon replied, "I would love to [bring Buffy] to Broadway. It would not be ["Once More, With Feeling"]. This is an episode of television. You would have to start from scratch. I’ve spent some time daydreaming about, because I’m me."

Season 6 of Buffy saw a very dark turn for the series, as Buffy herself, recently returned to life, spent most of the year in a very unhappy place and involved in a decidedly unhealthy relationship with Spike. Said Gellar of that season, "It was definitely tough for me. It’s so hard to separate myself from her, so it was tough for me to see these situations and think, ’But Buffy wouldn’t do this...’ And I felt pressure from the force of the fans. I know Joss and Marti both particularly talked me down from a ledge a couple of times, because it just felt so far removed for me at the time. And maybe that was the point – maybe I was struggling in the same way that she was struggling to find who she was. It just felt so foreign to me."

Whedon recalled that ironically, his mandate for Season 6 had originally been "Let’s lighten it up!" However, he said, "I do remember there was a time when I said to Marti, ’Okay, I think Buffy’s been gone for too long. We’ve lost her, and it’s time now to win her back.’" As it turned out Gellar had coincidently gone to Noxon the same day with her similar thoughts. Said Noxon, "Yeah, I remember that day too. It was just a day when everybody kind of thought, ’Okay, we’ve reached the bottom of the pool. It’s time to surface.’" Noxon remembered Gellar telling her "I just feel like I’ve lost the hero completely in all this exploration." Noxon said they’d always intended Season 6 to be "the time after high school when you kind of lose yourself."

Gellar remarked that when it came to Buffy the character, "I always looked up to her. I thought when I was younger I would have loved to have a role model like that. A woman who showed you that you don’t have to be the smartest and you don’t have to be the most beautiful, but you can protect your family and the people that you love and you can be a powerful woman. I think that’s what made [Season 6] hard for me." Gellar added that "For all of us, but especially Joss, Marti and I, we love her and it was hard I think for all of us to watch her suffer. I think it was a part of growing pains." Gellar noted that during this same period, Whedon had begun separating himself a bit when it came to his involvement in the show, and said, "It was a tough time, and I think that’s what came through in the end, which was great, because when Buffy herself resurfaced, we all resurfaced and found our voice again."

Greenwalt said that when it came to writing for Buffy, he realized, "There’s nothing like taking all your pain and misery and shoving it into very good looking people’s mouths." Added Noxon, "Joss always said he was never happy unless Buffy cried. The journey was all about triumphing over adversity, [in both her] personal and monster life."

Whedon said he felt the template for the show was really discovered in the Season 1 episode "Witch." "David [Greenwalt] had come up with the idea that a mother was jealous of her daughter’s youth and had stolen it from her," recalled Whedon. "It is absolutely the essence of the show. It took the idea of oh, there’s good guys and there’s bad guys and there’s monsters and we love these people and it just took it one level further into the pain and into what people are capable of and in particular what David Greenwalt is capable of. That was a seminal moment for me, because it made me realize there was more to this."

Geller remembered when she was first cast on the show she was "beside myself. I’m thinking Joss Whedon, Toy Story. I read this amazing script… and all of my friends felt sorry for me, because I was on a midseason replacement, on a network no one had heard of, on a show based on a movie that wasn’t…" Whedon finished her thought with "…All that." Gellar said that, "People would look at me and go, ’At least you got a pilot your first time out! That’s great! Next year you’ll get one that’ll go.’"

Gellar noted with a laugh that she had to screen test eleven times to get the role, but that after she got it, she had lunch with Whedon. "I remember him saying the basic principle of the show is you take all that is horrible about youth and all that is scary, and we literally made them into monsters. But I think anyone can relate to what high school is like and how that is the worst monster for you and the worst nightmare, and it was something that was so relatable. I think that was the whole key to the show, was yes, not everyone faced ’the hyena’ [referencing another Season 1 episode], but essentially we did, and I think that was what was so beautiful about the pain and about the story." Whedon recalled his initial reluctance when he was asked if he wanted to turn Buffy into a series, but that he remembered then thinking, "Oh wait a minute… the pain!"

The panel were then asked one of the most divisive questions of our time – "Angel or Spike?" Brendon replied, "Well, given the comic book, I think Willow." As it turned out, the cast members had only just discovered Buffy’s recent comic book hook up with fellow female Slayer Satsu "about five minutes ago" on the red carpet, and amusingly Marsters had to have the situation explained to him onstage by Gellar. Gellar said she was completely confused when asked, "How do you feel about Buffy’s new relationship?" and when she was told, "She’s with a woman," she asked, "She’s with Willow?!"

The moderator, TV Guide critic Matt Roush, then asked the big question: Might Whedon and the cast ever reunite for a new Buffy project, whatever form it might take? Said Whedon, "There’s so many stars that would have to align, but there’s a reason I worked with all of these people for so long. They’re awfully talented. Clearly, from the comic book, it’s a story that I can’t let go. I think it would be really cool."

The comic books are exploring "Season 8" of the Buffy story, and Whedon was asked if he’d try to use the storyline from the comic books as canon should he make another Buffy live action story. Whedon replied "Hypothetically, if you could make things align, that would be fun. I wrote the comic Fray — and it took place 200 years in the future — thinking ’There’s no way this can every affect the show, and so it’ll be safe.’ And then we ended up using a little bit – [Buffy’s] scythe is from the comic book. And so I felt some obligation to work in that mythology and it would be lovely to make it all tie in. But if I had to shoot down everything that I’m doing in the comic because we were doing a project filming with these actual people, I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep."

Getting back to Satsu, Green couldn’t resist saying, "It’s totally hot. Totally steamy scenario. I’ll say it. Everybody’s thinking it." More seriously, Whedon reconfirmed that "It’s not a giant life change. It’s not like Willow. It’s just somebody who’s young with somebody that they really like a lot… and they have a lot of time on their hands." Whedon then looked at the crowd and asked, "Didn’t anybody go to college?!"

Roush asked the panel about the episode "The Body," in which all the characters react to the death of Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland). Said Trachtenberg, "I’m honored to be part of such an amazing episode. I know that being a fan of the show from the very beginning and then being on it was very surreal for me. When I read the episode, it was like I was losing a part of myself, to be honest." Trachtenberg praised Whedon’s choice to not include any audible dialogue in the scene where Dawn is told by Buffy that Joyce is dead. However, when they filmed that scene, "It was a whole back and forth conversation; a whole breakdown and everything." But when it came to the final version, "I actually thought that was one of the most brilliant ideas that you’d ever had because it allows everyone to sort of attach their own emotional plug into what might pop into your lives. I think it really allowed the audience to connect with Dawn for the first time." Whedon however told Trachtenberg that considering the minimal material he ended up using for that scene, "Sorry for putting you through a half day of weeping." Trachtenberg recalled crew members crying when she shot the scene, "So that was pretty cool" and also said she enjoyed doing a story where, "I wasn’t stealing things or whining."

Talking about filming "The Body," Gellar noted, "I think the thing for me with the show was it was always so amazing to be a part of something that was constantly breaking the rules. We were constantly doing things that had never been done. We were constantly challenging both our audience and ourselves." Whedon revealed to Gellar that "Part of what happened with ’The Body’ came from a challenge that you threw down, inadvertently. When I made ’Hush,’ part of it literally was, ’You know, I’m kind of turning into a hack.’ I felt like I was starting to phone it in and not challenge myself. So I thought, ’Okay, if I had a story I could only tell visually, that would be much harder.’"

Whedon reminded Gellar that there was a scene he was shooting between her and Anthony Stewart Head where he told Gellar, "’I can hear it. I can tell where the music comes in!’ And you said, ’You know, that’s not the best thing you can say to me. It feels then like I didn’t give you what you need.’ And I thought about it and I was like, you know, I’m kind of using music as a crutch. The idea of not using music [in ’The Body’] partially came from what I was trying to evoke but also partially from me realizing, you know what, I have to take something away from myself. I have to bare myself the same way you guys have to." Whedon told Gellar, "I got that from you and it was great. It was like, yeah, you know what, I can be better."

Roush brought up Caulfield’s impressive monologue in "The Body," in which Anya breaks down, trying to understand loss. Caulfield said that "The Body" is an episode that really resonates for her, but that "I had a real Anya moment and I’m not proud of it. I was recently asked by a fan ’What were you thinking during your monologue, because I cry every time.’ I’m like, ’Honestly, I had to go to the bathroom. I was really hungry and I had to go to the bathroom,’" and that she went on about Whedon being really specific with how much she should cry, as she told the fan, "It was like going out of one eye and he wanted it going out another and it was too many tears and not enough tears." Caulfield said the fan quietly replied, "Oh… that’s nice. Thank you," and that she then thought, "Ah, damn it! I just spoke without thinking. " Caulfield added, "I was very, very lucky to have that monologue and to be a part of that episode, because it really was a beautifully done episode, from top to finish. Sarah’s performance, the writing, and the directing was really flawless and should have won an award."

Gellar had a lot of praise for "all these recurring characters like Kristine Sutherland" she felt added a lot to the show, noting, "We were so fortunate because the show kept evolving and we kept adding all these great characters. Kristine was a part of the family. She’d been there since the beginning."

Willow and Tara’s much talked about relationship was brought up and Benson said that when she was cast, "I had no idea that Alyson and I were going to become lovers… I mean, not in real life!" Green, the comedy MVP for the night, added that Hannigan and Benson’s [fictional] real life relationship "was later." Benson remembered, "We were actually taken aside I guess three episodes in and told, ’By the way, you guys have really good chemistry.’ The crew kept coming up and going, ’You guys look good together.’" Green added that the next sentence in that statement was, "I think I’d like to watch!"

Greenwalt recalled a phone call from The WB asking, "Is [Whedon] really going to do the gay thing? " Whedon remembered, "They actually called me and said, ’You know, we have a lot of gay this year. We’re kind of gayed out. Dawson’s and this other show…’ I said, ’I don’t know. I don’t watch those shows. We’re going to do this thing. It’s what we’re going to do.’ And then they were totally fine. They were like, ’Do you have to have the kiss [in ’The Body’]?’ I was like, ’Okay, I’m packing up my office.’ I never pulled that out except that one time. I’m like ’I’m packing up the office" and they were like, ’Nope, it’s cool.’"

Carpenter left Buffy after Season 3, to join Boreanaz on the spinoff series Angel. Roush asked her if she worked if it was "the right thing to do," and Greenwalt, who created Angel with Whedon, said, "It was the right thing to do, because we couldn’t do Angel without her." When Roush asked Carpenter if she was nervous about leaving Buffy for a show that might not last, she answered, "I was and I actually said that. First off, Joss asked me to take a walk with him, which is always a frightening thing." Carpenter revealed that Whedon often "As a joke would say ’You’re fired’ and then ’Just kidding!’" Noxon added this was done to her after she’d turned in her first Buffy script, via an answering machine message from Whedon and Greenwalt in which they said the script "Just didn’t cut it," before revealing they were joking and loved it.

Carpenter said that after Whedon pulled the "You’re fired" joke with her (and revealed it was a joke), she then asked him, "If [Angel] doesn’t go, what happens? And he said, ’You will always have a net here with Buffy.’ So I said, ’Let’s do it!’"

Despite the acclaim for the series, Buffy got little in the way of Emmy recognition, but Gellar said, "When it came to the fans, they were so loyal and I think for all of us that was more important." Whedon joked that "No one puts Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the WB thinking ’I’m getting Emmys!’" Gellar added that years later, she can hardly recall who won the Emmy on the years Buffy was on the air, but that she keeps seeing Buffy included on lists looking back at TV history. When she told Marsters that the first Buffy/Spike sex scene made the top of TV Guide’s recent list of TV’s hottest scenes, he replied, "Oh, really? Take that, Angel!"

A fan asked why we never saw Oz again after Season 4, and Green said that after he told Whedon he was leaving the show "We did have a conversation and I was like, ’So, what? You gonna kill me?’ and he was like ’I don’t know… maybe I’ll just throw you out there and see what happens.’" Whedon gave a "definite yes" to the fan’s question of whether Oz would be seen in the Season 8 comic book. Green asked him, "Am I gonna be making out with a girl?" and Whedon told him, "We’ll see."

A female fan said she was watching Buffy as a sophomore in high school, and looking back, was somewhat unsettled by the relationship between the 16 year old-Buffy and the 26 year old — in human terms, since Whedon pointed out it was more like 200 when his vampire time was factored in — Angel. Whedon said he felt that Buffy, "Was clearly nothing resembling a child. She had been a slayer for awhile when she came onto the show. Obviously, emotionally she was very fragile, but she was at an age where this was the sort of person she would fall for… the only sort of person she would fall for and vice versa. It was love. Maybe not legal, but it was definitely real." Noxon also pointed out to the fan that when it came to Buffy and Angel, "You might note it didn’t go very well."

Benson was asked why she didn’t return to Buffy, since Whedon has revealed previously he had a plan to have her back in Season 7. After joking about "having sex with Marlon Brando" at the time, Benson said, "It was really availability and trying to make it work. I was getting ready to go to London to direct the [BBC’s] Ghosts of Albion. It just didn’t end up happening for a lot of different reasons."

Benson said that what she loved was that with or without Tara, "Joss kept Willow as a lesbian, rather than saying ’Okay, now she’s done," I’m really pleased with how that continued on, that she had somebody else, that she continued to be who she was, she stuck by her guns. She wasn’t just a flip-flopper, you know what I mean?"

Benson added, "I don’t think anyone realized how intense the reaction to her passing away was going to be. I’m just really pleased that we got to do it. That we got to have that relationship and whether it goes on or it doesn’t go on or it ends up in a comic book somewhere and ends up on a porn video somewhere…" Green suggested a fanfic, and Benson smiled, saying that according to one fanfic, "Apparently I’m getting it on with Giles and Willow at the same time." Green, who was having fun humorously flirting with Benson throughout the panel, then replied, "I didn’t get to finish writing it, but it’s going to be great."

Benson said she felt Willow and Tara "Had the best relationship on the show. They raised or helped to raise Dawn. I think they were there for her." Gellar, with a look of mock outrage on her face, exclaimed, "Hey, I was there! I participated. I was a little dead, but I participated!" Green turned to Gellar and said, "You were kind of like the cool uncle who shows up. ’Hey guys, I got you guys a snow globe!’"

Whedon had high praise for Christophe Beck, who scored the first several seasons of Buffy, recalling how he was listening to Beck’s score for the Season 2 episode "Passions" – in which Angel kills Jenny Calendar – while having trouble figuring out exactly what he wanted to do in the Season 2 finale. Said Whedon, "I had that tune stuck in my head and it just was welling up. It just filled me. I was just by myself and suddenly everything in the episode just started coming together. I had all the events but not the theme and I realized I’m going to strip everything away from here one by one. The school, the mother, the lover, her friends, everything is going to be pulled away from her. It was all coming with this music just going and going through my head."

The panel were asked what they missed most about working on Buffy, and Greenwalt answered "I miss directing Sarah Michelle Gellar," saying he was amazed by her ability to convey every emotion and adding, "She is a machine." Gellar said she missed the crew who worked on the show, noting that unlike the actors, who she sometimes will bump into, she rarely sees the crew members, but recalls how hard they worked on the show and how close they were for 8 years.

It was Green however who had the most surprising answer, as he said "I actually miss arriving at my trailer every morning to find that David Boreanaz had already pooped in it, without fail. It was always that funny thing where I would arrive and he would be coming out of my door and be like, ’Left something for you, buddy!’"

After the laughter had died down from that revelation, and Gellar had confirmed with Green that yes, that had actually happened, Whedon said that his answer to the question was, "With all the love in my heart for the people I’m sitting next to, the thing I miss most is sitting in the writers room, because I’ve never been around a group like that and I don’t think I will be again. Just so funny, so dedicated." Trachtenberg said she on the other hand missed "sneaking up to the writers’ room. I’d either sneak into Sarah’s trailer and pet her shoes or sneak up to the writers’ room."

As the night was coming to a close, a fan asked Gellar what it was like playing Spike’s robotic double of Buffy in Season 5. Gellar recalled how she was extremely busy filming both Buffy and Scooby-Doo (the latter in Australia no less) at the same time and then "Joss said ’I have this idea while you’re doing both. We’re going to make you play a second character!’" However, her exhaustion at the time aside, Gellar noted, "I think that’s what keeps it fresh. You’re playing a character for so long and you don’t want to get lazy. You find yourself relying on certain things, so by taking away all the other parts of Buffy, I did have to find exactly the essence of her." She then looked over at Marsters and added, "And it was fun to be his slave for a little bit."

1 Message

  • Paley Fest 2008 Buffy Reunion - Ign.com Report

    27 March 2008 02:14, by salty-goodness-lover
    OMGosh Emma Caulfield was talking about me!! I saw her in Manchester just a few days before the reunion and I asked her about the Body monolouge. She kept going on and on about how it was the last scene of the day and they didn’t have a break, and she really had to pee and was starving. I just laughed in her face and said thank you