Buffy, Tara, Spike, and Xander, together again! A large part of the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer took the stage Thursday night at the PaleyFest in Los Angeles, revealing some secrets from their eight years of working on the series and taking questions from appreciative fans who often credited Buffy with shaping their whole lives.
And when I say appreciative, there really should be a capital A. This crowd of more than 800 cheered at everything — from the opening clip of one of Sarah Michelle Gellar's 1994 scenes on All My Children to the introduction of the panel's moderator. (In terms of cast members, James Marsters seemed to get the most applause, but show creator Joss Whedon was the only person to get a standing ovation.)
In attendance: Whedon, writer/producers Marti Noxon and David Greenwalt, and cast members Gellar, Marsters, Amber Benson (Tara), Nicholas Brendon (Xander), Emma Caulfield (Anya), Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia), Seth Green (Oz), and Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn). Both Eliza Dushku and Alyson Hannigan were listed in the program, but neither showed — bummer. But the others kept the conversation lively — especially Green, who had a one-liner for everything, for better or worse.
The night really got going with a screening of the musical episode "Once More with Feeling" (not a sing-along, sadly). The episode proved to be a perfect starting point for talking about what's made Buffy so enduring, so for the scoop (update: here's part two of my report), just
- Noxon introduced the episode screening by saying that, frankly, the writers had some doubts about whether Whedon could actually pull off a musical: "We were — not nervous, we just hadn't ever seen him write a song before," she explained. For his part, Whedon said he was actually more terrified to put together "Hush," the mostly silent episode.
- One theme that kept coming up was the way Buffy consistently pushed the envelope, whether by shifting the formats of its episodes, killing off beloved characters, or even taking Buffy herself into a deep, dark hole during the sixth season. Gellar cited the opening shot of "The Body," which was done in one long take, as another example. "We were constantly doing things that had never been done," she said. "We were constantly doing things that challenged both the audience and ourselves.
- This is probably not news to anyone who's ever been to a Buffy event, but Nicholas Brendan talks so much like Xander, it's creepy.
- Gellar on the initial reaction to getting the role of Buffy: "All of my friends felt sorry for me because I'm on a midseason replacement on a network nobody had heard of, based on a movie that wasn't all that."
- Marsters had a great description of what went into the writing of Buffy, saying the writers took the worst things that happened to them in high school and "put fangs on it." Whedon said he and Greenwalt used to call Gellar "Jimmy Stewart" because she picked up his baton of having to deal with tremendous pain on film.
- One of the biggest bursts of applause in the entire evening was when the moderator (TV Guide's Matt Roush) mentioned that the Spike/Buffy sex scene had recently been named the steamiest TV scene of all time by his magazine. Gellar noted that the way Buffy shows up on those lists, and the way the fan community has reacted to the show over the years, means way more to her than any Emmys the show could have won.
- Gellar said she had no idea until five minutes before the panel took the stage that Buffy had gotten it on with slayer Satsu in the latest comic book. Trachtenberg also had no idea what had happened to Dawn in the comic series. "If these guys were real nerds," Whedon said, "we wouldn't be having this conversation.
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