XANDER THE GREAT

Excerpt taken from
Cult Times #56

Separated from all his college-going friends and dating a man-hating demon, Xander still finds time to invite the gang over for Hallowe’en, sell bad beer to the student population and grapple with a few vampires.

“This isn’t really a comical world,” confides Nicholas Brendon to Melissa J Perenson

Tom Baker as Hopkirk's mentor Wyvern

The fourth season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer has taken the successful series in new and unexpected directions. The Scooby gang is out of high school now, and facing the real world challenges of college and life decisions, along with the decidedly other-worldly challenges of demons, monsters, and a mysterious government agency... Those different directions give actor Nicholas Brendon pause as he considers the implications of the past year.

“We’re not done yet, so these are my thoughts while we’re still shooting,” says Brendon with the same dry delivery viewers have come to expect from his character, Xander, on Buffy. “It was cool because it was a growing year for everybody. And very realistic, which is what I think Joss does an amazing job with on the show. Like Willow’s new relationship, which I think happens in college – and the confusion, the hurt from opposite sex people,” muses Brendon.

“And my character, it’s just kind of… it’s funny, because it’s kind of what I did in my real life. I didn’t go to college right away… if ever. He’s just trying to find his niche in life, and every week he has a different job. It seemed that even though we had a lot of the monsters and ghouls and stuff, the main monster and ghouls seemed to be real life traumas and problems.”

The character of Xander often seems to fill the role of the show’s Greek chorus. But he’s also the personification of series’ creator Joss Whedon, who has stated that Buffy’s depiction of the trials and tribulations of teenage life is essentially a thinly-veiled version of Whedon’s own high school years.

“I think it was Joss when he was in school, but now he’s God, so he has more say on what the outcome is,” jokes Brendon. “It’s almost as if the show is seen through Xander’s eyes. He guffaws and laughs and looks in wonderment, and also he has to live Joss’s life in high school and college” The wry, sardonic wit that’s Xander’s trademark comes naturally to Brendon. “I just take the lines and do them like I want to do them. I like comedy. It’s escapism. Because this isn’t really a comical world”

After four years on the air, Buffy remains one of the WB Network’s strongest, most consistent, and most lauded efforts. Not that Brendon or any of the other actors knew what they were in for when they first began on this little-show-that-could. “It was like fighting tooth and nail with the network for them to even give us a shot, because they picked up 7th Heaven over us. We were a midseason replacement. And so I think it was because of Joss being who he was, even then, that they gave it a shot.

"I think the first episode we all saw together was episode three, which was the Witch episode, and we were all sitting there with chills going, 'oh my god, this is really a cool show.' And I think that’s when we started to realize [what we had with Buffy]. And then when it aired the ratings were really good, and we never looked back.”

There’s always the potential for shock with Buffy, and Whedon never misses a beat when he sees a chance to throw viewers for a loop. However, according to Brendon, rumours that a character on the series will be killed off at the end of this season are inaccurate. But he does drolly offer this insight: “Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles are the four characters that will never die. Unless there’s a bitter contract dispute with Fox. Anyone above and beyond that is expendable in Joss’s eyes.”

Melissa J Perenson

Xander
The Philanderer

It’s time to explode the ‘geek myth’ about Xander Harris. Like Frasier Crane and Chandler Bing from Friends, he makes so much play of his own lack of success with women that we sometimes tend not to notice that it’s completely untrue.

In fact, the former ‘school geek’ of Sunnydale has had some kind of action with a bewildering number of attractive women over the three-and-a-half seasons of Buffy so far, including all of the main female characters.

To prove the point, in this issue we list them in alphabetical order… Here's a quick ABC sample

Anya
Few would dispute that Xander’s current girlfriend is really quite a catch, despite (and partly because of) the fact that she’s intensely weird and a former demon. Well done there.

Buffy
Despite being the main unrequited love of Xander’s life, Buffy has (almost literally) thrown herself at Xander on a couple of occasions. First there was that steamy dance at the Bronze in When She Was Bad, merely to make Angel jealous.

Second, there was a distinctly tempting moment in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered when young Harris really did have a shot at every Buffy fan’s dream, but declined because she was under the influence of a spell. Ethics suck, sometimes.

Cordelia In perhaps the most surprising pairing of the series, the ‘school geek’ not only managed to carry off a relationship with the self-styled ‘most popular girl in school’, but also made her fall for him in a big way.

John Binns

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Images © Sue Schneider / Paul Fenton /Moonglow Photos
Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction.