Alyson Hannigan, a.k.a. Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reveals all for Shivers

As the popular student Willow Rosenberg on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alyson Hannigan has had to deal with a whole host of horrors since 1996.

On meeting Hannigan at London’s Dorchester Hotel during her recent working holiday in Europe, the actress proved to be more playfully relaxed than her often care-worn character...

Alyson Hannigan: well, red...

A Shivers interview by Mark Wyman

Selected from Shivers #80

Initially overshadowed by her best friend Buffy Summers, in character terms Willow has learned to face up to – indeed, sometimes to face down – the undead by herself. By Season Three, an increasingly confident Willow was developing her skills as a well-meaning witch. With her character attracting the attention of many practising Wicca, we wondered if Hannigan felt aware of any awkward issues coming from the representation of the craft on Buffy.

“Well my main issue, I guess, would be pronunciation” she says, semi-seriously, recalling perhaps the complex Romanian gypsy curse voiced by Willow in Becoming. “And the second issue is because of the time restraints we have in making the show.”

Hannigan manages to convey a blend of playfulness and respectful consideration as she explains: “Sometimes we’re setting up a spell, and we need something [on set] so quickly that there isn’t time to get something proper. So sometimes it’s like you’re told ‘Here – just use this’, and you go ‘Wait a minute; that’s just a stupid rock. How do you expect me to turn that into… whatever’ – because, you know, you don’t want to offend people – and they go ‘Oh well, we had to pick it out of the parking lot, sorry…’ But that happens rarely. Our prop people are really good”, she adds, ever the diplomat.

Wicked Willow illustration by David MillerThanks to the spell-casting power of Sunnydale newcomer Anya, Season Three also lifted the veil on a very different kind of Willow: the fetish-loving vampire from an alternate reality, seen in The Wish and Doppelgangland. The latter became a tour de force for Hannigan, who got to play both versions on screen simultaneously. Our hunch that Hannigan had especially enjoyed playing this alterna-Willow proved a safe one: ”Oh, I did – she was fun,” smiles the actress wickedly.

But not only did alterna-Willow behave very unexpectedly, she also looked jaw-droppingly different, in clinging leather trousers and bodice. Did Hannigan encourage the costume and make-up teams to go all out to create that look? “I think it was really Joss [Whedon, series creator] and Cynthia Bergstrom, our costume designer, because she’s always very good about offering ideas. She designed the leather corset.”

Angel Days

The Wish also saw evil Willow take great pleasure in torturing a captive Angel, or as she put it, ‘playing with the puppy’. The real Willow certainly had some significant encounters with that re-souled vampire during his time in Sunnydale (Angel instinctively saves her from a deranged ex-Watcher in Revelations, for example). But that whole romantic tragedy story-line with Buffy might have been played very differently.

On being reminded that, back in the day, she had actually urged Whedon to consider what a great screen couple Angel and Willow might make, Hannigan laughs and exclaims “I did! I’d forgotten about that. David [Boreanaz] and I did have that ongoing joke about Willow and Angel, but now David feels like my brother, so it would be kind of gross..."

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