Michelle Trachtenberg opens up

SUMMERS DAWN

She's the Key to all the Season Five secrets in Sunnydale... Starburst tracked down Buffy’s sister, Michelle Trachtenberg

Text by Ian Spelling

Selected from Starburst #272

The idea of joining the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of her favourite TV shows on the air, excited her. The concept of playing the character of Dawn, younger sister of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy, sounded just great. After all, Michelle Trachtenberg and Gellar were old friends, having worked together on the soap opera All My Children. Still, swell as it all promised to be, so much also could go wrong.

“I was wondering a little bit about how the fans would accept Dawn,” admits Trachtenberg, who made her memorable debut (“Mom!!”) as Dawn in the coda of Buffy Vs. Dracula, the fifth-season opener. “The first couple of episodes, people weren’t quite sure who she really was. So they were a little sceptical. Immediately after the explanation episode they understood who Dawn was and they began to respect her and began to really love her storyline. She was Buffy’s new mission. She is what Buffy has to deal with for the fifth season. She has to protect Dawn, otherwise it’s pretty much the end of the world. So the fans were very curious as to all of Dawn’s secrets, but, of course, I was not able to tell them.

"At least I got their interest sparked, which was exactly what we wanted to do. When you create a new character, especially on Buffy, there’s always a lot of ‘Hmm, who is this person? What does she add to the show?’ But Joss (Whedon) does his storylines so wonderfully that new characters are explained and the viewers accept it.

“There were a lot of episodes so far that were great, episodes that were about Dawn and episodes that were not about Dawn. Real Me and No Place Like Home were probably the two big ones for me. No Place Like Home was great because I, myself, got to find out what Dawn really is. Before that I did not know. I just knew that Dawn was not what she looked to be. It was fun to try to deceive the audience. Is Dawn evil? Is Dawn good? With every scene we were trying to trick the audience. You saw her with a cup of tea. Is there something poisonous in there? Am I the one poisoning Mom (Kristine Sutherland)? In the end you found out that I wasn’t.

Spoilers for episode to be shown on Sky One (UK) on 30th March

"Blood Ties was Dawn – being who she is, the Key and everything – getting a little suspicious of all the whispers going on around her. It’s her putting two and two together. She’s trying to understand and cope. And I loved the way Buffy accepted Dawn as her sister in the end. In all sense, Dawn is human. She is what she is, but she’s been molded into human form. She is now Buffy’s sister and all of her memories are true because everyone accepts them to be true.”

Adolescent secrets

Wait a second, though. Is the 15-year-old actress really saying that series creator/producer/writer Joss Whedon didn’t give her details about Dawn, wouldn’t tell her what was in store, and failed to explain Dawn’s role in the bigger picture?

“At the beginning, I had a meeting with Joss to talk about how Dawn would develop and what the character was like,” Trachtenberg explains. “The meeting was rather short because pretty much all Joss could say was, ‘She’s a normal teenage girl. She has crushes and opinions, blah-blah-blah. She has all the traumas that 14-year-old must go through. But she has a little secret. All I can tell you right now is that she’s this force. She’s this energy. We don’t know the details, but have fun.’

“So it was interesting to develop Dawn. That’s where Joss’s brilliance stems from. When he gets an idea, he doesn’t know where he’s going to take it, but then he just starts to develop it..."

Starburst #272 Continued in this issue:
Michelle talks more about Dawn and Buffy, plus
Andy Hallett on being The Host – Angel's demonic karoaoke MC – and Ian Spelling's review of Blood Ties

Read on by getting Starburst #272

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