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Feature: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

What Amber Did Next…

Amber Benson

As the stuttering lesbian witch Tara Maclay, Amber Benson gained a legion of fans on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Sadly, though, Tara’s days were numbered, and she died after being shot through the heart. Shame. But it’s far from the end for the actress, as we found when he spoke to her about her projects in comics, films and online webcasts…

“Oh no, is it really Sunday? Did I lose a day?” It’s a grey December morning in London, and inside Soho’s splendid Curzon cinema Amber Benson seems slightly nervous, not to mention a little tired. Which is completely understandable, for while she’s best known to the selected audience in the UK for playing Tara on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, today she’s introducing the UK première of a courageous little indie film. Chance stars Benson as the unusually named title character, whose flatmate happens to be her fellow Buffy star James Marsters. The reason she feels so personally responsible? Benson wrote and directed this spiky romantic comedy – while she was still a regular in Sunnydale – financing it on a proverbial shoestring with the support of her family, plus many of the fans she’s gained from appearing in almost 50 episodes of Buffy.

“Hi, I’m Amber Benson, I’m an actor and on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I play a stuttering lesbian witch”. That’s the kind of introduction Benson gave herself a year or so ago during a photo-shoot for glossy American magazine Stuff. But during 2002, having left the role of Tara behind her, she’s been hard at work in post-production on Chance, while also developing Ghosts of Albion, a groundbreaking Internet drama she’s just directed for BBCi, the interactive and online division of the BBC. Which is the other reason she’s spending much of December in London.

More about that later: first, Benson reflected on the impact of her long stint among Sunnydale’s finest. Tara first appeared in the super-spooky Hush, the standout episode midway through Season Four, as the UC Sunnydale student who befriends Willow. What a way that was to start: “I love that episode, it’s one of my favourites” agrees Benson. With Tara being revealed almost immediately as a powerful witch, did Benson ever research the magical elements of the scripts? “I didn’t really do any research for Buffy aside from getting the phonetic spelling of the Latin words in the invocations! But I’d always been kind of interested in the Occult and the Supernatural. Lots of people are curious about what happens when you die, and whether another supernatural dimension exists. I’d done lots of reading on that subject, just for myself, long before Buffy came along.”

Although blessed with considerable power, the shy Tara was one of the gentlest, most empathetic characters in Sunnydale. Whereas Willow brought chaos into Season Six, Tara had by then become something of an inspirational figure, especially to women who were Wiccan or lesbian. Although Benson doesn’t replicate Tara’s lifestyle, she does echo the empathy that made Tara special.

“The whole idea of Wicca and goddess religion – I think that’s wonderful. It’s not dark or about making money or trying to hurt people, it’s really about caring for the Earth and how we’re all interconnected. If people would stop being terrified of the term witch or Wicca, they could really learn something. These people practising it are doing it because it appeals to their sense of environmentalism or community”, says Benson.

by Mark Wyman

Get the full feature when you buy
TV Zone #161

Photo © Warner Bros
Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone #161
April 2003
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