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Feature: TV Heroes - The Television We Love

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy in her high-school yearsUS, 20th Century Fox, 1997-present, 122+ episodes.
Rob Francis is the assistant producer of the BBCi website for Cult programmes at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/

"Who should be leaning against the wall, taking a breather from filming, but Sarah herself!"

What's Buffy like then? If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me that in the last eight months, I'd probably have as much money as Joss Whedon. Or at least the guy who makes his tea. Whilst the face of dainty demon destroyer Sarah Michelle Gellar leaps out from the cover of practically every magazine these days, very few people have experienced her first-hand. Sadly, because she isn't known for convention appearances and thanks to occasional unreliable reports about her attitude on the Buffy set, many seem to assume that she could be a bit of a monster. It couldn't possibly be that she has double the workload of many of her colleagues and likes a bit of privacy when not filming, could it?

Last Summer, I got to discover what Sarah was really like for myself – and everyone is still quizzing me about the encounter. Despite the recent claims of Sky's Richard Blackwood, he certainly wasn't the first Brit allowed on the set of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, hidden deep in the Los Angeles suburbs. I'm sure I wasn't either, but I did get a rare opportunity to schmooze with the stars – and bagged an increasingly rare Buffy-related chat with Ms Gellar in the process.

My first encounter with the modern American icon was less than formal. In search of a quiet spot for his own interview to be filmed, Buffy writer/producer Doug Petrie led me to the back of the Buffy soundstage. As we rounded the corner of the giant converted warehouse, who should be leaning against the wall, taking a breather from filming, but Sarah herself! Nibbling on a biscuit – yes, you can still look that good and eat food too! – Sarah gave us a dazzling smile and noted that our unintentionally identical haircuts were suspiciously similar to the shorn look recently adopted by her boyfriend. "Hey, why are all you guys looking like Freddie [Prinze Jnr] these days?" she joked. Could this be the same aloof, grumpy Gellar that ‘fans' griped about on the Internet? She seemed fine to me.

The next day, I was back on set, quizzing the rest of the cast. The publicity people at Fox had put in an interview request to Sarah's management, knowing from past experience that the chances of this happening were unlikely to say the least. I was prepared for disappointment. Around 10pm, however, shortly after Nicholas Brendon had rushed back to the set of the Summers house to tell Anya that action was Spiderman's reward for the 20th time, word came that Sarah, surprisingly, was up for a chat. Good job I had prepared some questions, I guess!

Although our time together was limited, I found her witty, charming, unaffected and fiercely intelligent. Oh yes, and she's just as petite as you imagined she would be. Any star who doesn't immediately assume you know who they are, or confesses their action figure looks worryingly like Eric Estrada from CHiPs immediately scores highly in the likeably stakes. I later discovered mine was the only interview Sarah has granted the BBC in over two years. What's Buffy like then? As far as I'm concerned, she's fabulous.

by Rob Francis

• See the results of Rob's video interview here:
BBC - Cult - Buffy - Sarah Michelle Gellar

Read dozens more personal stories about
TV Heroes, covering programmes from Ace of Wands and Ally McBeal to Twin Peaks and Virtual Murder, in:
TV Zone Special #45

Image © 20th Century Fox
Feature © Visual Imagination 2002. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone Special #45, see below for ordering options
TV Zone Special #45
TV Heroes 2002
ships from Apr 25 2002
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