It's Always Darkest Before Dawn

Taken from Xposé Special #15,
Destiny 2001, available now

Since the start of season five, there’s been a familiar stranger in the Summers house. Paul Spragg asked Michelle Trachtenberg about destiny, Dawn and being the sister of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

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Dawn and BuffyThere has certainly been a lot to like about the latest (fifth) season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but most obvious has been a superb young actress introduced into the regular cast. Appearing at the start of the season as Dawn Summers, the sister we never knew Buffy had (because she didn’t, but more of that later), Michelle Trachtenberg has made an indelible impact on the show, and she’s still only 15.

Trachtenberg has also been a fan of the show from the very beginning. “Joss [Whedon, the creator] has often told me that I am one of the only season regulars that they have had on the show that really, really knows their Buffy. I mean, every part of it. You can ask me a trivia question from seasons one through four, obviously including five, and I’ll know the answer and give you background.”

Proving this, she adds, “I really loved Hush and when Buffy and Faith switch places [This Year’s Girl/Who Are You]. I liked the season finale at the end of season four [Restless], which is actually where my character, Dawn, is referred to by name.”

Little did she realize then that she would soon be an integral part of the show, and despite having a familiarity with the characters, she still admits, “I was a little bit nervous because the show had already been established. But on my first day I was welcomed with open arms and they really accepted me and made me feel at home, like I’d been there for four years along with everybody else.

“I worked with Sarah [Michelle Gellar, Buffy] before on All My Children for about two-and-a-half years. That was actually the first reason why I started watching Buffy, because I admired Sarah’s work, and then I continued to watch because of the original and unique storylines."

Has Trachtenberg got any siblings of her own? “Yes, I have an older sister.” So does that help make Dawn and Buffy’s relationship more realistic? “In a sense, yes, because I kind of have an insight into what is expected of a sister... But because Dawn has this extra-special origin and she is the key to Mankind’s survival, I’ve had to create a lot of Buffy and Dawn’s relationship, just from how Sarah and I interact. Because Buffy is the Slayer, they both have an extra-special secret, so they will share that and they both share so many emotions, like in The Body with the death of Joyce [Buffy and Dawn’s mom].”

The Body was merely the latest in a long line of powerful emotional stories that Trachtenberg has had to deal with this season. It was carried purely on the performances of those involved, with no music present. How did Trachtenberg feel when she saw the script?

“I was first of all amazed at how peacefully, in a sense, and how to the point it was written. We were all, with our dialogue, a little bit more blunt, and when I read the scene where Dawn finds out that her mother is dead, it was shocking.

“In silence so many things can happen, and that’s what The Body, in my personal opinion, illustrated. I think it was a really wonderful collaborative effort; the end result, obviously Joss – being the writer and director – letting each of us experience our character’s emotions by ourselves and then adding his thoughts and letting it be a collaborative effort. We really put our all into The Body, and we had, in the weirdest sense, a lot of fun with it. Personally, I had a lot of fun with it because I got to see a whole other side of my character that I didn’t know before.”

As we speak, Trachtenberg is on set for filming of the season’s penultimate episode. Is this the first part of a season-concluding two-parter? “I can’t tell you that!” she exclaims, laughing. “I guess what I can say is that in the latter episode, it’s pretty much the resolution of the entire season, everything that has been mentioned throughout the season and every little problem collected within the last few episodes will be either explained or a resolution will come from them. You guys will find out a little bit more about Glory and Ben and Dawn and the Key and the gift of the Slayer, etc.”

So she’s not going to reveal how they’re connected? “Oh no, of course not! I’m keen to your tricks!” she replies firmly. One more try: what everyone wants to know is, will she be in the next season? “And that is a question that I cannot answer... I’m sure you will all be hearing many rumors over the Internet and you can believe them and not believe them but we will never ever tell what will happen.” She laughs again...

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Taken from Xposé Special #15,
Destiny 2001, out now