On a personal note, I want to say "Thanks!!" to all the cast and crew of this thoroughly amazing show. It feels like I'm losing some really great friends...but I know this is a good time to let it go. "Buffy" is truly on top of the world, and that's how I want to remember it. Best of luck to Sarah and the rest of the cast. I look forward to seeing what Joss will do with a spin-off.
The Goodbye Girl
Sarah Michelle Gellar: Why I quit "Buffy."
In an exclusive interview, the actress reveals the reasons her vamp-dusting days are over—an excerpt from Entertainment Weekly's March 7, 2003, cover story by Jeff Jensen
"Buffy, in this incarnation, is over."
With those words, Sarah Michelle Gellar drives a stake into the hearts of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans everywhere. After seven years—five on The WB, the last two on UPN—the young "Scooby-Doo" star (a.k.a. Mrs. Freddie Prinze Jr.) is leaving the cult pop sensation that made her a household name. Says Dana Walden, president of Twentieth Century Fox Television, which owns "Buffy": "It would be difficult to overemphasize Sarah's value to the show." Adds "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon: "There've been times that we didn't get along. There have been times when we've palled around. But no matter what, she was the other half of 'Buffy.' In seven years, she never let me down."
Gellar is moving on, but plans are afoot to keep the lucrative franchise alive. Whedon is developing a spin-off that may involve current "Buffy" regulars and will be pitched first to UPN. "It will be a completely different animal," he says. The good news for fans: Gellar has promised to make occasional guest appearances on the spin-off. The bad news: The spin-off will not be based around sexy bad-girl slayer Faith, played by Eliza Dushku, who is committed to a Twentieth Century Fox pilot directed by Phillip Noyce.
"Buffy" will end with a five-part story that will see the return of Faith, some surprise deaths, and in the final episode, an appearance by a certain Angel. "We're gearing up to tell a fabulous, huge, great arc," says Gellar. "It's going to be pretty spectacular." Gellar herself is girding for many tears during production of the last episode. It was tough enough for her to keep a dry eye during this, her first exit interview. Popping chocolate-covered raisins as she spoke to EW in a trailer decorated with fan-drawn "Scooby" art, Gellar made us a bet: "Ten bucks says I go home and cry when you leave."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why now? Why is this the right time?
SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR: I hope it is the right time. This is so weird. This is like the first time I've really said it. Joss and I always [said] from the beginning, as long as we can give 140 percent, we'd always be doing it.
You always worry about being the show that's been on too long—especially when you're a cult hit. Last year, a lot of people were ready to tear us down. [So when] we started to have such a strong year this year, I thought, "This is how I want to go out—on top, at our best." I was 18 when I started the show; I'm 26. I'm married. I never see my husband. This has been the longest span of my life in one place. There've been times where that's been difficult—you want to pick up and go, try other things, live in different places. It feels right, and you have to listen to that. The show, as we know it, is over.
Why do you say "as we know it?"
I know they are planning a spin-off, and I would love to come back [for some episodes]—assuming, of course, that they don't kill [Buffy]. The moment I say all this, I'm going to get the last script and go, "Oh, my God!" Look, this is so scary. I love this job, I love the fans. I love telling the stories we tell. This isn't about leaving for a career in movies, or in theater—it's more of a personal decision. I need a rest. Teachers get sabbaticals. Actors don't.
What was it like announcing your decision?
At the beginning of this season, Joss and I had a conversation outside my trailer. We both kind of felt that this was the end, that we should make that decision and say it publicly. And then...we didn't. We didn't even talk about it for a while... [But] the fact the show's been so good [this season] decided it for us. It was a realization that we all came to.
If the show had stronger ratings, and had received more mainstream acclaim—as in Emmys—would you have stayed?
No. Our show never had top 10 numbers, but everyone talked about it. Joss and I disagree on this. People are always, "How sad are you that your show never won any awards?" I think it's great! This is the cool show, the show the voters don't get. I've won an Emmy. Okay, it's a Daytime Emmy, but it's still an Emmy. It doesn't mean nearly as much to me as my Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Female Butt Kicker.
Was money an issue for you?
Money? No complaints. Never.
I'll be honest: ''Buffy'' on UPN has always seemed like an odd fit.
I knew this question was coming.
Do you feel the switch from The WB to UPN in 2001 hurt the show?
It was a hard transition. This is a hard question because UPN has been very supportive of the show. They gave us a home. But I will always have a loyalty and a very, very deep appreciation for the support that I felt at The WB. The WB and "Buffy" were synonymous. They made each other.
So now it's on to a big career as...Daphne in "Scooby-Doo?"
[Laughs] I get a lot of "'Scooby-Doo?!' That's why you're leaving?" "Scooby-Doo" was interesting. The reviews were scathing, and I took it really hard. [But] Freddie said to me, "'Scooby-Doo' isn't for reviewers. We're not making it for them." And when all these children came up to me to say, "'Scooby-Doo' is my favorite movie," that was great. But for a weird time in between, I took everything really personally.
Do you have a clear post-'Buffy' plan for making it in the movies?
If I did, I'd write a book, cash in, and retire. My movie experience has shown me you can't plan.
"Simply Irresistible" was a major flop. Do you have something to prove at the box office?
No. "Simply Irresistible" was [just] a bad choice—and for that it was a great [learning] experience. I wasn't ready to make that movie. I was too young. The script was not ready. I knew in my heart before I left [to make it] that I should back out.
Have you ever had any fear that you would be trapped by your "Buffy" image?
Of course. You run that risk with anything you do. [But to] be greatly identified with anything is a mark of success. My biggest fear right now is that people will blame me for [ending] the show. People are going to think that it's my fault that their favorite show is going off the air. And God knows we're always looking for someone to blame.
Do you think people will hold it against you in a way that will hurt other things you want to do?
No, it's more personal than that. Less professional, more personal. I love the fans. We were a midseason replacement on The WB called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," based on a movie that was a flop. People were like, "Don't worry, you'll get a pilot next season." People pitied me—PITIED me. We couldn't pay directors to come here. Nobody wanted to be on our show. And look what happened.
Time for some exit interview questions. Has there always been a "Buffy" master plan?
Joss has had certain episodes planned from the get-go. I knew Dawn was coming two years in advance.... Willow was always supposed to go bad. Willow was supposed to go bad a year before she did, but Joss loved Tara and Willow, so that story line was pushed a year.... I honestly believe his original intention was to put Buffy and Xander together. I really do believe that.
I loved "The Prom" [season 3]. It stood for everything Buffy was about: the fact that she so badly wanted to be part of the other kids' lives. I think "The Body" [season 5, featuring the death of Buffy's mother] is pretty amazing. I loved the episode in which Buffy and Faith switched. That was one of my all-time favorites because I thought Eliza was so great. And also when Buffy realizes she has to kill Angel and she kills him and he comes back. Those are my favorites.
Least favorite episode?
I had trouble with the one [in the sixth season] where Buffy had sex with Spike on the balcony while watching their friends. I really thought that was out of character. And I didn't like what it stood for. That was the moment that I had the most problems with.
You've mentioned how much you disliked the sixth season. Why was that? And how did you feel about Buffy's depression, and her sexual obsession with Spike?
It wasn't who Buffy was, or why people loved her. You don't want to see that dark heroine; you don't want to see her punishing herself. You want to see her killing vampires and making quips. It didn't feel like the character that I loved.
Joss always explained that season as being about your 20s, where you're not a kid anymore, but you don't know what you want to do [with your life]. He always said that I didn't understand last year because I've always known what I wanted to do, and I didn't have that confusion, [that] dark, depressive period. But I think the heart of the show lies in the humor of the drama. I felt like Buffy's spirit was missing last year.
Who do you think was the best ''Buffy'' villain ever?
Angel. Angel and Spike.
There was so much heartbreak when Angel went bad. This is the love of her life and now her job was to kill him! That's heartbreaking. Not to mention the poor girl has sex for the first time and, you know, turned him bad. I've heard of turning [someone] gay, but...
So, how would you like the show and your work on it to be remembered?
I hope positively. One thing about the show was it was never categorized. It was drama, comedy, action, horror, all of those things combined. And I just want people to remember it as a fabulous run, a fabulous seven years.
Do you know what your last scene in the last episode will be?
I can't even imagine. All I can say is that I really hope I have the last line.... Even talking to you—I don't know how I seem to you, I don't know if I seem once removed from it, [but] I don't think the enormity has hit me. (Additional reporting by Carrie Kravetz and Missy Schwartz)