Q&A with Sarah Michelle Gellar

Buffy has kind of a unique high school experience. What memories do you have of your own time in school?

I had an amazing, amazing time at high school and I think that the reason for that was that I went to a high school that wasn't about conformity. It really stressed being an individual and personal freedom. My junior high school experience wasn't really wonderful. I went to a private school in Manhattan with a lot of rich socialite children where I really didn't fit in. I was an outsider and it's very difficult to be [one] in a situation like that.

It must have been hard to have a career as an actress and be a schoolgirl at the same time.

I think 'tortured' would be the right word. I didn't have any friends in junior high school because I was different. I left for six months to do a Neil Simon show and when I got back, I just thought everything would go back to the way it was. But, everyone said, 'Well, you left for six months - you think you're gonna come back and we're just gonna be your friends again?' And I had no concept that was how it was. I had two friends in junior high school and that was it.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER has captured the imagination in a big way. How is it that the show manages to make the whole area of the supernatural seem so real?

I think what makes 'Buffy' so real is how much we put into it and how much we believe. When I'm standing on that set and that monster is coming at me, it's as real as anything can be at that moment. So when I go home, I'm a little shaky and have a lot of nightmares.

There's not much that scares Buffy. But what scares you?

When I was younger, I used to totally fear that a kidnapper was going to climb up to my twelfth story window - using suction cups like Spider Man - and kidnap me. And I have an irrational fear of cemeteries and being buried alive.

Didn't you have to do a "Buffy" episode where you were buried alive in a cemetery?

I told the producer, 'Look, I can't do it, I'm sorry.' Through mis-communication, the message never got relayed and it was four in the morning and they basically made me do it. I was hysterical. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done for my job, ever. Some people find cemeteries a turn-on. Not me. I cried the whole way home. It was horrible! It's really hard to be a vampire slayer if you're scared of cemeteries...

In what other ways are you different than Buffy?

Let me tell you how un-Buffy I am: For the first episode, I come in and yell, 'What's the sitch?' I did not know what 'sitch' meant. I still have to ask [creator/executive producer] Joss Whedon, 'What does this mean?' because I don't speak the lingo. I think he makes it up half the time.

Do you watch yourself on TV?

I don't. I kind of have this mentality that there's gotta be something better I can do than sit down and watch myself on television. I sort of feel like it's bad luck.

You've managed to find time to appear in a couple of movies, like I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, SCREAM 2 and CRUEL INTENTIONS. What's the greatest difference between making BUFFY and shooting a film?

Time. Time is the greatest gift of film. We have such an incredibly quick deadline schedule on the television show. We shoot a show every eight days, with usually one or two days of second unit, as well as having major computer graphics and stunt work to do within it. So, a lot of times, your big emotional scenes can get lost in the shuffle because you're so busy trying to get the big scenes. But when you're doing film, you have that time. Even though CRUEL INTENTIONS was done on a pretty quick schedule, we still had time to do take after take. There's also the rehearsal factor. On the television show, if we rehearse it more than twice, that's a big deal.