Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Q&A with Sarah Michelle Gellar

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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.

Which environment do you prefer, film or television?

They’re so different. I don’t think you can compare them. In the movies, you have a character and you have a beginning, middle and end – and you tell their story. On the television show, I’m able to broaden the character and I feel that I’ve experienced her life for the past three years. I take it very personally a lot of the time. If I compare CRUEL INTENTIONS to other movies I’ve worked on, I can tell you by far it was my favorite movie. It was the most amazing experience. But I could never compare them.

A lot of movie studios seem eager to cast TV actors in their movies. Why do you think that is?

It’s really interesting because when you think about it, in America E.R. can hit 34 million households in one night and if a movie could generate 34 million people to go on its opening day… So it always surprised me that people weren’t tapping into that audience and now what is so interesting, and sort of ironic, is that in the past three years we’ve seen all the good television people [from] FRIENDS and E.R. doing movies and now we’re seeing all these people who normally did movies doing television, [like] Robin Williams on CHICAGO HOPE. I think it’s great that the barriers are being pulled down. If you’re an actor, you should be able to do movies, or television, or theatre. I know I want to do all of that.

Is it a pain in the neck that you get more scripts for vampire flicks and horror films than anything else?

You know what? It is, to an extent. But the main point is – let’s be honest – that I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for my television show and I remember that every day. CRUEL INTENTIONS was a rare script to find, (because) most of the movie scripts that I read I don’t think are as good as my show. I really don’t! I think we tell a little movie every week and I’m so proud of what we do.

How are you coping with the pressure of your schedule?

It’s been really hard this year. I’ve been working straight through for about three years now. I haven’t taken more than a week off in three years. And like every other year, I planned to do another movie (this summer). But after working on CRUEL INTENTIONS, and having the experience that I had and a finished product that I was really proud of, I was really having trouble because stuff that interested me wasn’t available in my hiatus or couldn’t get ready to go in time… So I think what I’m gonna do is take a little bit of time out and travel – this is my first trip to London – and live my life a little bit.

What other ambitions do you have?

Next year, I’d like to make my own movie – find a script that I’m really proud of and spend the time to develop it with people over the course of the year, and then shoot that next year.

How has sudden celebrity changed you as a person?

I have become more private about my private life. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to keep your sanity and to keep your basic person grounded is to have a life that is completely separate from what we do. It’s the way that I feel I can keep myself grounded.

What about dating? Is it difficult to maintain a relationship at this point?

I’ve dated a couple of people recently but, with my job, dating takes a back seat. Sometimes I get upset and lonely and it’s sort of like, ‘Wow, I’m the only single person left in America.’ I can’t commit to a serious relationship right now but maybe it’s because I haven’t met the right person.

What would the right person be like?

He has to be very driven and very serious. I take everything that I say very seriously – you can’t take back words – and I don’t do anything half-way. I don’t have much in common with people my own age, so I always have to date people that are older. A guy who’s 22, he’s in college and is kind of finding himself, partying – and that’s not me.

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