This year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Buffy The Vampire Slayer first hitting our TV screens. The tale of the teenage high schooler becoming chosen to save the world from the vampires and demons became an instant smash hit and found its way into the heart of fans and into the history of popular culture. But for this list we are moving away from the generation-defining Buffy The Vampire Slayer and focusing on its spin-off show, Angel.
Being Buffy Summers’ only true love for the first three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel decided to leave Sunnydale behind him and headed for L.A. Starting up a detective agency with fellow Sunnydale resident Cordelia Chase, Angel became a champion for the people as he helped the helpless. Running for five seasons and expanding the Buffyverse even more, as well as having a loyal fanbase in its own right, Angel proved to be one of those rare gems in TV, a show that became not just a great spin-off, but being a great show in its own right. With that in mind, here are 15 facts about Angel that you might not know.
15. Angel Is Not Buffy
The first entry on our list looks at the very concept and idea for the Angel TV show. When Joss Whedon started playing around with the idea of having a spin-off show to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, there is one thing he wanted more than anything and that was not to have a Buffy 2.0. When he decided to use the character of Angel and put him in a different world, it was important that Angel wasn’t Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Although Angel keeps a lot of the heart, and even dialogue, that is in Buffy, the show itself is drastically different. Whedon was determined to take the vampire world he had created and do something that was darker, grittier, and more aimed for the adult market rather than for the teenage/young adult audience. He seemed to have accomplished that with Angel.
14. The Opening Credits
For our next entry on this list we’re are focusing on the opening credits and the theme tune. Firstly, when Whedon wanted to move Angel to his own show, one of his first thoughts was about the music. He wanted the show to have a “dark superhero” feel to it so he set up a competition and invited artists to submit music to the show. Alternative rock band Darling Violetta sent in a piece to Whedon and he loved it so much that he used if for the main theme to Angel.
Now the opening credits. Eagled-eyed viewers would have noticed that as Darling Violetta’s theme plays there is an image of a young girl cowering and crying. This is actually taken from Buffy, from the episode “Anne,” which was set in L.A. It’s also an actress that has appeared many times on the two shows as Anne, Chantelle, Lilly, and Joan. There is also a slight mishap at the end of the opening sequence; when Angel is walking down an alleyway, with his coat swishing behind him, his reflection can clearly be seen in a puddle on the ground. But vampires don’t have reflections, remember?
As much as Angel wanted to be its own TV show in its own right, because it was a spin-off show it would always be tied to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, so Whedon used this to his advantage several times with storylines and characters. Over the course of Angel‘s run, a total of 18 actors reprised their characters and appeared on Angel. Apart from the obvious characters such as Angel, Cordelia, Wesley,and Spike, there was also Buffy herself, Willow, Oz, Darla, Drusilla, Faith, The Master, Lilly/Anne, Andrew, Harmony, and members of The Watcher’s Council. No original Angel character ever made it to Sunnydale, although, Andy Hallett, who played Lorne, did appear in Buffy season four but not as the same character. He played a student in “Hush.”
On the same note, when Buffy The Vampire Slayer ended, Nicholas Brendon, who played Xander, actually begged for his character to move across to Angel but Whedon didn’t think Xander would fit into the Angel team. And Buffy herself was supposed to be in season five but because of filming issues (Sarah Michelle Gellar was filming The Grudge at the time) she couldn’t do it so instead they used a double. Especially in the episode “The Girl In Question.”
12. Wesley Was Supposed To Die On Buffy…
It’s interesting how much a character can change over the course of a TV show. So much so that we couldn’t possibly imagine the show without them. One such character is Wesley Wyndham-Price. Over the course of both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, not many characters have changed as much as Wesley. Starting off on Buffy, Wesley was supposed to represent what Watcher Giles used to be. Stuffy, authoritative, and playing completely by the rule book, Wesley was Giles from season one and Whedon wanted to show us just how much Giles had grown and changed.
So the original plan was to have Wesley killed at the end of season three. However, when the idea for an Angel spin-off show came up, they wanted a “Watcher” type character in their show, someone who knew what was going on, who the demons were, and could explain it to Angel and the audience. So Wesley was chosen as the character and the rest is history.
11. …And He Isn’t English Either
As we’ve just mentioned with our previous entry, the character of Wesley Wyndham-Price is a very interesting one. He almost became the anti-hero of Angel. Driven by his upbringing and training as a Watcher, Wesley was always caught between what he thought was right and important. More often than not this caused friction between him and Angel, most notably when Wesley took Angel’s son because he thought it was the right thing to do for the sake of the world.
Unlike his counterpart, Giles, Wesley often got the brunt and backlash from the team for his actions and many times, he was overlooked by Angel’s fellow team mates as a bumbling idiot when secretly, Wesley was the one to make all the hard choices and it would often leave him isolated from the team. Wesley was played brilliantly by Alexis Denisof and although he has a flawless British accent, Denisof is actually American but learned his acting trade by living in Britain for many years. He is also happily married to Alyson Hannigan, who played Willow.
10. Angel’s Age And Other Errors
Over the course of both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, there has been many disputes and inconsistencies. For example, Buffy Summers’ birthday and age has changed a few times until Whedon finally picked a date and stuck to it. However, the most common continuity errors come from the vampires. It’s often seen, particularly with Spike, that vampires can smoke and yet they have no breath. On a similar note, many times a vampire has been strangled, but again, this can’t happen. There is also the fact that most vampires are taken out quite easily and yet Angel and Spike can pretty much survive anything, even death for which they have both come back from.
But the biggest confusion in both shows is the age of Angel himself. There are several reasons why this particular issue has caused some confusion but we are now here to set things right. Liam, Angel’s name before he was a vampire, was born in 1727 and was turned into a vampire by Darla in 1753 but Angel, and the show, only count Angel’s life span from when he was turned into a vampire and became known as Angel/Angelus, and they also don’t count the time he spent in Hell as part of his life span either. So when the show ended Angel was 251 years old.
9. Joss Whedon Appeared On Angel
Possibly only the most eagle-eyed viewers and die hard fans would be aware of this entry. At the end of season two, Angel and the gang have to travel to a different dimension in order to save Cordelia, who had fallen through a portal. This new world happens to be the home dimension of The Host Lorne. Over the course of those episodes, a new character was introduced, Fred, and she quickly became a permanent member of the team. Also for those episodes, Angel would be able to walk in the sunshine, Corelia was made queen, and Lorne had his head cut off.
Throughout this story arch, there may have been one moment that you missed: when Angel accompanies Lorne to visit his mother she can only express herself by demanding that Numfar, Lorne’s cousin, dances. “Numfar, do the dance of joy” and so on. But who was this Numfar? It was none other than Whedon himself. Whedon wanted to keep this a secret so only Boreanaz, David Greenwalt, and Tim Minear knew who Numfar was.
8. Doyle Was Supposed To Be American
As we’ve already mentioned on this list, characters can completely change over the course of a TV show. Whether that’s down to the actor or the writers or it just happens organically, some characters can be drastically different by the end of a show. However, there are some changes that happen simply because they need to. The character of Doyle is one such example of this. At the very beginning of Angel, Doyle was brought in as help for Angel and a connection to the Powers That Be so that Angel knew who to save, thanks to Doyle’s visions. However, Doyle soon met his end, but he passed the visions on to Cordelia so Angel could keep fighting.
Originally, however, Doyle was supposed to be very different. Firstly, Doyle wasn’t supposed to be Irish but Glenn Quinn, who played Doyle, wanted to use his normal accent so Whedon agreed. This in itself caused a few problems as Quinn would often have to re-dub his lines as his accent was too thick. But before that, Angel’s sidekick wasn’t even meant to be Doyle. It was actually supposed to be Whistler, who appeared in Buffy episode “Becoming,” but the actor who played him wasn’t available so the writing team had to have a rethink and Doyle was born.
7. Christian Kane Was Almost Riley Finn
Speaking of changes to characters and actors, one of the main villains for Angel throughout his show was the law firm Wolfram and Hart, and in the early seasons, lawyer Lindsey. Angel and Lindsey were trading blows and insults for many episodes throughout the show, and by the end of Angel‘s run, they were on the same team fighting the good fight. Well, sort of, at least that’s what Angel wanted Lindsey to believe.
But how different it could have all been. The banter between the two characters has been brilliant to watch, but originally actor Christian Kane actually wanted to be Angel’s replacement as he auditioned for the role of Buffy’s new love Riley Finn. After coming very close to winning the part, the Buffy crew decided to go a different way with Riley but Whedon loved Kane so much that when he created the character of Lindsey, he did it with Kane in mind.
6. Charisma Carpenter And Joss Whedon’s Feud
Throughout many TV shows, movies, and, in fact, any form of art or creativity, there has been feuds between the creative people involved and Angel was no different. This feud is between Joss Whedon and Charisma Carpenter. When Angel first started, Carpenter’s character, Cordelia, was a shallow cheerleader who was only interested in being popular and having money. But when Whedon started Angel he wanted to see what he could do with the character of Cordelia, so he took her with him to L.A.
However, that’s where the trouble started. Once Cordelia received the visions from Doyle and her character had changed from a brat to a genuine hero, the writers soon realized that there wasn’t anything else they could do with the character so they started to phase her out, which was timed well, since Charisma Carpenter was pregnant in real life. So in the show, they put her in a coma. But during season five’s 100th episode, they wanted Carpenter to reprise her role for one episode. She agreed but only if they didn’t kill off Cordelia as at this point there was going to be a sixth season and Carpenter wanted to come back. Whedon agreed to her terms but as soon as she turned up for filming, Whedon decided to kill off Cordelia once and for all. To this day the Carpenter and Whedon still aren’t speaking.
5. Writing Fan Fiction Can Really Pay Off
Our next entry is a real life “dream come true” feel good story. Both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel had a huge cult fanbase, so much so that these fans were dedicated to their favorite heroes and would often write fan fiction. Nowadays, fan fiction is a big thing and there are many websites, forums, and even books dedicated to fans writing new stories for their favorite characters.
One such fan was writer Mere Smith. Spending a lot of her time writing a ton of fan fiction for her favorite shows, Smith decided one day to send something to Joss Whedon himself. Whedon loved the script so much that not only did he use it but Smith became one of the main writers for Angel and has since gone on to become a very successful screenwriter and producer. That very first episode that caught Whedon’s attention was “Untouched.” It just goes to show that anything is possible if you keep trying and have confidence in what you are doing. Well done, Mere Smith.
4. David Boreanaz Was Almost Batman
It’s true what they say in the movie business: it’s not what you know it’s who you know, and a lot of the time, it all comes down to luck. Many actors say that a lot of their success is down to luck, even David Boreanaz has said this about his own success. Especially as he was only told to audition for the part of Angel on Buffy The Vampire Slayer because a TV executive saw him out walking his dog! So luck can play a huge part. However, that can only get you so far and talent does the rest.
There’s no denying that Boreanaz, especially as Angel, took his “lucky” chance and not only went for it but created one of the most iconic TV characters in recent times. We’re not the only ones to think that either. When Christopher Nolan was charged with revamping Batman for the big screen, he caught an episode of Angel and was so impressed by Boreanaz’s portrayal of a tortured soul that he wanted him for the part of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. Boreanaz declined and the role went to Christian Bale. How close we came to having a very different Batman!
3. James Marsters Saved Angel
Ok, so we can’t say that the success of season five of Angel was purely down to James Marsters’ Spike becoming a permanent character, but it was certainly one major reason. When Angel first started, it became an instant hit and expanded the Buffyverse both onscreen and with fans. However, over the course of its run, particularly during season three and four, Whedon had taken a step back to focus on other things and major characters, such as Cordelia, were all but written out. This saw a dip in the quality and viewership of the show.
So when season five got commissioned, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer ended, Whedon took full reins of the show once more. With a new setting, moving from the hotel to Wolfram and Hart, a new look and feel to the show and the decision to bring in fan favorite Spike, season five of Angel became one of the best and most popular seasons that Angel ever had. By the time Angel finished, it was one of the biggest and most watched shows on TV, and a lot of people do credit that with Spike bringing a much needed boost to the show and characters.
Considering that we just spent our last entry saying just how popular and successful Angel had become, particularly with season five, it was a huge shock when it was announced that Angel would be cancelled. As we’ve just mentioned, with Joss Whedon back in charge of the show and the inclusion of Spike, which created some truly brilliant moments between him and Angel and gave the whole show a much needed kick up the butt, the show had found its feet once again and season five was meant to be the springboard for a new era of Angel.
So why the cancellation? Well, that’s simple. Even though Angel was back on top and one of the most popular shows on TV at the time, many of the cast and crew were nervous and worried that they may not get another season, which is the way of things in TV land. So Joss Whedon himself, confident that Angel would get at least one more season, went to executives and demanded they be cleared for early renewal. The TV suits didn’t take too kindly to this and decided to cancel the show instead, much to the outrage of everyone involved and of course the fans.
1. Season Six?
Before Angel got cancelled, Whedon, and the writers, were confident that the show would continue and therefore already had plans in place for what would happen in season six. Season five built up to an enormous climax in which Wolfram and Hart unleashed their true power on the world. Fred was dead and had become the goddess Illirya, Wesley had died, and Gunn was close to death by the end of the episode. So we were left with Angel and Spike leading the way and an epic battle was just about to begin. What a cliffhanger to end the season on! Obviously we would never see on screen what would have followed.
But since the show ended, the writers have come out to say what would have happened. Wesley would have been resurrected. Gunn would have turned into a vampire and actually become one of the season’s villains and the character Illirya would have been split in two so that Fred could come back, but the show could keep the powerful Illyra. A few of these ideas and stories have actually happened in comic book form, but we will never know how they would have worked on screen.