The series finished over 13 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s any love lost for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. In a show where a young woman has been chosen (or cursed depending on your perspective) with the role of the slayer, she tackles the big bad in the fictional town (and Hellmouth) known as Sunnydale, California. Differing from other previous slayers, who are butt-kicking loners, Buffy aligns herself with a close-knit group of friends to help her battle evil. Buffy, along with her friends with varying degrees of powers themselves (with the exception of Xander, who’s got nuthin’ and Cordie is popular), fight vampires and other demons in their self-proclaimed “Scooby-Gang.” For seven seasons, which berthed the spin-ff series Angel, people relive their fandom through re-watching the series (now available for binge watching on Netflix), reading the comic series (Season 8 of the comic was even written by Joss Whedon), fan fiction, and attending various Comic-Con(esque) events to celebrate the wonderful Buffyverse created by the brilliant mind of Joss Whedon.
The show received critical acclaim and reached an impressive four and six million viewers during the original airings. Many die-hard fans know the ins and outs of the show, and can recite lines and lyrics from the Once More, With Feeling episode as if they were performing themselves, but there are a lot of facts about the series that most of us don’t know. Here are 15 little known facts about the Buffy-verse to help anyone “slay” at trivia night.
15. Cast Choices Were Interesting From The Beginning
It’s hard to imagine anyone but the existing players in Sunnydale, but not everyone cast was the immediate first choice, except for Anthony Stewart Head; he was the first person they cast because he added a depth of sexiness to Buffy’s watcher Giles that others auditioning didn’t. Actors Katie Holmes and Selma Blair were both up for the role of Buffy, with Holmes turning it down to attend high school. Sarah-Michelle Gellar originally auditioned for the role of the princess of popularity Cordelia Chase, while Charisma Carpenter wanted the role of Buffy. In The Watchers Guide, Marcia Shulman, who worked on Buffy casting said, “Then we went to the network, they knew that Sarah was a star from her previous work, and that she could be Buffy, and that we could do that Buffy.” The role of Xander was offered to Ryan Reynolds, who turned down the role because he had just finished high school, hated it, and didn’t want to play a character in high school. The part of Willow was originally played by actor Riff Regan, but the dynamic didn’t work, so after the pilot they went out in search of a new best friend for Buffy and secured Alyson Hannigan.
14. “Hell’s Bells” Was Performed By An Indie Band
Joss Whedon didn’t really like the original version of the show’s theme song. It was written by someone in Hollywood and Whedon wanted something a lot more rocking to represent his own take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer following the 1992 film. He decided to hold a contest for a theme song amongst a bunch of local indie bands. It was Alyson Hannigan who suggested working with the band Nerf Herder, who ended up writing and recording the song used for the series, and were offered a pretty small amount of money because of the show’s extremely tight budget. Nerf Herder ended up rerecording the song sometime around the second or third season. Because the initial recording of the theme song was done in such a hurry, it went off-tempo around the middle and needed to be fixed. Perhaps this fix was done at the request of many of the cast members who happen to also be gifted singers and musicians, most notably Anthony Head, James Marsters, and the later cast Amber Benson.
13. There Were So Many Awkward Romantic Scenes For The Actors
Romance was in the air when it came to Buffy and Angel, even though Sarah Michelle Gellar told The Independent how intimate moments alongside leading man David Boreanaz (Angel) were anything but romantic. Gellar said the scenes were, “the unsexiest thing in the world,” and added, “We would do horrible things to each other. Like eat tuna fish and pickle before we kissed. If he had to unbutton my shirt or trousers I would pin them or sew them together to make it as hard as I could. Once I even dropped ice cream on him.” Ever the joker Boreanaz used to test his cast-mates abilities to keep a straight face and remain in character during filming and became known for dropping his drawers between takes to see who could keep it together. Perhaps taking the lead from Gellar and Boreanaz, Anthony Stewart Head placed chili peppers in his mouth (in order to look adequately broken and tortured) when he was tortured by Drusilla. We have to wonder what Juliet Landau has to say about her fiery kiss from Head!
12. Familiar Faces, Spaces, and Voices
At the end of every episode of Buffy, there is a monster who walks past the Mutant Enemy logo (the name of Joss Whedon’s production company). That monster is voiced by none-other than Joss himself, and the name Mutant Enemy is inspired by the name Joss gave his very first typewriter when he was 15-years-old. There are two other variations of the “Grrrr. Arrgh,” uttered by the monster. One is at the end of the very heated season two finale (the one with Head and the chili peppers) when the monster cries and says, “I need a hug,” and at the musical episode, Once More, With Feeling, he sings his line.
Have you ever had the feeling Sunnydale High School seems familiar? It is. The exterior for the show is Torrance High School and was also used in Beverly Hills 90210, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, She’s All That, and Not Another Teen Movie.
11. The Episode Hush Was Whedon’s Greatest Challenge
Hands down, this has to be one of the creepiest (and best) episodes of the entire series. Hush is the tenth episode of the fourth season and features The Gentleman, who steal everyone’s voices (so no one can hear them scream when their hearts are cut out). It turns out Whedon felt that he was almost coasting as a director and felt telling a story with limited dialogue would be a great exercise. The results: a 44-minute episode with only 17 minutes of dialogue left audiences speechless. Whedon said, “On a practical level, the idea of doing an episode where everybody loses their voice presented itself as a great big challenge because I knew that I would literally have to tell the story only visually, and that would mean that I couldn’t fall back on tricks.”
The actual creepy villain, The Gentleman, also came directly from a dream Whedon had, and he focused on the Victorian and fairy-tale aspects of the monster. He drew what he envisioned and gave it to the makeup supervisor and the special effects house who created the prosthetic for Buffy. Whedon said, “I was drawing on everything that had ever frightened me, including the fellow from my dream, Nosferatu, pinhead, Mr. Burns—anything that gave that creepy feel,” He wanted creatures to remind viewers of what scared them when they were young children. Those selected to play The Gentleman included mimes.
10. The Show Had Many Shout Outs & Famous Fans
Fans might remember that Buffy would make positive mentions of Xena: Warrior Princess on occasion. The writers who worked on the show decided they would reciprocate by a shout of their own, when they mentioned a play in the episode The Play’s the Thing entitled “Buffus the Bacchae Slayer. Other fans of the show included the late lead singer of the band Stone Temple Pilots, who became a super fan while watching the show when he was serving time in prison. Sarah-Michelle Gellar was later cast in the band’s music video for their hit song Sour Girl and presented her own speculation as to why Buffy was so popular on the cell block saying, “Hot chicks doing battle. It’s like acceptable porn.” Fans of shows outside of the Buffyverse may already know that Jason Behr (Roswell), Amy Adams, Wentworth Miller, and Shane West all appeared on Buffy before securing other, more personally lucrative roles.
9. Willow Made Television History
Some of the show’s foreshadowing was purposeful while other items were pure coincidence. Alyson Hannigan’s first television performance was starring on the show Free Spirit, where she played a witch. In the film My Stepmother is an Alien, her character dated Seth Green, who later played Oz on Buffy, Willow’s first real boyfriend. During the show Willow comments she used to write fan-fiction on the show Doogie Howser, MD, and ended up opposite the show’s star, Neil Patrick Harris, a number of years later when they worked together on How I Met Your Mother. In the season three episode, Doppelgangland, Vampire Willow wants to fight, which leads the real Willow to say, “I’m so evil and… skanky. And I think I’m kinda gay.” In season four, Willow falls for Tara and embarks on her first same sex relationship. This relationship wasn’t just a first for Willow, it made TV history as the first depiction of a longer-term relationship between a lesbian couple on a US prime time television network.
8. The Writers Were Excellent At Foreshadowing
In season four Buffy, complains about the cost of her college books joking, “I can’t wait till mum gets the bill… I hope it’s a funny aneurism.” The next year her mother, Joyce, dies from an aneurysm. At the end of a dream sequence in the end of season three Faith says, “Little Miss Muffet, counting down from 7-3-0.” Not only does this foreshadow the arrival of Dawn (Miss Muffet), this also is confirmed in season five’s episode Real Me when a deranged man says to Dawn, “I know you. Curds and whey. I know what you are. You don’t belong here.” Oddly enough, this is also how a lot of Buffy fans feel about the character of Dawn to begin with. This dream sequence also occurs 730 days before Buffy’s death which happens two seasons and 730 days later. This must have taken a great deal of planning on the writer’s part.
7. Duality & Demons
Good and evil, light and dark. The minds behind Buffy loved duality and doppelgangers (in addition to demons). This is why the birth names of vampires Spike and Angel are revealed in flashback to be Liam and William. The Irish version of William, is Liam, so basically the same name. Speaking of Demons, just about every main character turns evil at some point or another. Angel becomes Angelus, Giles is turned into a Fyarl Demon, Oz becomes a werewolf, and even Xander and Willow are vampires in the alternate universe that is created in the episode, The Wish. This episode is also the first time viewers meet the Vengeance Demon, Anya, who loses her powers and then becomes one again. Of all of Buffy’s significant exes, Riley is the only one who was never a demon, but he’s awful just the same, but for a variety of other reasons.
6. Hardly Anyone Else Celebrated A Birthday Besides Buffy
After watching the entire series a viewer might notice only two people’s birthdays are celebrated in the Buffyverse’ Tara and Buffy. Tara’s birthday episode, Family, is the sixth in season five, and the only episode in the series where Tara Maclay is the main figure of the narrative, when the Scooby Gang celebrate her 20th birthday and welcome her into their family. Buffy’s birthday is celebrated quite frequently throughout the series, although not consistently. The show celebrated Buffy’s birthday on an episode sometime around January 19 each year; it’s also recorded as other dates. The first time viewers see Buffy’s student records her birthday displays as October 24, 1980, while in another episode, when she’s a senior, her birthday is said to be May 6, 1979. From that point on Joss Whedon decided Buffy’s birthday would be January 19, 1981, and this is the year stated on her tombstone in the episode The Gift.
5. “Buffyspeak” Is A Real Thing
Some of the actors had to change their voices and accents, working with coaches to ensure they portrayed their characters just right. James Marsters (Spike) is from California and auditioned for the role using a Texan accent. Everyone loved Marsters for the role, but not the southern drawl, making him learn to speak like a true Londoner (much like actor Anthony Stewart Head who was really born in Camden, London).
Fans who hear Marsters speak with his natural accent are often taken aback. Alexis Denisof (known for playing Wesley Wyndam-Pryce in both Buffy and Angel, and for marrying co-star Alyson Hannigan) is another character who puts on a British accent. He’s really from Maryland, USA, although went to the UK for schooling after graduating high school. Sarah-Michelle Gellar reportedly struggled with the show’s dialogue, being from New York and not quite grasping all of the intricacies of playing a California Valley girl. There is a book that explains the slang of the show called, Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon.
4. Buffy Has Spawned Considerable Interest In Academia
While Buffy isn’t exactly known for being a straight A student herself, there are a huge number of schools that offer courses on the iconic show. There have also been books and conferences that discuss important themes of the show. An article in the Los Angeles Times revealed that during a 2004 “Buffy Conference,” 190 papers were being presented including themes such as, “slayer slang” to “postmodern reflections on the culture of consumption” to “Buffy and the new American Buddhism.” David Lavery, an English professor, gave a talk at Middle Tennessee State University, highlighting the study of Buffy, “as an academic cult.’” In 2012 Slate conducted an informal study which revealed that when pop culture meets academia, Buffy is an A plus student, “More than twice as many papers, essays, and books have been devoted to the vampire drama than any of our other choices—so many that we stopped counting when we hit 200.”
3. Some Buffy Characters Charmed Their Way Into Longer Arcs
The character Anya was only supposed to appear for two episodes (the original actor cast quit, because she wanted a longer run on the show). Fortunately for Emma Caulfield, Anya became one of the show’s longest-lasting Scooby members. There were plans to kill off Anya in the finale of season five, but she ends up wounded, not dead. When Joss Whedon was asked about changing his mind, he teased it was because Caulfield kept moving in the scene where she was meant to die. Spike was supposed to be killed around the time Angel became Angelus, terrorizing the gang with Spike’s insane girlfriend Drusilla. This changed because fans loved Spike. Angel was also supposed to remain dead after being slayed by Buffy in the second season, however the network liked Boreanaz’s star power, wanting a future for the character, and this future eventually took him to L.A. for the spin-off hit Angel.
2. Angel & Buffy Had A Little Bit Of Crossover
Some episodes needed to be re-written and tweaked for various plot developments to work. Most notably, was Graduation, which was due to come out days following the Columbine shooting in 1999. Since the plotline of the episode centred around the annihilation and destruction of Sunnydale High School with explosives, they needed to be very sensitive to the current climate, and remain respectful. Although the central plot elements were kept, specific items of dialogue needed to be removed and reworked.
Fans of Buffy probably expected more crossovers between the two series Buffy and Angel, particularly since several characters had left Buffy to star in Angel. Unfortunately, since the show was being run by two separate networks, those networks wanted the shows to have some distance from one another to become a unique, standalone series. This made things more complicated of course. Although they did manage a bit of a reunion a few times. Sarah Michelle Gellar came on Angel for six episodes and Alyson Hannigan for three episodes.
1. Gellar Knew About The End Before Anyone Else
Co-star Alyson Hannigan had said that Gellar had grown tired of the role and the show. When asked later at what season Gellar was annoyed with playing the chosen slayer she said, “Uh, three.” Gellar has commented following the end of the show to Entertainment Weekly, “I was 18 when I started the show; I’m 26. I’m married. I never see my husband (Freddie Prinze, Jr.). 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.”