That Taster's Choice Coffee Guy Perks Up ''Buffy''
This article was obtained from he Virginian-Pilot, 1997.
By Larry Bonko

In a few weeks, Anthony Stewart Head will leave his home near Bath, England, for Hollywood to continue as Giles, the tweedy high-school librarian who counsels Buffy in her duels with the forces of darkness.

His face was known by millions of viewers long before Buffy.

But not his name.

Since November 1990, Head has been the suave presence in those silly soap opera-ish Taster's Choice commercials. Remember the first one?

His doorbell rings. Ding, dong. It's the woman from across the hall. ``I'm having a dinner party and I've run out of coffee.''

That was 13 commercials ago. Today, Head shares star billing with Sarah Michelle Gellar in a series that could make him even more famous and wealthier than seven years of flirting with Sharon Maughan between sips of coffee.

Anthony Stewart Head has emerged as the reluctant demonologist (``I prefer reading a good book'') in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The man has shown us that he can do more than pour coffee.

Head, Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter and others in the cast will likely be on TV screens for years to come.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the first series on the Warner Brothers network to create a buzz. The WB, which is about $200 million in the red, could use all the buzz it can get. (The WB affiliate in this market is WVBT, but that will change next year when Channel 43 becomes a Fox affiliate).

Buffy is part Clueless, part The X-Files. It has broad appeal, said Head from his living room in the United Kingdom, because it touches everyone who's been to high school, and everyone who's afraid of the dark.

Isn't that all of us?

``Nothing's scarier than high school,'' Head said.

When he was making the Taster's Choice commercials, Head's name was known only to his family and Brits who saw his work on stage. But he was no stranger at the bank.

``While Taster's Choice hasn't made me wealthy for life, the commercials did give me the money to have a very nice house, a very nice lifestyle.

``The money also put me in a position that actors dream about, which is the luxury of picking and choosing jobs. I don't have to take a job to make the rent or feed the kids.''

The coffee money enables him to work in the theater in London's West End where wages are low. Before signing to do Buffy, Head played Dr. Frank N. Furter in the London production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

After he read the first Buffy script, Head told the series' creator, Joss Whedon, that he would be happy to play the bookish Giles.

``This series mixes characters unlike any other show on television,'' Head said.

There are the kids -- Buffy, Willow and Xander -- who cooly face the vampires, demons, insect mutants and possessed puppets that tear the hearts out of people. One minute, Buffy is talking nail polish with a classmate, the next minute she's on the trail of a Grade A large weirdo loose in SunnyDale High.

Then there is Giles, played almost absentmindedly by Head.

``Giles gives the series roots,'' said Head. ``He anchors it. Giles knows what needs to be done to vanquish the demons, but he's not up to it. That's Buffy's job.''

Whedon's series has its light moments -- cheerleader Cordelia trying to out-cool Buffy -- but Buffy is not a put-on, Head said. ``Joss told us in the beginning that we will be serious about the dark, scary stuff. That it will be real. No gags there.''

The creep factor is high.

The 1992 feature film that introduced Buffy was flat-out campy. Head insists that the series is not.

But the basic premise is the same: Young girl, usually the victim in horror flicks, has supernatural powers that enable her to kick butt in dark alleys, dingy cellars, caves or wherever else she finds evil.

Every generation has its vampire slayer, and Buffy is ours.

She'll be back in 22 episodes next season.

Head is uncertain if the Taster's Choice commercials will continue here or in the United Kingdom. ``I said to the producers, `Enough is enough.' The storylines are going nowhere. I wonder how they can be made more intriguing, how they can give them more spice.''

In seven years of doorbell ringing and sipping coffee from white china cups to the music of Chopin, The Couple's life has been expanded to include her son and former husband.

``I don't know where else we can go,'' Head said. ``But we are talking.''

Head appeared in a 1995 sci-fi series on Fox (VR.5) that disappeared quickly. After that, he returned to England to work in the theater, appear on TV, and wait for a producer in the US to send him a script for a TV series that he liked.

Whedon in fact sent the first two scripts of Buffy.

Said Head, ``I thought the scripts were seriously special.''

When Buffy returns with new episodes, look for Head as Giles to show a dark side to his character, said the actor who built a career on the simple act of sipping a cup of coffee.

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