In Step With Sarah Michelle Gellar
This article was obtained from Parade Magazine, 1997.
By James Brady
Thanks to Lawless for providing this article.

      Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't slaying vampires when I called. She was on location in North Carolina, shooting a feature film called I Know What You Did Last Summer, due out in October. Buffy is really Sarah Michelle Gellar, a wonderful young actress from New York whose work turned Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the WB network into one of the surprise hits of the TV season that just ended. When we spoke, Sarah was getting ready to start shooting a second season of Buffy.

      This was after only 12 hours of the series in its first season, beginning in March. "We made a two-hour pilot and then 10 one-hour episodes," she told me. "We shoot for four days in the studio in Santa Monica and another four days on location." As for the season's last episode, Sarah said: "We had a grand finale, and I'm so proud of it. It's in itself a full feature film."

      The TV series is actually a spin-off of a 1992 movie by the same name (which starred Luke Perry and Kristy Swanson), by the same creator, Joss Whedon, who's still only 30. Sarah's Buffy is a grittier character than the film version: by day, a pretty typical high schooler; by night, a martial-arts expert, confronting the forces of evil. Since in real life Sarah practices tae kwon do, the Korean art of self-defense, I asked if they tailored the role for her and if they listen to her suggestions on character or story line.

      "Sure, they listen," she said, "but basically Joss is so brilliantly creative that your ideas are never going to be as good as his ideas."

      Sarah was equally enthusiastic about the film on which she was working. "It is so scary, so unbelievably scary," she said. "It's based on a popular kids' book about four teens. It's the Fourth of July weekend, and I'm the local beauty queen, and the four of us go partying-doing teen stuff, having a drink, fooling around. Nothing serious. Except that on the way home, we hit and kill this guy. And to cover it up, we throw the body into the water. And then, one year later, we meet this guy who says, "I know what you did last summer...'"

      In 1995 Sarah won an Emmy for her work on All My Children, playing the conniving daughter of Erica Kane (Susan Lucci). She also worked with Robert Urich on his Spenser: For Hire series. "I was 8 or 9, and he was just wonderful to me," she recalled.

      Around the same time, she was in a New York stage production of The Widow Claire, first playing opposite Matthew Broderick. "Then [his film] Ferris Bueler came out," she said, "and Matthew was replaced in the play by Eric Stoltz. And then [Stoltz's film] Some Kind of Wonderful came out. I was the most popular girl in school, because I was working with both of them!"

Brady's Bits

      Like so many young people, Sarah Michelle Gellar talks fast, freely and enthusiastically about her work and what she thinks of it. On one kind of question, though, she falls mute. She lives in the hills in LA, she told me. When I asked if she lived alone, Sarah replied: "That's a question I don't want to answer." But does she live with her family? "I won't talk about that, she said. "Privacy is something I value." Other than that, she told me the family name is pronounced "gell-are." But since everyone says "Gell-er," even she finds herself saying that too. When she became a professional, there was already an actress named Sarah Gellar, so she inserted the Michelle into her acting name. She hasn't been to college - there hasn't been time. But she said if her career ever went south, she'd take the opportunity to get a higher education. With her busy schedule, how does she stay fit? "I'm an hour's drive away from my trainer," she said, "and I keep a treadmill in my condo, and I have a mini-trampoline."

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