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'Buffy' star Gellar enjoys balancing career on large and small screens

Posted 01-19-99

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In an article about Buffy Vampire Slyer's Sarah Michele Gellar, Gellar is said to welcome "other strong TV heroines such as Xena, Warrior Princess and Kim Delaney's Detective Diane Russell on NYPD Blue".



   Buffy the Vampire Slayer came to the TV critics
press tour looking like the Queen of the WB - and being treated that
way by network executives.

   It wasn't because Sarah Michelle Gellar, 21, arrived armed with
a stake and ready to kick-box some network-suit keister.  Executing
that move would have been difficult in four-inch open-toed
high-heels with gray silk butterflies perched on them,
expensive-looking gray skirt and long jacket, a black blouse less
low-cut than anything she's ever worn on the show, and diamonds
glittering on her ears, neck, wrist and two of her fingers. 

   She looked like Buffy the bank-account slayer.

   No, WB executives treated Gellar regally because they consider
her the first star of the WB.

   Since Buffy premiered almost three years ago, the early critical
favorite continues to reap massive publicity - Entertainment Weekly
recently named it the best show on TV in 1998 - and grow in
popularity.  In November, it tied with Dawson's Creek as the WB show
most popular with 18- to 49-year-olds and ranked second (behind
Dawson) in viewers aged 12 to 34.

   A movie crossover

   She's also the first WB star to cross over into hit movies.

   Last year she starred in Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last

   Scheduled to be released in March is Cruel Intentions, a
modern-day retelling of Dangerous Liaisons set in Manhattan (with
Gellar in the Glenn Close role).  Coming up is Simply Irresistible,
about a romance between a hard-luck chef (Gellar) and an uptown
suitor (Sean Patrick Flannery).

   Simultaneously starring in movies AND a TV series would have
been unthinkable five years ago, because movies were considered the
more prestigious medium.  Gellar never understood that.

   "More Americans watch TV than go to movies," mused the actress,
poised and articulate after 16 years in show business.  "Most
Americans have televisions in their homes.  They don't necessarily
spend the money to go to the movies.  It always surprised me that
they don't use television stars to cross over because people know
them and they have a built-in audience. "

   Fame brings changes

   Even so, the combination of the two hit movies and Buffy last
year catapulted Gellar, a 1994 Emmy winner for her role as Susan
Lucci's daughter on All My Children, to a new level of fame.

   The upside: She was able to buy a house.  The downside: It's
impossible to go anywhere now without being recognized.

   "Last year at this time, I was afraid," Gellar said.  "Everything
was new.  Going out and being recognized was new.  And then it's just
something that becomes part of your job and most of the time it's
nice and people have nice things to say. "

   That attention is sweeter because of the fact that Buffy is a
role model of empowerment, saving the world from demons and
monsters while worrying about the prom, boys and acne.

   "Growing up, the shows I watched were Facts of Life, Growing
Pains and Family Ties," Gellar remembered.  On Growing Pains,
"Tracey Gold played a character that was supposed to be very, very
smart, and she was always pretending to be dumb because she wanted
the guys to like her.  Mallory (Justine Bateman) was the popular
girl on Family Ties and she couldn't add two and two.

   "It's hard for girls to have somebody to relate to," she said,
adding that she welcomes other strong TV heroines such as Xena,
Warrior Princess and Kim Delaney's Detective Diane Russell on NYPD
Blue.  "The wonderful thing about this trend is that young girls
have something to look up to, that they can take care of
themselves. "

   Plans to stay

   Gellar, who feels Buffy "has come into its own" in its third
season, vowed to stay with the show as long as creator Joss Whedon
is aboard and has interesting stories to tell, despite her
burgeoning film career.

   "I remember what it was like to be a struggling actor and going
on auditions and not knowing if I'd be able to pay the rent," she
said.  "I'm grateful for where I am. "

   That said, she is nervous about what happens on Buffy once
David Boreanaz - who plays the slayer's hunky Undead lover Angel -
is spun off into his own series this fall.

   "Part of the success of Buffy is David's and my relationship on
camera and off," she said.  "He's incredible.  He's grown so much and
I trust him more than any guy that I've ever worked with. "

   Any wish list for a new boy toy for Buffy?  "I'm hoping
(Shakespeare in Love star) Joseph Fiennes will be replacing David
next year," Gellar joked.

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