The creators of Buffy head into season seven with a lighter heart
by Patrick Lee
When last we left our intrepid Scooby Gang, Willow had turned evil, Tara had been killed, Warren had been skinned alive, Spike had gotten his soul back and Buffy-well, heck, she decided she was just glad to be alive.
It's safe to say that season six of UPN's popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer contained some mixed messages in an otherwise unrelentingly dark year. But Buffy creator Joss Whedon and his cast say that things will change in the upcoming seventh year, which may or may not be the show's last.
For one thing, the season opens with a rebuilt Sunnydale High School. For another, some old, familiar faces will make an appearance, including more Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and the return of Faith (Eliza Dushku). Expect Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) to take charge of her life. And Whedon promises that he will be more involved this year, alongside executive producer Marti Noxon.
Whedon, Emma Caulfield (Anya), Claire Kramer (Glory) and Adam Busch (Warren) took a moment to speak with Science Fiction Weekly about the upcoming season, and their comments may contain some spoilers. The interviews are taken from several conversations during the TV networks' fall press previews earlier this summer. Buffy returns to its regular Tuesday 8 p.m. timeslot on Sept. 24.
Joss Whedon, you're going back to high school at the beginning of this season?
Whedon: We're going to be back to Sunnydale High. They've rebuilt it. And we're going to be spending time with Dawn [Michelle Trachtenberg] and all of our characters in high school, both reliving it and realizing how they can't relive it, and just facing a lot worse peril than ever because some idiot built that school again.
People say the show got too dark last season?
Whedon: I don't think that [it got off track]. But I understand that people do. It got very dark, because we wanted it to get very dark, and not everybody responded to that. And we're doing something different this year, partially in response to that, but mostly because we do something different every year. ... Year four was about the freedom of college. And then year five was about being drawn back to family. Year six was about the fear of going into the adult world. And this year is about being drawn back, you know, to school and those things. So every year has a different mission statement.
Buffy ... goes through horrible pain every year. But last year, she really lost herself. And I think the audience felt that lack. They felt the lack of the strength ... of, you know, grabbing that sword when Angel's about to stab her and saying, "I've still got me." That thing that she had in season two. And I understand why they need that, and we are going to have that back, because I need it, too. And the interesting thing is, right when, you know, we were getting about two-thirds of the way through [last] season, I told Marti, "You know, I've been thinking, and I think next year we should go back to, like ... that very positive message that we had at the very beginning of the show, and really see Buffy empowered again, instead of seeing her at the mercy of her life." And the very next day, Sarah talked to Marti and said the exact same thing. And that's one of the great things about working with her, is that she's so in tune, not just with her character, but the show, that literally ... on the same day, we had both come to the same conclusion. Just, you know, it's time to take back the night.
Because of Dawn and the school and a lot of circumstances, [Buffy] is going to find herself in the position of ... becoming a leader, of taking on aspects of the Slayer that she hasn't really dealt with before. She's always kind of been the muscle, in a way, even though she led the Scoobies. And now she's going to have to approach her calling and her problems from a very different perspective.
Will Dawn's high-school experience parallel Buffy's from early in the show?
Whedon: A little bit. A little bit. It's nice. Dawn is now the age Buffy was when the show began. And what's nice about that is that it gives us the opportunity to tell more high-school stories. Which were the centerpiece of the show, and which we only got to do for two and a half years. I mean, they graduated at the end of year three, and the first season was a half season. And the only time I've ever truly felt sad and like I'd lost something was when they graduated, because I was like, "Wait, wait, I went through more bad things. There's more pain I haven't talked about yet! I haven't complained enough." And now I have that opportunity to complain to America again, and I'm looking forward to taking it.
Sarah has suggested she might leave the series when her contract expires at the end of next season. The network wants to continue the show in year eight. Are you game for that?
Whedon: I'm game for almost anything. It's an incredibly strong ensemble. It's a very strong mythos. It's a huge universe we've created, and an incredible cast of actors. So there are definitely opportunities for different kinds of shows.
Anthony Stewart Head reduced his involvement in the show to move back to England. Now he'll be back in at least 10 episodes this year?
Whedon: Yes. Ten was the minimum we made for a contract. We want more, is the idea. We love him. We missed him. He had to go back to England. And last year was about not having a mentor around. But this year ... there's a bigger place for him. And ... we need him around. He makes us laugh.
Spike (James Marsters) will be a vampire with a soul. Haven't you done that already?
Whedon: He's a vampire with a soul. Everything we've done has been done before. The trick is to do it differently and have it mean something new. If you think Spike is going to be like Angel, you don't know me. There's no gypsy curse, and also, no mousse.
Claire Kramer, whose character was killed at the end of year five, is coming back this year?
Whedon: She will make a guest appearance, maybe more than one ... as Glory. We're going to see a lot of old faces. A lot of them. And it's going to be-for a very particular reason that I will not explain to you-but it's going to be a lot of fun.
Will we see a new love interest for Willow [Alyson Hannigan]?
Whedon: That's something I'm not going to comment on. But it's definitely a possibility.
Adam Busch's character was also killed. Are we going to see him again?
Whedon: Adam's going to be appearing. We're going to see, like I said, a lot of old faces.
How much more are you going to be involved this year?
Whedon: I'm going to be more involved in Angel and Buffy even than I was last year. At the same time, I'm going to be completely immersed in [Fox's new SF series] Firefly. And the trick to it all is increased efficiency. Because I'm also going to be home more, too. I have all these New Year's resolutions. And there really is a question of increased efficiency. We juggled some writers. They're all aware that they have to step up now in ways they haven't before, and that's great. That's a great opportunity for a writer, or a writer-producer. And I have built this family. And although daddy left and we all feel bad about that, it's, I still have a huge extended family who are great creative people. So it's just a question of absolutely using the time and using the people and making sure that nobody is ever not busy.
Is it impossible? Yes. Are we going to accomplish it? Yes. Because I won't abandon Buffy this late in the game. I won't abandon Firefly this early in the game. And I especially won't abandon Angel right in the middle of its power, because Angel is the one that nobody really knows about. It's flying under the radar.
Emma Caulfield, what can you tell us about what's coming up for Anya, who is now a demon again?
Caulfield: I defer to Joss. All I can say is that, in true Joss Whedon fashion, he would never open a door ... or open the closet, without going through the muck. So let's just put it that way.
Will she still seek revenge on Xander [Nicholas Brendon]?
Caulfield: She couldn't go through with it. I actually don't know. I don't know what she has in store for Xander.
What would you like to see?
Caulfield: I would like to see her kind of be a badass. I'd like that. I'd like to ... showcase her strength a little bit.
Caulfield: No. Just tough. Just strong. She always has been. ... It's kind of come out in kind of unorthodox ways. ... I'd like to see a more blatant display of her strength, I guess.
I'm blessed with the good writing. They give me great ... dialogue. They give me amazing lines. ... Anya comes pretty easy to me. I love playing her. You combine a joy of playing her with amazing writing. ... She's sort of a flashy character, you know? She gets to say the funny lines. And she gets to be ridiculous. She gets to look different. She gets to be ... all over the place.
How prominently will Anya figure in season seven?
Caulfield: All he's told me is that she's very visible. That's it. I have a lot of screen time, apparently. Doing what, I don't know.
It's my last year. It depends on whether or not the show goes beyond a seventh season. Sarah has not signed on. The rest of the cast has signed on for an eighth season. I have not. I'm leaving. I'm done. It's just time, you know? It's been five great years. But it's sort of like, I use the analogy of like high school. ... Four years. It's time to graduate, you know? It's time.
Adam Busch, aren't you dead?
Busch: That might be true, right? I could not be alive, but yet we're here talking, and there seems to be a meaningful conversation, so we have to assume I have some kind of breath in me.
Are you going to be in the show in the coming season?
Busch: I can tell you, I know as much as you do. That I'm in, but I don't know what I'm into. I haven't been surprised with anything that's happened since the beginning, because you never know what to expect with these guys. I mean, you can't have any clue what's going to happen or what you're going to do. You don't know scripts, you don't know how it's going to go, you don't know when you're going to be used. And all I know is that everybody that I've seen dead has been back since. And everyone that I killed has been back since.
Once I knew I was coming back, I still had no idea what we were doing or how it was going. I knew as we were shooting it, which was weird, because you get a weird feeling. You can't tell if they're writing towards what you're doing, or whether you're just kind of following them. You can't tell who's in control. ... I felt like they were almost writing towards where I was going with it, because I don't know what's going to happen. I felt as if I had control. Or maybe they're so good, that they're making me feel that way. I don't know. But it felt like, as I would get a little more darker or a little more serious and kind of take charge in simply tone and confidence manner with the other two, that the relationships were being defined and the roles were being defined.
Claire Kramer, it's kind of surprising to hear you're back.
Kramer: Yes, it is a shock.
Are you going to be on the show next year?
Kramer: We will see. But rumor has it, yes.
And you'll be Glory again?
Kramer: Yes. I couldn't be anything else on Buffy. I'm excited. Buffy's been wonderful to me. They, you know, they've been just a great place for me to be, so I'm excited. I was very excited when I got the phone call.
My manager actually called me and said, "You're not going to believe, but Buffy called." And I'm like, "What do I need to sign? Or what do I need to do?" And they're like, "No, no, no, they want to check your availability." I'm like, "Oh, really?" I'm like, "All right, I'm available!"