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Crossover Love

by Kate O'Hare

The plotlines of UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (which makes its sixth-season and new-network premiere next week, on Tuesday, Oct. 2) and its spin-off, The WB's "Angel," may not be crossing over in the coming year, but that doesn't mean the shows have lost all their connections.

For one cast member on each series, the ties that bind are very personal indeed.

Alexis Denisof originally joined the cast of then-WB series "Buffy" in its third season, playing stiff-necked, stuffy British Watcher Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, sent over to replace Buffy's fired Watcher, Giles (Anthony Stewart Head). After failing to win over anyone's sympathies (except those of rich girl Cordelia, played by Charisma Carpenter, with whom he eventually shared possibly the least romantic kiss on prime-time television), Wesley was finally packed off to Watcher oblivion.

But partway through the first season of "Angel" (its third launched on Sept. 24), when Angel's (David Boreanaz) half-demon mentor, Doyle (Glenn Quinn), was written out, Wesley reappeared. Now a "rogue demon hunter," he showed up on a motorcycle and gradually became part of Angel's little band of Los Angeles-based do-gooders (Angel, having been cursed with a soul, is trying to redeem himself through helping others).

While Cordelia was also in Angel's group, having suffered a reversal of fortune and relocated from Buffy's hunting grounds of Sunnydale, fresh romance did not spring up between her and Wesley. (Apparently, Angel himself has his eye on her this coming season.)

Back on "Buffy," while sparks didn't exactly fly between Wesley and Cordelia, there was something percolating behind the scenes. As it turns out, redhead Alyson Hannigan, who plays Buffy's best friend, Willow, had her eye on the tall, dark-haired Denisof.

"We were friends who flirted on 'Buffy,'" says Denisof, "but we didn't get together until after [I left]. She still teases me about my ethics at work. It think it's not a good idea [to date a co-worker], especially in the beginning. It would probably be fine now that we've been together a while, but it brings a weird kind of pressure to relationships."

"Also, for personal reasons, it was too soon for me. I was dealing with some other stuff."

That "stuff" was Denisof's breakup with British TV star Caroline Aherne, a romance that landed him in the British tabloids. It was this upheaval that caused him to return to the United States after spending most of his acting career in the U.K. (hence his convincing accent as Wesley), a move that eventually landed him on "Buffy."

"So it was good that we waited," he continues, "because when we did get together, we were both really ready."

Speaking of accents, Denisof has fooled even natives. British actor Jamie Bamber, who co-starred with Ioan Gruffudd in the "Horatio Hornblower" miniseries, knew Denisof in the U.K. Told the actor was an American, Bamber disagreed, "No, he's British."

"I lived in England for half my life," says Denisof. "So, over there, after so many years, I spoke with an accent. So, other than friends who knew where I was born, lots of people didn't necessarily know that I wasn't English."

"When I came back here -- it's taken a while -- I had to relearn my accent again from being a kid."

How's that working out? "I don't know, you tell me. Are you buying it? Do I sound native?"

Denisof reveals there will be growth for Wesley this season. "He's doing well this year. He's discovering lots of confidence and strength. He's becoming the brains of the operation and more or less running the inner office, being the leader of the group in the organizational sense. That's suiting him very well. It's giving him a chance to be a tougher, more confident guy."

In an episode last season, there was a hint that Wesley had suffered physical abuse as a child. "We have another little reference, in the show we're shooting now," says Denisof. "He mentions something along those lines, having to do with a painful and abusive childhood, but they have not really gone into that in depth."

"It would be great if they did, but then, on the other hand, it's also very powerful just to have it alluded to like that and not really explored."

So far, Denisof is enjoying Wesley's journey. "Oh, yeah. If you were watching 'Buffy' in Season 3, you remember when Wesley was on the show. He was a very different person. It's been a slow process, but that's what made it work, made it more truthful. It's a gradual evolution. Otherwise, it's hard to buy."

"You can't dismantle a person and reconstruct them overnight. One of the nice things about the character has been all the different angles he's had. He's been a pompous oaf; he's been a silly kid; he's been an awkward teen-ager; he's been a rogue demon hunter; he's been a tender boyfriend; he's been a leader of the group."

Having called in from the set, Denisof announces he must go back to work. "I'm on the little golf cart now."

Golf cart? Can't you even walk to the set? "Oh, God, are you kidding me?" he asks. "Absolutely not. No, no, no. I'm far too big to have to walk. I don't even pick up the fork. I'm fed, and then they wipe my chin."

While that's an exaggeration, Denisof's general good feeling about his life is not. "I love my life. I consider myself very fortunate. I get to goof off and fight demons and horse around on 'Angel,' and they're foolish enough to pay me for it. I spend my summers traveling to extraordinary places, and I share my life with a wonderful woman. I'm very happy."

The Usual
The Usual

Random Quotage:

We never win.
Not completely.
We never will. That's not why we fight. We do it 'cause there's things worth fighting for.
-Buffy and Angel (Gingerbread)

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