Dawn of a New Series
by Kate O'Hare
Before heading to Hawaii with her mother for a well-deserved break, Michelle
Trachtenberg did a little moonlighting from her job as younger-sister Dawn on UPN's
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" -- but she didn't stray too far from the world of
vampires, ghouls and ghosts.
Trachtenberg, who has just turned 16, is the host of a new series for digital-cable
channel Discovery Kids called "Truth or Scare." The half-hour episodes mix fact,
folklore, literature, science and pop culture to explore hauntings, mythical creatures
and ancient legends.
"My manager got a call from the guys and girls at Discovery Kids," says
Trachtenberg. "They pitched the idea, and they offered for me to host it. I thought it
was really something interesting and informative for kids."
"Not only would I get to have fun in the actual story, I would teach kids a whole bunch
of interesting facts about different places around the world, for those kids who can't
travel, or have always wanted to experience what it's like in the world."
The series gets a special launch on basic-cablenet Discovery Channel on Thursday,
Oct. 25, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET, with four back-to-back episodes: "Dracula," "Wolfman:
The Myth and the Science," "The Curse of Tutankhamen" and "Bigfoot."
In the "Dracula" episode, Trachtenberg sits in a dark,
paneled library and reveals the true story behind Irish
writer Bram Stoker's literary creation, the inspiration for
countless tales, including "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
(Count Dracula himself appeared in last season's
premiere, played by German actor Rudolf Martin).
"With 'Dracula,' it's almost like we're tricking kids," says
Trachtenberg. "It's like, 'OK, watch the fun, scary thing,
but don't tell anyone you're actually going to learn
something while you're watching this.' It's exciting for
them. They get to see ghost stories -- and what kid
doesn't find ghost stories interesting and different?"
Trachtenberg is talking from experience, since she read the original 1897 novel -- told
in journal entries and letters -- a few years ago. "I read it when I was, I believe, in the
7th grade, just because I was tired of everyone saying, 'Oh, yes, Dracula, ha, ha,' and
not knowing what they were talking about. So it's like, 'OK, it's time for me to read
this and figure things out.'"
And, to no one's surprise, the writers of "Truth or Scare" managed to slip the phrase
"vampire slayers" into the narration. "Oh, yes," says Trachtenberg. "They were quite
coy, little mentions here and there."
"Truth or Scare" makes its Discovery Kids premiere on Oct. 31 with a marathon
beginning at noon (Eastern). Beginning Nov. 2, the series airs regularly on Fridays at
8:30 and 11 p.m. ET, and on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Other episodes include "Castle Ghosts of England" (along with Ireland, Scotland and
Wales) "Ghosthunters," "UFOs Over Phoenix," "Psychic Science," "America's
Haunted Houses" and "Night Visitors."
Sometimes Trachtenberg got so into what she was
reading in her voice-over narration that she forgot
herself. "I was actually reading it for myself. Many
times, I'd stop myself, we'd have to do another take,
because I was like, 'Oh!' I would be reading, saying the
actual facts, then I would stop and be like, 'No, really?
Did that really happen?'"
"I'm so serious. There are so many takes of me saying,
'Oh, my god!' I would do that so often, because I was
interested in what I was reading, that they kept in a
couple of my commentaries. I would be reading
something and say, 'And the point of that would be ... ?'
and they left it in. It was their joke on me."
So, in a sense, you already did the DVD version. "Yeah, I guess so, huh?
Commentary by Michelle Trachtenberg ... ."
On the "Buffy" front, production on the much-discussed musical episode for
November sweeps goes on. At press time, Trachtenberg is preparing for her big
moment. "I have my big dance. We're filming it next week, actually, I believe we're
filming it on my birthday, which works out."
Trachtenberg loves to dance, but was less confident about singing. "The singing,
which I was incredibly nervous about," she says, "everyone seems to absolutely love
it. Our creator, Joss Whedon, if he's unhappy with things, he'll tell you, but he was
very happy. He complimented me greatly, and that was the biggest gratification I
Prior to the "Buffy" season premiere, new cast photos were released, including one
of Trachtenberg in leather pants, which caused a stir among some fans on the
Internet. "Oh, did it now?" says Trachtenberg.
Asked if the appearance of leather means Dawn is
leaning to the dark side this season, Trachtenberg
says, "Well, Buffy wears tight leather pants all the time.
Dawn is getting a little more rebellious this year, but
younger sisters always try to emulate older sisters."
Trachtenberg reveals that, every now and then, Dawn
crept into "Truth or Scare." "Dawn is a lot like me, and
I realized that there are certain things that Dawn has a
habit of doing, that I found myself doing on 'Truth or
Scare.' I'm like, 'Wait, no, that's not right! I must go
"Like, the way Dawn stands, it's a little more casual,
like she's chilling and having fun. I thought that 'Truth or Scare' had to be a little
more sophisticated, a little more eerie, darker. There was no slumping."