Sarah Michelle Gellar On Returning To TV, Her Best Buffy Outfits And What Happened to That Cruel Intentions Series
Sarah Michelle Gellar is not camera-ready. “I’m dripping in sweat,” she says with a laugh over Zoom, flushed from hitting the gym. Surrounded by colour-coordinated bookshelves filled with tomes by Dr Seuss and Arthur Rackham (“I collect first-edition books”), Gellar is opting for comfort over couture while she lounges in her home office.
It’s emblematic of her current state these days. Gellar – who became a pop culture fixture in the ’90s playing precocious vampire slayer Buffy Summers and cunning teen manipulator Kathryn in Cruel Intentions – is just dipping her toe back into the acting pool. For the past decade or so, she has largely focused on raising her two children, Charlotte, 13, and Rocky, 10, with her actor husband, Freddie Prinze Jr. But last September, Gellar shocked fans with a surprise cameo in Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s twisty satire, Do Revenge, paying homage to her iconic role as the Cruel Intentions villain. It was the begin ning of Gellar’s official return to Hollywood.
Now, for the first time in 12 years, Gellar has returned to TV, and to the genre that first made her a household name, with Wolf Pack, a Teen Wolf spin-off from Paramount+. But this supernatural teen drama features werewolves instead of vampires – and she’s no longer one of the teens. Gellar takes on the role of Kristin Ramsey, an arson investigator deployed to examine the aftermath of wildfires in the Los Angeles area that leave a supernatural creature in their wake. Rodrigo Santoro co-stars as a local park ranger with two teenage kids. “As the season progresses, specifically the second half, you’ll find out why she’s really there, because I don’t think anyone things I’m really just there to be an arson investigator. I probably wouldn’t choose to be on the show just to be an arson investigator,” the actor adds bluntly.
In an interview with Vogue, Gellar discussed her return to acting, if she’d ever work with her husband again onscreen, and her favourite fashion moments from Buffy.
Wolf Pack not only marks your TV comeback but also a return to doing a supernatural series. What made you want to do a show that lives in the same genre as Buffy?
It was a combination of things. During the pandemic, I realised that I missed working, [and] specifically TV. I realised how much it brought people together, how much we looked forward to it. I had enough time at home, clearly, during the pandemic, and so I thought about what I wanted to do next. When I did the cameo for Do Revenge, which is sort of an homage to Cruel Intentions, it was like, oh, wait, this is fun. I love the things that I do. I thought it’d be really fun to do something that would speak to the other genre that I’m most known for. One of the things I loved most about Buffy was that the monsters were a metaphor for the horrors of adolescence, and Wolf Pack used that same metaphor – the wolf is the metaphor for the demons in our heads – dealing with anxiety, isolation and how we communicate now. I always say that the more we’re becoming digitally connected, we’re also becoming more and more emotionally disconnected. All those themes hit someplace very close to home for me. On top of it, the fire aspect of [the show drew me in]. We were evacuated in the last big Los Angeles fire that the show is based on.
It was so fun to see you as the headmaster in Do Revenge. How did you end up making that cameo?
Jenn Kaytin Robinson is a big Cruel Intentions fan, and she was like, “I would do anything to get you in this movie.” We had friends in common, and they put us on the phone together, and we really hit it off. I was like, “I’d love to work with you.” She’s like, “Well, I have this movie. There’s no role, but what would you want to do?” And I was like, “Well, I’m just getting my feet wet again. I don’t want anything big, but I would love to come in, do some scenes, and go home.” And she was like, “Done. I’ll write it.” And she wrote the character of the headmaster. We’ve always played around with, Where’s Kathryn now? What is she doing? What does her adult life look like? So that was a great way to wink-wink, nod-nod to that.
Jumping off that, Jenn Kaytin Robinson is helming a new I Know What You Did Last Summer movie that could star your husband and Jennifer Love Hewitt again. Is there any possibility that you would come as Helen’s twin or another character?
It’s not a soap opera. The only way I would come back would be as the director’s best friend behind the scenes. When Jenn told me she wanted to do it, I was like, “I’m dead.” Abd she was like, “But-.” I’m like, “I’m dead.” We landed on “I’m dead.”
You talked about returning to acting because your daughter wants to act. What does your daughter thing about Wolf Pack?
She’s obsessed. My son too, which is funny because he’s harder to impress. They watched it. [Charlotte] showed an interest in it, which probably sparked some of my interest, although I told her she’s not allowed to work until she’s finished graduating school. She was on set. She was a great sport. One of the weeks she came out, [we did] all-nighters and she just hung out on set all night long.
What’s your relationship with your teen co-stars from Wolf Pack?
I think the world of them, and I think that they get asked so often, you know, “What did Rodrigo [Santoro] and Sarah teach you?” As if we’re, like, these 100-year-old fishermen that are teaching them the tricks of our trade. But we had just as much to learn from them, because you have to look at things through their eyes sometimes. We’re very set in our ways, and they come at it with this fresh enthusiasm, and it’s palpable. I think they worked so incredibly hard. There’s an episode coming up at a pool party, and all the kids are obviously in bikinis. It was just getting really cold at night, and Rodrigo and I come to break up the party, and we’re in coats and freezing. We’ve got heat warmers. And I turned to him and said, “This is how you know we’ve made it now, because we don’t have to be in the bikinis anymore. We’re the ones in coats.”
In the past, you talked about being okay with a Buffy reboot. How do you feel about the possibility of that now?
One hundred percent, if the story is right. The way the show was left, any girl who wants the power can have the power. It doesn’t have to be Buffy’s story, per se; it could be any of the slayers’ stories when you open it up like that. But it’s hard – we were a TV series based on a movie that maybe wasn’t as popular, and it was already hard to overcome what we faced. Now, to have to come in and do it and inevitably have the comparisons to the show that is indelibly in people’s minds and holds up, it’s a huge uphill battle. You have to be really willing to take that on, and you have to have a very specific point of view to do that. I wouldn’t want to be the one to do it. That’s too much pressure for me.
What were you able to bring to the character of Kristin on Wolf Pack from your own experience?
Normally, characters that I get cast in are very obvious in who they are. Like, you’ve met the headmaster for one scene, and you’re like, oh, I know who she is. And Kristin’s the exact opposite. You don’t know anything. Her motivation is to find out who started the fire. I had to play what I knew her motives were but not make it obvious in the beginning. But then when the layers get peeled back, because we do a lot of flashbacks, and then you see what really was happening. I had to make that work. But I don’t think we have a log of similarities. We both look alike. We both have really good boots.
Since ’90s nostalgia is in full swing, what were some of your favourite outfits from Buffy?
For me, it was always about the boots. It’s funny that Kristin is a boot person, but Buffy wore a lot of knee-high boots and Kristin wears ankle boots. That’s sort of how I differentiated them. With Buffy, some of the looks I’m all for, but some of the early outfits, I’m just like, did you really need to mix leopard and stripes? Is that really a thing? I remember I was so ambitious in the first season. It was when all the Hard Candy nail polish was in, and I had a different nail color every episode. It was great in theory, but when you get to the end of the season and you’re doing pick-ups and every five seconds trying to change the polish on your nails, you realise that’s really not the best idea to do.
What’s your favourite look from Cruel Intentions?
It’s a toss up. I would say the first one when you meet her: teh corset. That was a whole thing. Our costume designer, Denise Wingate was amazing. She had this idea, and we went to Trashy Lingerie [in Los Angeles]. You have to be a member, and it turned out that the couple that owns it were some of the best corset makers in the country. Also, the costume in Central Park, because that was my idea. I wanted to do the big hat, the dress, the full thing. We had to search all over for the hat, because nobody out there made hats like that. You could only find them on Easter Sunday, and they’re pink and blue. I wanted it to be black, so we had to have that custom-made too.
A few years ago, a Cruel Intentions TV series was in development but it got scrapped. What happened there?
It was one of those situations where Roger [Kimble], the director, and Neil [Moritz], the producer, sold it without even talking to me and NBC, initially. And I was like, “I don’t know what network Cruel Intentions looks like.” It just didn’t seem like the right fit. They came to me with the offer, and I said no for a while, but I love Roger and I love that character and they wore me down. On the first day of shooting, while it was so much fun to be in her shoes, I just knew… I said to Roger, “We should just stop. There’s no network version of Cruel Intentions.” So it didn’t get picked up, which I think is a good thing. I only worked a couple of days on it, but I think it was for the best. I feel like I got to do it with the headmaster [role on Do Revenge]. I love Kathryn, she’s obviously very near and dear to my heart. I don’t think [it’ll happen], but never say never.
You recently said you had watched seasons one through five of Buffy with your kids, but not the last two. [Those featured controversial story lines, including an attempted rape.] Will you ever show your kids season six of the show?
I love questions I’ve never been asked before. If that’s something when they’re older they’re asking for, obviously I’m not going to stop them. When we started watching the show, my daughter was 10 and my son was 7, and it’s not appropriate. It’s not a conversation that I wanted to have. If it was any other show, I would say, “That’s not something that you should be watching.” Even recently when I’ve seen snippets, I watched some of it to make sure that I was remembering things correctly. And then you see that scene with Spike and Buffy. I’m like, There’s no way. To me, it wasn’t what the show was about. I didn’t enjoy filming season six. I didn’t enjoy watc hing season six [back]. It wasn’t the heart of how she was, to me. I get going through a dark phase or being upset, but she killed her own love and she still didn’t go that dark. It wasn’t for me.
You and your husband have both made a recent return to acting. Would you ever collaborate onscreen again?
I don’t think so right now. Only one of us can work at a time because our son’s only 10, so somebody needs to be fully, physically here. But I think that audiences don’t love it. I mean, they know how it ends, so there’s no real mystery. Maybe if something came up and it was like a cameo. But I don’t love seeing couples onscreen together, personally. It just would have to be right.
Simpy Irresistible in 1999 was the last true rom-com you did. Would you like to return to that genre?
Anything’s possible right now. It’s more like, is the material something I want to do? Because everything’s gravy. I’ve accomplished so much that I get to do stuff because it’s fun and because I want to be a part of it, both on camera and off. Also, does it work with my kids’ schedule? Although they have a huge life now that I’m not a part of as they’re growing up, I still need to be here. In eight years, I’ll really be able to do anything I want to do, so right now I’m still picking and choosing.
At this point in your life, what’s your dream role?
I don’t put that kind of pressure on “the one job”, because either you’ll get it and it’ll be a disappointment or you won’t get it and it’ll be a disappointment. It’s more like, I wonder what I’m going to do next. Like, I wonder what exciting thing is gonna come down the road. I always say Halloween is always a special time, because [there are] not one, not two, but multiple characters that people dress up as every Halloween. To me, that’s the coolest accomplishment I could ever ask for.
Is there anyone in particular you want to collaborate with?
I definitely would like to work with Jenn [Kaytin Robinson] again, because we only got to work together for a couple of days. I love her voice, I love her storytelling.
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself, knowing what you know now about the industry?
For myself, I would just say to slow it down a little bit, because I was son in the weeds all the time that I never had a chance to really enjoy what was happening. You didn’t take that moment. I’m so grateful that when I came up and was learning both on camera and off camera about myself, about my profession, that I didn’t have the lens of social media, for two reasons. One, is I think you don’t know yourself and what you’re putting [out] is so permanent; but also it’s a whole extra job. I had enough jobs then. I watched the kids on [Wolf Pack], and there was this expectation of them constantly providing everybody with photos and videos. You just see how much it envelops all of it.
Original article at British Vogue.
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