"I think that unfortunately the set we were on and the world we were in was pitting us against each other."
Being the face of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" meant a lot of tabloid talk revolving around star Sarah Michelle Gellar -- something she and her costars do a very good job addressing at length in a new tell-all about the behind-the-scenes goings on at the show.
In Evan Ross Katz's "Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts" -- a must-read for any Buffy fanatic -- Gellar and her former Scooby Gang spoke out about the tension that festered on set as the years went on. While acknowledging there were issues they could have handled better themselves in retrospect, the cast also called out higher-ups -- including show creator Joss Whedon -- for fostering a toxic workplace environment.
"I think that unfortunately the set we were on and the world we were in was pitting us against each other," Gellar says in the book when asked about feuding costars. "I think it would have been different if it was today. It would have been a very different relationship. But we have a great relationship now."
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"Look, we worked really hard hours. We were young, we had ups and downs. Everybody had arguments," she continued. "There were times where David [Boreanaz] could be a handful. He never really was to me, but I'm sure [he was]. And I'm sure I was the same way to people also, right? It wasn’t rosy. Nobody gets along all the time. And Alyson [Hannigan] and I had moments. There's no question. But you're young."
Both Boreanaz and Hannigan declined to be interviewed for the book.
Gellar said that while she tries to avoid celebrity gossip, she had heard the rumors of tension behind the scenes and admitted she "had a lot on my shoulders" at the time.
"And I'm not excusing myself either. There are times where I wish I could have done things differently, but I didn't know how to handle the stress that I was under," she continued. "I was really young and I didn't have any outside life. I was the one that was always working and sometimes I would be resentful of the fact that they didn't have to work all the time. It ebbs and flows, and anyone that tells you that they get along with everyone all the time, it's just not true."
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While many reports pointed to Gellar as the issue back in the day, her costars really had her back in the book -- pointing to a period of misogyny in the press, the stress thrown on their lead by the powers that be and the lack of respect for her place on the call sheet.
"She was the lead on the show. It was an ensemble cast absolutely, but the show lived and died with her. There's a level of power there and a level of voice that needs to be accounted for. And if that isn't received well by certain people who have very large egos and who have no interest in working in that fashion, then yeah, there's going to be conflict," added Emma Caulfield, aka Anya. "There are so many examples of what happened from the top down of, 'This will really make the girls hate each other. This will make the men angry. This is going to stir some toxic shit.' And … and it did."
Julie Benz, who played Darla on both "Buffy" and spinoff "Angel," said she heard the rumors about Gellar too but never believed them. She added, "It's just that she was a woman, a young woman, and there was a lack of respect towards her with her knowledge and experience because she was female and because she was young." Benz also noted that while the tension "was all kinda high school" at the time, convention appearances and the public reckoning on Whedon has brought the women close together.
Danny Strong, who played Jonathan, said working on the show was "definitely pettier than other sets," saying he sensed jealousy from some of her costars as well. That's something Amber Benson -- aka Tara -- echoed, saying Gellar "was put in a lot of situations where she was the face of the show. And I think that was hard for some of the other actors."
My truth. #IStandWithRayFisher pic.twitter.com/eNjYcJ6zwP— charisma carpenter (@AllCharisma) February 10, 2021 @AllCharisma
Many pointed to Whedon as a true source of tension, with Charisma Carpenter speaking out in great detail about his alleged abuse in February 2021. "Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel," she began, in a lengthy Twitter post. "While he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performance anxiety, disempower me, and alienate me from my peers."
Joss responded to Charisma and many other claims in a recent interview, which you can read a summary of (and reactions to) here.
"It starts at the top—and I'm not talking about Sarah, I'm talking about Joss. And it creates the tone of the set," added Benson in the book. "And I think because this was Joss's first show, there were things that got dropped ...you could just feel like people weren't sure of their place. And I think it is the boss's job to make everybody understand where they are in the hierarchy and how they fit in and that they are necessary, you know?"
And while Nicolas Brendon -- who played Xander throughout the show's run -- said he felt the shift in camaraderie as the series went on, he said he needed some time away from working together to see how "magical" and what an "amazing f---ing Buffy" Gellar was. "I did not give her the credit in my head that she deserved. And I wish that I had," he added.
All this only scratches the surface of the cast's conversations about Joss, tensions with each other and more of the show's behind-the-scenes drama.
For more, be sure to check out Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts by Evan Ross Katz, available now.