When Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on the WB in 1997, not even creator Joss Whedon thought it would last long. “I wrote the first season finale as a series finale, just in case,” he says. Instead, the series (based on a 1992 movie) about demon-battling high-schoolers kicked undead butt for seven seasons, attracting a loyal audience with its witty dialogue, plentiful action and relatable heroine. Star Sarah Michelle Gellar sums up Buffy’s appeal: “She wasn’t the smartest girl in school, she wasn’t the prettiest or the most popular, but she was confident.” And no one was worried about a few bruises. “Fighting was fun,” says Michelle Trachtenberg. “They gave me rubber stakes because I can’t be trusted with weapons. I’m a bit of a klutz!”
CATCHING UP WITH THE CAST
Her Buffy highlight? “Meeting my husband”—actor Alexis Denisof, who joined the show the third season. Hannigan, 33, whose Buffy character came out as a lesbian in a landmark 2000 episode, segued to the CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother. “I feel so lucky to have success twice.”
“I had lunch with George Lucas! I took him and his daughter on a set tour,” he recalls. “That was cool.” After Season 3, Boreanaz, 38, got his own spinoff, Angel. These days he stars on the Fox drama Bones.
Little-known secret: Carpenter’s husband, Damian Hardy, “played a vampire and got staked by Sarah” in one episode. These days, Carpenter, 37, relishes family life with Hardy and son Donavan, 4.
She was 14 when she joined the show in 2000 as Buffy’s little sis—and recalls Whedon and Gellar making her read the Harry Potter books for magical background. Now 22, she costars in the upcoming movie Kids in America.
Downtime was about “goofing around,” says Green, 33. “A lot of Scrabble.” He’s working on his animated series Robot Chicken and is guest starring on Grey’s Anatomy.
ANTHONY STEWART HEAD
The singing Brit, 53, will soon be in theaters in Sweeney Todd.
SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR
When she landed the role, “it was my first pilot season,” she says. “I was so excited. Those were once-in-a-lifetime characters.” And there was instant chemistry with David Boreanaz, who played Buffy’s vampire love interest, Angel. “It was Romeo and Juliet—the ultimate love story.” One of her favorite episodes? “Hush,” which had virtually no dialogue. “We thought, ‘Sweet! This is going to be easy.’ It was so difficult.” A bright side of life since Buffy: “Fewer injuries,” says Gellar, 30. The star of movies such as The Grudge lives in New York City with her husband of five years, actor Freddie Prinze Jr. (she legally changed her last name to Prinze last month) and filmed four movies last year, including the current Southland Tales. And she’s been traveling as an ambassador for the antipoverty group CARE: “It’s a lot of learning.”
BUFFY’S MUSICAL MOMENT
In Season 6, Buffy creator Joss Whedon wrote a musical episode—a lifelong dream. “I was always a big Sondheim fan,” he says. Inspired by regular cast and crew jam sessions at his house, Whedon says, “I realized we had some talent.” With songs like “I’ll Never Tell” and “Going Through the Motions,” the episode has a cult following—sing-along screenings drew costumed fans until licensing problems recently forced a shutdown.