Sarah Michelle Gellar Was Called a "Diva" for Speaking Up on "Buffy" Set, Co-Star Says
Seth Green said that Gellar would "stick up for the cast and crew."
The beloved TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer spanned seven memorable seasons with Sarah Michelle Gellar in the titular role. Gellar became a '90s icon as the stake-wielding teen, going after the vampires, demons, and forces of darkness while staying relatable to her adolescent audience. But while the star was fearless and vocal on screen, she also spoke up behind-the-scenes—a move that got her labeled as "diva," co-star Seth Green recently revealed. Read on to discover more about the on-set behavior that Gellar wouldn't stand for.
There's plenty of controversy surrounding the Buffy set.
For a show as adored as Buffy, it can be tough to learn about the dark side to filming, but reports of bad behavior on set have only grown over time.
In 2021, the show came under scrutiny when creator Joss Whedon was called out for being "casually cruel" by Charisma Carpenter, an actor who was first considered for the role of Buffy before being cast as Cordelia on the series and the spin-off Angel, per The Hollywood Reporter.
Another co-star, Amber Benson, then spoke out about the "toxic" set, and Michelle Trachtenberg, who was under 18 during her time on Buffy, created even more of a stir when she called out Whedon's "inappropriate behavior" and an unwritten "rule" that forbade him from being alone with her.
Whedon denied the allegations, according to The Hollywood Reporter, but did concede that he wasn't "mannerly" toward Carpenter.
Gellar voiced support for her castmates, and during a panel discussion, she pointed to the "extremely toxic male set" (without explicitly calling out Whedon). "I've come to a good place with it, where it's easier to talk about," Gellar said (via The Hollywood Reporter). "I'll never tell my full story because I don't get anything out of it I've said all I'm going to say because nobody wins. Everybody loses."
Still, former co-stars say that Gellar did speak up during filming—at a time when it wasn't the norm for lead actors to do so.
Gellar wouldn't stand for conditions on set.
Gellar attempted to leverage her status on set by speaking out about the demanding and exhausting days, Green told The Hollywood Reporter.
"That show was just hard. We were working crazy hours, and a lot of things that got pushed weren't necessarily safe or under the best conditions," he said. "Sarah was always the first one to say, 'We agreed this was a 13-hour day and it's hour 15—we've got to wrap,' or, 'Hey, this shot doesn't seem safe,' when nobody else would stick up for the cast and crew."
As a result, Gellar had nasty names lobbed at her. "I saw her get called a [expletive], a diva, all these things that she's not—just because she was taking the mantle of saying and doing the right things," Green told the outlet.
For her part, Gellar said it's "almost better" to be thought of this way—but earlier on in her career, it also landed her with a "difficult" reputation. "Anyone that knows me knows it came from the fact that I always put in 100 percent," she said. "I never understand people who don't. I've mellowed a bit in [my expectations of others]—I think because I got burned out."
Another co-star alluded to "a tremendous amount of resentment" from Whedon.
As with her character, Gellar felt the need to stand up for herself, even when she wasn't being properly compensated, according to her husband and fellow 2000s star Freddie Prinze Jr.
"She had to deal with a lot of [expletive] on that show for all seven years it was on," Prinze told The Hollywood Reporter. "The stuff they pressed upon her, without any credit or real salary, while she was often the only one doing 15-hour days … yet she was still able to get the message of that character out every single week and do it with pride and do it professionally."
This lack of respect may have stemmed from Whedon, Emma Caulfield, another Buffy co-star, insinuated. "It was obvious that Sarah lacked the support to be the leader she needed and wanted to be," Caulfield said. "There was a tremendous amount of resentment and animosity [toward her] from a certain someone—and I suppose now we can all guess who."
Still, Gellar says she'll "always be proud" of the hit show (even though she takes issue with some seasons)—and she doesn't want Buffy's "legacy" to be upended by one person's actions.
"I hope that it gives the success back to the people that put in all the work," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I will always be proud of what my castmates did, what I did. Was it an ideal working situation? Absolutely not. But it's OK to love Buffy for what we created because I think it's pretty spectacular."
Gellar wants to pay it forward.
While no one can change the past, Gellar wants to improve the future. After taking time to raise her family, she returned to showbiz in the 2022 Netflix film Do Revenge, and is now taking on the role of actor and executive producer for the new Paramount+ series Wolf Pack.
As a producer, she's not backing down when it comes to receiving the respect she deserves, describing an incident to The Hollywood Reporter where things were sent to a male actor for approval but weren't sent to her.
"'Oh, just old processes,' they said, 'Sorry.' OK, then let's make a new process," Gellar said of the situation. "The old me would have backed down. But if you look how long I've been working, I've earned the right to stand where I am. I won't make any more excuses for that."
Gellar also wants to make sure that actors on the set of Wolf Pack are safe—particularly her younger castmates, who are between 19 and 21. Showrunner and creator Jeff Davis said that Gellar made herself a resource. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she gave her personal number out to her co-stars, and dismissed a crewmember who made others uncomfortable by offering back rubs.
"I hope that I've set up an infrastructure, a safety net for these actors that I didn't have," Gellar told the outlet. "My generation just didn't have that."