EW: Do you identify with specific characters?
WHEDON: I identify with Giles a great deal. Because dealing with this world and these actors, every now and then I feel terribly British — slightly appalled by everything I see. I can’t believe I’ve been put in charge of these people, none of whom pay any attention to me.
Do you think of Buffy as a feminist role model?
Absolutely. The idea was, let’s have a feminist role model for kids. What’s interesting is you end up subverting that. If she’s just an ironclad hero — ”I am woman, hear me constantly roar” — it gets dull. Finding the weakness and the vanity and the foibles makes it fun.
From the beginning, I was interested in showing a woman who was [take-charge] and men who not only didn’t have a problem with that but were kind of attracted to it.
How much attention do you pay to feedback on the Internet?
A lot. The episodes people like best are those that advance the soap opera elements. It’s fascinating to see what upsets them.
People have these insane, ridiculous predictions about what’s going to happen, then you’ll read one that’s totally right. They’ll know every damn trick you have up your sleeve for the next year.
Your production values are impressive for a drama. When writing, how much do you consider the budget ($1-$2 million per episode)?
Whedon: A lot. You have to. Sometimes we’ll let our vision go wild, and our line producer will fire weapons at us. Once there was a giant, mythic bird who in the final draft became lightning.
Petrie: That was my first episode (Revelations), and every time I passed a producer, the world unfilmable got bandied about. One of these days, if we ever really break out, we’re goin’ bird.
Whedon: Budgetary restrictions have actually helped the show enormously. you have to learn efficiency and what matters.
What changes can we expect in season 4?
Early on, we saw that Sarah can go to a deep, emotional place – she can be light and cute and all that good stuff, but she can also take you to a very dark place, and the show ended up skewing that way. We’ve put her through so much, and some of our mission statement for this year is to let the poor girl have some fun. We’ll still make her cry and stuff – but in a funny way.
The Casting Director
Marcia Shulman CREDITS Dawson’s Creek; Felicity
For the first two seasons, Shulman—now head of casting for Twentieth Century Fox TV—staked out all of the series regulars (hired first: Anthony Stewart Head), not to mention a Hellmouth full of dead-on guest stars. “I never settled for the hot but not-so-great actor. You see a lot of that in teen stuff.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE Finding Angel. “I was looking for the sexiest, most mysterious, every-hyperbole-you-can-think-of guy. People said, ‘Whoever fits that bill is gonna be a raging a*hole.” But David Boreanaz (a friend suggested him after seeing him walk his dog) “was so sweet. The minute he walked in, I knew. I never even read him. We just talked about how there’s no good Italian food in L.A.”
WHAT SHE LOOKS FOR Fresh blood. Shulman, who started out casting after-school specials, has a knack for finding new talent. In fact, she met the future Buffy and Oz as child actors in New York. “Sarah and Seth had ‘it’ at [the age of] 8. I brought them in to read for everything.” She even cast them together in a 1980s commercial.
FAVORITE EPISODE “Innocence.” “Every girl, no matter what age, can relate to the fear of having the man you love not be there for you the next day. When Buffy sobbed, I sobbed.”