It's the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer today, and while it's still as popular as ever, the show could have been very different from the one we know and love. Sarah Michelle Gellar originally won the role of Cordelia, Wesley was suppose to be American, and apparently, James Marsters initially refused to even audition for the show because he'd seen the movie and hated it.
I spoke to Marsters about his role as Spike for the anniversary - read more in 20 years of the Slayer: How Buffy defined a generation of TV and movies - and he revealed how he won the now iconic Vampire part: "They had been looking for someone to play Spike for about three months and hadn’t found anybody, and so Joss put the word out to scrape the bottom of the barrel."
When I asked him if he'd seen the first season of the show (Spike joins in season 2) the answer was absolutely not. "I had only seen the movie, and that was enough for me. I hadn’t watched anything Buffy related after that movie!" He said. "In fact, when my agent called me for the audition, I declined it – I said 'No, I saw the movie and I’m not interested in doing that' - and my agent said 'It’s different, it’s much better... the writer is now producing it and everyone loves it; why don’t you watch it? It’s on tonight. Just call me back in an hour - it’s actually on right now.'"
As many fan will know the movie Marsters is referring to is the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer film starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy Summers. While it made a decent box office return for its budget, writer and Buffy creator Joss Whedon wasn't as involved in the creative process as much as he'd like and the end result was a lot more camp and cheesy than he intended. Luckily, he got a second shot at the Slayer with the TV show...
"I called my agent back after fifteen minutes and just said 'Holy god, get me on this show! My god what a great show, I’d kill to get on this show!'" Says Marsters. The episode he watched a mere 15 minutes of before he knew he wanted to be a part of Buffy was the season 1 finale Prophecy Girl, which sees Buffy die and save the world by defeating the Master (in that order). And although he maintains that he only got the role because he got along with Juliet Landau (who plays Drusilla) – "I was her boy toy" - it's hard to imagine the cockney vampire played by anyone else. Luckily, we don't have to.