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‘Buffy’ stars eager to meet die-hard fans at Columbus convention (James Marsters) | @DispatchAlerts
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‘Buffy’ stars eager to meet die-hard fans at Columbus convention

By Eric Lagatta
The Columbus Dispatch

On its surface, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was a TV show about a plucky blonde who fights the forces of darkness and saves the world (a lot).

Beneath the veneer, though, was a TV series whose literal demons served as a metaphor for the horrors of adolescence. In the process, the landmark show gave rise to a bona fide feminist icon and laid the groundwork for many ensuing fantasy series.

“It just touched on really basic human emotions, like a life blueprint,” said Emma Caulfield, who played Anya, the vengeance demon turned human.

“Buffy,” which in March marked the 20th anniversary of the series premiere, lives on via the streaming service Hulu (where all seven seasons are available), helping the show to retain a loyal fandom 14 years after it left the airwaves.

The milestone was heralded by pop-culture media outlets nationwide, with Entertainment Weekly even reuniting the cast for a photo shoot and cover story.

“I appreciate their passion,” Caulfield said. “It’s very strange and it’s wonderful to be a part of something that had such a profound effect on so many people.”

Joining Caulfield will be Nicholas Brendon, who portrayed Xander Harris, Buffy’s loyal friend. (On Monday, James Marsters, who played the vampire Spike, canceled his scheduled appearance because of a filming conflict.)

“It’s a well-written show, and it’s still as poignant as ever,” said Brendon, who is involved in writing the canonical “Buffy” comic books, which continue the story.

Brendon and Caulfield are among 20 celebrity guests expected at the three-day convention, set to begin Friday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

“We want to bring the greatest talent that we can bring in, and I think we’ve done that this time in Columbus,” said John Maatta, CEO of Wizard World.

Other big names this year will include Kate Beckinsale of the “Underworld” film series and former “Doctor Who” David Tennant. The event also offers collectibles for sale, costume contests and an array of panels — including a Saturday afternoon panel with the “Buffy” actors.

“The amount of passion and interest in the show by the fans is just extraordinary,” said Maatta, who as a former executive at the WB in the 1990s helped bring “Buffy” to the air.

The show, which premiered on March 10, 1997, on the fledgling network, was based on a 1992 box-office flop of the same name. With the vision of creator Joss Whedon, “Buffy” the TV series became a hit.

The show moved to UPN for seasons six and seven because the network offered a higher licensing fee than did the WB. (Both networks are now defunct, with much of their programming having moved to the CW, launched in 2006.)

“Buffy” offered no shortage of gripping and boundary-pushing television, including an episode with virtually no dialogue (“Hush” in season four), the groundbreaking depiction of a lesbian relationship between Tara (Amber Benson) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and a much-beloved musical episode (“Once More With Feeling” in season six).

Whedon — who also created the short-lived but revered TV show “Firefly” and directed Marvel’s “The Avengers” movies — devised the character Buffy, a cheerleader from California, to subvert classic horror tropes. In Whedon’s world, the blonde — usually the first to be killed — is instead the one who kicks demonic butt.

As portrayed by 1990s darling Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy Summers was equal parts vulnerable and courageous, witty and sincere.

In the fictional town of Sunnydale, California — set atop a demon-spewing Hellmouth — Buffy, the one slayer born into her generation, battled monsters, vampires and apocalyptic threats.

At the same time, she navigated high school and college, struggled through a menial low-wage job, coped with family tragedy and endured heartbreak after failed relationships.

“How do you get through adolescence without giving up on the world and yourself?” said Marsters, explaining the program’s central theme.

As Spike, Marsters portrayed one of two vampires with whom Buffy developed a romantic connection — the other was the broody Angel (David Boreanaz), whom gypsies cursed with a soul after he tormented innocent humans for two centuries.

The arc was unexpected for Spike, the Billy Idol-esque vamp introduced in season two as a villain.

Marsters later starred on the “Buffy” spinoff series, “Angel” (also on Hulu), with Boreanaz, now known for his high-profile role in the Fox series “Bones.”

Said Marsters of “Buffy”: “You realize how lucky everyone involved was to be a part of it.”

elagatta@dispatch.com

@EricLagatta








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