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[EDITOR'S NOTE: Lots of panic filled e-mails about tonight - just to clarify, I write an outline during the session after which I fill in the actual quotes. In other words, it takes a few hours for me to transcribe and post. Otherwise, it would look like 7:06 p.m. - Seth Green is funny. 7:13 p.m. - Nick makes fun of Emma's outfit. And as interesting as I think I am, you're undoubtedly more interested in what Joss and co. have to say, not me. So apologies for any confusion - I had assumed after last year everyone knew the deal.]
7:00 p.m.: Tonight's insanity begins with an archival clip of "All My Children" featuring the one-and-only Sarah Michelle Gellar as she's brought to tears by her onscreen mom Susan Lucci. Again, I can't stress enough how great the selections are this year.
7:06 p.m.: Hey it's the Paley Center's Barbara Dixon! She notes that tonight is the night "that everybody in this town thinks they need to be inside this room." As you've undoubtedly heard, all 850 tickets tonight were sold out within two hours. Here's hoping it lives up to the hype.
7:09 p.m.: "My name is Matt and I'm a Buffyholic," says TV Guide's Matt Roush after taking the podium. He's unabashedly excited about being tonight's moderator.
7:14 p.m.: Matt in turn brings out Marti Noxon, who notes that Joss is running a little late. "Joss and I had a really amazing and remarkable experience recently which was that we snuck into the back of a 'Buffy' sing-along. Never in my dreams as a writer did I think I would see people throw their underwear at me on a screen. That happened among other crazy and wonderful things." She goes on to say, "When Joss told us he was going to do a musical we were a little, not nervous, we just had never seen him write a song before. I'm sorry that I had a moment of doubt, because I will never put it past Joss to do anything. If Joss came to me tomorrow and said - 'I'm going to build a rocket and we're all going to Mars!' - it's like, 'Okay!'" And with that we're presented with "Once More, With Feeling."
8:07 p.m.: That brings us to tonight's panel! David Greenwalt! Amber Benson! Seth Green! Charisma Carpenter! Marti Noxon! Michelle Trachtenberg! Emma Caulfield! James Marsters! Nicholas Brendon! Sarah Michelle Gellar! And of course, the Buddha himself Joss Whedon!
8:12 p.m.: Matt asks about what we just saw. "I'm going to go with fun," says Joss. "It wasn't the hardest [episode]. It wasn't really harder than 'Hush.' Because every day there was music." James disagrees: "You guys are remembering differently - this was total terror... [Joss] would not let anybody off the hook and the thing is none of us signed up to be singers. Tony Head and I were already recording and we were kind of comfortable with it but man like a lot of the actors we weren't professional singers and what I remember, the thing that I really loved about it was how everyone really screwed their courage to the sticking place and did it and came through for you because they knew you had a great script. And we ended up flying with it and ended up having a great time with it. But what was so impressive to me was just the courage of the cast to do something that they really weren't expert at, especially Sarah frankly." Michelle adds, "I gave myself psychosomatic laryngitis when I heard I had to sing. But somehow with lots of tea and lemon... I think I'm the only one who's not on the DVD of the singing because my face was so puffy from crying."
8:15 p.m.: Sarah on her memories: "I think 'Hush' for me was the hardest. I think it was one of those moments where I thought, 'Oh, this is great! A whole episode with no lines! This is a breeze!' And boy was I wrong." Joss adds, "James did also say something that I've quoted many times since - 'If we don't have the shit scared out of us at least once a year we're not working hard enough.'"
8:18 p.m.: James follows up with: "I think that the people that terrified themselves the most were the writers, frankly. Because we just had to stand on tape man. We just had to wear the hair. But the writers actually had to write truth and the things that truly terrified them or the days when they really humiliated themselves, the worst day in their whole life and when they made the biggest mistake of their entire life and then they put fangs on it and gave it to us. And we say, 'I'm scared of that, I'm too scared to do it.' Well, you know, I wrote it so you can do it pal. The writers were the bravest of us." "I'm going to go with that," Joss responds. "Except you didn't write most of them," quips David.
8:19 p.m.: Matt asks if we'll ever see a Broadway "Buffy." "I would love to take a 'Buffy' to Broadway," Joss confesses. "It would not be this. This is an episode of television. You would have to start from scratch. I've spent some time daydreaming about it, because I'm me, but you know it would be, I couldn't sort of sign it over and go, 'You there, write 'Buffy the Musical.' Check back with me when you're done.'" Matt prods which cast members would be up for it. "I'm a very famous song and dance man," Seth jokes. "I'll take my special brand of musical anywhere you want."
8:22 p.m.: Sarah is asked about the show's first season on UPN, arguably it's darkest. "It was definitely tough for me. It's so hard to separate myself from her. So it was tough for me to do [certain things] and I felt pressure from the voice of the fans. I know Joss and Marti particularly talked me down from the ledge a couple of times. It just felt so far removed from me at the time. And maybe that was the point - I was just struggling the same way that she was struggling to find who she was. It just felt so boring to me." Joss adds, "I would like to mention also that after season five, I went to the writers and said... after every season let's break it down, see what we did right, see what we did wrong. I think season five went great, this season - gotta be funnier! Let's just lighten it up. I actually think it was pretty funny... But I do remember there was a time when I said to Marti... 'Okay, I think Buffy's been gone for too long. We've lost her and it's time now to win her back.' And then you had a conversation with Marti on the exact same day."
8:24 p.m.: Marti chimes in: "Yeah, I remember that day too. It was a day when everybody kind of thought, 'Okay, we've reached the bottom of the pool, it's time to surface.' And you said to me Sarah like, 'I just don't feel, I've lost the hero completely in all this exploration.' And remember what we talked about in terms of season six was that time after high school when you kind of lose yourself. And you do." Sarah adds, "I guess for me too I always looked up to her. I think that was something for me, I thought, 'God when I was younger I would have loved to have had a role model like that, a woman that showed you that you don't have to be the smartest, you don't have to be the most beautiful, you can protect your family and the people that you love and you can be a powerful woman.' And I think that's what made it hard for me." Nick quips, "It wasn't Susan Lucci?"
8:25 p.m.: David, after revealing he's not wearing underwear anymore, adds: "The thing that I hate most about Joss - and there are many things to hate - when we started 'Buffy' he had this keyboard and if he knew three chords I'd give you a hundred bucks. And he was like playing around on this keyboard and five, six years later he writes a musical that is worthy of Broadway." As far as torturing poor Sarah, he notes: "There's nothing like taking all your pain and misery and, you know, shoving it into very good looking people's mouths." Marti follows up with: "Joss always said he wasn't happy unless Buffy cried."
8:26 p.m.: More Joss: "Early on, when David and I were first starting, really I think a lot of the template for the show happened when we were breaking the second, the witch episode. And David came up with the idea that a mother was jealous of her daughter's youth and had stolen it from her. And it still makes my spine go - 'Eeeeeek!' It is absolutely the essence of the show. It took the idea that there's good guys, there's bad guys, there's monsters... and it just took it one level further into the pain and into what people are capable of... That was a seminal moment for me because it made me realize there's more than this. And then as we progressed, we tried the break the hyena show for weeks, for months before we realized we had to turn Xander into a hyena."
8:27 p.m.: Sarah on getting the show: "I come out to L.A. for pilot season and I was beside myself - Joss Whedon, 'Toy Story,' I read this amazing script and all my friends felt sorry for me because I was on a midseason replacement on a network no one had heard of on a show based on a movie that wasn't..." Joss saves her with, "All that?" Sarah continues, "People would look at me and [say], 'Oh at least you got a pilot your first time out - that's great! Next year you'll get one that will go!' And I remember Joss and I having lunch, after he made me screen test 11 times for the role, [he told me] the basic principle for the show is you take all those horrible events, all that is scary and we literally made them into monsters. I think anybody can relate to what high school is like and how that is the worst monster for you and your worst nightmare. It was something that was so relatable. And I think that was the whole key to the show was, yes, not everyone faced the hyena but essentially we all did. I think that's what's beautiful about the pain and about the story."
8:28 p.m.: Joss on Sarah: "David and I used to crow when we realized what Sarah could do. We used to call her Jimmy Stewart, the greatest American in pain in the history of film." An embarrassed Sarah confesses, "I never knew that. You called me Jimmy Stewart? I never knew that."
8:29 p.m.: Matt drops the bombshell on Joss - Angel or Spike as Buffy's true love. Nick intercedes with, "Well given the comic book I think Willow." Sarah jumps in, "I did not know about this until about five minutes ago when someone says to me, 'Oh, how do you feel about, you know, Buffy's relationship... she's with a woman.' I'm like, 'She's with Willow? What?'" She looks around, "But it's not Willow?" Matt fills her and Michelle in on their recent developments. "I'm not in the comic book am I?" James muses. "If these guys were nerds we wouldn't have to have this conversation," David (?) notes.
8:34 p.m.: Matt presses if there's any possibility of another "Buffy"-related project. "Maybe Xander the One-Eyed Monster?" Nick jokes. "My answer would be there are so many stars that have to align," Joss admits. "But, you know, there's a reason I worked with these people for so long. Clearly from the comic it's a story I can't let go. I think it would be cool." As for any potential specifics: "Hypothetically if you could make things align that would be fun. I ended up when I was doing the comic, I wrote a comic 'Fray' which takes place 200 years in the future thinking there is no way this can ever affect the show and so it'll be safe. And then we ended up using a little of that... with the scythe [in 'Buffy'] and so [I feel] kind of an obligation to look into that mythology. And it would be lovely to make it all tie in but if I had to shoot down everything I'm doing in comics because we were doing a project, a film with these actual people, I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep."
8:36 p.m.: And how should we look into Buffy's "big night" with another Slayer? "Just what's written," Joss says. "It's a totally hot... totally steamy scenario," Seth jokes. "It's not a giant life change, it's not like Willow," Joss continues. "Just, you know, somebody who's young with somebody who they really like a lot and they have a lot of time on their hands. Oh, like anybody didn't go to college."
8:37 p.m.: Michelle on filming "The Body": "I know that being a fan of the show from the very beginning and actually being on it was surreal for me. So when I read the episode, it was like I was losing a part of myself to be honest. Joss has this amazing way of making me feel everything, even just the stage directions, you knew exactly where you were at that very moment. The interesting part of the episode is we shot dialogue for when Sarah comes to tell me that her mom has passed away. And it was a whole back and forth conversation of the whole breakdown and everything. And obviously you know in the end result there was no sound and I thought that was actually one of the most brilliant ideas you've ever had because it allows everyone to sort of attach their own emotional plug into whatever might have happened in your life. I think it allowed the audience to really connect with Dawn for the first time."
8:38 p.m.: Sarah's take: "It was tough. I had a little bit more advance knowledge of what was coming than Michelle did and I think in your head you get kind of prepared, you say goodbye to Kristine [Sutherland], you know it's coming. But you have to understand both Michelle and I come from families of single, strong mothers where for both Michelle and I, our mothers are everything. So you try to separate it as best you can and at the same time it adds that extra layer and I think particularly for me, Joss came to me early on because he had this idea about the first act. He's going to play it in four acts basically, all in real time. [He was] like, 'How do you feel if the first act, your act where you find your mother... it's just one shot?' And I'm like, 'What do you mean, you mean like no retakes?' And he said, 'Yeah, what if we go through - it's a handheld situation - and we just find her and everything goes from there.'" She later adds, "I think the thing for me with the show is and it was always so amazing to be a part of something that was constantly breaking the rules. We were constantly doing things that had never been done. And we're constantly challenging both the audience and ourselves."
8:39 p.m.: Joss's take: "When I made 'Hush' I was, literally part of it was [like], I'm turning into a hack. I get on set, I'm going over a two-shot, then the dialogue, I felt like I was starting to phone it in, like not challenge myself. So I thought if I had a story I could only tell visually that was much harder. There was a scene with you and Tony and he played it and it was beautiful. And I believe I said, 'I can tell that's where the music comes in.' And he said, 'You know that's not the best thing you could say to me.' It feels then that I need to be really unique and I thought about it, I was like, 'You know, [I was] kind of using music as a crutch.' And then I [thought] I know what I'm going for, there's a stillness to it. And I love 'The Birds.' So the idea of not using music partially [came] from me realizing you know what, I have to take something away from myself. I have to bear myself the same way you guys have to. And I got that from you and it was great. It was like, 'Oh yeah, you know what? I can be better.'"
8:40 p.m.: And Emma's take: "I had a real Anya moment and I'm not proud of it. Because I was asked recently by a fan, she came up to me and she's like... 'I just want to know - what were you thinking in your monologue [during 'The Body']? I cry every time.' I was like, 'To be honest, I had to go to the bathroom.' I was really hungry, I had to go to the bathroom and Joss was like Napoleon with the tears. It's like going down one eye but he wanted it down another... not enough tears... it's like everyone's hungry, I have to pee! And she was like, 'Oh that's sweet, well, thank you.' I just spoke without thinking."
8:42 p.m.: Matt asks Amber about Tara and Willow's relationship. "I had no idea that Alyson and I were going to become lovers. I mean, not in real life," she says. "That was later," Seth quips. "We had no idea," Amber continues. "I didn't have any idea. We were actually taken aside I guess three episodes in... It was weird because the crew kept coming up and going, 'You're really good together.'" Seth adds, "I think I'd like to watch."
8:45 p.m.: Joss on the network's reaction to their first kissing scene: "Actually they called me and said, 'You know, we got a lot of gays here. On 'Dawson's' and this other...' and I'm like, 'I don't know, I don't watch those shows.' We're going to do this thing. It's true to character, it's what we're going to do. And then they were like, 'Do you have to have the kiss?' I was like, 'Okay, I'm packing up my office.' I never pulled that out, except that one time." He later notes that the only time they lost advertisers was when Buffy was working at a fast food joint.
8:47 p.m.: Charisma on moving on to "Angel": "First of all Joss asked me to take a walk with him which is always a frightening [prospect]. As a joke he would say, 'You're fired... just kidding.'" Marti shares a similar experience: "I got a message on my answering machine of Dave and Joss saying, 'We read your first script and we're really sorry to tell you, you know, it just didn't cut it. You're really nice and... ha! ha! We're joking!' I remember he said 'Welcome to the family!' or whatever and I was like, 'I hate you!'" As for Charisma: "I literally used the words to Joss, 'If it doesn't go, what happens?' And he said, 'You will always have a net here with 'Buffy.'"
8:49 p.m.: Matt brings up the show's lack of Emmy love. "You know, we have the fans," Sarah says. "And that's better than any award from some panel that sits in a room... when it came to the fans, they were so loyal. We won the fan awards. I think for all of us that was more important." Joss notes, "Nobody [who works] on 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' on the WB and thinks, 'I'm getting Emmys!'"
8:51 p.m.: Audience Q&A time. Someone asks everyone to share their favorite film and current iPod playlist. This might take a while:
David - Movie: "The Godfather" and "Serenity"; Music: no iPod
Amber - Movie: (lost among the laughter caused by Seth); Music: Steve Earle
Seth - Movie: "Raising Arizona" and "There Will Be Blood"; Music: The Strokes, Fall Out Boy, Beck
Charisma - Movie: "Anchorman"; Music: The Killers
Marti - Movie: "Poltergeist," "Goodfellas," "Out of Sight"; Music: lots of eclectic stuff from her brother, the music supervisor on "Weeds"
Michelle - Movie: "Labyrinth" and "Rain Man"; Music: Madonna, Kanye West, Jimmy Eat World, Abba
Emma - Movie: "Silence of the Lambs" and "Pulp Fiction" (with a special shout out to "Battlestar Galactica"); Music: Radiohead
James - Movie: "Apocalypse Now"; Music: Beck, Robert Johnson, Rolling Stones, Nirvana
Nicholas - Movie: "Marty"; Music: a little bit of everything
Sarah - Movie: "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut"; Music: "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut"
Joss - Movie: "The Matrix"; Music: "wall to wall Sondheim"
8:57 p.m.: Someone asks why we never saw Oz's story completed. "Well, first of all," Joss starts. "Seth left." "But we did have a conversation," Seth responds. "I'm like, 'So what are you going to kill me?' He's like, 'I don't know, maybe I'll just throw you out there, see what happens.'" Joss later adds you'll definitely see him turn up in the season eight comics.
9:00 p.m.: A fan asks about the creepy-when-you-think-about-it age disparity between Buffy and Angel. "Obviously emotionally she was very fragile," Joss notes. "She was at an age where this was the sort of person she would fall for, the only sort of person she would fall for. And vice-versa. You know, it was love. Maybe not legal, but it was definitely real." Marti adds, "Also you might know it didn't go very well. He turned out to be a bit difficult." Seth jokes, "Let that be a lesson to you young ladies." Joss quips, "Stay away from all guys who aren't Seth?"
9:02 p.m.: Amber is asked by a fan why Tara never made a return appearance. "It was really more availability and the timing didn't work. I was getting ready to go to London to direct the 'Ghosts of Albion.' Um, I mean I think it was such a, just an in-depth happening for a lot of different reasons but.. I think the fact that Joss kept Willow a lesbian rather than going, 'Well, okay, now she's done, this relationship is over.' I think I'm really pleased with how that continued. She had somebody else, she continued to be who she was. She stuck by her values, she wasn't just a flip flopper."
9:07 p.m.: Whew! That's it kids, see you Saturday!