The time 17:14, Monday 12 June 2000. The place:
Assorted journalists loiter behind a fenced off area of the store,
making sure their press badges are visible and secretly pleased
at the occasional envious glance aimed at them by the crowd of Buffy
fans, slowly taking over the store. Alyson Hannigan, the 26-year-old
actress who plays Willow in the popular entertainment show Buffy
the Vampire Slayer, is due to arrive any second to sign copies
of the new box-set (season three, part one).
Suddenly, a door opens somewhere in the region
of "World Music", and a tiny, tiny woman wearing jeans and a green
jumper wanders through surrounded by a coterie of black-clad publicity
women. Giving the journos a brief wave and a smile, she crosses
the barrier and walks straight into an ambush of flash photography.
Utterly unfazed, she gets down to the serious business of signing
books, videos, magazines, posters, even little Willow figures (which
we'll see more of later...). Her head is down as she scribbles,
but every time she glances up or treats us to one of those rather
sweet little smiles, there's another blinding round of flashes.
SFX meets her again two days later. She's
lounging on a sofa in one of the many rooms that comprise the penthouse
suite of the Dorchester hotel. Having observed the ease with which
she dealt with the situation, and knowing - as we do - that she
has been acting in adverts, TV and film since the age of four, does
she remember a time when she wasn't famous? "Of course! Just before
Buffy! I guess the longer the show's gone on, the more
you get used to the interviews and everything. And then you just
start seeing how, like when something goes wrong, timing-wise, how
frustrating it is. 'Things could work so easily - don't you understand?!'
- which we found here. It's been a little chaotic, scheduling wise,
but everybody's so lovely. I've just come from Paris, and I don't
speak French. Their English is good, but I didn't feel comfortable
just, y'know, joking around. The senses of humour don't really cross
over. So, I'm very relieved to be in England, having people
Hold on, didn't she speak French in Buffy's dream
sequence? With the monkey? "You know what, I did. Wait! No, I was...
yeah... I'm sure I didn't do it very well. But we have wonderful,
wonderful people who research everything, and break lines down."
Speaking of interviews - she gets interviewed an
awful lot, and must hear some of the same questions again and again.
There must be an almighty temptation to make stuff up, if only to
alleviate the boredom. "Making things up?" she laughs. "Er... I
dunno. Not really, because then for the rest of the run of the show
I'll be answering, 'So, you're an avid tree climber?' 'No, that
was a joke, and I'm sorry I ever said it...' It goes on the internet,
and then the next reporter goes to look things up on the internet,
and they'll pick that as the most recent fascinating thing
about you. I think, like, Seth and Nick like to answer questions
very sarcastically, and in print sometimes that just doesn't come
across well. Some people are like 'Oh, gee, what is he doing?' and
it's like, 'No, that's just Nick's sense of humour - you don't quite
Over the past few days dozens of eager fans have
been asking Alyson whether or not she knew about the Nocturnal 2K
convention in a couple of days' time, and we're no different. Her
pals James Marsters and Anthony Head are star guests, so I ask if
she would like to ask a question of either of them. "Ask James why
he hasn't called me! Actually, I don't think we have each other's
numbers, 'cos I moved, and he moved... But yeah - I wanna see that
We mention that Julie (Darla) Benz is rumoured
to be a surprise guest and the response is decidedly less enthusiastic.
"She was very mean to me. She was, like, the meanest person ever
to me. I didn't like her. That was the first season - I still have
that grudge, though. I was, you know, on a brand new show, and so
excited, and to have someone to be so mean to me, I just wanted
to cry. Actually, I think I did."
Yikes. Moving swiftly along... Let's talk more
about the first season, more specifically the "alternative", never-screened
pilot, "The presentation?" That's the one. Strange viewing, since
Willow is actually played by different actress. "Isn't it!" Ah,
she's seen it then. "Yeah." Did she sit there and think, "Who on
Earth is that girl?" "No. I actually had met her before through
mutual acquaintances. In fact, I guess I knew her through the audition
process - that she was the one being replaced. I didn't know her
well. But yeah, the whole feel is now different. Nick is different,
and Sarah is different. Tony's good - he's the same," she smiles.
So it seems from her obvious fondness of her co-stars
that they really are just like one big 'ol happy family
- hey, it's a cliche because it's true... "It is true! It is a family,
but with any family there's obvious dysfunction. You know? Where
a big dysfunctional family." She giggles. "Where like brothers and
sisters, the cast. And there are days where you're just the best
of friends, and you love each other to death, and there are other
days when you're like, 'I just need to... be away from you.' Because
nine months out of the year, for 12 to 15 hours a day - that's a
long time. You're not going to love people... We'll get on each
other's nerves, but I'm surprised no-one's murdered anyone." No
huffs? "Oh, I'm sure there've been huffs..."
Do they still go to each other's houses and watch
the show? "We used to, but now we're on Tuesday nights at eight
o'clock, so we're usually just getting off work, so we sort of miss
the show. But we hang out and do other things. This summer we've
been off for a little bit, about a month, and I've seen Emma, who
plays Anya, Seth, obviously Alexis who plays Wesley," she smiles
a secret little smile... "um, and David Boreanaz. And Joss. I haven't
seen Nick because he's been moving, so he's been ridiculously hard
to get a hold of. I've talked to Tony but I won't see him 'til this
weekend - 'cos he's in England [she clarifies, jokingly]. And James.
The aloof mister James..."
When we interviewed Joss Whedon just recently he
was extraordinarily tired. "Well, see, you start out with Joss working,
which is tired - because he just puts everything he has into the
two shows. Somedays you just don't understand how the man is still
walking. And then you're flying to a country that is eight hours
ahead of us, and I just think that would be very problematic. Poor
guy. I don't think he even sleeps anyway. He's always saying he
That issue of SFX should be around here
somewhere - we brought her an FHM, too. "Someone gave me
the little booklet already..." Ah, but not only did Alyson make
her debut in FHM's 100 Sexiest Women poll this year, but
they got women to vote independently, inside. She's way up there
in that one... "I am? Very cool! Women rock!" she laughs.
Acutely aware of reopening old wounds with the
earlier mention of Julie Benz, I don't want to bring back any more
depressing memories. "But you're going to?" she asks, cautiously.
Sorry - I'm a journalist. I'm scum. "Awww." Thanks. Anyway - what
would she say was her toughest scene so far? "Uh... Actually, you
know there was a really difficult scene recently - I can't say this
was the most difficult of all, 'cos I'm sure it's not, it's just
my memory gets shorter and shorter... But recently, we did this
scene where we're coming down an elevator shaft, and so we have
these harnesses on, you know, it's rock climbing gear type thing?
Buffy and I are.. Oh god, I can't even think of the word." She starts
miming the action. "We're coming down the elevator... What is that?"
Abseiling? "No... Oh my God. I have the word. It's just that part
of my brain hasn't woken up yet..." We can put it in afterwards,
don't worry. "So anyway we're coming down, and the harnesses were
just very... intrusive," she says, a little shyly. "And to do a
very long scene in a one storey elevator shaft we had to break the
scene up and keep going all the way back to the top. That
took all day, it felt like. My back was so out... My hips sometimes
go out - my chiropractor puts blocks underneath, but I'd just got
them adjusted and after that scene I could hardly walk."
She can't be short of a few bob, given the startling
popularity of the show, so we can't help asking a rather irrelevant,
materialistic, yet compelling question - what has been her most
"Probably, I guess, my house." Yes, but everyone's
got to live somewhere. Anything more of a frippery? Like buying
a 30-foot pink elephant just because you can?
Chuckling at the thought, something occurs to her.
"oh wait, you know what I just did, which I normally wouldn't do?
Like I said my memory's very... Anything in the last two months
I can talk about, but anything last year I have trouble. Um. I've
been driving by this pet store in..." She pauses momentarily, evidently
aware that she was about to let slip her new address, "... my neighbourhood,
and it has these cat climbing things." She perks up visibly when
talking about animal matters, being an owner of three dogs and two
cats, and famously doting on them. "They're normally very ugly,
these posts with little things hanging off them. Recently I've been
driving by this one that's built as if it's a tree. It's really
round, and the carpet on the outside is messed up so it looks like
bark, and then there's like little holes in it, and little green
limbs, and I was like, 'Oh my God, that is so cool!' And it's just
this weird, demented little tree thing. It has these cubbyholes
that go all the way down to the floor, and there's a hidden shelf,
and so I stopped, and I was like 'Wow!' - it was really expensive
but I thought, 'I love my cats, and they never get toys, really,
and besides they'll love it."
Sounds like they'll never leave the thing. "Well,
see, the problem was... My roommate and I went and picked it up,
and this thing is heavy, right? So we dragged it into the
house, and my youngest cat Flipper, who is just fearless - you know,
a real punk, and cute, and lovely; isn't afraid of dogs, isn't afraid
of beating up on the dogs, is a tough little kitten. Well, not a
kitten any more, a teenage cat probably." She pauses briefly to
gather her thoughts.
"So we bring this thing in, and he's sorta like,
'What the hell is that?', and we set it up in the game room, and
I'm like, 'Look, Flipper! Look what I bought you!' and I bring him
over. He nearly took out my eyes trying to get away from it. He
was so frightened. He tears off and refused to come past
that room. For four days he was terrified of that whole room, because
the tree was in there. My other cat, I put her on top, and she didn't
like it at first, but then she thought, 'Oh, this is nice, I get
to stay away from the dogs...' so she adjusted to it after the first
or second day. Finally I put some canned cat food in there, and
now Flipper loves the tree. That was pretty extravagant,
because it was really expensive and the cat wound up hating it.
I was so depressed. I was like, 'Noooo! There's this big ugly tree
that the cat doesn't like!'"
Uh oh. The door behind me is opening, which heralds
the entrance of a publicity person with a schedule on their mind.
Darn it - time to wind up... Still, hopefully time to squeeze a
few more questions in.
There is some evidence to suggest that, in real
life, she may be a bit of a wild child: she kickboxes, goes stock
car racing, looks suspiciously good in leather, and went out with
Marilyn Manson's drummer. "That was just a phase... He was very,
very calm. That's just his job. We weren't... I dunno... What was
I thinking..." She trails off a little, but it's clear that she
has never considered herself particularly crazy. Anyway, off to
get the photos done - and I've got some surprises for her... "Ah,
now you're teasing me..."
We adjourn to the balcony, where an empty fountain
is to be the backdrop. "Strip!" Orders publicity lady to our delight.
But no - these aren't those kind of pictures, and she just takes
off her comfy sweater before sitting in front of a reclining nude.
No, not a real one. We start taking photos outside until Alyson
starts freezing to death, then we run back inside to the comfort
of the penthouse suite, where we present her with her surprise--four Buffy figures; Angel, The Master, Buff, and of course
Willow. "Oh look, they gave me boobs. Hey, my head comes off! Sarah's
head doesn't come off, David's head doesn't come off..."
As she plays with herself for the camera, so to
speak, it all starts getting a little disturbing. "Look how flexible
I am!" she says, wrenching the figures legs apart. "Willow the cheerleader!"
She places her own disembodied head onto her fingertip, and it's
starting to look more like a voodoo ritual than a photoshoot. It's
not a perfect fit, and as it falls to the floor she can't resist
the obvious pun: "Oh, I'm always losing my head. Hehehe." Finally
time constraints force our photographer Gavin to start packing up--as he does so we muse upon the varying likenesses of the figures.
The reason David Boreanaz's looks so much like him is because he
got his head scanned for it, Hannigan reveals. The next interviewer
is waiting, so as a parting gift--and seeing as she likes them
so much--we give them to her. "Oh, cool!"
Interview by Tom Mayo.
© Future Publishing 2000. SFX, #67, August 2000.