20 years ago, a Slayer—and pop culture phenomenon—was born.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer staked its claim in TV history on March 10, 1997, introducing the world to the gift that is creatorJoss Whedon, Buffy Summers (one of TV's best superheroes, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) and the Sunnydale Scooby Gang, the coolest uncool group on TV.
To celebrate the big day, we dug up 20 surprising facts about the iconic TV show that might surprise you, including which A-listers were originally supposed to play Buffy and Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and the amazing role Freddie Prinze Jr., SMG's real-life husband, almost played...
1. Warner Bros. really wanted the show to be called Slayer. Whedon refused. (In Whedon We Trust!)
2. In the unaired pilot, Willow was played by Riff Regan before Alyson Hannigan took over. The 25-minute pilot presentation is basically the bane of Whedon's professional life, as he said it "sucks on ass" in an interview with IGN.
3. Other actresses who auditioned for Buffy included Katie Holmes, Selma Blair and Charisma Carpenter, who went on to play Cordelia…which was the original role SMG auditioned for.
4. Ryan Reynolds could've played Xander…but turned the role down. And clearly was never heard from again.
5. Nathan Fillion auditioned for Angel in 1996. He later would play evil priest, Caleb, in season seven, and become one of Whedon's go-to collaborators.
6. Joss Whedon revealed that he chose the iconic theme song after Alyson Hannigan made him listen to the song (by Nerf Herder).
7. Spike could've been a Southern vamp! James Marsters originally auditioned with a Texas twang, but producers decided to make the platinum blonde vamp a Brit, with Anthony Stewart Head (Giles) coaching Marsters. Originally set to be killed off in five episodes by Angel, Spike ended up becoming the male lead.
8. Marsters had to bleach his hair every eight days for almost six years to maintain Spike's iconic hairstyle.
9. The character of Oz wasn't the first time Seth Green played Alyson Hannigan's boyfriend: they were a couple in My Stepmother Is An Alien in 1988.
10. Sarah Michelle Gellar had a real fear of cemeteries, crying hysterically after filming an episode where Buffy was put in a grave. "I have an irrational fear of cemeteries and being buried alive," she told Rolling Stone. "It's really hard to be a vampire slayer if you're scared of cemeteries." (A fake cemetery was later built on the set.)
11. Whedon almost quit the show after he received pushback for Willow's romance with Tara. David Greenwalt revealed a phone call he received from a Warner Bros. exec after hearing about the storyline, asking, "Is [Joss] really going to do this gay thing?" When asked to cut the couple's first kiss, Whedon said he threatened to walk. "It's the one time I pulled that out," he said. "And they were like, 'No, it's OK. Leave it in.'"
12. Unbeknownst to Gellar, Whedon and Greenwalt called her "Jimmy Stewart" because of having to deal with pain on film all the time.
13. Alyson Hannigan met her husband on the show: Alexis Denisof, who played Buffy's new watcher Wesley in season three, before joining the Angel spinoff.
14. The nerdy trio, who became one of season six's big bads, originally included Tucker, from the "Prom" episode, but the actor was unavailable. So Andrew (Tom Lenk) was born. "So we started talking about what if Tucker had a brother? I said, ‘His name should start with an A.' Because if you have Jonathan and Warren, then they can name themselves JAW as an acronym!" Jane Espenson told Vuture. "Joss was like, ‘Great! Let's name him Andrew.' We never ended up using JAW, but that's why his name starts with an A."
15. SMG's favorite Buffy episodes? "The Prom," "Hush" and "The Body."
16. Two almost guest stars on the show included Britney Spears, who would've played April the robot in "I Was Made to Love You," and SMG's real-life beau Freddie Prinze Jr. as Dracula in the season five premiere.
17. Whedon's favorite characters to write for included Spike and Andrew, with him admitting Angel was "the hardest…how to make a decent, handsome, stalwart hero interesting -- tough. Angelus, on the other hand..."
18. A spinoff centering on Faith (Eliza Dushku) was in the works, but it ultimately fell through. "I had come up with a pitch. Eliza was gracious, kind and wonderful, but she felt like she wanted to do something new," executive producer Tim Minear said. "There is no hard feelings there. But the show was basically going to be Faith meets Kung Fu."
19. A few storylines Whedon wish he had explored more? "There are a couple of things I would've liked to have seen a little more of; either Vampire or Hyena Xander, because Nick pulls that off really well," he said in an interview with The New York Times. "And I wish we had been able to service Dawn's character a little bit more in her third season.
20. We guess she's done baking: Gellar revealed she's Team Angel when it comes to Angel vs. Spike.