Sarah Michelle Gellar has admitted that fear of “victim blaming and shaming” has kept her from speaking about her negative experiences of being a “young girl” in showbusiness.
The Cruel Intentions star made her on-screen debut aged six and was 19 years old when she was cast in the career-defining role of Buffy Summers, a high school student with supernatural powers, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In a new interview with The New York Times, Gellar denied that her experience as a young woman in the industry had been positive.
“It was really hard,” the actor said. “There weren’t great female roles when I came up. It was the girlfriend role, the wife role.
“That’s why Buffy was so spectacular, because she really had something to do, and then we had I Know What You Did [Last Summer] where it was the women figuring things out. That was all a new turn of events.”
Gellar continued: “That was on the script side of it. And then there’s the other side of being a young girl in the business. Growing up in New York, I had a little bit of street sense going into it, which is helpful. But no, it was not easy.
“I’ve had my fair share of experiences, I have just chosen not– I don’t win by telling my stories, emotionally, for me. I look at people that tell their stories, and I’m so impressed. But in this world where people get torn apart, and victim blaming and shaming, I just keep my stories in here.”
While Gellar herself has never spoken about any experiences on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, other members of the cast have discussed the working conditions on the set.
In 2021, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase on Buffy and the spin-off Angel, tweeted about the environment showrunner Joss Whedon allegedly created on the supernatural teen drama. This included claims that Whedon called her fat when she was four months pregnant, something he has denied.
“Joss has a history of being casually cruel,” she wrote. “He has created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career. I know because I experienced it first-hand.”
Gellar supported Carpenter’s sentiment in her own statement at the time, writing on Instagram: “While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon.
“I am more focused on raising my family and surviving a pandemic currently, so I will not be making any further statements at this time. But I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.”
Whedon would later go on to respond to Carpenter’s comments, saying: “Most of my experiences with Charisma were delightful and charming. She struggled sometimes with her lines, but nobody could hit a punch line harder than her. I did not call her fat.”