First, take a breath – no one is seriously thinking about rebooting the show. Those nasty rumors last year about a possible Buffy relaunch without Joss have amounted to nothing. The comics series is chugging along in “season” 9, which right seems to be the closest thing we’re going to get to the Scooby Gang getting back together. This is just meant to be a fun mental exercise.
In working up my list, I gave myself a couple of guidelines — I wanted the actors to be believable in their roles as high school students, so I limited the age-range I would consider for the kids. Two, I didn’t want to look at my list at the end and say to myself, “My, how Caucasian is this!” Three, I had to consider what was essential to each of the roles and what could be reworked without damaging the character. Example – Essential to Angel – brooding, guilt, the desire to make up for the damage he did as Angelus. Not essential – his Irish origin, bad accents.
BVTS is the story of a young woman coming into her own power as the latest in a long line of Slayers, women who protect the world from vampires, demons, and werewolves (oh my!). She’s the anti-victim, and Whedon deliberately envisioned her as the tiny, feminine, helpless blonde who gets killed off in all those horror movies. While we’ve had an a good number of strong female heroines grace the small screen since Buffy first showed up, I decided I wanted to stick with Whedon’s original subversion. So for me, for Buffy, I’m going with Chloe Moretz. She can handle action, intensity, and comedy, and also, importantly, she looks like she still might get carded at a bar.
I sorted through my mental rolodex of 20-something-redheads — no one would believe Emma Stone or Karen Gillian as meek nerds who have to take off their glasses because anyone realizes they’re beautiful, and I was sort of shocked to discover that Maria Thayer is my age, which is, politely put, real the fuck far away from high school. As much as I love our redheaded friends, it seemed reasonable to branch out. Alia Shawkat’s Willow may not be as shy and awkward as Alyson Hannigan’s, but there’s more than one kind of nerd out there.
First, if one were to reboot Buffy, one might do a better job of giving our Everyman, Xander, a more satisfying character arc. He wallows in boyish, ignorant douchedom for too long on the original series and the long view hasn’t been particularly kind to him. Xander is us, the un-special, the regular human beings who fight evil because it’s the right thing to do, not because he’s predestined to do so. The character wrestles with pressures of traditional masculinity and societal expectations while he’s sidekicking it to a wee-little demon fighter, which makes for some interesting internal struggles. Logan Lerman has a bit of Everydude to him, with a dash of undercover hottie.
My first thought was Idris Elba. When I told people about this project and asked who’d they like cast as Giles, everyone said “Idris Elba!” He’s the right age, he’s British, and he’s, well, Idris Elba. But then I decided that what a Buffy reboot didn’t need was sexual tension between the Watcher and the Slayer, and the Watcher and everyone else on cast, because Idris Elba is the sex. So what does Giles need? I’d argue that as much as Buffy has to be a female role, Giles has to be a male one – there’s a lot that goes on in the show about rebelling and destroying the patriarchy, and the Watcher’s Council is a very literal embodiment of patriarchal ideas. I’d even make the argument that Giles needs to be British, because of the whole Colonialism/Americanism rebellion angle. Sendhil Ramaurthy has the kind of gravatis one might expect from a British librarian, but he’s got a Ripper lurking inside.
Joyce isn’t a Housewife. She’s not a cougar. She’s not a granny. She’s a middle aged single mother with a job and a well developed sense of denial. She shouldn’t look “Hollywood” and she needs to give off a sense of grounded-ness for the Slayer to take comfort from. Annabeth Gish fits the bill. She might even buy you matching sweats to watch old movies in.
Alexa Vega. Cordy was the easiest person to fantasy cast – Vega jumped to mind right away. She usually plays the good girl in all those Lifetime movies I see her in, but I think she definitely could pull off high school Queen Bee.
Spike and Dru
Spike is a challenging case. He’s a monster that we grow to understand and the actor that plays him needs to be strong enough to make us like him as a bad guy and be willing to follow him through an arduous arc to becoming a Champion. Angel in some ways is an easier portrayal – he’s already regained his soul when we meet him, so we don’t have to deal with the monster until we’ve already gotten to know him. Spike’s arc is the opposite, we have to believe he loves Dru and he’s a cold blooded killer, and we have to want to see more of him. Dru needs to convey a sense of otherworldly dangerousness, a mystic who keeps dead bodies in her porcelain doll collection. Ksenia Solo and her amazing eyes give off a touched-by-other-worlds vibe, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers? Come on, he’s totally that guy you can’t quit even though you know he’s terrible for you.
In case you haven’t been staying home sick on the couch recently, The Soap Channel is running the hell out of Veronica Mars so Tessa Thompson has been on my screen a lot. I originally considered her for Cordelia – she already played the spoiled high schooler on VM –but the more I watched her, the more she seemed to have some steel behind her eyes. Faith is impulse where Buffy is control, the loner to Buffy’s family centeredness, selfishness to the other Slayer’s sacrifice. Faith may be all wrong, but she’s got some brass balls on her – I’d like to see what Thompson would do with the role.
So what would your dream cast look like?