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  • 03.10.17

How The “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” Writers Room Went On To Conquer Hollywood

The quirky show about a teen hero is celebrating its 20th birthday, so what better time to celebrate it as the creative petri dish it was?

How The “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” Writers Room Went On To Conquer Hollywood
Promotional portrait of the cast for the television series, ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer,’ c. 1997. Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Head, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Charisma Carpenter and Alyson Hannigan Photo: Fotos International/Courtesy of Getty Images

Buffy The Vampire Slayer matters. In its seven seasons, the series inspired countless girls and young women to see themselves as heroes and taught boys and young men how to follow a female leader. It explored the question of fate versus free will in artful ways for a show that was mostly about stabbing people with pointy foreheads with wooden stakes in the heart. It crafted metaphors for experiences like losing your virginity, graduating from high school, and feeling lost as you grow up that never overwhelmed the thrill of seeing a band of heroes battle a never-ending tide of vampires, demons, evil gods, and the occasional mummy. Buffy took viewers on a seven-year journey that, despite a few missteps, endures as one of the brightest and most imaginative things to emerge on network television, treating both the ordinary and extraordinary trials of teenagers and young adults with humor and respect. The show may have never been a ratings juggernaut, but there are a lot of good people doing valuable things in the world who learned how to stand up for what they believe in from seven seasons of Buffy.

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Despite the fact that the show still resides largely in “beloved cult favorite” status, the people who created Buffy have gone on to work on projects that go well beyond cult faves (though there are a few of them in there, too). With fans celebrating the 20th anniversary of the show’s premiere on March 10, it’s worth looking back at the projects that the talent in that room went on to create.

Joss Whedon
Buffy was Whedon’s creation, and the show of quippy dialogue, robust action, the ability to turn from funny to poignant on a dime. Whedon was already a somewhat established entity in Hollywood when Buffy premiered–he had the screenplay credit on Toy Story, and had been hired to write Alien: Resurrection, not to mention the original Buffy film on which the series was loosely based–and he’d get other opportunities to pursue beloved, slimly-watched television in the years after Buffy. He turned the show over to Marti Nixon for season six, and went on to create Firefly (one of the more infamous about how Hollywood will break your heart) and Dollhouse, as well as the Firefly feature spinoff, Serenity. The combination of critical acclaim and commercial failure somehow led him to Marvel’s door, though, and in 2010–eight years after he stepped away from Buffy–he was hired to write and direct The Avengers. That film, of course, went on to retain Whedon’s critical success even as it would also shatter records as the fifth highest-grossing film of all time (both domestically and worldwide). He returned for the sequel, Age of Ultron, in 2015, although the returns diminished some in both capacities. The blockbuster life famously seemed to disagree with Whedon, and he turned over the series he developed for Marvel and ABC, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., to his brother and sister-in-law, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. He’s currently at work on a World War II-set horror movie, and his star remains bright–in February, Fox President David Madden, after a decade of fan petitions, weeping, and gnashing of teeth, as long as Whedon wanted to lead the project.

Marti Noxon
Noxon joined the Buffy writers room in the show’s second season, wrote 22 episodes, and served as a co-producer for the next three seasons. In season six, Noxon took over as show runner, steering an uneven 22-episode arc that nonetheless included some of Buffy’s finest moments. After Buffy’s conclusion, Noxon went on to work in Shondaland, as a writer for Grey’s Anatomy and as show runner and head writer for Private Practice, before joining the staff of Mad Men. She did good work there–she won a WGA award in 2010 for her work–and in 2014, co-created the critically adored drama unREAL for Lifetime with , which will premiere its third season this summer.

Drew Goddard
Goddard joined Buffy late, but wrote five of the 22 episodes in the series’s final season. He went on to join the staff on Buffy spin-off Angel for that show’s final season, writing another five (three of them with co-writer Steven DeKnight). From there, he moved largely to features–writing Cloverfield for J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, co-writing The Cabin in the Woods with Whedon, writing World War Z for Brad Pitt, and then being nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for Ridley Scott’s The Martian in 2015. He created the Daredevil series for Marvel before turning those responsibilities over to DeKnight, and he’s currently working on the screenplay for the sequel to Deadpool.

Steven DeKnight
Buffy’s former story editor also wrote five episodes of the series in 2001 and 2002, as well as twelve episodes of Angel, and one episode of Whedon’s Dollhouse. He went on to create the Spartacus franchise for Starz, then took over as show runner on the first season of Daredevil. He’s currently filming Pacific Rim: Uprising, which he’s both writer and director on.

Rebecca Sinclair
Sinclair wrote eight episodes of Buffy while also serving as the show’s executive story editor. She followed that up by joining the writing room on Gilmore Girls–a show that shared much of the Buffy-style sensibilities (but no vampires)–where she penned ten episodes. She went on to serve as showrunner and write ten episodes of the CW’s 90210 reboot (two of which she directed) and served as a consulting producer on the CW’s Beauty and the Beast.

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David Greenwalt
When it came time to spin Buffy off into Angel, Greenwalt–who wrote ten episodes of Buffy–left the show to create the new series with Whedon. He wrote another 17 episodes of Angel in its first three seasons, before leaving that series. In 2011, he resurfaced with the NBC supernatural procedural Grimm, which he co-created with Stephen Carpenter and Jim Kouf. Grimm’s a cult hit that’s currently winding down its sixth and final season (it concludes at the end of March).

Douglas Petrie
The Buffy-to-Daredevil link is strong for two shows that share little in the way of tone. Nonetheless, after Steven DeKnight left Daredevil, Petrie–who wrote 17 episodes of Buffy (and a pair of Angels–was promoted from co-executive producer to show runner, alongside Marco Ramirez. Petrie (and Ramirez) took on that same role for the Marvel/Netflix series The Defenders, which teams up the heroes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, but left in late 2016. He’ll presumably return to Daredevil when production begins on that show’s third season.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.

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