“Now we kind of get to heal.” After a painful past with Buffy creator, Charisma Carpenter gives “permission to the fandom” to still enjoy ‘Buffy’
(NYCC 2023) – Twenty years ago the final episode of the cult hit turned ground-breaking, iconic television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired its final episode. After seven seasons of battling vampires and demons, Sunnydale was literally swallowed by the Hellmouth marking the end to the series. While other Buffy stories arrived in the form of comics and video games, both fans and the cast alike thought we had heard the last of them as their beloved characters.
Fast forward to last week at New York Comic Con where many of the original cast reunited, but not to celebrate their past work together, as you may expect. Instead, the reunion delivered something much more exciting to thousands of Buffy fandom, a whole new spinoff adventure in the form of Audible’s Slayers: A BuffyVerse Story.
Awards Radar attended the fan-packed ‘Slayers’ NYCC panel as well took part in roundtable interviews to learn more about the new audio drama. In attendance were James Marsters (Spike), Charisma Carpenter (whose character Cordelia Chase shares my daughter’s name), Emma Caulfield Ford (Anya), Juliet Landau (Drusilla), a new teen slayer named Indira (Laya DeLeon Hayes), James Charles Leary (Clem), and Amber Benson (Tara) who not only created the series, but also co-wrote and co-directed it with long time Buffy contributor, Chris Golden. (Also returning to the BuffyVerse is everyone’s favorite Watcher, Giles, Anthony Stuart Head, who was not present.)
Buffy fans craving to hear those characters come to life again are in for a treat. The new audio series is much more than a narrated audiobook, it is a fully produced audio drama that combines the cast’s one-of-a-kind vocal performances, music, world-building sound effects and the latest in audio technology to bring their story to life.
Marsters enthusiastically explained the care given by co-director/producer to deliver an engaging audio experience. “If you have surround sound at your home, it will place you in the room with us, and then it will move us around you,” said Marsters. “Even though we record it statically in the microphone, the computer is blocking us, and when we fly across the room, you’ll hear that, or over your head or something.” And for those without surround sound, the stereo version, “They had me listen to it in stereo and it is still very effective.”
The 10-episode first season is set back in 2013 where Spike is working along with his old droopy demon friend Clem to protect a new generation of slayers unleashed against evil during the final season of Buffy. The multi-dimensional story is full of surprises including the return of several characters who were snuffed out during the TV run of the series, including a slayer version of Cordelia. We will save all the details for you to experience during your listen.
For Marsters it was a dream come true, “Just the idea that I could go back and play Spike was really exciting,” exclaimed Marsters. The ability to play the un-aging vampire was something the actor figured had passed since he was now 20 years older since last on screen. “I was excited to just be able to come back at all because I told the producers when we were filming (the TV series), they have seven more years if they want me to play, because I’ve been playing it for seven years, and I think 14-year window for a vampire is about enough.” But, by going the route of an audio adventure Spike truly did not have to age, nor did any of the other characters.
Unfortunately, the passing sands of time was just one hurdle. Co-creator Golden explained how Benson’s involvement was what made the cast comfortable to return, allowing Slayers happen at all, “The only way that you’re gonna convince people to come and do this, both the fans to come back and the cast to come back, is if they can feel trusted in your hands. And that’s why this happened.” Benson responded jokingly, “So he knew I had the Rolodex.”
Joking aside, the sentiment was echoed by the cast, this return to the characters needed to be in the hands of someone who knew and respected the cast, and also the characters. ”It’s been really emotional. I think for me, how we treat each other is really important,” stated Benson. ”And everyone getting back together and being a family was really, really important.”
Carpenter’s hesitation was directly connected to the mistreatment she suffered from original series creator, Joss Whedon. The shocking revelations had many fans convinced this would end any future involvement from the actress or the character. “This has been a project that I was a little bit hesitant being a part of, but once I got the pitch from Amber and I understood the safety and the integrity of these two people, Christopher Golden and Miss Amber Benson, I knew that I was in good hands and I knew that Cordelia was in good hands and that I was in a safe place and I could truly put my walls down.”
The terrible allegations even had fans confused about what relationship they could have with the fandom going forward. Could we watch Buffy or was it turning our back on the problematic elements? When I brought up the subject during the roundtable Carpenter’s response made her emotional. Her moving response shared just how much Cordelia means to her and that it is okay for her, and the fandom, to move forward.
“It’s painful. But now we kind of get to heal. That is why doing this project means so much to me,” declared Carpenter. “The show is more than just one person. And I spoke out about the one person. I will always want to be Cordelia. I will always want to. I gave up and sacrificed a lot.”
Ironically it was the painful experience went through which helped Carpenter slay her own demons. “Cordelia is me and I’m her,” explained Carpenter. “And she is the one person that I think changed who I was. To put me in a position to be able to speak out.” The actress continued, “That’s kind of rich. It’s almost like the one person created this character that then ended up being empowered enough to speak out about what was happening.”
“I wanted people to know that I love her and I love this fandom. And please know that’s what that is about,” said Carpenter. “When I spoke out, I wanted people to understand that I loved this character. I loved that job. I loved a lot of those people.”
“They’re separate to me, in my mind. I want to give permission to the fandom to enjoy that show and this show. And to maybe give it a rebirth and regenerate and to create new positive memories.”
(Watch Carpenter’s full comments in the video at the bottom of the article.)
Take it from someone who has listened to the series in its entirety, that is exactly what Slayers does. As newcomer and new slayer, Laya DeLeon Hayes explained, “I think that’s what’s so great about this, whether you’re a veteran fan or if you’re coming into this with fresh ears, fresh eyes, there is something here for you to relate to.”
She continued, “Indira, my character, represents that in a lot of ways. Even someone in my position who wasn’t very aware of the show, you can come into it and step into this magical world and still be able to be taken out of whatever craziness is happening in your own world.”
The delight of bringing the magical world back to life is something the cast was fully in agreement on, “I thought it was warm and I thought it was like putting on a comfortable shoe, but that you had to still break it in a little bit because it had been a minute,” said Caulfield Ford.
“We were originally really well cast. They cast very good actors in roles that they can really shine in. It was kind of getting back together and effortlessly, it was just fun,” said a smiling Marsters.
In addition to finding clever ways to bring back deceased characters such as Anya and Cordelia, Slayers also take the opportunity to have new character interactions that never happened on screen. It also allowed the writers to course correct characters and concepts which are definitely identified as problematic today.
“I love these people. I’ve been with these people a long time,” said Benson. “To be able to give some of them closure on things that didn’t get closure was really wonderful. There was some rough stuff that we’ve all been through as a group and to try and make this a better experience was high on our list.”
You can listen to Slayers: A BuffyVerse Story exclusively at Audible. Be sure to also watch the roundtable interviews with the full cast (below) as well as check out the gallery of photos from the panel and the The Slayers Society activation that took place all NYCC weekend which allowed fans to walk right into the BuffyVerse, enjoy smoking mocktails, train with a slayer, visit photo ops, win Slayers swag and more. You might say it slayed.
NYCC Roundtable Cast Interviews
New York Comic Con ‘Slayers’ Panel Photos
The Slayers Society NYCC Activation