Buffy the Vampire Slayer looms large over Sarah Michelle Gellar. This fall, more than eight years after she last played the droll demon fighter, she'll return to prime time as the star of another series, The CW's neo-noir mystery Ringer.
Speaking to reporters at Comic-Con Thursday, before she took the stage to promote Ringer, Gellar said she knows that she'll have to convince Buffy fans that this very different project — in which she plays twins! — will be worth their time. "I'm not trying to re-create Buffy and I'm not trying to top it," she said. "I'm trying to do something that the fans, who have been so good to me, will love. I'm a television watcher, and this is the kind of show that I would watch."
On Ringer, Gellar plays twins — neither of whom will remind you of Buffy. Bridget, a troubled recovering alcoholic, is on the run from some real unsavory types. She hides out by masquerading as her wealthy twin sister, Siobhan, who is thought to be dead but is actually also on the run, trying to escape a mysterious bounty placed on her head. But the girls are far from similar: "Bridget's is a story of redemption and that's what motivates her and everything she does," Gellar explains during the panel. "Siobhan's story is a story of revenge... Buffy's motivations were so different. Neither Siobhan nor Bridget wants to save the world."
Then there's the stunt work, which Gellar is game to do, but the producers insist on bringing in a double. "I was thinking, this is weird... They wouldn't let me do it. I wanted to go through the wall," Gellar said of a foundation-crashing scene in the pilot. In that same vein, Gellar has had to realize that her new characters are not ass-kicking crime fighters. "I can't kick him straight in the face," Gellar noted. "Bridget doesn't know what she's doing!"
Ringer was developed for CBS but after CBS Corp. President and CEO Leslie Moonves screened the pilot, it was moved to younger-skewing sister network The CW. It premieres Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 9/8c. Says Gellar: "I thought, 'Yes! I'm getting better clothing!' That was my first thought. I'm a girl, what can I say?"
For Gellar, who also serves as an executive producer on Ringer, there was relief as well. "I think we have a little more freedom here," she said, noting that an initial concern that sprung from being developed by CBS was having to make the serialized mystery more procedural in nature. "Because they're still finding out who they are, you can take more risks at The CW... I think we all know who the CBS audience is."
Asked about the show's master plan — lest it get bogged down in the number of Lost-style mysteries that enthrall and enrage fans — executive producer Eric Charmelo said he's got stories for "nine seasons — and then the triplet shows up." But seriously, the writers have already hashed out three seasons' worth of plot. "We're also playing with time and perspective, and that allows for a lot of latitude," he said. In other words: Expect flashbacks!
"I love mysteries and one of the important things that we've all talked about is that we know audiences get frustrated with mystery when one is solved and but then creates 10 more," Gellar said. "What's different is that we've mapped out where all the mysteries are going, so there are answers to the questions."
And although both Gellar and co-star Lost's Nestor Carbonell hail from supernatural-themed series, don't expect the sci-fi elements to follow them to Ringer. "There will be no vampires, no demons, nothing supernatural. Sorry, guys," executive producer Nicole Synder said. Added Geller: "No hatch! No island!"
Of course, that doesn't mean the mystery won't have twists. It's those twists that attraced Gellar to the project in the first place. "It was the first time in a really long time that I'd been surprised by something," Gellar said of reading the script for the first time. Having spent so many years on Buffy, she says she's easily able to forecast what's coming — and it once made for an unfortunate movie-going experience. "I was the person in the theater during The Sixth Sense that [early on] said, 'Is he dead?'"
But let's get back to Buffy. Is a reunion in the works, maybe even one on Ringer? "Michelle Trachtenberg's angling for a role; she's been hanging around an awful lot," Gellar said. (Producers say nothing official has been planned.)
What about Mr. Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr.? Will he make any type of appearance? "We're going to have my husband come on and he's going to be in a love triangle with Kristoffer Polaha's wife and Ioan Gruffudd's wife," Gellar joked. So... probably not.
Check out a first look at Ringer: