With the clock ticking until Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar tapes her final appearance as the Chosen One, series creator Joss Whedon is running short on time. Not only does the Hollywood wunderkind have to outline the cult hit's last three episodes, but he also must consider his spinoff options, mull over possible feature projects and, in his free moments, play house with wife Kai Cole and their 4-month-old son. Yet, somehow, he manages to spare a few minutes for TV Guide Online.

TV Guide Online: Now that you've had some time for reality to sink in, how do you feel about Sarah's decision to leave?
Joss Whedon:
Like it's time. It's a decision I support and respect and, in fact, imitate. It's been seven years — a long time. It's been a hell of a collaboration, but I completely understand. College was a lot of fun, but when I graduated, it's not like I stayed.

TVGO: Does that mean you're moving on as well?
Whedon:
Yes. But it doesn't mean the Buffy universe is closed or that there aren't potential spinoffs, like Willow or whatever. But it does mean that Buffy, as we know it, will end.

TVGO: So this is it — the last season?
Whedon:
This is the last season. It's not coming back. Something may come. It may come next season, it may come later. That is, something new [may come] that is a part of that universe the way [sister show] Angel was, but it won't be Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

TVGO: Let's talk about Eliza Dushku. Why was it so important to bring back rogue slayer Faith — and not just on Buffy, but on Angel, too?
Whedon:
She had finished out as a character on Angel, and she'd talked, not knowing about the last season of Buffy, about doing Angel again, because she had fun. And I booked her for both, thinking she left us on Angel, so she should come back there and have some closure with that crew, then go back to Buffy for the end of the last season. And, because it is the last season, Faith should be a part of that. She's so much part of the history.

TVGO: The prospect of a Faith spinoff was awfully tantalizing. What happened there?
Whedon:
Eliza's doing something else [the Fox pilot Heroine]. There was some talk of [a Faith spinoff], but she chose something else, and the talk stopped.

TVGO: And you wouldn't just recast Faith?
Whedon:
I would never have a different actress playing any of the characters I've established. I could create shows around different characters, with different permutations and structures for the characters, but it would require coming up with a new show. It wouldn't just be, you know, like, more of the same with some of the same people. It would have to be the way Angel is not Buffy — it would have to be neither of them [but rather, something unique]. And I don't know what that show is or would be or could be because my brain is very sleepy. But I certainly don't rule that out.

TVGO: Any hints as to what your next big project will be?
Whedon:
My next big project will probably involve changing my son for a better one, because he didn't come out good. No. Honestly, my next big project is going to be doing the series finale for Buffy, which I'm writing and directing. We've known where we were heading all season, but we're now breaking down the last three shows beat by beat, and it's really tough. We're doing it. But there's so much to say, and we have three more hours to say it.

TVGO: Are things looking apocalyptic?
Whedon:
Don't they always?

TVGO: But if you end the world on Buffy, won't the world also end on Angel? L.A. had a bad enough time when it rained hellfire there, but nowhere else.
Whedon:
Well, that's Los Angeles for you. We live in a bubble. Sometimes it's a fire-raining bubble, but it's just not like anyplace else on earth. But the two universes are separate enough that Buffy can end and Angel can go on.