How Sarah Michelle Gellar pays homage to 'Buffy' in supernatural drama 'Wolf Pack'

Patrick Ryan

She's the thing that monsters have nightmares about. 

After creating one of modern TV's most iconic characters in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to the supernatural genre with Paramount+'s "Wolf Pack" (streaming weekly on Thursdays), a new werewolf drama from "Teen Wolf" creator Jeff Davis.

When we meet Gellar's character, arson specialist Kristin Ramsey, she's interrogating a group of high schoolers about their possible connection to a massive forest fire. Kristin only appears in a few minutes of the series' first two episodes but plays a crucial role in the story as the season goes on. 

"It's definitely a slow build," Gellar says. "I liken it to 'The Sixth Sense,' how you have to watch the whole movie, get to the end, and then go back and realize, 'Oh, I didn't see this, this and this.' There's bread crumbs throughout the beginning episodes where you might see less of me, and you have to sort of put it together to really understand why I'm there." 

More:Everything ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ has given me in the past 20 years

Gellar, 45, an executive producer on "Wolf Pack," tells us more about the show, "Buffy" and the viral resurgence of "Scooby-Doo."  (Edited and condensed for clarity.) 

Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to the supernatural genre with Paramount+'s "Wolf Pack."

Question: You've said that initially, you had no intention of saying yes to "Wolf Pack." After "Buffy," were you offered a lot of supernatural films and TV series? 

Answer: Absolutely. Supernatural and thriller (projects) still offer the most exciting roles for women: You get to be vulnerable, and you get to fight. But when you have a show like "Buffy" it's very hard because inevitably you're going to face comparisons. One of the beauties about "Buffy" was that the monsters were metaphors for the horrors of adolescence. And this (show) was really the first time someone came to me again using the monsters as metaphors for what we face now: anxiety, loneliness and the idea of finding your pack.

Sarah Michelle Gellar in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which ended its seven-season run in 2003.

Did you pay homage to Buffy with Kristin? 

Buffy was always known for her boots, and Kristin Ramsey also has a boot situation going on. That's the biggest nod, but they're different boots: Buffy always wore knee-high boots, and Kristen wears more combat (style). 

Rodrigo Santoro ("Westworld") plays a father who goes missing during the wildfire. As the two adults on set, did you ever flip into "mom and dad" mode with your younger co-stars? 

Yes, although I don't know if it's so much "mom and dad" as mentor. When I was growing up, I didn't have someone on set really looking out. And I said to the kids very early on, "I'm here. Please come to me and have that open line of communication." So it's been great, even from (things like) changing the food on set, which I did. The food was a little rough for actors who are in bikinis throughout the entire season. Not myself – Rodrigo and I said we knew we made it when we were the only people in the scene not in bikinis. 

"It's so different from what I've done," Sarah Michelle Gellar says of "Wolf Pack." Her character, Kristin, "is so by the book and I don't live my life that way."

You said last month that you worked on "an extremely toxic male set" earlier in your career. As an executive producer on "Wolf Pack," were there ways you tried to create a safer, more collaborative environment? 

To be clear, I had multiple experiences: some extremely known and some may be less known. It really was very prevalent, and I wasn't just referencing one job – for goodness sake, I worked with James Toback (a director accused of sexual misconduct since 2017 by hundreds of women).

But the most important (thing) is to hear how (cast and crew members) are feeling. It doesn't mean you can change everything. Feelings aren't fact, but they have to be understood. 

Sarah Michelle Gellar, 45, is also known for film roles in "Cruel Intentions," "Scream 2" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer."

You introduced your kids (ages 13 and 10) to "Buffy" during quarantine. Did you make it through all seven seasons? 

They watched 1 through 5. We jumped around on 6 and then we got to the second half of 7. My daughter is a true teenager. Buffy and Angel (David Boreanaz) is all she wanted to see. And my son just wanted fight sequences.

Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr., left), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) in the 2002 movie "Scooby-Doo."

You and your husband, Freddie Prinze Jr., starred in two live-action "Scooby-Doo" movies, which are having a moment online. Have you noticed people are nostalgic for them? 

I have, and I needed time. It wasn't the movie that we set out to make. Initially, we were going to make this PG-13, irreverent statement on "Scooby-Doo" where Shaggy was the stoner we all knew he was and Fred was sleeping with everyone. Then all of a sudden, it became this very PG movie, (and) it's really hard to start something and see it change into something else. But now with distance, I love it. It makes me laugh and I'm proud of it.

I always say I'm so lucky because I have multiple characters that people dress up as for Halloween. To me, that's the marker. It's not an award, it's not viewers, it's not magazine covers – it's that on Halloween, I'll get sent (photos of) multiple people dressing as characters I've played.