Joss Whedon’s been in Hollywood longer than most people realize. Before his days as the director of both Avengers movies, he was cutting his teeth on Buffy the Vampire Slayer beginning in 1997, and wrapping up in 2003. He’s come a long way since then, becoming one of the most in-demand names in the business, as a writer with an innate ability to bring complex and entertaining characters to life with stellar snappy dialogue.
Throughout this journey, Whedon’s played mentor to a host of other writers, who’ve since gone out into the world and found success of their own. His fingerprints are all over sci-fi, action, and fantasy in both the TV and movie universe, with the team that learned from the best having made their own way in Hollywood. So who are these original Whedon-ites who worked with the man himself on Buffy before setting out and finding massive success of their own?
1. Drew Goddard
Known For: Lost, The Cabin in the Woods, Daredevil, and Cloverfield
Goddard numbers himself among the most successful writers to come out of Whedon’s School of Filmmaking. He first teamed up with Joss during the days of Buffy and the subsequent spin-0ff Angel, moving on from there to work under none other than J.J. Abrams to pen the screenplay for Cloverfield, as well as select episodes of ABC’s Lost.
He really hit it big though in 2012, with the meta-horror instant classic The Cabin in the Woods. In it, we saw Goddard’s abilities on display in a big way; the movie hauled in a whopping 91% Rotten Tomatoes score, heralded by many as the best horror movie of the last five years.
2. Steven S. DeKnight
Known For: Spartacus, Daredevil, and Smallville
Steven S. DeKnight is yet another Buffy/Angel alum that learned under Whedon from the very beginning. Since then, he’s been responsible for a number of successful projects, including a lengthy run on the Smallville writing staff that spanned 2004 through 2007. His real masterwork though can be seen in Spartacus, the little-known but critically-acclaimed period drama, tracking the life of the titular gladiator that nearly brought the Roman Empire to its knees.
Spartacus wrapped up after a satisfying four seasons, but DeKnight didn’t stay idle for long before being tagged as the showrunner for Netflix’s Daredevil. Unfortunately, he’s being replaced for the show’s second season due out sometime in the next year or two, but for his short stay he was responsible for a truly amazing resurrection for the Man Without Fear.
3. Jed Whedon
Known For: Dollhouse, Spartacus, Agents of SHIELD, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
Joss isn’t the only talented filmmaker in his family, a fact proven by the success of his younger brother, Jed Whedon. Jed got his first real shot at writing during the tragically cut-short Dollhouse series, only to find himself working alongside fellow Whedonite Steven DeKnight for Spartacus years later.
Following the end of Spartacus, Jed stepped in to take over writing duties on ABC’s Agents of SHIELD after Joss kicked things off with the pilot episode. Agents has since evolved into a key cog in the Marvel Universe, with a story that’s gotten better and better with each subsequent season. Needless to say, the younger Whedon has set himself apart from his brother as a singular talent through all this.
4. Jane Espenson
Known For: Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood, Warehouse 13, and Once Upon a Time
Of all the resumé’s of writers on Joss Whedon’s original Buffy team, Jane Espenson’s may be the most expansively impressive. In addition acting as one of the main writers for iconic sci-fi series like Battlestar Galactica and Torchwood, she’s also written single episodes for HBO’s Game of Thrones, Firefly, and even Gilmore Girls.
Starting out as a part of the Whedon crew, Espenson has made a name for herself as one of the seminal sci-fi television writers of the modern era, having long since surpassed the need to attach her name to anyone else. Currently, she’s continuing her run of work for Once Upon a Time, so she’s nothing if not consistently influential (and always employed by someone in need of her talents).
5. Drew Z. Greenberg
Known For: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, Dexter, and Smallville
Drew Z. Greenberg is a name you probably haven’t heard much, but close your eyes and pick any of your favorite dramas from the last decade, and odds are you’ll land on something he’s been a part of. His run on Buffy lasted just six episodes, but clearly it was enough time for him to learn from Whedon and his army of insanely talented friends.
We see more overlap with fellow Whedon-ites in Greenberg’s body of work, having partnered with Steven S. DeKnight on Smallville, Jane Epsenson on Warehouse 13, and Jed Whedon on Agents of SHIELD. That’s not to say he’s simply been along for the ride, having also been the supervising writer for the wildly popular Clone Wars cartoon series.
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