‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’: Buffy Went Invisible So Sarah Michelle Gellar Could Get a Break After the Musical Episode

In 1997, a new series debuted, and at first glance, it seemed like a silly, teen-focused show that would quickly fade. But Buffy the Vampire Slayer turned out to be much more intelligent and powerful than early critics expected. It’s remained a cult favorite even now, and one reason is that the show’s writers and producers weren’t afraid to take risks. 

'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' cast looking at the camera in front of a stone wall
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Cast | Online USA/Getty Images

One of those risks was the musical episode in the series’ sixth season. What could have been a cheesy gimmick turned out to be a fresh, effective take on storytelling, but for Sarah Michelle Gellar, the star of the show, it was also exhausting. 

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and the fan-favorite musical episode

Screen Rant reports that in the sixth season of Buffy, the show’s creator Joss Whedon came up with an idea for a different kind of episode. For a series that featured a “monster of the week,” that was going to be a tall order. But he had in mind something that was truly a departure from what they’d done before — a musical. 

Episode seven of that season was called “Once More With Feeling,” and the storyline featured a demon that controlled the people of Sunnydale. The demon’s power caused them to randomly break into song and reveal things they’d been hiding. 

The plot, along with singing and dancing, may sound a little campy. But Buffy made many silly-sounding concepts work. This was no exception, and the cast and crew managed to create a musical episode that some have called “the gold standard.” 

Getting ready to sing and dance

Of course, the musical episode wasn’t only a departure from what the viewers expected, but for the actors too. And according to The Ringer, not everyone was excited about it.

“Most of them were nervous about it,” producer David Solomon said. “Not because they couldn’t sing, but nobody had heard them sing and everybody’s always a little uncomfortable. They’re not professional singers in any way.”

Not only did the cast have to prepare to sing onstage, but they had to get ready on the short timeline of a weekly series. To get them ready for the musical acts, they followed a grueling schedule. Not everyone was able to feel comfortable about singing. Alyson Hannigan, who played Willow, begged, “on her knees to sing as little as possible.”

While it was easy enough to restrict Hannigan’s role to only two lines for the episode, there was another actor who was also hesitant to sing. And this one was the star. 

‘I’m not a singer’

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gellar confessed that she wasn’t sure she could go through with her part. 

“I’m not a singer. I never have been and I didn’t have a lot of time with the material. So my original intention was to have someone else do the singing.”

But when she read the script and saw how important the episode was to Buffy’s arc, she realized she had to give it her best effort. She worked extra hours to prepare and rehearse. In the end, the entire cast and crew pulled off an episode that they can all feel proud of. 

When “Once More, With Feeling” was finished, Gellar was exhausted. She asked for a break from the show to recover. To give her the free time, one of the show’s writers came up with a storyline that included an invisibility ray. The ray made Buffy vanish, giving Gellar some much-needed time away from the set. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was known for making strange seem possible. So it only seems fitting that when Gellar needed a little time off, the answer was an invisibility ray. 

RELATED: ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’: Was the Whole Cast Actually Singing In the Musical Episode?