‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’: Xander’s Evil Twin Was Nicolas Brendon’s Real-Life Identical Twin

It has been more than 20 years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer wowed fans as one of the most groundbreaking and innovative television shows on primetime.

Since it completed its seven-season run, it has gone down as a fan favorite that still enjoys huge popularity. A big part of the appeal was the chemistry between the cast members, and many of the stars who appeared in the series still come together at conventions in order to meet fans’ demands for their attention. 

One of the stars who helped make Buffy such a huge success was Nicholas Brendon, who played Xander. The role was a breakthrough one for Brendon, and some fans may not know that one particular episode gave his twin brother a brief chance to shine, too. 

Nicholas Brendon played Xander Harris

James Marsters, Dean Valentine, Nicholas Brendon, Michelle Trachtenberg and Amber Benson
James Marsters, Dean Valentine, Nicholas Brendon, Michelle Trachtenberg and Amber Benson | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been largely praised for its ability to capture some of the nuance and difficulty of the teen and young adult years — all while set on a literal hell-mouth full of demons.

Many feel the show helped empower young viewers and provided a blueprint to navigating tough choices. In particular, friendship was a key component of the series. Titular character Buffy, as the chosen Slayer, was supposed to work alone. That’s how the eons-old Slayer system operates. She, however, bucked the tradition and formed meaningful friendships that ended up saving the world. 

One of Buffy’s closest friends was Xander Harris. Nicholas Brendon took on the role of Harris near the very beginning of his acting career. Prior to the part, he had only a very small television guest appearance and played “Basketball Player One” in Children of the Corn III. Without a doubt, the role of Xander was a major breakthrough for Brendon. Following the 2003 conclusion of Buffy, Brendon would go on to several TV movies and multiple recurring television roles. 

One ‘Buffy’ episode doubled Xander 

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In the Buffyverse, strange things were always happening. Maybe you wore a Halloween costume that literally turned you into whatever you portrayed. Maybe deadly killers took away the voice of the entire town. In one of these bizarre cases, Xander found himself doubled.

The third episode of season 5 is called “The Replacement,” and Xander finds himself seeing double when a Doppelganger appears. This isn’t the first time the gang has encountered a potential body snatcher, so they first assume that someone is impersonating Xander. 

However, the awkward truth comes forward: both men are actually Xander who hasn’t been doubled, but split. One half is the confident, suave, and successful side of Xander. The other is the fumbling, goofy, and awkward part. The message is that Xander is all of these things and needs to embrace his flaws as well as his strengths, but in the meantime, they have to figure out how to put him back together again. 

Nicholas Brendon’s real-life twin played the part

If you’re going to write a show where people occasionally have their bodies snatched or split in two, it sure is nice to have an actor with a twin in the role. Older than his little brother by three whole minutes, Kelly Donovan is Brendon’s twin. Donovan has had some small acting roles himself, and he helped out on the set of Buffy. On a few occasions, though, he got to step in front of the camera. One of those was in “The Replacement.” 

It wasn’t as simple as Donovan playing one side of Xander’s personality while Brendon played the other. Brendon still played both the cool and the awkward versions of his character and did most of the speaking parts for both. Donovan’s primary role was to appear as the physical double, but he did have to take on some speaking parts when the characters finally communicated directly with one another.