The key factor in Sarah Michelle Gellar’s ability to portray twins on her new series “Ringer?”: “I look a lot like both of them, so that’s handy,” she says.
Okay, there’s a little bit more to the actress’ much-ballyhooed return to television then that. Gellar headlined what many consider to be one of the best series of any genre as the leading lady of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and followed up with a foray into films, but she says there was something special she saw happening on the small screen that lured her back.
“I was very burned out after ‘Buffy’ - It was exhausting,” says Gellar, 34. “Essentially I was 18 on the pilot, and I was 24 and married when we finished. I had never had time. That show was my life. I was doing movies on the hiatuses, and weekends, and I sort of needed to explore and live that gypsy lifestyle. I traveled, and I worked with amazing actors – Andy Garcia, Alec Baldwin, Brendan Fraser, Forest Whitaker, Lee Pace. It was sort of this great learning experience, and then I started watching a lot of television – I was always in these foreign countries, and I would get the shows on DVD – and I started to realize that all of the amazing roles for women were on television. And I was spoiled by "Buffy" because I thought that's the way it was everywhere, and it's not. I started to watch just all these kind of amazing female‑driven shows and it was something that was always in the back of my mind.”
“Once I had my daughter, I realized that I was done living the nomadic lifestyle, and although it works for some actors, I want to be home,” Gellar continues. “I want to put her to bed and get up with her in the morning and I want to be there for her first day of school, and nothing offers that more than television. And what's been so interesting for me getting back into it was I didn't realize how much I missed it: how much I missed the excitement of getting the new episode and doing something different and seeing the same people and the family environment. I think if I hadn't had the time away, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate the experience that I'm appreciating now.”
“Ringer” is an entirely different sort of series than "Buffy," however, with less emphasis on literal butt-kicking and more sudsy, psychodrama: in the first episode, Gellar plays two long-estranged, equally unraveling twin sisters – recovering alcoholic and exotic dancer Bridget, on the run from the mob, and wealthy, brittle Siobhan, with a pampered home life that offers its own intrigue – whose attempt at reconciliation sparks a shocking series of switcheroos.
“What I love about the show is the duality of all of the characters and the idea that we all have a good side and a bad side,” says Gellar of the appeal of the dual role. “I’m not necessarily more like either one of the characters because, in their motivations, they both feel incredibly justified – but Siobhan has the better wardrobe! In terms of Siobhan, something happened that was so tragic and all of her motivations are based on what happened to her and how that’s changed the course of her life. For Bridget, she’s made a lot of mistakes, but ultimately, she’s trying to redeem herself, and I think everybody can understand what it’s like when you want to make better the mistakes you’ve made in the past.”
Of course, returning to the comfort of television has had a bonus pay-off for Gellar as well. “Have you seen the men on my show?” she chuckles. “The CW is all about the girls, [but] we have the men on MY show! I would tell any actress that the trick is to play all the female characters on your show, and then all the men are yours."
"Ringer" premieres tonight at 9 PM ET on CW