Dreamwatch Anya horribilis? June 2000

Centuries she made men pay for treating women badly, but Anya`s alter-ego EMMA CAULFIELD says that she`s simply misunderstood by theinhabitants of Sunnydale. John Mosby talks to her about vengeance,censorship and big, fluffy bunny rabbits...

There`s an old saying: be careful what you wish for. Two of the most popular episodes of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER`s third season were The Wish and Dopplegangland - stories that dealt with the repercussions of just such a request. Anyanka, a demon and the Patron Saint of Scorned Women, creates a new world from Cordelia Chase`s exasperation and ... well, all hell breaks loose.

Meeting the real women behind Anya is perhaps slightly less intimidating. In the UK to attend the Nocturnal `99 event in Manchester (her first ever convention appearance) it`s Emma Caulfield`s turn to feel a little uneasy. She`s barely been away from the BUFFY set for more than a day, but she admits that this time, she`s having to face an audience without a script.

“I didn`t know what to expect,” Emma admits. “It sounded like it could be interesting. Normally I wouldn`t be spending so much talking about what I do because I`m spending time doing it - and I value my spare time when I get it, but I`m glad to be here and everyone`s been great. I don`t think a convention in the States would be quite the same. I`m visiting England for the first time in about eight years, so this was the perfect excuse to come and see everything again - before heading back to start filming BUFFY!”

After he appearances in Season 3, writer Joss Whedon has made her a recurring character in the new season. She`s dating Xander and finding her way, somewhat clumsily, as a mere mortal. Has Joss stated how he wants to develop the character?

“It`s never really a statement. He just does things, they kind of happen,” Emma explains. “I originally signed on for just the one episode (The Wish). It was to be a one-time thing, but Josh has a habit of hiring for one-episode and then it turns into a long-time thing. The same thing happened with David Boreanaz (Angel) and James Marsters (Spike). We make our bang and then bye-bye, but sometimes he likes what he sees and something happens. Anya has developed into such a great character.

“I think Joss has good instincts ... the response was very positive and Joss likes what he likes. Very seldom does he fall in love with a story-line, idea or character and the feeling isn`t mutual. He`s very much in tune with what the response of the audience will be. But I didn`t expect to be back so soon.”

With Charisma Carpenter and David Boreanaz leaving for the LA-based spin-off, ANGEL, there was certainly room to bring othe characters to the fore. With Cordelia`s acid tongue now firmly lashing the vampires if the coastal regions, does Emma think that the character of Anya somewhat fills the gap?

“I don`t think it`s that Anya think she`s better than anyone, so much as ... she`s just very aware of her weaknesses and attributes. I think they`ve been more focusing on the things she doesn`t understand. She doesn`t have an idea about anything, but it`s not that she`s stupid. She`s not clueless, she just hasn`t learned anything. She runs on pure instinct - the first thing that comes into her mind. I think Cordelia knew exactly what she was saying at all times and there was a point to everything she said. Anya`s attitude is `Whatever!` She has a conversation with Giles in Episode 10 which is a perfect example. The conversation is just so ... wrong and funny. He`s so offended by it, but at the same time he`s not mad either because it was an honest thing to say - yet repulsive.”

And don`t think Xander, the target of Anya`s attentions (and the Scooby Gang`s resident `run now and ask questions later` expert) has it all easy. Along the way has come fighting, demon magnetism and some nasty magical diseases.

“She`s heavily involved with Xander,” Emma explains. “They explore their relationship a lot more. It`s sweet, but hilarious. I think the similarity with Anya/Xander and Cordelia/Xander is that in both relationships he`s with a girl who dotes on him but is quite abusive. They put him in his place in a very blunt way; there`s no `Oh, honey, that`s okay...`. It`s a case of: `You stupid ass!` They cut to the chase. Anya adores him but doesn`t understand what that means. She can`t put what she feels into words, so it comes out all wrong and she doesn`t know any better. In BUFFY people say what we, in real life, think of later and wished we`d said at the time.”

If you thought that Anya`s vengeance demon was scary, the third episode of the new season shows what scares her. Let`s just say that when Anya is asked to dress up for Halloween as something scary, one doesn`t suspect what it will be... well, fluffy, big and pink. Caulfield agrees that this season the show is a little lighter and not afraid to have a good laugh at itself.

“Oh, God! The Halloween episode? That was so funny. I couldn`t wait. That was such a great idea, even on paper. It was so well done. David Fury wrote that and he`s such a good writer. The scripts just keep getting better and better. The interaction of Anya with the other characters is comical. She has absolutely no social graces whatsoever. Things just come out of her mouth. We are currently shooting an episode where everything she says is just so wrong. Do you get ALLY MCBEAL? It`s similar to Lin on that show. She says whatever she thinks, whether it`s blunt, abrasive, coarse. But it`s very liberating...”

With Anya trapped in human form for the forseeable future, there seems little chance that we`ll see Emma in her more demonic guise. She admits that the lack of special-effects and monster make-up is welcoming.

“Thank God. I don`t think Joss is planning any more morphing effects for me (but you never know with him!) Every time I read a script I go through and think, `Great no prosthetics, no morphing!` The make-up for Anya was horrible. I wasn`t lucky like James (Spike). He has a partial mask he can rip off when he`s done. I had a full head, chest and hair piece. It took over four hours to apply. Sometimes I felt like I was having an anxiety attack by the end of the day. It`s incredibly claustrophobic! But, thankfully, I think Joss is having way too much fun developing the character the way she is now...”

Caulfield is forthright about some of the accusations levelled at the show during the last year. Given the tragic events of several school shootings, including Columbine, in the United States in 1999, several TV shows postponed episodes. Both Easrshot and the season finale (Graduation Day, Part 2) were effected by worries that they might upset the public. There were fair arguments on both sides, but many agreed that, in hindsight, the postponement of Graduation Day was an over-reaction.

“I understand the reasoning behind it at the time because everyone was justifiably freaked out by it, but the episode had nothing to do with anything remotely similar. In Graduation Day the nature behind the violence was not directed towards other students and their peers, it was directed towards a great big snaky thing. People now look at it and wonder why it was postponed.”

But equally, Emma says she is more than aware that BUFFY has risen above its obvious potential audience and now touches on adult topics which are unsuitable for pre-teens.

“I`m surprised some of the stuff that airs, back in the US, before 8:00pm. I think, personally, that BUFFY is more of a 9:00 show. It`s too bad that the BBC has cut the shows simply for early transmission. But I also wonder how much of what does air (on television generally) is really necessary? Everybody continues to push the envelope with sex and violence. Is it really necessary? If you are portraying something it should be realistic, but the other half of me thinks that if you think that - everything is acceptable? There`s always controversy on television.”

Sarah Michelle Gellar has become an international star after BUFFY served as her springboard into Hollywood. Many of the cast are starting to find similar success and attention. Is she worried about the media spotlight being turned on her?

“Well, you don`t want to screw up, at any point, but on a show that is not only watched but has a critical eye on it, you want it to be on the band-wagon. You don`t want to be the eye-sore... where `The show`s good., everyone`s great, but you sucked.` You always want to make a good impression because you know that people with influence are also watching the show. It`s a great opportunity. The only problem with the success of the show is the lack of time it leaves to do other things. I`ve cancelled about ten auditions for really good projects over the last two or three weeks. That can be frustrating. You want to work during your hiatus, but you need to to meet people while you`re working to do that - and there`s so little time. But I know I`m fortunate to be working on a great show like BUFFY. You need to find a way to balance things.”