Alyson Hannigan, interviewed in Cult Times magazine
Interviewed by: Thomasina Gibson (with John Binns)
The 'provocative' stuff refers, of course, to the romance between Willow and fellow student Tara (Amber Benson), which culminates with Willow making an arguably controversial decision late in Season Four. But Willow's course of action is surprising only to those who watched last season with their eyes closed.
"I knew that I was going to have a friend and that we'd do witchcraft together and cast spells and I'd always asked if there was 'something more' to the relationship. Joss would always say, "Well, maybe there's some subtext there" and then Amber and I would see some of the spells and we'd be like, "Joss -- this is going way beyond "subtext"."
Eventually, after weeks of tiptoeing round the issue, everyone concerned admitted that all roads led to the fact that the girls were in love which resulted in huge sighs of relief all round. "Amber and I were sort of in the same position as Willow and Tara in that for the longest time we weren't sure what was going on ... Then finally it was, "Great! It's official. We're in luurrvvve."
Thoughtfully nodding her head, Hannigan sighs, "I think the way Joss developed the relationship was so sweet and wonderful. When some reporters ask about us they go, "Oooh! Lesbian affair!" but I say "No! It's just two girls who are in love. It's no different than when Willow fell for Oz really. It's just a relationship, a very sweet friendship."
There's another thoughtful pause when Binns asks how conscious Hannigan is of the Willow/Tara arc being so contentious or whether she feels it's something reporters have latched onto, but viewers haven't. "To be honest", she replies, "This is the first press that I've done. I haven't done any in the States since we said we were in love, so this is new territory for me. The whole Tara thing was built up over a long time. I mean, she was in 10 episodes or so and pretty much from the start our relationship grew. But then suddenly, when it finally turns out that Tara is my girlfriend, people on the Net were like "Ohmygod! I can't believe it." I thought "Have you not been watching all the other episodes because this was really on the cards. Just because it wasn't blatantly in your face doesn't mean it wasn't there. And it's not as if Joss is trying to exploit the situation and just have two girls together for the sake of it. Not at all."
Totally chilled about the fact that Willow has a new woman in her life, the actress shrugs she doesn't understand what all the fuss was about. As far as she is concerned, Willow is at college, getting into her stride and for most people that is the time when they first get the chance to experiment with a whole panoply of experiences. "I don't understand why some people are making a big deal out of it. I know that some people are really mean towards Tara, especially on the Net, and I saw her response to it, which I thought was very well handled. I couldn't have done it." Revealing a tongue-in-cheek bent towards fits of artistic temperament, she jokes "I'd have been like ... 'You guys suck, sob, sob.' But Amber was very gracious and articulate."
Before leaving the subject, Hannigan ventures that nothing is forever in a
television situation and that there is no telling what will happen with
Willow or her relationships in the future. "Right now, she is in love with
Tara, who's female, but I don't know whether it means Willow's gay. In fact
- that's what I want to know. I asked Joss and he said "Well, she's open to
new experiences." But if it turns out that she is gay then it's my belief
that it's just the same as me growing up liking boys. It's just the way I'm
built and if Willow knows what she's attracted to and didn't act on it till
college because she didn't feel comfortable with it, who am I to go against
Alyson Hannigan, interviewed on "This Morning" on ITV in the UK
Interviewers: Richard Madeley (R) and Judy Finnigan (J)
June 13, 2000
J: They [our kids] also told us that Willow is a lesbian...
AH: (laughs) Well...
R: When they said "She's a lesbian" I said "What? The character?" The character is ... it's a bit iffy, isn't it?
AH: Well, right now... or at the end of season 4, she's in love with a girl, but she's also had a relationship with Oz, so they haven't really determined where she's going, but they're in college now and she's fallen in love...
R: I know you don't want to give it away because we're a bit behind with the series...
AH: I just did, though.
R: Not really, no. It's not made explicit at all, but...
AH: (talking over him) No, no, no...
R: ... but there is a question mark over it.
AH: Right. In LA, um, or in America, we're on in an early time slot, so it was never meant to be "Oh, look at two girls, you know they can make out" or anything. It was all focused on the the development of their .. their energy together.
Joss Whedon, interviewed on Fresh Air on National Public Radio
Host: David Bianculli
May 9, 2000
Well, the arc between Willow and Tara has a long and sort of tortured history. We had thought about the idea of someone exploring their sexuality, expanding it a little bit, in college because that's something that might happen in college. Since we tend to work inside metaphor, for most of the show, we talked about Willow and her being a witch because it's a very strong female community and it gives her a very physical relationship with someone that isn't necessarily sexual. And then when we decided to go that way, part of it was because Seth Green wanted to step out and do movies and we knew that he was going to be out of the picture and someone had to be with Willow and it seemed like a good time for her to be exploring this and the question became, how much do we play in metaphor and how much do we play as her actually expanding her sexuality. You're walking a very fine line there. The network obviously has issues. They don't want any kissing -- that's one thing that they've stipulated -- and they're a little nervous about it. They haven't interfered at all with what we've tried to do and yet they've raised a caution about it. And at the same time you have people, the moment Tara appeared on the scene, saying, 'Why aren't they gay enough? They're not gay enough! You need to make them more gay.' They want to make a statement, they want to turn it into an issue right away. So you have forces buffeting you and you're trying to come up with both what is emotionally correct as a progression and what is mythically significant with the greater arc, so you know, you're trying to wield all these things and week to week, make these things progress.
Joss Whedon, from TV Guide Online article, "Buffy Creator Titillates the Audience"
May 8, 2000
"On a [bigger] network, you don't have an opportunity with a same-sex relationship to show the kind of graphic coupling that you do with, say, Buffy and [boyfriend] Riley," Whedon tells TV Guide Online. "So you have to use your imagination, and to me it's the best thing that could have happened to us. It forces you to come up with something that is a little more primal and I think much sexier than if we were allowed to do anything we wanted."
Whedon initially put this titillating strategy to work in February when Willow and Tara cast a spell. The sexually-charged ceremony featured candles, hand-holding, moaning and an orgasmic climax to rival Meg Ryan's famous When Harry Met Sally... diner scene. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," Whedon says with a laugh, adding, "It was sensual and physical, but, by necessity, tasteful. It made me very happy that we were able to do that."
The unconventional love potion hasn't been to every viewer's taste, Whedon concedes. "But generally speaking, people are dealing with this as a romantic relationship. And because all of the relationships on Buffy are kind of romantic, it doesn't feel unnatural or out of place." And he hints that the good witches will continue to enchant each other for a spell longer. "That's the plan...."
Joss Whedon at the Bronze
May 6, 2000
Censors. Don't love 'em. But I did want to clear up something. I may push the envelope a tad, I may make fun of the Standards and Practices guys, but I'm not actually out to stick it to them. We've actually had a pretty good relationship over the years, and I like that. They have a family viewing audience to think about, and I have a commitment to porn, and between the two -- oh god. I didn't just say porn, did I? I don't know where that came from. I meant art, or course. That's so weird.
David Fury (BtVS writer) at the Bronze
May 5, 2000
Willow didn't TURN GAY. She fell in love with someone who happened to be the same sex.
Joss Whedon at the Bronze
May 4, 2000
Okay, let's do this. For real: how @#$%&ing disappointed was I in the American public after Tuesday night? Of course I realize the rabidly homophobic posting contingent represents a smaller percentage of Americans than the EVIL GAYS they were posting about, but that's not it. It's the fact that everyone went nuts about it THIS WEEK, when this has clearly been going on for MONTHS? Did anyone see the spell scene in episode 16? Hello? It's the not the bigotry that offends me, it's the lack of filmic insight.
Okay, and the bigotry. But of course there were just as many voices raised in support of the arc as against, which was swell. Plus one post from a gay or questioning teen saying the show helped them is worth six hundred hate letters.
And the fact is, stirring up controversy is sort of fun. It's just that I never actually set out to do that. To me, having a character that is open to exploring their sexuality is about the same as having a girl hero -- just something natural and cool. Here's the word: Tara not gonna disappear. She's part of the show, part of Willow's life. i'm not saying everything will be sunshine and roses (not on MY show, dammit), but there is more to explore with the two of them. And hopefully, this NONSENSE will die down, because I'm not TRYING to make a political statement. I NOD OFF during political statements. My show is about emotion. Love is the most powerful, messy, delightful and dangerous emotion. (Although I think envy is kind of the sexiest.) Willow's in love. I think it's cool.
Joss Whedon at the Bronze
May 4, 2000
Let's talk sweaty. And censors. (cabbages and kings is a different chat room). Are we forced to cut things between Willow and Tara? Well, there are things the network will not allow us to show. As for example kissing. Does this bother me? Actually, no, and I'll tell you why. Restrictions are often a writer's best friend -- they force him to be CREATIVE. The spell scene in 16 was on one level a sex scene, on another level not. It was (barely) subtle compared to smootchin' and rompin'. The blowing out of the candle was lovely and poetical, as opposed to the more pedestrian smooctchies. Look at Buffy and Riley. All their sheeted shenanegins leave most people cold compared to the tension between Willow and Tara (not EVERYONE, but...) Part of what made Buffy and ANGEL so hot was what they COULDN'T DO, because frustration is sexy and the imagination is sexier than anything (with the possible exception of womanboobies). Buffy and Riley get to have an active sex life, we get to (tastefully) show it, and it's not as compelling. So go, censors. We love working harder. Makes us better writers.
Amber Benson (Tara) at the Bronze
May 4, 2000
I hope people realize it's only a show and there's no need to be up in arms over the homosexual content. Love is beautiful whether it's between a man and a woman or any variant of that combo.
Joss Whedon at the Bronze
March 24, 2000
Scarlettharlett, you think we've been tiptoeing? Sounded more like clogdancing to me. Did you see that spell? Do i have to "Spell" it out for you? (jokes like that, no wonder i'm a FAMOUS TELEVISION PERSONALITY). They're sweeties, no way around it.
Amber Benson, interviewed by Sarah Kuhn at IGN Sci-Fi
March 9, 2000
IGN Sci-Fi: You know what I have to ask you right off: what's up with you and Willow?
Amber: Well, I think that it's OK to say now that Willow and I are a little bit more than friends [laughs]. I think it's a good thing because we're not going to be just a ratings thing. And Joss [Whedon] is very tight-lipped about things, you never quite know what's gonna happen! But from what I understand, I think he really wants to play this as two people, regardless of their sex or gender, that have found each other and really care about each other. And whether it's a sexual relationship or just a really good friendship, I'm not sure how that's gonna progress, but I just know that we're really, really close.
IGN Sci-Fi: Yeah, I'd say so. What do you think of all the subtext? Because, at this point, it's pretty much reaching Xena/Gabrielle proportions...
Amber: [laughs] Well, I hope that eventually it becomes more than that. I think that [Xena was] kind of, in a way playing it for people to [say], "Oooh, what's going on? What's going on?" and be interested. Whereas I hope with Buffy, it becomes something that people can look at and say, "Wow, it's OK to care about somebody, whether they're the same sex or not." That you can have a good relationship with somebody based on trust and friendship, you know? I hope it becomes more than just idle stuff for people to talk about. I hope it becomes more than just gossip fodder.
Joss Whedon at the Bronze
January 29, 2000
Well, we meant it to be SUBTEXT, but you guys have obviously worked it out. Yes, Willow is becoming a Monkey-owner. I just hope we don't get a lot of protest from Christian Right Groups over this.
Marginally more seriously, Willow and Tara's relationship is definitely romantic. Thorny subject; the writers and I have had long topics about how to deal with the subject responsibly, without writing a story that sounds like people spent a long time discussing how to deal with it responsibly. To me it feels just right. ALL the relationships on the show are sort of romantic (Hence the B Y O Subtext principle) and this feels like the natural next step for her. I can only promise you two things for sure: We're not going to do an ALLY or PARTY OF5 in which we promote the hell out of a same sex relationship for exploitation value that we take back by the end of the ep, and we will never have a very special Buffy where someone gets on a soapbox and... oh, I nodded off for a moment there. I just know there's a sweet story there, that would become very complicated if Oz were to show up again. Which he will.