By Jeffrey Epstein
Many fans were just disappointed that Willow's boyfriend Oz [Seth Green] had left the show. 'The biggest problem was that people loved Seth so much,' Whedon points out. 'We loved him too, but he left. And getting people into a new character is difficult.'
But over the months, fans of the show have warmed to Tara and her relationship with Willow. 'I didn't realize how much so until Tara suffered a tragedy near the end of last season,' says Wanda. 'I started getting E-mail after E-mail asking if Tara would be OK, if they were staying together, if Willow would save her. I got things like 'You must tell me! Will Tara and Willow make it? I can't sleep at night. Signed, so-and-so, mother of three.' '
'We do have a bunch of people saying we've changed their lives,' says Whedon, who has said in the past that he didn't want to make Buffy an 'issue' show. 'I always want to put out good role models. But I wasn't there saying, 'I want to help gay teenagers be comfortable with themselves.' We talked about the idea of college as being a place where people expand their sexuality or discover their sexuality. Then Seth Green decided he didn't want to do the show anymore. That's when [Willow's sexuality] blossomed into full womanhood. To get these responses was wonderfully overwhelming. It turned out to be one of the most important things we've done on the show.'
Not that it didn't cause some grief with the WB. 'They were a little thrown,' recalls Whedon. 'They said, 'We've introduced gay characters on all our other shows.' Ultimately, they felt it out, expressed some concern, and called me and said, 'Do whatever you want.''
But it was a different story when Hannigan and Benson filmed a steamy lip lock for an episode that aired in the spring. 'They called and said, 'The kiss -- does it have to stay in?' ' says Whedon, who eventually put his foot down. 'I said, 'It's not sensational. It's real. It's a beautiful scene that belongs in this show. And if you try to take it out, I'm leaving this office and never coming back.' I think that's the only time I said that.' The WB gave in, and the kiss remained.
'We must have kissed a hundred times,' recalls Benson, whose character initiated the power smooch to comfort her sweetie over the death of Buffy's mom. 'It was very nice.'
'After one take,' remembers Hannigan, 'Joss did say, 'Can we have one that's less like you're going to sleep together in about five minutes?''