Buffy at 20: Nicholas Brendon Recalls Xander's Speedo, Cops to Some Regrets ('I Was Just as Much to Blame')

To mark the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s series premiere, TVLine spoke to a few of its key players. Our final installment: star Nicholas Brendon.

If Buffy Summers was Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s strong arm and Willow Rosenberg was its brain, Xander Harris was its heart.

And as that heart — or the “scared guy with a rock,” as Xander calls himself in Season 2’s “Becoming” — portrayer Nicholas Brendon never wanted the character to have any special abilities, he tells TVLine.

“I was actually kind of upset that he retained some of his knowledge from the Halloween episode,” he says of Xander’s heightened militaristic knowledge, gleaned from being turned into an actual soldier after dressing up as a pretend one. “I wanted him to not have anything. His power was not having power. I just wanted to be the normal guy who got his a– kicked, the guy who said, ‘If you see my spleen lying around anywhere, I could use it.'”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Nicholas Brendon Xander StoriesBrendon was a series regular who was around from the pilot presentation of the supernatural drama straight through to its series finale seven seasons later. Given that somewhat unique perspective, we asked him to reflect on his career-making gig: the highs, the lows, and (of course!) that Speedo. Read on for his thoughts on:

GETTING THE PART | “I just nailed it. They’re laughing, and they applaud when I’m done, and I’m like, ‘Holy s—t, I just booked a TV show.” (Editor’s note: Brendon’s gig was finalized after at least one more round of screen tests.)

HIS CASTMATES | “We bonded really, really quickly. We shot the presentation. [Sarah Michelle Gellar] and I were very close. There was a different Willow for the presentation, then they brought in Aly[son Hannigan], and the three of us meshed. The show was building steam, and we were part of this thing that brought us together and [later], to a certain extent, tore us apart, too. Which is the nature of the beast, and egos and publicists and lawyers and all the bulls–t that goes with it.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Nicholas Brendon Xander StoriesWEARING A SPEEDO IN SEASON 2’S ‘GO FISH’ | “My character was such that, if anything remotely embarrassing was going to happen, it was going to happen to Xander. I talked to Joss, and I said, ‘You can do whatever you want. You can put me in a bra and panties, you can undress me, you can do whatever you want, but please don’t ever refer to my character, Xander Lavelle Harris, as having halitosis. Because I don’t want to be the awkward kid with bad breath.'”

XANDER/CORDELIA | “It was kind of like [Cheers‘] Sam and Diane, but on steroids. We didn’t have any communication at all, and then we’re locked in a closet, and then we’re making out.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Nicholas Brendon Xander StoriesXANDER’S BIG OUTING IN SEASON 3’S ‘THE ZEPPO’ | “It was the only time I read the script where I cried. Because I knew exactly how I was going to play that thing at the end, when I walk away from Cordelia. I knew how they were going to shoot it. “

THE MUSICAL EPISODE ‘ONCE MORE WITH FEELING’ | “I wasn’t hired to sing and dance, and if I sucked, it didn’t really matter. At the time, there were a lot of people who weren’t happy.”

NOT VALUING BUFFY‘S FAME AT THE TIME | “You don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it anymore. I would love to be back there, knowing what I know now… I was just as much to blame. I’m in my trailer, doing an amazing show, and I’m like, ‘I wonder what movie opportunities I’m missing right now.’ Like, c’mon Nicky. Get your head out of your a–.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Nicholas Brendon Xander StoriesXANDER’S DISFIGUREMENT | “When I lost my eye, they didn’t tell me. I had to read it in the script… When I had that big white [bandage] on? That sucked. The eyepatch, the second they yelled “Cut,” I flipped that thing up.”

THE SHOW AS STANDOUT | “For some reason, Buffy just had a particular magic about it. Everything was just kind of seamless, and it just really worked.”

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9 Comments
  1. Chris Norris says:

    The only thing I see Nicky Brendan’s name on is headlines when he’s drunk off his ass, and trashing hotel rooms, or strangling girlfriends.

    • Stu says:

      Yeah well that’s not the point of the article or today which is a celebration of all things Buffy! Xander was my fave and nothing can change that.

  2. Steven says:

    I noticed how SMG didn’t include Nicholas in her Instagram post mention many others by name. What he says about their bond being torn apart and mentioning lawyers makes sense now.

    • Simon says:

      She also didn’t mention Tony Head by name which I found even more suspicious. I think the lawyer talk was about contracts and air time and being off set for movie roles. Alyisson Hannigan talked about it once too I think.

  3. So I know the guy has gotten himself in trouble, but I never really read the details until just now. Apparently, he was molested for 2 years by a teacher when he was young, so I could see why he has a lot of problems. Add in depression, anxiety, alcoholism and sleeping pills and that will definitely lead to some problems. Too bad, but hopefully he straightens his life out. More importantly, hopefully, he never ever lays a finger on another person again as there is no excuse for violence, especially against women.

    While I didn’t watch Buffy through its entirety and am not a die-hard like many, I still enjoyed him, especially in the first few seasons that I did watch.

  4. Cas says:

    Xander was my least favorite part of Buffy.

  5. safistikaytdlayd says:

    Loved Xander!!! The character was truly the heart of the show(IMHO) and I also liked the fact that he had no supernatural powers. Hoping all is well in Nicholas Brendon’s personal life!!!

  6. Zeph says:

    Xander was definitely my favorite character on Buffy. As for Nicholas himself, my sister and I had the pleasure of meeting him at a convention a few years ago – and yes, it was a pleasure. He was an absolute doll. When my sister expressed disappointment that his panel wasn’t until the following day and we were going to miss it, Nicholas came out from behind his table to give us both huge hugs and take a picture with us. And before anyone comments that it was just because of the convention environment, I can assure you that I’ve both attended and worked cons with guest who were barely polite, let alone actually friendly and appreciative of their fans.

  7. Marie says:

    I wish Nicholas Brendon would always remember (and some of the critical posters below) that he is part of a small minority of the entire population …he was in a magical tv series that will always be remembered for its fully realized characters brought alive by fantastic performances, crisp, witty and honest writing and that rare, rare chemistry between the actors that is so hard to find anywhere.
    To be part of such a thing makes one a success because everyone was integral to its success… I saw it first time as an adult and still consider it in my top 10 of best tv shows ever. I rewatch from time to time and still default to that time and place.