Why Sarah Michelle Gellar Had To Get Ready For Buffy's Homecoming Episode In A Hospital

Sarah Michelle Gellar might have played a character with superhuman agility on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but the actor is not quite as coordinated in real life. She stays in shape and is trained in martial arts, but she is also a self-proclaimed klutz. Gellar's clumsiness has caused more than one injury in her lifetime, but she was never in and out of the hospital more frequently than she was during her time on the physically (and emotionally) perilous set of her hit CW series. But she is a professional first and foremost, and she isn't one to let an injury slow her down. In fact, on a particularly busy day filming "Buffy" season 3, Gellar wouldn't even let a hospital visit get in the way of her work.

Buffy might be gifted with natural grace and athleticism, but Gellar has had to work for it. She has a brown belt in Taekwondo (per Rolling Stone), but she also suffers from significant curvature of her spine, also known as scoliosis.

"I grew up with, and I still have, major scoliosis," she told Health. "Growing up in Manhattan, you had your schoolbag, but we were so trend-conscious, nobody wanted to put a backpack on both shoulders, so almost all the girls I grew up with have it to some degree, because we all were so lopsided."

Whether because of the schoolbags or some hidden genetic reason, Gellar grew into a fairly clumsy adult.

"I'm an amazing klutz," she confessed in a 1999 interview with Conan O'Brien. "I mean, if there's a wire I'll manage to trip on it."

She injured herself on set

Since Gellar was admittedly less coordinated than her superhuman character, she found herself getting injured a lot on the "Buffy" set.

"Inevitably, because I am a klutz, I do wind up hurting myself a couple of times during the year," she continued. "This year I had one serious injury that required a hospital visit, but we waited til lunch break because I didn't wanna ruin the schedule in the middle of the day."

This was a particularly demanding day for Gellar because it required a hair-and-makeup transformation. In that department, the "Buffy" crew is highly experienced — nearly every episode includes a monster created out of extensive prosthetics. But this time, the makeup wouldn't turn Gellar into a horrifying creature — it would transform her from "regular Buffy" into "homecoming Buffy."

In the season 3 episode "Homecoming," Buffy is intercepted on the way to her school dance by a group of demons that are competing to see who can kill Buffy and her fellow slayer Faith (for whom the very-un-Slayer-y Cordelia is mistaken). Much like her character, Gellar was also delayed from making it to the Sunnydale homecoming. However, being the hard-working professional that she is, the actor made sure to schedule her hospital visit accordingly so she didn't waste too much valuable shooting time.

"So I went to the hospital on a lunch break but I made sure to take my hair and my makeup artist to the hospital so that while I was in the waiting room — cuz you know they make you wait for like four hours unless there's some serious injury — and I did my hair and my makeup at the hospital by the set," she went on.

Gellar got hurt a lot on the Buffy set

Gellar's "Buffy" battle scars included everything from broken fingers to broken ribs, according to a 2011 tweet (via Just Jared). During the course of her seven-year position as the series lead, the actor felt like she spent more time nursing some injury or another than she did in perfect health.

"I joked, I was like a ballplayer," she said in an interview with Radio Free. "I was always working on some injury, re-injuring something. Always. Broken this, cracked this, torn this. It's part of the job."

Although she endured some pretty grueling injuries on set, she was not alone. Gellar might have been trained in martial arts, but that didn't mean that she would be doing her own stunts. Almost every episode of "Buffy" included complicated fight choreography that only a stuntwoman, like Gellar's long-time double Sophia Crawford, could pull off. Despite Crawford's extensive training, which included how to fall and take punches without getting hurt, she still managed to weather a few injuries during her time on the "Buffy" set from seasons 1 through 4.

"[I've] definitely taken a lot of knocks, I've broken ribs. I've broken fingers," she revealed to Metro UK. "I've broken my feet jumping down in heels. You might think, 'Oh it's such a simple stunt' but when you're asked to jump 10 feet, eight feet, onto concrete in stiletto heels, believe me it's not easy. It seems like a simply [sic.] gag but you break the bones in your feet."

Crawford even endured a near-death accident. While being raised into the air on a net, she was "catapulted" two times as high as she expected and was momentarily detached from her life-saving safety net. She managed to save herself by quickly hooking an arm into a hole in the net, but only just barely.

But she didn't get hurt doing stunts

She might have had a brown belt in Taekwondo, but Gellar was not responsible for most of the fighting that you see on "Buffy." At first, the series didn't even rely on fight sequences very much at all. When Crawford got even more involved in the show in the second season, it allowed the CW series to get more action-heavy. The stunt performer explained the logistics of it all to Music In The Dark:

"Sarah was an awesome actress and she played Buffy wonderfully. However, she wasn't really a martial artist. I tried to show her things that she could do as we went along. During season 1 we didn't get to do that much. We'd have Sarah do something, then I'd do something with one or two moves and that was about it fight-wise. Then in season 2, [stunt coordinator] Jeff Pruitt took over and convinced Joss [Whedon, series creator] to let me do all the fighting and just use Sarah for close-ups. Suddenly we were able to do longer and more complex fights and it really helped the show. That's how we were able to accomplish so much action in the time we had."

Although Gellar got injured a lot on the "Buffy" set, she didn't earn any of those injuries by trying to perform dangerous, Buffy-esque stunts, Crawford confirmed.

"A big responsibility was keeping Sarah safe at all costs," the stuntwoman continued. "[...] She never did any [stunts] nor did she want to. "It would not have been a smart thing to do and she understood that. Her job was acting. It was my job to take the physical pain."

Her stunt double had it even worse

Since so much of "Buffy" involves action, it's hard to imagine that none of those wilder Buffy moves were performed by Gellar. But hey — that's the power of television magic. Every fight was planned carefully so that Gellar could step in at the right time to deliver a quippy Slayerism and a stake to the heart.

"We'd have her do the staking and whatever dialogue was needed," Crawford added. "Jeff would choreograph it specifically to arrange spots to put her into the scene at least for three shots and they would edit my fighting with her face. It worked pretty well."

But of course, clever editing can only achieve so much. Gellar was still required to put some of her (albeit novice) training to the test every once in a while.

"Jeff [Pruitt] would have Sarah fall out of frame onto a pad or into his arms," her longtime stunt double recalled. "That was the only stunt-related thing she did. He would have her swing her leg, throw a single punch, or duck and we'd edit that together with the full fight I had performed. We were ordered to keep her safe and that's exactly what we did."

The "Buffy" crew may have managed to keep Gellar from getting injured in a choreographed fight, but they still couldn't save her from her own clumsiness. When asked how many times she had "accidentally stabbed" herself during her days staking vampires on Reddit, Gellar responded:

"Oh please?!? How many times do I hurt myself getting out of bed? For a pretty graceful person I'm a klutz."

Gellar might be dangerously clumsy, but she is forever tethered to one of the most coordinated and athletic TV characters of all time. The irony is enough to turn you to dust!