If Sarah Michelle Gellar can't get along with her newest co-star, she has no one but herself to blame.
And that's quite literal, since the co-star is ... Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Forever cemented in television history as a vampire slayer named Buffy, the actress returns to series work by doing dual duty as twin sisters in plenty of trouble in the CW suspense series "Ringer," premiering Tuesday, Sept. 13.
"They actually cloned me," muses Gellar, who points out she's actually playing more than two characters since each sister also poses as the other. Recovering alcoholic Bridget is a murder witness long estranged from wealthy, maritally troubled Siobhan. They seem to be getting their relationship back on track when Siobhan vanishes, prompting Bridget to assume her identity, which only raises the danger level for both.
The "Ringer" pilot episode has a number of scenes offering two Gellars for the price of one, since she shares the screen with herself -- and a long, pivotal sequence on a speedboat shows her very clearly as both sisters simultaneously. That means extra work for Gellar, obviously, but she maintains it's not as complicated as it might look.
"Technology has come a long way," she says. "At the end of 'Buffy,' I did play three characters, and it was just old-school split-screen. There's so much more that's available now, between (computerized) face replacement and stop-motion cameras. During the pilot, we played with all of them to figure out what works best.
"Ultimately, what you find is that even though there is all this technology, you want the heart of the scene. And the heart of the scene is two people talking to each other. It actually moves fairly quickly, because you pare it down to its simplest form. You're not trying to do these crazy camera moves. Right now, what we're aiming for is two to three flashbacks per episode, and usually, they're all me."
Though there's no question it's Gellar's show, several times over, "Ringer" gives her a strong supporting cast. Nestor Carbonell ("Lost") plays an FBI agent trying to protect Bridget; Ioan Gruffudd ("Horatio Hornblower") is cast as Siobhan's preoccupied husband, with Zoey Deutch -- daughter of actress Lea Thompson ("Switched at Birth") and filmmaker Howard Deutch -- as Siobhan's stepdaughter; and Kristoffer Polaha ("Life Unexpected") portrays Siobhan's lover, who happens to be the spouse of her best friend (Tara Summers).
Exactly what they'll all mean to Bridget and Siobhan, and potentially to one another as well, going forward is being kept under wraps for as long as the show's makers can manage it. Executive producer Pam Veasey ("CSI: NY") confirms, "Everybody has such secrets when we create them, we don't want to give them away so soon."
Something that isn't a secret: "Ringer" was developed for The CW's sister network CBS, but last-minute decisions just before the fall schedules were set landed the show at its eventual destination.
"It's a terrible process, what you go through at pilot season," Gellar says. "There's maybe four to six weeks between when you turn (the show) in and when you get that phone call to get on the plane to New York (for the official network announcement)."
According to Gellar, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves suggested moving "Ringer" to The CW, which Gellar claims "took a little weight off my shoulders, because essentially a good half of the people at The CW are the same people I worked with at The WB (during 'Buffy'). I've been a mom for two years, and I didn't even have a nanny. All of a sudden, I was leaving, and to have people who understood me and would work around that was something I was so grateful for."
Indeed, Gellar is now a parent of daughter Charlotte Grace with husband Freddie Prinze Jr., and the Daytime Emmy winner's television comeback also includes another stop. The airdate of her appearance was uncertain at this writing, but before the serial leaves ABC's afternoon lineup Friday, Sept. 23, Gellar will make a brief return to "All My Children."
"When I heard that the show was canceled, I didn't understand," Gellar says of the drama that since has gotten a reprieve with a deal for it to continue online. "It just didn't make sense to me. I called the casting director who has been there since I was there and said, 'I want to do something.' I don't want to be Kendall (the part Gellar originated, now played by Alicia Minshew), but I just wanted to be a part of it."
Knowing what she wants also extends to Gellar returning to series television in "Ringer" specifically. "When picking a show, I took into consideration who my fans are," she notes. "Let's be honest: With 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' we were a midseason replacement based on a failed movie. If it wasn't for the outpouring of fans, and the journalists supporting us, we would have been canceled after four episodes.
"As an actor, sure, you want to stretch and you want to do different things ... but I think it's also our job to think about who our fans are and what they want to see. Ultimately, that's why we do it. I do it to entertain the people who want to watch what I do."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun