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SYFY WIRE WandaVision

'Buffy' and 'WandaVision' actress Emma Caulfield reveals she is battling multiple sclerosis

Caulfield has also appeared in Once Upon a Time and Fear the Walking Dead.

By Josh Weiss
Emma Caulfield Ford

Emma Caulfield — an actress known for prominent roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and WandaVision — is currently battling multiple sclerosis. Caulfield talked at length about her medical condition during a lengthy interview with Vanity Fair, revealing that the diagnosis was first revealed back in 2010 while she was working on the series, Gigantic.

"I woke up one morning and the left side of my face felt like there were a million ants crawling on it. That feeling when you’ve sat in a position too long?" she remembered. Caulfield ultimately sought out a neurologist for an MRI, initially believing the problem might be Bell's palsy.

However, she learned the truth during a short on-set respite in between takes. "I had a missed call from the doctor’s office, so I called back. I’m just like, 'What’s up?' I had five minutes down or whatever. And he was like: 'You have MS.' Just like that. It was like an out-of-body experience. I’m like, 'No, that’s not possible.' I’m like, 'What are you talking about?' He was very matter of fact about it. 'Well, you can get a second opinion…' It was literally a kind of nightmare…. It turns out it was something major. Then I was like, 'I’ve got to go to work now.' What do I do?"

The actress has since lived with MS on a daily basis for a little over a decade, taking medication and powering through the discomfort on productions like WandaVision, a Disney+ Original series that ushered in the fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe early last year. In the series, Caulfield played the character of Sarah Procter/Dottie Jones, one of the citizens of Westview, New Jersey held captive in the false reality created by Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).

"I shot WandaVision in that heat," she said of the experience, which became even more grueling as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis.

"We had started shooting in Atlanta and then the pandemic happened. Everything got shut down. We were never supposed to be shooting any of these outdoor, big costume scenes [in late summer]. All that was supposed to happen in spring, but it didn’t. It got pushed. The show shut down. We picked back up again in late August [2020] here in LA ... Everything was fine. But the heat was unbearable. And I was feeling every inch of that. I got really weak. I just went into survival mode and I remember having to be outside…. It was just unfortunate timing really. But I was very, very uncomfortable and no one knew. I said nothing. And I paid the price for that. When I was done with that, I just did not feel well. It took me a few days of being still [to recover]."

Caulfield — who has also appeared on shows like Once Upon a Time, Robot Chicken, Supergirl, and Fear the Walking Dead — also confirmed that she will reprise her Marvel Studios role in the upcoming WandaVision spinoff, Agatha: Coven of Chaos, which centers around the malevolent spell-caster portrayed by Kathryn Hahn. Fortunately, the entire crew (from head writer/executive producer Jac Schaeffer on down) is now aware of the delicate situation this time around.

"Everyone has been notified that needs to be notified. I can’t put myself through what I did with WandaVision again. I can’t do that. They did nothing wrong…. They had no idea what was going on with me. They didn’t ask anything of me that was like, 'I need to call my agent!' They’re asking me to just sit and chat and do my dialogue. It’s not hard. [I told them now] knowing that I shouldn’t be out in this heat at all. And if I am, I need to be taking way more precautions than I am."

She later went on to describe Schaeffer as "beyond supportive" of the diagnosis. "Just like, 'We’ve got you. There’s nothing to worry about. You are loved, supported, you’re amazing. Take the stress off of wanting to do a good job and not wanting to be difficult and not wanting to cause problems. Just take it and dump it. Don’t let that be a factor.'"