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‘Poker Face’s Natasha Lyonne says she was first pick to play Buffy the Vampire Slayer - but turned it down

Lyonne went on to slay in plenty of other meaty roles, though!

By Adam Pockross
Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face Season 1

In hindsight, it’s nearly impossible to envision anyone other than Sarah Michelle Gellar playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the seminal late-‘90s/early-aughts TV show, even though it was based on the 1992 movie that starred Kristy Swanson in the titular role. But if anyone else could have pulled it off, we’d put our money on Natasha Lyonne, the tremendously talented star of Peacock’s Poker Face.

Apparently, the folks in charge of casting the WB/UPN series at the time were just as impressed as we are by Lyonne, even though she had only appeared in a handful of titles before Buffy saved the world (granted keen-eyed Pee-Wee’s Playhouse fans would have recognized her going all the back to 1986 when she played Opal for six episodes at just seven years of age). Alas, Lyonne sounds like she just wasn’t into it.

RELATED: Rian Johnson & 'Poker Face' showrunners unpack that twisty season finale, tease what comes next

That’s according to Lyonne herself, who confirmed to Howard Stern back in 2001 that she not only turned down Buffy, but also a part in Dawson’s Creek, another huge hit for The WB. Check out the recently released montage from The Howard Stern Show (h/t Digg), that compiles all sorts of stars discussing the roles that could have been. At about the 13:45 mark in the below video, Stern discusses such dream casting with Lyonne and her fellow American Pie 2 stars, Tara Reid and Alyson Hannigan.  

Watch Natasha Lyonne confirm she was the first pick to play Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Of course, Hannigan got her big break playing Willow Rosenberg on BTVS. And you can see in the video that she was rather surprised and seemingly downright skeptical about Lyonne’s confirmation, noting (perhaps jokingly, perhaps not) that the news “upset her.”

But Lyonne assures Stern that she’s telling the truth: “Well, when The WB first started … yeah, they asked me to do any of the shows. So Dawson’s Creek and Buffy. I don’t think I was offered Felicity though. …. I was 16 or something like that and I told them the only thing I would want to do was some sort of Carol Burnett sketch show or something like that for The WB, but then I decided that I did not want to be committed when I was 16 years old." 

So Gellar got Buffy, and nailed it like a stake through a vampire’s heart. But it doesn’t sound like Lyonne was too upset about it then, and she she most certainly shouldn’t be now, having gone on to slay in plenty of her own awesome roles, including Orange Is the New Black, Russian Doll, and, most recently, as Charlie Cale -- a casino worker on the run, who uses her uncanny ability as a human lie detector to help solve murders of the week -- in Rian Johnson’s Poker Face

Hopefully we’ll see Lyonne in that Carol Burnett sketch show some day. In the meantime, we’ll just keep watching her incredible performance in Season 1 of Poker Face on Peacock, while we eagerly await the already greenlit Season 2.

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