“It was the time away that got me really excited about different projects and more focused on what it is I ultimately wanted to do,” says Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is preparing to make her return to primetime television after a five-year hiatus from acting. During her time away, she spent valuable time with her children and pursued a second career with Foodstirs, an organic and kid-friendly baking kit and mix company she co-founded with friends Galit Laibow and Greg Fleishman, in 2015.
Gellar last appeared on a regular TV role in CBS’ The Crazy Ones in 2014, following The CW’s Ringer from 2011 to 2012. Now, she’s reuniting with Ringer writers Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder for the new FOX dramedy Other People’s Houses, based on the book written by Abbi Waxman. Gellar will also be an executive producer on the show.
She’ll also star in the limited series Sometimes I Lie, based on the book authored by Alice Feeney. The series will be developed by Ellen DeGeneres’ production company and Warner Bros TV. Release dates for both projects have not yet been announced.
Gellar’s return to acting comes at a “really exciting time for entertainment and for television,” she says, but the actress, entrepreneur and producer is certainly not new to the business.
An Emmy award winner and Golden Globe nominee, Gellar’s expansive career includes the former teenage vampire slayer in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that continues to be discovered by new audiences thanks streaming services like Hulu. (Gellar also noted that she will not be part of the alleged Buffy reboot happening). Her film roster includes Cruel Intentions, I Know What You Did Last Summer and the Scooby-Doo and Scream movie franchises, to name a few.
The mother of two is also dedicating time to causes that she cares about, such as the fight for children’s health in classrooms and schools, through her new partnership with Lysol for its Here for Healthy Schools initiative.
“School's get funded based on attendance, so when you have outbreaks of these illnesses that could be prevented—schools can lose funding,” says Gellar, who’s publicly spoken out against anti-vaccination. “And for some kids, school is where they go to get their healthy meals every day.”
Check out my conversation with Gellar, below.
Monica Mercuri: It's been five years since you appeared in The Crazy Ones and since then you took a break and worked on other business ventures, such as Foodstirs. Why was now the best time to make your return to TV?
Sarah Michelle Gellar: It was a combination of reasons. I have been working steadily since I was four years old and I had this very small window when my kids were young, where they were gonna need me, where I could really be with them before they were in school full time and have extracurricular activities.
And also, sometimes I think it's healthy to try something else and get your mind working. It makes you realize where your true passions lie. Sometimes time and space gives you a sort of clearer understanding. I thought if I don't take a break right now, I'm gonna regret it when my kids are in school full time.
It’s been amazing and I've really gotten to be extremely present and be part of their transitions from toddlers, to preschool and now into school. And I think also it's a really exciting time for entertainment and for television in particular. It was the time away that got me really excited about different projects and more focused on what it is I ultimately wanted to do.
Mercuri: You are also reuniting with Ringer writers Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder for Other People’s Houses. What intrigued you about the storylines for Other People’s Houses and Sometimes I Lie?
Gellar: When I was thinking about coming back, I read a ton of books. For me, that's my great escape. It's always the books that get me, and the hooks, and I try to visualize every time I read a book what it would look like if it was a film, if it was a television show. And there were two books in particular that stood out for me. One was Sometimes I Lie, which, as a thriller, usually I'm ahead of the narrative. I can guess what's happening. It was the first time where I thought, “Oh my goodness, these are twists and turns I didn't see coming.” And I realized that I was so passionate and I had to get it made. I tracked down the author to a writing shed in England where she was working on her next book and begged her to let me have the rights, so that's been a really long time coming.
And Other People's Houses was another book that I read. It's a great sort of narrative on just what neighbors look like and how you think you know someone, but what goes on behind closed doors is really really different. And what I loved that as a starting off point, what really fascinated me was the idea of utilizing social media and the idea that we think we know our neighbors. We think we know what goes on because we see these curated visions and versions of their lives, just these snippets, but it really has no bearing on what's actually happening and how we look at ourselves. We used to find validation in our friends, our loved ones. You know, now we get it from strangers. And I think that's sort of interesting to study what dynamic that has done to our society.
Mercuri: Since we are on the topic of social media, what is your go-to social media platform? There's so many nowadays. But which do you prefer?
Gellar: I don't know if it's about preference. I think everybody sort of finds their niche. Instagram for me is about what I have the most time for, but even that is difficult because there's so much to look at and so much to see. I think Facebook is great. I find great articles on Facebook, I get great ideas from Pinterest, you know. I think they're all pretty fascinating and they all serve a different purpose.
Mercuri: You've played so many iconic roles throughout your career. A whole new generation are now discovering Buffy through streaming services. Why do you think shows like Buffy continue to resonate with so many people, even though it's been 22 years since the show first premiered?
Gellar: I think if you tell a great story, ultimately the viewers are there. Romeo and Juliet is one of the oldest stories, but we're still telling that story. And when a story resonates, when it means something to people...Buffy I always say we used the horrors of adolescence, you know, metamorphosized into actual, literal, demons. And that time period is something we all experience, whether you're, you know, middle class, upper class, east coast, west coast, middle of America, no matter what religion you were raised, that echoes, that has a truth and it's something that people can relate to. I think those are the stories that will last the test of time.
You’ve teamed up with Lysol for its Here for Healthy Schools campaign, which aims to promote healthy habits for children in the classroom. You have two children, Charlotte and Rocky, that are in school, so what about this campaign resonates with you personally?
Gellar: I was so excited when they contacted me. I always think it's really amazing when a company that has a great product, who could rely just on its laurels, goes out there and tries to do something to better the community. And, I have two school-aged children. My mother was a teacher. I believe in the importance of education and what it gives you. There's a crazy statistic that more than 60 million days of school are missed each year due to preventable illnesses. That's unfair. It's a disservice to our children and when you miss school, you miss fundamental learning experiences that then can, you know, stunt you later because you realize like there's basics that you're missing. You've missed the social and emotional growth.
School's get funded based on attendance, so when you have outbreaks of these illnesses that could be prevented—schools can lose funding. All we all know what goes first when funding gets lost, that's the arts, you know any of those sort of endeavors. And for some kids, school is where they go to get their healthy meals every day. Just the thought of that is heartbreaking. I love that Lysol is like “yeah we not only have this great product that will help, but we're gonna take it a step further and we're gonna really give back to our communities that we serve.”
Whether it's giving out these amazing thermometers that aggregate anonymous data so you can sort of see what's coming—if maybe, you know, another school nearby if their report is high fevers, you go “oh, it's really time to clean the classrooms a little extra right now and make sure to keep this out.” Whether it's working with partners like Nickelodeon to really teach kids healthier habits, I think it's really impressive and I’m honored to be able to help them spread the word on a platform that really gives back like this.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I just think that, as we move into the winter and we know that our climate, we've had these sort of really up and down winters and rainstorm. When you make children part of the solution, when you make them really understand about ownership and taking pride and cleaning desks and washing hands and being part of a healthier society, you're really giving back. That's what community is about. I'm proud to be a part of "Here for Healthy Schools."
Thank you so much talking with me!
Learn more about Lysol’s Here for Healthy Schools campaign here.