Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.
Meeting Sarah Michelle Gellar — and her telling me I have a great smile — is still a top five life highlight, TBH:
But this post isn’t about that y’all, this post is about the revelation that Cordelia, famously played by Charisma Carpenter, was originally supposed to be played by a Black actor:
A recent article by ScreenRant reported the surprising casting detail, using a direct quote from George Snyder, who was the former personal assistant to Buffy series creator Joss Whedon.
“Originally, Joss was looking for a Black actress for the role of Cordelia. But one of the stumbling blocks there was the way we knew Joss anticipated the relationships shifting and changing,” he shared in Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Buffy & Angel.
“There was some concern at the network at the time that interracial relationships would be problematic. At that point, the WB was a different kind of network,” he revealed.
According to George, “Joss said, ‘I can’t have restraints on how I mix and match the dynamics. That’s part of the fun of the show, that Willow is in love with Xander, Xander is in love with Buffy, Cordelia can’t stand any of them yet finds herself drawn to Xander.'”
“Joss decided it wasn’t worth fighting that fight at that particular time, but he didn’t want to be hindered in the dynamic of the shifting triangles,” George said.
As an avid watcher of the series, it wasn’t until it was pointed out by someone older than me that I noticed the glaring lack of diversity in the cast.
Sure, there was Kendra, a Black vampire slayer, played by the never-aging Bianca Lawson:
But Black representation on the show was few and far between. Looking back, I know how important it would have been seeing more people who look like myself onscreen in a show that I revered.
Also, the fact that in the ’90s, not the 1960s, the network thought that having an interracial relationship would be “problematic” is very disturbing — and shows how far we still had yet to come as a society, even then.
Later in the series, there were two interracial relationships introduced. First with Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) and Olivia (Phina Oruche), and then Faith (Eliza Dushku) and Principal Wood (D. B. Woodside).
Nevertheless, in a time where we hear so much talk about how white people can be better allies to Black people, a part of me wishes Joss would have fought harder for Cordelia to be cast in his original vision as a Black love interest. I can only imagine the difference it would have made in the lives of many, including mine.
Note: We’ve reached out to Joss for comment and will update if/when we hear back.