In her first se­ries since ‘Buffy,’ Gellar is a ‘Ringer’ for twin sis­ter

TV Week - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAY BOBBIN

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.

“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 splitscreen. 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.”

Sarah Michelle Gellar stars in ``Ringer’’ Tues­day on The CW.

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