An interview with Amber Benson


AE: When you got the role on Buffy and they decided that you were going to have a lesbian relationship, how did your parents react?
Well, my parents are very liberal — more power to ya, you know? My grandparents back in Alabama did not know because they were very religious. So, just the fact that I was on some show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer was way more information then they needed.

AE: They never knew? They still don’t know?
No, no — I played a lesbian on the show and they had no clue. You know, you can’t change people. They are what they are, especially older, very religious people. They are great people — salt of the earth, would give you the shirt off their back, but to them it’s a big deal.

We just kept that to ourselves. You know, "Amber plays a witch on TV? Oh no, it’s the end of the world." Add lesbian witch to that scenario and it would’ve probably given them a heart attack.We were done at "witch."

AE: There was an interview with you back in 2007 on in which you said Tara opened some doors for you and closed other doors. What exactly did you mean by that? What were those doors? Do you still feel like there are certain doors closed to you?
I think it’s better now. That was the beginning of having lesbian relationships on television. Before us, Ellen had a kiss on The Ellen Show, which my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama did not air. They were one of the only places that did not air it, but it was long after I’d moved away.

AE: How did you feel about that?
Well, you know, it’s the South. It’s just a different mindset. And that’s part of why I live in California now. I want to live in a place where it’s OK to be who you are.

I can’t imagine being a gay person and living in the South right now or the Midwest, even. It’s really tough, you know.

AE: Did you know, when you were doing it that you were doing something important?
Yes, absolutely. I felt like we were presenting this relationship on TV and we were saying it’s OK to be gay. We were saying that this was a viable relationship, that these people love each other and it doesn’t matter that they happen to be two women. They get along, they are respectful of each other — heck, they basically raised Buffy’s sister, Dawn, on the show. So I felt like we were sort of breaking through the glass ceiling.

There was a big kerfuffle — they didn’t want us kissing on the show, and Alyson and I were both like, “Hey, this is bulls–t. We should be able to kiss." And it only after one of the crew members, who was gay, took us aside and said, ‘Hey, just the fact that the characters are having this positive relationship and they’re being portrayed as normal human beings — who just happen to be two women in love — that what’s important, not the physical stuff.” So, it was really just about saying hey we are two people and we are in this relationship and we are functioning like normal people. Just having a normal relationship, I think, that’s the biggest thing that we did.

AE: But you did kiss eventually?
Yes, we did.

AE: So how long were Tara and Willow dating before they actually kissed?
Well I’m sure off-screen they’d been kissing a lot, but on screen it was a while.

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