Interview With Amber Benson

Amber Benson first caught the eye of many a lesbian and bisexual viewer when she joined the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1999 as the lesbian love interest of main character Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan). Since then, Benson has gone on to write, direct, produce and act — always maintaining a warm relationship with the gay community.

She has written, directed and produced two films, Chance (in which she also starred) in 2001 and Lovers, Liars and Lunatics in 2005. Her animated web series for the BBC, Ghosts of Albion, launched in 2003, has expanded to include a role-playing game and several novels. She won the Grand Jury Award at Outfest in 2005 for Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film for her role as Maggie in the independent film Race You to the Bottom. In her latest endeavor, Benson teamed up with director Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S.) to play the role of Svetlana Dragovich in the online series Girltrash!

Perhaps most importantly — at least to AfterEllen.com readers — Benson was voted one of our Hot 100 women earlier this year. In light of her enthusiastic fan following, contributing writer Jessica Jones agreed to take your questions directly to Benson, who answered as many as she could.

AfterEllen.com: What can you tell me about your new online series, Girltrash!, and how you got involved?
Amber Benson:
I’ve known Angela Robinson for years, long before she was an L Word and D.E.B.S. diva! So, when she called and asked if I’d come and chill in the Girltrash! world, I was totally down. I really liked her initial concept, which was to mix something like The Departed with a hip, edgy lesbian sensibility. So far, I think the show is going well and I especially love my old friend, Lisa Rieffel, who kicks butt on it every week.

AE: What has it been like working on the series?
AB:
I’ve only really done one day of work as of right now, but it was really fun. Angela is great to work with, as is her partner, Alex, who is totally shooting the whole thing. It’s so cool when women take the bull by the horns and do all the heavy lifting.

AE: Does your working relationship with Angela Robinson mean there could potentially be any guest appearances for you on The L Word in the future?
AB:
I would love to shake my booty on The L Word. Let’s make it happen.

AE: What has been your favorite role to date, and why?
AB:
It’s a toss-up between Ella from the movie King of the Hill or Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They both have a soft spot in my heart. They are similarly sweet and shy on the outside, but super strong on the inside.

AE: In retrospect about your role on Buffy: Would you change anything in the way it was written and how?
AB:
I wouldn’t change a hair on Tara’s head, even the bad stuff, because it made her who she was.

AE: What was the casting process like for you as you proceeded through auditions for Buffy?
AB:
I just went in and auditioned for Joss and Marti [Noxon]. I had no idea what the hell I was getting myself into. Little did I know that within a few months my whole life would be turned upside down, and I’d be making out with hot chicks on TV!

AE: On Buffy, the characters of Willow and Tara opened the door to lesbian visibility on TV. Did you have any reservations or fears in accepting the role of one of the most memorable and important lesbian characters in the history of television?
AB:
No reservations or fears. I thought it was mucho cool, and I was lucky to have Alyson [Hannigan] as my partner in crime.

AE: Lots of folks seemed to feel that Tara was one of the few characters to demonstrate an appropriate image of "real women." What do you think about this, and how has weight and body image played an issue in your career?
AB:
I work in an industry where what you weigh is more important than whether you completed high school or not. I am what I am. I’ve got boobs, and I’m proud of them. I can’t imagine living my life in such a way that I couldn’t eat french fries or peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.

I think the best thing we can do for ourselves is to eat locally grown organic produce — I’m a big fan of farmer’s markets — and try not to overindulge in anything. By the way, everyone should read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. That book talks about a lot of things involving food that I personally agree with.

AE: Did you talk to Joss about whether it was necessary to kill [Tara]? There have been rumors that Joss wanted you back for a few guest appearances during Season 7, but you decided not to return to the show. If the rumors are true, why did you chose not to return?
AB:
The timing just didn’t work out. I was getting ready to go to London to direct the animated version of The Ghosts of Albion, so it just wasn’t to be. I know that Joss did not intend to offend anyone with Tara’s death. He was truly furthering a story line and didn’t realize what an impact Tara’s death would have. You’re talking about the guy who created Tara and Willow’s relationship in homage to his lesbian friends’ relationship. He is 100 percent behind the LGBT community. I know this for a fact.

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