Sarah Michelle Gellar: The return of an actress with real bite

The star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is back on TV. Can she regain her cult status?

Bridget Kelly has problems. She's the only witness to a murder, a former stripper with six months of sobriety behind her and an FBI agent on her back. Siobhan Martin also has problems: a loveless marriage, an obsessive lover, and more secrets than one society wife can possibly hope to hide. Not at all coincidentally the two women are also long-estranged twin sisters and when Siobhan apparently dies, Bridget seizes the chance to hide in plain sight.

Ringer, which started in the US two weeks ago and airs on Sky Living this week, aims to bring psychological noir to a generation raised on the glossy fluff of Gossip Girl. As such, it's not without flaws. The plot is occasionally overstuffed and too many of the male characters seem content to brood mysteriously while the light catches their sleekly chiselled jaws.

Yet those flaws are rendered almost irrelevant by the fact that this drama from Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder marks Sarah Michelle Gellar's return to the small screen after an eight-year absence. For, lest we forget, Gellar, who takes on the central roles of Bridget and Siobhan, was the Queen of the Small Screen from 1997-2003, playing the lead role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer before supposedly heading off to Hollywood glory when the Joss Whedon series came to an end.

In reality, that glory never quite materialised. For some reason Hollywood was unable to pin down the combination of strength and vulnerability that made the former Buffy Summers so great on television. Gellar's 1999 turn as teen bitch Kathryn in Cruel Intentions remains her best performance on the big screen.

That this is the case is largely down to the roles she was offered. Instead of the strong female parts she might have expected, Gellar found herself starring in a couple of forgettable horror films (she dropped her agents, William Morris, after their president, David Wirtschafter, reportedly described her as "nothing at all" until she appeared in 2005's The Grudge), making two Scooby Doo movies and appearing in the odd curiosity such as Richard Kelly's critically panned Southland Tales.

Gellar, now 34, has admitted that for much of the immediate post-Buffy period she had other things on her mind. "I was burned out after Buffy," she said at Ringer's US launch event. "It was exhausting... I was 18 on the pilot and 24 and married [to Freddie Prinze Jr] when we finished. That show was my life. I just wanted to live and travel."

She also found herself increasingly disillusioned by the film process. "I was spoiled by Buffy because I thought that's the way it was everywhere and it's not. I thought to myself that I wouldn't get stuck playing the girlfriend or the wife, but those sort of roles turned out to be rare. Then I started to watch Damages and realised that there were all these amazing female-driven shows on television. So I found myself waiting for the right opportunity."

While Ringer is not quite the groundbreaking noir that some hoped it might be, Gellar remains a compelling presence. Her Buffy was relatable not only because of the actress's sense of timing (honed as a teen on the US daytime soap All My Children) but because of her ability to say as much with her eyes as her voice. No matter what Whedon threw at her – mute demons, singing devils, vampires with unbelievably bad British accents – Gellar always convinced you that she was a real high-school girl who just happened to be dealing with some highly unreal circumstances.

She remains similarly believable in Ringer, whether playing the vulnerable Bridget or the more Machiavellian Siobhan, while her complex relationship with Ioan Gruffudd (who plays Siobhan's wealthy husband) has promising hints of trouble to come. And it's those darker moments that make Ringer worth sticking with: it might not be the second coming that Buffy Summers fans were hoping for, but it's solid, escapist fun.

'Ringer' begins on Thursday at 8pm on Sky Living

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz