Sarah Michelle Gellar Grows Up and Grows Younger

From landing kiddie commercials to playing Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar was an early bloomer. Now starring with Robin Williams in the CBS comedy The Crazy Ones, she talks about how marriage and motherhood helped her find balance and a happy “other life"

by Margy Rochlin
sarah michelle gellar image
Isabel Marant wool dress with ruffle hem; barneys.com. Le Vian diamond ring; levian.com. Salvatore Ferragamo metallic leather heels; 866-337-7242.
Photograph: Peggy Sirota

In the opening of the series, Sydney and agency colleague Andrew (Hamish Linklater) are in the midst of a scene that Gellar didn’t have to think too hard about: They’re coaching a string of pint-size actors as they audition for a commercial—a process she went through as a child. But it’s only since becoming a mother, she says, that she has felt fully confident exploring a father-daughter dynamic in front of the cameras. “I didn’t really have a relationship with my father when I was growing up,” says Gellar, whose parents divorced before she was 10 and who was raised on New York’s Upper East Side by her mother, Rosellen, a nursery school teacher. (Sarah was still estranged from her father, Arthur Gellar, a garment worker, at the time of his death in 2001.) “But now I can base my role on seeing my husband and daughter together. I understand that bond. I see the pride when he looks at her and the love she has when she looks at him.”

Linklater, who plays the agency’s art director, says Williams and Gellar fall easily into their roles: “They have a similar sense of humor. She speaks incredibly rapidly, and so does he. You imagine the two of them around the breakfast table as father and daughter and no one getting a word in edgewise.”

Part of the appeal of The Crazy Ones for Gellar was that she could remind the public that she’s not a comedy newbie; not only did she deliver those wry Buffy lines, but she has also hosted Saturday Night Live three times. She’s always been great at squeezing laughs out of an ordinary moment. Today, for example, when the restaurant music suddenly gets very loud, she calls out to a bespectacled man in a pinstripe suit, “Do you think you can lower that a bit?” He obediently trots over to the sound system, and Gellar says, deadpan, “I really hope he works here.”

But The Crazy Ones also appealed to her because taking a job for the first time since giving birth to Rocky didn’t mean she had to sacrifice parenting. “In the pilot, I’m in every scene but one,” she says, “yet I was either with my kids in the morning or there to put them to bed every night we shot.” Intent on raising their children themselves, Gellar and Prinze try not to be employed at the same time—though occasionally they make exceptions, as they did for Prinze’s recent multi-episode arc as a CIA agent on the Fox series Bones. (The idea was broached by Bones star Boreanaz during their chance Newport Beach meeting.)

Prinze was a teen heartthrob when the two met in 1997 on the set of the horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer, and they started out as just pals. It wasn’t until three years later, says Gellar, that things got romantic: “We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and we were catching up over dinner and it just felt different.” In 2002 they were married in a small nondenominational ceremony at a luxury resort in Jalisco, Mexico. Perhaps because they were raised in -single-parent households—Prinze was 10 months old when his famous father, who starred in the sitcom Chico and the Man, died, an apparent suicide—they both seem clear-eyed about marriage. “We work at it,” says Gellar, emphasizing the importance of having “a separate life. I always say I’m Sarah Michelle Gellar when I work and I’m Sarah Prinze in the other life.” Though the Prinzes’ union has “had its ups and downs,” she says, it remains strong: “I don’t know if there’s a secret—if I had a secret, I’d write a book and retire. But we talk. We check in.”

As evidence, she proffers her iPhone to display a photo she sent Prinze from the More shoot in which she stands dressed in Eres tap pants, black bra, gauzy Dsquared2 white blouse and Jimmy Choo spike heels. “He sent this back to me,” says Gellar, laughing at Prinze’s response to her sexy text: a cute snapshot he’d just taken of daughter Charlotte standing on a red restaurant banquette doing her best four-year-old riff on Mom’s kittenish pose.

First published in the November 2013 issue

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