NETFLIX, TUDUM – “She was, to me, the dream get,” says director-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.
A summons to the principal’s office is usually considered a punishment. But when your headmaster is none other than Sarah Michelle Gellar, clad in crisply tailored cream suits, it’s more like a privilege. After all, her protégé Drea Torres (Camila Mendes) calls her “my hero” for a reason in Do Revenge.
The moment you first spot Gellar holding court in her office — which looks like a model display for Anthropologie — you immediately realize that no one else could’ve filled those Louboutins better. In fact, Gellar tells Tudum, “We even tried to get the Headmaster’s ‘Miami’ Louboutins a close-up.”
Not only does the star, best known from her days hunting vampires as Buffy, devour every sliver of tough-love wisdom she dispenses in the new film, her presence also plants you right back in the ’90s — an indelible movie decade that director-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson says she deliberately paid homage to with Do Revenge. Specifically, Gellar’s stunning portrayal of the exquisitely manipulative Kathryn Merteuil in 1997’s Cruel Intentions.
“She’s just, she’s so, so, so, so brilliant, and I feel very lucky,” Robinson says of working with Gellar. “She’s also so kind, so wonderful, so talented. She’s such a pro that anything I wanted her to do, she was like, ‘How do you want me to say it? Say it like this? Got it.’ And then she would just eat. She just would choose to eat like it’s her fucking job. I don’t know how she has any room in her stomach for food because there’s so much scenery in it.”
Gellar was drawn to the part because, she says, “I am always attracted to fully dimensional female characters, flaws and all. That’s part of what makes Do Revenge so special. In real life, we all are made up of different versions of ourselves, but you don’t often find those roles to play.”
And while Gellar was certainly aware that Robinson “is a big Cruel fan,” the actor stops just short of comparing the two films. “While maybe tonally there are similarities,” she says, “I believe each stands on its own. To me what’s even better than paying homage is to redefine and bring something to a new generation. And that’s exactly what Jenn does with this film.”
After saying this, Gellar pauses and thinks about what she’s just said. Then she admits, “There is definitely a version where the Headmaster is the adult Kathryn, but that will be up to the audience to decide.”
Gellar says that she received Robinson’s script out of the blue. “I absolutely loved it,” she says. But she also admits that, initially at least, her character didn’t really exist. “I didn’t really see how I could fit in. Then, Jenn pitched me ‘the Headmaster…’ ” It ended up being a character that she and Robinson got to create together from the ground up — a process she describes as “a blast.” Says Gellar, “These are the best characters as an actor to play. They are absolutely delicious but carry none of the pressure.”
Robinson says that she always wanted someone “really iconic” in the role and that Gellar was, without question, her first choice. “She was, to me, the dream get. But I didn’t know that was attainable.” To help entice Gellar to take the part, she looked at all her character’s scenes and rewrote them, trying to make them sound like things Gellar might say — and say yes to. After Gellar pored over the new revisions, the duo talked on Zoom. It was a done deal.