Back in April, in the City of Angels, EW gathered the cast and creators of the WB series Angel for an exclusive 20th anniversary cover shoot. Since we couldn’t dedicate the entire print magazine to the epic reunion, we opted to take you behind the scenes of the shoot right here. Go on, sink your teeth in…
Angel premiered Oct. 5, 1999, as a spin-off of creator Joss Whedon’s original vampire series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The breakout show furthered the story of a bloodsucker named Angel (David Boreanaz) whom the Romany cursed with a soul as punishment for a century of mass murder. Leaving Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sunnydale behind, Angel arrived in Los Angeles to continue his quest for redemption by helping the helpless, one at a time. Over the course of five seasons (all of which are available to stream on Hulu), Angel was aided by several more Buffy expats, including shallow-cheerleader-turned-champion Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), former Watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisof), and fellow vamp Spike (James Marsters). He also gained new allies like shy Texan physicist Winifred “Fred” Burkle (Amy Acker) and street-smart vamp hunter Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), along with other humans and demons along the way.
Now, 15 years after the series finale aired, the cast and creators are back together, and for once, it’s daylight! Considering that vampires have a pesky will-combust-in-sunlight problem, the actors were typically confined to night shoots, so the bright morning of the reunion is a refreshing change for them. On arrival at the shoot, Boreanaz immediately makes a beeline for the dressing room to find his costars. Spotting Carpenter and Acker in makeup chairs, he plops himself on the counter and sits, legs swinging giddily, catching up with the ladies while they’re curled and coiffed. “Look at that smile,” he says, gesturing to Carpenter with affection. “We just picked up where we were last time we talked to each other.”
While Carpenter and Acker continue to get camera-ready, Denisof is all set. In a move in line with his eager character, the bumbling British academic Wesley, he arrived hours before the scheduled time. But his joy at being surrounded by cast members he worked with (some for more than six years) blots out any impatience with idle time. “This is just a really great reunion because we all loved each other then and we love each other now,” he says, fixing himself a cup of coffee. “That sounds a little like unicorns and rainbows, but on this show it’s true. We just got along and supported each other on what was a hard, physically demanding shoot. The hours were tough — after all, vampires thrive at night in downtown L.A.” Denisof quickly forgets about his cup of coffee when Richards enters the studio. Denisof practically bounds towards him in greeting. “Can you believe we’re here?!” he asks, gripping his former costar by the forearms and shaking him gently. Richards beams back as Denisof drags him by the hand to see the others. “The crew used to call us the triplets on set,” Richards says of his relationship with Denisof and Acker. “We were always together. We’d arrive together, hang out all day together, and leave together.”
The camaraderie felt on set permeated the highest levels of the crew. From among racks of leather trench coats, shirts adorned with fangs, and crucifix necklaces, co-creator David Greenwalt (affectionately dubbed “Greenie” by the actors) watches his cast reminisce in the dressing room. “That was a very happy set,” he recalls. “We were like the kids putting on a show in the old red barn. We worked around the clock and on weekends, and it was never hard in that sense, you know? It was wonderful; it gave back a lot more than we gave it.” With this reunion barely underway, Greenwalt is already in the planning stages of another — this time a beach day at Paradise Cove — for the casts of Angel and the show that sired it. “Bring Ally and the kids!” he tells Denisof, referencing the actor’s wife, Alyson Hannigan, a main cast member on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Once they leave the dressing room, the cast members get in formation for the photo shoot, posing in front of wired fences and blurred street lamps that recreate Los Angeles alleyways — a frequent setting in Angel, considering demons’ penchant for luring their victims to dark, secluded spots. “We were inspired by the L.A.-at-night vibe of this show and the blue tones that are prevalent in the show’s original advertising,” says EW senior photo editor Michele Romero of designing the space. “We wanted to modernize an L.A. noir look, which we primarily accomplished through lighting.”
As photographer Matthias Clamer snaps shots, lying on the floor at times to get the best angles, the cast jokes around. Richards leans his 6-foot-3 frame on Carpenters’ shoulders teasingly, until she nearly buckles under his weight. As the cast continues to stare moodily into the camera (hey, it’s a dark show!), Greenwalt watches happily, then calls over to them, “I’m taking my shirt off and coming in!” Later, looking at photos on the monitor, Carpenter turns to Denisof and proclaims, “You look like a rogue demon hunter!” To which he responds, “It’s funny how often people tell me that.”
When they sit down for a video interview, the giggling continues. Carpenter recalls a time she accidentally kicked Boreanaz in the “cajones” when she was acting out one of Cordelia’s prophetic visions, while Marsters is just happy this gathering will stick in his mind. “I’m used to hanging around these guys when we’re all really tired,” he says. “I’m going to remember this one because my short-term memory is working.”
Marsters isn’t the only one taking a moment to really let it sink in. Boreanaz looks around at his former castmates as they laugh and recall their favorite episodes, explosions, and life-changing meals with Whedon. “This is really making me miss the show,” he says with feeling.
To read more from our exclusive Angel cast reunion, pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now, purchase a special limited edition cover featuring David Boreanaz (available online only), or collect both! And don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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