Melanie Lynskey Turned Down The Best Role In Buffy The Vampire Slayer

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

Melanie Lynskey in Yellowjackets

Times are changing in Hollywood, and TV (or streaming, rather) is now in. But back in the 90s, TV was for “has-beens,” at least according to Melanie Lynskey’s agent. Which is why, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the Yellowjackets actress turned down what would soon become one of television’s most iconic roles—Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Yellowjackets star Melaine Lynskey turned down playing Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the advice of her agent.

Knowing what we know now, imagining anyone other than the iconic Alyson Hannigan playing Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is impossible. But Joss Whedon thought that Melanie Lynskey would have been good in the role. 

At the time when auditions were being held for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Melanie Lynskey had already made her acting debut in Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed 1994 film Heavenly Creatures alongside Kate Winslet. As an already-established film actress, Lynskey was unsure about the idea of diving into TV.

Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in Heavenly Creatures

While Lynskey admitted part of the reason for turning down the role was because of a visa issue (the actress is from New Zealand), the main reason was that her agent advised against it. 

While Melanie Lynskey’s agent told the actress that TV is for “has-beens,” Lynskey says she could see the changing landscape of the entertainment industry and believed that television could be just as promising as film.

The actress went ahead and met with Whedon about doing Buffy the Vampire Slayer but ultimately took her agent’s advice and turned down the part. Still, the actress stayed in touch with Whedon after their meeting, and when he phoned to tell her that they were replacing Riff Regan (who played Willow in the pilot), she was given another shot to audition.

Alyson Hannigan played Willow through the entire run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while Melanie Lynskey appeared in movies, including Coyote Ugly.

Despite Melanie Lynskey’s efforts, she was not chosen for the part, and the role of Buffy’s best friend ultimately went to the talented Alyson Hannigan, who portrayed Willow with undeniable charm throughout Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seven-season run.

Melanie Lynskey in The Last of Us

Though she didn’t land the role of Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Melanie Lynskey remained positive and happy for Hannigan’s success in the series, saying, “All was [cast] as it should have been.” The talented actress continued to forge her path in the entertainment industry, starring in various films like Coyote Ugly, Shooters, and Snakeskin. She finally made her television debut in 2002 and has beautifully balanced her art form on film and TV platforms since then. 

While it wasn’t through Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Melanie Lynskey’s break into television ended up earning the actress critical acclaim and recognition. She left a lasting impression on audiences with her performances in notable shows like The Last of Us and Yellowjackets, both of which garnered her Emmy nominations.

Melanie Lynskey may not have been in Buffy the Vampire Slayer but she’s had a successful career, including multiple Emmy nominations thanks to her roles in The Last of Us and Yellowjackets.

Looking back, it’s clear that Melanie Lynskey’s initial hesitation about television has now become a thing of the past. Television has evolved and gained immense popularity over the years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer first aired in 1997, providing actors with diverse and compelling roles that rival those in the film industry. Lynskey’s journey is a testament to the changing landscape of entertainment and the myriad opportunities available to actors today.