Willow Rosenberg is a fictional character created for the fantasy television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003). She was developed by Joss Whedon and portrayed throughout the series by Alyson Hannigan. Willow plays an integral role within the inner circle of friends—called the Scooby Gang—who support Buffy Summers, a teenager gifted with superhuman powers to defeat vampires, demons, and other evil in the fictional town of Sunnydale. The series begins as Buffy, Willow, and their friend Xander are in 10th grade and Willow is a shy and nerdy girl with little confidence. She has inherent magical abilities and begins to study witchcraft; as the series progresses, Willow becomes more sure of herself and her magical powers become significant if inconsistent. Her dependence on magic becomes so consuming that it develops into a dark force that takes her on a redemptive journey in a major story arc when she becomes the sixth season's main villain, threatening to destroy the world in a fit of grief and rage.
The Buffy series became extremely popular and earned a devoted fanbase; Willow's intelligence, shy nature, and vulnerability often resounded strongly with viewers in early seasons. Of the core characters, Willow changes the most, becoming a complex portrayal of a woman whose powers force her to seek balance between what is best for the people she loves and what she is capable of doing. Her character stood out as a positive portrayal of a Jewish woman and at the height of her popularity, she fell in love with another woman, a witch named Tara Maclay. They became the first lesbian couple on U.S. television and one of the most positive relationships of the series. Willow appears in every Buffy episode, is featured in three episodes of the spinoff Angel, an animated series and video game—both of which use Hannigan's voice, and the comic Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (2007–present), which uses Hannigan's likeness and continues Willow's storyline following the television series.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (often simplified as Buffy) was originally conceived by Joss Whedon for a 1992 feature film. However, in its development Whedon felt it lost some of the quirkiness he considered was the heart of the project, and it was not received as well as he liked. He began to develop the concept of a fashion-conscious girl named Buffy, who is imbued with superhuman abilities and attends a high school situated on a portal to hell, for television. Whedon created a group of friends for the main character, including Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris. A half-hour pilot was filmed starring Riff Regan as Willow, but it was eventually left unaired and network executives requested that Regan be replaced. Willow's character demanded that she be shy and unsure of herself, and the casting department encountered some difficulty finding actors who could portray this effectively and still be likable. After seven auditions, 23-year-old Alyson Hannigan was hired for the role.
In the beginning of the series, Hannigan used her own experiences in high school—which she called "overwhelmingly depressing" Whedon intended Willow to be realistically introverted, saying "I wanted Willow to have that kind of insanely colorful interior life that truly shy people have. And Alyson has that. She definitely has a loopiness I found creeping into the way Willow talked, which was great. To an extent, all the actors conform to the way I write the character, but it really stands out in Willow's case."
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