The Master is a fictional character on the fantasy television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003). He is a centuries-old vampire portrayed by Mark Metcalf, determined to open the portal to hell below Sunnydale High School in the fictional town of Sunnydale where the main character Buffy Summers lives. The premise of the series is that Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a Slayer, a teenage girl endowed with superhuman strength and other powers which she uses to kill vampires and other evil beings. Each season of the series Buffy and the small group of family and friends who work with her, nicknamed the Scooby Gang, must defeat an evil force referred to as the Big Bad; the villain is usually trying to bring on an apocalypse. The Master is the first season's Big Bad.
The Master is the head of an ancient order of vampires, a classic Old World villain devoted to ritual and prophecy. He has been entombed beneath Sunnydale for 60 years as the patriarch of a cult posed opposite Buffy, a character who was created to subvert media tropes about frail women falling victim to evil characters. Her youth and insistence on asserting her free will makes her unique in the Master's experience, but he is devoted to fulfilling a prophecy that states he will kill the Slayer and initiate the extermination of all humanity.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was originally conceived for a 1992 feature film that pitched Buffy against a similar villain controlling vampires below Los Angeles. Disappointed by the final film, screenwriter and series creator Joss Whedon reworked his script into a television series more in line with his original vision. He and the staff writers employ fantasy and horror elements in the series to represent real-life conflicts for the adolescent characters, while frequently undercutting the horror aspect of the show with comedy. Sunnydale High School is situated atop a portal to hell called a Hellmouth, which Whedon uses to symbolize the high-school-as-hell experience. Pragmatically, Whedon admitted that placing the high school on a Hellmouth allows the writers to confront the main characters with an endless array of evil creatures.
Veteran character actor Mark Metcalf appeared in heavy prosthetic make-up for the role of the Master, belying his iconic performance in the film National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) as Douglas C. Neidermeyer, a strident rule-following ROTC officer (and the associated role in Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It" music video). In 2011, Metcalf acknowledged that his Animal House role would probably live much longer than he, but also recognized his roles on Seinfeld—where he plays a similarly named character called "Maestro"—and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as his favorites. Many actors auditioned for the part, but Metcalf, according to Whedon, played it with more complexity, bringing a "sly and kind of urbane" sensitivity and a charm to the villainy of the character.
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Official Site: 20th Century Fox Television
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