Keep it simple, stupid!” was the advice buddies Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry regularly gave each other while filming the campy new horror-comedy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For Swanson, that was easier said than done: Her title character has to transform herself from a credit card-wielding cheerleader into a kickboxing avenger. At least she makes it look easy, scampering around in tight teenage clothing, smooching with Perry (who plays her rebellious, outcast boyfriend), and staking vampires’ hearts with the same cool expertise Sharon Stone showed when picking on her bedfellows in Basic Instinct.
The 22-year-old actress had no high school experiences of her own to draw on for Buffy. In eighth grade the pragmatic Swanson convinced her parents, both high school phys ed teachers in Mission Viejo, Calif., that she should be educated at home so she could concentrate on her career. Appearing in many commercials, a handful of TV shows, and such movies as Hot Shots! and Highway to Hell may not have made Swanson a household name, but it did get her noticed. Paul Reubens signed on as a vampire in Buffy partly because he wanted to work with Swanson, who had auditioned for (but was too young to play) his love interest in Big Top Pee-wee.
When she’s not working, Swanson paints ”abstract stuff,” hangs out with her boyfriend, Jonathan Kahn, who directed her in his student film The Chili Con Carne Club, and keeps things simple by buzzing around Los Angeles in a Ford Taurus station wagon. ”I know, it’s a real Brady Bunch car,” she says apologetically. ”I had a little sports car, but it got me into trouble.”