Cover Story

Sarah Michelle Gellar: The Second Coming

Eight years after pulling up stakes and leaving the small screen, the star is making her return to TV on ''Ringer'' -- only this time, one leading role just isn't enough

Since she was 4, Sarah Michelle Gellar has worked in front of a camera. Commercials and TV movies at first, followed by a two-year, Emmy-winning stint on All My Children, and then seven years on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the prime-time drama that made her an international pop icon and brought her movies like Cruel Intentions and The Grudge. Here on the set of her new thriller Ringer, debuting Sept. 13 on The CW, the 34-year-old actress knocks out her work with a poise and proficiency that only 30 years in the biz can cultivate.

Not a wasted gesture. Every look and glance has a purpose. Nothing breaks her focus. Not the black Versace dress soaking up the hot Los Angeles sun. Not the paparazzi stationed outside the fence of this downtown park location. Not even the absurdly lush eyelashes of her costar Nestor Carbonell (Lost's Richard Alpert) can throw Gellar off her game. At least not today. ''Sometimes I look into his eyes and I get so distracted that I forget my dialogue,'' says Gellar during a break in shooting. ''And I never forget my dialogue.''

Ringer — a sexy-sinister mystery filled with curveball twists, soapy drama, and two deliciously complex central characters — is a show that requires maximum concentration from its star, even in a scene where she has to play dumb. In this pivotal moment from the third episode, Carbonell's dogged FBI agent, Victor Machado, is quizzing Gellar's character — a woman he believes to be a wealthy, unhappily married Manhattan socialite named Siobhan — about her recent erratic behavior. What Victor doesn't know is that this isn't Siobhan but Siobhan's twin sister, Bridget, an ex-stripper who believes that Siobhan is dead (boat accident, there were no other witnesses, very suspicious) and who is now pretending to be Siobhan in order to hide from Victor himself, who is trying to find Bridget so she can testify against a vicious mobster who wants her dead. Siobhan's life was full of closeted drama thanks to her troubled marriage, and Bridget must figure out all of Siobhan's secrets to master and maintain her high-stakes masquerade. She must also avoid getting killed by someone trying to murder Siobhan — which brings us back to today's work, because as part of her effort to subvert this assassin, Bridget had decided to risk exposure by meeting with Victor yet responding dumbly to all his questions.

Oh, and Siobhan actually faked her death and is hiding in Paris. Got it?

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