Sarah Michelle Gellar's new CBS thriller pilot 'Ringer': The producer spills details! -- EXCLUSIVE

Sarah-Michelle-GellarImage Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty ImagesThe networks have been on a pilot-greenlighting tear lately. But which possible show has the potential to be a gem of the 2011-12 season? We’ll go out on a limb here: CBS’ in-the-works thriller Ringer, which—should the pilot get the pickup to series during May’s network upfronts—would mark the much-anticipated return of Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar to regular series television. Granted, Gellar acolytes have been titillated by her possible return before with HBO’s The Wonderful Maladys, only to have the pilot never make it to series. But alas, the potential seems to be there with Ringer. Until now, the show has only been described as drama about “a troubled young woman on the run who hides out by living the life of her wealthy twin sister, until she learns her sibling’s life has a bounty on it as well.” Rather vague. Are you dying for more details? Us, too, so we tracked down Peter Traugott, the pilot’s producer and head of Brillstein Entertainment Partners, the production company behind Ringer, and grilled him about the pilot. Here, Traugott spills more about Ringer’s plot, its enviable star Sarah Michelle Gellar and getting her to come back to network television (she wanted to do cable!), and why the show is indeed a good fit for CBS.

WHAT IS RINGER EXACTLY? “It’s a thriller, for sure,” Traugott explains. “It’s an edgy thriller about redemption and about revenge. There’s a point of view of two twin sisters who grew apart over a tragedy in their past. And one now seeks redemption and the other one seeks revenge. The sister who is seeking redemption has had a much more troubled life. When her fancy pants sister disappears, she takes over her life. She’s living the life of her more successful sister only to come to find out that her life is equally as fraught with danger and complication. Her sister dies in a boating accident. The other sister takes on her persona, only to come to find out that they have a hit out on her.”

WHY CAST SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR? HOW’D YOU GET HER TO COME BACK TO NETWORK TV? “Sarah had started thinking about coming back to TV a couple of years ago and she really wanted it to be something in cable,” Traugott explains. “In part just because of the subject matter you’re able to do in cable. But network television now has cracked that door a little bit and they’ve obviously been doing great stuff in network—and great stuff in cable. Both places are great. And this was a spec script that we had found and my colleague, Rachel Kaplan, had found by these young writers [Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder of The CW’s Supernatural] and we flipped for it. Sarah’s manager got it to her, and she fell in love with the piece, too. We had been talking about this group for over a year trying to figure this out. For Sarah, she wasn’t really sure about network just because she wasn’t sure she would get what she wanted. When CBS read this thing and flipped for it and loved Sarah for it, that kind of started her thinking about being more open-minded to doing network because of the subject matter and this piece that she was so excited about.”

DOES GELLAR PLAY BOTH SISTERS ROLES? Yes! “She plays two characters: One is Bridget, the sister who takes over Siobhan’s life—Siobhan’s the other sister. The sisters reunite after having been estranged for a long time, and when they reunite, Siobhan dies. She falls…you know, in a boating accident.” So it’s like Hayley Mills of Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap and its more modern remake? “Yeah,” Traugott admit, with a laugh. “That’s kind of a comedic reference, and a reference old old Westerns—yeah, Sarah’s playing both roles.”

IF SIOBHAN DIES EARLY, DO WE SEE HER IN FLASHBACKS—OR WHAT? Yes, exactly. “You’ll see her that way. Not necessarily tonally nor stylistically, but the show comparable to Damages. I love Damages—by the way, it’s my favorite show—but in the same way that Damages tells part of the story in the present, through the past. Not just flashbacks but through actual stories in the past. That’s what’s happening here. Hopefully if we go to series, the audience will come to understand what the fall out was between Siobhan and Bridget. Why Siobhan would never want to see her sister again, why Bridget was in a kind of dark place in her life—all that stuff will be told as we move forward in Bridget’s stories through flashbacks with Siobhan.

WILL BUFFY FANS BE PLEASED WITH THIS ROLE FOR GELLAR? Duh: yes! “For the Buffy fans, she wanted part of what she initiated. As a matter of fact, her and her manager know this, but I know one thing she wanted to guard against was making sure that she whatever she does in TV, she does something that her fans who had grown up loving Buffy will also be excited about. And we think this show has that quality to it.

HOW WILL THIS PLEASE BUFFY FANS EXACTLY? “It’s a very different show. I mean, Buffy is so specific and a great, cool genre piece,” Traugott says. “But in the same way with Sarah, I think what’s remarkable about her as an actor—and very few people have this ability—she can play both sides well. If you remember Cruel Intentions, she was the villain, but you found yourself kind of rooting for her anyway. That’s what we’re looking for. How do we find something where her character has some edge, there’s some darkness to her, she doesn’t always do the right thing, but at the end of the day, you’re also rooting for her? And that’s what we were looking for in this. Obviously, Buffy was a hero, a kick-ass hero, and we wanted to be true to that with Sarah.”

IS GELLAR’S BRIDGET SUPPOSED TO BE A HEROINE? “It’s not like that, no,” Traugott clarifies. “I wouldn’t say that. It’s not that kind of a show. It’s more of a thriller. But we think it shows a lot of different layers to Sarah, and her character is so interesting and compelling. Very different from the Buffy character, but there’s a lot there for the audience to grab onto.

WHAT’S THE FORMAT? PROCEDURAL? SERIALIZED? “There’s an overriding arc that the writers have kind of figured out for the first several seasons, if we get so lucky,” Traugott says. “But there’s an overriding arc in part of Bridget’s drive of trying to figure out who is trying to kill Siobhan and now her, in Siobhan’s shoes. And week in and week out we will be telling episodic stories, relationship stories, hopefully wish-fulfilling kind of stories, because she is living this kind of fantastical life all the while trying to figure out who’s after her. She’ll be with Siobhan’s husband, which is obviously new to her because she’s in a relationship with a man she doesn’t know but he thinks he knows her. She’ll be dealing with Siobhan’s friends, and they’ll be trying to kind of safe-crack this mystery.”

WHAT OPENED THE DOOR FOR A SHOW LIKE THIS ON CBS? HOW DOES IT FIT THAT BRAND? “You know, to read the script, you would not have thought CBS, but I think when [CBS’ entertainment president] Nina Tassler and her team read it and flipped for it, and we came in and talked about it, they had passion for this. They talk a lot about The Good Wife and how, a couple of years ago, you wouldn’t have thought that the The Good Wife was a CBS show. But you go from a CSI kind of a show—a pure procedural—to The Good Wife, which has a procedural element but it’s obviously very character-driven and has a lot of great story and characters on it. Hopefully, if we do it right, Ringer can be the next evolution of that. That is, on paper it’s not necessarily a CBS show but worked exceedingly well in that Good Wife way.”

WHAT’S THE PILOT’S PRODUCTION SCHEDULE LIKE? “We’re just ramping up now where we’re getting into casting, we’re getting into pre-production stuff, we’re getting into director,” Traugott says. “All of our stuff is starting now. The goal would be to shoot—you know, like all the other pilots—sometime in early to mid March.”

WHY IS GELLAR PERFECT FOR THIS ROLE? “I’m just a fan of Sarah’s,” Traugott says. “I’m excited that there’s a piece of material she’s excited about and obviously as a producer, I wanna get this show on the air, and as a big fan of Sarah’s, I just want to watch her on TV again. It seems like America wants to, and it seems like CBS was a fan from what I saw. Hopefully if we do our jobs right we’ll have an opportunity. We’re excited. She’s iconic.”

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

More from EW:

Fall TV development 2011-12: Tomorrow’s hits today?
by Lynette Rice and James Hibberd

Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ remake:
Kristy Swanson supports it… and wants to act in it

by Sandra Gonzalez

Joss Whedon talks about the end of the ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’
season 8 comic, and the future of season 9

by Adam B. Vary

Comments (165 total) Add your comment
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  • googie

    I want to see it now! Love her and it sounds like a winner for her!

    • whereisit

      Sounds like Lonestar, so it won’t last unless they put NCIS or CSI in the title.

      • Jackie

        @whereisit – I guess it does sound a little bit like ‘Lonestar’, but keep in mind that that was on Fox, and Fox is notorious for making stupid decisions when it comes to their programming, and ‘Lonestar’ didn’t have any big-name actors headlining the show. Everyone knows who Sarah Michelle Gellar is; people might watch it just for her.

      • Zam

        Lonestar had Jon Voight he is a big name actor.

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    • CC

      Unless she reprises her role as Buffy I don’t see her coming back any time soon.

    • chase

      Man, I love LOVE SMG, but this is garbage. I want her to guess star on HIMYM or Bones. I want her to do SCI-FI. I want her to kick a**… UGH!

      • xs

        God, I hope she stays clear of both Bones and HIMYM. She’s too good for both.

      • Page 48

        I’m with you on the sci-fi, but I don’t want her anywhere near a sitcom or “Bones”.

      • Phillip Martinez

        Um to the two comments, you guys do know why ppl want Sarah on Bones or HIMYM right? To have nostalgia yo… Its getting to see Sarah back with either Alyson or David. It’s mostly wishful thinking, but thats just mainly why ppl want her on those shows.

  • N

    Glad she’s back. Missed her on tv!

  • Summer

    This does sound very intriguing.

  • CL

    I guess I’ll have to turn on CBS now. I don’t watch a single show on that network, but if Buffy’s in it, then I’m watching it!

    • Reds

      Out of curiosity, why? I think CBS by far has the best lineup. NCIS, NCIS LA, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, The Mentalist, and although I don’t watch it, the 2 CSI series are still doing well.

      • Saracen Riggins

        If you like procedurals then sure, it’s a great lineup. I for one do not care for procedurals. The only thing I watch on CBS is HIMYM and BBT.

      • anya

        Well all of those shows have something in common, they’re procedurals, and if you’re not interested in that type of show, then their really isn’t much to watch on CBS. I’m excited for SMG to come back to tv though so I will probably be watching this.

      • Kim

        …and don’t forget Hawaii Five-O. I love all these shows except The Good Wife. Not sure about Sarah’s show yet, but will check it out.

      • Many

        Please name a show that isn’t a crime drama.

      • Tania

        Big Bang Theory. Ha! But yeah, took me a while to find one; CBS is all whodunnits all the time (except Thursdays at 8:00)

    • Jen E.

      Since they canceled Christine, I don’t watch a single CBS show either (but I can’t wait for this Buffy return). It’s nothing anti-CBS, none of their shows happen to interest me.

  • V

    Not convinced, Good Wife is a struggling show on CBS.
    If this was cable it would be perfect, maybe even ABC, but CBS, it’s dead.

    • Gavin

      The Good Wife is far from a struggling show. It receives excellent reviews and always places in the top 20 in the ratings.

    • Joe R

      “Struggling show”?? “The Good Wife” is considered a solit hit, with both fans and critics. In fact, every freshman series CBS launched this season has been picked up for the full season. CBS just knows how to create hits. I’m actually relieved “Ringer” is in CBS’s hands. If it was FOX, I’d be completely worried already!

      • Ricardo

        The Good Wife is a hit? Since when? Don’t get me wrong, I love the show and I even think CBS isn’t going to cancel it, but with its ratings (demo 18-49) it’s the definition of a bubble.

  • Dave

    I’m intrigued. I don’t watch anything on CBS, but this might get me to flip to the network.
    I was also hoping that she would do something on cable. I was really disappointed when The Wonderful Maladys fell through because I think she would be great in a dramedy show like that. But I’ll take what I can get. And this show sounds like it could have potential. Fingers crossed.

  • Truthhurts

    lol they act as if she’s some hard to get actress, considering the last thing she was in that anyone’s heard of was robot chicken i seriously doubt it took that much convincing to get her back to network tv lol

    • dropper

      MTE, but this does sound interesting so good for her.

    • Steph

      If you read about the industry even a little bit, you can tell that getting a TV pilot actually on the air is a lot of work and totally by chance. The article even said she did a pilot for HBO that never aired. I think her decision to be away from tv and take a lower profile in movies has to do with raising her family. Not all tv actors want to immediately return to the demands of a tv schedule, etc.

  • kyotoyoshi

    Oh boy, here come the haters. SMG obviously took time off from TV because TV is incredibly demanding as she would know since she’s been working in TV her entire life. She needed a break and she and her husband had a baby. It’s not like she was struggling to get TV pilots sent her way, considering there was a lot of interest in Maladys; it just didn’t fit HBO’s programming. SMG is probably one of the most sought after actresses in terms of TV roles and this pilot is probably going ahead and getting this much attention because of her involvement.

    • Truthhurts

      haha she needed a break huh? nice try to spin for her but considering she’s been acting in b movies just about every year i dont think thats the case. She just got tired of her movies being released straight to dvd is more my guess and wanted to get back to somethin all the buffy fanboys/girls could see her in as they’re really the only ones that are under the illusion that she has talent.

      • kyotoyoshi

        Hasn’t she been acting consistently since she was 5 years old? Because that’s what I seem to remember.

        You don’t seem to know much about how TV works in comparison to film, even though it should be common sense. TV requires more hours, odd hours and is filmed throughout the year. Film isn’t as intensive by any stretch of the imagination. Even a half hour comedy is a break from the sort of schedule that a TV drama requires. As the lead in a TV drama like BtVS, her life was dedicated to the series for 7 years, which is quite long time in TV. One of the reasons Joss ended the series was because of how much time it took and how grueling the schedule was, which I’m betting also factored into why she was ready for it to be over. People behave as though actors aren’t allowed to choose other projects; whether those fail or not is a gamble. In her exit interviews, SMG never said that she would never do TV again ever, she did however say that she needed a break from the sort of schedule that TV required in order to concentrate on other things, like her family, which she clearly did.

        There’s no point in talking sense though because I can see I’m not going to get very far with logic.

      • Reds

        I’m a big fan of hers, I think as good of an actress as she is, she’s just as bad at choosing roles. I mean…she can’t choose a good role to save her life when it comes to movies. As far as TV goes, I’m sure she is actually really sought after. She has the Buffy fans that will pretty much follow her anywhere. Thats a cult show, so her fans are pretty intense. Then if a good network lands her like CBS did, they’ll probably come out with a pretty good show and it’ll get more fans. I’m sure Kate Winslet is more sought after, but Sarah isn’t just some tv scrub that has to beg to come back.

      • Dave

        You do realize she had a baby less than a year and a half ago. Nothing wrong with taking a break after giving birth.

    • Truthhurts

      apparently you’re not getting what i’m saying here. As “high demand” as she is she’s still nothing more than a b list actor. Her acting is complete garbage (see southland tales and just about everything else she’s ever been in). Fine she “took a break” cause she’s been acting since she was 5. The point im making is she’s been acting in garbage the whole time. This article is treating her like she’s some huge amazing star when no one really cares about her outside of the whedonverse. Though as this show is gonna be on cbs i’m sure it will have astronomical rating’s regardless of how bad it is due to the 70+ crowd leaving cbs on as background noise while they wait for andy rooney to show up.

      But hey thanks for the “lesson” in tv oh enlightened one lol. I dont want to keep you as im sure buffy is airing on some 5th rate station and i know you wouldnt wanna miss it.

      • Michelle

        If her acting is garbage, then why does she have an Emmy? :D

      • steve carl

        One day, when you crawl out of your mother’s basement and into the light of adulthood, you may discover taste and tact. Did SMG steal your cheetos? Poor thing.

      • fireflystare221

        Why are you acting as though you are the absolute and final word in acting talent? You just became annoyed because someone lectured you, but then went on to do the exact same thing. What just because you think she is garbage she must be? We have all been so mistaken! Give me a break. I’m not saying her movies have been Oscar worthy but her acting is far from garbage. Whether you like Buffy or not, her acting on the show was superb. She was funny, witty, and she had some truly intense dramatic scenes. I am excited to see this show not because I love Buffy, but because I think she is a wonderful actress and will do a great job. Calm down sour grapes. I don’t know what SMG did to you but I’m sure she is sorry.

      • Gwen

        It will probably be a good series but I have to agree she is a lousy
        actress in B pictures.

      • TCin NJ

        Agree 100%. I have thought she was awful since she was on All My Children. I couldn’t get into Buffy because of her. She has the the same bitchy attitude in every role, which leads me to believe it is just her personality. I know a lot of people lie her, and they can have her.

      • Brooke

        I used to be a huge Sarah fan because of Buffy; but outside of Buffy she wasn’t doing anything to be remembered by. Cruel Inetions; that’s like one film of her’s I liked. The rest were awful. I actually didn’t mind Southland Tales but her role could have been played by anyone and the film would have been the same.

        What I realized is that the reason why she suceeded in Buffy was because of the writing, directing, and the rest of the cast. She works well with other people; but being a lead isn’t her thing; as seen with her many B-Rated films she’s done.

        Buffy was such an ensemble that it wasn’t just ABOUT Buffy it was about everyone and everything and that’s why she shined in it. There were so many Key factors to the success of Buffy.

        I too am shocked that she’s being treated like she’s this ‘actress that everyone wants’.

        I don’t hate her and she’s not awful; but she’s not great either.

  • Nick T


  • Truthhurts

    who knows though this doesnt have joss whedon involved so it might actually make it.

    • jodipo

      your not even a good troll. I guess you fail a lot, huh?

      • Truthhurts

        lol what? did you look up online buzz words and see “fail” as word of the day or somethin? As apu and kumar would say thank you come again

  • Xtine

    Cannot wait to see her back on TV. I’ll be watching.

  • Joey D

    I’m glad to see her coming back to TV. If David B can have a 2nd success with Bones, she can have a 2nd chance success with Ringers.

    • Lily

      Agreed, go SMG!

    • Thorny

      And Allyson Hannigan has had a solid hit the past five years with How I Met Your Mother. Frankly, with all the stunt casting “Bones” does, I’m surprised they haven’t gotten Gellar to do a guest role as Booth’s old flame.

      • Phillip Martinez

        I was thinking the same thing also! I’m surprised that anyone from the Buffyverse (Except TJ Thyne) hasn’t guest starred on Bones. Well only like four or five minor characters from Buffy were on Bones but major ones, nada. TJ Thyne was on the season five of Angel if anyone remembers.

    • Erin

      Yeah but he didn’t get all smug and high & mighty about TV like SMG. She did a Caruso.

      I used to love SMG but these days… I haven’t missed her at all. Buffy is another story.

      • Brooke

        I was a Buffy/SMG fan but when she showed her attitude about being better then TV; I thought it was karma when all she ended up getting was bad B rated films and the terrible Scooby Doo films.

  • ferdi

    Love smg! Can’t wait

  • Liz

    I missed her on tv! Can’t wait!

  • Michelle

    Love SMG. I really hope this show makes it and does well. Sarah deserves it; she’s awesome. I’ll be watching!

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