You've just made Scooby Doo with your fiancÚ, Freddie Prinze Jr. How was that?
"We were surprised how much interest there seemed to be in us in Australia. We've been trying to keep our relationship out of the press as much as possible by avoiding being photographed together, but in Sydney the paparazzi were everywhere. Sometimes it was hard to get a cup of coffee without worrying about being tracked down."
Did you like Australia?
"It was one of the best times of my life. I've fallen in love with Sydney. It's a beautiful city and I find the people very open and friendly. I can easily see myself living there one day because it's such an interesting place with incredible sights and natural beauty. After living in cities like New York and LA which have their own levels of stress attached. Sydney was a bit like paradise."
Was it complicated working with your fiancÚ every day?
"No, it made it all the more fun for us. It was perfect because we were able to spend more time together rather than being separated, like if we'd have been working in different cities on different films. This was a great experience for us, and if anything it brought us even closer."
How does it feel to be be playing Daphne?
"Daphne is pretty cool. She gets to wear all these funky outfits, purple dresses, scarves and things like that. She's a smart girl and knows how to take care of tough situations and I'd like to think of myself as being that way. But they made me wear all these really short skirts, which made me feel a little uncomfortable - I have this thing about my knees, I don't think they're very attractive because of all the falls I took when I used to ice-skate. But eventually I got used to the idea of showing my legs all the time! [Laughs] And the guys didn't seem to mind.
What about the attention you received for kissing Selma Blair in Cruel Intentions? Have you got that much attention for any other scene you've done?
" I got a lot of attention for kissing women- Selma and I won an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss that year! Not only did I get lots of attention for Cruel Intentions, but also my kissing scene with Lindsay Sloane on TV. And I kissed Velma in Scooby Doo. I'm not sure what's going on."
Your contract with Buffy is up next year. Are you thinking about leaving the show?
"No, not at all. I have plenty of time to begin thinking about focusing on my film career. I love Buffy and the people I work with on the show. I never think that I'm trapped. I think being Buffy will help my ability to do more movies than if I were simply one more struggling young actress out there looking for work. Of course, doing a series and trying to squeeze in movies during the off-season break is always going to be hard. But I have a lot of energy and I make sure I sleep enough so that I don't get exhausted that often. Saying that, it's important to me that Buffy goes out on top. I don't want to be on the show that should have ended a year ago."
Do you feel that evolved as a woman in ways like Buffy has?
"Yes. There are a lot of parallels that you can draw between is. I think the main difference is that Buffy took longer to come to understand certain things about herself and going a kind of self-awareness that you need if you're going to face life. Because I started as an actress so young and grew up in New York, I think I got more of a head start on maturity than Buffy did. But she's come a long way, and even though her situation is very surreal, we always try to show the emotional sides of her struggle in life.
"What I really like about the series is that even though there are the vampires and the fight sequences and those things going on on one level, there's also a deeper level of reality that every teenager or young woman can relate to. She's a young woman trying to come to terms with questions about her own identity and what kind of life she wants for herself. Buffy's inner struggles are universal."
In what ways has playing Buffy enabled you to reflect on your own life?
"Buffy has made me a stronger person. Growing up, I felt different from other kids and they would always tease me about my work in commercials or on TV to try and put me down. Those insults have a way of making you feel insecure at times, even if you are succeeding in your work and you know that you have some talent. When I won the role of Buffy, I realised it was something I could be proud of."
So, getting the role was a way of reassuring yourself that weren't just another wannabe actress?
[Laughs] "In a way... I know there's a certain amount of luck involved in getting any role, but also know we would never have been this successful with Buffy if I hadn't brought something to the role. All the success that the series has enjoyed has erased a lot of the self-doubts I grew up with. I don't feel like the 'nerd' or the 'loser' anymore. Now I have the confidence to enjoy life and not worry about what other people think. If you're going to be happy in life you need to feel that kind of freedom to be yourself."
what is Buffy's main struggle?
"Buffy's concerned with being loved and accepted for who she is. She lives with the contradiction of not being able to make her real life live up to her intellectual ideals. As a vampire killer, she's the fearless, aggressive person she has to be. But in daily life, she's still finding her way. I think people identify with her because we're all struggling to become the kind of person we'd like to be."
Has Buffy's message for young women changed at all as the series has evolved?
"No, not really. It's still all about not tying your identity and self-esteem to how many friends you have, how attractive people think you are, or whether you have a boyfriend or not. The basic message is to have the freedom to be who you are and not subscribe to anyone else's definition of what cool or normal should be. There's so much pressure when it comes to clothes and weight and appearance, especially for women. Buffy is saying, 'Get your act together and stop feeling sorry for yourself.'"
Are you as sarcastic in real life as you are as Buffy?
"You mean you haven't noticed it yet? [Laughs] I try to watch myself in interview situations and with strangers though. Some of that comes from growing up in New York, but most of it comes with having to deal with all my horrible, vicious classmates in high school. But of course, now they all have to drool over my success!" [Laughs]
And you've Freddie Prinze Jr, too, just to rub it in...
"Yeah, my heart bleeds. [Laughs] I've learned that after a while you don't care about those nasty people you meet along the way. You can't let their warped behaviour and petty jealousy become part of you. You have to let it go and be clear that you've motivated to succeed not because you want to prove to your old classmates what bitches they were, but because it's what you want for yourself.