Her television breakthrough came in 1993, when she originated the role of Kendall Hart on the ABC daytime soap opera All My Children, winning the 1995 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series.
Gellar received widespread recognition for her portrayal of Buffy Summers on the WB series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003), which earned her five Teen Choice Awards, a Saturn Award and a Golden Globe Award nomination. Gellar also gained significant attention for her appearances in the slasher movies I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and Scream 2 (1997), and for her portrayal of Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions (1999).
At the age of nine, she appeared alongside Matthew Broderick and Eric Stoltz in the Broadway production The Widow Claire.
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Gellar was not present in class for most of the time at the school as she had to work in several acting projects simultaneously, recalling that she "had more absences in the first month than you're supposed to have for an entire year.
I was telling them that I had back problems and had to go to the doctor the whole time". La Guardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, but dropped out due to acting obligations; the teachers threatened to fail her because of her constant absence from classes as she was busy going to auditions, despite earning good grades.
She screen tested several times originally for the role of Cordelia Chase, During the early airing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she made her first major movie appearance in the slasher–thriller I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), co-starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze, Jr.
The film, loosely based on the 1973 novel of the same name, centers on four friends who are being stalked by a killer, one year after covering up a car accident in which they were involved.
she recalled in a 2004 interview: "I wasn’t allowed to eat there.
It was tough because, when you’re a little kid, Mc Donald’s is where all your friends have their birthday parties, so I missed out on a lot of apple pies." and also guest starred in various television series, such as Spenser: For Hire and Crossbow.She subsequently appeared in numerous smaller scale films, such as The Return (2006) and Southland Tales (2007), and provided her voice for TMNT (2007).Her later film credits include The Air I Breathe (2008), Possession (2009) and Veronika Decides to Die (2009).As she got the role, Gellar was complimented as having the acting talent and the "forceful personality" needed to go up against Lucci's experience; Kendall was supposed to be like a younger version of Erica.Gellar moved to Los Angeles following her departure from All My Children, and in 1996, she read the script for Joss Whedon's television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which follows Buffy Summers, a teenager burdened with the responsibility of fighting occult foes and supernatural occurrences.Two weeks later, she auditioned for a part in the television film An Invasion of Privacy, with Valerie Harper, Carol Kane and Jeff Daniels.