Luke Perry's 'Buffy' Co-Star Kristy Swanson Recalls How He "Always Had My Back"

Courtesy of Photofest
Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

The actress (and longtime friend) remembers how Perry — who died at 52 on March 4 — was the true cheerleader on the film's set.

This still feels so raw. It’s still so hard to talk about. I was just reading our old text messages, when we would just check in with each other. “How you doing? How’s the family?” We were in touch a lot these last three or four years — we’d meet up with each other whenever we could. But there had been years that would go by when we got busy with our families and didn’t talk as much. When we did talk again, we just fell right back into the same old friendship. It was like no time had gone by.

We were friends before we did Buffy. We socialized in Hollywood, hung out together. Everybody knew everybody. I remember him telling me that he had a three-picture deal with 20th Century Fox and he really wanted to do this movie Lane Frost [a rodeo biopic that ended up being released by New Line in 1994 as 8 Seconds] but that Fox wanted him to do this other movie first — Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And he said to me, “I want you to audition for it. You have to audition for it. You’re perfect for it.” He was behind me the whole time, pushing me to audition and convincing the studio and [writer] Joss Whedon that I was the girl for the part. 

He was doing Beverly Hills 90210 while we were shooting the movie. He’d do the TV show during the day and Buffy at night. We did a lot of night shooting to work around his schedule — plus, it was a vampire movie, so we had a lot of night exteriors. But I got to witness quite a bit of his 90210 fame. If anybody found out where we were shooting Buffy, what street we were on, his 90210 fans would all come out. It was unbelievable. All those kids screaming, “Luke! Luke! Luke!” But Luke was very grounded. He was an Ohio boy. He embraced his fans but fame never, ever went to his head. 

I remember Luke telling me once that in high school he’d been the mascot during football games. That made total sense to me. I was playing a cheerleader in Buffy but he was really the on-set cheerleader while we were making that movie. He was always telling people how great they were doing. He was always positive and uplifting. He made everyone smile. And everybody loved him for it.

Luke was a sweet, simple guy. Nothing flashy about him. He just liked to keep life really uncomplicated. He was just a great guy and a great friend. He always had my back. And I’m always going to be grateful for that.