In recent years, Supa-Star Amy Acker has gained attention for her roles as Root in Person of Interest and Kate Strucker in Fox’s series The Gifted.
However, long term fans of the actor are more likely to remember her for her recurring appearances in the works of Joss Whedon. With appearances in five Whedon-driven projects so far in her career, Acker easily stands as one of the most beloved figures of the Whedonverse.
WINIFRED ‘FRED’ BURKLE, ANGEL
Acker’s first major role in the Whedonverse, and still her most well-known, is that of Winifred ‘Fred’ Burkle in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off series, Angel. Fred, a gifted physics student accidentally transported to the mostly-demon land of Pylea, first appeared in the final few episodes of season two. Angel and the gang find her while on their own trip to Pylea to rescue Cordelia, and they take Fred home with them.
While Fred takes a while to adjust to life back on Earth, unsure of where she belongs, she soon becomes a vital member of the Angel Investigations team. One of her most memorable storylines on the show was a long will-they-won’t-they romantic entanglement with Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. It leads to one of the Buffyverse’s most heartbreaking moments, when Fred is killed shortly after she and Wesley finally get together.
In a shocking twist, Fred’s death did not mean Acker’s departure from the show. While Fred’s soul was destroyed, her body was occupied by the spirit of Illyria, an ancient pure-breed demon. Initially an enemy, Illyria finds herself lost in a world very different from the one she remembered. Wesley, unable to turn away a being with Fred’s face, decides to help her adjust. She later plays a pivotal role in the series’ final battle. It is left ambiguous as to whether Illyria’s later heroic actions could have been influenced by any lingering pieces of Fred’s soul.
If Angel had continued into a sixth season, there were plans to split the remnants of Fred from Illyria, with Acker playing a dual role. A version of this story was later used in the Angel: Season 10 comics.
CLAIRE SAUNDERS/WHISKEY, DOLLHOUSE
In 2009, Acker took on the role of Dr. Claire Saunders in Dollhouse, created by Joss Whedon, and starring fellow Buffyverse alumna, Eliza Dushku, who also acted as a producer on the show. Saunders was supposedly employed to treat the mind-wiped actives, known as ‘dolls’, between missions. She often showed more sympathy for them than other Dollhouse employees.
As expected in a series with a core premise of overwriting characters with the personalities of others, all is not as it seems with the friendly doctor. Dr. Saunders is actually Whiskey, formerly a highly sought after active. After Whiskey’s face was badly scarred by an attack from a rogue doll, Alpha, she was implanted with the Dr. Saunders personality so she could continue to be useful to the Dollhouse.
WENDY LIN, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
2012 saw Acker appear in two Whedon-produced films. The first of these was The Cabin in the Woods, a film described by Whedon as a “loving hate letter” intended to revitalise the horror genre. Amy Acker plays Wendy Lin, a member of a group of mysterious scientists who are responsible for supervising an annual ritual meant to prevent the coming of the apocalypse. Acker is joined in the film by her former Dollhouse co-star Fran Kranz. The film also features Chris Hemsworth in a supporting role, filmed prior to his breakout role in Thor.
BEATRICE, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Next, Acker appeared as Beatrice in Whedon’s modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The film proved to be a huge Whedonverse reunion, with much of the cast built from Whedon’s past collaborators. The film reunited Amy Acker with former co-star Alexis Denisof, playing Beatrice’s love interest, Benedick. This made Much Ado About Nothing an extra special treat for Angel fans, with some choosing to view it as ‘Wesley and Fred’ getting a happy ending.
AUDREY NATHAN, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
From the moment the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series was announced, with Clark Gregg reprising the role of Agent Phil Coulson, fans wondered if the show would introduce ‘the cellist’, a love interest of Coulson who was first mentioned in The Avengers. Fans didn’t have long to wait, as the cellist, Audrey Nathan, appeared towards the end of the show’s first season, with Amy Acker cast in the role. The episode, in which S.H.I.E.L.D. protects Audrey from a stalker, proved bittersweet. To Audrey, and the world at large, Coulson was still supposed to be dead. He was left to help his former love from afar.
You can catch Amy Acker at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming Adelaide (November 2-3) and Brisbane (November 8-10).