With the unconventional good looks and quirky persona that shout Leading Character Actress, Alyson Hannigan made a name for herself on the WB series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As Buffy’s confidant Willow Rosenberg, the actress endeared herself to a legion of fans and then won over film audiences everywhere with her scene-stealing turn as geeky flutist Michelle in the 1999 summer smash American Pie.
Born March 24, 1974, in Washington, D.C., Hannigan became a TV commercial veteran following her family’s move to Atlanta. From the age of four, Hannigan appeared in a steady stream of commercials, including ones for Oreo and McDonald’s. At the age of 11, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television. She made her big-screen debut in the 1988 film My Stepmother Is an Alien, as Dan Aykroyd’s daughter. The following year, she won a regular spot on the short-lived sitcom Free Spirit and acted in a variety of television miniseries and sitcoms (including Roseanne and Picket Fences) until 1997, when she won the part of Willow on Buffy.
The show proved to be an unexpected success among critics and viewers alike, and paved the way for Hannigan to appear opposite Tom Everett Scott in the 1998 comedy Dead Man on Campus. American Pie followed the next year, giving Hannigan wider recognition and making her an unintentional poster child for band camps everywhere. A small stint in the Jason Biggs/Freddie Prinze Jr. flop Boys and Girls (2000) did little to further her career, but thanks to a beefed-up part from writer Adam Herz, Hannigan found herself revisiting the sexually advanced but socially backward Michelle in 2001’s high-profile sequel American Pie 2. Though critics were mixed on the franchise’s sophomore offering, they praised Hannigan’s ability to fully flesh out a character who essentially served as an elaborate punch line in the first film.