Whatever happened to Michelle Trachtenberg? The actress was born and raised in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, as reported by the New York Daily News. She spent her youth haunting the Brighton Beach boardwalk and the rollercoasters of Coney Island — when she wasn’t being bullied in school. Perhaps her tormentors saw her potential and were jealous, because she had mountains of it.
Though many know Trachtenberg simply as Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she’s played a child spy, an ice skater, a vacationing high schooler, and a gossiping queen bee. She’s produced, written, and starred in a variety of shows and films, as well as spoken multiple languages, led the charge on social issues, and even won a few awards along the way.
There might be nothing this Jackie of All Trades can’t do, though she’s modest about it. Trachtenberg once told Blackfilm, “The real me is sitting at home, no makeup, in my old sweatpants, watching DVDs.” Whether or not that’s true, her audiences love to watch her shine. For all interested parties, here’s what happened to Michelle Trachtenberg.
Michelle Trachtenberg got her start doing commercials
Michelle Trachtenberg’s Hollywood journey began, as many do, with commercials. “I saw a friend of mine in a commercial,” she told the Chicago Tribune back in 1996, “[I] walked over to my mom and said, ‘Mommy, I want to be on TV.'” And on TV she was! Her first commercial was for Wisk laundry detergent when she was just 3 years old, and as of her 1996 interview, she could still sing the commercial’s jingle. Trachtenberg went on to star in over 100 commercials for businesses like Hoover, Panasonic, Kraft, and Fuji.
The young star made the leap from commercials to episodic television when she played a dying child on Law & Order in 1991, according to her IMDb credits. Trachtenberg then went on to appear on Clarissa Explains it All before scoring a multi-episode arc on the famous soap opera All My Children as an autistic child. “That was an especially challenging role because I can’t talk much,” she continued.
Challenging though it was, Trachtenberg did a great job, as she soon caught the eye of Nickelodeon producers.
Michelle Trachtenberg "learned a lot" from being Harriet the Spy
After catching attention for her work on All My Children, young Michelle Trachtenberg was awarded the starring role of Nona on the Nickelodeon show The Adventures of Pete & Pete. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Trachtenberg saw so much success on that show that she had to leave it — since she got cast in the movie Harriet the Spy as Harriet herself. “I read those books when I was still in the 4th grade,” Trachtenberg recalled. Though she was familiar with the character, Trachtenberg had to audition “at least 15 times” (as she wrote on her personal Instagram page). But she booked it!
Trachtenberg stole hearts as the sneaky Harriet, spying on neighbors, writing in her super secret spy journal, and learning the importance of truth. Trachtenberg learned a few things while playing Harriet, too. “I learned about the value of friendship,” she continued. “I learned that a good friend is hard to find and you should never let them go.”
Michelle Trachtenberg had always been a big fan of Buffy
While Harriet the Spy was a success, it was her role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer that brought Michelle Trachtenberg to the world’s attention. Trachtenberg joined the cast of Buffy in the show’s fifth season as Buffy’s younger sister, Dawn Summers. As per IMDb, she ended up playing Dawn for three years (from 2000 to 2003) in over 60 episodes. Trachtenberg got to “see all the hardships Dawn goes through,” as she told BBC, “because even though she has this secret, she still has to play out her life like a regular teenage girl. She has to go to school, she has to do her chores and homework, she has to keep her room clean.”
What helped Michelle Trachtenberg create and live out Dawn? She’d “always been a big fan of the show.” As she revealed to Girl’s Life in 2000, the young actress had loved Buffy from the beginning. She also told BBC that her Buffy love allowed her to “guess” what would happen “during the course of the season,” which made it easier for her to bring truth to her character.
Sarah Michelle Gellar helped Michelle Trachtenberg land her Buffy role
No one can argue that Michelle Trachtenberg doesn’t have some serious acting chops. But, that doesn’t mean that she didn’t have help landing her roles — most notably, that of Dawn Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Trachtenberg had a serious “in” with Buffy in the form of its star, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Both ladies worked together on the soap opera All My Children and, as Trachtenberg told BBC, they kept in touch even after Gellar moved to Hollywood and found serious success.
In fact, Gellar actually invited Trachtenberg to visit her on the Buffy set, which set the casting process in motion. As Michelle told Girl’s Life, “When I came to visit, I met with Joss Whedon, who created the show. I kind of saw how it worked behind the scenes. Then, later on, I got the call.”
The Michelles continued their friendship throughout filming, even spending time together off the set. In the same Girl’s Life interview, Trachtenberg detailed her and Gellar’s bowling adventures saying, “It’s fun. Sarah has her own ball, and she’s convincing me to get my own, too. It’s fun!”
Michelle Trachtenberg has played both naughty and nice
Michelle Trachtenberg played a little sister that needed protecting on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but then she made a serious switch to a naughty, thrill-seeking party girl in 2004’s EuroTrip. The raunchy film tells the tale of a geeky boy who gets dumped by his girlfriend and then goes on a grand, beer-filled European adventure with his two best friends, one of whom was played by Trachtenberg.
Perhaps the most memorable, say-goodbye-to-her-good-girl-persona scene was the bikini scene in which the gang go to a nude beach and Jenny (Trachtenberg) strips down to an itty bitty blue bikini, shaking her hair while the camera slowly pans down her body. When asked about filming the infamous moment, Trachtenberg told Entertainment Weekly, “It was a little stressful. It was the first time that I’ve ever taken off that much clothing.”
The young actress also turned up the heat that same year when she played a spoiled singer named Celeste on HBO’s Six Feet Under. “She’s an actress, she’s a bi**h, she’s a diva in training,” Trachtenberg explained. Clearly, Trachtenberg proved that she could play both naughty and nice.
Michelle Trachtenberg learned how to skate for Ice Princess
As if she didn’t do enough already, Michelle Trachtenberg added “ice skating” to her special skills list when she starred in the 2005 Disney movie Ice Princess. She played Casey Carlyle, a whip-smart high schooler that decides to put her ice-skating dreams ahead of her academic career, much to her parents’ chagrin. Since Trachtenberg’s character was an ice skater, Trachtenberg had to become one, too. Before beginning her training for the movie, the starlet, as per an interview with People, had only taken one single ice skating lesson back when she was “eight or nine”. But her newbie status didn’t last long.
Trachtenberg told Entertainment Weekly that she was “skating five days a week for, like, two hours a day,” and took ballet classes every other day to prepare for the role. Her hard work paid off as she was able to do an “outside edge spread eagle” move for one particular shot, telling People, “Not even a lot of skaters who are Olympic level can do that.” Additionally, her coach believed she could “go on to compete” in ice skating after wrapping the movie.
Michelle Trachtenberg was almost Bella Swan in Twilight
How many vampires is too many? The answer, for Michelle Trachtenberg at least, is two. The Buffy The Vampire Slayer veteran apparently got her fill for stakes and fangs because she turned down the role of Bella Swan in Twilight (famously played by Kristen Stewart). When asked by Us Weekly if she was really once considered for the lead role in the tween flick films, Trachtenberg quipped, “There was definitely interest here and there because there’s only so few pale girls in Hollywood.”
For as pale as the young star was (and still is), it was probably her connection to Twilight‘s director, Catherine Hardwicke, that got her the offer. Trachtenberg had a relationship with Hardwicke that dated from when the actress was supposed to star in Thirteen.
How come we never got to see Michelle Trachtenberg romping around a meadow with a glittering Robert Pattinson? Trachtenberg revealed that the scheduling just didn’t work out, and since she’d been in Buffy she’d “already done the vampire thing.”
Michelle Trachtenberg was cast in 17 Again because she had "no chemistry" with Zac Efron
Ahhh, Zac Efron, the epitome of every teenage girl’s fantasies — except for Michelle Trachtenberg. The pair starred in 2009’s 17 Again as father and daughter, but with a twist. The heartwarming movie depicts Efron as a middle aged man who’s magically transformed into his 17-year-old self, and then goes about the town trying to recapture the dreams of his youth. Trachtenberg plays his daughter who, not knowing it’s her father in teen form, tries to seduce Efron.
Efron was probably cast in the role for his boyish charm and comedic skills, but Trachtenberg was cast because of their lack of chemistry. According to an interview with SyFy Wire, the film’s producers auditioned many girls who “wanted to jump [Efron’s] bones,” but “he and Michelle had no chemistry, so it worked.”
How did Trachtenberg feel about the reasoning behind her casting? It helped her to be comfortable on set. “He’s my daddy, and it’s weird for a father and daughter to have sexual chemistry,” she explained. “Zac and I interact as brother and sister.”
Michelle Trachtenberg crushed it as Georgina on Gossip Girl
There are TV characters we love, and TV characters we hate. But best of all? The ones we love to hate. Michelle Trachtenberg fulfilled our greatest fantasies of the latter when she played Georgina Sparks on Gossip Girl. Trachtenberg gossiped, plotted, and looked fabulous in couture for 28 episodes of the hit CW show, as per her IMDb page.
Trachtenberg first debuted as Georgina in season 1 as a former friend of Serena van der Woodsen, who escapes rehab to wreak havoc on the Upper East Side. Though her original plans are quickly foiled, Georgina continues to pop up throughout the series, causing trouble and creating plenty of drama.
While we love to hate Georgina, how did Michelle Trachtenberg feel about her? She had tons of fun playing the bad girl. “[Playing bad] is definitely a lot more fun than playing the good girl,” she told Seventeen in 2009. “I love the reaction you get. I never understood why some actors don’t want to play villains or evil characters.”
Michelle Trachtenberg brushed up her Russian for her role in Killing Kennedy
Michelle Trachtenberg proved once again that she’s not to be underestimated when she appeared in the National Geographic’s made-for-TV flick Killing Kennedy. The movie tells the tale of JFK’s final years, as well as infamous president killer Lee Harvey Oswald’s backstory.
Trachtenberg was cast as Oswald’s wife, Marina Oswald. Though most people, including her agents, assumed Trachtenberg would be gunning for the role of Jackie Kennedy, the actress got the part she wanted all along. “I said I wasn’t interested in that part, I wanted to be Marina Oswald,” she revealed to the New York Daily News in a 2013 interview.
Why did she want to play Marina Oswald? It turns out that Trachtenberg speaks fluent Russian! “Being very proud of my Russian roots, I’ve wanted for almost my entire life to bring this secret talent to my work,” she revealed. Trachtenberg originally learned the language from her Russian-born mother; she had to work with her mother for the film, refining her dialect to reflect the way “a woman in the late 1950s or early 1960s would speak Russian.” Fascinating!
Michelle Trachtenberg tried her hand at producing
Michelle Trachtenberg doesn’t just stun in front of the camera — she also rocks behind it. The actress added “producer” to her job list back in 2010 when she began work with the CW on a new teen drama. As per Vulture, Trachtenberg was set to star in the juicy, dark drama all about a criminology student that not only shows talent in solving cases, but also has a dark past all of her own. But she wasn’t just the star! Trachtenberg also came up with the show’s premise, thus prompting the CW to award her “producer” status.
Sadly, that show never came to be, but Trachtenberg’s producing days were far from over. She went on to produce and star in a 2015 web-series called Guidance, as credited on the show’s IMDb page. In the web-series, Trachtenberg plays a guidance counsellor named Anna who falls down a rabbit-hole of teen drama after discovering racy photos of a student on social media. Whether or not Trachtenberg is set to produce anything new, she’s still holding onto her producer title on her Twitter bio that reads,”actress/producer/writer/believer in Unicorns.”
Michelle Trachtenberg's kept busy with lots of small TV and film roles
Aside from her time on season one of Guidance, Michelle Trachtenberg really hasn’t had a big film or regular on-screen role since Killing Kennedy and Gossip Girl. Since she flaunted her Russian skills as Marina Oswald, the actress appeared in two made-for-TV movies: The Christmas Gift in 2015 and Sister Cities in 2016 (as per her IMDb page). In The Christmas Gift, Trachtenberg plays Meghan, a young reporter whose life is turned upside down when a stranger gives her a Christmas gift. She stars as Dallas in Sister Cities, a drama about estranged sisters coping with the death of their mother.
Trachtenberg also popped up in a few TV shows, making single-episode appearances on Criminal Minds, NCIS: Los Angeles, Sleepy Hollow, and SuperMansion between 2013 and 2015. And while this shows didn’t utilize her lovely face, she did lend her voice to characters on six episodes of Robot Chicken between 2006 and 2018 and 21 episodes of Human Kind Of in 2018.
Michelle Trachtenberg is a real giver
When she isn’t gracing TV screens, Michelle Trachtenberg spends her time working for various causes and charities. Take, for example, when she collaborated with designer Monica Botkier on a dark blue leather satchel and promised 50 percent of the proceeds to Oxfam (as per People and Marie Claire). How did she advertise the bag? She wore it on Gossip Girl, of course.
Trachtenberg’s charitable activities date back to long before she was Georgina Sparks. In fact, in an interview with RadioFree from 2005, Trachtenberg revealed that was she featured on Teen People‘s list of “20 Teens Who Will Change the World.” And for good reason! Even back then she’d already worked with organizations from R.A.D.D. and The Starlight Children’s Foundation to DARE Across America ( via TV Guide). Trachtenberg even helped launch the Coalition for Drug Free America with then-president Bill Clinton, as she posted on her Instagram page. “I think as long as one person tries to make an effort to do something that is changing the world in itself,” she declared.
Michelle Trachtenberg is an author
As if starring in TV shows and movies, speaking fluent Russian, ice skating, and being active in several charitable organizations isn’t enough, Michelle Trachtenberg is also an author. “My love of writing came from reading and being Harriet the Spy,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “Harriet would be proud.” She would be, as Trachtenberg revealed in that same interview that she’s written and sold “several projects” and is “fully WGA” — which is the Writer’s Guild of America, for all of us non-authors.
Trachtenberg also shared that she sold her very first writing project when she was just 23 years old, detailing that “it was about a serial killer.” What else is Trachtenberg working on? She penned a pilot for a TV show about a woman who wants to be a writer, as well as a period piece that’s based on a true story and “spans about a 30-year decade, starting in the ’50s.” We can’t wait to see it!
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