There's Much More To Michelle Trachtenberg Than Meets The Eye

Michelle Trachtenberg had already figured out her life's calling when she was just a toddler. "I saw a friend of mine in a commercial," the actor recalled to the Orange County Register in 1996. "and walked over to my mom and said, 'Mommy, I want to be on TV.'" Shortly after launching her acting career, Trachtenberg started booking TV commercials and minor television roles. Her breakout moment came in 1996 when the then-10-year-old starred in the classic Nickelodeon film "Harriet the Spy."

After her big-screen debut, Trachtenberg stayed firmly planted in the spotlight. Her star continued to rise throughout the aughts and 2010s as she appeared in some of the era's most popular films and TV series. In 2005, the superstar spoke to RadioFree about what fuels her career. "I feel that in order to truly be an actor, you have to differentiate yourself and your roles, and you have to constantly challenge yourself. I'm not interested in just doing glitzy movie after glitzy movie and being on the cover of Us Weekly every day," she explained. 

You may recognize Trachtenberg from her roles in megahits like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "17 Again," and "Gossip Girl." You might even be familiar with Trachtenberg's transformation from child star to Hollywood hotshot, but we assure you: there's much more to her than meets the eye. Beyond the characters she's portrayed in television and film, she harbors a fascinating life story, some hidden talents, and a few juicy secrets.

Michelle Trachtenberg loved being a child star

A few years after landing her first commercial, Michelle Trachtenberg made the jump to network TV. The budding actor appeared in numerous popular shows, including "Clarissa Explains It All," "All My Children," and "The Adventures of Pete & Pete." In 1996, she nabbed the leading role in "Harriet the Spy," which featured a star-studded cast. "I turned 10 years old on the first day of principal photography of 'Harriet the Spy.' Rosie [O'Donnell] was my biggest supporter," the actor recalled to Entertainment Tonight. "There was a lot required of me. I'm extremely grateful for the experience." 

Of course, child stardom can have potentially devastating effects — we've all seen examples of former child actors who went on to struggle in their adult lives. Fortunately for Trachtenberg, she loved growing up in show business. "I'm very lucky, I didn't really have pitfalls," the actor told HuffPost Live in 2013. She added, "First of all, I've never done a drug in my life and it's not something I think about ... and to me, I value and appreciate my career so much, and this is the rest of my life. This is how I make a living, this is how I pay my bills, this is what I hope to be doing for the next 50 years in longevity. Why would I want to do something to mess it up, to take it all away?"

Michelle Trachtenberg was bullied as a youngster

By the time she entered middle school, Michelle Trachtenberg seemingly had it all: an impressive acting resume, global fame, and a flourishing show business career. But it wasn't all glitz and glamor for the budding actor. At school, Trachtenberg was bullied by her classmates. Speaking to Complex in 2010, the actor revealed, "When I was in elementary school, this one girl threw me down a flight of stairs, fractured my ribs, punched and fractured my nose, and told the principal I used the word "b***h" and got me [sent to] detention—the only time I've ever been thrown in detention in my life." During Junior High, Trachtenberg was tormented by a group of girls who would beat her up and hide her clothes after gym class. 

Several years later, Trachtenberg got the last laugh when she ran into a former bully in New York City. "We were coming out of a restaurant and there was a wall of like 20 paparazzi," the superstar recalled. "They were probably waiting for Paris Hilton and I just happened to come out. I have never before or since said something like this, because it's so disgusting, but I turned to her and was like, 'Oh, I'm sorry. I'm really famous. They need to take my picture. Sucks for you.'"

Her Buffy the Vampire Slayer character sparked controversy

In 2000, Michelle Trachtenberg joined the cast of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as the heroic Buffy Summers. Trachtenberg played Dawn Summers, Buffy's mischievous younger sister. At the time, Gellar and Trachtenberg were hardly strangers; the pair had become friends years earlier while working together on "All My Children." Just a few weeks before landing the role of Dawn, Trachtenberg had visited Gellar on the "Buffy" set. "I'd always been a big fan of the show, but I had absolutely no idea they were casting for Dawn," the actor told Girls' 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. It was an exciting process."

Unfortunately for Trachtenberg, Dawn was a controversial figure in the Buffyverse. While some fans embraced the character, others felt she was childish, annoying, and unlikeable. In response to the critics, Trachtenberg defended Dawn. "Most of the haters don't have the guts to say things in person," the actor told Entertainment Weekly. She went on to note that Dawn's moodiness was intentional. "Hi, were you a teenager? Oh, you were docile, sitting in the corner, doe-eyed and happy to be there? No," she said. "There's a reason why teenagers have a stigma and that is what Joss wrote."

She had a strange regret about her time on Buffy

The early aughts were a boon for Michelle Trachtenberg. Thanks to the success of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the actor became a bona fide teen idol and went on to appear in other hits like "Ice Princess" and "EuroTrip." However, despite gaining massive visibility from "Buffy," Trachtenberg was relieved when the show ended in 2003. "Well, honestly when I left 'Buffy,' I never thought I'd go back to TV, because I've done it," the TV star told Entertainment Tonight in 2021. She added, "I found TV to be rather stifling, especially 'Buffy.' Three years as one character — where they're not changing the character and your abilities aren't being tested or challenged — gets very repetitive."

While she may have been ready to part ways with "Buffy," Trachtenberg had one slight regret about her time on the show. "I wish I stole more things from the magic shop," she proclaimed. "Actually, I was texting with Sarah [Michelle Gellar] the other day. And I was like, 'Oh, man. I should have taken a whole bunch of stuff.'" As fans will recall, the aforementioned magic shop was called The Magic Box, and it was a central hangout for Buffy, Dawn, and the other characters.

Considering Dawn's canonical habit of stealing from the Magic Box, fans were amused by Trachtenberg's confession. In fact, Dawn's sticky fingers at the Magic Box catalyzed one of the most iconic "Buffy" episodes, "Once More With Feeling."

Michelle Trachtenberg could've starred in Twilight

During her heyday in the 1990s and aughts, Michelle Trachtenberg blessed us with an array of characters, from a starry-eyed high schooler in "17 Again" to a professional figure skater in "Ice Princess." Surprisingly, Trachtenberg was once in the running to play another iconic character: Bella Swan in "Twilight." That's right — Trachtenberg almost beat out Kristen Stewart for the role of the broody vampire-lover. 

As Trachtenberg explained to Us Weekly in 2011, "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke personally approached her about playing the role of Bella. "There was definitely interest here and there because there's only so few pale girls in Hollywood," Trachtenberg shared. She ultimately turned down the role because she was already busy with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Like "Buffy," the "Twilight" saga became a smash hit, amassing an enormous cult following. Given the franchise's success, you might assume that Trachtenberg harbors regrets about declining to join the cast of "Twilight" — however, that couldn't be further from the truth. Trachtenberg told Us Weekly that she was perfectly content with having just one vampire drama under her belt. "I already have Buffy," she proclaimed. "I've already done the vampire thing."

She found filming nude scenes to be 'creepy'

For some child stars, the pressures of growing up in the limelight can be immense. In Michelle Trachtenberg's case, the transition from child star to teen idol was a bit challenging. For one thing, fame made it impossible for her to escape scrutiny about her changing appearance — and sometimes, the commentary got downright inappropriate. As Trachtenberg recalled to Complex in 2010, she'd even heard there was an online countdown to her 18th birthday. (This was a particularly disgusting trend that ran rampant in the 2000s, plaguing everyone from the Olsen twins to Lindsay Lohan to Emma Watson.) "Even at the time, I was like, 'You're never gonna get a chance! So what's your counter for?'" she said. 

After she turned 18, she did take on a few racier roles. In 2004, she performed a steamy, slow-motion bikini scene in the movie "EuroTrip." Reflecting on the experience, Trachtenberg told Entertainment Weekly, "It was a little stressful. It was the first time that I've ever taken off that much clothing — on screen, I mean. But it was such a funny situation." 

Two years later, Trachtenberg bared her derriere in the film "Beautiful Ohio." "It's really creepy," she confessed to Complex. "When I was filming 'Beautiful Ohio' and we were doing the scene with my naked tush, [that was] probably one of the most horrendous moments of my life. It would take an army—or Martin Scorsese—to ever get me naked again. I am very aware of screen caps."

She excelled at figure skating while training for her role in Ice Princes

In 2005, Michelle Trachtenberg starred in the classic live-action Disney film "Ice Princess" about an aspiring figure skater named Casey Carlyle. To prepare for the role, Trachtenberg had to do a lot more than simply memorize lines. "Then they told me I had to train for eight months to be an ice skater, and that was really intense. I had to sort of work my butt off, she told ScreenSlam. By all accounts, she really worked her butt off. "I was working, training five hours a day, five days a week, and I had ballet every other day," the actor shared with Blackfilm

The training — and the multiple injuries she sustained throughout the process — paid off. Trachtenberg was not only ready to crush it on the ice in front of the camera, but she now had a new impressive skill in her tool belt. "I do waltz jumps and I can land a single toe loop, she recalled to Blackfilm. By the time she finished the film, her coach said she had what it took to give professional ice skating a shot. However, the actor told Entertainment Weekly in 2004 she wasn't interested in pursuing that path. "I will not be quitting acting anytime soon, certainly not for ice skating," she said.

Her bilingualism came in handy for her role in Killing Kennedy

By the 2010s, Michelle Trachtenberg had begun taking on some of her most diverse roles yet. In 2013, the actor showed off her range by starring in the made-for-tv biopic "Killing Kennedy." The movie, which aired on the Nat Geo network, focused on the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Trachtenberg played Oswald's wife, a Russian transplant named Marina Oswald. The actor prepared for the role with a physical transformation that channeled the real-life Marina: she traded in her black tresses for a wavy bob and adopted a wardrobe consisting of 60s-era house dresses.

Trachtenberg also had a special skill that allowed her to forge a personal connection with her character. Like Marina Oswald, Trachtenberg is fluent in Russian. The actor learned to speak the language from her mother, who is a Russian immigrant. "She's fluent, of course, and has helped make me fluent, though not on the level that she or other Americans who came from Russia are," Trachtenberg told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. 

Thanks to her Russian proficiency, Trachtenberg's mother was able to help her embrace the role of Marina Oswald. "My mom would break down each script with me and was on call every day," the actor explained. "I'd call her up and ask her how to pronounce things like 'Please don't shoot the president.'"

She spoke out against Buffy creator Joss Whedon

When "Buffy the Vampire" premiered in 1997, the series became a pop-cultural icon. Fans praised the show's creator, Joss Whedon, for portraying Buffy Summers as an autonomous, complex, and resilient character — a paragon of women's empowerment in media. For years, Whedon was touted as a feminist hero, but things changed in 2021 when former "Buffy" co-star Charisma Carpenter made harrowing accusations against the TV titan. 

In an X, formerly known as Twitter, post the actor — who played Cordelia Chase in the series — accused Whedon of verbal abuse, body-shaming, and creating an overall negative experience behind the scenes. Following Carpenter's lead, "Buffy" star Sarah Michelle Gellar opened up about the toxic environment on the "Buffy" set. In an Instagram post, the actor wrote, "While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don't want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon ... I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out."

In February 2021, Michelle Trachtenberg also spoke out against Whedon. The actor reposted Gellar's statement on Instagram with the caption, "Thank you @sarahmgellar for saying this. I am brave enough now as a 35 year old woman ... To repost this. Because. This must. Be known." Trachtenberg also revealed that Whedon wasn't allowed to be alone with her on the set of "Buffy."

She's battled fat-shaming and plastic surgery rumors

Like many Hollywood figures, Michelle Trachtenberg has dealt with plenty of unwelcome speculation about her looks. In 2010, the actor told Complex that she'd been a victim of body shaming. "It's been really hard," Trachtenberg admitted. "There are tabloid magazines that call me fat. That's hard to accept, but it's also hard to think about the girl who's not as thin as I am and who looks at me as a role model — if I'm not skinny enough, then what chance does this girl have? That s**t bothers me." Despite being hurt by the negative attention, Trachtenberg has always tried her best to ignore the naysayers. These days, she's active on Instagram and uses the platform to update fans about her life.

In January 2024, Trachtenberg shared a selfie on Instagram that sparked a flurry of invasive commentary. While most comments were supportive, some fans noted that Trachtenberg looked dramatically different from recent years. A few even wondered if the superstar had undergone plastic surgery. One person wrote (via People), "You're stunning, but you had buccal fat removal. Your cheeks suddenly look sucked in, exactly the same way the buccal fat removal in the face/cheeks does to people." 

Trachtenberg was quick to shut down the plastic surgery speculation. A few hours after her initial post, the actor uploaded another selfie and wrote, "I've received several comments recently about my appearance. I have never had plastic surgery I am happy and healthy. Check yourself haters."

Her Hollywood career goes beyond acting

Michelle Trachtenberg may be an iconic actor of the '90s and '00s, but that's not all she's known for. In addition to her onscreen roles, she has also written a few scripts. "I'm fully WGA [Writers Guild of America] and a writer and have sold several projects," Trachtenberg gushed to Entertainment Weekly in 2016. "I feel like [I'm living] a Hollywood version of [my 'Harriet the Spy' character] Harriet's life."

Aside from her writing career, Trachtenberg has also dabbled in a few other aspects of show business. In 2021, the actor was an executive producer, host, and narrator on a Tubi true crime docuseries called "Meet, Marry, Murder." When asked about her decision to throw her hat in the true crime genre ring on "Access Hollywood," she dug into what set "Meet, Marry, Murder" apart from other shows. "The biggest, most important thing to me in a true crime series is honoring the families and the people who lost their loved one, and just basically making sure that we are telling a real story," she said. 

"Meet, Marry, Murder" wasn't the first time Trachtenberg served as an executive producer on a project. Before that, she also executive produced a webseries called "Guidance." The show, which was released on go90, ran for three seasons. Trachtenberg played a school guidance counselor in the first season.