UPN's stake in 'Vampire Slayer' is bigger than Buffy

— Could UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" continue, in time, without its title character?

Both the series creator and UPN's president say it's possible.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, who has starred as Buffy since the show's 1997 inception on the WB, has a contract that runs through the end of the coming season. While nothing's definitive, Gellar has suggested she might be growing tired of the drama grind.

However, UPN Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff said that some of the "Buffy" cast had contracts extending beyond the show's coming seventh season � and that she could envision a "Vampire Slayer" series without Gellar and Buffy at its center.

"Obviously, we would love to have Sarah back," Ostroff told the New York Daily News. "That is, by far, the best situation for us. But short of that, we are just starting to explore what that means and that might be.

"We're open to anything," she added. "There are possibilities. Whether or not it will work, we don't know. But it's something when the time is right, we'll look around and see what this could mean."

Groundwork is being laid, if only serendipitously, by having this year's story line returning Buffy to Sunnydale High (in some sort of "intimately involved" advisory capacity, according to creator Joss Whedon), and giving more attention to Buffy's little sister, Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn.

Whedon, too, thinks the show could extend past Gellar's reign.

"I believe it could," he said. "I don't know if it will. I don't know that she'll leave; I don't really have any information."

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