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WandaVision’s Emma Caulfield on the Perils of Being a Red Herring

WandaVision‘s Emma Caulfield on the Perils of Being a Red Herring 

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 90210 alum begs WandaVision fans not to take their vengeance on her. 

March 6, 2021

WandaVision's Emma Caulfield on the Perils of Being a Red Herring

Courtesy of Dean Foreman 

This article contains frank discussion of the WandaVision series finale. If you haven’t yet watched, enter at your own risk. 

“I hope no one eggs my house!” actress Emma Caulfield jokes the morning after the WandaVision series finale dropped on Disney Plus. After weeks of rampant speculation and fevered fan imagining, her character, Dottie Jones, was revealed not to be some surprise Marvel character or big twist but, simply, just one of many residents of Westview, New Jersey suffering under Wanda’s spell. But viewers needn’t be embarrassed that Caulfield’s appearance on the show caused them to speculate wildly. That, the actress said, was precisely her intended role on the show. She also hints at an upcoming mystery project that will surely throw another log on the fire of fan speculation. 

Caulfield spoke with Vanity Fair’s Still Watching podcast about the tricky role she played in keeping everyone on their toes and what it was like to reunite with WandaVision showrunner Jac Schaeffer who directed her in the sweet 2009 sci-fi romanceTimer

Emma Caulfield’s Dottie Jones was eventually revealed to be someone named Sarah Proctor (more on that in a bit), but she wasn’t the biggest red herring casting stunt on the show. That honor likely belongs to actor Evan Peters who was revealed not to be any kind of key to a grand multiverse storytelling plan but, rather, another Westview resident named Ralph Bohner. Oh well. Still, Caulfield explains, she was seeded into the cast in the second episode specifically to catch the eye of genre fans who might be familiar with her work as the vengeance demon Anya on beloved cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer

“It was very intended to have me show up in that fashion,” she explains. “Calculate is not the right word but it’s purposeful. You’re not going to have me show up and, and immediately think there’s nothing to my being there. It’s obviously going to pull in a similar fan base [to Buffy]. That was intended.” Part of that plan required keeping Caulfield’s casting a complete secret until she emerged as queen bee of the neighborhood in Episode 2. 

Caulfield said the intense fan reaction to her first appearance was immediate and caught her by surprise. At first, it was thrilling. She had as much fun as anyone chasing down fan guesses as to which mystical and mysterious character from the Marvel comics she might be. But the intensity of the guesswork soon made her a little nervous: “You want everyone to be satisfied.”

Caulfield spent the next several weeks in something of a tight spot both being genuinely enthusiastic about and wanting to promote the show, and not wanting to mislead anyone about the nature of her role. “It was impossible for people to not be disappointed!” she said. “I’m trying not to feel disingenuous, but knowing full well [their theories were] just so far removed from the truth. That’s tough, being the red herring. Again, I hope no one eggs my house.”

Caulfield is aware that there is still, even now, speculation swirling around her character because the name, Sarah Proctor, is the same as a woman who was accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. “I actually genuinely don’t know anything about that either,” Caulfield said. 

But when asked what she was working on next, Caulfield demurred: “Well in typical fashion, I’m not allowed to say anything. So there you go. I can neither confirm nor deny reports of me doing anything. I can confirm that I’m really enjoying cooking a lot. I am really digging that and I can confirm that my daughter is the best thing in all my universes.” Is that a reference to the multiver—no, you know what, we’ve learned our lesson. 

Despite the seemingly straightforward nature of her character, Caulfield did have a big moment in the finale when her character, Sarah, approached Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff to beg to be released from her spell. It was a mother pleading with another mother for clemency which is not exactly typical Marvel fare. “It shines a spotlight on this domestic life,” Caulfield says. “All this power or lack of power and grief and promise is wrapped up in that bubble and mirroring, in an unforeseen way, our own bubbles at home. The pressure cooker which we have all been in with lockdown.”  

And if, in the frenzy and pressure of lockdown, some Emma Caulfield fans got carried away hoping to see even more of her in screen in WandaVision, well, who can blame them for dreaming?

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