Biography

Michelle Christine Trachtenberg was born on the 11th October, 1985, in New York, New York, USA.

Acting…

bio1At the young and tender age of three Michelle said to her mom, Lana, that she wanted to be an actress, and soon she made her first appearance on television in a Wisk soap-powder advert.

Over the next 16 years Michelle would go on to appear in over a hundred commercials, several movies, including her first and most notable movie, “Harriet the Spy”, in which she played the title role of Harriet M. Welch at the age of 11, and many TV shows, including “The Adventures of Pete and Pete”, “Meego”, and “All My Children”.

Michelle also had a supporting role in the live action remake of the 1980s cartoon “Inspector Gadget” playing Penny, Inspector Gadget’s niece. Following that she went on to become a major part of the 5th season story arc of the WB cult show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, in which she plays Dawn Summers, the younger sister of the lead character Buffy.

Michelle can currently be seen on US TV screens in reruns of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and in the Discovery Kids documentary series titled “Truth or Scare” on the Discovery Kids channel.

Since the end of “Buffy” in May 2003 Michelle has completed several film and television projects, including a six episode guest spot on “Six Feet Under” and the teen comedy feature film “Eurotrip” from Blue Sea Productions Inc. and Dreamworks, as well as the indie film “Mysterious Skin” from Greg Aki and the Disney family film “Ice Princess”. Michelle has also filmed a telemovie for the US Lifetime channel called “The Dive From Clausen’s Pier,” which is scheduled to premiere in July 2005, and is now filming the film “Odd Girl Out.” She is scheduled to start filming “Vinyl” and “Four Women” in the latter half of 2005.

Michelle enjoys acting because it allows her to be whoever and whatever she wants to be. She has never had any acting lessons but has been performing naturally since her first commercial.

“It’s very cool to know that something I love to do gives back to the audience. I love entertaining people, and giving them a reason to tune in to their televisions. I love doing what I do so much, that when someone gives me a compliment, I truly appreciate it.”

“I love to be in front of the camera and I love to make people cry – is that a horrible thing?”

Co-stars On Michelle…

James Masters (Spike on “BtVS”), said when he was asked what is was like on the set with the addition of Michelle:
“It’s a very female set. You know? Ah, you don’t crack ah… Well the one thing that’s changed is we really have to watch our jokes around Michelle Trachtenberg – that’s the big change. Everyone’s like looking “Is Michelle here?” And then they tell the dirty joke. Or, like, we’ll do a cuss word and Michelle will be right there and well be like URGH! Especially Sarah. She is very protective of Michelle because Sarah started in the business young too. And, um, both she and Joss are very aware that Michelle does not need to grow up any faster than she needs to grow up, and that she deserves as much of a childhood as we can give her. She’s gonna hate me for that by the way! She’s gonna, (pretends to be Michelle) “I’m not a child! What? childhood? Get out of here!” Michelle rocks but she doesn’t need to hear the dirty words right now, she doesn’t want to hear those words.”

Amber Benson (Tara on “BtVS”) said when she was asked if she had met Michelle yet:
“Noooo! I’m really excited Because I’m a fan from Harriet the Spy. I love that movie!”

When asked: “What’s Michelle Trachtenberg like? I think she’s a great addition to the show…” she answered:
“Me too. She is sweet and kind and a wonderful actress.”

Debby Beece, president of Nickelodeon Movies, 7/10/96:
“Michelle comes off as genuine because she really is a genuine kid. Everyone can identify with her.”

Rosie O’Donnell (Golly in “Harriet the Spy”), during filming of “Harriet”:
“The hottest 11-year-old actress in the country.”

Joss Whedon, “BtVS” creator and executive producer:
“She got to a very real, dramatic, intense place that nobody else had come close to. She tucked it under her arm and walked away with it.”

“She’s just always bouncing around, very perky. She’s so excited that for the people who have been doing this for a long time, we’re kind of buoyed by it. We’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is a lot of fun!’ ”

Family Connection…

Michelle lives in LA with her mother, while her father, Michael, and her older sister Irene, 21, live in Brooklyn, New York, where Michelle originally grew up.

Her family has always been very supportive of her acting career. Her mom acts as her agent and even goes on location with her. Michelle says that if it wasn’t for her mom, who told her that she should always believe in her herself, she would not be where she is today.

Looking up to…

Michelle has several role models including Al Pacino, Jodie Foster and Claire Danes, but she says her true role model has to be her mom because “she’s always able to look at the optimistic side of any situation” and she has been Michelle’s greatest supporter.

“I have two really big role models. First of all, Jodie Foster, because I think she has done a terrific job in paving the way for women in Hollywood through all of her amazing accomplishments. And the second one is my mom, because she’s always been a person that I can depend on and turn too. And she’s so strong. She also gave me the best advice that I’ve ever received, and I give it to anyone when I get a chance.”

School Days…

Michelle is a very mature and intelligent young woman and she firmly believes education is very important and definitely wants to go to college when she graduates. When Michelle isn’t filming she attends a normal high school. When she is filming, she gets tutored on-set by a private tutor. Michelle is an excellent student and she has taken part in accelerated programs throughout her school years. Her number one subject is English, but she has a dislike for math. After high school she plans to go to college and work on movies in the summer, however she’s considering taking a year off to make a movie before college. Her ideal choice of college is be Yale where she would like to major in Drama and minor in English Literature.

“Whenever I have a couple of off days I go to regular school. But I have a teacher on set that talks to my school that gets all the work from school and I do it and send it back. This is a great method because it’s 1 teacher to 1 kid instead of 1 teacher to 30 kids, which is good. I’ve always been a good student. I think education is very important. No matter what you always have to have a background in education and everyone on set always makes sure I get my daily hours of school. Whenever I’m working half of the time I’m working has to be spent on school.”

bio2Michelle graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California with the Class of 2003 on Saturday, June 7, 2003. She earned Awards of Excellence in Social Studies and Religion as well, she earned recognition from the California Scholarship Federation. According to all the information available she’s planning on attending the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Buffy fan before Dawn…

Michelle was a fan of “Buffy” since before she got the role of Dawn, she collects “Buffy” items. She has also worked with Sarah Michelle Gellar on “All My Children” and it was Sarah who recommended her to Joss Whedon for the part. They have a lot in common and Michelle says Sarah has been very supportive of her.

“I’ve known Sarah for seven or eight years, since All My Children, and in the years I’ve known her she’s really grown as a person and a professional. We have a lot of fun together, and I think we have a lot of chemistry when we’re in scenes together. I hope you guys see that too. When on set, if I ever have a cold, she brings me tea and throat lozenges – stuff to make me feel better. She’s a great person.”

In her spare time…

Michelle’s hobbies include writing short stories, screenplays and poetry, and reading. She enjoys making beaded jewelry and collecting fairies. Like her onscreen character, Dawn, she reads the Harry Potter books. During the summer she swims in her pool. She loves hanging out with her friends and going shopping. She has taken Tae Kwon-Do lessons and loves playing tennis. She enjoys going bowling with the cast of “Buffy”. She likes rollerblading, ice-skating and bicycling. She does yoga which she calls “very centering”.

“I love tennis. I tried gymnastics at one point, but my tush got a whole lot of black and blue so that wasn’t fun.”

Michelle is very active in charity work, including Youth of America, DARE, Kmart’s Race Against Drugs, RADD, and the Starlight Children’s Foundation. When asked about her anti-drugs work, she answered, “If I can stop one kid from doing drugs, I know I’ll have made a difference.” A few years ago she helped then President Bill Clinton launch “The Coalition for a Drug Free America” campaign at CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta.

Michelle’s Favorites…

Favorite Subject: English
Favorite Movies: “Grease”, “The Sound of Music”, “The Matrix”
Favorite TV Shows: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Survivor”
Favorite Color: Purple
Favorite Food: her mom’s stuffed mushrooms
Favorite Actresses: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rosie O’Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg, Claire Danes, Jodie Foster.
Favorite Actors: Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, John Travolta.
Favorite Music: Marc Antony, Destiny’s Child, Debelah Morgan
Favorite Books: Jane Eyre, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, the Harry Potter books
Favorite Team: LA Lakers

Interesting Michelle…

She worked with Sarah Michelle Gellar on “All My Children” (1970) before “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997) and they were good friends. Sarah was the one who recommended Michelle for the part of Dawn.

She grew up in New York but moved to LA three years ago with her mom. Her dad still lives in New York. Her sister Irene recently graduated from college.

Appeared at the Xcel Center at a Sci-fi expo alongside Kristine Sutherland (May 2002)

Said the last line ever in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997) series.

Dating X-Men actor Shawn Ashmore (2004-)

She loves to play tennis.

She helped then President Bill Clinton launch The Coalition for a Drug Free America campaign.

Attended Notre Dame High School. She graduated with awards in Social Studies and Religion and was also named under the California Scholarship Federation.

Shares a birthday with Joan Cusack and Luke Perry.

Attended Bay Academy Junior High School in Brooklyn, New York

Speaks Russian.

Her birthday is also the wedding anniversary of her “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997) cast mate Alyson Hannigan (Willow) and “Angel” (1999/I)’s Alexis Denisof (Wesley).

Was able to sneak a souvenir from the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” set when the show ended, a wooden stake.

Studied ballet as a child, which helped her perfect her skating abilities for “The Ice Princess.”

Is of Russian and German decent

Participated in the golf tournament in Jamaica hosted by Carmen Electra.

Hobbies: Swimming, ice skating, writing poems

Attended Isaac Assimov Public School 99 for elementary school

Has an older sister Irene, b. 1978

Quotable Michelle…

bio3“I love gardening. I think it’s very therapeutic when you’re having a bad day.”

[On being involved in a Buffy spin-off] “I didn’t see myself continuing as Dawn because I like to have diversity in my roles. A lot of people are like: “Oh my God! Little Dawn grew up!” And as much as I love you guys, suck it up.”

[On why she chose not to continue her role as Dawn Summers] “I felt like every year, my character got younger as I got older. The scripts even had me speaking grammatically incorrectly. So I had to do something else. Besides, the show is over. If you miss it, get the DVDs.”

[on the future of Buffy] I’m sure that in some way, shape or form “Buffy” will be continued or the story, through the fans, because we do have such devoted fans and that’s always been very sweet.

“One day I’d like to win an Oscar. But, I tell my mom if I ever get to be rude and demanding to let me know and I’ll stop it. I don’t want to be an actor like that.”

“My confidence comes from me, Michelle, as a person. I don’t necessarily believe that I will act and be a lead forever, but I want to continue to act for a long time. I love to do what I do.”

“A fashion editor at Vogue, that would be awesome.” (On her dream job)

“Anything you throw at me, I’ll try to tackle.”

“I adore London and Paris, and I hope to live in London for a period of time when I’m older.”

“I love tennis. I tried gymnastics at one point, but my tush got a whole lot of black and blue so that wasn’t fun.”

“I always like to say that even though you may be attracted by the more glamorous aspects of Hollywood, it doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into being a good actress. People do not just wake up and think, “I want to be on TV today.” You have to truly believe in your goals, and really fight for what you love. There’s also many sacrifices that one has to make. Sometimes, it is a choice of meeting with a director, or hanging out with your friends. For me, that choice has always been meeting with the director. This line of work takes a lot of determination, especially because there is a lot of rejection in this business. But if you truly want to do this, with every fiber of your being, then just remember, it’s all about hard work.” (September 2001)

“Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t accomplish your goals. Know that you can do anything and anything will happen.” (October 2000)

“I think the most important thing about being an actress is, believing in yourself; if you don’t believe in yourself you can’t accomplish things. You have to have the confidence that you can reach your goal. Hard work is a huge part of acting. I’ve always loved being an actress; this is like breathing to me. The thing that I always remember most is to believe in myself. My mom told me that when I was very young and it has held true all my life.” (September 2000)

“I just know that I love to act and I’ve always set my goals in the field of acting. I’ve always been determined to reach them.” (September 2000)

Awards for Michelle Trachtenberg

During her relitivly short career to date Michelle has been nominated or won the following awards…

Year Result Award Category/Recipient(s)
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
2003 Nominated Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series for: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
2002 Nominated Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series for: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
2001 Nominated Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress on Television for: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
Daytime Emmy Awards
2004 Nominated Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series for: “Truth or Scare” (2001)
Sarasota Film Festival
2007 Won Special Jury Prize – Breakthrough Performer for: Beautiful Ohio (2006).
Teen Choice Awards
2012 Nominated Choice TV Villain for: “Gossip Girl” (2007).
2001 Nominated TV – Choice Sidekick for: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997).
Young Artist Awards
2002 Nominated Young Artist Award Best Performance in a TV Comedy Series – Guest Starring Young Actress for: “Mad TV”
2002 Nominated Best Performance in a TV Comedy Series – Leading Young Actress for: “Truth or Scare”
2001 Won Young Artist Award Best Performance in a TV Drama Series – Supporting Young Actress for: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
2000 Nominated Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress for: Inspector Gadget
1998 Won Young Artist Award Best Performance in a TV Comedy Series: Supporting Young Actress for: “Meego”
1997 Won Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film: Leading Young Actress for: Harriet the Spy
YoungStar Awards
2000 Nominated YoungStar Award Best Young Actress/Performance in a Motion Picture Comedy for: Inspector Gadget