In 1981, Sarah Michelle Gellar made her small-screen debut — not in a supernatural teen drama, but in a Burger King commercial. And she found herself in legal trouble because of it.
The now-45-year-old says that, at age 5, she was sued by McDonald's for using its name in the commercial, and was caught in the middle of a major lawsuit between the fast-food giants.
“This is really funny. This was this big campaign that I did for Burger King and I was 5,” she says in a Buzzfeed UK video published Feb. 3 where she reacts to her most iconic roles.
“And I was the first person to say another competitor’s name in a job and so McDonald’s turned around and sued the advertising agency, Burger King and me at 5," Gellar adds.
In the 1981 ad for Burger King, a pint-sized Gellar in bow-tied pigtails sits on a bench outside of a Burger King along with a takeout bag, drink and burger placed on a napkin. She says that McDonald's “makes their burgers with 20% less meat than Burger King.”
“Unbelievable!” she exclaims.
McDonald’s did not immediately respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment.
The ad was the first of its kind: Instead of using innuendos to shade its competition, BK took direct aim at its rival by using its name. So, in 1982, McDonald’s sued Burger King and ad agency J. Walter Thompson, naming Gellar as the star of multiple ads, for what it described as a “false, deceptive, disparaging, unfair and misleading” campaign, according to later reports by the Washington Post.
The lawsuit was later settled and the ads were subsequently removed from rotation.
Gellar has spoken about this childhood-defining lawsuit before, telling the Sunday Express in 2004 that while "Banned is a strong word," she "wasn't allowed to eat" at McDonald’s because of it.
"It was tough because, when you’re a little kid, McDonald’s is where all your friends have their birthday parties, so I missed out on a lot of apple pies," the "Wolf Pack" star added.
And she didn't even get to eat the food on the set of the Burger King commercials, either. Present-day Gellar says in the Buzzfeed UK video that she learned a stark truth at a young age about the food in commercials: It isn't edible.
“What I really remember was I didn’t eat a lot of fast food at the time, and when we were there, I just wanted a burger,” says Gellar, recalling that she was “so excited” because her mom said that she could have the one she was shooting with.
“What I learned on that day is that when they make the burgers for commercials, they glue each seed on it to make it look all perfect and beautiful, and then they shellac it, and they paint it,” she says. “You guys, TV is not real.”