With numerous commercials and TV spots under her belt, Gellar plays Susan Lucci's evil daughter on All My Children. At 17, the newcomer wins a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Younger Actress. "I was on All My Children while trying to graduate from high school," Gellar later says of her life as a teen soap star.
Gellar debuts in her breakout role as Buffy Summers, a suburban teen who battles the undead in the WB's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The supernatural show strikes a cord with audiences, making Gellar a household name. "Buffy's a total individual. She proves you don't have to fit in," she tells Teen. "You can be different and still find happiness."
Away from the tube, Gellar appears in consecutive teen horror hits Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer, with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze Jr. The following year, she cements her "It" girl status with her first appearance on PEOPLE's 'Most Beautiful' list.
Gellar lands the cover of Rolling Stone, which calls Buffy one of "the coolest [shows] on television." "You can identify with so many of the characters [and] really take an interest in what's happening to each and every one of them," she tells the magazine.
Three years after meeting on the set of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. begin dating. "We are each other's best friend," Gellar tells PEOPLE. "He is my first love." Weathering an earthquake and nearby hurricane, the two teen idols tie the knot in Mexico that year.
After teaming with her hubby for two Scooby-Doo flicks, Gellar returns to her scream-queen roots in the thriller The Grudge. "[Horror] is the field where women can really rule," she tells PEOPLE. "I'm not the girlfriend. I'm not the wife. This is where women can take a hold of a movie and have a proactive job." The film is a surprise hit, pulling in $71.3 million in two weeks.
Gellar and Prinze welcome their first child, daughter Charlotte Grace. "The minute I looked in her eyes, I thought, 'Nothing in the world is ever going to hurt'," Prinze tells PEOPLE. Gellar, who's making her TV comeback in HBO's The Wonderful Maladays, adds, "Every day I look at her and I am in awe."
Gellar returns to television in the CW's new series Ringer, in which she plays the dual role of identical twins. "It's the first time in a very long time in which I was surprised by something," she says of the show. Gellar also signs up to return to her soapy roots with a guest-starring appearance on All My Children, which takes its final bow in September.
Gellar, 35, and Freddie Prinze Jr., 36, announce they're expecting their second child. "She and Freddie are thrilled," a source close to the actress tells PEOPLE. "They love their little girl [2½-year-old Charlotte] more than anything in the world and know that love will only multiply."
The actress and husband Prinze Jr. welcome their second child, a baby boy named Rocky James. "Mother and baby are doing great," says their rep, adding that the couple's 3-year-old daughter Charlotte "is very excited to be a big sister."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Anne Limongello/ABC; Everett; Everett; Rolling Stone; OK! Magazine and HELLO Magazine; Everett; AKM Images; The CW; Ramey