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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Camden Toy (Hush Gentleman, Turok-Han) - Interview

Sunday 11 April 2004, by Webmaster

Camden Toy

Villian on BtVS: Gentleman, Gnarl, Ubervamp

Villian on Angel: Prince of Lies

Special Thanks: Mike Kerz [Flashback Weekend] and Chris Roe [Camden Toy’s Convention Manager]

Phone Interview in conjunction with, and to celebrate the upcoming Buffy/Angel Flashback Convention

"You know, when you’ve got the cast and crew of Buffy going ’ewww’ you’ve done a good thing"

HW: Jumping right in, you have played a variety of characters on Buffy and Angel, all of them evil and all of them defeated. [Camden laughs] Do you ever get sick of losing, or is being a bad guy more fun? [laughs again]

Camden: Being a bad guy is certainly much much more fun. One of the things that Mike Ironside used to say about playing an evil guy, and I have to agree with him, "you know, the good guy gets beaten up throughout the entire show or entire film, whatever you’re working on. The evil guy gets beat up once at the end." Almost always that’s when it happens, at the end. Usually I’m the one doing the beating up. It’s a fun kinda thing - evil guys are just fun to play with because there is so much there. It goes back to being children.

We all have this kind of mischievous wicked streak in us that makes us wanna do things we know we shouldn’t be doing. As an actor you play an evil person you get to do those things and they’re not real... [HW: no consequences]... yeah, I’ve done things where people are like, "oh God, you are just creeping us out." And I’m like, I didn’t write this... [laughter] I’m just playing this character... "Well my friends all hate you" What are you talking about? [laughter] I didn’t create the role, I helped bring it to life, but I didn’t actually write it. It’s kind of funny. So yeah, they’re [evil characters] a lot of fun.

HW: I’d like to discuss each of your characters separately. First of all, the gentlemen didn’t talk [well no one did in that episode]. How hard was it to portray that part without words? Camden on left in image

Camden: I was very lucky in that Doug Jones was my partner in crime in that. Well, we had six of us, two stunt people and the four actors, me, Dawn, Doug, and Charlie. I really had a wonderful set of people that were my partners in crime, but Doug in particular [we played the two leaders]. Doug and I just hit it off. Speaking of Doug, you have to check him out in the Hellboy movie - he plays Abe Sapien.

We met at the wardrobe fitting and we recognized each other because we were both at the same audition and we just hit it off. There was something about that connection that made it very easy for us to create these roles without having to do a lot of preparation, talking about it, or effort. Also, we were sitting in a makeup chair beside each other for four hours for seven days.

And Doug and I both have very similar backgrounds. We have a lot of physical theater, a lot of clowning, mime background. So when it came to actually doing these scenes where there’s no talking, there was sort of a bond already there, that you see in the episode. I think one of the first scenes we shot was where we knock on the young man’s door and the henchmen come in and pull him down to the bed and we just float in and cut his heart out.

HW: yep

Camden: I remember at the end of one of the takes, after they yelled cut, one of the crew members said, "I can’t believe the dialogue you guys are having - and you haven’t said a word!" I think that’s one of the things that makes those scenes powerful, is that there is a lot of dialogue between the gentlemen and we’re not saying anything.

HW: Hush is a favorite with so many. When people ask what one episode they should watch [if they’ve never seen any], I always answer ’Hush’ because so much is learned about every character, with no words.

Camden: I have friends that can’t watch it. They know me but they can’t watch it. I think one of the reasons ’Hush’ is so disturbing for a lot of people is that it taps into a very very deep seated subconscious fear that we all have as children. I mean, who among us has not had nightmares with leering old men or creatures, floating after you, you can’t get away and you can’t scream.

HW: It’s the ultimate boogeyman

Camden: It’s the ultimate boogeyman - but they’re enjoying what they’re doing immensely! They have no sense of this being bad, it’s like, "hi, how you doing? We’re going to cut your heart out, hope you don’t mind." And then to each other, "after you", "no, after you"...

HW: Yes, they’re almost polite... I think the polite just really kicks it.

Camden: Exactly. We’re enjoying it and we’re polite. Yeah there’s all this stuff that’s juxtaposed to all this horror that you just don’t expect. I think that’s one of the reasons that Hannibal Lector is so terrifying. What Tony Hopkins did with that role... he doesn’t do a lot with it, he really pulls it back to very little. He’s very polite, he enjoys what he’s doing, and he has no conscious about it. I’ve read as the shooting went on, fewer and fewer people would talk to him because they were getting creeped out.

HW: Now the role of the Gentleman, when I first saw it, it reminded me of Lon Chaney in the silent films. And using your entire body to speak for you. Did you study him or his work to prepare for it?

Camden: Absolutely! As a very young child I was fascinated with Lon Chaney, particularly his Phantom of the Opera. I mean I loved his Hunchback and a lot of his other stuff, but I was really just fascinated with not only the makeup but what he did with the makeup and the character of the Phantom. I mean, it’s truly horrifying.

HW: And to think he had none of the effects we have

Camden: Yeah. And also I was raised in a theatrical family. My father had been a makeup artist and an actor, and so from the time I was very young I was playing with his makeup, he was showing me how to use the makeup. When I was about ten, I think, is when Dick Smith’s Monster Makeup Handbook came out and I was like "ahhhh"... My friends and their parents in the neighborhood thought I was pretty weird, "He’s playing with makeup?" But I was pretty popular at Halloween - suddenly everyone wanted to come over and get makeup done. But any other time of the year I was "that kid that plays with makeup." [laughs]

But as for Lon Chaney, I was just fascinated with him from the time when I was very young. I see the connection [to the Gentlemen] but a lot of people don’t ask about it. I think he’s sort of a forgotten person by a lot of people. It’s unfortunate that we have this immense, rich culture of silent film, that very few people get a chance to see. I also studied Chaplin immensely. I’ve probably seen all those films dozens of times. [laughs]

To give you an example, even people here in Hollywood, they don’t know anything about him [Chaney]. It’s a sad thing. They don’t even know their own history. A friend of mine in Brooklyn used to say, "Camden, you’re a cross between Klaus Kinski and Danny Kaye." [laugh] And I remember saying that to my first agent out here and he didn’t even pause a beat, he went, "Who’s Klaus Kinski?"

HW: What?

Camden: Exactly. Here’s a Hollywood agent and he didn’t really know anything about the history of Hollywood films or foreign films. Who’s Klaus Kinski? Well, Nastassja’s father, ok... maybe that’ll help you. He had no clue who this person was. I have friends that have never seen early Jack Nicholson films, Easy Rider [etc], films from the early 70’s when there was quite a lot of true independent films being made. It’s unfortunate.

That’s one of the things that made ’Hush’ so powerful, is that Joss [Whedon] was willing to take that leap. It’s truly an experiment, to do something like that on national television, where you have three fourths of the show silent. It’s a huge risk, and he was willing to take that. He’s a risk taker. Truly creative people take those risks. Sometimes those risks don’t always pan out, this one did.

HW: The Ubervamp, aka Turok-han, struck me as very primal and un-evolved, yet ancient and cunning like a shark. So, how do you prepare to play a killing machine that can’t tie it’s own shoes?

Camden: [laughs] I have to say that even though he looks like one of the easier characters, he was one of the more difficult characters to do. I had just come from doing this incredibly verbal character [Gnarl], so when I got the call and started seeing there was no dialogue - that this was a primordial killing machine, like a shark... He’s to the vampires what the Neanderthals are to us. And to do that, you kinda go "okay..."

This is going to sound funny, but he’s almost like the Tazmanian Devil on the Warner Brothers cartoon [Camden does one helluva Taz impersonation here] I almost saw him that way, but to play him that way, that was one of the reasons it was so difficult to do. How do you portray this incredible, primitive, animalistic creature? He is cunning, he has some intellect there but not a lot. Basically an animal. How do you do that? But how do you also not play him as the Tazmanian Devil, which would have pulled focus from every single scene you’re in [laughs]. It would have been disasterous.

It was a little bit of a trick to find a balance. Ok, the misery this guy has, the hunting, the primal kind of animalist instincts he has. I almost had to make him a lap dog to ’The First’. And that took a little while. There’s not much in the script to give you a clue. When you have a lot of dialogue, not that dialogue is the be all end all, but there’s not a lot of description in the script. It did take a bit of a process.

I remember Rob Hall helped me a lot of that, he’s the designer and makeup artist over at Almost Human that did my makeups on Gnarl, Ubervamp, and the Prince of Lies. I’m in the makeup chair for four hours and you create a bond with the person doing your makeup. And at first I wasn’t sure about how to find that, and it took a little bit of time, but he was helpful in me finding that [character].

HW: Gnarl looks a lot like Gollum, even talks to himself in sing song cadence, was that planned or coincidental?

Camden: Well, it’s a little bit of both. They do admit it now. We kinda based him on that, but here’s the thing. I didn’t know that when I got the script, when I was preparing for the audition, when I was creating the voice and physicality. And also, I hadn’t seen Gollum yet. There’s a glimpse of him in the first one [LoTR], I hadn’t seen the second yet, so I didn’t know how he spoke or how he was. I did the audition and Marti Noxon was like, "How the heck did you know that’s what we were looking for?" And I didn’t even know what she was talking about. She was just like, "oh oh, that’s what we were looking for!"

I got the script and I had the entire weekend to work on it before I went in to do the audition for Gnarl, and by the time I went in the character was pretty much close to full blown. Generally it’s not, you’re still working on it, but this just came out somehow. From Jane Espenson’s writing and the way it was described...

And also the cadence, I started studying Shakespeare was I was in like fourth grade, so I had a lot of exposure to verse and rhyme and unusual language. So it helped me to find places, no one said "ok, right here you need to sing this" [singsongs: ’No one comes to save you’]

HW: oh! Don’t do that... creepy!

Camden: [laughs] It just seemed to make sense there. It felt right, because I had played with it all weekend long, and I didn’t tell any of my friends about the audition either. So nobody was like "Hey how’s that going?" There was no distraction about me talking about the role or someone asking about it. I played with it, off privately and not talking about it. Because often it’s so easy to talk something away, if you start talking about how you’re developing something too much.

HW: You worked on the character on a whole all weekend, but where did you draw that eerie, unsettling voice from? The voice literally crawls up your spine and ’makes’ that character.

Camden: [laughs] It helped that you don’t see him for half the episode. It’s kind of like Jaws, you hear the music, you know it’s there, but you don’t see it. With Gnarl, you don’t expect what you [finally] see, but he is very kind of Fairy Tale like. The voice though, here again, I just spent a lot of time wrapping my lips around that language. Really well written dialogue, somehow if you just work on it, it will tell you what it needs. You don’t have to do a lot of work, it’s there already.

As an actor people use various methods. I love what Harrison Ford said, "I use the ’let’s pretend’ method." What I try to do is let the role, the character, tell me what it needs. I approach my roles the way Bruce Lee approached his fighting, "My style is I have no style, my technique is I have no technique." Well I try to let my character tell me, so I don’t use the same technique every time. It’s a different process every time because it’s a different character every time. So finding that voice was a very organic kind of thing, that kind of happened in spite of myself.

HW: And the final character, the Prince of Lies, is amazingly similar to Nosferatu - was that the idea?

Camden: [laughs] Yeah I got the script and it says he old, yadda yadda, and in parenthesis ’Nosferatu’. Yeah, that one they just put it right in the script. So I thought let’s not reinvent the wheel on this one! That’s what they’re saying they want, so I went and rented every single one of the Nosferatu films to watch them again. I’ve seen them all, loved and watched them many times - but I re-rented them and sat and watched. The Prince of Lies is kind of my tribute to everyone of those actors that did that role.

HW: That’s what I was going to ask - ’was this out of respect for the classics?’

Camden: Absolutely. There’s a little bit of all those actors in the Prince of Lies, along with a heavy dollop of my own work. You’ll see a little of Willem Dafoe, a little of Max Schreck, a little of Klaus Kinski... it’s all there. It was Drew [Goddard] and Steve [DeKnight], and they didn’t make any bones that they were basing this on Nosferatu.

HW: And there’s certain things that Nosferatu has that other vampires don’t. The elongated fingers, the facial features, the hunching. He’s not the romantic vampire...

Camden: [laughs] Yeah. He’s old and miserable, and he has Alzheimer’s and...

HW: arthritis, yeah he’s a mess!

Camden: Yes! And I love the way they capture that in Shadow of the Vampire, because they actually talk with him in between actual filming, thinking he’s just an actor. "So tell us Max, when did you become a vampire?" I can’t remember [impersonating Dafoe’s Schreck - laughs] He’s so old he can’t remember when he became a vampire, and he doesn’t care. "Well don’t you make other vampires?" I can’t anymore. Used to be able to but... He’s an old, decrepit... he’s an old fart.

HW: He’s a geriatric vampire...

Camden: Yeah! [laughs] Exactly, and it’s just hysterical.

HW: Now if you took a picture of these four characters and put them next to each other - they look really similar. There are such a variety of monsters in Buffy and Angel - horns, color, shape, size... and yours are very similar.

Camden: [laughs] Yeah, they’re all bald!

HW: Yes. No horns, no scales, do you think there’s a reason for that?

Camden: I think it’s coincidence more than anything, I don’t think it’s something planned or thought out.

HW: And it’s obvious to the point where if I see a bald, nonscaly, no horned character, the first thing I think is, ’is that Camden again?’

Camden: [laughs] Yeah and it’s funny because I have really long hair! We pull it back and tuck it and they’re not always happy about it. "Can’t we trim that..." No.

HW: Of the four, which was your favorite?

Camden: This is always difficult, it’s kind of like a parent talking about their children, who is your favorite child? But hands down, as an actor, as a role that really has, no pun intended, a lot of meat to sink your teeth into... Gnarl, hands down. As an actor, there’s a lot for you to be doing there. Not that the other roles aren’t rich as well, but this one is extremely rich. I mean that one really took a lot of preparation and playing to find and there’s just a lot there. In the script, the role, the costume, the makeup, and the teeth...

I mean look at his teeth, they’re amazing. It’s everything, everything sort of fell into place with that role. It’s just incredible. The guy that did the teeth, James from Almost Human, for all three characters that they did, he also did the teeth for Blade 2. So he’s just really a brilliant teeth artist. For Gnarl, he outdid himself.

And I don’t know if people realize it, but if you look at Gnarl’s nose, and chin, and his forehead, they’re gelatin. It’s not foam rubber, it’s gelatin, which has much more translucency and weight the way skin does. Rob at Almost Human was very smart in doing this. The nose is huge, so when you have that much foam rubber, it has a tendency of being very dead, unreal looking, it doesn’t move and have the weight of skin. He understood that and took the risk of using the gelatin. Gelatin is very delicate... and it will melt. I was doing all my own stunts as Gnarl and the second day - when I was fighting, on wires, being pulled out of frame - half way through the day my nose started melting. He actually, literally, came over and pulled it off my face and said, "go have lunch, we’ll put a new one on afterwards."

But getting back to my favorite, there’s just a lot there [Gnarl]. We shot that in three days, very quickly. James Contner, who directed that episode, is one of the most focused television directors I’ve worked with. When he calls me to set, within 5 to 10 minutes he’s got me working. At first when I was doing all that off camera stuff, they had a script supervisor doing all the lines, and I said, "James, I’m here. I’ll be happy to feed Alyson these lines off camera." And he said, "oh would you mind?" Are you kidding? And of course that made it easier for Alyson to work, because when your reality is pretty strong the other actors don’t have to do as much work, they get pulled into it. So there was a lot to do as an actor on Gnarl, so much fun stuff to do.

HW: Now pretending you’re not a ’parent’ for a moment [Camden laughs], Joss Whedon did the ’Tales of the Vampires’ comics and they’re looking at the last episode coming soon. But your characters, like you said, are very full. Do you think there is any chance we could be seeing their back stories or origins in that type of format, or are their storylines done?

Camden: Boy, I think that would be a great idea. They don’t usually ask me about that stuff [laughs] it’s a great question.

HW: Any other format really, because the Prince of Lies alone you could do flashbacks forever...

Camden: Oh gosh yeah, exactly. There’s certainly always hints of things [laughs], there’s always talk. But a direct reference of actually bringing those characters back, I haven’t heard about it, no. My vague memory is that people have asked him [Joss] about the Gentlemen and why he didn’t bring them back. I think one of the reasons, though what you’re talking about is more of a back story, is that they were such complete characters in so many ways, what do you do with them? How do you out-do ’Hush’?

HW: Well, you can’t.

Camden: Yeah. ’Hush’ is just such an amazing episode, how do you out do that? But we were all excited about them and said oh yeah we have to bring these characters back, but it just never happened. I was thrilled to get the future calls, I love doing these roles, but yeah we were hoping they’d bring back the Gentlemen. They had such a huge impact. But I think that’s it - how do you out do the first thing you did with them? I think Joss, in his wisdom, knew that and chose not to bring them back.

Now like you said, it is possible to do a back story? I think it’s a great idea, I just don’t know if there’s been any talk of it.

HW: If you had complete creative freedom, what would be your ideal role in an Angel episode? Are you slated for any more characters in the remaining episodes?

Camden: I’m not slated for any of the remaining episodes, unfortunately. I was hoping that something would come up, but I do such specific roles, I think you almost have to have something unusual for them to think of me. So yeah, right now I’m not slated for anything coming up right now. But we’re all still hoping, yeah we’re hoping, that Angel will get saved at some point. But the ideal role if I had complete control? [laughs]

HW: Would you still be bald? [both laugh]

Camden: Sarah [.. Michelle Gellar, ’Buffy’] used to joke about this and I loved what she said about it, it was very funny. She and I had a lot of time together, especially when we were doing the Ubervamp, we had a lot of time between takes to talk and get to know each other. She said, "You know, we have to get you back on the show as a regular human being." And I thought, yeah wouldn’t that be great? Somebody really super evil but human, and she said, "No no no. No like somebody’s dad. But every time somebody meets you they’d be all "Hi, Mr Whatever" and then as they’re leaving they would be like, "He’s kind of familiar, have we met?" [laughs] It would be an inside joke with the fans that know who I am. I remember when Sarah said that I thought, oh my God, that is just such a great idea. Unfortunately it never happened, but what a great idea. That would have been really fun to play with something like where I’m just this every day middle class dad, meanwhile he’s the guy that created all these really evil characters. And then maybe at the end it turns out that all those characters are actually living inside me or something. Something where you could really play with that.

HW: Oh yeah, here you are someone’s dad and just you saying ’be quiet’ [Hush] would be an inside joke

Camden: Exactly! There would be so much that could be done, where people that really weren’t die hard fans wouldn’t get it. But you’d have to be careful not to do too many inside jokes and get everyone lost. But when Sarah said that I was just, oh yeah [laughs]

HW: With your Whedon characters concealed in makeup, do you enjoy not being easily recognized on the street? Or would you prefer more recognition for your television career?

Camden: Certainly for my career, more recognition would be better, absolutely. No doubt about that. But I have to say, there is a certain... there is something really fun about the fact that I’m not recognizable. Something fun about the fact that I have this peculiar anonymity with all these characters, and incredibly visible characters - I mean these are some of the more memorable characters on the shows. And I have no... as Michael Dorn would say, who played Worf on Star Trek, "It doesn’t help me get better seats in restaurants." [laughs] When I walk into a restaurant I don’t get "oh Mr. Toy..." No. But I have to say, in a way, that would be a nice ego stroke for a week or so, but to live with that, day in and day out? I think that that must be very difficult for actors that are extremely recognizable, I can’t imagine what it must be like for James Marsters [Spike], he probably can’t go anywhere.

HW: Yeah, I feel really bad for the ones that are recognizable, because they can’t do anything. And it’s not even the fans so much as the stinking tabloids.

Camden: Exactly, You have NO anonymity. There’s a certain creepy... It’s a funny thing, I had a little taste of that. It was only a teeny teeny taste of if. I was doing a solo show in Seattle back in ’95 called ’Terminal Lunch’ that I had written. My publicity shot for the show, it was such a great shot, showed up everywhere. It was a funny, silly, it was a perfect shot, shows up in the office and they want to run it. But then there was a huge review of the show, where I was on the front cover of the ’Living in Art’ section of the Friday paper. My picture covered the entire front of that section and there was a big review of the show.

So at first it was, ’oh this great’. And then as I was walking around the street there was that feeling of that creepiness, that’s like ’oh my god, I’ve lost some of my anonymity.’ It was very minor, I only had a few people come up to me, very very minor. But it was just the feeling, like ’ohh’ but I got a taste of it a little, so I can’t imagine what it would be like for somebody like Sarah [Gellar] or James [Marsters], they can’t go anywhere.

HW: Yes, and even if they go to some small town where people ’might’ not know who they are, they still have to be aware of the fact that they ’might’ be recognized.

Camden: I think it’s what happens in your own head.Iguess people find a way to make peace with it, or they go crazy. I think that’s one of the reason so many actors are kind of nuts, some of us don’t come to terms with that. But since I don’t have that, in some ways it really is a blessing, but the flip side of that - it doesn’t really help my career. Personally and psychologically, it’s probably healthier for me. [laughs] As for my career, it doesn’t help me get pulled in for auditioning for other casting people. No, because nobody recognizes me.

HW: But I’m sure when you bring your portfolio in, those in the genre look through those pictures and say, "oh that was you."

Camden: It’s a funny thing, a real double edged sword. Cuz even people in the business still kind of go, "Well how do I know how you act without the makeup?" And you just want to say, "Are you a schmuck?" but of course then you’d be lost in the business. If I can act in makeup don’t you think I can act without it? People don’t see that unfortunately. I know that James Leary has expressed a little bit of this frustration, he played Clem [BtVS]. I remember talking to him about it and he was saying how you would think because of all the exposure he got on the show, that he’d get a lot of casting out of it. It’s actually very little. You would think people would say, "oh we gotta get this guy." But that’s the thing, you’re in makeup, you’re unrecognizable, and this city, this state of mind that’s Hollywood, is all about image. Even people that think they’re not, it kind of infects everybody.

It’s definitely a double edged sword. There’s a part of me that feels very blessed because I’ve had so much exposure, with such incredibly ground breaking shows, I mean this is really television history in a lot of ways, yet I’m totally unrecognizable [laughs].

HW: You touched earlier, in answers, on the fact that you watch and enjoy Chaplin, Chaney, etc. But specifically who were or are your role models? And how did you ever get into this business, the business of makeup? What it directly from your father?

Camden: Directly. I couldn’t have been more than five or six, maybe younger, when I found his makeup kit in the basement. I started playing with it and instead of him getting angry with me, he said, "Do you want me to show you how to use that?" And I was like "uhhhh ok" So he and I would sit at my mother’s dressing table, in front of her big mirror, and do makeup together. He would show me how to do shadows for old age makeup, lines for beards, whatever. I was just mesmerized by it.

That was actually my first introduction to theater, and then shortly after that I started taking acting classes, in third grade. Studying Shakespeare in fourth. The summer between third and fourth we moved into a small town in Southwestern Pennsylvania called Delmont that had a small summer theater called Apple Hill Playhouse, that was run by three producers out of New York. So I literally, from the time of third grade on through eighth grade, I spent every single summer at that theater.

There weren’t that many roles for kids. Yes I’d act occasionally, but mostly I was learning about acting, and directing, lighting designs, stage designs, set direction, set construction and makeup. I was fascinated with ’how do the beards go on?’, ’how do the noses go on?’ So I literally grew up in the theater and my parents actually encouraged me. They wanted to see me succeed as an actor, or an artist.

I was born when my mother and father were very young, I was a total accident! [laughs] "Oh no we’re pregnant we better get married". The thing that everyone in my father’s generation tries to say "oh that never happened" and my father says "Oh yeah, bullshit" - that’s been happening for centuries! Nobody talked about it then, but now everyone does. Teenage pregnancy is not a new thing, and everybody who talks as if it’s ’this generation’ is doing a huge disservice.

But so, I think my father had a certain feeling of missed opportunity, so he was never a stage door father. My parents were never like that, they never pushed me. In some ways they were almost a little too liberal, "whatever you want." I didn’t always get the direction I needed, like "No, you’re going to play the piano for the next few years. If you don’t like it when you’re an adult you can stop." They wouldn’t do that, maybe in some ways I didn’t get as much direction as I should have. But whatever, I love my parents and I am who I am today because of my upbringing. They never pushed me, but they did definitely encourage me. I think often kids don’t get encouragement.

And since I was in love with horror films, I used to buy Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. In one issue they had a little write-up about Dick Smith, this amazing makeup artist, and that he’s going to be putting out this little handbook. Oh. And sure enough a couple of months later there it was sitting in our little local drug store and I was like ’AHH!’ and grabbed it, it was like fifty cents. And I played with all those makeups in that book for years. [ Do It Yourself, Monster Make-Up]

HW: Your dad did the makeup, and you started with the makeup, and you played with the makeup, and you’re still with the makeup. Do you actually prefer working in the makeup?

Camden: You know it’s not that I prefer it, I’ve certainly done many stage and independent films without the makeup, it’s just that... it’s ... I still have the childhood fascination with transformational makeup. I still have an immense love for it. So when I get hired to do something that I’m going to be in transformational makeup, it is really truly a childhood fantasy come true. And it does have a certain freeing quality. It allows you to do things you may not have been able to do without makeup. Or even to do roles you wouldn’t do without makeup. So it is an incredibly freeing thing that happens with that [makeup].

HW: You played some amazingly creepy characters in Buffy and Angel. What are your personal fears and phobias?

Camden: [laughs] I’m a little, not a lot, but a little claustrophobic. So when I get into this makeup I have to make sure I embrace it. [laugh] I’ve gotten so used to the makeup it doesn’t phase me now, but occasionally there’s that part of my brain that says, ’uh oh, you’re going to have this on all day.’ You can’t... don’t go there. You have to embrace it. You have to find a way to surrender to it, as opposed to fighting it.

This is something that Rob Hall notices over at Almost Human with actors. They do sometimes fight it. He has put on makeup and whole body suits on actors that suddenly freak out and have to be pulled out, because they are claustrophobic. You can’t go to that side of you if you’re in that kind of stuff. That’s deadly. I’m not that badly claustrophobic, but I do remember a few days where I was like, "oh boy.... no." It’s almost a Zen thing, you have to surrender to it.

Otherwise I’m probably more fearless as an adult than I was as a child. It’s usually the other way around. As a child I was actually scared of a lot of things. Deep, deep seated fears? I hate situations that are totally out of my control, where I feel trapped like I’m in prison.

HW: That’s ties into claustrophobia

Camden: Why yes, yes it does. But I’m funny, I don’t have a problem in crowded elevators. It’s more, as a child I had a problem being in the moment, being in the day. All I could think in first grade was, hmmm 12 more years. [laugh] And now when I start thinking like that I know I’m in trouble so I have to sort of, like the makeup, I have to embrace the day, surrender to the day. It’s a very Zen thing.

Fears, not being in control, not having control over my destiny. I try not to do the control freak, it’s just, I remember as a child feeling imprisoned. School felt like a prison sentence. I had to do it. It’s the law, you have to. Later I went back and studied music and premed, because I wanted to and I excelled at them because I wanted to. But when I was a child I just couldn’t see the value of sitting in a classroom all day, I just had trouble with it. Losing my freedom, that’s a huge fear.

HW: Between your fear of not having control, and the uncomfortable uneasiness you had with the little bit of recognition you had, how do you do at conventions?

Camden: It’s interesting, for some reason that doesn’t bother me. It’s sort of an artificial environment. It’s a controlled environment, the fans are there because they’re supposed to be there, as opposed to where I’m sitting having breakfast and suddenly you hear, "Camden Toy!" And you look up and somebody’s in your face and your like, ’scuse me I’m trying to eat my eggs. My eggs are getting cold. And then they think you’re an asshole. "What an asshole, his eggs are getting cold." Well yeah, could you come back in five minutes and let me finish my eggs.

I know that Liberace had stories like that. He’d be in the middle of eating some soup and they’d show up, well listen I’d be happy to sign your autograph but my soup’s getting cold. Let me do it in 10 or 15 minutes. "Oh what an asshole." [laughs]

At a convention, your standing there or sitting at a table, wanting people to come up to you. [laughs] So it’s different, it’s a very artificial environment. Artificial meaning from say the day to day life you normally have, like going out to a restaurant, or doing your laundry. [laugh] That [convention] you’re sort of prepped for and ready. I enjoy that, I enjoy being able to talk to the fans. And I forget this, there’s this huge fanbase out there that loves my work, but there again, I have this peculiar anonymity, so I don’t experience that day to day. So when I go to a convention I suddenly experience it. But there’s also that part of me that says, "Don’t let this go to your head."

HW: Yeah, your reality check?

Camden: Yeah, you have to do a reality check, cuz you know, no matter who you are in Hollywood you’re not as important as you think you are. [laughs] I remember Jay Leno was talking about that, and you’re like, "What? You?" And he says, "Listen, you can lose your job at any time, it doesn’t matter who you are. There are people higher than me that think they’re untouchable, you’re not. Nobody’s untouchable."

You know, it’s true, nobody’s as important as they think they are in this town. No matter who you are in this town, it’s just not the case. And it’s particularly true when you’ve had just a small taste of it, like me, you can’t let it go to your head. A few times I’ve done that, and it’s been disastrous. You know, it’s like, "Don’t you know who I think I am?" [laughs] Soon as you start doing that you’re really in trouble. You go into negotiations thinking that, into a part thinking that, you’re really in trouble. Knowing that it’s a job, knowing that it’s an incredible gift I’ve been given to do this. Don’t take it for granted. It’s a huge blessing that I can do it, and I love doing it.

HW: With Buffy gone and Angel currently cancelled - the only small screen roles of this nature would be on the upcoming Dark Shadows or Van Helsing series, will you actively seek work on either of those?

Camden: Oh sure, absolutely. Of course I will. Whether anything will come up or not, your guess is as good as mine. To give you an example I was talking to a friend of mine who just did a guest starring appearance on Enterprise [Star Trek] recently, and she was under full prosthetics and said, "Oh, I thought of you and I was talking to the casting people. And the casting people were like, oh yeah we’re always looking for actors that can act with prosthetics." Well meanwhile, I’ve been submitted dozens of times to that show, and they’ve never called me in to audition for one role. So you never know, you just never know. Just because you have a reputation for something, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything.

Believe me, I and my management will definitely be pursuing those [Dark Shadows & Van Helsing] but, [laughs] you never know. Nothing guarantees you even being seen for things, let alone hired. It’s a funny town. You just have to pursue it and see what happens.

HW: What are your future plans, behind the makeup or without it? When can we expect to see you on screen again?

Camden: I did a feature film about three quarters of a year ago, called The Works, with Armin Shimerman, and Corey Allen. And that’s directed by a young Israeli director, Gal Katzir, who is a personal friend and he asked me to do this. So we’re waiting to see if we can get distribution on that, waiting to see if we can’t get into Cannes this year.

It’s almost kind of Brazil-esque in a way, Terry Gilliam-esque. It seems to start out kind of very normal, office, blah blah blah. Then the owner of the company shows up and decides he wants the floor for his own penthouse, he moves everybody down the stairs to the floor below them. There’s this huge upheaval and this guy gets thrown into this men’s room as his office and he starts realizing he doesn’t want to be here anymore. He tries to quit and they won’t let him. It slowly becomes this story about him trying to get out of this office and it becomes very surreal in a way. Gal, even though he’s lived here for years, he’s Israeli, and he has a very non-American sensibility in the writing and directing. So it doesn’t have a typical American film feel to it at all, it’s almost European in a way.

And it’s about this young woman who’s trying to fix the pipes in this building, and I’m the janitor that sort of just knows everybody’s business. [laughs] I know everything, kind of the silent observer of it all. And I show up and occasionally have a little chit chat with people. But it’s a funny quirky little role that Gal wrote and I really enjoyed it.

I also have a project that’s in post right now that’s called, "Irascible," that was written and directed by Ezra Buzzington. It’s a short project and Ezra is someone you would recognize but not necessarily know the name. As an actor he’s done Fight Club, Magnolia, Ghostworld, lots of television, he even showed up as a bartender on Buffy one time. He’s been around a lot.

It’s a very funny, kind of dark, it’s very Samuel Beckett-esque kind of comedy drama. It’s a dark comedy. It’s about these two guys that are in a convalescent home and one is extremely irascible and one’s extremely happy. Obviously, they have their psychological problems, but the way they interact together - to watch the two is just very funny. And it’s done basically sitting on the bench in the back of this convalescent home. Just very strange, and funny, and quirky, a really fun role to do. So we’re in post on that right now.

HW: So two movies back to back without makeup

Camden: Well, other than Buffy and Angel I’m rarely in makeup, it’s like a childhood fantasy come true [when I get to do makeup]. We can only hope that at the nth hour somebody will step up to the plate because I would love to work with them again. Jeff Bell, the executive producer, came up to me at the Wolfram & Hart Revue charity event here and was just really complimentary of my work and was like, "We’d love to get you back on the show - we’ll see what we can do." And of course that’s just talk, but it was very complimentary, very nice for him to say that, he didn’t have to say that. It was nice to hear and I would love too. I would absolutely love to come back and do some more roles on that show.

Those people, the cast and crew of both shows [Buffy and Angel] have been together for so long, there’s really a family bond there. It’s a really fun relaxed set to be on. I would jump at the chance to work with those people again. I would love to work with Joss on his upcoming Firefly movie ’Serenity’, whether that would happen, again your guess is as good as mine, but I would jump at the chance to work with him again.

HW: I truly appreciate everything you’ve done for the series, the genre, and the industry on a whole, and you can come back to the Horror-Web any time you want.

Camden: [laughs] Ah it’s like I said, it’s a childhood fantasy come to true. It still amazes me that I’ve been able to create four different character in the Buffy/Angel universe. It’s been incredible.

HW: And along the way you leave us with wonderful, memorable characters like Gnarl, who’s going to live on forever.

Camden: yeah, Gnarl is pretty fun [laughs]

HW: Ok, I gotta ask. What were you actually eating? Because it wasn’t her skin...

Camden: It was little strips of rubber, but I wasn’t actually eating them, I was just putting them in my mouth. Not foam rubber, a flexible rubber. Almost Human had put together this rubber belly that went over Alyson’s belly, and then the little strips then come right out of that. Then we put fake blood in, but I made sure they used blood that was edible, cuz some isn’t edible.

HW: Ahh, I figured maybe the ’rubber’ was edible, so you were pulling off little strips of beef jerky or something [both laugh]

Camden: Yeah, and they didn’t know, the very first take. I don’t think they knew I was going to actually put it in my mouth, or even to do it the way I did - sort of putting my head back and really [slurp noise] relishing it. So when they yelled ’Cut!’ literally the cast and crew were like ’ewwwwwwwwww’ [both laugh] "we didn’t know you were going to do that!" Rob Hall said, "ya know, when you get the cast and crew of Buffy going ’eww’ you’ve done a good thing. These people have seen it all!"

HW: Anything you’d like to add here?

Camden: More than anything, it’s been an incredible ride, and I feel incredibly lucky and blessed that I’ve been able to work with the cast and crew of these two shows. I think I’ve said that, but it’s just hard not to state it. I love working with these people. I love the fact that they write such wonderful characters, such wonderful scripts, and I’ve been able to jump in and play some of those characters, and help create some of those characters. It’s an incredible opportunity that you just so rarely get. These are incredible shows, very unusual shows, and I feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity, I’m very blessed.

HW: Well that is all of the questions I have for you.

Camden: Well, Thank you...

HW: Thanks for taking half your day with me... I filled 3 tapes!

Camden: WOW, are you serious?

HW: Dead serious [both laugh] Well thanks again, and we’ll see you at the convention.

Camden: Definitely, and thanks again. Take care. Bye