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J. August Richards - About Charles Gunn - Zap2it.com Interview

By Kate O’Hare

Tuesday 12 August 2003, by Webmaster

In 10 years, "Angel" star J. August Richards would like to be wearing a tux, driving an Aston-Martin and drinking a martini (shaken, not stirred). The same goes for his character, vampire hunter Charles Gunn. "Gunn, like me, has a James Bond obsession," Richards says. "He would love to be James Bond, and it’s a great role that I would love to be, someday."

While Richards acknowledges it may take a decade for him to grow into the part, he doesn’t let the fact that an American — especially an African-American — never has played the quintessential British spy.

"My cousin, who’s visiting, he’s 15, and he was the first one who pointed out to me that being black might be an obstacle to getting it," Richards says. "I never really thought that way. I never really thought that would be an issue, but I guess that’s just the way I think."

Richards can affect a British accent and ride a horse (three times, on-screen), but he might need to work on his motorboat and motorcycle skills.

"But, I definitely believe that I can learn to do anything in a short period of time," he says. "If I have any talent in this world, that’s what it is. I’m very adaptable."

Some of Richards’ adaptability was on display earlier this year on "Angel," which returns to Wednesdays this fall, starting Oct. 1, for a fifth season on The WB Network. In an episode called "Players," Gunn took a break from his duties with the evil-fighting crew at Angel Investigations in Los Angeles to team up on a mission with electrically charged thief Gwen Raiden (Alexa Davalos).

Along with donning stylish threads to infiltrate a high-society party (and romancing the heck out of Gwen at the end), Gunn showed off his fighting skills, especially in a sequence where he used a long pole to vanquish several assailants.

"It’s probably 95 percent me," Richards says. "That was probably my highlight of the year, even though I tend to hold the acting more important than the action. But, it was a very intricate fight scene.

"They kept expecting me to step out and let my stunt man step in, but I just wanted to do as much of it as I could. I just kept going, pushing myself, saying, ’Faster, faster, let’s do it faster.’ I was in a zone that day, and I would not let that scene go."

Admitting he’d never worked with a pole before, Richards says, "That was part of the magic of that day. I just learned it right there. A lot of the flourishes, I threw in myself. That was a part of doing it over and over again. I remember, when I was a kid, my sister was a majorette, and she used to let me play with her baton. That basically was what I was doing, just rolling it through the fingers. That was a great day."

Added to "Angel" at the end of its first season, Gunn was the leader of his own vamp-killing squad on L.A’s mean streets. After being recruited by Angel (David Boreanaz), a vampire with a soul, into his team, Gunn has had trouble fitting in.

Gunn’s struggle came to a head this past season, as his romance with co-worker Fred (Amy Acker) fell apart, and he began to wonder if there was a future for him with Angel Investigations.

"The struggle became, ’Am I just the muscle in this group, and how fulfilled am I by that?’ " Richards says. "That was the real question, and I think the panther answered that."

The panther in question appeared to Gunn in the season finale, as he and the members of Angel’s crew were offered new positions at the Los Angeles office of their chief nemesis, the evil law firm of Wolfram & Hart. After throwing in the towel against Angel, W&H ceded the L.A. territory to him, along with the vast resources of their fabulous office tower.

While each team member faced temptations linked to his or her personality, Gunn’s wordless encounter with a black panther in the tower’s otherworldly penthouse left many questions unanswered for viewers.

"I imagined he was speaking to me with no words," Richards says about playing the scene. "I felt the panther told me what my place was and what my purpose was, and that was where the shift comes."

So, Richards reveals, expect a new and improved Gunn this season. "What they did tell me is that, in some ways, the only thing that’s going to be the same about my character is the name. In a lot of ways, I’m going to be playing a brand-new character. He’ll also have a different look, which I really can’t give away."

For what it’s worth, Richards, who has had his head shaved for the role, showed up at The WB’s annual summer press-tour party with hair.

Other changes are in store for "Angel," as former guest star Mercedes McNab returns in a recurring capacity, playing the Valley Girl vamp Harmony, a role she originated in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Joining the regular cast is Harmony’s former flame, the also-ensouled vampire Spike (James Marsters), last seen apparently sacrificing his life to save the world in the "Buffy" series finale.

"There are going to be a lot of guys on the show," Richards says. "I’m really excited about it. I know James and his work. He’s a fantastic actor."

Sarah Thompson ("Boston Public") has also joined the show as Eve, Angel’s liaison with Wolfram & Hart’s senior partners.

Not in the cast this fall, though, is Charisma Carpenter, who played popular girl turned demon-fighting champion Cordelia Chase in both "Buffy" and "Angel," and who became a first-time mother earlier this year.

"I’m going to miss Charisma," Richards says. "I just loved having her on the set and her energy. She’s a great person. I’m just trying to stay open-minded. But, hopefully, Mercedes and Amy will keep the estrogen quotient high."

CYBERSPATIAL ANOMALIES: Keep up with J. August Richards’ life and career at his official Web site, at www.jaugustrichards.com/index.htm .