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James Marsters

James Marsters - Burbank Creation Con 2007 - Jamesmarsters.com Q&A Transcript

Saturday 23 June 2007, by Webmaster

You said yesterday that you read the Dresden novels for your own pleasure and I got into them because you were reading them. Do you do any kind of preparation, like making notes, because you’re really good. And also, which is your favorite book and character to do?

Wow. Uhm, I don’t do a lot of preparation. In general, I find that he’s a good writer so I want him to affect me as opposed to me making like an intellectual choice beforehand, like how"it was written so deftly" many English accents do I have, and use number three here and number seven here. I try to, if I can, come up with it on the fly and usually that doesn’t work and we have to go back. (laughs) But I find that this is a little more organic and the last book I did, Summer Knight - that blew up in my face because of the Summer Council scene and there were like fifteen booming, English basso voices and I don’t have more than one of those voices. (Booms out "Hellooo") But usually, it works really well. My favorite one I think was probably the first one and only because it was my introduction to Jim as a writer and so it was more intense. There was one little scene in which a woman was talking about her husband who was abusive and it was written so deftly, about noticing things in the kitchen and noticing the clock and the silences. And I just thought that he really understood that. My favorite character to do is Bob. Yeah. He’s such a jerk. (laughs and in English accent) "you’re going to burn, Harry."

As one of the few people who actually became a fan of yours before Buffy, I’ve got two really big questions, so I’m going to give you the option - Do you want to answer a question about Northern Exposure or Maloney?

Northern Exposure. Both were good experiences but Northern Exposure was great.

Did you ask your dad for any help or advice for the character of Reverend Harding, and has he ever seen the episode?

My dad is a Methodist minister, or was for many years and no, I didn’t ask him for advice. But I knew what it was like to be a little kid going to your dad’s church and everybody thinks your dad is so cool. And he’s just like God. When I was in church, it was like, "oh, you’re Jim Marsters’ son" you know, and it was really cool. So yeah, I played a"he kind of went like this" character who was a minister because his dad was the best minister anybody had ever heard of and so he had to become a minister. But he sucked. And like, when people told him problems, he would just freeze up and he would start sweating and he just couldn’t deal with other people’s problems like that. No, so basically, I just tried not to overact. I was coming from theater and I have to say that uh...the first shot I did was with the Joel character, what’s that guy’s name? Rob Morrow? He kind of went like this (shrinks back in fear) which was really an honest reaction because I was playing a character that was kind of whacked out. And I remember thinking, "I think I’m a little bit too whacked out here." But it was really fun.

Did your dad ever see it?

I’m sure he did but I didn’t watch it with him.

Because I was wondering if he reacted like, "oh my son is playing ME!"

No, my dad was a good minister. I would have played the son who couldn’t do it, but he was pretty good at it, actually. He was pretty charismatic.

I’ve been reading a lot of Shakespeare lately, and my favorite plays happen to be Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. I was wondering if you’d read those, and if so, how close to the actual characters do you think Shakespeare got?

Yeah. Uh, how close do you think that Shakespeare was writing to actually Brutus and Cassius and...you were talking about the Brutus, Cassius or...

Any of them. In some areas, we got a lot of history and some we don’t, so how closely do you think he portrayed the main characters?

(Ponders) I don’t think there’s enough really known for sure and Shakespeare’s primary historical document that he kept referring to was Holinshed [Raphael] which really was more about European history and not so full of Roman history. I think that he tried to be true to it and he tried to present Brutus as kind of on the fence and Cassius as much more committed. And obviously, you know, that Caesar was an emperor who was subverting democracy and Shakespeare’s talking about in order to save democracy, is it okay to stab a guy in the heart, who never really did you any wrong? His only real crime is he was so damn popular. And it’s kind of an un-winnable argument, and I think that he painted that really well, but I don’t know that there’s any way to really know if Brutus was such a nice guy or if Cassius was such not a nice guy. We don’t really know, yeah. My favorite scene is actually Brutus and his wife, when his wife was going, "you guys just don’t really get us ’cause here’s the secret about women - we’re human beings!" Yeah, I LOVE that.

Are you the type of person that will hang on to things that have happened to you in the past and dwell on that? Or do you let that go and live in the here and now, or do you worry about the future? Or all of the above?"So I don’t think about that!"

I tend to hang on to any....yeah. I have what I call my ghosts, people that I think have really treated me ill, that I’ve allowed to treat me ill, and that I don’t take enough responsibility for my part in that. I have four or five people that I keep being angry at in my life. (laughs) I trying to get more mature - I’m hoping that it happens at some point. Uhm, to worry about the future? I’m pretty good at that. If I really break down my life I have reason to really freak out. I have reason to worry about money and worry about the future. I have kids and I’m an actor and that’s just oil and water. So, I don’t think about that! I’m really good at compartmentalizing and not letting my mind go to worry because if I let myself worry, I’m not going to audition well, I’m not going to have fun acting and I’m not going to be able to provide for my kids, so it’s really good if I’m just totally responsible and don’t spend much money and just don’t worry about it. Yeah.

I was wondering if you could talk a little about working with Michael Winnick and Tony Todd on Shadow Puppets.

"he’s this big"Michael Winnick is the writer and director of Shadow Puppets and I had a really great time working with him. He is a guy who really knew what he wanted and he didn’t have a whole lot of money or time. Uh, he spent most of his money on me. I was impressed by his intelligence and his ability to deal with a lot of frustration and never lose his cool. Tony Todd is a BIG guy (stretches arms above his head) and I’m sure, based on his work on film, everyone is kind of afraid of him; and I think that he has deep reservoirs of anger, but that he’s a mature man who has dealt with that and he uses it in his art. But it really doesn’t come out in his personal life. There were some hard days and he could have lost it - he’s a nice guy who you wouldn’t wanna mess with. That’s Tony Todd. But a really nice guy, yeah.

What first got you interested in acting?

It was in the fourth grade. I was doing a production of Winnie the Pooh - (in deep, sophisticated voice) I portrayed Eeyore and thought I brought a sense of ennui to the character. (laughs) No really, I was very serious when I was young, God help me. And to be really honest about it, I had a very chaotic family life. Family dinner for me was like, "eeeaaah" (raises hands in fright). So, I was amazed by the fact that there were a bunch of people who were kind of freaky in theater, maybe outcasts, maybe we’d get in fights, but at the end of the day we put all our differences aside and we made something beautiful. And it kind of became, for me, my new family. And so when my family would be all fighting and bickering and I’m like, "I’m off to rehearsal, see you later!" You know? "I’ll be back when you guys are in bed." And that was pretty much my teenage years - "I’m off to rehearsal." So really, what got me into theater was to be a part of a group that was functioning harmoniously. And to this day, that is really what gets me excited about working and also the fact that we are all in on a secret. We’re all doing a magic trick that’s gonna fool everybody else and that’s just delicious. I like that a lot.

James, my favorite fantasy is to see you in the role of Thomas the vampire on the Dresden Files. And believe me, we’ve mentioned that to Robert Hewitt Wolfe who posts on some of the boards. Would you think of that as being typecast because it’s another vampire role or are there enough differences that you would really enjoy taking it on?

Uhm, I have done enough other roles now that I think that I could probably go back and do a vampire, yeah. You know, two or three years ago, I probably would have said, "oh, I don’t know about that" but I’ve done other stuff, so yeah. I think I could probably do that, if it’s a good script.

How do you feel about psycho fans that have the tattoo of Spike on them. and do you want to see my cool tattoo of Spike?

"awe, that’s hot!"(yells) I love psycho fans who have tattoos of Spike! God, that’s incredible. Show them that, show them that. Awwe, that’s hot! Look at your others..you got Danny DiVito! Ahhh! That’s so hot. Oh my God, Michelle Pfeiffer! I used to come to these things in full Spock regalia - pointed ears, tricorder- I would erase my eyebrows with soap and I would have my fake eyebrows and I’d never had a better time or met more cool people than when I was in my full regalia. Fuzzy hair, pointed ears. I love it. (points to tattoo) I’m immortal now, man!

It’s kind of hard to follow up body art...I had a question about your music actually. Last night you did a concert where you did twenty-five songs, twenty-three of them were written by you. And yesterday you stated that you have a little bit more fear with the music because you share things you normally probably wouldn’t. So, how do you feel when you stand in front of, like the crowd that we had last night, and you see everyone who is singing along with songs that you normally wouldn’t share?

That’s the most beautiful thing, that I feel intensely not alone. That I shared something that is very personal and that maybe I was the only one that felt that, and then I write a song about it and then everyone else is singing along. And I don’t feel so alone anymore.

You’ve spoken in the past about how celebrity and fame messes with people in general and that it is a difficult thing to deal with. As you think about your career and your future going forward, what kind of preference would you have - would you prefer to be sort of a constantly working character actor who may not be known walking in the street, so you would have the privacy, or would you prefer kind of a Brad Pitt existence? "I was fishing"

I want to be Michael Caine. I’m about as pretty as Michael Caine so if I could be Michael Caine...

I think you’re prettier...

Thank you. I was fishing, so thank you. (fans himself coyly)

Another question about the play you’re gonna be doing. (Note: Unfortunately, this play has since been cancelled) Have you made the decision that you wanted to go back to theater and therefore found the part or just how it came to be that you...

No, I found that they were willing to pay real money. I really thought... I had hung around people in the 80’s who were doing Broadway and they quoted me the amount that they were making and that simply was not anywhere near enough for me to raise my kids. And I pretty much thought I was going to have to wait until they were done with college and I could go and be poor again, and then I could go out and do theater and be poor, and that’s fine. But they were paying me some money, so daddy can feel good about spending that much time working, doing that. But I mean the artist in me is just like (raises arms and YES’S) But I’ve not allowed myself that. It’s like art, schmart, you know? Who let him in the building? Be a dad, make your money.

Have you seen the Dresden Files TV series and if you have, what did you think of it?

I haven’t seen it. Uhm...I gotta say, I can’t wait...8:20 - it’s after I sing the songs for my kid, and she goes to bed, and I go straight to CNN, or Discovery Times channel, or Discovery channel, or History channel. And those are such good channels, I don’t really go watching fiction. And I get in trouble. Steve, my manager, will go, "uh, you’re auditioning for this tomorrow, you need to know the acting style." And I’m like, "but, but but... The Discover Times is doing this thing on Al-Qaeda and I got to know about the Pakistani nuclear bomb, and it’s really...." (grins and shrugs)

I have a question for you because I think a lot of women would like to know and I’m asking this as a mother because you’re the only man my daughter seems interested in. And the question is are you currently attached?

I am. Uh, I have a girlfriend who treats me really well. We’ve been together for a few years now and she’s good to me.

Yesterday was Sarah’s birthday so I was wondering is there anything annoying about working with her?

You know, I’m going to preface this by saying how annoying I was to work with. I was one of the (sarcastic) "method actors", who internalized his role and who was oh so damn serious about every damn scene that he did. And when you internalize the rolegiggles of someone who thinks that he’s okay to hurt people and kill people, and that the whole world is a bad place that he has to protect himself from? That’s a dark place to go living in for seven years. So, I was annoying. I admit that. And she was annoying too. And Nick was annoying. And JOSS...was ANNOYING! And we’re all beautiful people and I couldn’t have hoped for anyone better to go through that experience with and we all made it through the fire and I gotta tell you, it’s a good job, you get money from it, you get fame from it, but it’s hard. And I saw every facet of everybody, all their ugly, little weird places. And I love them all. And they annoyed the crap out of me. (laughs) It’s like being in a family, basically. Yeah. Did your sister annoy you? yeah. (giggles) yeah. Sarah’s my kid sister. That’s why I couldn’t lick her. I was talking to you yesterday about how one of the hardest things I had to do was I had to lick Sarah because psychologically she WOULD annoy me. I mean after fifteen hours, anybody... I mean, Jesus Christ, anyone would annoy me, man. So I came to think of her as my kid sister who I loved dearly but she drove me crazy. And so when you have to lick your kid sister, it’s just to weird for words.

I was wondering what your biggest guilty pleasure is?

Let’s see.. my biggest guilty pleasure...uh, right-winged video games. It’s interesting. There are certain video games you can tell are designed for conservatives and there are certain ones that are designed for liberals. And anything with a Gundam in it, any robot that’s totally protected by mechanized armor is a right wing video game. And the politics, if you look at the back story it’s always, "gotta go get the terrorists" and the world government is gonna stomp these guys out and kill ’em all. And those are fun. But other than that? Yeah, I’m still on the patch... I don’t watch American Idol though. I never can watch that. (keeps thinking) I feel like I’m all Mr. Serious now...(in deep voice) "no, no I read, uhm, books about important things," Uh, yeah, video games. Shooting people in the head.

I heard your show last night and I found your music to be really beautiful and poetic. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard you actually. I was just wondering if you wrote poetry and if you would ever perhaps think about doing a book of poems or lyrics?

I haven’t really.. I’ve written poems before but never really gotten into doing poetry for its own sake. I find that I like to write poetry when it’s music, that it’s somehow the combination of the changes and the melody that help me keep writing. Because somehow, for me emotionally, it’s the combination of the melody and the music; that’s where the theme really is - that what you really want to write about is contained in there. And then you have to get your lyrics to actually, you gotta get brave enough to actually talk about what you’re talking about. And a lot of people, you can see them shy away from it, almost go for what they’re gonna talk about and then...(puts up hands and turns away) Yeah. And I haven’t got the courage to admit that I would be worthy of printing my lyrics.

Well, I thought your lyrics were beautiful.

Well, thank you. I really appreciate that.

I talked to Jim Butcher last week. He blames you for getting the Dresden Files on TV.

(incredulous) Why?

Because he says when you went to do voices for the Spiderman cartoon that was on MTV, you had just finished doing one of the books on tape and they were praising you on how you had done that [Spiderman] and you said, "oh, well I just got finished with this book" and that’s how it got on TV. So he blames you.

Wow! That’s cool. It’s probably true. I went on and on about that. I had just gotten over it and I was really on fire about how this guy should be turned into film and the books were just ready-made for movies. "Spike is the epitome of prettyboy vampire"

He also said that Thomas is inspired by Spike because and I quote, "because Spike is the epitome of the pretty boy vampire and so I needed a pretty boy vampire and I wrote him like Spike" and he is dying to see you on the Dresden Files on TV.

I’d love to do it. Yeah, that’d be great.

As Thomas? Or Marcone?

You know who else I think is based on Spike? The gecko for that insurance company. Because you know, (English accent) ’he’s got that kind of, you know, I don’t know, dry sense of humor.’ I don’t know, I think that’s Spike. (laughs)

So, the question is, Spike as a comic book character has moved to another publishing house, it’s with IDW now - do you know that there is a trailer going around for the upcoming Spike series that’s going to be Spike: Shadow Puppets? It’s Spike and Lorne vs., the "Smile Time" Puppets.

(shakes his head, dumbfounded) There’s gonna be a comic book of Spike vs. the Shadow Puppets?

It’s called Spike Shadow Puppets and it’s Spike and Lorne vs. the "Smile Time" puppets, in Japan.

Oh! Oh! Oh! The "Smile Time" puppets! Oh! Well THAT would be cool.

And there is a trailer going around, have you seen it?

No, is it animated? (wary) Who’s doing the voice of Spike?

No, no, no. There is no voice of Spike. It’s the trailer for the comic book and it’s like, "In a world where both our cars are underwater..." like deal. And it has pictures of you and the comic book. Have you seen it?

No, I have not. That’s incredible. I didn’t know that. I gotta check it out. Yeah, I will check it out. Right on. They should DO a cartoon of Spike ’cause I’m too old to play it now.

What brings out the inner child in you, James?

(jerks around like a goofy ten year-old) ’Oh, I don’t know.’ (laughs) Life. I think not havinggoofy to discipline my kids. If I don’t have to discipline my kids, I think I’m pretty goofy. Yeah. I remember talking to my niece about that because in the beginning I needed to be fairly firm with her and I remember saying to her, "you know, there’s a whole ’nother side of me. Sullivan, my son, would be shocked at the guy I am for you. Like, I’m Mr. Poopy Pants for you. (parent voice) No! No, you can’t do that. Go do your homework. And he knows me as a whole different guy and if you’d just do your homework and comb your hair, then I could be the guy that I wanna be." And she heard that and now she’s all doing her hair and I get to be goofy James. So yeah, this is me 24/7 guys.

I heard that the new series "Saving Grace" that you’re gonna guest star on is set in Oklahoma so I was wondering if we could look forward to a new accent - a southern accent or...

Yeah. A very, very slight, uh VERY slight. Because if you watch, if you see things on news from Oklahoma City, and you listen to people talking from Oklahoma, (southern accent) ’they don’t all sound like this. They don’ talk like this all the time.’ But there’s just a little tiny bit of that. Just very subtle. Yeah. That was fun by the way. Holly Hunter - I almost had like an outer body experience acting with her because she’s so there. You know, she’s trying to grill me, "are you the murderer?" and I would kinda look away and she was like (suddenly moves over to where he would have been looking). It was just little things, man, you just never know what’s gonna happen. She’s just, oh, SO good.

Well, you’re making a habit of working with Academy Award winners.

Yeah! I’m like on the gravy train of women. Any women that’s got coattails, I’m right... (jumps on imaginary coattails)

What was your favorite scene to film in Smallville?

My favorite scene to film in Smallville? The love scene between me and Clark, in the moonlight, when I told him all about life. No, I liked that because I was pretending that I gave a crap about him in the first place, that I wasn’t trying to kill him and I was just trying to be world-weary and "oh, aren’t humans messed up" and it’s just a mistake to really care about them. I thought that it was delicious to play a character who was pretending to care. And he’s a robot. He doesn’t care about anybody, he’s pure intent, but he’s putting on this mask like he gives a crap. I thought that was wonderful and so that was really fun. Because then you could pretend to care, like I pretended that I cared for Clark SO much, you know... (laughs) So that was fun.

As a guy who has a girlfriend who is maybe a little bit too obsessed with the character of Spike and yourself, I was just wondering if there were any actors or actresses out there that your girlfriend might be a bit too keen on.

Brad Pitt. No, no. When I first started dating my girlfriend, she had been drawing, uh, she’s an artist had she had drawn a couple of pictures of Brad Pitt and I was like, "who’s...(makes jealous face) and then those went away. (laughs) Probably there is and she’s too smart to tell me about it, I guess. So, would this unfortunate soul be you?

Yeah, good guess. In 2003, she made me go to your concert in Newport but then refused to buy me a ticket and made me wait outside while you performed.

Tell her you went to the bathroom with me and I have a little d**k. (laughs)

Thank you very much!

Tell her, tell her....(ponders, befuddled.) Bad breath?

Too bad I can’t video this, but I don’t think they’ll let me.

Yeah, I could pretend to be drunk. (very drunk voice and staggers) "Come on over, man..."(puts hand on forehead and shakes his head) Oh man...Oh man...See that’s the thing. Like a lot of people like have, it’s ok to have a crush on someone because you know that it will probably never ever happen. But in Hollywood, you can’t have that because you might meet that person. I mean if my person is Penelope Cruz and your person is Tom Cruise, but we might meet those people! So, that sucks, dude. That sucks Tell her I’m 45 years old. Tell her I dye my gray hair and my gray hair is coming out of my nose. That’s the truth.

Tell us about the headtilt. Is that a James thing?

The what?

The headtilt. Is that a Spike thing, a James thing, or just an acting thing?

That’s just me. In fact, I had a lot of directors ask me to stop tilting my head. And then I’d just say, that’s the character, that’s me. And frankly, that’s a dog. (tilts his head) That’s what dogs do and I always thought Spike was a bit of a dog.

There’s a video on line of just the headtilts set to music and stuff.

"Instead of going like this..."(James laughs) Well, you know you’re trying to find expression that doesn’t make your face twist and contort, so you try to put a lot of emotion in your eyes. If you can communicate something just when you decide to look from A to B, that’s the best. "you go like this" But I found that instead of going like this, (makes scrunched up face) you go (tilts head) Yeah, it’s a trick It’s basically a trick - I did it once and I liked it and I just did it forever. It became like my little Leonard Nimoy eyebrow (lifts one eyebrow)

Well we were wondering if it wasn’t, as the other person was acting towards you, you were like, ok, I’m TRYING to pay attention."

Yeah, yeah...(tilts head and drones) ’I’m barely standing this.’

Exactly! Thank you.

I used to be so...like directors would come in and a lot of time directors don’t know the show very well and they would be appalled because I would say, "Look, I don’t care about any of the people in this room. They could die and I don’t care." And they’d be like, "that’s terrible! You have to care about your cast, I mean you’re one of the cast, it’s such a weak acting choice." and I’m like, "Normally yes. But this guy, he doesn’t care. If it’s not Buffy..."Xander’s dead?" (shrugs who cares?)

A question about Shadow Puppets. I understand it’s playing in the Brussels International Film Festival tomorrow and I was wondering have you seen it and do you know how your role turned out?

I haven’t seen the whole thing. I’ve seen cuts of it that looked really nice. But it’s gonna be one of those that you’re gonna have to look for because it’s a one million dollar picture and it’s well nigh impossible to get a distribution deal for that level of budget, which is one of the problems of Hollywood, frankly. Yeah. But I think that the film did well enough to give Michael the ability to do another film and they’ll give him some real money this time and he’ll use it very wisely.

Will he hire you?

I think so! Yeah, I think he would! But I’m such a diva. No, I’m not. I would bring my own lunch, actually.

Could you tell us more about your role in P.S. I Love You?

Yes. I played, the character’s name was John in P.S. I Love You, a film based on the very popular book which takes..it’s a diary...uhh. It’s love letters written by a man dying of cancer to his wife, to be delivered to her after he dies, to help her get over him. And they made it into a movie. Richard LaGravenese directed and wrote it. He wrote Fisher King, The Horse Whisperer, oh..so much. He just wrote and directed Freedom Writers with Hillary Swank, which was a fabulous movie. I play the best friend of the dude who dies of cancer. So my job was to be very in love with Gina Gershon and be the couple that is so in love that it is just driving a nail into the heart of the Holly character, played again by Hillary Swank. So she’s missing her husband and she has to watch her best friends hold hands and be so warm and loving. So, it wasn’t a big role, but I was in it and I got to work with Kathy Bates. That’s one thing. It was fun. They say it’s cutting great and they’ve had some previews and audiences are really eating it up.

And that’s time. Thanks - you guys were great.