Homepage > Joss Whedon’s Tv Series > Angel > Conventions > James Marsters Q&A - Friday, Aug. 29, 2003 at DragonCon in (...)
AngelJames Marsters Q&A - Friday, Aug. 29, 2003 at DragonCon in Atlanta
Monday 8 September 2003, by Webmaster
NOTE from Talky: This was James’ first talk at the con. He had just arrived that morning from California having worked late on "Angel", but you wouldn’t know if he was tired. He was charming, thoughtful and funny. He had his usual high energy and smiled and laughed freely and often throughout the talk, but was always quick to get serious and put real thought into the more serious questions. They had the stage set with a table (close to the edge of the stage so he couldn’t even easily walk back and forth in front of it), a chair and mic on a stand on a table. Anyone who has seen James before knew that was not the set up for him. The man does NOT just sit there and talk! One of my friends even said she wouldn’t be surprised if he got up on the table. Well, he did - sort of. They got him a wireless lapel mic so he could move around and he did - sometimes leaning/sitting on the table top, pulling a leg up, even sitting cross-legged on the table at times. Mostly, he moved around near the one edge of the stage trying to initially make eye-contact with whoever was asking a question. I take great pride in trying to be as accurate as possible with the transcripts but I did leave out some of the "uhms", "you knows", etc. In order to try to give you a sense of being there, I’ve added descriptives - ones by or about James are in ( ) and audience comments/reactions or my comments are in [ ]. If anyone finds any errors in people’s names or typos, please let me know and I’ll correct them. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed doing it.)
JM: We have a microphone for questions or if we just want to shout them to each other, I can repeat questions if you guys have a problem hearing. Otherwise, I tend to tell stories you guys have probably already heard. ... [tech guy comes out to switch James from hand-held mic to a lapel mic, I think so they could pass the wireless hand-held around for questions] We’re going to switch up mics here for a second, hold up. Usually sound guys are sticking these in places you don’t want to know about so... [cheers from audience] There is no dignity in acting...
Alright, alright... N’Sync (laughing about his lapel/belt pack mic) So, yeah, anybody with a question raise up your hand and we’ll shout at each other.
Q: [someone yells loudly from audience] How do they bring you back to life?
JM: (laughing) There not going to bring me back to life, I’ve been dead for six years. There’s a brave lady in this area here, yeah...
Q: [Can’t hear question]
JM: What happened with "Rolling Stone"? There’s a dude from "Rolling Stone" who came to a show we did in LA - the band did, Ghost of the Robot - that was at the Knitting Factory, and he had that same look that everyone has after they hear us. (Makes funny, puzzled face - with head tilt!) "D**n, you’re a band." And I’m like, "yeah, we’ve been waiting for you to notice that." What’s up?
Q: Where did they put the mic when you were doing the love scenes? [laughs and "woos" from audience]
JM: (laughingly) You guys are bad. (laughs again) That was on a boom babe. No, we really couldn’t use mic packs very much on "Buffy". We were near an airport and it played havoc with all the frequencies and because also we were in a stage that was not a sound stage. We had no sound proofing whatsoever and every third take - about every third take was messed up by some sound. We were begging for mic packs but they couldn’t give them to us because the frequencies were bad. That’s probably part of the boring stuff that you guys may not care about.
Q: First of all, you’re great. [claps, cheers from audience] How difficult was it to perfect the Spike voice/character and would you do some of that for us.
JM: (laughs) How much you payin’? Yeah, the Spike voice was not perfect in the beginning. I remember when Joss says, "You’re going a little Southern again." But thank god for Tony Head, basically. He would come give me notes all the time. I remember when he said, "It’s...", uh, god what was the word that he put... uh ... he’d say, (slipping into accent) "Say it like the rest of the world you pratt". [audience offers up "arse" as the word] Because frankly, Tony sounds a lot more like Spike in real life. He’s putting on as much of an accent as I am. Yeah, so I just copied him.
Q: [can’t hear question]
JM: Oh, we have someone with a wire...[tech guys says something] Rock on! You guys get mics too. Someone’s floating around with a wireless... you know, what might work best is if you just stand in the middle isle, if you guys don’t mind lining up it goes real quick that way. Otherwise, we kind of wait... and then you guys don’t have to walk around. What was the question? Sorry.
Q: The question is, since you’re a lot bulkier than you were, [can’t hear rest but something about his workout routine]
JM: 250 sit-ups, free weights, just curls, curls. Basically if you, if you ... [someone in audience yells at him to take his shirt off] (in obviously perturbed tone) NO I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE MY SHIRT OFF. [audience roars in support]. I never have bowed to group pressure guys so... I’m a punk rocker so go ahead and jeer... spit I don’t care. Basically, you know, with working out if you do it consistently, you don’t have to do it very much. I work out about 15 minutes a day, but I always do.
Boom. Yeah, are we up with the mic yet? No.
Q: On "Angel", will you be good or evil this season? [People in audience yell, "no spoilers"]
JM: Well, you like Angel? Yeah, hell yeah. Then, I’m evil. (laughs) You know, there’s a lot of really great history between those two characters. Spike hates Angel because he knows that Buffy was really in love with him, not Spike, and I think [groans, sounds of disagreement from audience] I know, yeah it sucks but ... and Angel really hates Spike because he’s been there most recently [audience cheers] but underneath that actually as David and I play some scenes together, underneath the animosity there’s a lot of love and understanding. I said, "David, you know we are always fighting but there’s a lot of love down there too. I think you and I have experienced things - I’m talking characters [loud laughs from audience] - that human beings probably couldn’t even talk about, couldn’t even understand." And he was just like, "Exactly!" I’m like, "you’ve been playing a vampire for six years too, you’ve been thinking the same thing too." Yeah, so far from the first four episodes I’m just making life incredibly difficult and he’s having to be really patient. He’s trying so hard. [crowd claps and cheers] Yeah, no more heartfelt speeches, tears or anything like that. It’s just f-off and I’m going to mess up your day.
Q: What is your favorite color?
JM: Green. Favorite color green, yeah. The color of Mother Earth. What else? What’s up?
Q: [question about whether he’s heard the rumors about how Spike returns...]
JM: Well, you know how Spike returns, you see that’s what I love about "Buffy" is whereas a show like "Star Trek" has to explain in technical language how they achieve the thing, all we have is the spell of anorga or [says some other made up funny spell-name sounding words] and then we can just jump right to the story (laughs). So in my mind, it’s less important how they do it - (laughing) which I can’t talk about frankly - but that you guys wanted it to happen. [loud roars, cheers from audience]. Hitchcock has a term that he labeled the "the McGuffin." For him it was just the thing that the main character either wants to avoid or obtain, and to him it was unimportant what the McGuffin was so long as the person wanted it bad enough. It’s kind of the same way... I feel all of our magical charms and stuff, they’re all McGuffins. You know, they need to have a cool name, they need to have good fight scene, but it’s just a spell. (laughs) It’s just a way to keep going with the story.
Q: [can’t hear question but something about how his role in "Venetian Heat" came about and how he’ll work it into his schedule]
JM: (repeats question) How am I going to do "Venetian Heat", which is a movie that I’m doing coming up in November, and "Buffy", uh (laughs) I mean "Angel". You know, (laughs) where’s Steve Himber? (laughs) My manager knows that one. He figures all those details out and tells me which plane to get on. Basically, Joss heard about the project. It’s with Derek Jacobi and Sean Bean [audience cheers and claps]... enough to make me really nervous... Derek Jacobi needs no introduction. I think he’s one of the five top actors on the planet and Sean Bean, you guys probably know him as Boromir. Boromir from "Lord of the Rings"... and it’s based on a very successful London play and Joss heard about the plot and he backed me up.
Joss HATES to let actors out for movies. He just hates it. He very rightly thinks that he’s paying us a lot of money and that he should have our time. But there’s only been two occasions over six years that I went to him and said that there’s a project that I want to be let out for. The first one was the Star Trek ["Nemesis"] movie I was auditioning for and I went to him and I said, "Okay, this is your fault. You’ve been showing me to be sooo cool for so many years, somebody was watching and no they want me to do a movie." And when I framed it that way, he could jump behind it. It wasn’t like, (slipping into funny voice) "You’re going to let me out." But basically, I think they’re going to divorce the Spike plot from the main plot so they can pre-film it without having to actually write the episodes that they’re going to be dropped into and they’re going to pre-film that. I don’t think the character’s going to really drop out — if anything, for one or two episodes but nothing more than that. And the sh*t they’re cooking up for me, oh my god! [claps from audience]
I’m going to come over here [goes to other side of stage to take questions]. What’s up?
Q: [can’t hear question... I think he says "thank you for being here" and then asks a question... someone in audience yells out to "repeat the question"]
JM: (paraphrasing question) The scene between Buffy and Spike, when they finally have sex, in the abandoned house and [roars from audience] was that hard to film? (in kind of laughing voice with emphasis) Nooo! Motivation, yeah! It was a lot harder for Steve Tartalia than me. I like to do as much stunts as they’ll let me and because I come from stage frankly I can step in more often than not. But the guy who plays Stunt!Spike, Steve Tartalia, is known all over the stunt world for taking major hits that other stunt men cringe at and won’t do. And so that day, I remember that I got to kiss Sarah, Steve would get plowed through the wall and I’d be in my trailer with a nap, you know. And then I would lay down in the rubble, and dust myself off and stand up and "cut" and Steve comes back and face plants into the chimney again. See that was the best example of why I’m really glad I decided to become an actor.
But you know, Steve loves his job as much as I love mine. I remember Steve... what was it ... at the end of ... what was the name of that episode ... I forget the name of the episode but at the end of it, Buffy just clocks Spike - which is probably most of my episodes - the one where I cattle-prodded her in the beginning to try to prove my love? [Audience yells out "Crush"] Yeah, "Crush". Buffy clocks Spike and he’s gotta take a big fly over to the dressing table and Steve went right into the cave wall and just opened up his whole face, just cuts and... they (speaking emphasis and obvious awe) super-glued his face together and they went on to take four more takes [oohs from audience] and he was LAUGHING at the end! If you guys want stories, this guy...you guys should bring him to a convention because he used to be the biggest Caucasian actor in Hong Kong and he has stories of the Orient and his experiences there. (laughing) I thought I was the experienced guy, no way.
Q: How would you compare the atmosphere on "Buffy" and "Angel"?
JM: Oh. Similar. A lot of good actors, very professional, really tight crew. I’ve got to say, I’m really happy to be working with David Boreanaz. I spent really only a season working with him and I was impressed with him but at the same time I didn’t know if he was going to be cool with another guy on the show taking heat and stuff. He’s just been ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. He’s a guy’s guy. I remember when I first got on the show, he was doing this gag where he’s supposed to run into this invisible wall, you know. And the cord... they’ve got this steel cable in his back and he just runs and it just pops him and he stops back... well, they made the cable one inch to short so he was thrown backwards right through two by fours, right through Buffy’s outside porch. He broke a two by four with his head and everyone’s FREAKING out because he’s going to have his own show and (slipping into funny, worried voice) "Oh David, David" [audience laughs] — because they treat you like you’re made of tissue paper when you’re in Hollywood, it’s really weird — and he just wanted to get going. He was like, "No, no, I’m fine. Let’s just shoot." I always think of that story when I think of David and it’s still true. He came in with a knee injury and they were asking him to do crosses, like across the room which if you’ve just blown your knee out is just hell, and he wouldn’t admit it ... (laughing) the man would not admit that he was in pain (laughing).
Yeah, what’s up?
Q: You’ve been quoted as saying all you wanted on "Buffy" for Spike was a high body count and a good death [James says, "uh huh"], you ended up with five seasons [James interjects, "But the WORST body count in vampire history!" He and the audience laugh. He continues, "I mean, I think I was in Season 6 going, "I think I’ve killed two people. Spike is such a bad-ass. (laughs) What was the question?"] How do you feel about having the character go for that long when it could have just been one season and that’s it?
JM: Spike is the best role I’ve ever had and I’ve done a hundred plays. [claps, cheers from audience] They plugging him in - structurally - they keep plugging him in differently every year. So I’ve gone from bad-ass villain to wacky neighbor to love interest to the reformed man, and now I’m just the dickhead - and it is sooo fun! If I had to play that the whole time, it might be old for you guys by now, you know, but we’ve made you thirst for it. So we’re going to give it now.
Q: Have you talked Joss into doing "Hamlet" yet?
JM: No... Have I talked Joss into doing "Hamlet", no. You know, he doesn’t really know what I can do on stage as far as directing and producing. So, I talk to him about wanting to produce "Hamlet". I talk to him about wanting to direct with him. He’s always very patient with me. Because really, you know, I try to be the actor I always wanted to hire, when I’m doing auditions. And so, I’m just "Mr. Whatever-You-Want", "How high do you want me to jump sir", but that doesn’t really lend itself for me to be able to talk about telling the story and all that stuff. I just wish I could take him back in time to Chicago or Seattle to see one of the shows I did. I would love him to see the Spanish play, "Life is a Dream", that we did at the New Mercury Theater in Seattle where we retranslated the play and it ROCKED. And if he saw some of my work, I think we’d be doing it now, but I’m just an actor to him, one more actor with another project. I’ve seen so many Hamlets and his is the best. His... he’s got the least ego.
You see, Hamlet is like a 17-year-old guy standing before the audience just going, "you know what guys, I’ve been thinking and life kind of sucks and I’m really kind of thinking why don’t we all just kill ourselves tonight. Why do we not do that." And when it’s that simple and that honest, it’s a really powerful play. But the problem is you get all these big actors who want to make their mark in the role and they just go off to martyr somewhere and you get all these weird interpretations. I just... for the first time in my life, I understood how Hamlet could sustain for three and a half hours — when Joss played him, he was a stand-up comic. He was the funniest Hamlet I’ve ever seen, but also the most pained. The pain came out, the humor came out of real pain and I enjoyed watching him. He didn’t seem like he was tied to his mother’s apron strings, he didn’t seem like a whiny aristocrat or any of that. He just seemed like a young boy who’s very confused, but very intelligent and very funny. And I was like, "I’d watch that for three and a half hours. That wouldn’t be painful and most "Hamlets"... (makes shuddering, pained face and sound then slips into pompous voice) I’m grrreat once more. Great [something I can’t make out - maybe Thespian??]". It’s horrible, horrible. What’s up honey?
Q: My question is what do you think about all the money people spent on your wardrobe on Ebay?
JM: How much money? Yeah, I don’t know how much money they spent on Ebay?
Q: [something about people paying over $2,000 for his boxers]
JM: Did anyone by the boxer shorts because I never wore underwear on the show? [audience roars] They’re selling sh*t (laughing) I never touched, man. [Person asking question tells him he wore them in an episode with Harmony] I did? Okay, okay. I just don’t remember. (laughs) Once again, what’s up?
Q: How do you keep humble when people are just sort of coming all over you all the time... [audience interrupts laughing at the unintentional double entendre]
JM: I believe the question is "how do I keep humble when fans are coming all over me all the time." [loud laughs from audience] Hypothetically... (big laugh from James) I, uh (still laughing), it comes from directing I guess. [audience chuckles again] Yeah, enough with the double entendres. You become very aware that it’s all a big gag. Especially when you direct, you’re very aware of all the different pieces that create the gag - the lighting, the script, your blocking, the actors and all of that - and I’m just so hyper aware that I didn’t write it, I didn’t choose the camera angles, I didn’t write the music, I don’t do a whole lot that’s invisible that makes you guys respond to the character.
The thing — I am now in love with film. I didn’t use to be. I came down to Hollywood just to make money but I found myself in love with this new medium — the thing that makes it so intense beyond being really sculpture with light - and that’s just the amazing thing - is that... how to explain this... like in a painting, an artist can cram a week’s worth of labor into a canvas this big, so there’s a lot of thought on to the canvas. With film - I should just talk about TV - with TV you can cram three hundred people’s effort for eight days of 12-14 hour days into a one-hour program. So you can combine more labor into the product than you ever could before and when you’re an actor in the middle of that and you really understand or (laughing) think you understand that — the larger machine that’s operating around you — you’re just like, I’m just so... my job is the only one that’s not invisible. There’s three hundred people who’s whole job is to stay out of the shot — do their thing and get away. I’m taking a nap and I can come in and there’s a great set that informs you about my character, there’s a great costume, all this stuff that I didn’t’ do. So, I’m just... I’m the titular head of the Buffy pyramid, but I didn’t do all that stuff down there and I think that’s what probably keeps my head on straight. Hopefully, although... celebrity is toxic by the way...
Q: What does your family think of ...[can’t make out last words]
JM: You know, I uhm... my brother and sister are really tickled about it. (paraphrasing the question) How does my family think about all this stuff that’s happened? My brother and sister are tickled about it. My mother and dad don’t watch the show. Thanks, mom. So I don’t know if they’ve formed anything at all to tell you the truth. Yeah, what’s up?
Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to do other than acting, directing...
JM: You know, I’d like to get back to producing. I was talking to one of the producers on "Angel", talking about my pet project, "Macbeth", and he looked at me like I was insane. Like, "You’re Mr. Trailer Guy and your in here and get all the credit. You want to produce, you want to have MY job?" He’s the guy sweating and having ulcers and I would very much like to do that. And I’m just very fulfilled by being in the band. Being able to write my own songs and perform them publicly is just deliriously fun. Because I get to talk about stuff that I’ve never talked to ANYONE about. And I (laughs) just get to barf it out in front of people and they respond as well. That is the main other part of my life besides "Buffy".
It’s just amazing because I’m coming to the realization that all art wants to remind everybody that they’re not alone. So when the performer, especially when the performer is also the writer, he stands up on stage and says a bunch of sh*t and the audience realizes, "oh my god, I’ve felt the same way." And so they don’t feel alone anymore. And when you’re doing public art, performance art, they get to realize that in the company of a bunch of other people who realize the same thing. So doubly they’re not alone and the writer/performer gets to express himself and have people react so he doesn’t feel so alone anymore. It’s magical.
You know there’s a lady with a microphone with so much frustration pent up right now. Where are you hon? (in Southern tone) Where are you darlin’? Somewhere in a sea of faces... okay, if anyone doesn’t want to shout, we do have a microphone but it’s working pretty well right now and I’m going to go right to you honey...
Q: Why haven’t you ever done any writing for the show? Have you ever talked to Joss about it?...
JM: Why haven’t I written for the show. Joss has a famous line for any actor that comes to him with an idea, "That’s great. And then there’s me." [laughs from audience and James] I have had good success writing my own material for stage, taking source material and adapting it for stage, helping beginning playwrights with their material trying to hone it down for my theater, and the one thing that has taught me coming into this experience is that Joss is the BEST writer I’ve ever met! [claps, cheers from audience].
Yeah, I’ve worked with playwrights who have won Tony awards for best play and Joss buries them. And furthermore, the writers he has amassed under his tutelage (laughing) are all equally amazing. Steve DeKnight, who’s directing me for the first time right now, he is JUST... God, he’s good! D**n, man. And, he’s so humble. It’s just pathetic (laughing), "You’re great. No, you’re great". David Fury, Drew, they’re all just... Mere Smith, just amazing. So really, I have pride in my ability to write but I am also in the company of people who are much better than I am frankly. So I shut up. And when I want to write, one time when we were having problems with a scene and I decided, "Hey, screw it. I’m going to rewrite it. I’m going to... what I think is the problem, I’m just going to show them what I think the solution is." And I sat down for 45 minutes and I got eight lines out. I’m like... (makes funny expression) [audience laughs] Memorize your lines, get the credit, you know... these guys will sweat it. I think that’s probably my best card as a TV actor is that I realize how good the people are around me so I don’t want to get in their way. That’s worth something actually because a lot of actors can waste a lot time with their cute ideas frankly.
There’s black hand in the back, attached to a blond head...
Q: [can’t make out question. Something about favorite playwrights. I think she says something about him describing himself as a theater geek, because James responds laughingly, "Yeah, geek in general. Go Geeks!"] She continues the question asking who his favorite playwright is...
JM: Modern? Contemporary? George Walker. A Canadian playwright who writes about the rough streets of Toronto - and believe it or not, there are rough streets of Toronto - with real anger and real love, often in the same word. I love George Walker. I also like Steven Berkoff, an English playwright who is also an actor. He was in "Beverly Hills Cop 2". A phenomenal actor, phenomenal playwright. He writes about the... he often writes about the underprivileged in London.
Q: How’s your knee?
JM: How’s my knee? Fine. I never got surgery on it and I seem to be okay, you know. I haven’t done any flying combination kicks or anything. (laughs) I just injured my right shoulder falling into concrete. It’s like Steve Tartalia, Stunt!Spike, he takes a six-footer into concrete, which is NO easy task, okay. But see I have to take a two-footer nine times; he takes a six-footer once. So we both got a little bit beat up. Getting Steve to admit that he actually felt pain is a mountain. The most that Steve will ever say is that "yeah, that was a bit crunchy". (laughs) He’ll be bleeding and he’ll say, "that was a bit crunchy."
Q: [muffled question about Sarah Michelle Gellar]
JM: What, what, what? I’m sorry... Sarah Michelle Gellar, love scenes, what?
Q: [getting the mic] I read that Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz used to eat onion and stuff to throw each other off. Did you guys ever do anything like that to try to throw each other off?
JM: Well, yeah. Sarah would love... does Sarah like to throw you off before a love scene or a serious scene in general? Yeah. Sarah and I work very differently. I tend to go a little more for Method, which is I don’t want to drop character so much and I take it so, so d**n seriously. (laughs) Sarah is always making fun of me, (funny, mocking voice) "Oh, I’m a tree." You know, she has the ability to go from 0 to 60 in one, you know, and I never did. So yeah, she loved that. I think that probably the way I work made her feel uncomfortable. She probably didn’t understand why I had to put myself through all that stuff. So, she probably... I think the reason that she messed me up so many times (laughs) is that it probably seemed a bit freaky to her, what I was doing.
And Method acting, by the way, is NOT designed for television. Because Method acting basically... what the Method is... you develop a fantasy world that is as complete as possible so you can release into it and improvise in that world. I sustained that fantasy, like Season 6, way too long and it ate me alive. That’s why I got so skinny. I was living in this state of hunger and I wanted to perpetuate that and it was not healthy, it was not fun. It got some really great acting - some really great scenes came out of that - but it was destabilizing to my life. (laugh) So, yeah. Method acting... actors out there...Method for film, fine. Stage - fine. TV - it will kill you.
Yeah, what’s up? Checking the mic, checking the mic. We have a mic that does not work if anyone would like to use it. (laughing). [They finally get the microphone working]
Q: How much do you think your portrayal of Spike affected or influenced the way the writers wrote for the character or worked things into the show?
JM: Good question. Wow. I think... you know you’re not going to give any ideas to writers but the best way to influence them is when they watch your dailies. And that’s what I decided to do. In general, I used to think I was influencing them because earlier on, I was injecting as much soul, for lack of a better word, as I could. So that in my mind it would balance out with all the evil stuff they were giving me. But if I had known that they were going to give me a soul at the end of the arc, I would have been able to scare you guys much better. The whole relationship with Buffy and Spike, in my mind, I screwed it up. I think it really wanted to be about a woman who was feeling dead inside who was making a BIG, DANGEROUS mistake and having sex with a guy that was hot, but that was going to hurt her. Andhow many of you have been there? But I undercut the arc, man. I made him so heart... so d**n sincere that it almost carried people’s perception of it over to Spike and he became the lead in some people’s mind. I hear, "How could Buffy have treated you so bad?" Well, I was a killer. And she’s a good person.
I don’t think... two years ago I might have had a long answer for you but in the end of it, I don’t think I influenced them at all. The only influence I had is that he didn’t die, I think. I was agreeable on the set and they liked the dailies so they decided to keep me around long enough. But other than that, I don’t think I had any baring on it whatsoever. As it should be. I think if we all name our favorite series, you’ll come with a very short list of series where the writers were in control, not the actors. The actors were not in control of "Buffy". That’s one of the things I respect most about Sarah, actually. Is that, there were times when she did not want to do some of the scripts put before her but she just did them anyway. That was her job and I respect that, a lot.
Q: That’s kind of what my question is about. The arc for your story throughout all season’s is outstanding. And even though you think you cut the arc, I thought it went back to William the Bloody Awful Poet. (James agrees.) You know, you were a romantic (James agrees) and that bad guy stuff was just how you adapted. (James agrees) So it was really part of the larger arc. And what I wanted to ask...
JM: Maybe, you know? In a way, at that point, maybe it was the writers trying to explain this conundrum which is that Spike was such an asshole - excuse me - to the larger world and such a great guy to his girlfriend. By the way, just so... in my experience... girls, if a guy is mean to the world, he will be mean to you. [cheers from audience] That was something that made me uncomfortable about the role for a while — that we were perpetuating a really pernicious lie. But the way the writers explained it and treated it made it not that. And I was really thankful for that.
Q: And my question was... (big laugh from James, "Too much coffee, alright.") Since all that [?? so well, what’s your impression of how much of that evolved organically through the process and how much was in Joss’ head?
JM: I don’t think I was that much in Joss’ head in the beginning. I really was a boy toy for Dru. Yeah, Dru was the character that had most of the affect in the larger arc of the season because Angel was going to go evil, and he was going to dump Buffy, take up with another bad-ass girlfriend and break her heart. And Dru was going to be that girl. So, in my mind, I think Angel would have killed me early on and taken over Dru. But they decided not to do that. I think all in all, I was truly lucky because I established good rapport with Juliet Landau early on so that those love scenes had some real resonance. And to this day, there’s a part of Spike I can’t get to without Juliet - that really dirty, kind of a... We went to the producers and they said, "You’re supposed to be the Sid and Nancy of the Vampire set." Sid Vicious right. And Juliet and I were going - because we’re both punk rockers right - uh, "Sid Vicious was a heroin addict. Do you really want us to play that?" And they were like, "Yeah, yeah. Go for it." So we were playing torpor the whole time, we were playing... (acts kind of drugged out) But Juliet was sneaking in dirty bits below frame constantly! Go watch a scene in anything Juliet and I are doing and ask yourself, "What is Dru doing with her hands?" [audience roars]. Oh yeah.
Q: I don’t want to put you on the spot, so please don’t hate me. But can you give... (James laughingly interrupts, "oh great.") You’ve already been over the nakedness business so we’ll skip that. Can you give us your favorite pre-Spike monologue.
JM: Oh, oh. Uh. My audition monologues are a little rusty. I’ll do Caliban [from Shakespeare’s "The Tempest"]. Caliban was a misshapen monster who was freed by his master. He’s very ambivalent about his master. At any rate, he hooks up with a bunch of drunks on a magical island. He’s a magical creature and they’re all freaked out by all the stuff whizzing around their heads. And he says:
Be not afeard the isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices That, if I then had waked after a long dream, Will make me sleep again and then, in dreaming, the clouds me thought would open and show riches ready to drop upon me and when I waked, I cried to dream again.
[loud cheers from audience]. (James says, "Shakespeare!!" cheering)
Okay, next question.
Q: You’ve done theater, you’re doing film, you’ve done television. If you had to pick one - theater, film or television - just to do for the rest of your life which would it be and why?
JM: Now that I’m not poor, theater. Theater sustains you in every way except economically. I don’t want to die for it. Thank you.
Q: [can’t hear question]
JM: Do I like having bleached hair all the time? Yeah. After doing it, I think if I didn’t want to be an actor, (laughing) I’d probably do it for the rest of my life. As an actor though, it’s a real draw back though frankly. I have a lot of casting directors going, (in funny, puzzled voice) "What would you look like if you weren’t a Klingon?". They get the shows confused. But it’s a pain in the butt, you know. It really is. It hurts. How many bleached blondes out there y’all? Okay, these people have balls because it hurts. It really does. It’s a strong chemical and it’s not pleasant. I was flying in just last night and the woman was like, (womanish voice) "More people should do that to their hair. You look great." Thank you. What’s up, in the middle?
Q: What advice would you give to the aspiring actor?
JM: (James whistles at the challenge of the question.) Okay, don’t get into acting unless the act of acting is enough to sustain you because there is very little else that’s given to you. There’s so many hits that you take on your social life, the possibility of having children, your family respecting you - which as you get older gets more important strangely. If you get something in the act of acting that you can’t get anywhere else, then pursue it. If you’re on stage, brush up on your technique and get it down. Don’t let anyone take you away from your impulse.
What I’ve realized about stage is - or acting in general - is that people are paying for the right to stare more than anything else. In society, we don’t give ourselves that license. If we get caught, it’s embarrassing so you sneak glances at people. But on stage, you’re given the right to just stare at someone for hours. So as an actor, you what you want to do is not give something better than real; you just want to give them something real to stare at. And that’s scary because what it means is that you have to have the confidence to stand and deliver. To stand in front of a group of people this large and say I’m good enough just me. I don’t need to make any cute intellectual decisions the night before rehearsal - you know those. And whatever I do, as long as I’m uninhibited and being myself is going to be good enough. I guess that’s about it. Don’t let the sour hearts take you off what you want to do. But really know that you are down a road that... oh man... I’m so glad I became an artist.
I really am, because I grew as a human being in relationship to the art I was trying to do. It made me grow because I try to perform some of the... frankly the great plays, you know, Ibsen, Chekhov, Shakespeare. You try to do those and you grow as a human being because it’s almost as if that playwright is in your ear for three months and that’s a big benefit. But there are so many hits that you take otherwise that you have to be really with yourself about why you’re getting into it. A lot of actors get into because they want glamour, or they want fame or they want money. Now the money’s real. (laughs) That one’s real. Fame, uh, frankly is a bit of a double-edged sword. You get a lot of ego gratification but you also get a lack of privacy, which for me is a big problem. And glamour doesn’t exist. Glamour is a lot of people working and sweating really hard and being really uncomfortable for one picture. There’s nothing glamorous about acting. If the moment of acting sustains you, don’t quit. But be really honest, if you’re in it because you want the gratification, get out. Get a MBA somewhere, you’ll get much better gratification over the course of your life. Is that anything? (big laugh) [claps from audience].
Q: What’s your favorite film and what’s your favorite guilty pleasure film?
JM: My favorite film and my favorite guilty pleasure film? My favorite film is "Apocalypse Now". I think that film... that film said everything that I would like to critique my society for that film said. Why did we lose Vietnam - because we were wusses. I didn’t fight the war. I’ve never been in the Army - and in hindsight I wish I would not have just said that. I didn’t mean that the Army was a wuss. I meant that the culture was. We lost that war because the other culture was just more ruthless than we were, and we weren’t able or willing to go there. I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone who served there. I’m a civilian and I have never done that to myself. That weakness is the rot underneath that we need to pay attention to.
As far as guilty pleasures? Ah man, anything with ray guns [loud cheers, laughs from audience], spaceships (laughs) and stuff. I love that. But I don’t even know if I’d call that guilty pleasure because that’s good stuff (laughing). "Starship Troopers" I guess. Where you fast forward through all the (makes air-quote motions) "acting" [loud laughs from audience]. Thank god for DVDs! (laughing then talking really fast adds) Nothing against those actors - I’m sure they’re great people.
Q: [can’t make out question]
JM: What science fiction do I read when I have time? Uhm... god. I wish my brother was up here. He reads the scifi. He would talk about Larry Niven — quite a lot — "Ringworld". I have found in recent years, my reading has collapsed to scripts. It’s reading scripts that you’re either going to work on or hope you work on. And that amount of homework kind of obliterates the book on the bedside. Having said that though, I’m really (laughing) enjoying the Harry Potter book. [crowd roars in agreement] You know, it’s candy, but it’s got that really good fruit center. You know, it’s not just popcorn; it’s just a little bit above that. I don’t really want anything more serious than that in my life but I need something more serious than absolute popcorn to stay interested so I’m really thankful for that fifth BIG book.
Yeah, what’s up. Oh, the lady with the microphone still would like to use it. Oh, and she’s close to you. It’s fun. You sound like god. (cupping hands around mouth and microphone, in deep voice) "Moses..."
Q: How did you feel about working on scifi with "Andromeda"?
JM: Uh, (laughs) I was horrified by my costume. When you’re playing a dangerous dandy, the best thing you can say is Tim Roth, right? He got it on the nail. He got all the social, all the airs that are put on from the Aristocracy but he created a character that was truly dangerous. I wanted to be in that mold and they just wanted the frooffy and the costume reflected that. I fought them a little on that frankly. I didn’t think that character should be unmanly. I thought he should be very manly. You know, having said that, Kevin Sorbo was really cool, you know. It was a hard-working cast and I did it because they were going to pay me some money. At that point, Joss wasn’t, so (laughing) I did it. I still don’t watch that because I really disagreed with what happened in a way. I don’t know. I don’t know. Not like heartbreaking or anything but I just thought there was more there. There’s a group of hands. Yeah, just stand up man.
Q: Do you watch the show?
JM: Yes, I watch the show. Oh yeah. It’s one of my favorite things is to get that video tape - (kind of teasing tone) one day before you get it. There have been a couple of times when Spike was very heavily featured, when I would specifically get away with not reading the script so that I could have that experience that you guys get which is watching it for the first time and getting that present. I think that... I didn’t write, I didn’t shoot it, I didn’t do very much for it, but I’m on the show, both of these shows, that are some of the best that’s been produced. So I’m a fan of my own show, yeah. (in funny, excited fan voice) "Did you see when he did that, oh my god." [audience laughs] Yeah, and the video game? Oh GOD I LOVE the video game! I AM Buffy. (laughs) I just love it.
What’s up? No you, take it.
Q: Any chance of a second CD from the band?
JM: Oh yeah, any chance of a second CD from the band? Yeah. We’re fooling ourselves that we have time to work on it right now. The first CD I felt good about in that we DID it. I...I, uh,... I paid for the first one. At this point, all the band expenses are paying for itself. The first one, I paid for. I actually delighted in doing what I did in theater as a producer, which is get really good artists together and deny them time and money (laughs) because they go insane and they start to percolate. But in general, with the first album, I wish I had done that a little less because the lesson I learned from the first album is that you have to spend as much time on your vocals as you do on your arrangements. And it’s very tempting not to because you get a decent take after two takes of vocals and to go ahead and spend a whole day, flush it, and come back tomorrow is a pretty ballsy move but you have to do that. That’s the one thing I want to change for the next album. I feel so good about the first album about what is said, about the sweep of it, how the songs add up together, but the one thing I would change is that we would spend a lot more time on lead vocals - (laughing) which would be my vocals.
I think Charlie has already written two whole albums. I’ve written like six or seven songs. I think we have enough material that we could probably do a triple album if we just did everything, but we’re going to pare that down to an album and get to recording it as soon as they stop using me on "Angel". (slipping into funny, worn out voice) "They’re making me work more this year." On "Buffy", I got three pages of scripts. Basically, I averaged about three pages out of 49. And that was brilliant. I didn’t have to hump the story around. I didn’t have to explain the demon of gramorva [some made up name, can’t quite make out], you know. I just got to come in and be a wise ass. Now, (laughs) over on "Angel", I’m really in it a lot so [loud yeahs and claps from audience] and I’m thankful for that but at the same time, I was kind of thinking I was going to have more time for the band and it’s kind of breaking my heart. I go around constantly worried that the band is going to break up because I can’t come across with the time I told them I would. And they’re so good that they could work anywhere, so I have to give them enough time or they will be gone. But yeah, we have a lot of material. We haven’t gotten into the studio yet but... we were planning for a release for Christmas but that may be pushed back for now.
Moderator: James, we have about 10 minutes left so those of you be honest now. This girl’s arm here is about to fall off because she’s had it up for 45 minutes. Don’t forget, we’re going to have another panel on Sunday but I’m going to try to catch those of you who have had your arm up for a long time. Be honest. The crowd will vouch for you. I’ll know.
JM: I’ve got nine people pointing to one person here. I think that’s a good indication. Can I take that one first? I don’t know where you are [the person with the microphone]... right on. One second. Yeah...
Q: I want to know what the hell were you thinking when you did the stunt where you burned your hand...
JM: (big laugh) What was I thinking when I did the hand gag, the fire gag. I was thinking... it was just fun. They slather all this stuff on your hand and light you on fire and TELL you it’s safe. [audience laughs] What was I thinking... I just wanted that shot to be funny. I just thought it was a great gag to have a vampire so pathetic and so drunk that he falls asleep (laughing) outside. And I thought it would be funnier if it went longer. Hey, you know. FORGETTING that they have a whole story to tell and if I take up six extra seconds on this gag, that’s six extra seconds less for dialogue. So no matter how long I let it go, they were going to cut it down to what they thought it should be originally. So, yeah, I burned... I crisped my hand. I absolutely... I burned it really badly for nothing. And I learned a big lesson, which is pay attention to the stunt choreographer. Do EXACTLY what he tells you. (big laugh)
Yeah, what’s up.
Q: Can you verify that it’s your policy that the first girl you see with a red spider ring and red shirt a kiss? [as she was wearing] I know Internet rumors... (big laugh from James) and everything but...
JM: You know, I never thought of that before but it does sound pretty good. I, uh... [questioner says, "On the cheek. I’m so disease free"] oh... if I do that... [she continues pleading] uuhh...see I’ve done that before and it gets out of hand [she adds, "I’m not 16, I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be beyond this. I teach the youth of America."] (laughing) Do I make you feel dirty? I’m sorry honey. I can’t. If I do that and then it starts to avalanche, it snowballs and then I don’t talk so much as kiss girls - which is fun for me... [she’s still pleading, "I’m being really pathetic. I’m a feminist; this is wrong"] (laughing) I’m a humanist. If it feels good, do it. (James blows her a kiss).
Q: I’ve watched a lot of the seasons on tape and there have been a couple of things that have been real cinema quality, especially like where they had all four of you and then they tossed off to "Angel" and went back and forth to Angel. Which scene as you’ve watched shows after taping sticks in your mind as something that really came together?
JM: The whole musical episode. [crowd roars] That was an amazing experience. Everyone was asked to do stuff they’d never done before. We didn’t know that our boss could write music. We were terrified. The sound department - the sound department came up with a new technology that is now used in Hollywood where they were able to put the soundtrack voices on the dailies. So that 12 hours after we shot it, it’s already got music behind it. There’s just SO much of that - that went behind the making of the musical. Joss was INSANE. The dolly grip almost quit, right. The dolly grip is the guy that pushes the camera on wheels so you get camera motion and Joss had to have it synched with the beats of the music. So he’s like, "Action, 1-2-3, 1-2-3". Yeah, that is as carefully made as any piece of film that I know of, except for the shower scene in "Psycho".
Q: I know everybody asks you about Buffy and Drusilla, but I’m going to ask you about Harmony. What the deal was with that. Were you love’s bitch so much that he had to go to Harmony of all people? One thing I have to say is I love it how you look like Billy Idol when you’re fighting Nikki.
JM: You know, I think the draw of Harmony is that she looks a bit like Buffy and that she will never hurt him. Yeah and she’s sick that he can also beat her up and she’ll take it. It’s a sick relationship. It’s a very unhealthy relationship but yeah. It’s Spike’s punching bag man. Yeah.
Q: In season 4, they started kind of a Willow/Spike relationship that was going and then they just dropped it. I was just wondering what you thought about that. Did you wish that it had gone on longer or like Willow’s the only one you didn’t...
JM: You know, I don’t have a (laughing) good body count but... uhm, interesting... you know, basically, it’s a show called "Buffy" and if you develop storylines between your secondary characters, you take time away from the story, your main... you know that’s one of the things they held to very religiously - is that it’s a show called "Buffy" and thematically also it always has to go back to her. I mean I think you can get good pops out of paying attention to your secondary characters but you’re not going to get a whole series run that way. So probably that more than anything else, is the reason there wasn’t more plot between Willow and Spike was that it had nothing to do with Buffy. If there’s a "Spike" show, yeah! She’s a good actor. She really is.
Q: We heard you were quitting smoking and that you were sucking on lollipops, so we just wondered, what’s your favorite lollipop flavor?
JM: Actually, you know, I’ve been smoking for the last two days. This is my first real... [ooohs from the audience] yeah, I had to be naked again and I HATE that. [questioner repeats something] Huh? What flavor lollipop? Tootsie Roll, the Red Raspberry. But it changes - it was Cherry a little while ago. I’m again quitting smoking after two days of being bad. [claps of support from audience] I’m going to have four patches on by the end of the day (laughing and motioning to the two patches on his arm).
Q: You talk about how important music is to you. I was just wondering what bands and CDs you’ve been checking out lately?
JM: Rock on, yeah. What CDs have I been picking up. You know what depressed me was "Hail to the Thief", the new Radiohead. Man, I’ve been looking for that for a year. I was like waiting for the new Radiohead because "Okay, Computer" was SO amazing. And in the first track, that f**ker... (laughs) sorry but the first thing in the set is (makes guitar noises) and he’s wanting to piss you off. And by the middle of it, I was pissed off enough to take it off my CD player. I just wish the man would have gone ahead and had a political statement and got it out of his system so he could get it out of his system. So, anyway, "Okay, Computer" from Radiohead, Coldplay... The last thing that really rocked me was the Nora Jones album. In general, the music industry is run by businessman and every 10 — five to ten year — rockers take it out of the hands of the corporate businessman with music that was written in a garage somewhere and they shatter the world of Rock and Roll. The last time that happened was Grunge up in Seattle with Nirvana, but frankly, it has to happen again. And the corporate hands have gotten their fingers over the play lists in stations around the country and I frankly don’t find a lot I respond to at this point.
[questioner asks about unsigned artists?] Unsung artists? [audience clarifies that she is saying "unsigned"] Oh, oh I don’t know that, sh*t... I... I... I’m like the rest of the American public, I don’t hear about them until they record. I don’t have time to go to the clubs. [someone in audience says, "Ghost of the Robot"]. Yeah, Ghost of the Robot - upcoming band. You know what, I really feel that way. I really feel like the band that I’m in has greatness in it. And I’ve come to the conclusion that unless you feel that way, you have no business up on stage. That there’s such a fog of war that no matter what you check... you do a sound check for five hours, it doesn’t matter. But you get up on stage and everything changes and unless you have that confidence to override that storm. Unless you really feel like you have something to offer, it’s just... it’s wasted time.
Q: Before my question, I just wanted to say, the way you described the feeling you get from acting, I feel the same way back when I could still act and I’ve never been able to describe it that well. Thank you for giving me a phrase I could use. [James says, "Thank you"] How did you like playing the William part, as opposed to the Spike, doing the bad poetry, the kind of run down guy...
JM: Yeah, you know when I first heard they were going to put Spike... How did I feel playing William? When I first heard that Spike was a wuss before he was a vampire, I was offended. (laughs) Just like every actor, he thinks his character is a bad ass who has no weakness at all and doesn’t want to show his own weakness. I was short in Junior High, right? And before I discovered Punk Rock, I was a TOTAL geek and I was picked on mercilessly and I didn’t want anyone to know that. I didn’t want you guys to find that out. That’s not cool. But as we got into the script, I became very protective of William - to the point where I would have felt like he was a good poet. (in funny, defensive voice) "That was a good word. That’s a good word." (laughing) You know, I really felt like it was my responsibility to get other people to see what I saw in him and now I absolutely love it. And frankly, it’s a chance to just go a whole other direction. When you’re doing serious television, sometimes you do hunger for a new direction. I’ve been lucky because I’ve been given a new direction with Spike every year, but William was a radical departure and that was the biggest challenge. Luckily, I had David Fury and Doug Petrie to write stuff that I could release into. Yeah, totally. Thank you. But don’t give up acting! If it sustains you, don’t give it up! There are so many different kinds of acting. I mean, seriously, in five years all the characters are going to be computer-generated anyway. We’re all going to be voice over anyway, you know.
For autographs, in general, I like to get to as many people as possible. I also like to just kind of be able to say, "Hi" to everybody and really kind of mean it. Yeah, (laughs) one person laughing. So, I wish I had time to personalize every autograph but that kind of doubles the time and I get to half the people. So, what I like to do is just sign the name and really kind of look at you in the eye and say Hi and have a moment that’s real to remember. Pictures are fine. Flash away - my eyes are long ago scarred. But if you could catch the pictures as they happen in real life as opposed to waiting to pose - you get a better picture better that way anyway - and frankly, again, it makes more time so that when you ... dudes, man, thirty extra seconds for everybody means that a lot of people don’t get anything. Does that answer your question. So, flash away but I don’t want to pose for the flashes. No personalization, but if I’m not sincere, spank me.
Moderator: And the photo ops you’ll be doing later will be over in the Walk of Fame?
JM: Yeah. Don’t touch my butt.