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Buffy The Vampire SlayerMarti Noxon - "Buffy" Tv Series - Stakesandsalvation.com Interview
Tuesday 11 September 2007, by Webmaster
J: And is it different working on something like Grey’s and Private Practice, which are quite mainstream in their appeal, as opposed to Buffy and Point Pleasant?
MN: Yeah, it is different. I mean the level of public scrutiny, especially when I was on Grey’s, I couldn’t believe – especially the amount of press we were getting. So, yeah, it does feel different – there’s an immediate response to everything we’re doing. Whereas, with Buffy you could fly under the radar. Those are two very different experiences. From what I understand Point Pleasant was more popular in international.
J: What are the challenges of writing shows that incorporate genre elements and shows that don’t?
MN: Shonda is a huge Buffy fan, which is why she was eager to have someone from that show help her out and we talk about both shows often and the contrasts and stuff. And she jokingly said to me the other day, “we should make them all really superheroes, we should make the doctors all have alter egos and fly around.” And I said “no, don’t,” ‘cause one of the things I like about working on a show that is not a genre show is that the rules and boundaries are a lot more defined and that the rules and limitlessness of the genre show and the fact that it can only be confined by your imagination can be really, really overwhelming. You can feel completely stuck because you have to just top yourself over and over again and also so many things are just old genre tropes. Here, you’ve got your old medical show clichés but you can’t avoid them so you just try and write them better.
J: Okay, now some Buffy questions… You started off as a writer and then you became a showrunner at the beginning of season six…
MN: Yeah, I got promoted to an executive producer and the reality is I was already doing a lot of stuff that I did on season six before, but I got credit for it. And people also thought that meant Joss [Whedon] wasn’t around and that just wasn’t the case. He was very much around.
J: So, as a showrunner what were your favorite parts of the job? Overseeing production, editing or did you still favor writing?
MN: I think that that job for me, aside from the fact that there is just a lot of pressure, is the most fun because you do a variety of things. You’re you’re managing a staff of writers and you’re talking to the actors and you’re involved in production. But the problem is that it’s kinda just too much for a normal person. One non-Joss person. You kinda just feel overwhelmed and it’s very taxing. Private Practice is a good situation and the Buffy situation was great as those responsibilities are often shared.
J: A friend of mine told me this, which I did not know, but apparently Joss once said you were Zoe to his Malcolm Reynolds. Can you elaborate on that?
MN: That seems about right. I was faithful and devoted and I worked on the engine a lot, but he often had to tell me what was broke.
J: Okay, back to Buffy, because this is apparently a very schizophrenic interview… I noticed in Buffy, and this hasn’t been mentioned in many interviews, that the tone of the show changed from season to season. Like season seven had a very earthy feel. How much of that is you and the writers deciding what tone you want and how much comes down to production?
MN: And how much of it is unconscious? I mean so much of it is where you’re at in relationship to your own creative process; each other; the actors; where you’re at in your life. The outside culture bleeds in. In terms of what’s going on in the world, I think we all went to a relatively dark place after Columbine and 9/11. I’ll never forget the day, 9/11, going down to the set and telling people to leave and driving through the streets. I mean we’d been joking about the apocalypse for years but suddenly it felt more real than a joke. So, I don’t know, I think so many things come into play and you don’t always know what the big picture feels like. We did know, for instance, that in season six we wanted to explore that post-collegiate, toxic taste of adulthood where you kind of try all of the bad stuff to see if that’s you. I mean the darkness and the nastiness was definitely a reflection of our own fatigue and we didn’t feel the need to be quite as fanciful. We’d done that.
J: The thing I noticed about season six was… The stories were dark, but the visual tone of the series was lighter than it had been previously. Was that a conscious thing to balance it out?
MN: That’s interesting. I’ve never really noticed that and to be honest I haven’t gone back and looked at stuff very much at all. I just saw an episode for the first time in years and I’ve never watched the seasons they way other people did. I’ve never sat down with the box sets and just watched them. From the first thirteen, I only saw them in terms of production and then watched them on television maybe once. And then, as the years progressed, I may not have seen them on TV – never seen the color timed version. But we were certainly aware that that season was very, very dark. And Joss and I often didn’t go to color timing so the person in charge of post may have been like “kick it up.”
J: Do you find it hard to watch things you’ve made then and to be able to enjoy them the way you do other shows?
MN: It’s nearly impossible. Although I watched the musical – in fact Joss and I watched it together – and it was far enough away that I just watched it and had a great time. I think maybe I’m getting close to the point I can watch Buffy and enjoy it. But I’ve never watched Point Pleasant, I’ve never watched… I just don’t.
J: And you’ve been a consulting producer on Angel and Prison Break. What did that involve?
MN: That is usually just related to story and script stuff, just spending time with the writers and talking about their ideas. It’s a relatively one-tier job. You pop in, you stay for a while and then you leave. It’s a lovely job.
J: So, back to Buffy, they had very distinctive speech patterns and rhythms. Did you find that made it easier to write for the characters and conform to that style of dialogue?
MN: The great thing about that job is those rhythms were present in my work anyway and I just fell into them and I’m a relatively good mimic, in terms of voice on the page. So it was delightful to know what you were aiming for and to feel it in your own bones when it was working. No writing is necessarily easy but it came more natural to me.
J: What characters in Buffy would you say you had an affinity for?
MN: I had different relationships with each of them. I loved to write Xander and Willow, in particular, and Oz. All the super misfits I was really comfortable with. Buffy herself was always interesting to write ‘cause she was in a way the least accessible character to figure out and it was an interesting challenge. But in terms of ease and relatability it was Willow and Xander. I was like, “I know these people.”
J: Okay, now I have a bunch of really geeky questions about plot points… Maggie Walsh was supposed to be the big bad of season four, but Lindsay Crouse was unavailable – that’s one rumor I heard. Is that true?
MN: Yes, that’s true. That is actually true.
J: Do you know what she would have done or did you never get that far with the plans?
MN: No, we never got that far.
J: Another rumor is that the season five finale, when it was going to be the series finale, was going to end with everyone dying?
MN: That is not true.
J: Last one… season seven, there is a whole thing with Buffy’s resurrection being the cause for the First Evil’s appearance and that was never really explained…?
MN: I know that we had a rationale. There was definitely a reason but it was never very clear. But we had one. We talked about these kinds of things endlessly. Nothing was ever, at least for us, not explained. But I’ll be damned if I remember what it was.
J: And when you read through the scripts, do you prefer original pilot samples, which are becoming quite popular now, or do you prefer traditional specs on existing shows?
MN: You know, it really doesn’t matter to me. It’s much more about voice. The one thing that I don’t like to do is read the show that I’m actually working on. For Grey’s I wouldn’t read Grey’s and for Buffy I wouldn’t read Buffy, because you’re much too close to it and you couldn’t be generous.