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Olivia Williams - "Dollhouse" Tv Series - Digitalspy.co.uk Interview

Saturday 16 May 2009, by Webmaster

Joss Whedon has become somewhat of a talking point thanks to an array of popular shows including Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. The writer-producer has made a return to the small screen in the US with the much-talked about sci fi drama Dollhouse, which lands on UK screens next week. It has a cast including Eliza Dushku and ex-Neighbours star Dichen Lachman and a story which promises to be "a head-f**k", and it’s gathered a lot of buzz online. Eager for more info, we caught up with Dollhouse’s top dog Olivia Williams - a.k.a. Adelle - to get the lowdown.

How would you describe the show?

"The concept is this sinister organisation which runs what are known as Dollhouses. These are places where young people who have committed some sort of crime - or have something in their lives they want to get away from - go, whether willingly or unwillingly. We have yet to find out... They have their personality wiped clean and then we’ve developed a brilliant process whereby we can imprint them with any other personality or combination of personalities we want."

The Dolls are made to order?

"Yes - well, the sort of practical application of this is that we can create your perfect date for you. If you want to go out with someone who can play a piano concerto or who can climb a mountain and likes rough sex, then we can punch that in and send you off on your jolly date! But there are some more both humanitarian and sinister applications, like if you need a face-breaker or a brilliant surgeon or the perfect mother for a day or two, that can be arranged. And I run the Los Angeles branch of this organisation."

What’s your character Adelle like?

"At first glance she is extremely efficient, pretty cold and somewhat out of touch with her emotions. Interesting that they asked a British person to play that! I was told very forcibly by Joss Whedon that she had hidden depths of vulnerability and moral dilemma. That will emerge throughout the series."

Is it fair to say that the Dollhouse is like her baby?

"I think maybe in some sense, the Dolls are her babies. She’s extremely protective of the Dolls and she is extremely protective of the technology. She does genuinely believe that the technology can be used for the good of mankind. It’s like the people who actually carry on doing stem cell research and recently aborted foetuses. On one hand you go ’That’s disgusting - how can those people live with themselves?’ and then when they apply it to curing your father of Parkinson’s, you go, ’Oh, maybe you’re the bravest kind of person in the history of the world to take the risks that might cure one of the world’s nastiest illnesses.’ That’s the moral world that Joss wants to explore."

What attracted you to the part?

"I was dipping my toe into the world of telly - I’ve done television films, but I’ve never done a series. And I was dipping my toe into living in America for a while, and dipping my whole body into the world of sci-fi! For somebody who was a complete sci-fi virgin, it was completely terrifying and overwhelming how much interest and knowledge people had in the world in which were we creating and how much people care about it. The fact that people care so very much about Joss’s work is one of the reasons I got involved. When I went for the job, I recognised his name from the opening credits of Buffy and then when I Googled it, there were thousands of pages with incredibly strong feelings about him and his work."

Which other characters should we look out for?

"The concept began between Joss and Eliza Dushku who plays Echo, the Doll whose story we are following. There are wonderful characters all around. Each Doll has a handler who remotely takes care of them when they go out on an assignment and Harry Lennix plays Boyd, who is the conscience of the show; Topher is the crazy immoral genius who will push the bounds of science - regardless of ethical committees - just because he can and he finds it thrilling. Like some people are addicted to playing video games, he is addicted to messing around with people’s brains. There are some other fabulous actors: there is a girl called Dichen Lachman who plays a Doll called Sierra and she is one of those people who, when you first meet her, you have to just contemplate her beauty for a while. It’s distracting how astonishingly beautiful she is."

What’s the latest on the chances of a renewal?

"I wish you could tell me! All I can say is that my husband and I have a set of bags that are permanently packed and a set of pants and toothbrushes that are permanently set in London. Both are on the ready for whatever decision they make. I really hit it off with Joss - he is a pleasure to work for and a really clever man. One who really bounces off his actors and looks to find storylines which are going to use the potential of the people working for him. I’d love to go back, but if it doesn’t work out then I’ve got some other stuff bubbling away here."

What would you like to see happen in a second season?

"I was keen to suggest that there’s a Dollhouse that might need opening in London and perhaps have it like CSI with one in three major cities. Once London is open I could do Paris - I think Adelle would be a great international ambassador! But that’s my selfish speculation. When the DVD comes out, the thing to do is watch episode 13. When we had the scripts in, we were all sat around holding our heads, but that’s what makes people addicted to sci-fi - it hurts your head trying to figure out all the implications. It’s very, very clever - and crazy. Only a truly sick mind like Joss’s could come up with this! It could either be the beginning of something fabulous, or the episode to end all episodes..."

Dollhouse premieres on Sci Fi on Tuesday, May 19 at 9pm.