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From Dreamwatch Magazine #109
AngelRaising the Stakes - Dreamwatch #109
By Tara DiLullo & Transcribed by Setje
Monday 1 September 2003, by Webmaster
Raising the Stakes - Dreamwatch Issue 109
After narrowly escaping cancellation at the end of its fourth year, Angel has been given a major revamp for its fifth season.
Head wrtier/co-executive producer Jeffrey Bell gives dreamwatch an exlcusive preview of what the future holds for the Buffy spin-off.
Angel has been reborn. Following a fourth year that won widespread acclaim but dangerously low ratings which almost resulted in the show’s cancellation, season five of the Buffy spin-off series will see the heroic vampire Angel (David Boreanaz) continuing his crusade against forces of darkness as the head of the evil law firm, Wolfram & Hart.
It’s major change for the series, but one that show-runner Jeffrey Bell feels is necessary.
"Last year, we found ourselves in a very arc-driven storyline, much more than we ever anticipated." Bell tells dreamwatch. "If you were inside the arc, it was really emotionally satisfying. If you were outside the arc, it was like watching a channel in a language you don’t understand! It was very difficult for new fans to show up."
The concept for Angel’s revamped fifth season was originally developed for the show’s US broadcaster, the WB, who asked its makers to outline the show’s future prior to it renewal. When quizzed on where the idea of putting Angel in charge of Wolfram & hart came from, Bell breaks into a grin. "I’ll give you one guess! Mr Whedon," he replies, referring to Buffy and Angel’s creator. "While Joss was writing a song and a movie and curing cancer, he said. "Oh, I have a thought about Angel next year!’ - the concept being Wolfram & Hat should offer Angel the keys to the kingdom and he’ll take them. The good guys now run the bad guys."
Kiss and Bell
The WB liked the concept, along with the idea of adding Buffy’s other souled vampire, Spike (James Masters), as a full-time Angel castmember. Which, in theory, is an immense challenge, considering that Spike burned to ashes in the series finale of Buffy.
"Yeah, he was more dead than not dead," Bell laughs, before adding that it’s all part of Whedon’s plan. "He knew for quite a while that Spike was going to get a big, fiery, glorious death. He knows how he wants to bring Spike into the show, in a way that doesn’t take away from what Spike went through at the end of last year."
Exactly how that will happen, though, Bell isn’t spilling. "We know what we are going to do and, as with all of Joss’ character, how a person is when they first show up and who and what they are at the end might be different. However Spike shows up, I would just remind you that this is a Joss Whedon show and anything is possible."
The other big cast change concerns Charisma Carpenter, who has played Cordelia Chase since the first season but will not be returning. In real life, Carpenter gave birth to her first child in late spring. Despite the rumours saying she quit or was let go, Bell says it was more of a mutual decision based on life and story changes. "Charisma is irreplaceable. She has a very unique ability and her character arc came through an amazingly complex roller-coaster ride." Athe then end of year four, Cordelia was left in a mystical coma. "It’s not a story arc that we have forgotten and it is something we will pay off. We hope to have Charisma come in and do that, but it depends on how our stories break and her availability".
Carpenter’s absence means a big estrogen void in the cast, with Amy Acker (a.k.a. Fred Burkle) as the lone female regular. It’s a situation Bell is already working to solve. "We are looking to bring the X chromosomes in! Mercedes McNab is going to come in (playing Harmony), hopefully reoccurring, as Angel’s assistant. We also want to find a new woman, different from Cordelia and Lilah (Stephanie Romanov), to be a Wolfram & Hart muckity-muck who is seemingly warm and very nice."
Speaking of Lilah, Bell explains, "She is in Hell. It takes big magic to bring her back as they did in (the fourth season finale) home. Stephanie is great and we have a lot of fun with her, so if there is a reason to bring her character back, we will probably find it."
Likewise, the return of former series regular Vincent Kartheiser (Connor) in season five is also a possibility, but not a certainty considering the outcome of his arc. "We always envisioned Connor as Mordred (from Arthurian legend)," says Bell. "He was the son that rises up against the father. But when we paired him with Cordy last season, it became clear that there was no way to buy any of that back. So giving him a happy ending was a way to save him because we couldn’t redeem him."
In general, audiences should expect a shift in how the stories are told this year. "Our big challenge is to try and tell stories in a much more stand-alone fashion but maintain the emotional integrity of the show. It won’t become Law and Order, but we’ll try and tell our characters’ emotional lives as we follow a story over an episode."
As for the question of whether season five will be driven by another new principal villain, Bell reveals : "We don’t have a Big Bad, per se, planned for this year because that causes you to get really arc-y. This season is much more a question of. "Why are we at Wolfram & Hart? And "What is the price?"
"Every handful of episodes, a story will revolve around that and the question is ’Will our people be corrupted? And I don’t mean they might do something bad, but I mean truly lose their souls."
Another element of the season will be further exploration of the dynamics, between Angel’s principal characters, especially Angel and Spike. "They have a very complicated relationship," notes Bell. "It can’t just be them snarking at each other. It has to be more interesting and complicated than that. We are striving to make it that.
"All of our characters are going to be put in situations where they are going to have to make interesting moral choices."
The tone of Angel’s fifth season will be set by its opening episode. "This season, we come back about three weeks (after the season four finale) so we can have the fun of our characters learning the lay of the land."
Season five gives Angel a new opportunity to sink its teeth into Buffy’s audience, now that the Slayer’s adventures are over. "The WB did some research and it showed that only about 25 per cent of Buffy viewers watched our show," he reveals. "So, part of bringing James (Marsters) on was to say ’Look over here!’ as well as the idea of bringing over people from the Buffyverse from time to time over the course of the year.
"We hope to have Sarah Michelle Gellar come in (as Buffy) and do a couple of episodes. To have the man she loves and loved once and the man she hated and loved many, many times, both having to compete for her is just good television."
Above all, Jeffrey Bell is excited about new viewers giving Angel a chance in its fifth season.
"Let’s be hones - I think we have the weirdest show on TV," he declares. "I say that with great delight and pride because we are a genre show about a vampire with a soul that in not done for camp. It is about genuine mythic emotion. It will never be a Friends kind of show - it’s just a little too strange - but we do think it is a s emotionally satisfying as anything out there.