From Atnzone.comVulkon’s Con - James Marsters Q & A
Thursday 1 May 2003, by Webmaster
How does clothing or the lack of them affect how you act as a vampire? Clothing make a big difference. Shoes tend to make the biggest difference. Generally, I had one costume for Buffy. Black jeans, black shirts, black boots and sometimes the black coat. There was a whole lot of money that didn’t get spent on Spike. [Laughs] By the end of it, I was thinking I should go over to "Gilligan’s Island" because it had about come to that but they tried to give me some new clothes recently and it didn’t really work out. There’s something about Spike that needs a kind of a dirty authenticity that’s hard for television to really get so I’m glad we kept the black coat.
Fan presents him with a quilt.
That’s fabulous, check that out! It’s beautiful. Someone else gave me a blanket that I use to this day, matter of fact. A black and red blanket. I get cold sometimes [Laughs] Thank you!
Now that the filming is over, what did they do with Spike’s jacket? There were actually two jackets. One for Steve Tartalia, who plays Spike when he is getting thrown up against a wall or out a window and one for me. They both got so ratty and gross because of…how do I say this…we use KY a lot. They smear it all over the plastic applications to make them look slick and sweaty - more like real skin. There is KY smeared all over that thing, fake blood, dirt. To the point where, I used to give the coat to Sarah [Michelle Gellar - "Buffy"] if she got cold and she just refused me for the last two years saying "Get that thing away from me!" But yeah, there was somebody in the crew that was trying to talk me into taking it and they were saying on Ebay people were bidding $400,000 dollars for the jacket. I just couldn’t do that! I couldn’t steal. I used to produce theater and I hated actors who stole from me. It just drove me mad because I was working my fingers to the bone to keep the doors open and they are just taking costume pieces, which cost me thousands of dollars. I know that Joss doesn’t have that problem. [Chuckles] He probably has money for a new jacket but I just couldn’t do it. I was in my trailer staring at the thing and I’m like ’I can’t live with myself stealing a half a million dollar piece of clothing.’ If they gave it to me, it would be a whole different thing - that would be nice but they’re not going to do that.
What’s it like being on the set?
You know we worked twelve to twenty hours, five days a week. We begin on 4 am on Monday morning and we get out about 5am Saturday morning, which we call Friday night. You know it’s really fun but at the same time there is this quality of exhaustion that is behind everything. My memory of doing the show is a little hazy, frankly. Most of the time I feel like I’m stumbling around and as soon as we get the lines right, we move on and I’m always amazed by how good it looks. I read the scripts and I get these grand ideas on all this stuff I want to do and then the crush of television happens and it’s just about trying to get these scenes filmed in the time we have.
There is a rapport. When you are doing work in front of an audience, you know if you suck right away. When you are really in trouble, is when you hear paper rustling - if they are checking their programs and you can see the flash of paper. Then you see actors turning upstage going "Get the lead out, they’re bored." For real. Then there is shifting in the seats and you know maybe it’s too warm in the house or maybe your not having a great night. Then there is that nice silence when you know you are doing your job well. And then there is the actual silence where people stop breathing, which is beautiful. You don’t get that in film. You don’t get that dialogue with people so there is something that is less satisfying than doing that. But what makes up the difference is the people - the crew and the cast. We have a lot of really hilarious people around. Nick [Brendon - "Xander"] was just fabulous. In the middle of a twenty-hour day, Nick comes in and starts joking around and all of a sudden everything is all right. I’ve got to say man, Buffy…we did some dangerous things on Buffy. We did a lot of things that scared us. We did a lot of things that we were uncomfortable having to do. It was all in the name of something that I am proud of and something that I think was worthwhile. But actually doing that - you are either doing something emotionally draining or something that is physically really uncomfortable. So, ahh, man…a hard, wonderful, frustrating, enlivening, everything all at once and sooo tired.
Does it freak you out when people dress like you (Spike)? Pointing to a guy in the audience in full Spike dress Yo dude! Stand-up!
James asks Spike look-alike: Oh, not when they do it well like that! You look better than me! And you’ve got the fingernails! Yes!
Is that your own hair color? Do you bleach or dye? Does it hurt? Lucky bastard! You look hot man.
Does that freak me out? No way - that’s fabulous! ’Cause Spike ain’t me. I have a real bad temper frankly. I never lost it on the set but I was always going to my trailer and constantly breaking mirrors and stuff like that and people got worried. But I was professional enough not to let that interfere but when you take my kind of inner anger and you add the wit of the writers and the funny lines, that to some degree is Spike for me. Really he is created by writers and in a way, I feel like you are just as much Spike as I am. You have the costume and the hair - just say "Bloody Hell" and you are there!
How does one select acting roles?
You know, that is the most important question for an actor because I think actors are servants. They do best when they just want to serve the words and let the words do the work for you. I see a lot of actors saying stuff like "Well, I don’t feel comfortable saying that line. Let’s change the line." I don’t really believe in that. I think that you have all your decision making when you choose the role and after that process, you are just a servant and your job is just to go along and do it.
I like projects that seem to be about something; have more meat for the audience to hook into and I think are much more satisfying than more empty projects or projects that might be saying things we’ve heard a thousand times. So, I look a lot at the overall script and what the effect is going to be on the audience - that is as important to me as how well my role may be or how big it may be. If you are in the middle of a really great project, you just look better even if you have five lines. It’s a hard question. I’ve spent my life looking for good writing and I think I can recognize it. It’s really the overall writing that I look at, if that makes any sense. Does that help at all? A really opaque answer.
One of your co-actors in a previous play talked about how a prop gun didn’t go off and you had to improvise the scene by saying "Bang!"
[Laughs] Is that Scott Lowell? Yeah, he is on Queer As Folk now. He is a great actor, great guy.
Stories about when things just go up in theater are the most fun. Do you have other stories? Yeah, you don’t get stuntmen or that beautiful word "Cut! Let’s go again."
Well, one [story] that didn’t happen to me. I was doing Ionesco’s "Rhinoceros" which has thirty different rhinoceros popping over all the time and I was, like, rhinoceros twenty-eight. The third act revolves around a brandy bottle and all the plot points go through the brandy bottle and they forgot to set the bottle [on stage]. [Chuckles] So Toby Anderson, a fabulous older actor in the lead, could not get off stage to get the bottle. There was no exit for him so there was no way to fix it. So, all the interns were gathered around the backstage just watching this fifty-five year old actor figure out how to tell the story off the cuff. Yeah, he came backstage and he exploded. He was just "F---!"
In general it is my favorite time, when things go wrong because something real happens. It gives a chance for the actors to respond in a real way and in a way that can connect with the audience like nothing else. I remember I was doing "The Tempest" in L.A. and a lot of the characters were barefoot. Mine weren’t but my girlfriend’s were and so were a lot of other people and they broke glass on the stage. Somebody dropped something and there was real glass shattered all over the stage. The audience was uncomfortable, the actors were talking and nobody could figure out how to slyly get all that glass. I just said ’Guys, I’ll take care of it.’ And in my next entrance, I just stopped the play. I picked up the glass and then started my monologue picking up the glass and just got it out and everyone was just like "Thank God!" [Laughs] An older actor once told me a long time ago, if something goes wrong - admit it. You can’t deny it. Five hundred people just saw it happen so the best thing you can do is go "Bang." [Laughs]
Can you address the rumors on the Internet that you are being considered for a role in the next Star Wars movie?
I would love that! I got interviewed for the Darth Vader role because George Lucas was aware of me. His daughter is a fan and like every good dad, he loves everything his daughter loves so he loves me. [Laughs] They came to the set. I still have a candle from his daughter. I went on this interview for the Vader role, in which he was supposed to be seventeen. [Chuckles] I said ’I don’t want to cut myself off at the knees here but I’m not really seventeen.’ And they were like "We know we just wanted to meet you and see if there is anything down the road." So, I don’t know. Maybe they are percolating something - probably not.
The stuff I was reading mentioned the role of the young Grand Moth Tarkin.
Yeah, the Peter Cushing role? He and I have those cheekbones, right? [Laughs]
Oh, he destroyed Alderaan, didn’t he? Affecting a British accent he says "Foolish child"
Oh, did you guys notice in that scene, Carrie Fisher has an English accent? Affecting a female British accent saying her line…You can just tell that was the first day of filming and they got the dailies back and George was like "Carrie, never mind the accent, honey."
What did you think of the Variety ad? Wow! That was one of the sweetest experiences. I understand that some of the people responsible for that are in the audience today and I want to really thank you guys. Thank you. That had an effect in L.A. that I don’t know that you are aware of. To have fans come together and do something, that frankly, costs that much money and takes that much planning apparently doesn’t happen very often - if at all. We just were swamped with calls after that asking, "What do you do to your fans?" I didn’t tell them everything. [Giggles] To some degree, it’s hard for me to take compliments and so in a way I don’t know how to react but at the same time, I am very deeply touched. I feel like I have worked hard and I do put in extra effort and, no matter how tired I am, there is a certain kind of passion that comes through. And I am glad that is in some way resonated with you guys.
You mention on the FX Network "Buffy Bites" segments that you and some of the cast would do Shakespeare readings on Sundays at Joss’ house. Did that really happen?
Yeah. They didn’t happen so much this year because Joss was over on Angel but it is something everyone is clamoring for now that we have a little more time.
It all started when we were doing [Season 5 episode] "Fool for Love." On a Wednesday, I was on the Paramount lot doing total kick ass fight stuff in the New York Subway. [Crowd hollers in appreciation] That was one of the best days of my life! Seventeen hours, Steve [his stunt double] almost never got in -I was fighting the whole time and I loved it. The very next day, I was playing William with the wig and the squinting. There was twelve hours difference between the two and I said to Joss ’Dude, this is just like Repertory Theater. This is what I dreamt of when I was in high school but when I got out of college all the Rep companies had gone bankrupt and there really isn’t that experience of actors much anymore.’ He got this little look in his eye and said, "Maybe we should continue that philosophy." And then he started having Shakespeare readings and then at the end of reading the plays, they would start drinking and I would watch them get drunk which is always fun, and we’d start singing. First we started singing old standards and then people started bring out their own material. I started bringing out my own material and finally Joss was like "Well, this sucks but I’ll play it for you" and it would be amazing! Week after week, he would keep coming up with songs and we kept giving him reinforcement saying ’Joss, you are really good at this.’ Then he decided to go ahead and write the musical. [Audience applauds] It’s one of the wonderful things when artists are put in close proximity and they are allowed to really talk to each other and not kiss ass and really cross-pollinate.
Is that how Ghost of the Robot started because of these musical interludes? Actually, No. I’ve been performing by myself with a guitar in bars for a long time. I met this guy, Charlie DeMars, who had just moved into town and he is an amazing songwriter and musician. And we just started talking about life and about the songs we try to write about and what we try to talk about and we found a lot of common ground. He had some guys he had worked with before and we formed the band pretty quickly. That really just grew organically out of him moving into town and being my neighbor.
Of writing, acting or singing, which gives you the most satisfaction? I can’t split it up. The singing thing is much more vulnerable and scary to me both because it is live and somehow for me, sustaining a note and producing that sound makes you dig into an emotional realm or at least makes you connected to it. Also, the fact that I am singing my own material or material that I was on hand for when it was being made and I really know what it is about. So there is a real terror of ’God, I’m going to be too honest today’ and then the joy of ’Hey, they love it!’ I can’t tell this to my own brother, you know. I can’t tell most of this stuff to anybody but I’m just singing it out and they like it.
Acting for film is a little frustrating. I like to say on stage, the actor is like a chef at Benihana. He gets all the ingredients and he has to create the product at the point of sale, so to speak. So it all goes through him and everybody else is simply giving him ingredients to use to create the art at that time. But in film, you are just one of the ingredients and the chef is the editor who creates the art later. It’s freeing to only be concentrating on the minutiae but it’s also a bit of a smaller job so you end up having to do less of a job but you make it look much better and that is really cool. It’s all different. I don’t know if I have a real preference. I have to say being in front of an audience is something that is probably my favorite thing.
As for writing, I’ve kind of written all my life. I had theater companies in Chicago and Seattle and a lot of our plays were taken from other source material and put into a play or original material. At one point, we translated "La Vida es Sueno" which is "Life is a Dream" which is known as the Latin "Hamlet" written by Pedro Calderon De LA Barca. I was so proud of us because we read all the translations and they all sucked. So we went back and retranslated it and discovered that a lot of liberties had been taken with that play and that maybe a lot of people didn’t know a lot about that play. We did a really successful production of it and I’m really proud of that. Writing music forces you to really get down to the core of what you want to talk about because you can’t use that many words. I call it whining, you know, because a lot of my songs are dark, about love not gotten and all of this stuff but if you can take your pain and make it beautiful, I think that is the best thing. At least that is what I tell myself when I think that I am just whining.
I’ve always felt Joss had a Machiavellian idea about how he wanted the show to go but then you came in for a few episodes and ended up staying for all these seasons and evolving with the show. How do you feel about Spike being his wildcard?
Yeah, it was really satisfying because it was so obvious that Spike did not fit into the pegs of this story at all. But in a way, that’s what made it great. He was able to take the theme and put it on its head because the theme is how does one grow up. How does one become one’s best self? I mean it was frustrating a lot because I really would get just two to three pages of dialogue a script. I often felt that I was at this enormous banquet with the best food I’d ever seen in my life but my portion was always that big and I was salivating after everyone else’s plate. But that is a glorious place to be as an actor because what it is not, is having to mumble a bunch of crap - which is death. So, both frustrating and rewarding. Actors are so greedy - we want everything.
Were you surprised when Joss gave Spike a soul? Yeahhh. Completely. The thing is I didn’t know. Even filming the scene where it happens, there were three different versions of that scene I had to memorize and the one we finally filmed was a fourth. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I didn’t know why I went to Africa. I didn’t know if I was going there to get something to kill [Buffy] with. I had no idea. [Spike] kept saying, "I’m going to give her what she deserves." So, Joss completely fooled me. I didn’t even have the line "I will give you back your soul!" and they’re rolling. It was cut and move on and I’m like…James looks around in complete confusion. ’Angel 2, yeah!’ [Laughs] But that was the immediate problem is you can not go where Angel has gone. You don’t follow up the banjo act with a banjo act.
What was your favorite episode of Buffy? The Musical ["Once More with Feeling"] by a wide, wide margin. It was one of the great pleasures that every single episode pleased me. I found myself cursing the commercial breaks even though I had read the script and filmed the damn thing but I was like ’Oh, what’s up?!’ I’m a fan of the show. I would be a fan if I weren’t on it. But the Musical was one of those things where we were absolutely terrified as a company. I mean abject terror because not only the actors but the designers, the lighting department, everybody was asked to do things they never thought they would be asked to do and kind of like "Do it now." Sarah didn’t know if she could be a lead singer and carry the lead. How many songs did she sing? Six songs? I mean she was apoplectic. To her credit, she boned down and got voice lessons and really got it down. Tony [Head "Giles"] and I were already singing publicly so we were a little more comfortable with it. Nick was being asked to dance which try doing that in front of six million people when you’re not trained to dance. We didn’t know if our boss could write a musical. We were like ’Ok, Joss. Flush the whole thing down the toilet.’ [Laughs]
We filmed for like two days and he did a rough cut of the Anya/Nicholas dance sequence which was the first thing that we filmed, and showed it to us just because he realized we needed a little encouragement. It was brilliant. It was absolutely wonderful. At that moment, we just took off. Everybody was just flying and smiles all over. There is something about music that just taps into emotions more directly than words. I often feel like words have to be processed by the intellect and then accepted or not accepted by the heart. But music bypasses the intellect completely and goes right into the heart. So, we’d be acting the scene and the time would come for the song. Joss would hit playback and the big speakers would roar up and this beautiful music would come out and you’d lip-synch (but you’d feel like you were singing) and we were able to go to emotional places that you couldn’t just doing dialogue. When a musical is designed, there is a point where the characters can’t talk about it anymore. In order to express what they really want to express, they have to sing about it so it jumps up a level. Then Joss, of course, puts that on its head and he had people singing things they really should shut up about. By the time we got to "Tabula Rasa" which was the one after the musical, we were like ’Oh, this sucks. There’s no music! It’s boring.’ And in fact, "Tabula Rasa" was one of the most delightful, where we all lost our identities and it was complete farce.
Audience screams "Randy" You don’t even know! [Laughs] Tony did not like being cast as my dad. "We should be brothers, damnit!"
What size was the stunt sock used last season? [Audience roars in laughter]
It was a slightly larger than a normal sock. It was the one piece of clothing they would not remove or touch from my trailer. Everything else got cleaned daily, that got left there for about a year and a half. We’re not going to put that on Ebay either.
Besides yourself, what actor do you think would have been a good Spike? There would have been a lot of actors who could have played the role well. It’s a beautifully written role. There is a lot of meat in there and a lot of guys could have been effective. Jude Law would have been wonderful. Oh, for Christsake, Brad Pitt would have kicked ass as Spike. I mean he is a pretty good actor actually. No, really! Did you see Kalifornia? Not bad. Twelve Monkeys? Some of those pretty boys can act. [Laughs]
What’s it like being adored by everyone here? Oh, it’s just torture. [Laughs] It is wonderful to be connected to people I’ve never met before, to have something in common with so many people. I made a decision a long time ago, and my apologies to those people who have posted on the web, I don’t really go on the web because it plays with my head. You guys are sooo nice. In my first year, I went on and I meant to go on for fifteen minutes and I stayed on for like three hours and I got off and I was like ’I’m the shit!’ [Audience laughs] When they say actors lose perspective and get diva-ish, they say we are going south and I just thought, ’I’m two steps to Mexico, man.’ And for a long time I put my head in the sand because I thought this is going to steal my soul. I’m going to become a big egotist and I’m going to lose myself.
Audience member shouts, ’Joss will give it back!" [James and audience laughs]
There was like a really beautiful extra that was working one day and she was eyeing me and I went over to Joss and I was like ’That really hot girl is eyeing me.’ And he was like, "Well, you could go over and meet her. You are an international celebrity." And I was just like, ’Man, I don’t really get that most of the time." Then he said, "Never get that because if you ever get that you will start to suck." It’s true. A big ego never translates well on film.
What was it like filming the last scene of "Beneath You?" That whole story arc had me finally stopping doing the method. I am a stage actor who came into film realizing the acting techniques for stage don’t apply in film at all. If I wanted to succeed in film, I was going to have to go to techniques developed for film. The techniques developed by Marlon Brando and by the people of The Actor’s Studio. Which is really all about creating a well-detailed fantasy life that you can release yourself into and really believe it. But the thing is, these guys weren’t thinking of TV. They were thinking of submerging themselves for a limited play run or for a specific movie. What I found was that I submerged over the course of two years and it really burned me. It sent me almost over the edge and I learned something about The Method - be careful in TV with The Method. I was playing a man who was riddled by the guilt of all these murders so I had to dredge up all these things that I had core guilt about in my life and just beat myself up with it. When you do that to yourself…and no therapist is going to tell you that’s a good idea. That’s why acting isn’t necessarily healthy all the time. So, I got all my rocket fuel together and we filmed the scene. Dailies came back and Joss didn’t like the lighting and he thought some of the writing needed to be switched around so he rewrote it and came in and directed it again. By that time, I was spent. I had already filmed it and I just came to the set wondering how I was going to rake myself again but it always happens that the words just carry you. There are five or six scenes throughout this season that really were very hard, that were not comfortable, that were not necessarily fun but that I am very proud of.
What was is like hanging out with Liza Minnelli at the "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn?" She was in the make-up room forever. I saw her very briefly as she was coming offstage and she was really upset that her segment ran long and they had to axe the comedian that was supposed to follow her. As she left, she spotted me and said, "Oh, I love you!" and I was like ’Why do you know me?’ It still surprises me that you guys watch the show. I’m so excited about making it that it doesn’t dawn on me that there are people all over watching it. Like The Rolling Stones invited Ghost of the Robot to be their guests in Berlin! What’s up with that? I’m just flabbergasted.
Have you ever been injured on the set? Many, many, many times. Well, the worst one wasn’t that dramatic. It always happens this way in stunts. The big dramatic stuff you don’t get hurt on, it’s the little tiny stuff that you crunch on. There was a scene were Buffy was beating the crap out of me and I had to pick my head up slightly up for the camera angle and take massive head whips. The bigger the head whips you make, the more likely you are to risk whiplash. We filmed it, Joss looked at it and he thought I looked too bloody so we redid it and filmed it again. It was in the middle of winter and they are spraying me down with sweat so there was no way for me to stay warm. I whiplashed on the first try and we had to go back and try it again with more makeup and he didn’t like that so we did it again. By the end of it, I was pretty laid out.
This season I had to go to the hospital. We were doing indoor fires. We are simulating danger and peril and it’s not comfortable. When the high school burned and all the students were going crazy, they really wanted high flames to come out of those trash barrels. The art of making interior flame both for theater and film, is one that is controllable and repeatable and it’s all about smoke. How do you make fire that won’t just completely fill up your performance space with smoke? Unfortunately, there was no way to make these huge flames without smoke. I was just getting over bronchitis at the time and I didn’t collapse. I finished the scene but I went over to Marti [Noxon - executive producer] and I was like (Wheeze) ’That much smoke’ (Wheeze) ’is unacceptable.’ [Laughs] So, she was like "Why didn’t you tell me that at lunch before you were dead?" Cause I’m a trooper! Yeah, I went to the hospital and the doctor said I had fifty-percent lung capacity.
What else? Getting dragged over gravel is never good. You end up picking up chunks from your back, dragged shirtless over gravel. The truth is that stunt guys get hurt all the time but they don’t admit it because it’s their job to be able to do these stunts safely and not get hurt. They take it as a personal mistake if they get hurt. They are always getting dinged but you’ll never know about it. Finally, the stunt guys started to appreciate that I was of the same mind. I wanted to be one of the actors the producers could count on to do stunts. I wanted to do them so I would never admit when I got hurt. I would always say to the stunt guys, ’Swing hard, swing close, I want to sell this fight as being really great. If you clip me, it didn’t happen.’ Basically, if they clip an actor they can be fired. They are always trying to be more careful with the principles and I said, ’Just do it.’ Once they figured out I wasn’t going to admit to being hurt they started pulling out all of this stuff! All these stinky brown liquids from China and all these pepper patches. Magical stuff! Eastern medicine in amazing. They really looked after me and were always around rubbing me out and doing the things they do for each other. So, hurt pretty much all the time. It’s like NFL Football, you don’t go to the hospital every week but on Monday morning, it’s hard to stand up.
How was it to film the last scenes of Buffy? It was not the emotional, sentimental thing that I had expected. My final scenes were done on second unit with David Solomon, who is one of our best directors. He does some second unit as well as directing some of our better episodes. There had already been tearful speeches made about how we began and how we got through it but that was all in the scene with the Scooby gang so I didn’t have that. But there was something that was kind of right about that because, I never really fit into that gang on screen and that had a reflection in life too. So there was something kind of apt being in second unit again except the toys were just massive. You guys are going to love the final episode. Oh my God! They pulled out the stops - there was some money there!
What happens to the rest of you and the actors now? I think that we are all going to discover what a few of us have already discovered which is that there is a lot of interest in us as performers. Buffy was a show that gave good performers the ability to show off regularly and not just me. It’s done so well, you probably don’t notice it, but we changed up styles constantly within the same episode. We’ll go from farce to melodrama to soap opera back to realism and we are expected to be able to do that and that gets noticed by casting directors. They’re like, "Damn, that’s acting!"
For me, I’m pissing my manager off is what I’m doing. I just turned down one offer and I think I will be turning down another one. I’m concentrating on doing a tour with my band this summer, not my band but the band I’m in. [Laughs] They’d love to hear that, "Oh, we’re in the James Marsters Band now? Great."
And then trying to get some material recorded before we lose our drummer who is going on a mission to God knows where. I really respect him for it but he is such good drummer, I don’t know how we are going to replace him.
I’m not really worried. My real sense is that it’s going to take a couple years to establish myself apart from Spike. In a weird way, people don’t really know me as an actor, They know Spike and they love Spike but at the same time, they know that isn’t me so they don’t really think of James Marsters in a role unless it’s a drug addict or a rock star. I think it will take about a year in some supporting roles and some guest appearances to introduce myself to people and at that point, I’ll be really castable. So, that’s my game plan.
Was it harder playing Spike this year? Every year, I felt like I was playing a new character. I started as the Boy-Toy for Dru. I was cannon fodder and I was going to be done away with and Dru was the main thing. Then I graduated to villain then I guess I was the wacky neighbor for awhile. [Audience laughs] Then I was the forlorn man in the corner loving the woman who didn’t give anything back, then I was the lover, then I was the unhealthy boyfriend. In this final season, I was the redeemed man or the man in search of that. In a way every year I feel, what am I going to do? He is so completely different! When they brought me on the show, the two things that I thought were the linchpins of the character was one - an extreme pleasure in hurting people and two - real love for my girlfriend, Drusilla. When they brought me on the show [in season four], I had neither one of those and I was like ’What are we going to play?’ and they found it.
I guess about mid-season, I was hungering for some swagger. I was like ’Spike, is getting really soft here.’
Even my brother who is so supportive of everything, he was like "Dude, you need to get some balls." But they worked that out too, the balls will be there.
I thought your acting in "Lies My Parents Told Me" was tremendous. Can you talk about that? I was really happy to go back to the William character. One of the things David Fury [director and writer] did with that episode that I really thought was wonderful was connect the dots on Spike. We saw him really early and then we saw him after he had really adopted his Spike persona - and he had been hanging out with Welsh miners and getting tough. But the interim part was never explored and [in that episode] we really got the morning after he was made and got to see the transition. That was something that had to be really carefully written and something David Fury and I were careful on the day to modulate. We didn’t really know where we were going and we found it as we went. That and the woman who played my mother was hitting on me the whole time. [Laughs] It was so weird! I kept saying ’You are very beautiful and very charming but you are playing my mom and you are freaking me out!’ Great actor, wonderful person but she didn’t want to hear that I didn’t want to have that happen.
Will the movie you did with Amber Benson be released? That’s the movie Chance. I really have a soft place in my heart for young artists who are beginning. I remember the days when I was starting to produce theater and how hard that is and how much negative reinforcement you get when you try to become more than you were before. Amber showed me the script she had written and I thought it was brilliant. She said she wanted to film it for seven thousand dollars and I said ’Cool!’ Basically, I wanted to support her in her first effort. She was wonderful. I dropped so many balls when I was starting to produce and she didn’t drop one. She had no money but everything was right down professional and I really respected that. She made some really smart choices. When you shoot in digital or video, the color really blands out so she saturated her set with really bright colors to make up for that. And I understand that it is available but I don’t know where. I think that movie was a really auspicious beginning for a very talented storyteller. I had a blast doing it because I got to play something completely unlike Spike. I was in a dress! I look forward to her next movie. What you see is delightful.
How difficult was it to recite William’s poetry with conviction? [Laughs] Not that difficult because I decided they were good poems! Early on, I really got into William’s corner and I wanted to fight for him and I felt protective of him. I had this phrase going in my mind ’Effulgent is a good word.’ But I was also struck by how hard it is to write bad poetry well. There was one point when we were waiting on a re-write from David Fury because he wanted to extend the very beginning of the poetry to include a reveal shot and it took him forever. People were like, "We have to film this! This thing is on the air in two days, David!" And he was just like "Guys it’s hard!" He’s right!
Do you want to go back to theater, produce theater and if so where? Los Angeles is a pretty frustrating town to try to do theater in. My problem is it’s hard to get people to watch it. It’s just not a theater town. New Yorkers think of theater as part of their city and Los Angeles does not have that at all. I do want to produce again but I think I would have a very frustrating time doing that in L.A. I would do it in New York and Chicago.
I’m trying to talk Joss into doing "Hamlet." I would like to direct him in "Hamlet." I saw him do "Hamlet" in his home and I’ve seen a lot of different Hamlets and his was one of the best. It was the most selfless. Most actors when they do Hamlet are Hamlet, you know? They are important now. When in reality, its just about some kid whose thrown a lot more shit than he can deal with and it almost makes him give up on life. That’s "Hamlet" and it’s almost like "Catcher in the Rye" in that way. How do you become an adult? It’s kind of like Buffy actually. Joss mined the humor and I suddenly realized how that play could work because you see Hamlet and you see him whining again and he’s attached to his mommy’s apron strings but the guy is funny. There are a lot of jokes in that play. I’m always going ’Joss, when are you going to do it? I want to direct you. It’s time. You need to do three "Hamlet’s" because you’re not to get to what you want to do in the first "Hamlet." You are going to have to do two or three.’ I’m going to break him down one of these days and I can’t wait to direct him. ’No! You are doing it wrong!’