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INFORMER CULTURE: James Marsters - Supanova (Interview)
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INFORMER CULTURE: James Marsters – Supanova
Wednesday, 07 April 2010
ImageJAMES MARSTERS, best known for his role as the vampire Spike in Buffy, talks to JODY MACGREGOR about how far back his love of sci-fi conventions goes.
 
JODY MACGREGOR: What have you been working on lately? I read that you’re going to be on the Battlestar Galactica spin-off soon; how were you approached for that one?
JAMES MARSTERS: Jane, who worked on Buffy – Jane Espenson – is now an executive producer on Caprica and she fought like hell to get me on that show. She thought that she had a good role for me and pressed really hard and the powers that are decided that wasn’t what they wanted, but they thought of another role for me that I thought was actually a much more interesting role. So I’m happy. Playing a monotheistic terrorist, trying to wrap my head around that one.
JM: So you’re playing a villain again?
JM: Yeah, definitely. I’m playing someone who’s willing to kill people to get what he wants for sure. But he is actually trying to help people.
JM: And is this a guest role or more of a long-term thing?
JM: I shot five episodes and I think the deal was to kill me off, but they changed the way they killed my character so that you don’t really see it and then reminded me that I would probably be back. I think they want me to be excited about the idea of coming back in case they want to bring me back. I think they’ve left that open for themselves to do. So yeah, everybody tune in so that the numbers go up and then they’ll have me back.
JM: Had you watched Battlestar Galactica before? Did you watch the original series?
JM: The original series? What do you mean, like the original original?
JM: Both of them.
JM: The very first one I saw some of but I was still wrapped up in Star Trek. That was the day when different shows had their own contingencies; I didn’t like Space: 1999 and [whispers] I didn’t like Battlestar Galactica. I was a Star Trek guy. And then I’ve seen some of the second one with Edward James Olmos. My god, that was good. I haven’t seen enough of it to put all the plot together because I’ve seen them disjointed. But every single time it draws me in. I see them when I’m in England; they’re playing them often late at night on BBC. They always draw me in.
JM: You said you were a Star Trek guy, were you a big Star Trek fan?
JM: [Laughs] Yeah. Yeah, I loved it. I went to conventions and everything. Had my tricorder and had my pointed ears.
JM: You’re coming out to Australia soon for the Supanova convention but I guess you would have been familiar with these even before you started being the guest star.
JM: Oh yeah, they’re huge. You’re talking about the conventions?
JM: Yeah, sci-fi conventions and pop culture conventions in general. How often do you do them now?
JM: I get out to about four or five a year. Hopefully more. I really enjoy doing them. I have found that – I used to do theatre, I used to produce theatre. We’d have meetings all the time and talk about ‘How are we building community? How are our plays bringing the community together?’ I always thought my audiences liked the plays I did, I always got good reviews and a lot of times I really felt like I was preaching to the choir. The only people watching the plays were certain people who really liked theatre and then other artists. And I always thought that we were yanking our chain about really building community, we were fooling ourselves. I don’t know if I was right then, but I was always a little bit frustrated. And now I’ve got a couple hundred people who come really quite big distances to see me in conventions and they all know each other. I’m like a poor man’s Grateful Dead or Phish. It’s like the point is not really me, it’s that they have an excuse to come see each other, which I think is beautiful. Because these people have frankly more good friends than anybody else I know – probably more than I do. And I think that that’s really cool. I also like – one of my favourite things to do in LA is to go down to Venice Beach and see the guy with the big afro wig and the rollerskates, all the freaks are letting their freak flag fly, just letting it out. Kind of like Haight-Ashbury in ’68. I like it a lot. And conventions I think are to some extent the same kind of thing. It reminds me of Haight-Ashbury, it reminds me of Venice Beach. These people dressed as Klingons, these people dressed as robots, these chicks in bikinis of some kind. It’s fabulous.
JM: Letting their freak flag fly, as you said.
JM: Yeah, I mean there’s this couple getting my autograph and they’re not like models, they’re normal people, might be like a 50, 45-year-old couple. But they feel sexy because they’re dressed as Klingons. The guy’s standing up straight and the woman is pushing her breasts out and you can tell that they’re gonna have great sex that night. They’re living their fantasy and for that day they get to be powerful and sexy.
JM: I wanted to ask you about your voice, because you have a great speaking voice and on Buffy, playing Spike, I always found the English accent very convincing. Have English people said the same thing to you? Did you fool them?
JM: Yeah. I still get people who are surprised that I’m not English. Especially when I go to London I really let down all the girls. They’re always like, ‘Give us the sexy British accent, please!’ I’m like, ‘What’s wrong with the American one? Isn’t it sexy?’ They’re like, ‘No, not so much. No.’
JM: You also record audiobooks?
JM: Yeah. Then you can start to use all the stuff learned on stage. Creating a cast of different characters with different voices, different accents. Making certain passages darker just by the tone of voice. Stuff that you never do for film because you do any of that, you’re dead. [Laughs]
JM: I guess it is sort of like doing a one-man play.
JM: Very much. The only difference really is you don’t have an audience. You’re in the booth for like eight hours a day, eight or nine hours, and there’s nothing feeding back. There’s no audience there or other actors giving you their energy back so it’s kind of like playing tennis into the ocean and the balls keep disappearing. So it can be very tiring in that way, but you do have an open palette.

JAMES MARSTERS will be appearing at SUPANOVA this weekend, hosting Q&A sessions on Saturday Apr 10 and Sunday Apr 11 as well as signing autographs for Klingons and others throughout the convention.

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