Creative Spike: The James Marsters Interview, Part 2Created on Thursday, 22 October 2015 12:44
Written by Sommer K.
In Part 2 of our popular James Marsters interview series (check out Part 1 here!), Joe Kach and Sommer K get into the actor slash rocker's days on the set of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the art of writing, and what it's like to bring life to the world of The Dresden Files. There's a lot to sink your teeth into!
MightyVille: A lot of Spike’s character [from Buffy The Vampire Slayer] came from you, because initially he was just written into a few episodes and then killed off, but your performance really caught on. Was the Buffy cast pretty close knit? Do you still stay in touch?
James Marsters: Yeah. I still stay in touch with Nick (Brendon) and Eliza (Dushku) and Tony Head ... yeah, a lot of them. Also, Emma Caulfield. She is a good friend.
But frankly, we were all going a little insane on Buffy. We were called “Buffy the Weekend Slayer”. We worked 12-20 hours a day. Almost never 12 ... most television shows work 12 hours a day, and then they cut it at 12 because it’s too expensive to go beyond that. But that was our shortest day. And normally a short day would be 14 hours, and usually we’d go 16-18 hours, but we’d often go 20, sometimes 22. There were a lot of people that wouldn’t work on the show because 12 hours will fry you, but the Buffy schedule would just torture you. And on top of that, working with Joss Whedon, you are being asked to do a lot of things that you didn’t plan on ever doing in your life. There’s no comfort zone at all, and you’re terrified at all times. It’s not a cop show where you’re like, “Let’s sit and talk to the witness.” As an artist, you want to be out of your comfort zone. But when you’re out of your comfort zone, you’re nervous, so most of us were pretty freaking nervous the whole time. But we loved each other. And we all freaked out, and we all went insane, and I'm not going to tell you about any of it, because I am as guilty as anybody else. I respect everybody that was part of that show. We all brought it.
What got you into writing the Buffy and Spike comics?
I just have questions and things that come into my mind about the story and characters. The first comic I wrote was years ago, after Season Two. At the end of the season, I knock Drusilla over the head, kidnap her away from Angel, and drive off with her into the desert. The questions that came back to me were, “What happens when she wakes up? She still loves Angel, so how’s that going to work between them?” So I thought it would be interesting to play that out and have her dreaming of Angel every night, and Spike just loses it and tries to kill her. He just throws her out through the window into the sunlight to burn to death and drives off, 'F’ you. Then try to find a way to get them back together in a real way as a real couple, and see if you could do that. And try to write just the most twisted, messed up romance that you could possibly write. They finally kiss again, but there’s a pile of burning bodies in the background.
The latest one I wrote was trying to deal with a period for Spike where he has a soul but he doesn’t know what to do with it yet. He can’t kill anyone for food. He can’t steal anything for shelter or clothing because he has a soul that won’t allow him to do that stuff anymore. He’s not going to get a job! So what would happen? He’s going to be homeless ... he’s going to be starving to death ... and he’s going to be really freaked out. I wanted him to be like Buffy. I wanted him to have a plan, and to have an objective, and to actually get what he tried to achieve. But because he was never really like that on the show, I wanted it to be something very small. So I had him homeless, and his boot is falling apart. It’s so bad that he can’t even fight any more, because it’s tripping him up and the sole is falling off. He meets a woman, but can’t admit that he’s a vampire. A monster comes to town that looks beat-up-able. He notices a new pair of shoes but can’t afford them. So he tries to save the town from the monster and in the big fight the monster unfurls and it’s not a little monster after all, it’s a huge fucking monster! And he gets his ass kicked. The woman sees that he’s a vampire during the fight and then dumps him cold. So he loses the fight and loses the girl, but he figures out a way to get a new pair of shoes without getting a job and without hurting or killing anybody. So he gets a little, tiny step towards redemption. The question was how do you have the journey of a souled vampire and not retread Angel? So it’s not going to be sipping port wine in front of a fireplace in a mansion. It’s going to be the opposite.
You have a very keen writer’s acumen. Is that something you’d like to do more of, in comics or any other genre?
Yeah. Most of my experience has been in helping other writers tune their ideas or get them to admit what they are really writing about in the first place, and finding a way to get the story to focus in. When I had a theater company, I worked with a lot of young writers. We liked to do original works, so I got a lot of scripts that were in formation. So I got a skill in, not forming it myself, but asking the right questions.
It does not escape me that writers have absolutely no power in Hollywood at all. I guess in television, they can have more, sometimes. So comics are a wonderful way to be able to have more control. That’s nice. But I would also like to do television. I've got a Supergirl treatment that would be pretty girl. There’s a Supergirl already. But I want a Supergirl where she was raised by an abusive father, so you’re not afraid if she’s going to get hurt, you’re afraid she’s going to hurt people.
What’s coming up for you that you’d like to highlight for our readers?
I am waiting to see if an HBO series is going to come to fruition. Jenji Cohan wrote it and produced it. She does Orange is the New Black and did Weeds. It’s being called right now The Devil You Know. Gus Van Sant directed, who is one of my favorite directors. Fuck, he is awesome. Also, really nice. I had the very first scene in the pilot, and we do the first take and he comes up to me and goes, “James, could you be a little bigger? Uh, because, um, well, just because.” And I was like, "Wow!" Because I was hoping to get that note.
Gus is known for very subtle, natural, not overblown stuff, so I was not wanting to be too big. I was like, “Gus told me to be bigger! Now I know that that’s okay.” And then we did it again bigger. I have to find out if it’s going through. It’s going to be super controversial if it gets picked up. It’s going to be really edgy. People are going to be pretty uncomfortable with it. It’s about the Salem Witch Trials, that’s all I can say. It’s a new take on them, and it’s really good.
Also, my album just came out with the band [Ghost of the Robot]. It out on iTunes, Amazon ... You can also buy hard copies through ghostoftherobot.com and gotrmusic.com. You can get all of our albums there.
I just recorded a new Jim Butcher book on tape, from The Dresden Files series. Someone showed me, I think eight of the top ten sellers on audiobooks are The Dresden Files! They are selling like hot cakes! I was like, "Thank you very much!" But it’s because the writing is really good. It’s about a private eye who is also a wizard. It’s like Sam Spade meets Harry Potter.
I just did a movie about ... I can’t tell you what it is. It’s just so fucked up, so messed up. It’s a horror movie and it’s just so gross and horrible. I was like, “I’m not being a part of this. This is sick! God!” Then I got to the end of it and was like, “Oh. That’s actually about something. Wow! Horror movies don’t usually have a theme that is that meaty. OK, I’m into this.” And then, it’s all going to be done with puppets. So, it’s going to be, you know like Team America? And they’re doing all of these really disgusting things, but it’s puppets so it’s going to be okay. So, I did the voice of the lead character for that.
And I just did an independent film where I got to play a good dad. So that was nice...
Thank you so much for your time tonight, James.
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