James Marsters had a sneaky plan when it came to extending the life of Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
When the actor was cast as the platinum-haired vampire, Buffy creator Joss Whedon had a fairly simple vision for the character.
“He said, ‘You are here because I do not want to be like Scooby-Doo,'” says Marsters, whose attendance at this year’s Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo will include a Friday night acoustic concert at Cowboys. ” ‘I don’t want to have a new villain every single episode. So I’m trying to have villains that last for five or six. Then we kill them. So you’re going to last for five or six episodes and then we’re going to kill you off. But that’s it. You are a soulless vampire who has no remorse and no feelings for anyone.'”
Marsters agreed. But secretly he knew from the get-go that he was going to sabotage Whedon’s plan. He was going to cheat. He was going to give Spike love. He was going to make him interesting. So the California-born, theatre-trained actor adopted a British accent and turned Spike into a charming devil that Buffy devotees couldn’t resist.
“As an actor, if I find the love in a character — find what that character loves — you find the rocket fuel or the gold in the mountain; you find the stuff that really starts to propel you,” Marsters says. “Sometimes that’s love denied, or love betrayed, love corrupted. But in this case, but the love for Drusilla initially was the love I found in Spike. And I played that as fully as I could. That probably saved his life.”
As fans know, Spike lived from his introduction in the show’s second year until the show wrapped in 2003 after seven seasons. He also appeared in the spinoff, Angel, in its fifth season, reuniting him with his rival and sometimes ally played by David Boreanaz. But even after Spike’s on-air life came to an end, he somehow manages to live on. That was clear earlier this month when Entertainment Weekly reunited the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a cover story. Spike may have come with a ready-made love interest in Season 2 with Drusilla, but it was his eventual relationship with the slayer herself that still gets tongues wagging. Fans were divided into Team Spike or Team Angel when it came to determining who Buffy’s proper love interest should be. Even CNN was reporting on how the cover story revived the Spike vs. Angel debate.
Marsters had no problem wading into the hubbub for the article.
“What I said was that ultimately Spike is the right person for Buffy,” Marsters. “In the storyline, a few years after the series is completed, Spike would be ready for her having had time figuring out what to do with this new soul of his. I think Joss agrees with me. The ultimate pairing is Spike and Buffy. It obviously can’t be Angel and Buffy because every time they hook up Angel goes evil. So that’s just not going to work. I think Spike and Buffy are the ultimate pair. But for the time of the series, Spike wasn’t ready yet.”
Marsters said he wasn’t surprised that fans still feel invested in the characters, even if the show went off the air nearly 15 years ago. He said it was clear early on that Buffy’s adventures and characters were of the sort that would command a loyal cult following.
“I was a Star Trek fan,” Marsters says. “In fact, when I was 13 I was going to fan conventions with pointed ears on. I always had this sense that Buffy had what it took to be another kind of Star Trek, have the elements that meant the show could last in the imagination of the audience for a long period of time. One of the things that I liked about Star Trek was that even when I already knew how the plots were going to play out and there were no more surprises in the plots, it was still a world I wanted to go back to. They were still a group of people that I wanted to hang out with. So I returned to those reruns a lot. I always thought if we as actors really bring it and give ourselves to the characters, we could help create a group of fictional people that you want to hang out with. I think we did it.”
Life after Buffy has remained busy for Marsters, who continued to top up his fan-convention bona fides with roles in series such as Smallville, Torchwood and Caprica. He is currently starring in Marvel’s Runaways for Hulu, playing the genius supervillain dad of a teen superhero. With his friend Mark Devine, he created the web series Vidiots. The show’s premise is watching them travel around the U.S. showing their general ineptitude at video games.
Through it all, Marsters has also maintained a musical career, putting out two solo records and four with the band Ghost of the Robot.
He will be playing an acoustic show at Cowboys for a Calgary Expo After Party on Friday at 7 p.m.
“Calgary is a great place for music,” Marsters says. “There are places that still listen to guitars, and Calgary is one of them. Austin is another place that still listens to guitars. Wales is a good place and I always like coming to Calgary, because they still want to hear some strings.”
James Marsters will appear at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo from April 27 to 30 at Stampede Park. Visit calgaryexpo.com.