MARVEL’S RUNAWAYS: James Marsters gives the scoop on Season 2 – Exclusive Interview
The actor talks about acting, and Spike
In Season 2 of MARVEL’S RUNAWAYS, now streaming in its entirety on Hulu, the title characters have grown into their group moniker. Teenagers Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz), Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin), Gert Yorkes (Ariela Barer), Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner), Molly Hernandez (Allegra Acosta), and Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano) all have superpowers and/or extraordinary skills. Once alienated from each other, they’ve bonded upon discovering that Pride, the organization all of their parents are involved in, is evil and has a sinister agenda. The runaways have fled their privileged homes and are now hiding out in a mansion buried under Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
Not surprisingly, most of the runaways’ parents are freaking out and trying to find their offspring at the beginning of Season 2. Not so Victor Stein, played by James Marsters, Chase’s brilliant but abusive father. In Season 1, Victor had a brain tumor. This was cured by Pride founder Jonah (Julian McMahon). The cure made Victor at first extremely mellow, then extremely aggressive. Victor was finally shot by his wife Janet (Ever Carradine) to stop him from possibly killing Chase. So Victor starts Season 2 in a coma.
One major hint that Victor will come out of the coma at some point is the fact that Marsters is on the Pride headquarters set for a RUNAWAYS Q&A session. The actor has had many roles in films and television, but he’s perhaps still best known for his run as the vampire Spike in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL.
ASSIGNMENT X: As you are wearing jeans and a t-shirt, which is not a combination Victor would likely wear, should we take it that you are not in any scenes shooting today?
JAMES MARSTERS: No. This is just my own clothes, because I don’t need a lot of costumes in the box. What I will say is that the box is gorgeous. They found a visually stunning way to have me in suspended animation, and not just in the black coffin thing. So it’s going to look awesome.
AX: Should we assume that, since you are participating in this press event, that Victor does come out of the box at some point?
MARSTERS: All I can say is that Jonah has a plan for me. There’s a reason he’s keeping me alive in that box, and that it is a very interesting reason. And beyond that I’m am shackled to reveal – they’re still paying me, if you want a hint.
AX: Even when he’s not being psycho, Victor pushes Chase pretty hard. How would you describe Victor as a dad?
MARSTERS: I think that Victor is a great dad, and I think that Victor understands that he’s got to push his genius son to be more than just a lacrosse player.
AX: In Season 1, Chase designs a set of power gauntlets. Does Victor feel a sense of pride in Chase’s engineering accomplishment?
MARSTERS: Oh, my God, yeah. The real pride came in looking at the design of the gauntlets. There was a wonderful scene where I take the gauntlet, and I immediately begin ripping it apart. And I’m doing that out of excitement for the design that I’m revealing his genius. As I’m taking off the different bits, and looking at the circuitry inside, I’m recognizing that my son is fulfilling his potential. And then using them, testing them, is also important, but the way Victor thinks is as an engineer and as an inventor. So the pride is really in the build that he got going. But he also looks very cool when he fires those things off.
AX: There’s been some discussion of a BUFFY reboot headed up by Monica Owusu-Breen, with Joss Whedon involved as an executive producer. Do you have any thoughts about that?
MARSTERS: I think it is fabulous. I saw a Tweet by [Owusu-Breen], who sold the idea, that she wants an entirely new Slayer within the universe established by BUFFY. So she’s not going to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s going to be Sabrina, whatever it is. And I think that’s a great way to go, and I’m very excited about it. I think that the world very much needs a new Slayer right now.
AX: Would you want to play Spike again?
MARSTERS: [laughs] I am open to whatever Joss has in mind, whether that’s playing Spike or something else. I told him a long time ago, “I think that we’d have to get some really good lighting together to sell Spike,” but they are doing more and more and more, both with actor help and with special effects. What would be great is if he comes back and he’s like, “Buffy, you look terrible. You’ve aged. I still love you, of course, but …” That would be funny. Joss’s mind is always surprising. So I’m open to playing Spike if Joss is involved.
AX: BUFFY introduced you to dealing with fandom. Do you have any advice for your younger costars in RUNAWAYS about how to deal with genre fame?
MARSTERS: I don’t think any of them need my advice about the perils of fame. I think [RUNAWAYS series creators] Josh [Schwartz] and Stephanie [Savage] have just naturally cast people with a good, strong foundation that they don’t need that false validation.
AX: How do you deal with it yourself?
MARSTERS: Well, I think of myself as like a cake decorator. Like an actor is not the most important job in the world, frankly. I can’t save the world, I’m not as important as, say, a plumber, because I’d rather have a working toilet than a TV show any day. I’m not a firefighter, or a teacher, or anything like that. But I’m like a cake decorator. So if you hire me for your wedding, I can’t guarantee that you won’t get a divorce. I can’t even guarantee that you’ll have a good wedding. But what I can guarantee is that people will come away going, “Your cake was great.” So I can do that, and that’s a nice little ornament on top of life, after the more important things are accomplished. And so I can feel good about what I do, but I don’t have to get too big of an ego about baking cakes. I’m an actor, so why would I get egotistical?
AX: What would you most like people to know about Season 2 of RUNAWAYS?
MARSTERS: Season 1 was about the inevitable gulf that opens up between parents and kids, how parents – and I’ve done this – we lie to our kids. I started lying when they were about three, and it was Santa Claus, and I lied to them – “Dad, why are you in a bad mood?” I didn’t tell them I might have a melanoma. There are so many lies you tell your kids, and at some point, your kids get old enough to figure out that you’re lying, and there’s a gulf. Season 2 is really about, are the kids going to become their parents? They’ve run away now. You’ve seen the set. They are now out in wide world, they’re not protected by their parents, and they are having to make hard choices. And are they going to fall into the same traps that their parents did, as often happens to us? We wake up about age thirty and go, “Oh, my God, I’m my dad.”
James Marsters will be appearing at WhedonCon at the LAX Hilton June 7-9, performing with the band Ghost of the Robot at the event on June 8.
This interview was conducted during Hulu’s RUNAWAYS set visit for the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.