James Marsters found love in Sunnydale’s resident punk vampire Spike
February 14, 2020
James Marsters has joined many supernatural worlds over his 30 plus years in television.
But it is in Sunnydale where Marsters burst through our screens as the villainous love interest of Buffy Summers; Spike.
“Buffy was absolute heaven,” Marsters says. “I think we all realised we were part of something exceptional. I think everyone involved from the props people to the set constructors, stunt crew and actors; everyone was bringing everything they had.”
Marsters remembers his days on the hit television show as intense.
“(The creator) Joss (Whedon) is a task-master and he is not satisfied with ‘good enough’ so we would work 14-20 hours a day,” Marsters says. “We would start at 4.30am on a Monday and we would finish our week when the sun came up on Saturday morning.
“I remember being tired on a level I did not even know existed,” he continues. “But every time they called action it was heaven on Earth. Because when the words are that good, when the dialogue is that good and situations are that powerful, you just can’t buy it.
“When the writing is exceptional, you just give over to it and you’re made to look like a genius.”
Coming from a theatre background, the world of television was hard work for the young actor. Marsters shot to fame as Spike and recalls the days when he would only have 15 seconds to himself in public before crowds would begin to form.
“I came to Los Angeles with my nose in the air thinking I was a real actor,” he says. “And I quickly realised acting for the camera is an entirely different species than stage acting.
“Film is so intimate; it’s as close as a lover gets. Everything is noticed.
“I had to admit that I was a beginner again which was really hard for me to do.
“My nose came down of the air pretty quick.”
As a method actor, Marsters consumed his life with Spike and when the show ended he shaved his head bald for charity on daytime television to rid himself of the peroxide blonde hair of the vampire and reveal his own brown locks.
“I climbed into the character of Spike and I don’t know that I really shed him until the show was over,” he says. “That can eat you alive because Spike is lonely and kind of pissed off all of the time.
“When I was doing Spike it was kind of low-grade depression.”
Looking back on the series, Marsters is proud of the legacy he and the crew made.
“Buffy was stating very clearly that women can fight back and women are powerful and I think it’s a really good story to give people,” he says.
“I’m a slayer too, I absolutely am.
“My favourite thing about Spike would be his love,” he reveals. “I remember Joss explained to me I was a soulless vampire who cared about no one. He turned his back and I remember thinking ‘forget that, if I play it that way he’s going to kill me off’.
“I learned earlier in any artistic endeavour you need to find the love and a way to connect with people.
“For Joss, vampires are a metaphor for all the things you need to overcome when you’re a teenager. They’re supposed to be silly, laughable and dangerous and that’s why vampires die. I respect that in Joss; he’s not interested in making evil look cool.
“But I was poor and needed the work so I found the love in Spike and Joss found a way to work with that.”
James Marsters will appear at Melbourne’s Supanova Comic Con and Gaming convention on March 7 and 8 alongside The Walking Dead stars Ross Marquand and Cooper Andrews, Charmed’s Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause and stacks more.
Tickets are on sale now through Moshtix.
Written by Kim Price