There’s a fandom saying that you’ll never enjoy meeting a childhood crush, unless you liked James Marsters.When it comes to Supanova Comic Con and Gaming fan favourites, James ties for first place on the ‘must see’ list.
Partly, it’s because he played Spike, the vampire that launched a wealth of sexual awakenings on ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ and its spin-off, ‘Angel’.
But it helps that he’s as gleefully, unapologetically fandom-hyped as the rest of us. “I came into conventions when I was 14 years old, dressed as Spock, and loved them since.
“I think that [cons are] a safe space. Everyone’s beautiful and kind, everyone’s safe, and you can be whatever you want to be. It’s beautiful and powerful.”
Unsurprisingly, James can’t wait to get back to Australia to meet with fans at the Melbourne and Gold Coast legs of Supanova. “I find that fans are funny and smart and don’t take ourselves too seriously, and these are my favourite people.
“I meet the most interesting people at cons. I meet scientists, I meet other actors and writers, I have a lot of fun.”
Though he plays a convincing villain, giving back is one of James's key focuses and his ongoing work with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is a beloved part of his life. “I’ve been working with them for a long time, and I’m lucky to be able to help support their work.”
Though Spike is certainly his most well-known portrayal, there’s a wealth of science fiction and superhero themed work in James’s back catalogue. “Maybe it’s because I’m a fanboy I can respect the (sci-fi and fantasy) genre to the point that it deserves as an actor, and really give myself as fully as if I was doing Shakespeare.
“I think it’s a worthy genre. I find that the most consistent subversion and biting social commentary is happening in sci-fi and fantasy.
“I thought I’d have to give up subversion when I came to Los Angeles, but lo and behold, I met Joss Whedon, who was doing ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’, which was subverting the lie that women can’t fight back. And back in the '90s, that was making all the right people uncomfortable.”
Playing complex characters with subversive tendencies has been a core part of his career. “I’m always excited when I’m on a project that is speaking to that.
“I guest starred on a BBC show called ‘Torchwood’, which was subverting the idea that gay people can’t be heroes. I played the hero’s ex-boyfriend – I didn’t even clock it as being subversive, I just thought it was fun!
“More recently, I was in Marvel’s 'Runaways', a show about kids finding out their parents are super-villains. But really the theme is about the gulf that opens up between the generations when kids get old enough to see that their parents aren’t perfect. I was very proud to be a part of that.”
A creative powerhouse, James has expanded his career to include acting and voice work, direction, a musical career and work in audiobook narration.
“I don’t really work for a living, I’ll be honest, I play. I try to say yes to life, and to try new things. My favourite moments are when you leap, when you take a risk because you’re either gonna fly or you’re gonna die, so you better start flapping.
“It’s quite exhilarating to have failure be a real possibility. I think I’m most alive when that’s the case.”
This means there’s never a shortage of projects in the works. “I’ve had an idea for a comic-book property that I’m talking with one of the major comic-book people about. They’re interested, which is just absolutely fabulous.”
Though unfortunately there’s no naming names quite yet, it’s a pretty safe bet there’s a new must-read comic in our futures as well as new shows to binge and music to adore.
James Marsters will feature at Supanova Melbourne (6-8 March) and Gold Coast (13-14 March).