James Marsters: 'Caprica' A Lot Like Rome
Iconic gnere actor makes debut on Syfy series Friday
"Well, I don't want to get too morose about it, but we are much like Rome, you know," Marsters told reporters, including Airlock Alpha, during a conference call Wednesday. "There's something amazingly dramatic in that. But also, it kind of reflects where we are. And you know, it gets pretty depressing if you really go there. But if you talk to climatologists, if you talk to the people who are providing energy for the world. if you talk to the food [producers], you talk to people who are experts on water, fresh water supply, it just gets depressing, you know."
Marsters, best known for playing Spike in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," isn't saying Earth is necessarily heading down a path of destruction, but "Caprica" provides some of the warning signs just in case we are.
"We, the people who do sci-fi and fantasy, we can address these issues fairly directly because we just change the name and we give you some spaceships and laser guns and robots and stuff, and we can all think about the stuff we don't want to think about, but need to anyway."
Marsters plays Barnabas Greeley on Friday's "Caprica," one of the several disjointed leaders of the Soldiers of the One terrorist group that believes in a single god. His first scene shows him painfully wrapping barbed wire around his arm, making it clear Greeley means business.
"He's living in a time which is coming apart at the seams, just like the Roman Empire did," Marsters said. "And in his world, people are committing human sacrifice and mass executions and mass orgies, friends are shooting each other in the head for fun. And you know, in Rome it was called the Coliseum, and on 'Caprica,' it's called the V-Club."
But no matter what it's called, the psychological effect is the same.
Barnabas is "seeing society rip apart and he sees that the religion is not being helpful in [steering] people towards moral behavior, and so he wants to have a religion with one god that's going to tell people exactly what to do and exactly what the punishment is if you don't do it, and what the reward is if you do," Marsters said. "And that's a very comforting thought and he's willing to try to make a revolution and make that happen, and he's willing to hurt people."
Marsters wouldn't call Barnabas a terrorist. Instead, he sees him as a revolutionary, people who are often misguided, but who feel they are really able to affect change.
The character is expected to air in five episodes this season, with the potential to do more in Season 2, ending just past the mid-point in an episode directed by series star Eric Stoltz. While this is yet another science-fiction project for Marsters, who has appeared in "Buffy," "Angel," "Smallville" and "Torchwood" among other shows, he told reporters he doesn't care if he gets typecast.
He's in love with the genre, and he follows writers. So if anyone like Joss Whedon, or even "Caprica" executive producer Jane Espenson calls him up, he's there.
"If I were playing Urkel, then I'd have a problem being typecast. But when you're typecast as the cool guy or the tough guy or the potent character or the jerk who mixes things up ... I think if you're going to get typecast, that's the one you'd want," Marsters said. "And I really don't have a problem with that at all. I mean, I went into audition for this moon shot thing, I love the Apollo program. I'm a science geek and stuff, so I was just so excited. I would have taken any three roles, you know. But the director was like, 'Oh no man, I need you. I saw you from 'Buffy,' you know, I need you for Buzz Aldrin because he's the rock star.'
"So you know, typecast me."
Will Marsters ever agree to return to play Spike? If it weren't for the whole aging thing, yes. But if he can pull off looking like he did a decade ago, Marsters said he wouldn't miss playing that famous vampire that some people believed a network named for him, for anything.
"It's now been seven years, but I look in the mirror, and you know, I've got to say if I'm rested, I look OK with the proper lighting, I don't know," he said. "But as the years go, I get more and more nervous about that so, you know, I'm thinking well, let's just do a screen test and see if we can light this character so we can actually say, 'Look, I haven't aged.' If we can do that, that'd be cool."
Finally, the reunion between Espenson and Marsters, who both worked together on "Buffy," wasn't as dramatic as one would expect. Especially since the two were in separate countries ("Caprica" is filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia). But that didn't prevent a reunion of a different sort.
"Well, you know what, [our reunion] is exactly like it was on 'Buffy,'" Marsters said. "You know, we communicated through scripts. I like to say that we tried to make love to each other through the scripts, and through the dailies, because I tried to take everything that Jane gave me and then just add my own layer to it so it would be just a little better than she was imagining."
The first offspring from that script love-making premieres March 5 at 9 p.m. on Syfy.
Marsters Talks Spike, “Caprica”
“You have seven years because I’m aging, and Spike’s not supposed to [as a vampire],” Marsters tells Zap2It. “I don’t want to do some lame line like, oh he’s been drinking pig’s blood right now so he’s aging slowly or some stupid thing like that. It’s now been seven years. When I look in the mirror I gotta say if I’m well rested, I look OK with the proper lighting. I don’t know. As the years go, I get more and more nervous about that. Let’s just do a screen test and see if we can light this character and say, ‘Look, I haven’t aged.’ If we could hold that, that would be cool.”
And while it’s hard to imagine the “Buffy” universe without Angel and Spike, the actor says that under Joss Whedon’s original outline for the show, having recurring vampires wouldn’t have happened.
“He really wanted the vampires to be ugly when they were vampires and very quickly dead,” reveals Marsters. “He was talked into the character of Angel by David Greenwalt, his writing partner. He fought it. I don’t think he was too excited about it but he allowed David [Boreanaz] to do it, and the character just took off to the clouds. I think that he always remembered that he was only going to allow one Angel-like character on the show and that all the other vampires were going to remain in some way hideous.”
While fans are waiting for Marsters to (hopefully) play Spike again, they can see him in this week’s episode of “Caprica.” Marsters plays Barnabus Greely, a diehard revolutionary and the latest in a long line of menacing, mean guys that Marsters specializes in. However, the actor isn’t worried about being typecast.
“I mean if I was playing Urkel, then I’d have a problem being typecast,” he says. “But when you’re typecast as the cool guy or the tough guy, or the potent character or the jerk who mixes things up, I think if you’re going to get typecast, that’s the one you’d want. I went in to audition for this ‘Moonshot’ [moon landing TV movie]. I love the Apollo program, I’m a science geek and stuff, so I was just so excited and would have taken any three roles, but the director’s like, ‘Oh no, I saw you in “Buffy” and I need you for Buzz Aldrin because he’s the rock star.’
“I’ve always been really thankful I got to play a character that got to wear so much makeup and bleach his hair and got to have a cool English accent.”
Marsters went on to acknowledge the current vampire craze, lead by the Stephenie Meyer “Twilight” novels. And while Marsters hasn’t read them, he says he’s a fan for one reason.
I like them man. They got my niece to read,” Marsters says. “She wasn’t reading a lot, but she hit ‘Twilight’ and just ate them up and read them five, 10 times. Now she’s on to other vampire romances. She reads like a novel a day now. So, go Stephenie Meyer.”
“Caprica” airs tomorrow night at 9 p.m. on SyFy.
James Marsters knows what he likes, and he knows what people like to see him in. From Buffy to Angel to Smallville to Torchwood, he's made legendary appearances on some of the greatest science-fiction and fantasy shows of the past decade, and he's about to start yet another. Marsters will tackle the role of religious fanatic Barnabas, the man behind the Caprica bombings for a multi-episode run on Syfy's new series Caprica. Never ones to turn down talking to Spike, we sat in on a conference call to ask him about his character, whether he'll return to Torchwood or the Buffyverse, and what he thinks of all these new vampires running around.
How do you see Barnabas? Is he a terrorist or a criminal? What is he?
Marsters: No man, he's a revolutionary. I mean, how I see him is how he seems himself. It's a complex question. I'll answer as an actor who's making the guy. You know, you could say that George Washington was a terrorist. He was using different battle techniques. I mean, if you compare the English who were just coming at them in formation, standing people up in open fields and just marching forward, and he was just hiding in the bushes and shooting... I mean, that's a little bit like, you know, the new tactics that we're facing in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is a difference, the terrorist is trying to instill terror in a civilian population, and they're definitely expanding the battlefield to civilian populations and that is also something scary. But in my mind, in Barnabas's mind he is trying to save the world. He's trying to give the world a new religion that will give guidance to people. He recognizes that some people -- not all, but some people really do need a superman to tell them, "You will not pee in the pool and if you do I will kick you out." They need a god and they need the 10 Commandments. They need "Thou shall do this" and "Don't do that" and "You'll burn if you don't" and "You'll go to heaven if you do" and they need a daddy figure. And without that, you really face what Rome faced, which is people giving into sensual desire to the point that the whole society wrecks. That one's true. You know, the Roman society -- it's the same religion that they have on Caprica, which is, you know, a multi-deity mythology. And in Rome, all the Roman mythology had nothing to do with what you should do or what you should try to become -- it was just trying to explain human psychology. The gods behaved in very human ways, and it was really just exploring why we are the way we are but that doesn't give guidance. And you can argue that that's exactly what you should do, but Barnabas sees it differently, because he's going into these V-Clubs and he's seeing best friends shoot each other down for fun.
How does it feel playing such a devout religious character after playing so many anti-religious characters throughout your career?
Marsters: I love anybody who has convictions enough to make mistakes, because only people who make mistakes get into enough trouble to be called drama, I think. I'm playing the character, so I feel like I understand why he's doing what he's doing. He's living in a time which is coming apart at the seams, just like the Roman Empire did. And in his world people are committing human sacrifice and mass executions and mass orgies, friends are shooting each other in the head for fun. And, you know, in Rome it was called the Coliseum, and on Caprica it's called the V-Club. But it has the same psychological effect on people. And he's seeing society rip apart and he sees that the religion is not being helpful in spearing people towards moral behavior and so he wants to have a religion with one god that's going to tell people exactly what to do and exactly what the punishment is if you don't do it and what the reward is if you do. That's a very comforting thought, and he's willing to try to start revolution to make that happen. He's willing to hurt people.
Clarice sort of talks about the dirty work that you character does for the church, and I'm wondering what sort of form that'll take. And how much does your character knows about Zoe's involvement.
Marsters: I don't do a whole lot of work for the church. I'm kind of trying to take my little wing of the church over. So I'm kind of at odds with Clarice. Every revolution has a lot of different factions and people -- that have different ideas about how to achieve the revolution. And Clarice and I see things a little differently. I don't know a whole lot about Zoe. I probably know anything that Lacy has told Kion about Zoe, if that helps. I'm being a little bit opaque about it, I'm not supposed to reveal too much... I play a man who wants to change the world and is willing to break however many eggs he needs to to achieve that.
Does he have any sort of personal relationships with anyone? What is he driven by? Is it just his convictions, or is there some other more human side we'll see?
Marsters: He does have relationships, but he uses everyone around him for his goal. There are a lot of people around in the world that had the same frustrations and concerns he does, so he just needs to find them and gather them into a unified force. His goal is motivated by the fact that he lost his father to this. He used to respect his father a lot, but his father has become addicted to these V-Clubs, and he found him in there doing things that he doesn't even want to remember. So it's very personal, you know, it comes from a personal place but it has become a very large thing in his mind. He's going to save the whole world.
Would Barnabas act exactly the same if he was living in our world?
Marsters: Oh yes, man, he'd be spiking trees, he'd be blowing up hydroelectric dams, you know, he'd be the one getting arrested outside the WTO conferences. Oh man, if he could get inside the World Trade Organization? Oh no, oh no. [Jesus took] a whip to the dudes in the temples just because the Romans were doing dual use in his temple. Can you imagine what [Barnabas] would do to the World Trade Organization if he had a gun? Yes, Barnabas would probably take a look to the temple, yes.
How has the reunion been with former Buffy writer/producer Jane Espenson?
Marsters: You know, I haven't seen Jane -- my reunion was on the telephone. She's making a universe man, she's winding up Caprica, and she's very busy. And unfortunately I am, too. There's like a week that we were talking about getting together, and then I got ripped into rehearsals and then I had to leave for London. But you know what, that is exactly like it was on Buffy. You know, we communicated through the scripts. I like to say that we tried to make love to each other through the scripts and through the dailies, because I tried to take everything that Jane gave me and then just add my own layer to it so it would be just a little better than she was imagining. I'm just glad that she enjoyed working with me on Buffy, because she fought to get me on Caprica, and I'm just very lucky to be working with them, frankly. They're insane. They come up with wild ideas and then they just change their minds, say "No, that sucks, let's do something else, let's think of it in five minutes and go" -- and they do, and it works, and it's fabulous. It's like being at the circus.
Was it hard to convince you to come on the show?
Marsters: Hell, no. I follow writers. In my little mind, I cast my own group of writers around Hollywood, the ones that, if I was forming a production company, I will call and try to get together. And if any of those people call me and they're writing for something, I'll come there. And Jane is on the top of that list, so she had called me for a different role on Caprica and I was auditioning just five, six times for that role and they finally said, "No you're really not right for that," and Jane's like, "No, get him on the show," and so they thought of another role which I think is a lot more exciting, actually. I like playing a monotheistic terrorist, it's great.
You can't say what role you auditioned for?
Marsters: Oh I don't want to go there.
Was it Clarice?
Marsters: Yes. It was Lacy. I should have gotten that role, I mean, Magda is fabulous but I would have just given...
Did you watch any episodes of Battlestar or even the beginning episodes of Caprica in preparation for the role?
Marsters: I had seen some of Battlestar, everyone has. I hadn't watched all of it, but I've seen good chunks of it. But I really had to try to forget that, because we were doing a prequel, and it was really important that nobody understands how serious it's about to get. You know, we're still in the time when we think that the fight with the girlfriend is the most important thing that week. I did watch the Caprica pilot, and I have to say within the first ten minutes I got so shocked and horrified -- not because there was that much gore on the screen, but just the ideas that were presented were so hard for me to watch, being a parent myself; I turned it off and just stared at it for about 30 seconds, and then I went, "That is incredible. As soon as I grow the balls, I've got to finish watching that." It was fabulous, I loved it and it terrified me, which I think is gold.
How many episodes are you going to be on Caprica?
Marsters: I think I've filmed five so far, and then there's a bit of a hiatus and I'm hoping -- they were hinting that they wanted to keep the option open of having me back. They want me to be excited -- if they want me back, they want me to be excited. And they've left the door open for doing that, and I hope that they do.
Have you talked to Russell Davies about coming back on Torchwood in the fourth season?
Marsters: No, but he knows I'm his bitch. I'll come wherever he'll call. I've told him, if he has work anywhere at anything, five lines or the lead, whatever he needs, I'll come.
Do you think there's ever going to be a possibility of you reprising the role of Spike?
Marsters: You know, when Joss came to me and asked me about that, the writer of Angel was coming down and I told him what I tell every great writer which is, "I'll follow you to hell, I'll follow you to heaven, just give me a call, I'll do one line for you, I'll do ten. Sure, I'll do Spike for you." And it's now been seven years. I'm aging, Spike's not supposed to, and I don't want to do some lame line like, "Oh, he's drinking pig's blood right now so he's aging slowly," or some stupid thing like that. But I look in the mirror and, you know, I've got to say, if I'm rested, I look okay with the proper lighting. But as the years go, I get more and more nervous about that so, you know, I'm thinking, "Well, let's just do a screen test and see if we can light this character so we can actually say, 'Look, I haven't aged.'" If we could hold that, that'd be cool.
What do you think about all the new vampires out there? True Blood, Twilight, Vampire Diaries...
Marsters: Oh, I like them, man. They got my niece to read, you know, she wasn't reading a lot and she hit Twilight and she just ate them up and read them like 5-10 times, and now she's onto other vampire romances, and she reads like a novel a day now. So go, Stephanie Meyer. I think in general, it follows the tracks of Interview with a Vampire. Anne Rice really doesn't explore vampires as hideous monsters of the night, they're ancient creatures with a heart. And they want to be loved and they want connections just like we do. And a lot of the rougher edges of the more traditional vampire story have been kind of softened or taken away. And that's a refreshing new look. But that was not what Joss was going for with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He really wanted the vampires to be ugly when they were vampires and then very quickly dead. He was talked into the character of Angel by David Greenwalt, who is his writing partner. And he fought it. I don't think he was too excited about it, but he allowed David to do it. And then the character just took off through the clouds, you know. And I think that he always remembered that he was only going to allow one Angel-like character on the show, that all the other vampires were going to remain in some way hideous.
|James Marsters' Latest Bad Ass Role|
|Friday, 05 March 2010|
By James Iaccino
James Marsters has a long and distinguished history of playing the cool bad guy in science fiction genere shows. These roles include Spike in Buffy/Angel, Braniac in Smallville, and Captain John in Torchwood, among many others. Adding to that mix, Marsters has joined SyFy’s Caprica playing the religious leader/terrorist, Barnabus. James spoke this week to an assembled media panel, including MediaBlvd Magazine, about the role and what the show says about where we may be heading in the real world.
Question> What was the deal in the preview with the barbed wire around the arm, like is Barnabas a pain freak or something?
Question> How is it playing a religious character after playing so many that were anti-religious?
Question> You mentioned that Caprica scares you because it's a look at where humanity is headed. Can you expand on what you meant by that?
Question> What was your original like genre choice before you got into the actual industry?
Question> Have you talked to Russell Davies about coming back on Torchwood in the fourth season.
Question> Did they have to ask you more than once to come on the show?
Question> How do you see Barnabas? Is he a terrorist or a criminal? What is he?
Question> In preparation for your role as Barnabas did you watch any episodes of Battlestar or even the beginning episodes of Caprica including the pilot or no did you just start from scratch?
Question> How many episodes are you going to be in for Caprica?
Question> Do you think there's ever going to be a possibility of you reprising Spike?
Question> Can you talk a little about the reunion with Jane. How was it?
Question> What do you think about all the new vampires out there, True Blood, Twilight, Vampire Diaries?
Question> What percentage of your genre roles would you say is you seeking out that type of role because it's something you enjoy, and what percentage is people seeking you out because you are such a known entity in genre entertainment?
Question> Any musical performances coming up?
Question> There is talk about having a final season for Smallville next year, nothing official yet. I'm sure you're going to say yes but would you be interested in coming back to that show at any time?
Question> In terms of Caprica who's your favorite character and/or star of Caprica at this point besides yourself of course?
Question> And you're going to have a lot of interactions with Clarice right?
Question> And as far as best episode you did mention the one that Eric directed; would you consider that the best episode so far to date that you've been in in Caprica?
Question> Do you ever have any interactions with Zoe as the Cylon or no?
Question> Do you ever have a fear like many actors do in this genre of being typecast at all?