Exclusive Interview: 'CAPRICA'S' JAMES MARSTERS TALKS 'TORCHWOOD,' 'BUFFY' VS. 'TWILIGHT' FANS AND MORE - PART TWO
The actor talks about stage, music, his favorite works of science-fiction and why some TWILIGHT fans don't like BUFFY
By ABBIE BERNSTEIN
, Contributing Writer
In the second half of our exclusive interview with James Marsters, he talks more about his role as religious zealot Barnabas Greeley on Syfy’s series CAPRICA, plus all the other things he’s been doing lately.
iF MAGAZINE: You’re doing another L.A. Theatre Works live radio play production, SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER, this summer. Last year, you starred in Oscar Wilde’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST for them …
JAMES MARSTERS: That was so fun. I’d only done [plays of that period by George Bernard] Shaw before and I thought that, because I’d done Shaw, that this would be easy. But it was a whole different experience and I went in less prepared than I should have been, and I really had to hit the books. It was four days of eating, sleeping and putting my faith in this play, in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. And Oscar Wilde is a taskmaster. He’s like a mathematician. If you hit the rhythm correctly at the right speed, he will provide the laugh for you without fail, but if you make one little mistake, like in music, it just blows apart. It was exciting.
iF: Is doing a radio play more like doing an audio book, because you’re not physically moving around, or is that more like doing a play?
MARSTERS: Just like a play. It’s very much like a play. We have a live audience and the other actors are right there. With a book on tape, you’re really just out in the void by yourself.
iF: And you’re still doing author Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files audio books ..
MARSTERS: Yeah, I just finished another one.
iF: Were you instrumental in choosing SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER, or did L.A. Theatre Works come to you and say, “Well, you did a good job with Oscar Wilde, so how about this one?”
MARSTERS: The latter. They are much better at choosing what will play, both for the live audience and also over the radio or on CD. They’re good producers, and I’m an actor at heart – I wait ‘til they call.
iF: Any other recent projects?
MARSTERS: Let’s see. I just did Shakespeare’s sonnets [on stage] in New Jersey. And I did an A.R. Gurney play, LOVE LETTERS, in London [with] Beth Andrews. I just did concerts, both in London and back East, and that’s about it right now. I’m finishing up the books on tape.
iF: So you’re doing more stage now …
MARSTERS: Yeah. It’s fabulous. It scares the heck out of me. I had never done the sonnets before, and when I got into them, it was quickly revealed to me that Shakespeare was bisexual. Two-thirds of the sonnets are to a guy. And not in a subtle way, either. It’s right out there, “O, my beautiful man.” I cannot believe that no one told me about that. Once you understand that, and once you understand that the sonnets are really autobiographical, they become almost like punk rock. Because Shakespeare doesn’t come off very well in them. Shakespeare comes off like a mewling, wet little kitten. From the plays, you think of him as this great genius who loves everyone and has everything figured out. But when you read the sonnets, it’s like all that’s ripped off and you get to see this guy underneath that who’s confused and put-upon and self-pitying and he doesn’t come off so wise, and I love that. It’s almost like John Lennon singing, “I’m a loser and I’m not what I appear to be.” I hadn’t delved into some good, dangerous Shakespeare for awhile. I thought it was going to be like, “The sonnets, oh, easy, lovey-dovey stuff,” but it was real love, which is all about feeling like a wet, drowned kitten.
iF: There are rumors of a U.S. TORCHWOOD project .Has anybody talked to you about the possibility of you reprising/recreating your Captain John character in that?
MARSTERS: I don’t think they’ve talked to me yet because they know that I’d come within seconds. I love it. I would come so fast to that project. I mean, if they do anything more in England, I would come to that. I understand they do some of their scripts on radio, specifically for radio, I’d love to do that for the BBC. I’d love to do an American version, all of it.
iF: Has the BBC approached you to do anything else?
MARSTERS: Yeah. It was a co-production for BBC and the History Channel was called MOONSHOT!, about the Apollo 11 moon landing. I got to play Buzz Aldrin.
iF: Have you gotten to meet him?
MARSTERS: No. I had the chance to go to Italy for the opening of the film. I passed because I wanted to spend time with my kids. I think I did the right thing, but I also kicked myself a little bit. Now I just collect Buzz memorabilia, like everybody else.
iF: You’ve said elsewhere that your niece has gotten very into vampires due to the TWILIGHT books …
MARSTERS: [laughs] Yes, very much.
iF: Does she have any opinion of Spike, or do you let her watch BUFFY yet?
MARSTERS: Well, she’s old enough now to watch it, but she believes that vampires can be good, like [TWILIGHT hero] Edward, and that it is just terrible to show vampires as fully evil, so she thinks that BUFFY is ridiculous. She refuses to watch it on moral grounds.
iF: Well, Angel is usually a good vampire. And Spike is good sometimes …
MARSTERS: At the very end. But there are reruns playing enough that she’s seen enough episodes to know that most vampires who come on BUFFY last for about thirty-five seconds. They’re very ugly and they get staked, and she just hates that.
iF: Are you keeping up at all with the BUFFY and ANGEL comics?
MARSTERS: No. I should. I got my heart broken early on by Dark Horse when they inked the comic book that I wrote about Spike and Dru and they made Dru ugly. I had to go apologize to Juliet Landau, who played Dru, and take my comeuppance for starting a project that ended up making her look so less beautiful than she truly is. But Dark Horse started drawing me extra-pretty from then on, almost like it was [an apology – laughs].
iF: Are you still appearing at both regular conventions and events that are built around you doing a play and/or a concert, with question and answer sessions?
MARSTERS: Oh, yeah. I find that I enjoy going to [regular] conventions [as a guest], but I also want to do my own kind of thing, with more performance art involved.
iF: That way, you don’t have to wait for somebody else to say, “Let’s do this play”?
MARSTERS: Yeah, just go out and decide that this should be done. I’ve written some new songs, just go out and play them. Or I was talking about a new play – I want to do a David Sedaris. I could do that – that would be fun.
iF: Are you working on another album of the songs you write and perform?
MARSTERS: Yes, in the very preliminary stages, actually. I think I’ll be working with [former Ghost of the Robot band mate] Charlie De Mars again. We’ve gotten back in touch with each other. It’s feeling really good – it’s feeling fun again. I think it will be an album of very simple acoustic sounds, just me on guitar, I think my son on guitar and maybe piano and stand-up bass.
iF: Are you proud that he’s sort of following in your musical footsteps, or are you going, “That’s a hard career path”?
MARSTERS: Everything. I’m very proud for his musical gift; I’m very aware of what a tough life it is. Mainly right now, I’m just trying to get him focused on his homework.
iF: Do you know what sort of project you’d like to do next?
MARSTERS: I feel like it’s arrogant to form a plan as an actor. I tend to get offered roles that are very interesting, often roles where they want someone to kind of pop out, like when I got cast as Buzz, the director immediately said, “Buzz is the rock star. I so needed you for this role.” So good projects and interesting characters kind of gravitate toward me, and I’m just going to let that happen and keep trying to rock it when they give those kinds of roles to me, and I think Barnabas is no exception.
I think Barnabas is designed to pop. [CAPRICA works] on so many levels. The thing that got to me the most was just the decadence and the culture and watching something fall apart, as if in slow motion, me knowing what’s coming and they not knowing. I think there’s so much in what they’re going for. They’re going for the whole pile. I mean, artistically, they really are aiming high. I think that they have a really good thing going up on CAPRICA, and it is an uncomfortable ride in a certain way, in the same way that BLADE RUNNER is an uncomfortable ride, or I, ROBOT is an uncomfortable ride, or A.I. is an uncomfortable ride. Those are my favorite kind of science-fiction projects. Actually, all of those are very much like CAPRICA. All of those are about a future world where we stay on the planet. We don’t go blasting off into the stars all the time. But I think that those projects seem to be able to talk about what I recognize as my experience.– I recognize what’s going on in those projects. Most of Philip K. Dick, who’s my favorite science-fiction writer, stays on the planet and I think that CAPRICA is very much in that tradition. They get to talk about those things that artists are dying to talk about; we just put a little patina of sci-fi over it and we can really address it very directly. I think that we may be in a dance of destruction every bit as destructive as what we’re watching on CAPRICA right now. And hopefully, we’re giving the audience a chance to contemplate that.