Buffy’s Spike reveals two good Joss Whedon secrets
James Marsters (Courtesy Wizard World)
By DOUG ELFMAN
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
James Marsters, who played Spike on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” has still got it. Recently, I saw an online photo of a woman at a fan expo holding her underwear which read, “Marsters can Spike Nicole.”
Marsters is in Las Vegas this week for the WizardWorld.com convention ($75-$85), which also features David Morrissey, Emily Kinney, Seth Gilliam and Steven Yeun from “The Walking Dead,” Tom Mison from “Sleepy Hollow,” Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund, Lou Ferrigno, Kevin Sorbo, Elvira, RJ Mitte from “Breaking Bad” (he’s also DJing Saturday at Chateau), and a ton of other actors, composers, and animators.
When I got Marsters on the phone to ask about this lady’s underwear, he laughed, like he couldn’t believe he was still a sex symbol. Then he put down his game controller (he was playing “Far Cry 4”), and I confessed my super fandom.
“Buffy” was my all-time favorite show, and Marsters is one of my all-time favorite TV actors. (He was terrific on “Torchwood.”)
Marsters told me two things that blew my mind.
First: Marsters played Spike as a three-dimensional vampire with a soul from the beginning of the series, against “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon’s desire for Spike and other vampires to be soulless not seductive.
“I’ve never told Joss the truth,” Marsters said. “For Joss, evil is not cool. Evil is not three-dimensional. You’re not supposed to feel bad for evil people. For Joss, vampires are metaphors for the things you get over in adolescence.”
In other words, vampires represented the unjust in society, and the show wanted disillusioned people not to lose all hope.
Marsters had a family to support, so his hope was to stay on the show, and he made Spike as fully realized of a character as he could.
“I was poor, and I did not want to be killed off. I was of the opinion Joss could make me do whatever he wanted me to do, but how the audience reacted to me — that was up to me.”
Second: Here’s the secret to how Whedon, a genius, got the best out of his great script writers:
“Joss asked the writers to come up with their worst day, the day they regret, the day that keeps them up at night, the day that they hurt somebody without a good reason, or the day they were publicly humiliated.
“And then slap fangs on top of that, and tell the world about their pain. And this was every single time.”
Marsters recalls seeing “Buffy” writers walking onto the set with heads bowed.
“I would say, ‘What a great script. ‘And they would look at me sheepishly, and say, ‘Do you realize what we’ve written?’ They were being very brave every single week,” he said.
“It’s basically Buffy having one bad day after another, trying to grow up, trying to become an adult. So he was asking for the real stuff from those writers, like, ‘Don’t just be interesting, tell me something you do not want to tell me.’”
Marsters is proud that “Buffy” and “Torchwood” were about “subverting lies that we get told during childhood” and lies we tell ourselves.
“‘Buffy’ was subverting ‘Women can’t defend themselves.’ And I think with ‘Torchwood,’ it was subverting that gay people can’t be heroes, or bisexual people can’t be heroes.’”
If you want to cheer Marsters’ rock band, Ghost of the Robot, it plays Saturday at Alexis Park Resort. He’s also in the upcoming wizard comedy “Dragon Warriors.”