This past weekend, fans of all the Whedonverse shows from Buffy and Angel to Firefly, Dollhouse and Agents of SHIELD gathered at the Warner Center Marriott for Whedoncon.
One of the most entertaining guests was James Marsters, best known as Spike on Buffy and Angel. He had a lot of stories about his time there, the difference between TV and stage acting, and why the Buffy cast weren’t sure the musical episode from season six would work.
He started by saying he’d answer any question, no matter how embarrassing. It started with a question of who does the chores at him. He readily admitted he was a stay-at-home dad when his son Sullivan was very young. He says he learned that when he was young.
It wasn’t long until he talked about his career. He gave a good explanation of why film and theater acting are so different. “In theater, you’re the chef,” he says. “In film, the editor is the chef and the actor is like a little piece of celery, and you will be chopped up inevitable to make something worthwhile.” He had that more clear when he described his first days on Buffy, and saw his stage style didn’t work, especially when working with Anthony Stewart Head aka Giles. After he discovered he wasn’t as believable, “I decided to go back to the school of Anthony Head.”
He even said that in a way, Spike is a side of him. ‘The side of me that is Spike is the side of me that is very lonely and very angry,” he says, “and has given up on the world.” But if Spike is combined with Joss’ humor, he becomes the familiar bad boy fans know.
He also revealed that when the famous musical episode, “Once More With Feeling” was announced, the cast weren’t sure they could pull this off. Here’s a tweet from Whedoncon, with Marsters talking about it…
— WhedonCon (@WhedonCon) May 20, 2018
He even admits that Sarah Michelle Gellar would have preferred juggling chain saws to a musical number. Of course, the episode wound up to be a classic because the cast didn’t give up.
The best part he had that wasn’t in the Whedonverse was playing Buzz Aldrin in the A&E movie, Moonshot. He pointed out Aldrin was actually a brilliant astronaut who suggested that training under water for space travel would work, and NASA adopted that. That’s why he enjoyed doing that role.
Marsters also admits he preferred being the villain because a hero winds up being hurt while a bad guy can stay in the shadows and think he’s invulnerable. He also revealed how his role as Captain John in Torchwood sparked a backlash against gay characters, ans that he was proud of it
He also describes the moment when he realized that Spike would wind up falling for Buffy in season six. Before that, he saw Sarah Michelle Gellar as a “kid sister.” Then he saw the scene where she’s working at the drive-through window of a fast food place, being nice to customers. It hit him that “Buffy just came back from Heaven, so she’s now in Hell. She doesn’t get to go to college because now she’s got to support her younger sister. In effect she’s now a single parent. She’s under all this pressure, and now she has to work at a drive-through, but she’s being nice….and it clicked and I realized I could fall in love with Buffy.”
Thing is, he says, Sarah noticed him, and thought he was making fun of her fast food uniform.
He also admitted he can’t recall Spike’s favorite kills because they worked for at least 12 hours a day, and he doesn’t remember many scenes. In fact, a game the cast often played is trying to recall what they filmed earlier that day.
Finally, Marsters was asked what Spike would be doing now.
He said Spike “goes hunting”…maybe in Washington.
Marsters will be returning to Marvel’s Runaways, playing mad scientist Victor Stein who was last seen recovering in a mysterious pod. Season two is expected soon.