James Marsters and Juliet Landau
If studio executives only came to conventions and saw the popularity of panels featuring actors from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, I’m rather certain that made-for-TV and direct-to-DVD movies would be given the green light without hesitation. The line for the 4:00PM panel, that would feature once again James Marsters, Juliet Landau, Elisabeth Rohm and Ken Feinberg was insane, and once again the line was cut off after the room was filled to capacity. We made it in and this is what happened there.
The seating arrangement on stage was the same as the previous day – Ken, Elisabeth, James and Juliet. There were two microphones set up, and while people made their way to them, Ken said we were “a very good looking group,” and then James teased us with the usual “Who’s brave?” question to get things going. Someone yelled “I love you, James!” which prompted him to reply, very suggestively, “I love you more…” to much cheering.
The first question was yelled out from the front row, because James said he was impatient, and it was whether they’d consider plastic surgery given Hollywood’s proclivity towards physical beauty. James replied first, “I’d do it in a second, yeah!” Juliet said she was “not a fan of the plastic surgery look, because it scares me.” Ken quipped, “Who’d want to touch something as beautiful as this?” Elisabeth said she’d “be curious, but I’m also terrified by pictures of people when things have gone wrong.” Ken also mentioned that he’d been to some parties where he saw “some people that have gotten older, and you can see the plastic surgery wasn’t that effective.”
The next question was about their special skills, like the kind they include in their résumés. James said he “used to have all sorts of lies about my special skills. Horseback riding, racecar driving—it’s all a lie! I can play guitar and that’s about it.” Juliet said hers is “dialects, basically, and accents.” Elisabeth said she “doesn’t have any,” but then she was reminded that she can play one song on the piano (as she’d told us the previous day). Ken said that “when you’re a young actor, you’re told to load up on special skills because they might get you a job.” He then added he’s done healing work for a long time (Reiki and massage) and is a relationships coach,
Next, James, Juliet and Ken were asked about working for Doug Petrie, who’d written “Fool For Love,” which all of them appeared in together. Ken tells a story about showing up on set to shoot the episode, and how excited Doug Petrie was about meeting the Chaos Demon, as Ken met him in full makeup. “Doug said the Chaos Demon stole the whole episode.” James said Doug “is awesome; one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.” Juliet mentions Doug is now working on CSI, and James promptly went, “I gotta call him!”
Ken Feinberg and Elisabeth Rohm
The next question was for Juliet, about the short she wrote and is trying to shoot, It’s Raining Cats and Cats, and any stories she and the rest of the panelists might have from other smaller, independent films she participated on. Juliet repeated the story of how she wrote the short and is trying to raise funds through her website, julietlandau.com, which she had told us the day before, and made reference as well to the movie she shot of Gary Oldman’s creative process while he shot a video for the Jewish hip-hop band Chutzpah. James told about working on a small movie called Winding Roads and how “they put us all in a Winnebago to use as dressing room, and we kept complaining and kept complaining about the smell, until one day they went looking for the source and found a dead rat!” Elisabeth started off mentioning she’d just done “a small independent film called Miss Congeniality 2, which brought laughs, and then, in earnest, she mentioned her participation in the movie Aftermath, that was the last movie Chris Penn ever made. She asked for the audience’s help to find distribution for the movie, which also features Tony Danza. Ken mentions helping an actress friend of his shoot a Wonder Woman fake trailer promo, in order to help her land the part last year, when Joss Whedon was still attached to direct it and he’d expressed his wish to “cast an unknown in the part.” Ken then encouraged people to go see James in concert that evening, and for those who couldn’t make it, “I’ll be screening that trailer here.” James deadpanned, “You just took all my audience, man!” Ken then said that in addition to Wonder Woman, “…we’ll have band camp, so bring your instruments,” and James quickly added, “Now I don’t want to go to my
own concert!” to many laughs.
The next question was specifically for James. “When you used to play Spike, you became the embodiment of that character, so if someone has a fantasy about Spike…” At this point, laughter and cheers interrupted the question. The woman mentioned fanfic on the internet “which she doesn’t read” and whether he “feels used”. James said he “hasn’t read any of it, because I only got a computer last year. When the whole Buffy thing started, I went on the internet at a friend’s house, and you guys were so nice! And I found myself wanting to go back to my friend’s house, making excuses, so I could get on the internet, and I realized it was like a drug, and I could easily get addicted to this ego feed, and decided I’d never go back on the internet, because I’d lose my soul.” He went on to say that “maybe I’ll feel used if I read it.”
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that gave delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes wills
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again’ and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
Massive applause followed his recitation, but James said it was “a bit silly, wasn’t it?”
The next question was about whether they could dance. Juliet said she used to be a professional dancer, “so I can learn any dance, yes.” James said he was “not a professional dancer, but I took dance in high school to meet chicks! If you want to meet women in high school, take modern dance!” James went on to say he likes “punk dancing, pogo and all that” and he remembered seeing “The Clash, back in ’80, at the Cow Palace, in San Francisco, and they laid down a special cover for the floor… and we all pogoed on it, and ruined the Palace! And they didn’t have another concert in that place for 25 years!” Elisabeth said she “doesn’t dance,” but mentioned she “learned how to two-step in Texas, about 8 months ago, with a soldier that’d just come back from Iraq. And I can waltz, but that’s about it.” Ken said his wife “wants me to salsa dance with her, so I’ve been working on that this year. Aside from that, I’ve been in musicals and directed musicals, but I wouldn’t call myself a dancer.”
The panel got interrupted by Eric, in charge of the Star Trek panel that was scheduled directly against this one, who wanted us to know that “Ken had bowed out of my panel to be with you guys today”, which brought on cheers.
Questions resumed with a kid asking James, Juliet and Elisabeth about their best experience working on Buffy and Angel. James said that “probably, my best experience on Buffy and Angel was working with Juliet Landau. I really felt that I was really Spike when I was with you, and all the other times I was just faking it.”After the audience stopped “oohing” and “aahing,” James quipped, “Now, you need to say something nice about me!” which brought on laughs. Juliet said that it was “true, because we had this amazing acting chemistry right from the get-go,” and how she never auditioned for the part of Dru, got cast straight after a meeting with Joss, and then was “asked to come read with the five candidates for the part, and with James, we just started playing, and there’s a moment in our first scene with The Anointed, where our heads just came together that we brought into the episode, and then they promoted the show with that moment of pure kinetic acting. It’s a very rare experience to have, especially on TV.” Elisabeth mentioned that she stayed really good friends with David Boreanaz, repeated how she almost did Bones with him, and how “the first time we were shooting Angel, we took each other aside and said, “This can be a really tough business; let’s just watch each other’s backs.” Ken pretended not to remember the question, saying he “was feeling guilty for not doing the Star Trek panel,” but admitted his favorite moment on Buffy was “when I kissed you goodbye, which I loved because that wasn’t even on the script.”
The next question was for James, about his music, as the fan said she “was really looking forward” to his concert that night. “Me too, man, me too!” She wanted to know if he’d selected the tracks to be on the next CD: “We’re in the process of that. I’ve 20 songs to choose from, and we’re cutting them down to 12. The producer showed the tape to Alanis Morisette’s drummer, who loved it, and he’ll come to record the album with me. We’re gonna do “Louise”, a couple of new ones you may not have heard yet, “Layabout” and “Lookin’ at You…” What else? “I’m not a Millionaire”, “London City”, I think we’re gonna do that… I don’t think we’re gonna do “Fall of Night”. I wanted to do more of an up-tempo album; I wanted to get people off their chairs and do… not a dance album, but more of a rock album. “Don’t Worry, Son” is there, definitely. I’m trying to lean more towards the blues; I threw all my blues into the album, and the producer said, “Not so much blues, man…” The fan then asked if he still had his Taylor and whether Malcolm (James’ guitar) was still working for him. “Malcolm… thanks for asking, man, because Malcolm is broken. Malcolm got broken in Europe; I went from Germany to England in Easy Jet. Somebody smashed him. I played in Wales with him—he’s like the best friend in the world, because somebody smacked him in the mouth and he was still there for me, you know? I love that guitar… So I took him to the shop to get him fixed for tonight, and the guy looked inside and went, “Dude, what happ
ened to this guitar? It’s shattered inside! What the heck?!” And I said it was the airplane, and he said, “No, you hit someone over the head with this, I know you did!” I think someone really wanted to break that guitar; someone really set out to break it… and they kind of did. And my Taylor got stolen on the set of Saving Grace. A $4,000 guitar; my favorite guitar. That was the best thing (besides working with Juliet) about working on Buffy, that I could afford really nice guitars.”
The next question was for Ken, whether he was on the Walk of Fame (autographs area) “because I went today and found James and Juliet but didn’t see you.” Ken answered that he was, and gave his location.
The next question came from a gay male, for James, and about Torchwood, who wanted to know whether he’ll be John Barrowman’s boyfriend in the show, in a Brokeback Mountain kinda thing where a straight male represents someone from a growing minority “that will make you even more of a gay icon.” James said he doesn’t “think about that part, so much. I just wanted to work with Russell T. Davies, who did the British version of Queer as Folk and is a great writer and a great guy. I was nervous about kissing John, because I’d never done something like that before.” He repeated the story about seeing John romping around the set with this castmates, “grabbing boobs and butts, and I was taken aback: ‘I gotta kiss this guy?’ So I said, ‘I gotta let him know that if he tries that with me, I’m gonna punch him!’ So I went, ‘Naoko, man, just a little jab like this (motions an elbow in the stomach) when he comes behind you like that will take care of it. Or, stomp your foot right on top of his foot, break a couple of bones, that’ll stop it.’ And they kinda (gives weird look)… And John noticed this, so the next day it’s the kissing scene, and he’s a totally different guy! ‘Are you comfortable? What can I get you?’ (laughs) I don’t think he was scared, because he’s a big guy, but he was a really great guy! And except for the whiskers, it was a good kiss! I don’t know how you girls kiss us! Ever since then, whenever I’m gonna kiss a girl, I shave!” James further clarified that his character “is not gay; he’s is omni-sexual, which means he’ll do it with anything!” He wanted to go further with another story, but said (in a regretful tone) “I’m not allowed to say that… never mind… The BBC will kill me if I say it… but my character would do it with a car. He does it with aliens anyway…” He further offered that “my character is a bit like Spike; I decided to do it with an English accent when I went there, cos when in Rome, be a Roman, and that he was a criminal, so he’d probably have a lower class accent, and immediately, that’s Spike! (laughs) But the difference between them is, Spike was a romantic and was only with one person at a time, and this guy is just the opposite!” He clarified that John Barrowman’s behavior was due to “being in character, because both our characters are the same; we’re both Time Agents and… okay, enough!”
Next came a question about how they all got into acting, and what sort of encouragement they could give to a struggling singer-actress. James wanted to know if it was her, and when she said yes, Ken quoted Galaxy Quest – “Never give up, never surrender!”, to much laughter. James then added, “The best thing I can say is that everybody in the world is beautiful enough and interesting enough to be stared at, and it’s only actors who allow people to do that. The only time animals stare at each other is when they’re about to eat each other, and so when large groups of people do that, there’s a big uncomfortable feeling. And with actors, it’s an incredible act of bravery, usually born out of desperation, because none of us are brave, to be private in public, to be yourself when your whole mind is screaming ‘run away!’ So, once you realize that everybody is interesting and everybody is beautiful, your only job is just to reveal yourself. You have to be yourself, and if you do that, you unleash your power and that’s pretty cool.” He then added that he “got into acting because a life of crime just didn’t work out,” to many laughs, but he stressed that he “was serious.” Elisabeth offered that in acting “you have to find each other interesting. Like these two (pointing at James and Juliet), and their chemistry when they’re acting, they can’t take their eyes off each other, and that’s dynamic and great acting. Sam Waterston had a sign on his mirror, just before walking out into the set, and it said something like, ‘When the camera turns on you, think about what he or she is doing, not me.’” Ken pointed that if you watch movies or TV, “there are roles for everybody, no matter how you look, and what I tell actors is, if you’re not booking jobs, maybe there’s something you can work on technically to get back to that place, because as long as it’s in your heart, and your desire is there to go forward, nothing should stop you from chasing your dream, no matter how big or small it may be.” Juliet said she agreed with Ken, and with James about finding that connection, “and really stay focused and connected to the spark in you, the passion in you that’s burning to do it” which comes in handy in certain situations in the business that are just “crappy, and you can deflect that by keeping focused on the work, and your work ethic and what keeps you interested in
it.” Ken asked the girl: “Don’t die with your music in you; share it with the world even if it doesn’t make you a gazillionaire.”
The next question was for James and Juliet, and whether they’d be able to replicate the amazing chemistry they had as Spike and Dru playing other characters together. “Sure!” Juliet replied without hesitation, and James added, “We connected as two human beings. I was always the guy who’d say, ‘Boy! Isn’t this a great script, guys?’ and most everybody else would be like, ‘Shut up! We’re tired!’ And Juliet would be like, ‘Yeah! It’s a great script! Look at this, it’s delicious! Just that one word…’ There’s a level of passion that I feel very comfortable with, and I don’t have to worry about being obnoxious being so passionate about it. So, I definitely think we could rock something else together.”
Next, James was asked whether he’d found himself slipping back into Spike at any point while shooting Shadow Puppets. "No, uh… no. He was a very different character from Spike; he was cutoff from his own emotions, and Spike was very much not that. He also felt all bad about killing people, and Spike didn’t do that.”
The next question was for Juliet, about the infamous line “Spank me till Tuesday.” Juliet regretted having mentioned it, “I did have to bring that up!” and the guy said his ex-girlfriend had made him rewind the tape four times when she was watching it, prompting Juliet to say in disbelief, “Really?” The guy said the ex “denied all the while that she was a pain slut” which brought on massive laughter. Ken promptly asked for the girl’s name, to applause, which the guy volunteered, causing James to say, “I just saw you smile before you said it!” The guy then said his question was for both James and Juliet, regarding what they did to prevent Spike and Drusilla from becoming caricatures instead of characters, as they both had the chance of becoming incredibly over the top. Juliet credited the writing once more for that: “Everything in the Buffyverse has this deeper, broader, bigger meaning, so high school is a nightmare, and you use the dark forces like our characters to show that to the absolute extreme, and therefore everything for me was kind of rooted. For instance, when Buffy came out to her Mom as the Slayer, Joss said he wrote it as if her mother had found out she was gay, cos of all the language: ‘Are you sure you’re a Slayer? Have you tried not being a Slayer?’ All of that stuff was rooted, and we knew all the underpinnings so we took it far because we knew it was grounded.” James elaborated, “You’re in danger of going over the top if it’s not filled. If you’re faking it, if you’re posing, if you’re not feeling it, then you’re probably going over the top, but if it’s rooted, if there’s emotion behind it, you can’t do it.”
The next question was for James: “How cheap are you?” “Baby, I’m free! I never charge.” The fan then shared she’d received an email from James at a difficult time that changed her life for the better, and thanked him for that. While waiting for the next question, James quipped, “I’m a good guy!”
Next they were asked about the techniques they use to connect with their characters and actually feel like them, and also whether they’d ever been so challenged by a character they felt they might lose themselves in it. Elisabeth said that, for her, "every part is different and sometimes it’s something as simple as just listening. You learn all these different acting techniques and then you make ‘em all your own. Also, each part has something really physical, and if I can get it—like in the movie I did with Anjelica Huston, I had to take my piano lesson right before we shot, because that’s the kind of woman my character was. Or when I played the woman who created the Amber Alert, I’d watch her in documentaries before I would work. So, it varies per project. And I don’t think I’d ever lost myself in a character, really. I recently was in a movie with Roma Maffia, and it was very, very sad. I watched the movie the other day, and I said, “God! I was really sad for a long time!” Juliet contributed that “each character is like a puzzle and you have to find the different pieces. I work a lot with music, and sometimes what I like to do is “take my character out,” and I just go out and interact with people and have conversations while in character, because it’s like being on the set; you have a lot of variables. I did take Drusilla out…” James cheered with a hearty “Right on!” “Yes, I took her to a couple of places I’ve never been back since, and one of them was kinda funny, because I went to this liquor store, late at night, and this woman was in the store, and she was really odd. The guy behind the counter was having problems, so he looked at me, like ‘Oh!’ (major laughs) “And I could see the expression on his face: ‘Oh, my God! Another one!’ (more laughs) “So I thought, ‘Okay, I got it,’ and then the dialect helped too.” As far as losing herself in the character, Juliet said “No, because part of the acting technique is being able to take yourself to a place and then come back, but, for instance, I played a character in Strong Medicine of a schizophrenic that goes off her meds, or last year I shot a movie here in Georgia, called The Yellow Wallpaper and in the movie, it’s an adaptation of a short story, my character has lost her baby, so I’m in mourning, and the shoot was 6 weeks, 16 hour-days, and you’re in mourning so it’s painful. So, it’s hard, and I definitely know I’m acting, but you definitely access that stuff for 12 hours a day, sometimes.” Ken said one of the most challenging roles he had was in theater, playing Frankenstein, the monster. “Playing dead on stage was actually very difficult to be believable.” He mentions the motivation the director had given him, which was quite complicated (organ rejection, emotional stuff with the soulmate), “So, putting all that toge
ther was actually quite complicated.” He used the “character history”, which he wrote himself to deal with it. “The costume makes the character, that’s why I was impressed with the Chaos Demon, because he was quite debonnaire, antlers, slime and all.” James quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, “’In all men are all men,’ and I’m sure he meant ‘In all people are all people,’ and it’s helped me a lot. We all have many different facets to our personality, so when you get a character that seems very different than you, just go looking inside for what could help you make that role. For film and TV, I try to learn about the Method, because I came from stage and the Method is not good for stage. And it’s just like playing house, when you’re a kid. You have to create your own world in your mind, so in my mind, there’s a real Sunnydale, and a little Spike and a little Drusilla… Once you know the parameters of where you can’t go, and you have a detail world that you believe in and you start improvising, it’s almost like you can’t make a mistake anymore, but I’ve also learned that the Method can eat you alive, and I actually lost it with Spike. When my character went insane, basically he was sitting in a basement and my concept of it was that he was hallucinating and all his past victims were coming back to him and talking to him about what he’d done, and he was having to face that over and over again, so as an actor I had to dredge up everything I felt guilty about, all my core guilt, and just flay myself with it for months. By the end of that season, I was kind of a wreck, to tell you the truth. So, I learned that you have to be careful about Method in TV, because if you use it for film, you’re in and out in a month or two. Because Spike didn’t like the world very much, and so I was in that state of mind for quite a long time, and I didn’t go out… God, we gave you the longest answer in the history of everything!”
The following question came from an aspiring opera singer, and it was for Juliet (and James too), about how much fun it is to play an insane character, and how difficult it is? There was some discussion about being “crazy” as having mental problems, and being just “crazy” as in fun, and then Juliet started to answer that she “had a blast on Buffy, because my character had a lot of dimensions- evil and childlike, for instance, and I used to say that she wasn’t crazy, she was "touched", and Joss would tell me, “I can tell that you think that!” (massive laughs, especially from James) “And now, when I watch the episodes, I go, “Oh, my God! I’m out of my *censormode*in’ mind!” So, while playing the character, I understood her logic and the way her synapses worked, and how she might feel like ripping out her hair, for instance. In other cases, even though it’s not as fun, it’s really good too because as an actor you get the chance of really going places, that in real life may get people to go, “Hmm!” whereas if you’re acting, they’re going “Wow!”” James said he used to get offended when people called Drusilla crazy. “To me, you never were crazy, at all! If anybody said that, I’d be like, ‘Shut up!’” Juliet cooed, “He defended me!” James continued, “Yes! You were special…” Ken quipped, “Special, not “special needs.””
The last question was if they each had a favorite song in the “Once More with Feeling” soundtrack, and what is it. Juliet said “I wasn’t in it. I kept calling Joss, and he was like, ‘Yeah, you’re not in it.’ ‘But I sing. I dance.’ ‘Yeah, I know, Juliet. You’re not in it.’”
James quipped, “He only wanted to torture the rest of the cast!” Juliet said she couldn’t pick a song, James said his favorite “is Amber’s song.” James then proceeded to “shamelessly plug my concert, so please come,” and Ken volunteered directions to Center Stage.
The panel concluded on this note, and it was time to leave and go get ready for the show.