After Midnight

by Matt Springer

Whether terrorizing Buffy or watching the history channel, James Marsters is up all night!

James Marsters is a little groggy, because he had a late night. Clubbing? Hitting a punk rock show? Scaring up a late dinner? Naw, just surfing some cable. It just goes to show that Marsters isn't really bad; he just plays it on TV. Though he loves a very rare steak and is definitely a night person, you'll never find him prowling the streets of Los Angeles on a feeding frenzy. Bollocks, he doesn't even have a British accent. If he weren't such a nice guy, his lack of evil might be disappointing. Unfortunately, the only supernatural phenomena surrounding Marsters so far is his uncanny ability to create such a diabolical and even compassionate villian in William the Bloody.
The actor began his career studying at New York's famed Juilliard Academy, then spent ten successful years touring on the regional theater circuit. He moved to Hollywood in 1997 to try his hand at film action, ostensibly to earn enough money to live comfortably as a stage actor. An electric audition with Juliet Landau led to his ongoing role on Buffy. Since then, we've thrilled to their exploits as they drove Sunnydale to the brink of destruction time and again. So what if they never succeed? At least they have fun, and that's what's important. In his two seasons on Buffy, he's rapidly become one of the show's most popular villians, along with his whacked-out clairvoyant lover Drusilla. They're more than just the Sid and Nancy of Sunnydale; they're the kind of villians you can't even love to hate, because you just love them period.

Buffy the Magazine: Y'know, I can't help but notice that you don't have a British accent when you speak. How did you get so good at it?
James Marsters: I was doing a production of The Tempest at the Shakespeare Festival in LA, and there was a guy from North London playing Caliban. So I kinda pulled him aside and asked him for some help. I had a general sense of British accents--I've seen every Monty Python.
BTM: That's really all the help you need.
JM: It really is. They did all the different British accents on that series. They're all fake, because all the guys were from Oxford and Yale.
BTM: Do you often get mistaken for a Brit?
JM: Not until Buffy. (laughs) It's not as much of a problem now, because word's gotten out. But right initially, people were thinking of me as British, so my manager had to tell all these people that I'm actually American.
BTM: You mentioned acting in The Tempest, and I know you have extensive theater background. Which do you prefer--theater or film?
JM: Before I came down here, I wouldn't of course have said theater. But the more I do film, but more I realize it's chock full of it's own challenges. In theater, the actors have to be very aware of what hte story is and how to tell it together. In film, but story is created in the editing, so you're providing a lot of building blocks for someone else to tell the story. I had to get used to that, and when I go back and look at some of the earlier stuff I've done, I see myself trying to do something, and it looks like acting.
BTM: Do you enjoy playing such a rough and tumble baddie like Spike?
JM: Oh man, it's the best. I think everybody likes the villian.
BTM: If you lost your own soul, what's the first thing you'd do?
JM: I'd go and kill Trent Lott. (laughs) I would just rip through the entire House Judiciary Committee. See, the problem is I'm pretty happy with my life, so I'm not really tempted. I guess the ability just to be able to go out and take whatever you want, to be about the concerns of money. That's the thing I've always loved about vampires. Vampires don't carry around a wad of cash. If they want something, they just go and take it.
BTM: The two-fang discount.
JM: Exactly. (laughs)
BTM: What was the audition process like for Buffy?
JM: It was really cool. It went very well, and the casting director asked me to do it in both a southern accent and an English one. It's kinda weird; it's almost inexplicable when something clicks in you, and you just have an instinct towards a role. I was able to just kind let go and have fun with it, and the usual thoughts of how well I did were just kinda erased. I just had a fun time. Then I came back for a callback with Juliet [Landau], who at the time was precast, though I didn't know it. We went in and read for all the producers and Joss [Whedon], and we just kind leapt straight into it. There was a trust right away, I think. In fact, there's that one picture of Juliet and I from our first episode, where we enter out first scene and we kiss and touch foreheads and rotate out to the camara. That just happened organically in the audition; we didn't kiss in the audition, but that move happened. What was really cool about that is they were looking for a punk, rough-around-the- edges character. I've had a lot of rough chapters in my past, but I've kinda cleaned up, and so I didn't come in with anything pierced or anything. They trusted that they had the facilities to create the visual impression, and that the internal reality of the character was most important. That's pretty rare in Hollywood.
BTM: Do you feel like you have a lot to say in developing the character and the way you perform the lines from the script?
JM: Yeah, but the way I look at it mostly is that I'm trying to fufill the needs of the script. All I'm really trying to do is make sure what's on the page when I read it gets onto film. But I've never had an idea squashed, except for the time I wanted to take my shirt off and Joss said no
BTM: Which episode would that have been in?
JM: I don't remember the name of it; it was when I was in the wheelchair, and the Scooby gang came into the warehouse and I was spying on them. I was hiding, and there was just one shot of me lurking in the corner, and I was thinking, what does Spike do these days? He's in a wheelchair all day. So I thought that the black jacket could double as a bathrobe and I could be sitting around half undressed. Obviously the best ideas come from the professional writers. (laughs) Spike was originally designed to be based of Sid Vicious, and to some degree, there are colors of that in him, but to some degree it's very much not that.
BTM: What do you think sets Joss Whedon apart from other producers you've worked with?
JM: Joss is the best living writer I've ever worked with. That's number one. His imagination is just so fertile. It just leaves me in awe. He's also the kind of boss that makes you feel like a monarchy could work. (laughs) His word is to be respected and he gets what he wants, but he doesn't have to make people feel bad about themselves to get it. He's very friendly on the set. It's a balance that I respect very much, because you're not gonna walk all over the guy, yet he's gracious enough to run a very open happy set. I think he's just the best, basicly. He's just awesome.
BTM: Do you spend a lot of time imagining a past for Spike in your head?
JM: The short answer is no, I don't go by a lot of backstory. Sometimes that can cloud what the script of scene needs, because you'll have all these ideas about what the character is based on your imagination, and it may not jibe with where the scene wants to go. I really just take it from the page. I just want it to come off the page. Just for my own edification, I do sometimes wonder what's up with this guy. My feeling was that he probably wasn't such a great guy before he became a vampire. He was probably a jerk.
BTM: He would have been a bad guy no matter what.
JM: Yeah, exactly. But see, this is the thing. Later on, we'll find out taht he was a choir boy. It gets hard to make these decisions.
BTM: What's your favorite of all the despicable acts you've done?
JM: Oh man, definitely the most violent, when I pushed that guy's head through the glass in my first episode. That was the funnest. It felt great, but because in the moment you believe you're doing it, even though later you know it's a scripted gag. Also, anything to do with fights.
BTM: So you enjoy beatin' people up?
JM: I love it. I love stunt work. That really is kind of a microcosm of what I like about acting. There's just so many little tiny tricks within a fight. If I'm about to swing and ax at your head, then I don't swing until you duck. But if you're in really tight with the other actor, then it looks like they're ducking because you've swung the axe. Yet it's in fact completely safe. It's those kind of things; they're like learning how the guy pulls the duck out of his sleeve.
BTM: Just like those Magician's Biggest Secrets Revealed specials.
JM: Exactly. And then you get to go act it, and you get to let all that angst out, and no one has to go to the police station. (laughs)
BTM: What can you tell us about Spike's future? Will he return in season four?
JM: The details are still being worked out, basically. What I was told is that Spike will actually be forced to help Buffy, that he will be a reticent part of the Scooby gang. He's sorta blackmailed into it, which I think has an enormous amount of comedy potential attached to it. Plus, I probably won't get killed which is always a good thing. I wanted to wear a T-shirt around the set last season that said, "Don't kill me."
BTM: It was also rumored that you might be a part of Angel. Is that still possible? What type of role would you play?
JM: There have been discussions about that too, and there has been some thought that there will be some crossover, but not as a regular. I'll probably just come over and make his life hell for awhile and then leave.
BTM: What's going to happen to Spike and Drusilla?
JM: I don't know. That's really what set Spike and Drusilla apart from other villians: although they don't have souls, they seem to have discovered real love. It's true love. I'm very interested in how that's going to be handled--what does that do to Spike if you take that away? And I'm not sure that they will. But Joss is very good at presenting something that the audience wants to watch, and then denying them that. It keeps people tuned in.
BTM: We kinda got a flavor of how Spike might react if he lost Dru this season in the episode 'Lover's Walk.' He basically got smashed.
JM: (laughs) Yeah, I'm gonna be drunk all season. I'm just gonna be sipping booze in the back.
BTM: Have you ever known a heartbreak like that, and what was your response? Did you get drunk?
JM: I don't drink, actually, so probably that wouldn't be my response. I did something that's called substitution, and I imagined someone I loved having died. It's something I've done a lot, and I'm thinking that maybe it's not such a good idea, but whenever I want to be sad, I just envision something that I love very much being taken away.
BTM: Who do you hang out with one the set usually?
JM: Man, we all hang out. The set is a really fun place to be. I really like to hang out with Tony, I like to hang out with Nick a lot, I like to hang out with Alyson. Alyson's a hoot. She's one firey chick. Last you we got made up as vampires for Halloween. She looks good as a vampire; I think she looks better than anyone else in vampire makeup.
BTM:So would you consider yourself a night person?
JM: I am completely a night person. I just woke up.
BTM: That's the Hollywood lifestyle.
JM: Well, yeah. (laughs) I dont' really go out clubbing too much, but I usually stay up very late. With cable, there some damn good shows on late at night. It's amazing to me. You can learn about French history at two a.m. I'm learning more now off the History Channel than I ever did in history class.

James Marsters Vital Signs :

Birthday: August 21 in Modesto, CA

Food: "I don't eat food...just kidding." A good, very rare steak, and
Cappucino Crunch low-fat ice cream
TV Show: The X-Files
Movie: Apocalypse Now
Music: All kinds, Charlie Parker, Morcheeba, Lou Reed, the Sex Pistols, Artie Shaw, Hank Williams
Color: "Green, the color of earth."
Sport: Football



© 1997

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