Yesterday I had the amazing privilege of talking to the iconic James Marsters, Spike of Joss Whedon‘s Buffyverse. James will be joining the cast of Caprica, Syfy channels’ AMAZING prequel to Battle Star Galatica. His first episode, “Know Thy Enemy” will be airing tomorrow night so be sure to check it out. I had a chance to see an advance screener of said episode and in an attempt to be avoid be spoilery I will just say this… FRAK ME, James was AWESOME. I’m going to tell you what James said, but also how it felt to talk to him. That’s something you won’t get by any other cut-and-dry transcript postings of this same call.
SSS: Hi James how you doing today?
JM: I’m doing really well, I’m over-caffeinated. (Laughs… maybe a bit maniacally… maybe not)
SSS: You’ve worked in a lot of genres and we loved seeing you in sci-fi projects like Caprica and Torchwood. But I’m wondering about the sorts of things that attracted your interests when you were a lot younger like when you were 5 to 10 years old. Did you daydream a lot or write any short stories as a child? What was your original genre choice before you got into the actual industry?
JM: You know, early, early on I was into the genre. One of my favorite books was Fahrenheit 451. And I was also into Animal Farm by Orwell. I was so blown away by Blade Runner when it came out. I thought 2001 was just incredible and bottomless. I was drawn to science fiction but stuff that had meat on the bones, you know, stuff to think about. Then later on once I hit puberty I got into acting, I was like really into acting. So I – for a long time I was just into Robert DeNiro and John Savage, like anybody that was in Deerhunter I was totally into… anybody that was in that cast and followed their careers. And so I got very much into the gritty kind of late 70’s Hollywood movies, Dog Day Afternoon, I don’t know, all the way through the 80’s with (Sid and Nancy), there’s a lot of that stuff that I was very into.
SSS: So Caprica is actually pretty good fit for your original interests…
JM: Oh man… (It’s hard to express in words the feeling you get from James from such a simple answer, but I could feel the man’s passion and connection to this show and it’s message in just his sigh)
SSS: I mean, it actually goes right along with that type of thought-provoking ‘what’s going to happen in the future’ kind of things.
JM: Yes exactly. Yes… (An almost childlike glee enters his voice at this point) …when they had a problem finding the right costume for me and they finally just put me in jeans and like a ripped up shirt and started rubbing dirt on me I was like so happy. I was like this is perfect, excellent.
And now some stuff for the Fanboy in me…
SSS: So next month the audio book for Jim Butchers Changes, book twelve of the Dresden files is coming out where you voice the namesake Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire. After listening to your performance I found that your delivery of the character was quite different from how I pictured it from reading the books.
I pictured him as more of a wise-ass. Whereas you portray him as much more of a curmudgeon (wise-ass not withstanding). I’m curious, was that something that you were directed to do or is that your own take on him?
JM: I was doing Sam Spade, man. You know, I was taking my cue from Humphrey Bogart, Maltese Falcon, you know… Casa Blanca. It, you know, what I kind of saw in the books for myself was a really cool combination between this film noir detective stuff that was freshened up with pixies and werewolves and vampires and wizards and stuff like that.
And so you had this really interesting magical world that could become scary or it could become funny and you kind of contrast that with the really dry delivery of film noir of a character who’s a nice guy but he just got his foot shot and his rent is overdue and his girlfriend just left him and he hasn’t had a sip of water in three days and he’s just about over it but he’s trying still to be a good guy but he’s not in a good mood right now. Yes.
SSS: That’s excellent. And then how did you get involved with those projects? Did you contact them or were you contacted by Jim’s people?
JM: Jim’s people contacted me and said ‘Do you want to try it?’. And the first one was so painful I got to say so hard. And I don’t know even if it was that good but I think that I – my learning curve was pretty good and I think by the time we got to the second one I was pretty…
SSS: Well, I thought all of them were excellent and I’m looking forward to the next one that comes up.
JM: Right on. I’m enjoying doing them, yes.
If you like to read or listen to audiobooks look into the Dresden Files. These are the books that Sookie and The Cullens wish they could be in… And for all of us who are in love with Joss Whedon a little more selfishness from me ensues below
SSS: In a recent interview with Dollhouse’s Amy Acker she mentioned that during the run of “Angel” Joss Whedon would host Shakespeare readings that the cast would participate in. Did you attend those a lot and are there any plans for one coming up? What’s your favorite role?
JM: Yes, yes and I got to read out of his house, yes. He let me do Macbeth.
He let Tony Head got to be Richard III, he got to do Hamlet. His Hamlet actually was very good. I’d never seen a comic play Hamlet and I was reminded how much of a comedian Hamlet is and how much the play works better because Hamlet’s just out there and talks a lot but if he’s cracking jokes, if you’re aware of the jokes and they’re funny then it really helps; it helps the play not become too, you know, too serious and long and boring.
And what, let’s see, I’m trying to think of other actors – Alexis Denisoff did a Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream that just rocked my – it was the best Bottom I’ve ever seen. He was just fabulous.
Yes, when I was in Buffy and Angel we would get together at his house, I don’t know, we tried every month but it really – people were busy and the schedule would go crazy so it was probably every other month for a period of about a year I think.
And I hope he’s still doing it. No, I haven’t – he’s probably doing it with the cast that he’s working with at the present if he’s doing it. I hope he is. It brings people together.
SSS: Wow, that’s really awesome. It’s really nice to see actors who aren’t disillusioned with their craft so much that they like do it just for fun.
JM: Yes, and some of the best stuff was really that most of the people reading weren’t actors, they were producers and writers and you got a different take on the words, I mean, a lot of actors try to impress you with what a great actor they are especially when they do Shakespeare, but when you get a writer reading it they’re just trying to make it clear and certain things really get more clear that way. So, yes, I found it to be really instructive actually.
Oh it was wonderful, if our family was in town we’d take them to the Shakespeare reading. And then after the Shakespeare reading we’d, you know, it would come out would come the wine and we’d have a little party. And then one day I brought my guitar because, you know, it’s a party and we started playing songs and Joss started playing songs on the piano. And Joss says that that was the beginning of him thinking of the musical for Buffy.
(Which is of course the episode that Buffy First admits feelings for Spike as the rest of us Whedonites know. God I need a life.)
SSS: That’s awesome. Seems we’re out of time almost, so one last little thing… Any chance a James Marsters Doctor Horrible cameo?
JM: ( You can hear the smile in his voice at this point) Hope so, that would be fun!
SSS: That would be. Thank you so much. You’re truly a credit to your craft.
JM: Right on man, thank you. I try hard.
And that’s why we love James. He’s a professional who really understands and enjoys his craft. Can’t wait to see more of him.