Dragonball: Evolution: An anime becomes real (english)By Sky • May 29th, 2009 • Category: 2009, in ENGLISH
NOTE BY SKY: Nautilus is a German Fantasy and Sci-Fi Magazine which released the interview with James Marsters already on the 15th of May, so some information within the article could be a bit outdated. If the DB sequel is green-lit or not, only FOX knows. James answered the question with information he had been given by FOX at the time he did the interview (most likely at the beginning of April).
Interview with the actor of Lord Piccolo James Marsters
He became world-famous in the role of shady vampire Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now, James Marsters plays the villain Piccolo in the live-action movie based on the cult-manga Dragonball. Our reporter Christian Handel had the opportunity to ask the American actor a few questions about Dragonball as well as older TV shows.
CH (Christian Handel): Is it hard to play a comic figure?
JM: Not really. After all, the anime did run for 12 years. So there was a lot of material to get inspired by. In fact, I based a lot of the acting on the anime. There a lot of scenes where the characters are standing almost perfectly still. That’s done mostly for financial reasons but it also looks pretty cool. I like that contrast between action and stillness so I tried to capture that.
CH: Did you know the original series/manga before you got cast for the role?
JM: I know about three quarters of the show. That’s quite a lot considering it’s been running for twelve years.
CH: Buffy started out as a fairly small project and became a cult TV show while you were a part of it. Dragonball is already a pop-cultural phenomenon. Does that have an effect on your approach towards the acting?
JM: Definitely, and for exactly that reason. On Buffy, we could experiment. We didn’t need to fulfill anybody’s expectations We could work on it while we were shooting it. With Dragonball, it’s very different. The expectations are huge.
CH: Piccolo seems to be a vey complex character.
JM: Piccolo has always been my favorite character on Dragonball because he’s not the hero. He’s not a nice guy. He becomes one of the good guys later on but he still got his flaws. He does his own thing but when it comes to it he’s fighting by our side even to the death. He’s very self-confident.
CH: How do you prepare for a role like that?
JM: The acting part was easy. When my son was little, we used to play with his Dragonball action figures. Even then, I was always Piccolo. The actually casting only took five minutes. Apparently, the director liked what I had to offer. Physically, the shoot was extremely exhausting. I thought I knew what I was signing up for, that I was in shape. We worked with the same stunt crew that was responsible for Spiderman. They taught me a lot of things and put me on a whole new level.
CH: You did a lot of stunts yourself. Do you enjoy doing your own stunt work?
JM: I didn’t know right away that I was going to do a lot of my own stunts. The director kept that a secret for a long time, and he was probably right doing so. If he had told me before, I probably would have run away screaming. So we went one stunt at a time, every day a little bit more. Right on the first day, I had to do a stunt with a lot of turns. I was supposed to throw a punch with my left hand and found myself on my back, stars dancing in front of my eyes. The director laughed at me and told me I wasn’t there to lay around. (Laughs)
CH: The story of Dragonball is based in East Asia. The movie was produced in Hollywood. Do these things work without problems?
JM: We tried to stay true to the essence of Dragonball. It was important to us to hit the right tone. Dragonball is goofy and shockingly brutal at the same time – but not in a way that’s going to scare the kids. The characters in the movie are based in their essence on the characters in the mangas. Okay, our women fight which is something they don’t do in the anime, but they are still sticking true to their characters.
If you’ve seen the anime-movie you’ll see that we created a background for the movie that’s somewhere between Dragonball and Dragonball Z [translator’s note: the article says Dragonball C but I suppose that’s a typo]. Goku is eighteen instead of twelve, but he’s still got that big adventure ahead of him.
CH: Why are you mostly cast as the bad boy?
JM: I actually don’t know. But I really enjoy it. Before I did TV I played a lot of heroes in theater. Then I came to LA and to Buffy. I guess whatever your first role is you’ll get identified with it. Playing the villain is great, they don’t have second thoughts. They do whatever they want without having a guilty conscience about it.
CH: You’ve been asked a lot of times what it’s like to kiss Sarah Michelle Gellar. Let’s skip that one. But what was it like to kiss a guy on the sci-fi show Torchwood?
JM: I didn’t mind too much. But that’s the thing with movie kisses. To kiss someone on set is not very sexy because there are a lot of people standing around you, staring at you. It’s more fun when you can just go up to a girl and kiss her because you want to and not because someone yells “Action!”. It all depends whether or not you can trust the person you’re supposed to kiss. And that’s been the case with both, John Barrowman and Sarah. Plus, my girlfriend was on the set and gave us tips to make it look hot.
CH: Do you personally like the sci-fi/fantasy genre or is that just a job?
JM: I’ve always loved this genre. One of my first favorite movies was Planet of the Apes. I know the genre is still not very popular but I believe people are slowly waking up to it. Even the broad audience realizes there are a lot of great stories out there. I mean, just look at the success of all the superhero movies in the last couple of years.
CH: Your colleague Juliet Landau is recently working on a comic-comeback for her Buffy-character Drusilla for the Angel comic series. Could you imagine that as well, since you’ve already written a Spike-comic in the past.
JM: Yes, I could. Especially since I know the artwork of the new comics. That way, I can get a better feel for how to tell the story, rather than I could back then. The Spike & Dru comic I wrote was supposed to be a twisted love story but the artists gave it a gothic horror kind of look. The comic still worked but it had a different atmosphere. Also, Drusilla looked really hideous in the comics. Back then, I went up to Juliet Landau and apologized for being part of something that made her look ugly.
CH: What is the best thing about being an actor?
JM: The best part for me is to be member of a group that creates something as a harmonious unit. Let’s face it, deep down we’re all freaks. But together we’re facing something pretty difficult and if we do it right we’re able to make these complicated and great stories come alive. It’s nice to spread an important message that way, for example the unimportance of the race you belong to. That’s one of the topics in Dragonball. The movie takes place in the future and race is completely unimportant. You got this colorful society where everybody is living together. Goku, the hero in Dragonball, is goofy and tame. Especially in the US, a role model like that is important. My culture is over-militarized. The movie shows that that’s not heroic, because Goku is completely different from that. That’s the role model I wish my son to have. To be a part of that is a very satisfying feeling.
CH: How much of your personality do you put into your characters?
JM: I try to be myself in whatever I play. A wise man once said: In each man is every man. That quote is pretty old and I guess today he would say: In each human being is every human being. That is a pretty powerful idea, also and especially for an actor. Every person has got so many sides: a smart one, a goofy one, a foolish one – and a violent one. For me, acting is not about putting on a mask but to expose a side of my own self. It’s not easy. It’s hard to trust yourself and show all of these sides.
CH: You’ve played a vampire, a super villain and a rebellious time traveler. What’s next?
JM: I just finished a project for the 40th anniversary for the moon landing. I played one of the three astronauts. That was a big challenge to play someone how is still alive. But it’s been a great and exhausting shoot. Not many people can imagine that this expedition must have been hell for these three guys: uncomfortable and very dangerous.
In Spring and Summer, I’m on tour in Europe. Check for dates and ticket on www.jamesmarsters.com. And then we’ll start shooting the second Dragonball movie. (grins) I’ve just heard that I can actually tell that there is going to be a sequel.
CH: Thank you very much.