Marsters’ Mind – SFX 2012 (english)By Sky • Mar 10th, 2012 • Category: 2012, in ENGLISH, Recent Articles & interviews
source: SFX magazine – Special SFX Edition no.54
published: January 27th, 2012
author: Will Salmon
transcripted by: deborahw37 (thank you)
He’s a beloved genre star and musician, but for many, James Marsters is still Spike from Buffy. Will Salmon caught up with him to reminisce about his days as a vampire.
It’s been an incredible 14 years since James Marsters first debuted as a peroxide punk Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yet despite the show being long dead the character (and James himself) is still adored by fandom. The cool Californian is still a regular genre guest star, having appeared in shows as diverse as Torchwood and Smallville, and his musical career is flourishing. Visiting London for a one-off Christmas gig at St Paul’s church in Covent Garden, SFX caught up with him to talk about his time as William The Bloody.
It was your Christmas concert at Covent Garden last night. How was it?
Oh it was fabulous man. Yeah. It was in a church. I love playing in churches- the acoustics are amazing. You really have to give it up to those ’70s setups. They’re incredible.
What were you singing?
All original stuff. Stuff off the new album. Our band Ghost of the Robot, is back together, which is a great source of happiness for me. We’ve a new album (Murphy’s Law) and we’re really proud of it.
We recorded it in Sacramento where Cake does all their stuff. It’s digital only at the moment to stop the middlemen from charging for the disc, but we’re thinking of maybe releasing it as an LP.
Are you fed up with talking about Spike yet? It’s been quite a few years now.
No, man I don’t know why actors have a hard time talking about roles. If it lasts, I’m proud of it. Y’know? I put everything into that role. I set myself on fire for that role!
Oh yeah, I was an idiot. I was only in one episode that season (This was season three’s Lover’s Walk) and I thought it would be funnier if I let the burn go on for as long as possible. Spike’s just lying there with his hands on fire before he wakes up. I burned the hell out of myself! The first take wasn’t so bad, but when they did it again it was *very* painful. I had blisters all over my hand. The next movie I was doing I was playing a carpenter and they had planned a lot of shots of my hands working. The director saw me and was like “What have you done to yourself?”
What were your first impressions of the character in your first episode “School Hard”?
I couldn’t believe that the part was so large. In my audition it was one scene and I thought that was the role. They sent me the script and I was all the way through it. I was delighted! It was obviously a really great role. They built the character up to be so ddangerous and so cool because he was designed to die quickly. And I was comfortable with that. I was immediately aware that if I didn’t screw it up, it would be really good.
What had you been doing immediately before Spike?
I had just come off doing Macbeth in Seattle. That was tough but it enabled me to admit that I could enjoy hurting people – in fantasy – and not judge myself. After realising that, I thought “I could keep going in that direction”. I could be really sadistic in a gleeful way, and that would be fun to watch.
You definitely brought that gleefulness to Spike.
I don’t want to say that playing him was a cakewalk, but it kind of was. I felt like they’d given me the keys to the kingdom. The director on that episode (John T Kretchmer who also directed season one’s ” The Harvest”) was so excited about what was going on that he took too long to direct it. He decided he was going to revolt against the producers and just take as much time as he wanted. Which was good for me, but I don’t know that he came back to the show!
There’s a real shift in tone after Spike shows up isn’t there?
Mmm hmm! I think, in a weird way, we were doing the exact opposite of what Joss wanted. We were being cool. He kind of got talked into making Angel a cool, Anne Rice kind of vampire. He always used to say ” I don’t like that Anne Rice crap!”. The vampires were supposed to be metaphors for the challenges of adolescence. They were supposed to be ugly and easily overcome. But Angel became way mare popular than expected.
And now here he was with a second cool vampire!
He didn’t fire me, he let it go but it was an intense process for him. He was watching the dailies and it was making him nervous that the show was going to change. He’d come up to me and say ” I don’t care how cool you are, you are dead. You are dead, you are dead!
He quickly became more than just a cool vamp though, didn’t he?
He couln’t stay like that forever. It was weird for me. I got the feeling that they were trying to undercut the character, and I was like
“Oh yeah? Er… no!”. It was my job to find a way where the writers could get what they wanted. But I could keep the audience. It ended up making for a really good ride.
Did you have any input into his look?
No, No input whatsoever. He was supposed to be punk rock, so the first thing to do was to dye my hair black, but that didn’t look good. The only other thing to do was to go in the opposite direction, and go white, which was quite painful. I think the only thing I did was to give myself over to Todd MacIntosh who wanted to make sure I looked like a vampire. He was very specific that I had to shave really closely. I couldn’t be seen to sweat. I had to look dead.
Is there anything you wish you had got to do as the character?
Hahaha! Yeah! Joss called me about a possible TV movie which we didn’t do in the end. He asked if I had any idea and I said “Actually, yes! I’d like to see him achieve something very small”. I had this story where, at the beginning, he’s having a hard time because his boots were ruined. He can’t kill anyone or steal their clothes and he’s damned if he’s going to get a job. Then this monster comes to town and he tries to fight it but it’s too powerful, so he runs away. He finds himself thinking “I need a librarian! I need a witch!” He meets a girl and thinks that he’s fallen in love- and then she finds out that he’s a vampire. But he does eventually find a way to talk someone into buying him a pair of boots. So he loses the girl. He loses the fight. But he gets some boots!
You could pitch that to the comics! Have you read any of them?
I haven’t. People give me them sometimes and I look at the artwork and I’m grateful that they draw me so pretty! But no, I haven’t. It’s hard for me, because I don’t have a hand in it. I’m used to writers doing their thing and then I get to expand upon it a little. It’s hard to be outside of that. Those were edges of my personality on show.
Are you still in touch with Joss?
No. I need to go apologise to Joss, actually I overreacted to a statement he made in a magazine. He was asked who the best ingénue was in Buffy, and his response was Spike. That made me so angry. Because coming from stage, an ingénue is a very specific character type. They’re kind of vapid, young, pretty girls. I called him up and said “Look man. I gave you 110% for seven years…” And he said “No James, that was a compliment”. But we haven’t spoken again. So I need to go and apologise.
What have you got on for 2012?
I’ve just wrapped a show called “Metal Hurlant Chronicles” which is adapted from a comic book.
The story is about a young girl played by Michelle Ryan. My character takes her down to a bomb shelter and tells her that everyone else is dead and she has to figure out if I’m lying or not. It’s a half hour and very Rod Sterling. Just before that I did a green screen movie called Dragon Warrior. I play a wizard who kills couples who are in love. I just fry them alive. But I’m also adorable! I’m seeing my British agent tomorrow and meeting some casting directors. Last time I did that I got to play Buzz Aldrin.
That was in Moonshot, right?
Yeah. That was awesome! Richard Dale, the director was a master at getting all of the buffalos, so to speak. Using every piece of the budget, combining stock footage with stuff that he’d shot with us and using a computer to make it match. I showed it to a friend and he said “What was this – 50 million?” And I was like “Dude, it’s a TV movie”!
So you’re looking for more work over here?
Oh yeah! The writing is so good man. Yeah, very much so