James Marsters, Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer is easily my favorite character on the show as I, too, want to go around killing people, looking cool, and do indeed lust after her royal Buff-ness, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Anyway, at Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors, Marsters took the stage on Sunday and here's a bit of transcripting of the Q&A that ensued. The quotes and stories were a hoot.
How did you get a part in House On Haunted Hill?
Marsters: "I gave the script for The Haunting to the director of House On Haunted Hill. He'd been trying to get it forever and my agent gave me the wrong script in preparation for the audition. I came to the audition and was like, 'I can't find my character in your script.' The guy looked at me and was like, 'can I have this one?' So yeah, I gave the enemy the info and he cast me. I wanted to hang out with Geoffrey Rush, too. I wanted to see if he was cool and he was. That was fun. Plus I got to scream like an idiot for money."
Do you like playing the new, less evil Spike?
Marsters: "He's still totally evil, he just wants some...(laughs). So now, he's not going to do anything to piss her off, so he's still evil, but in love. In fact, he's a little closer to the original Spike who was in love with Dru."
So, he's a typical man, right?
Marsters: "Yes. Yeah, we'll do anything to get in! (laughs) The way of the world. He'll be a superhero if he'll think it'll work. If he thinks that she'll bite on that, he'll don a cape. Yeah! I'll save the world. They've got me saving Dawn. You don't get more heroic than saving little kids. So, yeah, I'm still evil, but just...horny."
What kind of actor training do you have?
Marsters: "Oh, yeah, man, I got so much training - in fact, I've spent so much time in L.A. forgetting the training that I've had. It's all for stage. There's a lot of training that you get in school that you spend a lot of time figuring out how to do and then it's a bitter lesson to come to Los Angeles and figure out that the camera needs none of that. I trained in Santa Maria at the PCPA which is the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts and also they have a theater in Solvang which is great. That's a great program for young actors because it's just apprenticeships and it's a beautiful theater, really quality actors go there and Santa Maria - PCPA out of John Hancock Junior College. And that was a great experience. Then I went to Julliard for two years and that sucked. Don't anybody go to Julliard. You'll be doing the classics and NOTHING ELSE! They had to take the stick out (mimes pulling something out of his posterior) before I was cast in anything. And then I went to Chicago. I really cut my teeth in Chicago. I just did a lot of plays, like a LOT of plays. And then I started producing my own stuff in Chicago and Seattle, but yeah, like in School Hard, you see my first entrance? I was like, it's stage and it took me months to learn this in school, when you take the stage, if you have a good entrance, you pause in the upstage entrance, you say your line, pause again, and then you enter. If you do that on film, you look like an idiot. And if you look at School Hard, that's just what I did. It's like, why is that guy shouting?"
Will you be doing more than one episode of Andromeda?
Marsters: "They would like me to do more than one episode, but my butt is Buff's now and they know that. (everyone applauds) Yeah, I know. I wouldn't let me out if I was Joss. Actually, I've been trying to get out for a big movie and I don't think they're going to let me out for that either. They're paying for me though. It's cool."
Do you ever go back and forth with your accent?
Marsters: "When I first learned it, yeah. When I first learned it, I did it all the time (drops into Spike-mode), just, you know, to practice it. Like one time...uh, I get invited to a lot of parties. But I was dating a girl who had just seen Trainspotting and she was all about the Scottish accent. So, she'd be doing the Scottish accent and I'd be like, shut up! No! I've got to get ready for work! But now, not so much. Because I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to be cool, be Spike. Boy, he's really into his role, isn't he?"
What do you think would happen if the chip came out of your head?
Marsters: "Man, I don't think much, because I'm in love with Buffy now. So, I'm not going to do anything to make her mad, you know? I can be reformed while trying to get her to love me. I'm going to try to be the guy that she wants to have. It was my idea last year to put Spike in Riley's clothes. He's trying to be...you know, what does she like? To be wholesome! Then that's when Dru comes into town and reminds him of who he is. Then he goes back to the blacks right away. But yeah, that was my big idea. Always trying to get a new costume. I got as far as Marc Blucas' old stuff."
A little kid piped up and said he would be going as Spike for Halloween.
Marsters: "Yeah? But if you do your hair, four packets of Sweet N' Low in the bleaching solution will save you a lot of pain. Yeah, it's just for Halloween, but I'm serious, for anyone who dyes - who dyes out there? Anybody dyes? (a slew of hands go up - including a gorgeous redhead that I didn't look the same at all weekend) Oh, yeah! Power to y'all! Feel the burn! (laughs) But seriously, four packs of Sweet N' Low - four to seven - will save your scalp. Mine peels off every time. The whole thing. You should see my bathtub. I'm serious man. When they designed my character, I was supposed to die in five episodes and they asked me if I was willing to bleach my hair for the character. I thought it was for FIVE EPISODES! If only they'd said black that day, my God, but I'd probably be dead. It wouldn't look so cool."
Why do you think people like Spike so much?
"People respond to Spike right away. I still don't know why. I think it's a combination of the coat and the hair. Seriously, I don't know why. I should be dead! Why am I not staked by now?"
Some woman in the audience yelled out, "because you're hot!"
Marsters: "(laughs) Thank you. By sheer force of will, I got a good job on that show. Nah, I'm supposed to die."
What about your budding music career?
Marsters: "Totally just for fun, but they pay me! I get a couple hundred bucks to take home. They cut the door with me and everything, so that's nice, but yeah, it's totally for fun."
But you're good! You should release an album!
Marsters: "Thank you, but seriously, before I did that, I'd have to practice a lot more than I have time to do right now and I don't want to go out half-assed. Because you can embarrass yourself - another TV guy putting out an album. That would be good."
Do you think Buffy would have a chance with Spike?
Marsters: "Do I think Buffy would have a chance with Spike? Yeah! In a heartbeat! I've been waiting! But would Spike have a chance with Buffy? I mean, don't you think I'm totally below her? (overwhelming shouts of "NO!") Come on! I cattle-prodded her! I chained her up and said love me now. Would that work on you? (everyone yells in the affirmative) Man, girls are cool."
Are you upset about Buffy's death?
Marsters: "Oh, man. I'm a wet puppy. She said, how's Spike now that Buffy's gone? You know, I failed her. I promised her that I'd protect her and her little sister and I totally screwed up. I got my ass kicked by an 80 year-old. How embarrassed can you be? So, he's absolutely turned inside out - as everybody is. Buffy's dead, man. They're all trying to figure out how to deal with Sunnydale without her."
How much have you affected the increase in complexity of Spike's character through the years?
Marsters: "He said the character's changed and gotten more complex over the years and how much do I have a hand in that. In a way, with my relationship with the writers and what they see coming in off the dailies, it does become symbiotic in a way, but I do have to say that all of the creative stuff is theirs to decide. They may take inspiration from what I do with their words and that might build on itself, but I don't write any of the words. I mean, I used to write words. I used to have a theater company, so I used to help playwrights. I'd edit for them and tell them what worked and what didn't. I used to make plays from other source material, from poems and stuff - so I know that I'm working with people who are forty times better than I'll ever be, so I know that I should shut up now. I wasn't hired for my writing capability. So, if I relax and do almost nothing, everyone makes me look good. Oh, no, that was perilously close to toil, I almost worked there, I'd better sit down. It's so true. I used to think that you had to do something, but you really don't."
What about the Buffy-bot?
Marsters: "Embarrassing, isn't it?" "I was like, yeah! It's still Sarah! (laughs) No, no, no. My reaction was all like, oh, my God! You've got to be kidding me! You're going to have the most incredible blow-up doll. Yeah, I mean, it's both really funny, but also really degrading in a way, which is totally Joss. You know he's really hooking into your character when you're feeling humiliated. You know he's identifying with you when the world's just like thrashing you. I used to take offense to it, but now I know it's because Joss thinks I'm cool. He puts me in those shirts."
Is there a musical episode coming up?
Marsters: "There is a musical episode coming up and yes, I'm going to sing my butt off. Yeah. He did Hush with no words. He did the dream episode where there was no plot. He did The Body where there were no jokes. So now he's doing a musical. I think it was kind of born because like, last year at least, before he was spending so much time in Cape Cod, we would go to Joss' house every other week and read Shakespeare. And then after that, we'd break out wine and we'd get around the piano and get out instruments and start singing. And this would carry on for like six hours. And this was like the great part of my social life, really. I think that's where he got the idea. So, he's been writing. He knows all our voices really well from those parties. We've been singing together. We've been talking about putting together bands. He still claims that he can't play piano, which I think is just sickening. It's just by ear. This guy is so creative it makes you crazy. 'No, I can't play piano, I'm just writing a whole episode of music.'"
How long do you prep for fight scenes?
Marsters: "About the prep for fight scenes, you want as much prep time as you can get. Sometimes you just don't get it. Like I fell asleep one time and it was like - knock knock knock - we're ready for you! Action! You know? Raining on concrete. Well, you guys thought it was grass (laughter). And who decides on stuntmen? With me, it breaks down to, I've kind of noticed that my rule is, if my feet are on the floor, it's me. If they're off the floor, it ain't me. So, if I'm up dodging around and fighting, that's me. But once both feet leave the floor - the amazing kung-fu kick? That's Steve Tartalia. He's a kung-fu master, you know, and I'm not. I'm just a grungy street fighter, not all that fancy stuff. Or if Spike gets whacked up against the wall and falls down or through the wall or through the window, that's Steve again. He's insane. He really is. He was supposed to take a back fall onto a mat, and he decided to take it head-first into the concrete and only barely glance off a little tiny bush. He did it perfectly and everybody freaked out. He's all like, ah, well, cool. Last year, in the one with Buffy where I cattle-prodded her and I unchain her and I smile at her and she slugs me into the chest of drawers. He did the fly part of that and face-planted into the side of cave - it opened up his whole face. Bloody, all down. And they took super-glue, which all stuntmen have, and they glued him back together...take two! That's Steve, man. A little more make-up than usual and they're shooting from this side and the blood was all over here. He was totally cool - he was acting there was no problem. His only problem would be if they didn't feel he was up to 'take two,' which meant that he screwed up. His only worry is he they wouldn't let him keep working. So it basically breaks down to 70% me, 30% him. But all the really cool stuff is him."
Will Shannen Doherty be coming on the show and will there be a new Buffy-movie?
Marsters: "We would eat her alive. (applause and laughter) Just kidding. No, I have not heard anything about Shannen coming over. I don't know Shannen, but see, they don't tell me anything. So, she could be coming in now...no, I've never met Shannen so I have no idea what that would be like. But we need some more guys on the show. We were taking all the pictures for the year and like we're standing in the back and all these girls all around us and we were the only guys and we were like, we just need some more testosterone around here. About the movie - I don't know if there are any active plans right now. I think that, in all honesty, if I was Sarah's agent right now, I'd be trying to get here something else. So, I don't know if I'd counsel her to do that movie right now. I would love to. I'd be all skipping and dancing if suddenly the word came down that it was going forward, but frankly, Joss is off to other things right now and Sarah needs to be getting something else going, I think. Man, I don't know. They don't tell me anything. I'm on a need to know basis, buddy. They know I'm up for it. (sarcastic) No, I don't want to do the movie."
What's your favorite episode?
Marsters: "Favorite episode is usually if I'm kissing Buffy or kicking her. That's because you knew you were in the middle of the plot, otherwise you were kind of off to the side. My favorite one now is the one that scared me the most and that was the one last year where I had to wear the wig and go back in time and find out that Spike was really a wus. When I found out about that, I was just freaked out. I was like, fine, flush the whole character down the toilet. You know? Screw it, Joss. You know best! I wanted to say to him, you exist on this higher plain of writing where characters are complicated and people are motivated by fear like in real-life. But I'm going to have to go back out to Hollywood after Buffy's over where sexy means paycheck. You just under-cut my cool!"
Yeah, but the subway scene made up for it
Marsters: "Yeah, thank you. Me, too. I was willing to put on the wig if I could get to that punk-rock. I wanted them to really put the thing (safety-pin) through my eyebrow. I wanted them to really do it for real, but they faked it."
How has the move to UPN affected the show?
Marsters: "Yeah, how is the move going to affect the show, basically, and the quality of the show and the tone of the show at all and I have to say - ZIP. The move to UPN as far as we're concerned on the lot making the show day to day - that's between our boss and his boss. We're still on the same lot, we're still with the same group of people, we're doing exactly the same thing we always do, it's just going to be turning the knob to a different notch. They were trying to make a big buzz about coming to UPN and they're all calling us for quotes about what do you think about coming to UPN and to a man, we were like, well it doesn't really matter. No, give us some copy! I've got to be honest, man, it's just people we don't really deal with - the suits up there. So, luckily. Yeah, we're all going to be spoiled by the new money. (laughs) Just kidding. They don't give us any money."
And, there you have it.