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Buffy Behind The Scenes
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 6/18/02
I met James Marsters tonight. Ok, it's not as if we were introduced. It was more one
of those he's on stage, affably squatting down to greet people, and I'm right there
in front of him making with the smiles... and he's making with the big blue eye contact and
the smiles, and just as we're about to, you know, really bonding ...some cruel
handler type grabs him and reminds him about "that thing" he has to do. He
looks as if he's sincerely heartbroken that he can't talk stay there and talk to me and
all his other adoring fans all night long. He apologizes, and rises gracefully, and
off he goes... sigh.
A very kind friend invited me to go along this evening to the Buffy Behind the Scenes
show for TV Academy members. (I happened to be in LA this week for a funeral, so
this came as an unexpected surprise during a difficult week). There was some confusion
about the tickets, so we really weren't at all sure we'd get in until just about 2
hours before show time. But not only did we get in, we also got excellent seats in
the first non-VIP row, about 20 feet from the stage.
The longest section was from Once More With Feeling, where Buffys
introductory song Going Through The Motions was the background music for a
montage of scenes from the musical, ending with Spike and Buffys passionate
kiss. The audience cheered and applauded loudly for the musical.
And then the panel was introduced -- Joss, Marti, James, Aly, Nick, Michelle, along
with Carey Meyer, the production designer, and Ray Stella, the director of photography.
Michelle, also small, looked lovely and more grown up than she looks on TV. Nick
did not appear as heavy as he has sometimes looked this year on TV; he's better
looking in person. Aly looked particularly Willow-ish, in jeans and a peasant-style
blouse with long loose sleeves. She is very pretty. Her hair was reddish and a
little longer than it was during the season -- about shoulder-length. Joss looked a bit
dorky and Xander-ish in one of those Hawaiian-type shirts and baggy pants. Marti was very
The first topic of discussion was the musical and how they'd decided to do it. Much joking ensued, setting the tone for the evening. They were all sitting around drunk and decided to do a musical...helped along with James and his guitar (Marti's pregnancy was also blamed on getting drunk -- clearly a lot of joking going on!). Michelle complimented Joss for his skill in understanding everybody's individual strengths -- she didn't think she could sing, but she loves dancing, so Joss let her dance in the musical. Aly noted that she can't sing, so was getting laryngitis a lot. Joss declared Emma Caulfield's talents to be the biggest surprise (he had known in advance that Tony Head, Amber Benson, and James had all done some singing before).
One of the big questions of the night was "What's going to happen to Spike now that he's got a soul?" Naturally, the spoiler-unfriendly Joss confirmed very little. He did appear to rubber-stamp Jane Espensons claim that Spike was going to Africa to get a soul, not to get the chip removed.
Janet said words to the effect of, "I was confused at the end of the last episode.
I thought Spike was going to get his chip out?"
I thought that James seemed somewhat surprised by this interpretation. He said
later, in an interview, that he had been told to play the scene as if Spike were intent
upon getting the chip out, which is certainly how it played on the screen.
Will our favorite vampire still be able to have sex? James pretended to be insulted by
the question, but yes, it seems Spike will be able to make love without an Angel-like
moment of perfect happiness problem. Joss said he wants to challenge James, and
promised that next year will be unlike anything James has ever had to do
before. James said its always challenging, and If were not getting
the shit scared out of us, they know somethings wrong.
The actors were seated on one side of the moderator, and Joss, Marti, Carey and Ray were on the other side. The actors seemed to be very close -- good friends instead of professionals just tolerating one another. Nick was particularly lively, cracking jokes and at times coming on so strong that Michelle teased, "he hasn't had his medication today." The one-liners came so fast and furiously that I didn't catch them all. (The sound system wasn't as good as it could have been, either).
At one point Nick, commenting on the many naked Spike scenes, gave us a good indication of how friendly he and James are (versus how hostile Xander and Spike are). On the set of Gone, he said he was supposed to come into the crypt, see naked Spike doing his "push-ups" in bed (really making love with invisible Buffy) and say, "Spike? What are you doing?" Instead he blurted out, "Dude! What are you doing?" Nick had to remind himself, oops, that's Spike not James...
James was energetic and constantly moving around in his seat, speaking up when it seemed appropriate, but not trying to dominate the discussion in any way. The comments he made were thoughtful, intelligent, generous to the writers, producers, and crew, and generally insightful. I noticed that he does the tongue swirl thing often when he reacts or laughs -- apparently its not just a Spike thing. Hes naturally sexy! But as others have noted, he seems less like his character than the others do. Nick seems a lot like Xander, and I was surprised at how much Aly seems like Willow (sweet Willow, that is, not Dark Magic Willow). She was not quite as vocal as some of the others, but when she spoke, she did so with that special charm that Willow, as a character, has always possessed. Aly has a quiet, feminine charisma that is very appealing.
Michelle struck me as much more self-possessed and mature than Dawn. She was also quite articulate when she spoke up, and absolutely a sweetheart afterwards while sighing autographs and posing for pictures. For example, when one seemingly shy young man asked if he could take her picture, she smiled and said, "Not unless you pose here beside me." The guy was thrilled.
In fact, of all the cast members, Michelle was the most surprising to me. She comes across as poised, adult, and really quite lovely. She also has a certain ineffable star quality about her -- I wouldn't be at all surprised if Joss and Marti are grooming her for Dawn the Vampire Slayer, in the event that UPN wants an 8th season and Sarah's moving on to other things.
signing, with Aly and Joss beside her (click to enlarge)
In regard to a question about the show possibly alienating its younger viewers, James said he thought it was good if they had attracted a slightly older audience with the season's more mature themes.
Joss acknowledged that they'd missed Tony Head in season 6, and the audience heartily agreed. Joss said it was evident how much Giles had brought to the show when he made his dramatic entrance at the end of Two To Go. He said he was going to try to have more Giles in season 7 -- let's hope so.
Theyve clearly been criticized for this season a great deal already, and Joss acknowledged that perhaps they had gone too far into the depressive stuff. Marti asserted that the Spike/Buffy relationship was driving the plot for much of the season, and she repeated that it was supposed to be portrayed as destructive. She also said that perhaps they hadn't realized in advance how disturbed they were actually going to get. (No specific details were mentioned, like the attempted rape or the alley beating).
She noted that theyd received a lot of mail expressing the desire for more
of a romantic story (particularly for Buffy and Spike), but that this was not the story
they had intended (or wanted) to tell. The Angel/Buffy story was romantic, the
Spike/Buffy story was meant to show a different side of sexual passion. She did not
say anything, one way or the other, to indicate whether a more romantic love story
would ever be told. Neither did Joss. (Some of us continue to hope!) He emphasized
again that next year will move back to the original mission statement and explore
the joys of female power. This statement was received with loud applause from the
Other things I jotted down -- The actors had nothing but praise for Joss and the other
writers. Nick confessed that he had cried when reading his scene in the finale (with
Josss edits, including the line about Willow and the crayons). Everyone on stage
(and seemingly in the audience) agreed that the speech (from the end of Grave)
was terrific. Joss noted with sarcasm that he had seen an internet post which
said WTTE that stuff about the crayon really sucked. To put it mildly,
Joss does not seem to be impressed with whats said about the show on the net.
Michelle joked at one point that Dawn will probably steal the crayon.
Joss urged a "how 'bout that Dark Willow?" cheer from the audience, who responded warmly. He also praised the Geek trio for their work, and mentioned that he'd like to find a way to bring back Jonathan and Andrew.
The Tara death issue came up briefly, and Joss seemed a little bit defensive. Apparently the plan to kill Tara in order to make Willow go dark was in the works for a long time. They didnt get into the lesbian cliche thing at all, but they emphasized that killing Tara with a gun was once again meant to show that this season was about real life -- brutal, mundane, and senseless, with nothing mystical and romantic about it. In real life, people that you love die. He also said hed wanted to make a statement about guns, and that the reference in Flooded to the gun in the bank robbery these things are rarely useful, (or WTTE) was meant to tie in with Warrens violent act in Seeing Red.
Everyone in the cast seemed sincerely saddened by Tara's death, and they all said
they would miss Amber Benson (as will I!), although there were hints that Tara might
continue to make an occasional appearance on the show in some capacity. "No one
ever stays dead on Buffy."
James said emphatically at one point, I will NOT bleach my hair during the off season. His hair looked yummy with the dark roots showing.
All the actors, and James in particular, praised the work of the director of photography and the production designer. Aly waxed lyrical over the excellent use of lighting, particularly since the mostly female cast members tend to have long hair which is always getting in their faces and interfering with the lighting -- providing quite a challenge for the technical crew. Michelle joked that Aly must want more lighting. But Joss laughingly noted that they'd all look good no matter what the lighting was -- after all, he said, "I didn't hire trolls!"
James praised everyone on the set for working very hard, nothing that 12 hour shoots
and weekend work are typical on BtVS. He said the crew knows the show as Buffy the
For more official pictures of the Buffy Behind The Scenes event, check out these from Wire Image. They were taken outside the ATAS building when the Buffy actors and producers arrived for the show (we were already inside by then, although my fiance, who dropped me off for the show, ran into Joss outside).
All pictures by Linda R. Barlow; all rights reserved.