Can you kind of set up what BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is all about?
Well, basically it’s about this young girl who goes to high school during the day and, at night, she fights evil demons, crime and vampires that lurk through the evening hours. Along with her are her friends Xander, Cordelia, Willow and Tony, who plays Giles the Librarian, the watcher of all the crazy demons that are coming her way. She basically lives in a hellmouth and within that hellmouth are demons and vampires which she fights in the evening hours while managing her schooling, so it’s quite a tackle.
The show has really taken on a life of its own. What’s the appeal of the show?
Well, you have to give credit definitely to Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt and the writers. The writers have created something very unique and different. It’s definitely an hour of drama, of fun, of humor. It has a lot to offer and it’s built a cult following, so to speak, an underground cult following. The people that I work with specifically from day to day on the set are very gracious. They’re just fun to be around and that makes the set a family environment. And it’s very spontaneous too. There are action scenes and different demons so everyday you’re fighting some kind of crazy guy.
Does the popularity surprise you or anybody else close to it?
I think somewhat. I, myself, didn’t go into the show thinking of it as a popular show. I went into it thinking of it as another job – as work for me as an actor and I was fortunate to be part of something that was very different and unique. I think what Joss and David have done is redefined television, especially at this time, and taken it to a different step. That goes for the writing. But I think in general there may have been a couple of people (who knew what to expect). I think the make-up artist Todd McIntosh had a faint idea that this series was special and it was going to go somewhere and of course, Joss. It’s very close to his heart so I’m sure he had a lot of passion involved in it and does have a lot of passion involved in it. I think from that he knew there was a big potential for the success of the show.
You mentioned Joss. What’s he like everyday?
He’s like a kid in the candy store definitely. He’s a very “hands on” producer, so not only does he oversee and polish every script that comes in, he also writes and directs. He directs, I would say, four episodes out of the twenty-two. So, he’s very hands on. He’s on the set, he’s giving his input. I really look at him as a kid in an amusement park who can have free access to any ride that he wants to ride. Every ride is different depending upon the scene that he’s shooting that day. So, it’s thrilling, it’s exciting, it’s adventurous and you never know what’s behind the next corner.
Speaking of that, how would you categorize that?
Well, it has a bit of everything going for it, so you can’t really pin BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER as an action show or a dramatic series or a comedy. I think that it has elements of all that and it breaks it up. One moment you can be enthralled by the adventure and the next minute you can be saddened by the drama, so it has all those elements and I think that helps. Definitely, I know it helps me.
Pertaining to the video release, do you think that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is the type of show that can be translated into any language or any territory?
That’s funny, I can only imagine myself speaking German or Italian. I’ve always wanted to, but now that I can actually hear it from another voice when it’s dubbed is interesting. It would definitely translate very well into other languages, again, because of the subject matter and the context that it supports. It’s not an overly blown-out serious show, and there’s humor in it and we’re dealing with almost like a fable, a mythic adventure with these demons and this hellmouth. You can understand why Buffy is distraught over school or a loved one. At the same time, it can be humorous with some kind of demon crawling out of the corner and turning into a bug, so it shifts. And with that shift comes a lot of spontaneous adventures.
Do you think it’s the type of series that would lend to repeatability, watching over again?
I think so, definitely. I think that it lends itself to that because, again, it’s very eclectic. There’s a very tempestuous feel to it. It’s all over the place and there are different flavors to it, so it adds an interesting color. It definitely is marketable towards that – forever collecting the series. You know, “The HellMouth” series or Part One and Part Two of “Amends” from last year.
Let’s talk about Angel, who is Angel?
Angel is a 242-year-old vampire with a conscience. When he started the show (he was 242 years old) and he’s now 244 so he has had a birthday. He was born in Ireland and comes from a wealthy family. He was a bit of an aristocrat in his early years. He was bitten by a vampire named Darla who, at the time, promised to show him anything that he wanted to see through different eyes. And, Angel was a bit reckless at that time, going through pubs in the 18th century, frolicking with women, having a good time, you know, supported by the wealth of his family. And, he was bitten and turned into a vampire and his world changed. He became a very vicious, evil vampire – for 100 years he stalked Europe and pillaged small towns. And his biggest thing, what Angel enjoyed the most, was watching people suffer and bringing them to the point of insanity and then killing them off. He got a thrill out of the insanity.
One day he killed the wrong girl who was a gypsy and this gypsy family put a curse on him and with that curse came his soul… so that he was a vampire who had to feel remorse for the crimes that he will do and for the crimes that he had done in the past. So he’s a bit saddened right now for the atoning of his sins for the last 100 years. And he meets Buffy and falls in love and he crosses that line.
He and Buffy are really at opposite ends of the battle. To get to their common thread, what creates that?
The common thread is that they both understand that Buffy is a Vampire Slayer and she doesn’t have a normal life. She’s not like other kids in high school. She has powers-that-be controlling her to fight evil and atone for her self worth. And Angel is basically the same way, trapped under his own conscience, with powers that he doesn’t quite understand yet. He was given back his conscience for a reason from the powers-that-be. The powers that be what? We have no idea what – we will find out. So there’s that link of love, that understanding, a vampire in love with a vampire slayer; pretty interesting.
It’s a pretty unique love story.
Yeah, I think that it’s deep, the never-ending love that’s there, but that the two can’t be together. And that’s the eternal love – that thirst of being far apart and still loving each other and having that strength. I think because of that connection people can identify with it – whatever that love may be for other people, you know.
Can you talk a little bit about working with Sarah Michelle Gellar?
She’s great. She comes very well prepared to the set, which is great. She comes with a smile, with a lot of love and laughter. She’s a unique actress to work with. She’s extremely vulnerable and opens herself up to you, which makes it easy. She’s a very kind, genuine person so it makes it easy to go to work everyday and under some stressful situations sometimes. It makes it easy to have that other person there with you. She’s a very present person and, because of that, it helps – and shows- with the two of us.
Getting back to the Angel character, he and the other characters in the show have really developed, haven’t they?
Buffy is a very dear story for Joss obviously and I think within her story a number of other characters have developed. The Angel character, Spike and Drusilla, you have Willow, you have Xander, you have Tony (Giles), you have the Mayor, you have Principal Snyder. All of these characters seem to come out of these stories and basically have a life of their own.
I think what’s appealing about Angel’s character is the fact that he’s lived for a long time, he’s journeyed many years, he has a lot of history to him. At the same time, he has the same pain that Buffy may have and carry. He’s a man on a mission, who, so to speak, is atoning for his sins and trying to make something of himself and be someone who can look in the mirror, even though he can’t because he can’t see his reflection being a vampire, but maybe someday he’ll be able to look in a mirror and see his reflection.
A lot of people today look in the mirror and what do they see? Are they afraid to look in the mirror and see what’s really there? I think that’s a big question for Angel’s character now. And it’s something that, I know, I wake up everyday and look in the mirror and try and see the truth. It’s a scary thing, don’t you think?
So his character is developed to a point where he needs to be away from Buffy, his loved one, and figure things out right now.
Let’s take you back to Season One. Tell me about “Welcome to Hellmouth” and “The Harvest.”
“Welcome to Hellmouth” and “The Harvest” basically set up who Buffy is and what she has to deal with and how she’s accepting it. People are giving her messages – whoever these people are – they may be good, they may be bad. Angel is definitely a messenger of good , but we don’t know exactly who he is at first. He’s a bit of a mystery man coming behind, lurking behind shadows and always giving her information on where these vampires live, where they dwell, what’s to come, beware of the harvest, which basically is a big vampire feast. She must fight and kill these vampires and the Master that’s controlling these vampires in the first season. So “Welcome to Hellmouth” and “The Harvest” is a set up, it establishes her and her friends: Xander, the wacky sidekick that he is and the humor that he adds; Alyson who plays Willow who is a bit of an odd ball character, who is very smart in school and fits in with Buffy’s gang because she’s different, the computer intelligent person that she is. And there’s Tony who is the Librarian, so to speak; her “watcher” who gives her the instructions and trains her and keeps her in shape. Then Cordelia who is the ever-present “fashion mouth” of the high school.
I think throughout season one the emphasis is on Buffy’s fight against the Master and, within that story are the friends that she meets. It leads us to Angel whom she falls in love with. He falls in love with her and she realizes that he’s a vampire and now she’s freaked and he’s freaked. They deal with it. They don’t think of the consequences. At the end of the first season we find that the Master has been killed, the Hellmouth is open. They all fight and kill the Master, which she does.
How has the series changed your life? How have you developed, or your career?
Well, it definitely has given me opportunities to explore things that I probably wouldn’t have been able to explore or maybe I would have gone on a different path. Looking back at it, I see it as a huge blessing that I was given this opportunity to come in and develop this character at free range, so to speak. Along the way, it has given me the opportunity to really learn how the business operates and how I operate. So I basically feel like I’m in college again – learning and learning and figuring out where to go, how to hit certain marks. And throughout that lesson, you meet some interesting people on the way. You learn who to trust, who not to trust. So it opens up a lot of areas that are good and bad.
I think that I’m fortunate to come from a strong family and a group of friends from the East Coast that have grounded me. I’m very close with my father and my mother and my Uncle Art who’s here today travelling with me. It’s a constant reminder of where I came from – travelling across country with my father when I first came out to Los Angeles. To be able to spend a week- and-a-half on the road with your Dad is a special, special bond – something that will be in my heart forever. I remember having Buffalo burgers in Billings, Montana. And when I first moved out, thinking about the possibilities that would unfold. Those are the days that you have to cherish the most because they are the most precious and I think that they build inside your heart.
And your new series?
Yeah, the series – it’s a whole new series. I think the development of his character has changed and he’s going on a different path, a new road. It’s everything new and he’s moving to Los Angeles, the other notorious hellmouth – that bleak city, those characters running around, those lost souls and a lot of shooting downtown. I think that a lot of souls will be saved or killed and the potential for Angel’s character to do real good is there. You see him as a bit of an alcoholic who’s recovering and can go that side, can bend, and have that thirst and that drink and go back to that evil side and disappear with the demons. And that’s what he’s constantly fighting. I think he is a true reminder of how fragile humans really are. He’s got a sidekick whose name is Doyle who is from Ireland – Angel is from Ireland as well. Doyle kind of leads him and gives him the messages of people who need help, who need saving, whatever kind of problems they may be in.
Doyle is kind of a balance between good and evil. Charisma (Cordelia) will be coming along, she’ll be this Girl Friday. She’ll move to Los Angeles to become an actress and she’ll think she’s a great actress but she’s really bad. She just missed out on that Ivory hand commercial, went to somebody else. So it should mix characters and I’m looking forward to it.
Where do you see your character going?
I think that he’s on a good path now. He’s away from the only woman that he’s ever loved before. I think within time that he’ll grow to understand how to accept that. I think definitely in the beginning stages of the show that he’ll understand that Buffy’s love was for good and that there is room for her in his heart. He just has to understand where to place it. He’s got to be around humans more, humankind, in order to save them. I think in the beginning we’ll see him as disheveled, confused. His only contact with humans will be to save certain people that remind him of his past. There are a couple of vampires, demons and there will be this Doyle character that will bring out in him that he can do good. So, I see him strengthening in his relationship with humans and understanding his balance and what life has to offer him right now.
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