I am a nerd. Only a nerd would have a mental list of television series that are to be watched every year. I watch each of these shows from beginning to end. I do not care how many seasons it has. If was important enough to make the list then it gets watched. One of those series is Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. This was a series that I watched when it originally aired in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s. To think that we are celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary this year is both crazy (I am seriously getting old…) and amazing. Like many of Whedon’s shows, Buffy has a strong cult following that is still going strong today.
As the guest list for Dallas Fan Expo trickled in, I was super excited to learn that James Marsters would be there. Marsters played my favorite “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” character, Spike. Spike, also known as William the Bloody, is a vampire that had done some truly despicable things in his past. He has murder hundreds of thousands of people. Even taken down two slayers, which is no easy feat. By the time he meets Buffy, he is one of those bad guys that are kind of pitiful and terrible at being bad. Spike is cocky, dramatic, and sarcastic. Always trying just a little too hard to prove that he is the bad boy that everyone should be afraid. His history of being made fun of when he was a human always still haunts him and makes him feel that he is not good enough. After being a major villain in first 4 seasons, Spike finds himself kidnapped by a secret government program, The Initiative, and becomes the owner of a fancy new chip that prevents him from harming any good creature. Once escaping from The Initiative, he learns that he can no longer hunt humans but he can kill vampires for fun. He occasionally teams up with Buffy and her friends to kill vampires for amusement. Horrified, he later realizes that he has fallen in love with Buffy. It does not take long for her to realize that these feelings are mutual. Both are disturbed by these confusing feelings. They have a short and perilous relationship. It ends disastrously. Spike truly does love Buffy but knows that he does deserve her as he is. He travels the world seeking for a way to get his soul back. After many painful trials, he succeeds. He returns to Sunnydale where he learns that she will never love him again. Despite this, he stays close to her home, always watching over her and her sister. In the end, he sacrifices himself to save them all. I always cry at the end. It never fails. It was truly the perfect, bittersweet way to end the show.
James Marsters’s acting career did not end with his sacrifice on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” He continued his role as Spike on “Angel” through 2004. He was in the movie “P.S. I Love You.” Multiple episodes of the CW series “Smallville”. Marsters’s played the character Captain John Hart in the beloved show “Torchwood”. He has been in “Witches of East End.”, “Hawaii Five-O”, and many more. Not to mention his impressive list of voice work.
Marsters is currently filming a Hulu original Marvel series called the “Runaways”. The premise is that a group of teenagers discover that their parents are former super villains. They runaway together to learn more of their parents pasts and attempt to make things right.
On the third and last day of Dallas Fan Expo, I excitedly raced across the second floor of the convention looking for his panel. Seeing the long line of fans, I knew I was in the right place. James Marsters walked out on stage, older but no less handsome than his days of playing Spike. Gone is the platinum hair and the English accent. (He is from California). When cast as Spike, he had originated from theatre acting. When one is in a play, a person must over-exaggerate the way they talk and move so that it is perceived from all areas of the audience. Marsters explained that he was accustomed to this method of acting at time. If he had been playing any character other than a vampire with an over-the-top attitude, it would have been ridiculous. Luckily, it worked with Spike. The idea was to give Spike a rocker type image. He was given two hair color options –jet black or bone white. The makeup crew sprayed Marsters hair black and decided that it was terrible. Instead, they dyed his hair the platinum blond that Spike was known for. Marsters has dark brown hair and he had to bleach his hair every THREE days to hide his roots. He was horrified when he read the warning on the bottle – DO NOT use more often than every 5-6 weeks. He does occasionally miss the platinum hair, mentioning that it was sexy (Yes – it was!) but he does not miss the blisters caused by the constant bleaching.
Throughout the series, he explained that Spike was just as a catalyst to move the series along. Joss Whedon never had an ultimate storyline goal for Spike. With each new season, Whedon would look at where Spike needed to be placed to things in motion. Marsters enjoyed this. He felt that it gave his character moral ups and downs and created a more relatable feeling for his character. Ironically, Spike would be given one of the largest roles to play in the season.
In the age-old question of who should Buffy be with –Angel or Spike, Marsters said that Buffy should be with Angel…at the time she meets him. Angel is what she needs at that period in the series. He has a soul. She loves him and he can love her back. However, towards the end of the series, Marsters agrees with his fans and says Buffy should end up with Spike.
James Marsters also gave me some insight to something that I had never even thought about. Joss Whedon fought for the first teenage same-sex kiss to be aired on television. And when I say fought, I mean it. He fought for it to the point where it endangered the future of show. I have watched that kiss between Willow and Tara so many times that I do not even give it a second thought anymore. I was completely oblivious to the hidden battle that went into making that scene possible. Whedon felt that it was so important to make a stand for the youth of the LBGTQ community. The cast had his full support. Marsters, who is a huge “Star Trek” fan, likened the struggle to get the kiss aired to first interracial kiss on television. He was extremely proud to have been a part of that moment.
Unfortunately, Marsters did not give us much details of his upcoming series “Runaways”. However, I do know that his character, Victor Stein, is one of the former villains and he is enjoying playing the role. He also enjoys frustrating the stunt choreographer. Marsters and his fellow actors are given very clear instructions of how to start fight sequences and then when to stop for stunt doubles to step in. Marsters and some of his cast mates happen to be trained stuntmen. They also learn the fight stunt choreography. Instead of stopping and allowing for stunt doubles, the just ignore their cues and finish out the scene. The director is loving it and he is having a blast.
Having the opportunity to attend James Marsters panel was amazing and brought new life to my love of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. I also foresee a “Torchwood” binge in the near future. James Marsters and John Barrowman on the same show? Yes, please.