This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Okay - this is because of going through the portal, right?"
11973 members | you are not logged in | 30 October 2020


August 15 2006

James Marsters' latest Q&A up. Shakespeare, Spike, and writer's block!

It's cute to have past questions like 'what new life forms are currently festering in your fridge?', but I much prefer the ones that are a bit more substantial. Or at least provoke a more thoughtful answer.

"Itís a mistake to try to force your creative mind with your intelligence."
Amen to that, brother.
Wasn't Spike's achievement (for himself, not for Buffy) finishing his love poem, and garnering that applause?

The way James talks about Spike sometimes, after the fact, sounds as though he doesn't understand his progression and/or movitations, and I don't get that.
Maybe it's just a role for him. Nothing more, nothing less. The actor sees it one way and the fans see something else. Nowt wrong with that. When I get home, I totally switch off from work. Maybe some actors do a similar sort of thing. Sometimes you just can't fanthropomorphise these sort of things.
No, there isn't. It's just when he's asked questions about the role and agrees to answer them, he seems to comes off less than knowledgable sometimes, which would irk me if I was the asker.
Simon, I think you're absolutely correct on all counts. I think he's even mentioned on several occasions how fast everything went, that they barely had time to learn the lines and then were on to something else. That it all become a blur after awhile. I'm sure that limits how much time was spent analyzing the character of Spike.

Also, while folks may not want to know James doesn't or didn't live and breathe Spike 24/7, I bet it quite possibly could be like a friend of mine who used to work at Dunkin' Donuts...He loved donuts til he actually had to get up at 3 AM and MAKE them. After work, he certainly didn't want to think about or taste donuts! That sometimes it's necessary to separate oneself from their work, even if it's something - that to us - seems much more exciting than making donuts.

[ edited by Grace on 2006-08-15 17:12 ]
Pat, I agree that Spike's achievement was finishing his love poem and getting that applause. James is most likely what Simon describes when it comes to his work.

"Itís a mistake to try to force your creative mind with your intelligence."

Anyone who is involved in any form of writing/art knows how true this is.
I get the impression that JM is quite a visceral, instinctive actor so maybe he's thinking more tangibly along shan-shue lines or actually ending up with Buffy or something similar. Also, Simon has a point in that it's probably not realistic to expect an actor to stay as passionate about a character when they have constant stopping and starting, a life outside of work and many of them don't even watch their own stuff and so don't have the same sense of arc that we have as viewers (if he's even seen all of Buffy i'd be amazed if he's watched every episode more than once as i'd guess most of us have).

I agree though pat32082, that Spike's greatest achievement was taking all the seemingly contradictory elements of his character and welding them into a worthwhile whole. It bothered me when watching NFA's bar scene for the first time that he was gonna be shortchanged as just the brawler, just the ensouled thug, good but simple and only really useful in a fight. Oh, me of little faith and what a great pay-off the poetry scene was. Truly effulgent ;).

(I should have known better of course since I also thought that Anya was going to be set-up as the patsy, a sort of emotional punch-bag for the rest of the Scoobs in 'The Body' when in fact her little speech brought a lump to my throat and was one of the most affecting parts of a deeply affecting episode. Great at calling them me, I can't pick winning horses either ;)
I love James' Q and A s they're such a good mix of the deep and meaningful and the fun and trivial , and there's always something to cause a bit of discussion/ controversy.

I don't agree with him about Spike, I think redemption and saving the world and the poetry slam were achievements , especially the poetry slam because that was for William :) but I can see why James wouldn't necessarily agree. After all we've had the luxury of watching, rewatching, debating and discussing every minute of every show. James got to learn the lines and work twenty hour days to get it all on film before moving onto the next episode . It would make for a rather different perspective :)
Driving "half-way around the earth every year" and presently going on auditions for your next acting gig probably doesn't leave much time for reflecting on a character you had to live with for however many hours a day it took to shoot an episode. Like Grace pointed out, he has mentioned how everything would start to blur together and that more than one episode would be filmed at a time with different units, so I can forgive him if his memory is a bit fried on every remembering every detail. And maybe he just has a different perspective on what his character did or didn't achieve depending on his mood (which comes with the territory of a creative mind).
"I get the impression that JM is quite a visceral, instinctive actor so maybe he's thinking more tangibly along shan-shue lines or actually ending up with Buffy or something similar."

Saje...I tend to agree with you here. I think James might have wanted to see something along those lines, but may have considered all the noble and courageous things that Spike ended up doing as related to his love for Buffy and her influence.

I don't think he is totally correct however, because I DO believe that Spike became his OWN MAN by the end of both series and did things for his own reasons as well as out of love for Buffy or anyone else.

And as for the 'poetry slam' in I got goosebumps during that scene, then all teary eyed and ready to scream and cheer out, "that a way Spike!!!!"

I truly am enjoying these Q&A's though...fascinating little tidbits about one incredible guy.
"so I can forgive him if his memory is a bit fried on every remembering every detail."

Very true. Although, I do understand why a fan might bothered if he doesn't seem to remember certain details/achievements of Spike's psyche, or if he sees Spike in a different way from us. I'm sure it's disapointing to learn that your heart and soul may be much more into Spike's motivations than his. However, having said that, Simon is right, perhaps we shouldn't force our fan ideas/assumptions of 'Spike the character' into 'James the actor.' (nice word, Simon!) Because even amongst the fans, there are differing opinions on just about everything Spike! :)

@debw, I too like the mixture of the fun and trivial with the more indepth questions. I think whoever is doing the sorting (or James, if he's picking and choosing) is creating a nice balance each month! I think the trivial stuff can tell you just as much about his personality as the literary stuff.

[ edited by Grace on 2006-08-15 18:18 ]
(nice word, Simon!)

Cheers. It just came to me.
I remember a comment from James once on a scene and how he played Spike in it and when watching the scene marvelling at how different it was from what he said it was. Something along the lines of "Spike was angry and bitter" and it actually played "soft and bewildered".
So I don't entirely trust his perceptions of the role.
However I am sorry that his favourite playwright no longer seems to be George Walker - although maybe he had just said that to please the Canadian auduiences at the time.
"...perhaps we shouldn't force our fan ideas/assumptions of 'Spike the character' into 'James the actor.' "

You know, when I submitted a few questions and was lucky enough to have him answer one back in May (let me take a moment to go all smiley and dreamy-eyed. Okay, I'm back) I had my own idea of how he might answer the one he did. Not how I wanted him to answer it, necessarily, but certainly how he might. Well, he came at it from a different angle than I was expecting and while he still answered my question and then some, it made me realize that no mater how many interviews or Q&A transcripts you read, don't assume anything about him. And it gave me an even greater appreciation of how he always seems to be his own person who listens to that voice in his head and that it's that unpredictable element helps make him such a compelling actor to watch.

Let me add add a "nice word, Simon" as well!
On a different train of thought, I love that he's a fan of Calderon. Perhaps it's because something is always lost in translation, but I don't think his work has the same breadth of feeling as Shakespeare.
"If you could change one thing about Spike, what would that be?
He would have achieved something for himself, even something small."

What? Spike achieved plenty! Like others said the poem or how about saving the world?!
Jamesí view of Spike has to be different than that of his fans since his experience with the character was totally different. Fans may have greater attachments to characters than the actors playing them, choosing, for instance, to view favorite episodes or movies over and over. Fans may know lines or entire scenes by heart and are disappointed when actors donít have a similar memories. Iíve heard actors - Sarah Michelle Gellar, for example - say thatís one reason they are reluctant to do fan conventions: the fans know so much more detail about the characters than they do, and theyíre afraid that theyíll disappoint the fans.

Jamesí opinion that Spike didnít achieve something for himself, even something small, may have more to do with how James sees Spikeís character development and less to do with tangible achievements such as appreciation for his poetry. His answer is interesting to me because of what it says about James, not because of what it says about Spike.
Can't look at the Q& A until I get home tonight, but I have read somethings that JM has said before about Spike that bothered people. I saw much of it as the difference between how an actor experiences a character and how the audience does. There are some fundemental differences which I take for granted until I read fan reaction and am reminded that they may not be that obvious.

I have often thought that one of the big differences in JM's perception of the character as opposed to the fans' perception, besides the neccesity of an actor not to obsess over a character he stopped playing more than two years ago and may never play again, is that IMO Spike is very personal to JM. Although he is "visceral, instinctive actor" he is also an incredible craftsman who was living in the skin of Spike for 6 years in a way that I really hope no fans do, cause...kinda weird and not healthy. I think JM had a need to be honest about Spike's faults and failures, especially after Spike got his soul, just as if he were looking and analysing his own. In that situation one can be a little hard on oneself. To give the type of layer characterization he did, he has to understand the character from the inside, and that means the self-doubt, jealousy, fear, selfishness and other negatives as well as the bravery, creativity, capasity for love and other positives. However, if one concentrates too much on how wonderful oneself is, one risks becomeing in JM's words "a jerk." As it is true in life, so it can be true in a character. So very often an actor may end up finding the love of self in a character when playing a villian but the doubt about oneself when playing a more sympathetic character.

...Or I could be totally wrong. As a former actor, though, that has always been the feeling I have gotten from the JM comments I have read.
I tend to not put *too* much stock into what actors say about their characters(or at least I try not to), especially after so much time has passed. I mean, how can they possibly 'know/remember' as much as fans do? What might be a scene that they give minimal thought to could turn out to be something fans obsess on for years. And with so much dialogue to remember...hey, sure, we know a lot of the dialogue because we've had it drilled into our head with repeated viewings. But they have to remember so's unrealistic to think that they'll remember every moment about their character. (Granted, some are better at it than others.)
In James' case, I know his thoughts seemed to have changed over the seasons and years, which is understandable to a point. On occasion, the writing of Spike was a bit inconsistent, so it's understandable that James might not always know exactly what Spike's true motivation was. But I also think that, in a job, some things stand out to people for various reasons more than other things. So maybe, just as an example that I have no basis for, Spike's damaged relationship with Buffy stands out more to James than the growth Spike had in Angel Season 5. Maybe it had more impact on him as an actor/person, and therefore it's what he remembers most about playing that character. Like I said, I don't know, but it's possible....
Yes, the poetry slam, and the blazing success, followed by "The Wanton Folly of Me Mum!"

Silly, funny, poignant, and simply perfect.

How do they do that?
Maybe he was just looking at it like a guy, especially since he spent the last year on AtS. All the major characters were protrayed as professionals with big fancy offices and big fancy cars & toys. Spike lived in a basement...again.

But I think Spike's greatest achievement was when he realized that he didn't need any other reason to do the right thing than that it was the right thing to do.
"But I think Spike's greatest achievement was when he realized that he didn't need any other reason to do the right thing than that it was the right thing to do."

I completely agree. I think that very moment when he told Angel that, is his greatest achievement. Something selfless, instead of trying to please anyone else. I agree too, that James possibly was looking at/remembering "bigger" things (probably the worst "Spike" moments) that stood out more for him personally than the more subtle moments we've discussed in this thread.
That answer has a ring of sadness to it. I have a lot of respect for the actors answering our questions in these Q&A sessions. Whatever James is thinking about with his answer I could never claim that he doesn't "get" his character. He played him for several years and put his own blood sweat and tears into bringing him to life. IMO, that makes him an expert on the subjet.
Do I agree with his statement? I don't have to, a fan asked for his opinion and he gave it.
Simon, I just love your new word! "Fanthropomorphise!" Cool. 'Course, being an amateur etymologist, words are a thing with me. And here in the colonies, we'd spell it "fanthropomorphize." (Sorry, sleep deprivation always makes me a tad cheeky.) Anyway, kudos!

Seriously, that's just what most of us do, this fanthropomorphizing. We project our own wants/needs/values etc. on the character and what the actor behind the character may be trying to say--as well as what the writers may be trying to convey. How we perceive/interpret a character is almost like a Rorschach test. . .

Thanks for the link, Rogue Slayer. James. Yum.

Okay. Bedtime for Bonzo (Gonzo?) here.
As fans we are coming from a completely opposite POW. An actor makes his/her performance before the episode is actually really finalized, not yet cut and so on. In the "studying" stage you are perhaps analyzing something completely different than the final product we as fans are watching and analyzing. Many a commentary has told the tale of trying to change a story or message after the shooting. i.e after the actor has engaged himself in the motives and feelings of the caracter.

Secondly we are analyzing a completed arc in hindsight. So we in part create the motives as fitting to the arc. The actor usually has no clue, perhaps not even to the next episode. That must be more true for a supporting actor playing a caracter who is usually there to be a comment on the lead caracters.

I have many times heard JM saying how unpredictable every turn in Spikes story have been, and how Joss ( and the writers) so completely surprised an unsettled them all, continuosly.

I believe that challenge has enhanced his performance. And his ( I suppose) ability to focus in the moment, shredding yesterday and looking forward, suites him. And of course Spike.

So perhaps they all have moved on even before we saw the episode...

[ edited by onesnailshort on 2006-08-16 13:42 ]
"But I think Spike's greatest achievement was when he realized that he didn't need any other reason to do the right thing than that it was the right thing to do."

Wow Anindoorkitty....that is just perfect and very true.
Kinda makes me all teary eyed again though...God...I miss Spike.

This thread has been closed for new comments.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.

joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home