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"Badass Depowered Cyclops."
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April 22 2008

Elizabeth Craft & Sarah Fain answer fan questions about Dollhouse! An exclusive question session was held with Dollhouse producers/writers Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, which offered the fans a unique chance to ask these charming ladies about anything related to Joss' new show. And now, the answer are in!

Interesting interview.

Joss starts shooting the pilot on April 23rd, and there's a promo shoot coming up a few days later, so there should be stuff to see in the not-too-distant future. We're all working with 20th and Fox on the web presence of the show now. Exactly what that's going to look like we can't say-- because we don't yet know-- but summer is probably a safe bet. Everyone's trying to get things rolling sooner rather than later.

This makes me excited.

So is there going to be a pilot? Or do they just mean the "first episode?" I am a bit confused on that, seeing as there was an article saying that they had scrapped the pilot for a dollhouse set. Whatever the case may be, I am uber-excited about this show. Joss exploring the human condition? Always a good (and ironically, very much a part of his other shows, despite the presence of demons, vampires, and supernaturally enhanced teenaged girls :-P)
Technically speaking, a pilot is a one off episode made to show the network how shiny the show can be, to make them want to order more episodes. In the case of Dollhouse (and a few other new shows), Fox has gone right ahead and ordered 7 episodes before seeing anything filmed. The first episode is still a pilot of sorts, but it's more Episode One.
Do we know which other writers are on board for the show? Craft/Fain said that Minear was writing Episode 7 and that Jed and Maurissa (presumably the same duo that helped Joss on Dr. Horrible) are breaking Episode 8, but have any other writers been confirmed?
Ah, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, found out myself from the Dr. Horrible crew.

[ edited by Vaughn on 2008-04-22 13:09 ]
Iím very happy that theyíre taking the episodic yet also serialized route with serialized elements being sometimes subtle and other times more dominant. I think this approach is probably the best and has worked perfectly on past Whedon shows. I like when a show has a long-term arc, but every now and then it's also nice to take a break from the main events and enjoy a more standalone episode. Itís also better for casual/new viewers to get in the show.

And also, I take it that Tim Minear is writing episode 7! Yay!

[ edited by Anuris on 2008-04-22 13:12 ]

[ edited by Anuris on 2008-04-22 13:13 ]
I love that they are breaking episode 8 of a seven episode commitment. And if - worst case scenario - it ends with Ep 7, it's the Minear ep!!
Jed and Maurissa have a Youtube series called Apartment 4B. It's great.
They start shooting tomorrow! Boldly explore the inhuman condition, Big Purple Dude & the Mutant Friends!
Anuris, great comment. The "episodic yet also serialized" route is what Joss follows best and believes in. The trouble with "Lost" and "Heroes" (as good as they are) is that individual episodes don't have beginnings, middles and ends -- just middles.
They say Dollhouse is going to explore what it means to be human. I've known that was a theme for Dollhouse for awhile, but anytime it gets reiterated, it gets harder to hold my squeeing in check. I think this show has the potential to be the deepest, most layered, and most relevant thing Joss has ever done, and that's saying something.
The trouble with "Lost" and "Heroes" (as good as they are) is that individual episodes don't have beginnings, middles and ends -- just middles.

Exactly... with respect to exceptions... ;-)
Boldly explore the inhuman condition, Big Purple Dude & the Mutant Friends!

Human drama - the final frontier of television. These are the episodes of the tv series Dollhouse. Its six-episode year mission: To explore the nature of the human condition. To map out new character arcs and plot misleads. To boldly film what no series has filmed before.

It's so hard not to read those casting sides.
A problem with Lost and Heroes is that they are so plot-driven that they really can't do episodes that aren't related to the main story. It reminds me of the X-Files... Mulder and Scully would get yet another major clue about an alien conspiracy to take over the Earth, yet the next episode, they'd be back to investigating cases about vampires living in a trailer park. The stand-alones were usually superb, but it never made any sense to me that Mulder and Scully could go back to mundane cases knowing what they knew was going on.

So that's the brilliance of how Joss plots. He lets the over-arching plot evolve and develop over several episodes (and even seasons), without making anything too immediately threatening, so stand-alones still work. It also lets the show breathe. The relentless, speeding-train plotting of Heroes was great at first, but it starts to wear a viewer out. I think Joss has perfected this way of structuring a series, and I've yet to see a show that does it as well as any of his.
Okay, I have to ask. Who's the actor that looks like Obama? I know I've seen him in other things, but I can't place him.
Harry Lennix? I guess there is a bit of a resemblance, now that you mention it.
toontimer said:
Okay, I have to ask. Who's the actor that looks like Obama? I know I've seen him in other things, but I can't place him.

I assume you're talking about Harry J. Lennix? He's done a bunch of stuff, but for some reason I recognized him from ER, ten years ago.

Ironically, Wikipedia says he's a Hillary supporter.
I guess the other thread got deleted, so I repeat that the best quote in the thing is: "it's about how frighteningly human we all are."
I agree with you, bix. Last time I checked I was human, and I scare myself every time.

Okay, that may have been a bit "ha ha", but, seriously, do you ever get those moments where you're thinking something and say to yourself "no human being would do that"; they must, though, if you are.
Well, it's that old thing - being human is amazing. We're capable of wondrous things, and incredible destruction. Often at the same time. Quite often, without even realising it. Or, you know, caring.
It's not about super-humans, it's about how frighteningly human we all are.

What a great quote - and a description of everything that Joss has done. It's all about how frighteningly human we all are - even when we're monsters, vampires, and evil mayors who aspire to turn into giant snake demons.
It's all about how frighteningly human we all are - even when we're monsters, vampires, and evil mayors who aspire to turn into giant snake demons.

While this is true, I'm nonetheless anxious to see what Joss does without working within that layer of abstraction.
For some reason, this "frighteningly human we all are" makes me think of Dexter. SPOILER: It really does make you wonder if the views and ideals that society holds as a "decent human" are actually real, or more of a quest for the utopian.

I know we're not perfect, and don't even expect to come close, but it seems that everyone generally has that imaginary thin line that cannot be crossed if you don't want to be punished. I have a feeling Joss is making that line his playground.

I wonder how the general public will respond to this? Dexter Season 1 episodes have been playing on CBS, and they're still on, so there is an audience. However, with Joss's characters and stories, you're always able to find a bit of yourself mixed in there. I wonder how "normal" people will respond when they see something in themselves (while watching the show) that they may not have been ready to face.

I know I still find it disturbing when I find myself agreeing with Dexter (love that guy, though).
it's about how frighteningly human we all are.

That unfortunately says to me "characters I can't relate to or like". If it's full of unpleasant characters doing unpleasant things (yes that was a leap of faith) I might as well just watch Battlestar Galactica and Dexter.
It's not, Simon. It's about a whole range of the usual Whedon things, including control and identity.

[ edited by gossi on 2008-04-22 18:37 ]
Well I like my escapism. I could lose myself in the Buffyverse and Firefly. Playing up how human we all are says grim drama to me (which is good but like steak you can't have it all the time).
Ya know, I don't entirely disagree. Although at it's heart I think the thing which made Firefly compelling was, well, it's heart.

I love BSG, but I can't feed my face with it like I can BTVS. I think the difference here is that Joss just can't write without humour. Which is why I love his work, because I see humour in everything.

[ edited by gossi on 2008-04-22 18:43 ]
It's funny you make the connection toontimer, because Harry Lennix played an Obama-like golden boy politician in August Wilson's play "Radio Golf" on Broadway last year. He was great in it and I'm so excited to see him on this show. For those unfamiliar, think Jubal Early but up the sexiness.

Shooting begins tomorrow. Wow. Feels so good. But for some reason I can't help feeling like this show just won't be able to find an audience. I'm scared it will come off as another poor Eliza Dushku vehicle like Tru Calling, and that the general population won't be buying it.
It looks like, since a larger writing staff would be on hold pending an order for more episodes, Joss may write two or three of the first seven himself. Very cool. My only concern with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen is that they are novice writers, but I imagine that Joss will supervise.

The point about it being hard to write for someone who can have several different personalites in the same episode is interesting. What made the change-of-identity episodes on Buffy and Angel so much fun was the contrast between the 'real' character, whom we knew and, usually, loved, and the different version we were seeing: Vamp Willow, the Buffybot, crazed misogynist Wesley. You could get startling insights into their characters, too.

But since we don't know the dolls, our reaction to all their roles will probably be different. There will be some debate about whether this or that role they're playing is reflective of their true personality, whatever it is, I'm sure. But I think audience identification will be with the non-dolls, at least at first, since they'll have consistent personality characteristics.

And there, I'm with Simon. We'll be watching unpleasant characters doing unpleasant things. I hope there's enough other stuff not to drive people away.
I don't have any concern the characters will be unpleasant. I think some of them will be deeply flawed, and I think some will make choices that are questionable. But being flawed and making poor choices doesn't make a character unpleasant. In fact, it's far more interesting to watch a good person struggle to make the right choice than it is to watch an unpleasant person do unpleasant things. And I just can't imagine any Joss creation without a ton of wit, and wit tempers everything. Even the most despicable character can be made enjoyable to watch if he's funny.
Playing up how human we all are says grim drama to me ...

Well, it only says that if you're a right cynical bastard ;-).

(the most sublime work of art is human as well as the worst atrocity, everyday kindnesses and petty cruelties - like gossi says, we've got range ;)

I anticipate Echo gradually "leaking" into her imprints, doing things that Echo would do but the personality wouldn't, as time goes on we'll get to know and like/love her for who she is (and more importantly just for the act of trying to become anything) but I think character wise it may be a slower burn than previous Joss shows.

(the "what it means to be human" thing sounds good but that's what all fiction is about IMO, sometimes overtly like in 'Dexter' or Anya in BtVS or Cameron from T:TSCC and sometimes less so)
I'm very intrigued by the show's premise, but I'm not necessarily convinced we'll be watching unpleasant characters doing unpleasant things. Well, all the time anyway.

If I'm getting the vibe right from everything I've read so far, I think the central idea in Echo's discovery of her own humanity is that everyone, no matter who they are, has impulses both good and bad. For me, what makes "character", as we understand it, is determined by which of those impulses a person chooses to act upon. If your ostensible identity is a cypher, what does that actually mean? Is that even possible? If it's the psyche stripped bare, then what, beyond the most base and fundamental of our animal drives, are we left with when all other social constructs and ordinary constraints on "acceptable" behavior have been removed?

Doing bad is its own reward because it's satisfying on a purely selfish level, but doing good for its own sake comes from somewhere else. Some say altruism is pure selfishness; others say it's where humans touch the divine. Which is it? Or is it both? And what if it's your job to be morally or ethically neutral -- a job dictated by caretakers whom you've learned to trust -- when you're actually beginning to develop an independent consciousness outside the comfortable framework that's been established for you? This is the terrain I hope Joss and his crew are preparing to explore. In any case, it's really hard to wait until fall to find out!
We'll be watching unpleasant characters doing unpleasant things.

This takes courage to write and to act. As an audience I think we need to have the courage to watch, and to question ourselves as a consequence.

Is "courage" too strong a word? .. I watch BSG and Dexter too, love them both (literally the only two shows, aside from Pushing Daisies, that've caught my attention in years), but the point about them is that they make you uncomfortable at times.

We need shows like this to "hold us over the volcano's edge" and show us who we really are. And what we can become in spite of that.
Not sure that's the same as unpleasant characters MattK, Dexter for instance is very, very rarely actually unpleasant, IMO precisely because what he does makes us so uncomfortable (you have to have an access character - in the case of 'Dollhouse' it's Echo).

This is the terrain I hope Joss and his crew are preparing to explore.

Reckon it'll be hard not to explore that terrain Wiseblood, it's the heart of the show IMO.

Echo is, I reckon, a build-a-human character in the same vein as Data or Seven of Nine or Dexter or Cameron but, Joss being Joss, he has to go all nth degreey so that he's literally starting from scratch. What we have as I see it is essentially a child's growth and development into a self-aware, self-actualised human being and the most interesting questions to ask there are about nature vs nurture, why we act as we do, whether there is such a thing as a "bad seed" etc. It's almost like he's done adolescence and adulthood in BtVS and 'Angel' respectively so now he wants to peel the layers back even further, go back to first principles (get 'em while they're young, so to speak ;) and decide once and for all whether the Jesuits were right about the whole "boy until he's seven" thing ;).

(i'd expect for instance, the major stages in a child's development of a theory of mind to feature in Echo's story - so the first time she realises the "adults" are lying to her will be momentous as will the first time she lies back. Course, it depends how far he chooses to go i.e. how child-like they are, maybe their un-imprinted state is already further advanced than 3-4 years old. Or maybe he'll be Joss and just take the bits from whichever age as he needs them for the story ;)
We'll be watching unpleasant characters doing unpleasant things.

This is a Whedon/Minear show, right? It will be about pleasant characters doing unpleasant things, and vice versa. Finding a way to have a sympathetic character make a choice that is totally in character, but still painfully wrong. The irony, can't have a shadow without a light, yin and yang, the chocolate and peanut butter. (Right now, thinking of Xander in season 2, that heartbeat hesitation as he emotionally makes the wrong choice not to tell Buffy that Willow is trying to re-soul Angel.)

Up until now, I've been interested in how they will show the humanity emerging from the (robotic) dolls. Might be more interesting in how the fully human side characters are shown treating these manipulated mind-wiped humans. Could be righteous belief (the Operative), a dehumanizing attitude (almost any "us vs. them" situation), or just plain greed/evil.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2008-04-22 20:37 ]
OneTev, I was with you up until the chocolate and peanut butter thing. It seems to me perfectly possible to have chocolate without peanut butter. In fact, I do so on a regular basis.

Now peanut butter without the jelly, that's a whole 'nother matter.

[ edited by barboo on 2008-04-22 20:51 ]
Reckon it'll be hard not to explore that terrain Wiseblood, it's the heart of the show IMO.

Which is why I plan to wear a miner's helmet; likeable people or not, it's liable to get dark in there. (I guess I could have mentioned that "everything I've read so far" amounts to very little, because although I'm excited by the concept, I'm trying to stay relatively unspoiled as to specifics. So if my speculations come across as slightly/very uninformed, trust me, it's come by honestly. ;)
Oh, totally Wiseblood, i'm avoiding "sides", leaked scripts etc. like the plague so my speculations are as likely to be complete tosh as anyone's ;).

(and yep, dark. But funny dark - which usually makes the dark darker and the funny funnier ;)
barboo: I admit, got caught up in the "two different things that go great together". Maybe I should have stuck with the chocolate metaphor, where dark is good and white is evil. :-)

Wiseblood: You plan on wearing Minear's helmet? Isn't that really, really big, to hold Tim's giganimous brain? Does it have a respirator and voice synthesizer, so you sound like James Earl Jones?
All I can say is that i'm one of those folks that knows it's going to be aweseome - Joss Whedon has never done anything (at least where he had control over the final product) that I didn't think was masterful so I'm looking forward to this new show. I'm excited that he's stepping out of his comfort zone and telling stories without the "supernatural metaphor" aspect that he's been partial to.

Also i'm a huge fan of dark, dramatic television that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. I love watching television that makes you gasp for air and then go right back for more - like BSG. So if that's what this is - i'll be thrilled.

[ edited by missmuffet on 2008-04-22 21:18 ]
They start filming tomorrow! Awesome!
Considering we haven't SEEN any of the show yet (filming starts tomorrow!) I worry that some of us may be jumping the Gunn gun in trying to analyze the themes of the show so early.
There seems to be a lot of 'it's gonna be dark- real dark' conjecture. Have a little Faith faith.

After all, 'Tabula Rasa' and 'Spin the Bottle' also examined humans (and vamps) as a blank slate, and did so with style, empathy and lashes of the funnies.
Now you're talking sense.
you have to have an access character - in the case of 'Dollhouse' it's Echo

Saje, if there is one thing I've learned on Whedonesque it is that everyone have different access characters, whichever character first goes to the great Dollhouse in the sky, someone is bound to exclaim - but thats 'my' character, how could he kill him/her off.

If Dollhouse manages to mix the darkness and (sometimes) less than pleasant characters and actions of series like Deadwood and The Wire with the Jossfunny(tm) writing,it will be must see tv for me.
Yep, fair point jpr (I was going to say "But it's Echo's journey" but of course BtVS was Buffy's journey and plenty of people didn't "access" the show through her so you're totally right).

Personally i'm possibly rooting for the Janitor we may see at the end of season 1 episode 16 - will he finally get that stain out of the women's toilet floor ? And in what ways will it change him totally ? Best. Arc. Evah !
But when the Janitor is brutally killed by the big bad drowning him in the toilet bowl, will you follow the established fandom tradition and write long epic posts about how he could be brought back to life ? :)
Well, my interpretation of that event will be that the Janitor can breathe underwater and so survives but fakes his own death so he can adopt the persona 'U-Bend Man !' and go on to avenge many injustices, particularly in the area of domestic plumbing.
...But others will simply proclaim that the show reached its peak just before the drowning, and though they never watched it again, they agree with the vast majority of fans that the last 6 years of the series were garbage.
Sajes theory is clearly not canon or even authorial intent, cause a new Janitor was called and that only happens after a previous Janitor have died.
Or he's just really good at faking it ;-).

Oh of course newcj, everyone knows the third flush was when 'Dollhouse' jumped the shark. I'm maybe in the minority though because for me even before that, when they introduced the blue toilet fresheners, was when it really started going downhill.

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