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March 10 2012

James Marsters talks Buffy. This is a great indepth interview. One of the best he has ever done.

Thanks to Kevin for the heads up.

What a wonderful little interview that was. :)
Fantastic :) I love how he knows about the Drusilla mini series :) I secretly wish James would write for the Buffy comics....
Great interview. Wish he'd stop saying Joss doesn't like Spike.
That was a wondrful interview, and very interesting to read. Reminds me that Masters is one of the actors that cares, understands stories, etc. I just hate it when the actor who plays your favorite character turns out to have little understanding of what their show or character is about. The smart actors, the intellectual actors, and the actors who care will always be my favorites, and the meaningbehind what they do shows in their roles.
Great interview. I always enjoy James perspective on the show.
Alleluia! You understand BTVS! Ah James, so charismatic and intellectual :) You really are something else.
Great read, it's always brilliant to hear James talk on his Buffy experience. Especially liked the part on his James idea about where Spike's popularity came from, and what Joss was trying to do when he introduced Dawn, and the bit on comic book Spike and James' input into the shaping of the character.

Really hope that James will return as narrator for the Dresden files for the next book. I started listening to the audiobooks this summer (but sadly finished them already some time ago), and James narration is absolutely amazing.

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2012-03-10 18:59 ]
I enjoyed reading JM's interview. He's usually very thouhtful when discussing Buffy.

I agree with Eddy, I don't think Joss dislikes Spike at all.
I particularly enjoyed the bit about the attempted rape scene. That really does change how I will view that scene in the future and is a great example of how a great idea can become a less-than-stellar one just by changing the gender of the characters.
Wonderful interview. the Groosalugg, I believe James Marsters is going to do more Dresden Files audiobooks - he also just recorded "The Greyfriar" by Clay and Susan Griffith, which should be out in a month or so.
Nice interview, but wow. spelling errors galore. Whoever transcribed the thing should have paid better attention to what they were doing.
Great interview - but somebody should make James read Joss interview for "Write Environment" to convince him that Joss loves Spike.
That really was a great interview. Thanks for linking it Simon.
Liked the interview. Actors getting the bigger picture of a show is as delightful as it is rare.

But can someone please explain to me the deal about that rape scene? How does changing the gender change the meaning of it? And how did this scene not achieve what it set out to achieve? Anyone?
I think the intention of the scene was more to portray Spike as feeling powerless and thinking that getting physically close to Buffy was going to solve their issues. It came across more like he just wanted to force himself on her, not try to save the relationship.

Had it been the other way around, it would probably have felt more like a woman desperately coming on to the guy in an attempt to make it all better. Let's face it: barring a scene where the man is incapacitated, it's much harder to bring across a woman trying to rape a man.

I realise that this could be construed as sexist, but I see it as a gender perception thing.
Mitholas: Oh, OK. Interesting, because I was under the impression that what you describe actually was in that scene. Maybe that's just me construing it that way, after the fact.

It'll be a while until I'll get to that scene again (not going to watch it out of context. What are you, nuts?), but I'll make a point of paying attention to that detail when it comes up. Thanks. :)
Thanks Mitholas, you explained it well and IMO not sexist at all.
I'm hoping JM's recollection about that scene is correct (sometimes you get varying accounts -- not because anyone's lying, but just because memory's like that), because that's the most graceful explanation of that deeply uncomfortable scene that I've ever seen. And his comments also explain a heck of a lot about S6. And about Dawn.

Maybe I wasn't reading closely enough, eddy, but I saw him saying that Joss didn't like Spike at the time, in S2. After that, things clearly changed: I wouldn't think Joss would write a redemption arc for a character he utterly despised.
@wldmr - I was a little confused by that part of the interview too. It certainly felt that was what was being shown during the scene to me.

Obviously, it does show him trying to force himself onto Buffy , but I never felt that Spike was actively trying to rape her. More accurately, it felt as if he just didn't understand the full implications of what he was trying to do, mainly because he was still an evil caged beast. I felt it leads quite nicely into the cliffhanger ending of the season and is the main catalyst for him wanting a soul.

I've not watched it in quite a long time though, so perhaps misremembering it. Season 6 will shortly be coming up in a re-watch I'm doing, so it will be interesting to see if I take anything else away from it this time.
What hits me in 'that scene' is not what Spike did (or rather, what he didn't end up doing) but the look of horror on his face afterwards.

Great interview. All the times I've heard him speak there's still new stuff to me here. Marvin Gaye?
Buffy as "how to care about the world once you realise how flawed it is" is probably the best description of the show I've ever heard.
The fact that he knows that Juliet is writing a Dru miniseries gets me a LITTLE too excited XD
Wonderful interview -- Marsters's love of his profession is really moving.

His comment about Joss hating vampires rings true: the popcult interest in domesticated vampires is an unpleasant thing, and a deep well of meaningful anxiety and fear is lost when vampires get cuddly or, um, sparkly. (Ken Hite is excellent on this point.) I didn't know the loverboy-Angel angle was Greenwalt's idea...it's interesting to note that Joss's big midseries 'this is how it all could end, what it all means' episode, 'The Gift,' features just one vampire who really isn't anything but hunger personified. I've always thought of that opening scene of 5x22 as Joss returning to his primal vampire mythology, to excellent effect.

(Season Two has always seemed to me to mark a shift from Joss's perspective to Marti Noxon's, in terms of where the core anxieties come from...interesting that the sexy vampires emerge only at that point. Then again, the show hit its first peak with Surprise/Innocence, so I've got no complaints there!)

JM's comments about 'Seeing Red' are fascinating.
It is cool that he seems to have as deep of an understanding of that show as anyone.

I like the idea of Joss hating Spike. I like things not going to plan.
It'd be cool if James could write a Spike-point of view arc in Season 9. Be interesting to see his perspective on what the latest edition of Spike is thinking.
And James has written Spike for Dark Horse before, so it wouldn't be completely unprecedented.
Yes, a terrific idea! He says he isn't interested for the comics because there's no way for him to add his input to what is happening for Spike, how he is seen, but he totally could. Writing for him would surely be as effective as acting him! If only...
I actually also did get the powerless bit out of Spike's scene, though I think a lot of people probably didn't. But as a man, it immediatly comes across as very violent, which makes it a lot more shocking than if it had been a woman trying to get with a man. That's why I hated that scene so much. I know what he was trying to achieve, but it feels completely different than he intended it. I felt violated as a viewer too.
Ultimately, a man is automatically going to be seen as a bad guy after that, where a woman's actions (and intentions) would be much more easily forgiven, even though they are technically no less wrong.

In any case, I will never look at that scene the same way now that I know where it actually came from. It feels more human now and less brute-ish.

[ edited by Mitholas on 2012-03-11 14:54 ]
I actually also did get the powerless bit out of Spike's scene, though I think a lot of people probably didn't. But as a man, it immediatly comes across as very violent, which makes it a lot more shocking than if it had been a woman trying to get with a man. That's why I hated that scene so much.

Semi-relatedly:

One interesting thing about the Spike-Buffy relationship is the way the two characters move between seeing each other as categories (monster, Slayer) and treating one another as people ('...you treat me like a man, and that's...'). The attempted rape in 'Seeing Red' is awful on its own (human) terms, but as the characters are also larger-than-life figures, that symbolic dimension stays present: in that scene, Spike is misapprehending his own nature and the nature of their relationship, and -- maddeningly -- backsliding in the way he sees Buffy. He loses his sense of her as a young woman in pain (which he achieves in e.g. the final scene of 'Fool for Love,' and the Glory-tortures-Spike episode 'Intervention').

That's one thing that makes the end of 'Intervention' so interesting: Buffy's heartfelt kiss and thanks feel like she's seeing Spike both as a man who was turned into a monster, and a monster rising to the moral status of a man. Like everything else about that final act of Season Five, it's shot through with all this ambivalence and not-quite-rightness -- after all, there's no way they can actually win against Glory, that's always pretty clear, and earlier in the episode Buffy's gotten the 'death is your gift' speech, which has just accelerated her ongoing collapse.

All of Season Six is as exhausted-feeling as that last movement of Season Five, 'Seeing Red' not least. That feeling that all the characters -- and the show itself -- are running on fumes. (I suppose that's why you need yet more Sarah McLachlan.) The bathroom scene in 'Seeing Red' is just one more example, in a season full of them, of a character mistaking life's tendency to continue for a need for more drama. (That's one thing I hate about the 'Andrew and Jonathan like big gestures and big stories' explanation of those characters: it's not that they like dramatic gestures as such, it's that they're shit scared of just being who they are, because they hate their 'selves.' For sad, obvious reasons, I guess.)

Anyhow my contribution to the actual discussion under...discussion...is that when, in 'Touched' (7x20), Spike tells Buffy 'You're the one,' he doesn't just mean the Slayer, and he doesn't just mean the love of his (after)life. He means both: a whole person. Just Buffy, Buffy as she complicatedly is. Y'know, cookie dough and all that.

Throughout Season Six, though, Spike swings from one understanding of her to another, and Buffy in her desperate depression does the same. They see each other wrong. Everyone does, in Season Six. But at that point there've been moments -- in 'The Gift,' 'Intervention,' 'Fool for Love,' etc. -- where it could've gone another way. Season Six is about backsliding and evasion and shortcuts and falling-into-mere-category, which is (if anything is) a sin.

Horrible as the attempted rape is in itself, it's part of a less shocking but maybe more deeply unsettling season-long pattern.

Anyhow, I never thought the scene in question lacked for compelling subtext, but I hadn't tried to word it together until just now.
I actually had read this explanation before - when asked about how the scene came to be (as opposed to his feelings about *playing* the scene), James Marsters has said this previously, as I believe some of the writers have. I agree that it was a real mistake, because rather than a woman being desperate, knowing that she cannot literally force the issue, it is a man who *is* trying to literally force the issue. I would like to know if the writers were thinking that the subtext is that, unlike a normal human man and a normal human woman, Spike on some level knows that Buffy can throw him across the room (as she does), so he can't really force the issue (as indeed he can't), or if they were trying to set up something so unforgivable that Spike feels the need to transform himself by getting a soul. It just left a miserable message, though. I love Spike as a character and was glad he remained on the show and I accepted it in drama/fantasy terms, but as a message - "Sure, you can go back to being friends with a guy who tried to rape you if he really cleans up his act," which is alas how it played on some levels - it was not one I could or can get behind. No fault of James Marsters, of course. He did a great job with the material.
Great interview.

I liked what he said about the legacy of the show
I would like to know if the writers were thinking that the subtext is that, unlike a normal human man and a normal human woman, Spike on some level knows that Buffy can throw him across the room (as she does), so he can't really force the issue (as indeed he can't)...


I'm pretty sure I've read interviews where the writers have made just this claim, that the scene's/relationship's morality is interestingly complicated by the fact that the participants have superpowers. I don't find that reasoning 100% compelling -- sounds like a dodge, or at the very least losing sight of the scene's real-world referents -- but there it is.

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