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Toronto SFX 2005! James Marsters on Friday
Transcript by Melina @

Stuff in [square brackets] is paraphrased, because I couldn't hear it. [...] means I couldn't make it out at all.

Q: [something about male celebrities turning into sex symbols]

JM: I don't wake up thinking that I'm a celebrity at all. In fact, when I come into a room like this, it's a little jarring, because in my normal life I'm quite normal. And I've carefully constructed relationships that don't care about this stuff. And… it keeps my head in line. You know? Love is… Love is love, man. You just have to pay attention. To your partner. And work with her, you know? And as long as she takes some responsibility for her own orgasm, you're gonna be fine. I'll take responsibility for my orgasm! I love you baby. You ask the best questions. Yeah. That and situps. Situps help sex bigtime.

Q: I was wondering if you can confirm any type of rumor about a Spike movie.

JM: No. [...] All that's happened for me, is Joss has talked to me twice. One when Angel was still on the air. And one, about two months ago. Just checking - if he was interested, if he found a story, if I would be interested. He underlined fifty times that this does not mean we're going ahead. I just want to know if you're interested, in case I want to do it.

Q: Would you want to go through the process of dying your hair again?

JM: Oh hell yeah. Of course, yeah. All I said to Joss was that I love the role, I will do it for you… anyday, but you have five years. Because… this character was established as a 27-year-old-kind-of-looking guy. And I'm now 43. So let's just get off the dime. Because if you take away the best thing about the character, which is that he doesn't die, he doesn't age, that's so cool about a vampire… If you take that away, it's pathetic. So, I feel like that's about my time-frame to kinda match that look.

Q: I would love it.

JM: Me too! Oh yeah, I would love it too. But I really don't know. He checked with me twice, and I keep hearing rumors, but I don't know.

Q: What can you tell us about Professor Fine on Smallville?

JM: Oh, right on! Boy, I get to mess with Lex Luthor. [audience cheers] I remember on Buffy, whenever they wanted a new character to be cool, they would come and beat up on Spike. Because if he beat up on Spike, he must be very cool! There were times when I was just like, here we go again, beat up on Spike, and we got a cool guy. And that's kinda happening for Mike. He's having to undergo getting… getting topped. Not because of acting, just because of what the words are. The script is designed for my character to top him – I've done two scenes with him, and he's getting a little bit irritated [laughing]. It has nothing to do with chops. It's just the way the producers want this thing to roll. And I gota say, he's great. I never know what's going to happen when I look in that guy's eyes. Wow. And Tom is really cool. Man, if any of you have crushes on Tom Welling, go right again. [...] We don't like to believe that beautiful people can have intelligence, but sometimes, they do. And Tom is one of them. He's really, very funny, and very intelligent. Those are the two people I've worked with so far – I don't know anybody else. But I'm having a good time. And I've successfully ducked what's going on with my character [laughs].

Q: I don't know if you've heard yet, but Tim Minear has said that Joss has asked him to write a Spike movie?

JM: I hear the weirdest … ok…

Q: Tim confirmed it.

JM: Uh, is that definitely confirmed by Tim?

Audience: Yes!

JM: I think Tim is very busy with his own hit television show right now –

Audience: No...

JM: What??

Audience: [laughing] It's Over!

JM: [disbelief] There is no [justice?]. That sucks. [The show was] really really good.

Q: [something about Tim Minear]

JM: That's really kind of him! I'd work for him for 13 episodes. I'd work for him for five years. Tim is great. He's also ruthless – yeah, but in a good way.

Q: [about getting the same questions over and over again]

JM: To tell you the truth, I don't really get the same questions over and over. There are like five, that come up a lot. Like how long does the makeup take, and what is it like to kiss Sarah Gellar, and all that. But, in general, I find the questions to be very intelligent, and usually a little scary to answer. And I like that! I like danger.

Q: What did you do with your hair?

JM: I straightened it. Yeah, man… first scene on Smallville, I look like I have a wig on, cause I've got… it scabbed out pretty bad. [Awww from the audience] It was scabs all the way around the hairline, and it really took the dye that they put in… there's dye! This is Hollywood, baby! So yeah, the very first shot, it looks like I have a wig, but it's not.

Q: [what product?]

JM: I think it's [...], some white stuff… [Giggles from the audience]

JM: You guys are dirty!

Q: [something about how he feels about the new CD? And would he want new listeners to hear the CD or a live show first?]

JM: Yeah, good question! I guess I'd rather have them see the live show first. I'm about 70% happy with the CD. The other 30% I'm a little bit unhappy with it. I think that's probably true of any CD that anybody produces. It's not like I don't like the CD … it's just that it is what it is. There are a couple of songs that I feel like they don't sound like themselves. Yeah, frankly, yeah… It's a work in progress…

JM: Hi! Hello! You paid me money! I love you!

Q: What do you consider your biggest accomplishments, and biggest regrets?

JM: My biggest accomplishment is my kids. [Applause from the audience]. I hopefully don't have any regrets. I've burned myself and broken myself trying not to have regrets [laughs]. I guess I didn't brush my teeth in my 20's. That's a regret.

Q: I don't have a great question, I just want to know what your favorite color is.

JM: Green. It's mother nature's favorite color, so why can't it be mine?

Q: I just noticed you wear black a lot… [...]

JM: You know why black is so popular with artists? Because we're poor. And it doesn't show the age, or the dirt, so bad. And it looks fashionable, even though it's cheap. This is actually really really true. And so I've gotten used to wearing black as an artist, and I got a little more money, and I decided to keep doing it… I like it.

Q: Any new material, for a new CD?

JM: Yeah! You heard some of it. And I'm working on another song, which I think might be my best song. But… I'm not getting the lyrics. I've got the chorus, but I don't have the lyrics yet. It's weird, it's like you hear something through the fog. You know what it's about, and I have a feeling it's just about self pity… sometimes you just have to follow it, you know? Yeah, definitely. I've got two or three that are kind of like, on the back burner.

Q: [something about acting techniques]

JM: All that sense memory stuff… it does… it's good for stage. But there's no time in television for any of that stuff. It is go go go go go all the time. And so what I did, is, I gave my permission, I gave myself permission, to release into an imaginary world, even though I hadn't built it very well. I wasn't given the time. This is the method acting. You develop another world, a fantasy world, you can escape into. And there's a lot of techniques for making that world highly detailed. So that whey you go play house, the house is like your toy... And I found, that even if I hadn't put all the curtains up, and the chairs and all this stuff, I could still… there are certain boundaries, even if you just got the script five minutes ago, certain things that you know, and just allow yourself to believe it. And, the other thing on film is, so much is provided. You know, all your props and all your… and there's always dirt on the set, which I love. There's always dust or dirt going on. It's so funny to see a scene that's supposed to be clean, cause you know where that really was. [...] But no, that's the thing. And I think that's good. Cause I was told early on I was too intelligent to be an actor, and I think the pace of television keeps me from thinking too much, frankly. And I don't find that my best decisions come from my intellect. I think the intellect is just a cap placed on the brain, just this thin little veil, right here [touching his forehead]. And we're all very impressed by it, and it's created all this – well that and the opposable thumb – but there's a lot more going on behind it. That's what I call the deeper voices. So what I try to do, is let go of my intellect as much as possible, and let the deeper voices… speak, so that when I see the cut, I'm almost going 'Did I do that? I don't remember that! I wasn't aware of that one – wow, that's very natural! Far out.' Cause the camera will catch any artifice. Any artifice, no matter how well constructed – the camera will catch you. [?] In yellow.

Q: Are you married yet?

JM: Hell no. I have two children! What do I need a wife for? [makes a face] Men are just as good at parenting as women. In our own way. [applause] We are just as sensitive. Just as loving …[...] as women … [then something under his breath about wishing he had some help].

Q: [something whether he thinks his role on Smallville making the show better]

JM: There is no way I can answer that questions without catching it on the set on Monday. Every actor who joins a television show hopes that their contribution will make the show better. And I am fully expecting that to happen, as every actor does. [...]

Q: [something about not having a chair on Smallville?]

JM: I had a James Marsters chair day one. [applause] My manager and I fought for money, so he told me "You're going to get a really small trailor, cause we fought hard for money," and I'm like "Yeah…" Then they gave me a nice trailor. They're being really nice. And the dailies are coming out really great, and all the people are calling from LA, going "Jeez" – kind of like Buffy again.

Q: [...]

JM: Plus, you know the thing I really love about this role, is that I have a very clear objective. And I know my objective from the very beginning, and it's going to carry me through the whole season. And that was the problem with Spike. In all honesty, that character had no objective 90% of the time. I would have to make it up! Like [in Spike accent] "I came in to kill Xander again, but I changed my mind." [audience goes crazy..] "I came in for a glass of milk… I came in…I had to go to the bathroom." You know, something to get me in the door, because it really wasn't provided. So, objective, to find your objective, is like the gas pedal for acting. And if you can find that objective, and play it honestly, wham, and if you can't find it, you're kind of… mired. So I'm really happy about an objective that the audience suspects, that the other characters don't know… it's a hidden agenda of a zealot. And it's really interesting. Yeah. He's a zealot. He's, uh… Yeah… I don't want to put another term on it cause I'll piss somebody off… I can't talk about it – I want to talk about it, so much! Cause it's good, it's really interesting!

Q: [something about the Stratford festival]

JM: Stratford upon avon?

Q: No, Stratford Ontario.

JM: In Ontario. You know, I've heard, actually, that your Stratford is consistently better than the English one. Yes it is. [...] It used to be run by a guy named Michael Langham, who was the head of Julliard when I was there. Michael used to be up on the fourth floor drinking, in his bar, and that's all he ever did. I remember when he kicked me out of college, he didn't know my name. So I… I have a bit of a bad taste when I hear that name, just because of him. But he's dead now – the ultimate revenge – but you know… He drank himself to death! But I would like to, I'd like to get over that little prejudice of mine, because there's a lot of good work going on there. There's a lot of actors who live to go play there. Most American actors live to be accepted up in Stratford. In Ontario. Yeah.

Q: I work there.

JM: Oh, right on! You work there?

Q: Well, I'm an intern.

JM: Hell yeah! Right on! No, when I was an apprentice at PCPA – conservatory of performing arts - I learned more doing that, than I ever did at Julliard, just by watching good actors work. So, in my mind… right on!

Q: Are you happy with the way Spike ended on Buffy?

JM: Umm… I was not happy with the way it ended on Buffy… Because Joss came in to direct the show. And I was told that I was going to die saving the world, and I thought "This time, he's going to use me." Cause every single time Joss came in to write or direct an episode, my character was sidelined, off to a half day. And I know I wasn't part of his original, kind of thought for the show, so I kind of understood. But I really thought that when I was going to save the world, we would be working together more. And, when I got the script, it really was a day of work. So I was really kind of depressed about that. Cause it was my last chance to work with him as far as I knew. As far as Angel? Umm… I spent half the season coughing up blood. I was really sick. And when the producer decided to end the series with a big storm scene, and dump ice cold water on us for 10 hours a day – 12 hours… it kind of came to me to me, that they really didn't care if I died. And that was hard. I didn't go to the cast party, cause I was… I gave you… I gave everything. It's my job, to film whatever they think up. So, you know, I can't… And they paid me. So I can't really bitch about it. But at the same time, on the human level, that whole… When I saw the thing, I'm like "Fucking wow! That's great!" It's the only cheap way to end the season – we had no money. We had no money at all. And the writers had to come up with some dramatic scene, with no money. And that's very hard to do. So I kind of forgive it actually.

Q: [something about his vision for a Spike movie]

JM: You know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see Spike off on his own, trying to figure it out, trying to be a good person, and failing. My story outline is that Spike is off on his own, and at the start of the show, his shoes are falling apart. And he's tempted to go steal some shoes, but he doesn't want to do that, because that's wrong. So he doesn't do that, and he has one flappy pair of shoes. And… he meets a girl, and doesn't tell her that he's a vampire, because he's afraid she'll reject him. And along comes a bad guy, and kills people, and he goes after the bad guy. And through the course of the episode, he loses the bad guy; he fails doing that. He does not get the bad guy. And his girlfriend finds out he's a vampire, and rejects him, but – he finds a way to get a new pair of shoes, without hurting anybody, without stealing… and without working for it! [Laughing] If I give it over to Joss I'll be in a tutu!

Q: The one thing I loved about that was that [the finale] we finally got to hear Spike's poem.

JM: Oh, yeah, that's right! In the bar! I was like "Did I do that?" Yeah, that was fun, the poetry slam.

Q: Are there any lines that Spike said, that really stick with you, that you remember? Or is it just all a blur.

JM: Ahh, not from apathy, that I don't remember, but when you're working 12-15 hours a day five days a week, a lot of mental faculty is gone, and memory. If you hang on to your lines for that day, by the time you go to your car that night they're out of your head. And you're really thinking about the next day. All you're thinking about is "Can I memorize my lines and have a bath tonight? Before I have to go to bed?" That's the big questions. I love my bath, if I can have my bath… [laughing]

Q: Most of us probably won't be in Great Britain when you do your dramatic reading, and I was wondering if you've come up with what you text is going to be.

JM: I'm shitting my pants about that… Uh… ah… for me, if I get up on the stage, it's gotta be right. It's gotta be [...]. And I have so little time right now. I've got the material, I've got my director – it will happen, it will be good, but I haven't figured it out yet. I don't have time to look that far down the road. And it's really freaking me out, frankly. I don't want to [...] I've been bragging about being an actor for so long, you know? And I want to show it, that I can do this.

Q: I hope it's a success, because a lot of us would like to see it here, in the United States [In Canada!]

JM: I'm hoping to put something together to [...] Whew, next question?

Q: [something about a DVD, so we can see it here]

Steve Himber: No. Here's the problem why we cannot. I'll tell you why, it makes sense. Because if there are living playwrights, then you have copyright issues. If it was 100% Shakespeare, if we could do the whole thing in Shakespeare… but it's not.

JM: [agreeing] No, not at all. I'm gonna be be doing George Walker, I'm gonna be doing Steven Berkoff, I'm going to be doing a lot of living playwrights… yeah…

Q: What about a webcast?

JM: Yep. Same thing. Any broadcast at all.

Q: [Would you do a convention like this in the United States?]

JM: Yeah! Hell yeah! I have nothing against that, it's just that it hasn't worked out. It's not really that I don't want to do it in the United States, it's just that I haven't been offered it. Plus, Toronto is a nice place to come… "Come to Dallas." [sarcastically] Oh great! "Come to Denver." Ooh! Nothing against people from those places. No, in all honesty, any city that was built after the advent of the car, and its grid is laid out for cars, is not laid out for me. And I want to walk around a city. I want a city that's designed for walking. Seattle, New York, Chicago…

Q: How about Boston?

JM: Boston rocks! Been to Boston twice. Love Boston.

Q: ?

JM: I like them shaved. But I do it myself. I give that back.

Q: [asked him to repeat…]

JM: I said I like my girls to shave. But I give the same thing to them. I shave myself too. I've got a little tiny thing, that looks like a pen – it feel great. [lots of noise from the audience, obviously.]

Q: Did acting come naturally?

JM: Yeah, very much. I found out in the fourth grade. I took to it like water, and really never looked back. I was one of thoseoh so proud to be an actor… yeah [laughs]. Then you get to the point where you're a professional actor, and [...] to Los Angeles, where it becomes a job. And you realize that any given day can be awful. But then you get through that, and you realize you have a great job. Other people go to work hating life, and I get to go to work challenged and happy. Even though I'd rather be off that day… We all have to work, to eat… So you break through that, and you get happy again about your job. There is a crushing loss of that happiness, after about three or four years of professional acting, where you think you've lost your magic, you've lost your paradigm [...]

Q: [If you're on a TV show for a long time, how does it feel when it's over?]

JM: Yeah, I think that that's hard. When all of your creativity is funneled into one project, and the project ends, you have to very consciously get some more [...]. And writing. I haven't really come up with anything worthwhile, but it's fun to do. That's actually the thing that really sticks with me about being an actor. About, why did I choose this? I should've been a writer! Because writers can -- Ok, this is the thing about writers. We are bent people. If not broken. We had bad childhoods. But we found through art… we found a way to be beautiful. If only for the time… if only for the very highly… constructed moment of art, the safety of the zone when you're just doing art. And artists can find that they can be beautiful then. And that's inspirational. Because what happens to a lot of artists in childhood creates monsters, a lot of times. But these people didn't become monsters – they became artists. And it's hard for me to have to wait to be beautiful for a 5 million dollar production to mount, you know? I mean, wouldn't it be better to be a writer, and just sit down and do it? [laughing] That frustration led me to produce – I'm not going to wait for other people to cast me, I'm just gonna do it. But luckily I have my guitar, and so that's helped a lot, frankly. And then there's a lot of auditions, which are little tiny little one-act plays – a very short one-act play you perform once.

Q: What kind of music are you listening to now?

JM: I am really trying to break into John Coltrane. It's not new. But it's worth it. He's harder than Miles. It's harder to get into Coltrane. He's even harder than Byrd. But I want him. I want him as my friend. And I know he wants to be my friend, so… that's what I'm doing right now. And then… Springsteen, came out with a great album. Norah Jones is never very far away, actually. And [nick rake??] He's dead, but I love him.

Q: [Do you have plans to come to the south? Charlstown is a lovely city, etc…]

JM: Hell yeah. I don't have any plans directly now, but I've got nothing against it, at all. I'd love to go.

Q: We drove all the way from SC to come up here, so you can at least come see us.

JM: Hell yeah! And the south has got a lot of plant life! You think that's not important, but… go to Chicago! I love Chicago, but in all honesty, there's not a lot of parks and green areas in Chicago. [something about the waterfront…] Go to Seattle, and you start to appreciate ferns, and grass, and moss… But yeah, the south has got good rainfall, and good humidity, and the plants just love that. And it makes people more relaxed and happy.

Q: [something about cities in the south that are good for walking]

JM: I love those cities where cars feel out of place. Like "I'm sorry, I'm in this big huge thing, and I know the streets aren't made for me…" I love that. Barcelona is great. Like, "get out of my way".

Q: New Orleans?

JM: New Orleans. New Orleans, yeah. Hell yeah. Ok, I've got to go!