Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
James Marsters ended the week of his 50th birthday at Fan Expo Canada, in a room filled to the brim with fans. Beside him was fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer co-star Juliet Landau, who talked about kicks to the head, Emmy nominations and new comic book ideas.
Marsters played fan-favorite Spike, a vampire who starts off as the villain but soon comes closer to being an antihero. Landau, originally a professional ballet dancer, was cast as his lover Drusilla. The crowd cheered for the actors at every opportunity, despite having not seen them in their most famous roles for eight years.
The question-and-answer session was all about special moments on the cult series, referring to specific episodes and scenes. For instance, fight sequences: Landau said she enjoyed fight choreography because of its similarities to dance. However, she had to admit, those fights certainly had their mishaps.
During the Season 2 finale of Buffy, Landau had to fight actor Bianca Lawson, who played a Slayer called upon following the death of Buffy Summers at the hands of the Master. Rehearsals went poorly, as parts of Landau’s costume would break off mid-bout, but those mishaps were nothing when compared to the kick to the face she received in the first take.
“The next thing I know, I see this huge combat boot. I was thinking, ‘It’s not going to hit the mark,’ but then it comes up to my head, and boosh!” Landau said, slapping her hands together. “I don’t want to ruin the take, so I keep going. I grab her by the throat and backed her into the wall. … I went, ‘Bianca, never fucking do that again.’ And that’s the take they used.”
Marsters recalled going to the Emmy Awards ceremony in 2000, when Buffy was nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (for the episode “Hush”), up against series like The Sopranos and The West Wing. Marsters didn’t have high expectations, and thought the series would lose simply because of its name. “We’re all at the table, the writers, actors and all the others,” he said. “The man comes out with the envelope and goes, ‘And the winner is!’… Everyone at our table says in a perfect chorus, ‘West Wing!'”
And they were right. The show was never nominated for another writing Emmy.
Since the end of Angel in 2004, Marsters has gone on to appear in such genre series as Torchwood, Smallville and Caprica. Landau returned to the stage, and has since starred in independent horror movies like Toolbox Murders and Hack! And while they can’t return to the roles of Spike and Drusilla – they’re too old to play ageless immortals – Buffy and Angel continue to be a big part of their lives.
Middle age hasn’t kept them from being involved in the franchise’s comic book side, however. Landau co-wrote two issues of IDW Publishing’s Angel, a continuation of the Buffy spinoff series. She explained that she intends to write a five-issue arc, but movie work keeps her busy.
Marsters wrote an arc of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic from Dark Horse, but said he didn’t like the editing or the art. Still, this year at Comic-Con International, he pitched a story about Spike’s tiniest victory to the publisher: Spike, without a home or a job, and feeling too guilty to use his powers against innocents, would be stuck on the street. His only escape, without turning to actual work, would involve taking money he hid underneath the floorboards of a Chinese shoe shop a century earlier. Spike would try tricking the owners, would try to defeat a demon plaguing the home, and when all else failed, would try kindness, and let the owners know that they’re sitting on thousands of dollars.
“The Chinese lady then tells him, ‘Oh, thank you very much! Now get out,’ and kicks him out into the street,” Marsters said, explaining that then the husband would run out and give Spike, who has torn clothes and broken shoes, a pair of boots. “So he loses the fight … but he gets these boots, without hurting anyone.”
The audience roared in response. He then added, “Of course, now no one is going to buy the comic book.”