Tue
Oct 19 2010 11:36am

NYCC Panel Spotlight: How I Fell In Love With James Marsters

James Marsters at New York Comic ConI loved Spike. I loved Spike a whole lot. But honestly, the frosted hair and the vague resemblance to a heroin addict never did it for me. As much as I love Doctor Who, I have yet to watch an full episode of Torchwood, and I have no intention of watching Smallville, so Braniac is out. I love Barnabas Greeley on Caprica, but (**SPOILER ALERT** SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH) sadly he’s gone up to the Great V-Club in the Sky.

James Marsters has had a long career; one that I’ve always respected. However, I’d never seen him speak at a convention before, and I had no idea what he was like as a person. I never thought him an unattractive guy, but I also never understood why my friends wanted to be in his pants so bad.

I get it now.

Having attended the Spotlight on James Marsters panel at New York Comic Con this year, I am now in love with James Marsters, who might I add is way more attractive now that he’s older and has his natural hair color, for one important reason:

He is SUCH A NERD!

James Marsters at New York Comic Con

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting that. Yet, he is one of us, and he made it clear that he feels entirely at home at comic cons, because we are his people. The panel was simply a two-hour Q&A session; just James with a mic and the audience lining up for questions. It felt like we were all one big geeky family, and he wanted to give us all a hug. He cited a weirdness in all the characters he’s played, and he said, “All those weird characters? Those are me.” He loved looking around the room and seeing everyone in their cosplay garb, or wearing shirts affiliating them with a particular fandom, or with crazy hair, and he said that he loves cons, because they are a place where we can be completely ourselves.

He then said, “I went to my first Star Trek convention back in ’78—that just shows how old I am—but I had the pointy ears on and all of that. And I was never more beautiful in my life!”

And he meant it! That’s when he won me as a fan forever.

Buffy, Joss Whedon, and Diva Moments

There were the inevitable Buffy-related questions. Does he miss being a blonde? Absolutely not. Apparently, Spike’s hair required bleaching down to the roots every couple of days, and it was very painful. Does he have a favorite stunt he’s performed? The scene where the sun wakes Spike up by setting him on fire. And yes, that was real fire.

Then someone asked him if he’d like to talk about any diva moments on the set of Buffy. Marsters didn’t name names, but he was surprisingly candid. He was 34 when he got the role of Spike, and the rest of the cast was much younger. He chalks up any diva moments on set (and there apparently were some!) to youth, inexperience, and suddenly being given lots of money and fame.

Someone actually managed to ask him a question he’d never been asked before: With whom did you have better chemistry? Sarah Michelle Gellar, or David Boreanaz? After a moment of being stumped, James replied that he loved working with both of them, but they were very different. According to Marsters, Gellar was a technician on Buffy. She was always the most prepared, always knew her lines, was always exactly on her mark. He knew that when he had scenes with her, if there was a screw-up, it’d probably be his fault, because she was always so on the money. With that reliability, she earned his complete trust in scenes (even in scenes requiring him to wear a sock!). With Boreanaz, it was the opposite. Marsters says that Boreanaz is the kind of actor where you look in his eyes, and you never know what he’s going to do. There’s a world of options floating around in there, and to anyone not immediately in the scene with him it looks like he’s being almost too subtle, but to Marsters, he knew that Boreanaz was always working and being really creative. Comparing Gellar to Boreanaz was apparently like comparing apples to oranges, and so he couldn’t answer the “better chemistry” question outright.

However, when asked, he said he’d work with David Boreanaz again in a heartbeat, and told a story about him from the set of Buffy. It was an episode in which Spike was the star and on for every scene. Marsters was worn out, finally understanding what Gellar and Boreanaz had to do every single day. When the episode wrapped, an exhausted Marsters sat next to Boreanaz and asked, “How do you do it?” Boreanaz replied, “Horse racing.” After a beat, Boreanaz clarified that he wasn’t talking about a gambling habit, but rather that in order to get through, you just have to run the race with blinders on, keeping your focus forward until it’s over.

It was when he got to his relationship to Joss Whedon that things got strange. When someone asked him about whether he’d like to work with Joss again and what their relationship was like, he said, “I would love to work with Joss again, but I don’t think Joss has a soft spot in his heart for me.” A ripple of confusion went through the room, and so he said, “Really.” He went on to tell a story about how one day on the set of Buffy, Joss came up to him and made some comment about how actors like Marsters had it so easy because they looked cool. Marsters replied, “Well, I’m standing here in a costume you put me in, with hair I dyed for you, standing in front of an awesome set you created. If I look cool, it’s your fault!” He says he then told Joss that he’d rather have his brain, and Whedon apparently said, “Yeah, but you have those…cheekbones!” And Marsters replied, “Wanna trade?” Sounds like a cute story that could’ve been all in good fun, but the way Marsters told it led me to believe that there were other things going on, and the vibe in the audience got weird. It could be that Marsters’ sarcasm was so dry that it went over our heads. But then, when someone asked if he’d ever wanted to do a Spike spin-off, he says that he approached Whedon about it only once, and Whedon said “A Buffy spin-off about a vampire with a soul? Yeah, we’re doing one. It’s called Angel.” After which Marsters slinked away from him. Marsters kept saying things like he spent much of his time on Buffy “hiding from Joss” and that he didn’t think Whedon liked him. I would’ve thought it a joke, were it not for the sad vibe I got from him. It felt like a classic case of an attractive person upset that they’re not seen as intelligent, and an intelligent person upset that they’re not seen as attractive. Which is a shame if it’s true, because I find both Marsters and Whedon intelligent and attractive.

Torchwood, or Having Your Girlfriend Direct You Making Out With a Dude

Someone asked Marsters if he would make a good wife, thus turning the conversation to Torchwood. Marsters exclaimed, “I would make an excellent wife!” He then went on to say “There are times when I could really use a husband. If you wanna go out and make the money, go ahead! I won’t feel bad about it!”

Another fan asked who he preferred kissing, Sarah Michelle Gellar or John Barrowman, and here he had a clear favorite. John Barrowman. Not that he didn’t enjoy kissing Gellar, but apparently whenever there was a love scene she’d cover as much as possible all while he had to wear a sock! All kidding aside, though, Marsters has nothing but love and respect for Barrowman, who apparently “saved his ass” on Torchwood. There was a scene Marsters had to do involving an intense stunt, during which he hurt his leg. He knew that if he reported his injury, they’d take him out of the scene and put in a stuntman, which he didn’t want, so he didn’t tell anyone. Barrowman saw him and knew that he was injured, but rather than rat him out “for his own good,” he took him to his private doctor so that he could get looked at and treated without the producers finding out. Now that is a true bro! Marsters then said, “I would rather kiss John Barrowman than anyone else I’ve kissed on film!”

What’s awesome is that his girlfriend at the time “directed” his kissing scene with Barrowman from the sidelines. She was sitting on a stool off camera, and after every take he and Barrowman would turn to her and ask “Was that hot?” and she would respond accordingly. So, thank you, Unknown Girlfriend, for making that scene hot for all of us!

When asked if Russell T. Davies had contacted him about joining the Starz/BBC remake of Torchwood, Marsters said that Davies hadn’t called him yet, “but he will, because he’s not a moron.” I love that kind of confidence!

The Inevitable Caprica Questions, Because It’s Me

Finally, it was my turn up at the microphone, and I made sure Marsters knew that I love that he is such a huge dorkface-geekboy-nerd, and he seemed genuinely pleased by that. Then I told him what a great character Barnabas Greeley was, and asked him, “When you play a character like Barnabas, or anyone else who is morally questionable or dealing with circumstances that are troubling, do you ever use that as a springboard to discuss certain issues with your children?” (He has a 13 year old boy and a 14 year old girl.) Marsters said that this is one of the great things about television, that it can be used in this way, and he hopes that parents do use shows as a way to actually talk to their kids about the world. At the same time, he said, his kids don’t care about Caprica, or Smallville, or any of the other shows he’s done. He had trouble getting his daughter into Buffy, and his kids are really into Twilight. The entire audience groaned at this. Marsters was very diplomatic and said “not that there’s anything wrong with that…”, but the look on his face clearly read that there’s EVERYTHING wrong with that.

Then I asked him, “If you had a holoband, would you use it? And if so, what would you use it to do?” He said that he hoped he wouldn’t use it. He then went on to say that the entire point of Caprica is that it’s showing us what’s happening in our world right now, the tendency toward immediate gratification and sensation over intellect. He hopes that Caprica will go on to many more seasons, but he also understands why people might not latch onto it. It’s a difficult show to watch, because it’s basically asking us to watch how morally bankrupt and horrible we can be. However, Marsters feels that this is exactly why we need to be watching a show like Caprica, so we can come away from the brink.

**NOTE: You know, I recently did an interview with Sasha Roiz (Sam Adama on Caprica) and asked him the same question. He, too, got all morbid about it, linking the holoband to the downfall of society! Come on, guys! Where’s your sense of fun?! For the record, I would use a holoband to have lots of crazy, meaningless sex with all sorts of people in a way I wouldn’t in real life. And also I’d use it to be really good at something like krav maga. And perhaps the krav maga would lead to the crazy sex-having. There, see? This is not a difficult question! END NOTE**

And in one final burst of awesome, Marsters ended the panel with a song; one he wrote on the set of a cowboy film he did. You can see the performance here. I have to say, I love his country voice!

And I also love James Marsters. He and I need to be BFF, like, yesterday. If for no other reason than that we both agree that in the question of Cavemen vs. Astronauts, it depends on the environment.

*Dammit, Jim! I’m a writer, not a photographer! Sorry for the quality of the photos. My camera was having issues throughout NYCC.


Teresa Jusino was born the same day Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a freelance writer in New York City who is a regular contributor to websites like ChinaShop Magazine, Pink Raygun, and Newsarama. In addition to her geeky online scribblings, she also writes prose fiction and screenplays. Teresa is the author of a chapbook of short stories called On the Ground Floor, and she is working on a webseries called The Pack, coming in 2011. She is also the last member of WilPower: The Official Wil Wheaton Fan Club. Get Twitterpated with Teresa or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

10 comments
Foxessa
1. Foxessa
You should maybe take a quick tutorial operating your camera in low light, bright light, the difference in photographing faces, faces of people of color, and so on. Your photos would then have value! I mean this in the nicest way, from experience.
Foxessa
2. njzynj
Thanks for this insight into one of my favorite character actors. Love Spike, Love Marsters.
Teresa Jusino
3. TeresaJusino
Foxessa @1 - I know! :) I'm horrible at taking photos in general, but my camera also stopped working properly at NYCC. It would take three pictures and shut down, or the settings wouldn't do what I wanted them to. I really just need a new camera!

njzynj @2 - You're welcome! It was such a great panel, and he truly is an actor worth following. Seems like a really great guy.
Ashe Armstrong
4. AsheSaoirse
James always seemed like a total blast to hang out with and everytime I've seen him in this kind of light or environment, it just further cements that. Nicholas Brendan and Seth Green always seemed that way too.
Leilani Cantu
5. spanishviolet
Thanks for the great write-up! He seems like his anecdotes would all be fascinating.
Foxessa
6. cooljacque
A couple of corrections, or further info. The girlfriend who was there at the kiss is now his fiance, Patricia. His son is 14 and his niece (that he raises) is 13. Great writeup and enjoyed it very much. I too love James.
Ruth X
7. RuthX
I adored his characters but didn't get the appeal of him as a person from interviews. It wasn't until I saw a video of him on a small Torchwood panel (sans Barrowman & Myles, so more space for others to talk) that I really got why some people love him so much IRL. Seems like a sweet funny guy. :)

Speaking of holobands/internet, I saw an interview not too long ago where he said that he'd tried googling himself back in the day & found it so addictive that he had to stop.
Skip Ives
8. Skip
Marsters is also the voice on the Dresden File's audiobooks. His voice is perfect for the part, and he gets the geek references in the text.
Foxessa
9. cooljacque
I got into the Dresden books because of James. By the way the ring he is wearing is an engagement ring that Patricia gave him.
Teresa Jusino
10. TeresaJusino
cooljacque @6 - thanks for that! He didn't specify niece, he just said he "has two kids" so I assumed the girl was
his, too. That's even cooler though. Also re: the "girlfriend", he said "girlfriend at the time" which led me to believe it was an old girlfriend. Would've helped if he would've said "then girlfriend, now fiance!" :) But all this is awesome to know. I really like him a bunch!

skip @8 - Yes, there was some Dresden Files talk, too. He mentioned that he'd love to play Dresden in a movie, but he knows he doesn't look the part at all. :)

I should get into the Dresden Files. Sounds like something I might like!

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