James Marsters was one of the guests at Comic Con Amsterdam 2016 last August. When they announced him as a guest I was quite happy. James is mostly known for his role of the blonde, English vampire Spike in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spin off “Angel”. But he is also known from “Smallville” (as Brainiac) and “Torchwood” (Captain John Hart).
I’ve always watched “Buffy” and Spike was one of my favorite characters. This is because he is a true villain (and you know I like the bad guys), but he also has kind and funny side. Spike was intended to make a very brief role in “Buffy”, but he grew out to be one of the most popular characters in the show. This prevented the character of Spike from being killed off. When Cordelia was moved to the spin off “Angel”, Spike replaced her as a regular in the fourth season (and he stayed until the end of the show). Although I liked the character of Angel (David Boreanz), I’ve always liked Spike more. Angel is kind of dull, whereas Spike rebellious a lot of fun. So yeah I was on “Team Spike” (lol).
Back to Comic Con. It was announced that James would do two Q&A’s during the weekend and that were payed ones. We bought our tickets in advance, so we were sure we wouldn’t miss it.
We’d already spotted James (and his thermos of coffee) multiple times on the first day (Saturday). The first time we saw him, we did not recognize him immediately. I know James as the blonde Spike and one way or another you expect him to look like that (lol). I decided I wanted an autograph of James, but there was a constant line at his table and there’s just never enough time! We decided to upgrade our Sunday ticket to Early Bird and that gave me my window of opportunity. It was not crowded at all and I stepped up to the table.
I was quite nervous when I shook his hand, but within seconds the nerves went away. Why? Because James Marsters is a great guy. He immediately asked me how I was and he said he had a good night’s sleep. I said I hadn’t slept that well, but a good cup of coffee gets me going. Apparently we have that in common, because at that moment he grabbed his thermos from underneath the table and said “This is my coffee, the cure for jetlag”. I answered that coffee is the cure for a lot of things and he agreed and said he loves coffee. Same here! I asked him what he thought of Amsterdam. He said it was his third time in Amsterdam and that he always loves it. He says the people are very relaxed. And he talked about how he likes “walking cities”, like Amsterdam. Cities were the grid was laid, before the cars were introduced. He likes it because in these cities people seem to be enjoying each other a lot more. This in comparison to “American” cities. They are designed for cars and people communicate with each other a lot less. He thinks New York, Seattle and San Francisco are great btw, but in other cities people are just passing each other without any form of communication. We also talked about the amount of bikes in the city and how he thinks this amount grew since his last visit. He says he thinks that’s a good thing, but it can be dangerous if you are not used to it. I agree, because I am from the south of the Netherlands. We have a lot of bikes there too, but the streets are different. In Amsterdam there are a lot of canals and narrow cobblestone roads and bikes come from every direction as well as trams. It can be very overwhelming (lol). He said he was terrified. We chatted, while he was signing my picture and it was really cool. Like I said he took away all my nerves and was so kind. I was over the moon.
James started his Q&A with the announcement: “You guys can ask me anything that you want. You can try to embarrass me. No one’s been able to do it, so apparently I’m shameless. So bring it!” The interviewer pitched in on it by saying he met James before and he’s right.
So let's talk some James Marsters facts (we learned at his Q&A’s):
- When asked which Spike he enjoyed playing the most (with a soul or without a soul), he answered he liked the evil Spike. He says being a hero is a lot of work. You have to save people all the time and you feel guilty, because you can’t save ‘em all. When you are evil you just have to lurk. You just have to wait for the hero to come along and then you come out and hit him. It is a lot easier to play a villain.
- When asked who he would like to meet and pay a ticket for to hear him talk, he answered he met all of his heroes. He said that when he was growing up he had Spock (Leonard Nimoy) on his wall and he met Mr. Nimoy in the green room at a convention once. “The poor guy was like 75 years old and I was like (starts to scream): Hi I love you, I love you, I love you! He just wanted to close his eyes for 5 minutes, he was the nicest guy. So he would have been it, but I met him and I blew it. So later on whenever I met Leonard I would just turn on my heel and be like: No, I’m gonna leave him alone!”
He would also like to meet Francis Ford Coppola and ask him about “Apocalypse Now” (one of his favorite films, the other one is “Singing in the Rain”). He doesn’t like “Redux”, but the original cut.
- He also talked about the difference between “stage-acting” and “Hollywood-acting”. He says on stage the actor is like the chef. He has to do everything and is in complete control. You are the one that chops the celery (the rest like the script, the costumes are all just ingredients). But in LA you are just a piece of celery, to be chopped up by the editors. He had a lot of trouble with that loss of control when he first came into acting on television. So when they asked him to write a (Buffy) comic, he was glad, because he could take back control. He wrote an insane love story between Spike and Dru and he’s proud of it, because it is one of a kind in the “Buffy” comics. But at first he wasn’t, because he intended it to be a love story and thought the drawings were too ugly to make the point. More recently he wrote “Spike: into the light” (2014). It’s about Spike trying to figure out what to do with his life after he receives his soul.
- When he was asked about his travels and what places he liked the most, he said he traveled the whole world, but did not see that much. This is because he is always working. And when he goes out to do some sightseeing or partying his work suffers. He likes to be fit when he is on a convention and when he is filming he works 12 to 15 hours a day. So he has seen a lot of hotel rooms. But he loves Barcelona, Seattle and Amsterdam.
- He also did voice work for the audiobooks of the book series of “The Dresden Files” (a detective novel with a supernatural bent). He liked doing that, because most of the characters are European and he likes doing European accents. He also did the voice work for the audiobooks of the book series “The Vampire Empire”. He had to do a Japanese guy and he did not know how to do that. So he looked up a Japanese accent at the internet and he used that. After a few words they interrupted him and told him he was doing a Chinese accent. He had prepared nothing else, so he had to improvise and somehow he thought of Mojo Jojo from “Powerpuff Girls”. So he used that vice to do the Japanese character and it worked. He was even up for an award for that one.
- He finds it hard to do a kissing scene, because it is not romantic at all and you have to keep track on a lot of things, like not ruining the shot or not getting in the light of your opposing player. His first kiss with Buffy took 14 takes to get it right, so that kind of ruins the romance of that moment.
- When asked who is the better kisser between Sarah Michelle Gellar and John Barrowman, he talked about a fight scene with John Barrowman in Torchwood. First they kiss and then they beat the hell out of each other. Because they both come from stage acting, they want to do most of their stunts themselves, but to do this you have to really trust the other person (because you can get really hurt). James says he trust Barrowman on a deep level, so he’d rather kiss him than anybody else he has ever kissed in his life (lol).
- “Buffy” co- star Anthony Head (Giles) taught James to do Spike’s English accent. At first his accent was more like a New Orleans accent and that irritated Anthony on such a level (he is British) that he taught him how to do a proper English accent.
- When he first came to L.A. he had don tons of plays and he thought that would be a good thing, but it actually isn’t because stage acting looks fake on television. He says he played a lot of nerd roles in his early television roles. When he played “Macbeth” on stage, he had a small role in “Northern Exposure” and he was pretty nerdy. He says it was kinda strange to play a nerd during the day, while in the evening he was acting with a broadsword and a lot of blood on stage. At that time he did not care what he was cast for, because he just needed the money to pay for the diapers of his new born son.
- James is in a band called “Ghost of the Robot” and he even did a song, during his Q&A. Check it out!
- James is a prominent protagonist of women’s rights, he calls himself a feminist. He really believes in “No means No”. He also talked about how his co-star on Torchwood, John Barrowman gets away with murder with women, because he is gay. So on one of James’ first days on set John was fooling around with Naoko Mori, but she didn’t seem into it that day. John wouldn’t stop, so James told Naoko to sneeze, so the back of her head would hit John’s nose. He also told her how to use her elbow to hit him in his solar plexus and how to smash the little bones in his feet with her heel. He said everyone was looking at him like he was a psychotic mad man. Because what James didn’t know was that this was normal and they were the best of friends. John wasn’t offending Naoko at all, he was just waking everyone up. James says that first day was humiliating, but he became the best of friends with John later.
- He doesn’t like to talk about Spike’s attempted rape scene with Buffy. He cannot watch scenes where women or children get attacked and he always turned down roles in which he had to play a molester. But when he said yes to the role of Spike he did not know that this would be in the script years later. So when he had to do this, he had a lot of trouble with it. He says he was a wreck.
James Marsters turned out to be a very interesting and kind person. I really loved meeting him and I would recommend everyone to pay him a visit on a convention. He loves to play villains on screen, but he is a great guy in real life. I sure hope to drink a cup of coffee with him some time in the future ;)