Angel and Darla: reliving the past

by Michael Gardner

We met Angel's co-creators Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt and asked if they're going to save our hero from a life of unspeakable evil...

From Cult Times #67

In front of us is Angel. Or rather, most of the key figures responsible for bringing the series to our screens. Both the cast and writers have assembled to do a presentation on behalf of the [Los Angeles] TV and Radio Museum. And during a frantic hour of searching questions and, it has to be said, a great deal of top quality larking about, co-creators Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt shared their experiences on the show.

“David and I were working on Buffy,” Whedon reminisces, “and obviously Boreanaz was on it from the start. And he clearly wasn’t working out; he’s kind of homely in the face and there was no chemistry there, so we had to get rid of him somehow…”

Kate and Angel: end of the road?Yes, but seriously… “As a performer he impressed us very much,” he continues. “David [Greenwalt] and I talked about the idea from the start, but until we came up with the idea of Angel’s redemption as a metaphor for the period in your life where instead of coming up in the world as Buffy is, you’re realizing that there’s a bunch of incredibly stupid things about life. And once we realized we had that metaphor to work with then we knew we had a show to build round such a charismatic character.”

Talking of which, Greenwalt adds: “I said we must bring Charisma Carpenter [who plays Cordelia] to that show. She’s such a great contrast to David’s dark ‘broodingness’. The rogue demon hunter…” he continues moving on to Wesley, the third full-time employee of Angel’s crime-fighting team, “It’s fun watching Alexis [Denisof] just setting those lines up for people to knock them down. It’s a matter of balancing out the show and trying to fill out all the characters.”

Nevertheless the balance still wasn’t quite right… “Our three people are possibly slightly effete, one might say,” grins Greenwalt. “We started thinking, ‘What about a guy who had a band of people fighting the good fight against vampires?’ We came up with the notion of Gunn with J August (Richards) and that worked out real good.”

But with all this wealth of angelic righteousness on offer, there has to be some terrible nastiness lurking not far away. In true sardonic style, the main agents of discord in LA are a group of lawyers. “The idea was always to do the bad guy as a sort of conglomerate,” Whedon explains. “The bad guy as just a presence, a business card – that was the idea. Number Two from The Prisoner; it’s never the same thing twice.

"But when we had these guys come along – Christian [Kane, who plays Lindsay] and Stephanie [Romanov, who plays Lilah] – we just kept saying, ‘Let’s get them again’. They just kept coming back and sort of humanizing it, so we still feel like the idea worked; we have this vast, unknowable force, but at the same time we have these two people who are so personable.”

“And Christian is one hell of a singer,” notes Greenwalt “And we’ll be getting the chance to actually see him sing on Angel in a couple of episodes...”

So, Joss Whedon, can you explain the distinction between vampires and bad people. What exactly constitutes a soul? “I can’t be too specific about souls,” says Whedon. “They are, by their very nature, somewhat amorphous. For me it’s really about what star you’re guided by. Most people, we hope, are guided by the urge to be good, to do good, to feel good, and most demons are guided simply by the opposite star.

"They believe in evil, they believe in causing it, the believe in it in the way that people believe in good. So they can love someone, they can attach to someone, they can actually do things that make that person happy. The way Spike has become on Buffy. He’s prone to more and more conflicting behaviour even though he hasn’t got a soul. But basically, his natural bent is towards doing the wrong thing, is towards creating chaos. In most humans it is the opposite and that’s how I see it. It’s kind of like a spectrum; they set off in opposite directions, but they’re all sort of in the middle.”

The latest shake-up in the world of Buffy, the aftermath of a major tragedy that dominates The Body, was deliberately contrasted with Angel's equivalent episodes.

"Talking about how much in advance and how carefully we plan things, one of the things we planned incredibly carefully was the arc of Angel would be headed into the downward spiral, and that the redemption would come on that very episode, because I thought, ‘They’re gonna need it’. So with episodes 15 and 16 we thought of each of them as a two-parter of both shows. The Buffy very light, the Angel very dark, and then switching...”

Angel UK transmission:
Season 2 currently on Sky One, Fridays 2100.
Season 1 currently late-night on Channel 4, Tuesdays / S4C Thursdays, times vary.
Images © The WB.
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction.