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Feature: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Life at the Sharp End

Spike

Spike went from big bad to bottle-blonde boyfriend, but will he be redeemed at the end of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s final season?

Fangs for the memories, says James Marsters. The actor spent the better part of five years playing Spike, the Vampire everyone loved to hate and hated to love, on the just-concluded Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Marsters never saw any of it coming. He arrived on the set for a one-off, returned a few more times and eventually found himself on board as a regular, a fan favourite, and, shockingly, Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) beau and boffing buddy.

“From the very beginning, there was a very positive reaction to the character, both from fans and the network and people on the set,” Marsters recalls. “Joss [Whedon, series creator and producer] pulled me aside and said, ‘Don’t get too big for your britches, buddy. You are here to die. I’m trying to avoid becoming a Scooby-Doo series where a new villain comes up every week and gets killed off. So, we’re trying to develop villains that go for a little bit longer, but then do die. So, you are going to die. Don’t get too comfortable here.’ So, that’s about all the preparation I had. He once came up to me and was trying to help me understand his writing style and what he needs from his actors. What he needs is very dry, natural delivery with his writing and the writing of the writers he hired, if you comment on it at all, if the characters are aware of how witty they are, then it all goes to hell. He came to me once and said, ‘Please, a little less Lawrence Olivier and a little more Tim Roth’. That was my touchstone for quite a while. I wandered around the set for a little bit just repeating the words, ‘Stop acting, stop acting, stop it’.”

Every year, Buffy watchers were waiting for the other nail to drop. Spike just had to die, right? Marsters himself figured it was just a matter of time. “Yeah, it’s true,” he acknowledges. “We villains and secondary characters read the last page of scripts first, and we find our last line in the script and see if we’re going to die, and then, if we don’t, we can relax and read the script. But yeah, every single script, I was worried about that.” Though it was late in the game, some viewers believed that the episode Seeing Red might serve as Spike’s death knell. In that late sixth-season episode, unable to coax any expressions of love from Buffy, he attempted to rape her. “That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, that bathroom scene last year,” the actor says. “That’s probably the worst day that I can remember in my life. I don’t think that I ever want to go back to doing a scene anything like that again in my whole life, but at the same time, artistically, I’m very proud of it.”

by John Reading

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Photo © Warner Bros
Feature © Visual Imagination 2003. Not for reproduction

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Summer 2003
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