Maybe “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fans knew how James Marsters suffered for the role of Spike but I had no idea.
Between not eating to stay lean while his hair was being consumed by peroxide, it’s a wonder that he looks so healthy today or has any hair.
I interviewed Marsters when he was in Minneapolis for Wizard World Comic Con.
Before “Buffy” became popular, vampires were already on my list of theatrical themes that I no longer view. Before that, there was a time I found any turn as “Dracula” by the incandescent Frank Langella thoroughly engrossing.
Turns out Marsters is also a huge fan of Langella, who is a former companion of Whoopi Goldberg, who reportedly found Marsters fetching. The heart-palpitating details are all in here.
I was told that Marsters was a fun interview and he was, although I had to look up a lot of names that were new to me — “Dragon Ball Z”? Goku? And I guess Marsters, who did not respond to my tweet for clarification, was saying Vegeta.
Q: When you were on “Buffy” did you ever worry about your hair falling out because it didn’t like peroxide?
A: Yeah. They told me repeatedly my hair would fall out or rather they were not sure I would have hair by the end. Right on the bottle of bleach they used it said, Only do this every six weeks. Not safe to use more often. And we did it every eight days, because a vampire is dead so your hair doesn’t grow so you can’t have roots. The makeup department was really particular: There can never be roots in your hair. So for seven years we did it every episode. I agreed to bleaching when I thought I was going to die in five episodes. I don’t know if I would have agreed to it for seven years.
Q: But you’ve got a full head of hair.
A: Yeah, it’s fine.
Q: There are men who would kill to have hair like yours.
A: [Laughter] My hair didn’t care. It sloughed it off but then my scalp did not like that. I didn’t know what to do about it. It wasn’t the most glamorous part of the job.
Q: Could you keep a secret about your character’s fate as Kit Harington does for “Game of Thrones”?
A: Oh yeah. The thing I like about storytelling is I feel like I’m a con man and the audience is my mark. You guys are rubes. But as they con you into something, we are trying to con you out of something. I don’t have any problem telling lies, keeping secrets, at all, because I think it’s a good con. I’m often asked not to tell things about projects. It’s more exciting to find out when you’re watching the project than having me barf it out here in the beautiful location we are in right now.
Q: Is there anything you see on TV that’s too violent?
A: [Laugh] On my television it’s games, which are pretty violent. I don’t know. I raised my son on a hyper-violent cartoon called “Dragon Ball Z.”
Q: How old was he when you first introduced him to it?
A: Probably 7.
Q: That’s just wrong.
A: The thing is it was actually very good. I think that “Dragon Ball Z” is kind of a mature rumination on manhood. The lead character is Goku, I think a perfect man. He is goofy, he is peaceful. If you gave him a choice he’ll chase butterflies with his kids in the backyard. That’s what he would like to do in the daytime. But if you attack his family, you are toast. He is not trying to prove himself. Not trying to act tough but he will ruthlessly protect his. You have a side character called Vegeta, a short character, an overgrown boy. He creates chaos so he can prove himself. I think there too many of those walking around, they can be 30 or 40 years old. If you sit and watch anything with children especially and talk about it, it can lead to really good conversations. I think it’s when you leave them alone with that stuff they can get confused. Frankly, I think the most damaging stuff on television is commercials. It’s not so much the content of the programs themselves, it’s commercials that basically tell the audience, “You’re not good enough.” They put up a fake lifestyle that says, This is what you should be. This is how white your teeth should be. This is the kind of car you should have. This the kind of house you should have. You don’t have that. If you buy our product you’ll get one inch closer to where you should be. It’s a sick little game that they’ve been playing on us since advertising was invented back in the ’40s, I guess.
Q: Do you sit there and watch the TV commercials with him also?
A: Mute. The best button on the remote, man. Boom. “ So how’s your day?” My son is almost 20 years old now. When he was 8 years old he came to me and said, Dad, I see what you were saying. I was watching this commercial and they’re not magically delicious. Lucky Charms. It’s just sugar, Dad! I’m like, “You’re getting it. It’s a lie.” Very proud of both my kids.
Q: What does the mom say? Was she OK with the kid watching violent stuff?
A: Oh, she had no control over that. We were divorced at the time and I had him every other weekend for three days. A quarter of his time was spent with me and when I had him we did our thing. He’s not beating anybody up and he’s a very peaceful, good guy.
Q: Who is your favorite non-“Buffy” vampire?
A: Bela Lugosi. He is the only actor to play a vampire without being real thin [who] has stayed in our imagination. When I got on “Buffy” I clicked back: Who are the vampires I remember? They were all rail thin, which is something I chased the entire time I was filming: Just don’t put anything in your mouth. Bela was such a good actor he didn’t have to do that. Vampirism is a metaphor for hunger: psychological, sexual, all kinds, so you want to have that hungry look.
Q: My favorite is Frank Langella (although I now eschew vampire movies, zombies … the list is long).
A: Oh yeah. OK. Good taste.
Q: And he’s a very good writer (Langella’s book is “Dropped Names: Famous Men And Women As I Knew Them.” These are stories of his encounters with celebrities who are now dead, so no chapter on Whoopi Goldberg or Barbara Walters.)
A: Also the new … Really good actor, who is escaping me right now. Played the Green Goblin in the first “Spider-Man,” the Sam Raimi film. [Willem Dafoe]
Q: I saw Langella on Broadway in “Dracula,” and Tom Brokaw was among those in line with me to see that performance.
A: Langella is just incapable of sucking. He has never been anything but FASCINATING, every time I’ve watched him in anything.
Q: His only misstep, Whoopi Goldberg.
A: You know Whoopi made a pass at me. That’s one of my claims to fame. I went to the “Hollywood Squares”and she was like, Oh my God, it’s Spike. I was blond at that time. She was all atwitter. Her heart was going [see the video to hear the sound].
Q: I can see that.
A: That was amazing. I brag about that.
Q: Did you return a pass at Whoopi?
A: I was with somebody. I couldn’t reciprocate but I was walking a little taller that day: Whoopi thinks I’m hot.
Q: Really. I don’t know if I would be complimented by Whoopi Goldberg thinking I’m attractive. I’ve seen her in person, too, and don’t get what’s appealing about her.
A: She rocks.
A: She’s rocked for a long time. She’s just amazing. An amazing actor, an amazing writer, amazing stand-up. She’s one of the biggest talents we have.
Q: I’ve been mistaken for Whoopi Goldberg and I’ve been insulted by that.
A: [Long hard laughter.] No. They think you rock. Own it! Say, Yeah, baby you want an autograph?
Q: By whom would you like to be bitten in the neck?
A: [Laughter] I would not like to be bitten in the neck. That would be bad. [ Laughter] I would like to nibbled by my wife and I often am. She says she’d like to bite my eyeball. My wife is very imaginative. Usually it’s just a kiss. She’s testing.
Q: I was going to ask what scares you? That would scare me.
A: It does!
Q: Do any of these Comic Con people scare you?
A: Nooo. People at conventions, you’ll see people walking around with a sword in one hand and a beer in another, not accosting anybody. Everyone’s beautiful. Everyone’s kind to each other and you can be anything you want to be for a day. It is one of the most tolerant places I know of on Earth. I have more positive interactions with fans. I can’t tell you how many interesting people I’ve met. I’ve got a friend who helped design the Mars Rover who came dressed as a Wookiee. I know a young woman who works at the Hadron Collider in Switzerland. People from NASA come. I meet so many physicists and just [people with] interesting jobs. Fans seem to be intelligent and don’t take themselves too seriously, which I think is the beginning of something good. Because if you’re really smart it doesn’t matter how funny you are; if you take yourself too seriously I’m not that into meeting you.
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