Sask Expo 2016 Preview: An Interview with Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s James Marsters

Gather your capes and cowls, Sask Expo returns September 17 & 18!

This weekend’s Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo is gearing up to be something special.

We can’t contain our excitement for this year’s media guests which include Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, Slytherin bad boy Tom Felton and Stranger Things actors Shannon Purser and Randall P. Havens. Between cosplay, Star Wars trivia, collectible shopping and snapping photos with celebrities, this is going to be one action packed weekend!

Joining the media guests is James Marsters, who’s famously known for his role as Spike, the punk rock vampire from Josh Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. After binge-watching Buffy on Netflix we eagerly talked to Marsters about Buffy, his band Ghost of the Robot as well as his exciting new film and TV projects:

Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Ominocity: What did you enjoy most about your time on Buffy/Angel?

James Marsters: Working with the writers. Joss is not only a fantastic writer, but he recognizes good writing and hired nine of the best writers on the planet. They’re all writing and show running their own shows now and doing great things — Oscar nominated even. They’re producing Daredevil and Caprica and the list is so long. But I got to work with them when they were young and hungry, and you can’t beat that. There are fantastic things that happen when there is that much talent focused on one show.

OM: When Buffy ended and you became a regular on Angel, did you approach playing Spike in the same way?

JM: Yeah. He was the same character, but I guess the biggest difference is that Spike wasn’t in love on Angel. It was all great, but I loved playing Spike before he was in love with Buffy, because he was just really mean, and that was really delicious to play.

OM: Are there any actors from the Whedon Universe you’d like to work with on future projects?

JM: Yeah. Every single one of them. I can’t think of an actor I wouldn’t want to work with again. Joss hires really nice people. So yeah, I would absolutely work with any of them again. Especially Tony Head. He taught me most of what I know about film acting.

OM: Do you ever wish Spike would have booked a gig at The Bronze?

JM: *Laughs* Wow I’ve never thought about that. It honestly never crossed my mind. We were playing pretty big shows around that time — rooms that were 2,000 people plus. The Bronze didn’t hold that many people. I think we would have broken the Bronze.

OM: What would Spike’s favourite punk band be?

JM: Pistols. Definitely. I think he’d also enjoy Dead Kennedys as well.

OM: What’s next for your band Ghost of the Robot after releasing Bourgeois Faux Pas last year?

JM: We are in the process of recording our next album. We’re actually debating doing a double album, because the great problem we have is that we have too many songs. It’s such a struggle to narrow down for a single album. Then again, it’s a lot of work to record (essentially) two albums, so we’ll see what happens. Definitely more music coming.

OM: Your new movie Abruptio has a pretty great thriller premise but will be done entirely through puppetry. Can you tell us any more about that?

JM: That was a script I was sent maybe 9 months to a year ago. I read it and I was horrified, honestly. I thought — this is too far, too much. It was grotesque and I thought there is no way I can do this movie. But then I re-read the details at the beginning and I had missed that it would be done with puppets. Suddenly it was strange and wonderful.

One my favourite movies was Team America — and you know, they got away with murder in that movie because it’s puppets.

Plus, my job was really easy! I did the voice for the lead character and I didn’t have to manipulate the puppets or any of that. I can’t wait to see my puppet! I actually can’t wait to see it all come together.

OM: As a kid I had all the time in the world to play video games but no money to buy them. Now as an adult I can buy every game I want but rarely find time to play them. Can you tell us about ViDiOts and how you make time to play video games?

JM: That was exactly my experience! I spent one entire winter just with Mario Bros because that was all I could afford – and that was enough!

How do I find time?

I get to go to conventions all around the world now, pretty regularly. And I travel with a guy named Mark. If you come see me at Saskatoon Expo, you’ll meet Mark. And Mark is one of the funniest guys. He might be the funniest guy. And he is awful at video games. After a long day conventioning we go back to the hotel and play video games. He is not great, he’s running into the walls and when the monster comes he’ll freak out. And it’s hysterical.

One day we were playing Assassin’s Creed: Unity, in Paris, which is a game set in 1700’s revolutionary France, and I just had this moment looking out the window like — what are we doing? I said to Mark, “We’re playing a game set in Paris, but we are IN Paris. We should go outside. We’re idiots.” and Mark said ” We’re Vidiots.” and that became the name of the show. We started filming on that trip.

And it’s evolved because we get to see all these friends at conventions around the world, celebrities at conventions — some famous FOR gaming, so it’s easy to ask them to come back to the hotel room and game with us for the show.

We both loved the Ricky Gervais/Karl Pilkington show “An Idiot Abroad”.

The show is part gaming, part behind-the-scenes of our convention experience, and just two Americans wandering the world being stupid.

The trailer is online now and it will be released via Amazon at the end of September.

We’ve been showing it to our friends, some who are gamers and some who are not and they loved it. We’ve gotten great feedback. Actually my wife gave me the best review. She said, “I know I’ve said that you play too many video games. I was wrong.” Which was the best day of my life. Best day of my marriage. That was all I needed.

OM: Do you have a favourite retro game? Xbox vs Playstation? Nintendo vs Sega?

JM: For me — Resogun. I’m 27th in the world at that. Mark hates it, I think because I’m so good, so he’s constantly trying to trip me up when I’m trying to go for a record. Mark would answer Division.

Xbox vs PlayStation — they’re really the same. Frankly, I don’t know the technology well enough to really tell the difference. I travel with a PlayStation and play that.

Nintendo vs Sega — really can’t choose. I love to have my cake and eat it too, and have more cake for later. But If I HAD to choose — I have to go with Mario. I’m with Mario.

OM: One last question, do you ever miss the platinum hair?

JM: No! No, no, no no. That was not the fun part. Vampires are dead, so they can’t have growing hair, growing roots. Right on the hair dye box the instructions said “Don’t use any more frequently than once every six weeks”, and we were re-dying every eight days. For six years. And they were honest with me — they said, “you may not have hair left at the end of this.” I did have hair, but it was the scalp that was the real problem — re-applying the bleach when I hadn’t really recovered from the last time. That hurt and that wasn’t fun. But I was up for it. I thought, I’ve got cool hair and they’re not going to kill off the guy with cool hair. That was the character, so no complaints.
James Marsters

Want more Spike? James Marsters will be performing in concert at the official Sask Expo after party at Louis’ on Saturday, September 17. Fingers crossed that he plays some tracks from Once More, with Feeling!