Of Vampires and Ghosts (of the Robot): A Talk with James Marsters

Former Buffy star talks about comic-cons and earning respect as a rocker

August 09, 2013|Elliott Serrano, for Redeye

When the Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con takes place in Rosemont, IL this weekend, the convention will be sporting stars of comics, television and pop culture. Among them will be James Marsters, who is known for playing the role of “Spike” on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and the Buffy spin-off “Angel.” In addition to appearing at the event, he will also be playing with his band “Ghost of the Robot” in a very rare appearance in the Midwest.

Prior to his trip to Chicago, Marsters spoke with me about his role on Buffy; what he loves about comic-cons; his band Ghost of the Robot; and what his teenaged daughter thinks about the Twilight series:

(The following is the unedited transcript of the interview that ran in REDEYE August 8, 2013.)

Geek To Me: It’s been ten years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been on the air. What’s the first thing you think of when someone says “hey it’s been ten years since Buffy’s been on the air?”

James Marsters: I think, man I look really good! [laughs] I think man, everyone should go and order the Cindy Crawford moisturizing line like I do. It works great.

Whenever I hear anything about Buffy the Vampire Slayer I just feel very lucky to have been part of it. I came to Los Angeles with my nose in the air, having come from theater. I only came down to L.A. because I became a father and actually had to try and make money acting. And I came down here willing to be Alf’s sidekick. Willing to be the new Urkle. I really didn’t care. I had already proven myself to myself about acting and I was coming here to sell myself like a whore if I had to. And I ended up doing a series that I’m very proud of, that I think had some of the best writing that I’ve ever had in my mouth. 

It’s kind of hard to remember back ten - it’s been seventeen years since it started - but back then it wasn’t so common to have a female character that didn’t need help taking care of herself. And as the father of a sixteen year old - who hates the show by the way, she’s a Twilight fan - nevertheless, I think it started a whole lot of new thinking about female characters and stuff.  About empowering half of the population.

I think I got nine writers, who are all scattered to the winds in Los Angeles, all show runners, executive producing  television shows. They’re all very powerful. But I got them when they were all poor, hungry and in the same room together, working on scripts. And I think it’s amazing that Joss found that much undiscovered talent and got them all in the same room. And I definitely benefited from that. I really feel that I stood on tape, where they told me, got the lines right, and they made me look very good.

Geek To Me: I have to follow up on your daughter being a fan of Twilight…

James Marsters: The books. In her defense, the books!

Geek To Me: And you yourself have played a vampire that had a questionable relationship with a woman-

James Marsters: [laughs]

Geek To Me: Have you ever said “hey, I’ve been there, you know. You should know better.”

James Marsters:: [laughs] She just really feels that vampires are not supposed to be evil, and does not buy it when they behave in an evil way. So the kind of ambiguity of Spike’s behavior does not sit well with her at all. She’s like “be a gentleman for God’s sake!”

Geek To Me: You’ve done a lot since then, of course. You have a role on Warehouse 13, correct?

James Marsters: Yeah, that is a fun gig. A lot of good people there.

Geek To Me: As far as the show goes, how do things sit with your character?

James Marsters: I am coming back on the show. I’ve just gone through all sorts of drama with Anthony Head, - I hope that hasn’t shown, or maybe it has recently shown - the two episodes around Anthony’s character, who plays my older brother, and a real jerk I may say so -

Geek To Me: [laughs]

James Marsters: Not Anthony, the character. And I just had a marvelous time. I’m not sure what the future holds but I haven’t pissed anybody off yet, so if there’s a future I think I’ll be part of it.

Geek To Me: When you go to a convention - like Wizard World - what is it that you look forward to the most?

James Marsters: I look forward to meeting someone that I may have met a few years ago, who was new to conventions. And I always give them the same advice, which is meet people. There are very little places left in our culture where we come in large numbers to talk to each other. We’re all online or we’re in our cars, or we’re just with our families. But to be with the people, with a common interest where you could strike up a conversation with people that you don’t know, that’s becoming I think too rare.

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