We bumped into Steve Himber, James’ manager, in the dealer’s room, and he told us that James was going to do autographs and photo ops before his panel, because he had to leave the convention early to catch a plane to London and he wanted to give fans as much time as possible. You probably remember, that was the weekend of the terrorist incidents in the UK, so airport security was extra tight, both over there and for international flights here. Word got out about the change in schedule, and everything was dandy.
After some shopping (including the amazing Watcher’s Guide Box Set ), it was time for the charity auction, benefiting partially Gentle Barn (an animal charity in Santa Clarita, CA). The main item going up for auction was a Schechter guitar complete with a Coffin Case, signed by everyone who’d attended either Fangoria LA or Fangoria NJ this year. Much to our surprise, James (still stoked from the energy generated at his shows the previous night) jumped on the stage, got the damn thing connected and delighted us with an impromptu cover performance of Nirvana’s “All Apologies.”
As he was waiting for the monitor to be connected to the guitar, he complained that his fingers hurt, and Adam, from Creation, who was in charge of the auction, told him it was “because you rocked out too much last night, man. It’s the hazards of being a musician.” After that, he waved and waited to meet his fans at autographs while other panels were taking place. Soon after, it was time for photo ops and then, the final panel.
Nobody can accuse James Marsters of not being gracious to his fans. Admittedly, not many people would have switched things around to do them earlier than expected in view of his travel plans so the fans would be happy. But since he’d said Friday that “it’s his job” and “not giving a part of yourself to the fans is a rip-off”, there he was, as energetic as he’d been the previous two days, ready for our questions.
He opened his panel by stating that he feels “comfortable at conventions, because I used to come to these things too, in my “Star Trek” outfits, with the ears glued on and all, like the freak that I am. So, I’m one of the freaks, and proud of it.” This statement was greeted with thunderous applause.
It was time for questions, and once again, people didn’t get the whole “walk to either side of the stage and use the microphones, so everybody can hear you” concept, but luckily it was brought to the staff’s attention and we didn’t have to suffer for long.
The first question was who’d win and why in a fight between Puppet Angel and Puppet Spike. James chuckled at the question and said he thought Spike would win, “because Angel is at a point of peace in his life, and Spike would fight dirtier. Angel would try to win without truly hurting Spike, and I think Spike would try to kill Angel. I think Angel is more mature and further along in the journey towards redemption than Spike, who’s just taking baby steps… and probably will pick up a knife.” He then added that Angel is not a wimp, “and neither is David. When we were shooting that fight scene at the theatre, he had knee problems and had just had knee surgery. He was literally walking like this (mimics slow, limping steps) and they had him doing spinning kicks and stuff, and I was bowing down to him. I have a lot of respect for him.”
The next question was related, since James was discussing injuries, and inquired about his own health. James said he’s lived life as if he were a disposable Q-Tip. He elaborated he worries about “how many more years of pretending to be youthful I have, because I’ve done a lot of damage. If I exercise, I’m good; if I don’t, I get creaky. On “Angel”, I did a lot of my own stunts, and I could barely walk. I was crawling to the chiropractor across the street, and people almost run me over!” He said he’s now better and can jump, “and I’m also smarter too, because I’d let the stuntman do his job. There’s no need for it; let Steve Tartalia make me look good.”
Then James was asked what he likes to do when he’s not working, and replied he likes to “play videogames.” Making allowances for the fact that he can’t speak for women, and women gamers, “We came from a hunter-gatherer society, where as a man I’d hunt, and the women would gather, and nature made the gatherers very fine. But there’s nothing for the hunters to do, nothing! And if you actually want to hunt something for real? (gasp) We’re evil! Videogames are the last place for man to be a violent, horrible person!” This got him the cheers of the several men present. He added he also likes to “watch CNN, Discovery, History,” and went into a very nerdy explanation of fusion reaction and the problems with it, mimicking the way the scientists are trying to achieve it by using hydrogen, which may cause the reactor to blow up after eight seconds. “They could use a new fuel, Helium-3, which burns clean, only problem is, Helium-3 doesn’t exist on Earth, but the Moon is full of it. And that’s why Bush wants to go back to the Moon, and where the next energy will come from.”
James really liked the next question, which was, if he had the ability to view the future or the past, which would he choose? “I’d like to see the future so I could see how to impact it, but I’m afraid I’d wuss out.” He added there seems to be hope for the future right now, but that he’s afraid “because I’ve got kids.” He thinks things might be “pretty sucky when I’m 80 y.o. but I’m gonna die anyway when the planet is going, ‘Never mind, guys!’” He stressed the reason he needs to look into the future is his children “so I can tell them what state they need to move to. Everyone, buy Alaskan real estate now!”
It was my turn at the mic, and again I brought things over to “Shadow Puppets,” as Michael Winnick had told us in his interview about Tony Todd being afraid of going down some tunnels in the mental institution used as part of the sets in the movie. James said it was “The nastiest shoot I’ve ever been in.” He explained about the movie being a low-budget film, and that they couldn’t build sets that were scary as result. “If you build sets, everything is sterile and you know that even the chunky stuff you step in is not gonna give you disease, but they took us to the dankest, dirtiest holes they could find, and we were all barefoot, in underwear. So there&rs
quo;d be things crawling over our feet, and glass and… rats running around. I don’t think Tony was scared so much as disgusted!” He added that Tony “ripped me off! I love the guy, but I gave him a videogame for this PSP and I never got it back.” James went on to praise Tony Todd, because “he can bring it. He can turn it on and off, and he’s such a nice guy… And also, fighting with Tony was wonderful, because he’s a huge guy and I had just been through a previous fight scene where I hadn’t had a good person opposite me, and it got a bit dangerous because the stuntman was abusing me. Then Tony came in, and it was much better. He’s a true professional. I like that guy a lot.”
The next fan, from the UK, said she’d ask James if he gets to snog (=kiss) Captain Jack in “Torchwood,” but that she knew he wouldn’t tell her. “I’d love to snog him! I’ve never seen Captain Jack, but I have a feeling he’s a hot guy!” After that statement, he sang, “Everyone is gay!” (to the tune of “All Apologies.”) The woman then turned things political, asking James his opinion about the new Prime Minister “after finally getting rid of Bush’s poodle.” James said he didn’t “blame Tony Blair for that,” and when the woman insisted on it, James asked for a minute and offered the following reasoning: “After WWII, if you had stood together as the two oldest democracies in the world, I don’t know of any Prime Minister who would have said no…” The woman volunteered that Howard Wilson’d said no to Vietnam, and James immediately stood corrected. She quipped, “I’m a Brit, I know!” James went on to say the British “had helped us a lot more in Vietnam, that was like a sleeping giant.” He also explained that he was going to London after the panel, and that as a foreigner going to England in the middle of a bomb scare, he fully expected “for all my cavities to be searched in and out. I’m serious. And you know what I’m gonna say? You do it; because we voted for George, and that’s why you guys are having your problems over here, so if you need to look in there, go ahead. And I’m sorry.” The fan finally got her question out, and it was whether James had any advice from one son of a minister to another for the new British Prime Minister. “It sounds so weird, but follow Jesus.” He realized he was getting into deep territory again, and with the warning of “Oh, God, here I go again,” he launched into the explanation of his belief that “Jesus actually existed, that he was an actual person who’d walked the earth, and whether he’d turned water into wine, or walked on water, or got off the cross or not, I don’t care! It’s so beyond the point! The point is the philosophy, the point is that we’re all massive screw-ups in life, and the only hope we have for happiness is to forgive each other for messing up.” This elicited a thunderous applause. James continued: “The other thing is that you can change the world without hurting people, and that philosophy caught on with Gandhi and with Dr. Martin Luther King and other people, and so… If Jesus were around today, wouldn’t he get an Uzi? He took a bullwhip to the Temple; what would He do to the World Bank? If He knew that we took his wife and made her into a whore, who would He whip? He’d kick our ass; he’d call us all Romans… ‘You’re the Romans of the New Age, guys.’ He’d be a radical. I love him!” When the fan pushed and asked what’d Jesus do to Dick Cheney, James laughed and said Jesus “would tell him, ‘Dick, I’m gonna put you out of power, and since you created your own hell on Earth, I’m gonna let you stew in there for a while.”
The next fan wanted to “move away from all that,” and turned things over to music. She mentioned that “This Town” sounds like there’s a mandolin playing at the beginning, and James thanked her for recognizing that. She wanted to know whether in James’ new album we are to expect more folkish instrumentation instead of the usual big production. “Crap, yeah!” quipped James. He said the next album would be “very much less produced than the first one,” which again brought on applause. “That album (Civilized Man) almost blew up on me, and the producer was saying: ‘Your songs suck; we’re saving it. Shut up.” There were massive groans from the audience at this point, so James continued by saying it’d gotten really, really bad, “to the point where I fought for three or four songs, and the rest I either had to say I’m gonna miss the sales deadline for this album, or I’m gonna have to work it out with these guys. I wish I would have missed the deadline, to be honest, but if I’d fired them, I’d have had to pony up more money, so…” He promised that, for this time around, he only hears “piano, guitar and standup bass, maybe some sax, but no strings, no strings, no strings, no strings!” When people started clamoring for a release date, James explained that “there’d been some confusion and his business manager thought he’d lost money on the album, and as a parent, he’s not allowed to lose money on a creative project. I spoke to my manager, and he said that was junk, and that I’d made a good chunk of money with that album, so the first phone call I’ll make once I’m back in L.A. is to find a producer.”
Next, a fan came up and, as previously mentioned in the coverage for Friday’s panel, wanted to discuss his theory about men and women. “Oh, you’re gonna give me shit! Great!”
He sat down with his drink to listen to her question, which was if he didn’t thought he’d been patriarchal when he referred to women as "butterflies seeking to have babies", where at this point in evolution women are able to control their fertility, and choose whether or not to have children, and choose whether or not to have children without men, using artificial insemination. Again, thunderous applause for the question, which went on about women as single mothers that support their children as the men go away. James immediately said that in his family “the men raise the children because the women go away.” It was then time for the single fathers in the audience to clap. James maintained he didn’t feel he was “part of the patriarchy, because my philosophy is accept the fact that human beings are animals.” The discussion started to get heated, as the woman reasoned that human beings are more than just their biology, and James just cut her off by saying, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I love this!” James elaborated that, “the things we’re most proud of, our cognitive ability and our creativity, but it’s a thin glaze upon the true mass of the brain, which is a primate brain stacked upon a reptilian brain. And the primate brain and the lizard brain don’t know about birth control. We’re hard-wired for the Serengeti, and we have to admit that so we understand how we are.” When the woman contradicted him again, James just blurted, “Oh, you’re arrogant!” which was celebrated by the audience who, by now, mostly wanted her to just go back to her seat. She explained that what di
fferentiates us from animals is that we can plan to live our lives in a certain way, whereas animals just go with the flow. James retorted he completely agreed, but that “there are certain issues that men are always angry about related to women." The woman said he was generalizing, and James quoted Shaw who said, “’To generalize is to be an idiot’, and it’s true…” After a pause, followed by “Oh, God!” James went on to say that he was “very far from being sexist,” as he’d been “raised in a very feminist household, and my true feeling is that the problem with my country is that men need a sexual revolution. Like, the women stood up in the ’70s, right? And said: ‘You guys don’t see us; you guys see a bunch of stereotypes and cartoons. We’re human beings, and if you don’t get that, here’s a simplified version: Think of us as men.’ And that freaked out all the guys in the ‘70s, but I’m here to say that I think all men should say, ‘You guys are not seeing us. You see a bunch of cartoons and a bunch of stereotypes. We’re more complex than you think we are, we’re more like you than you think we are, and if you don’t get it, just think of us as women.’” James went on to say that men “are just as sensitive, as good parents, and to let us off that hook is to kill society. We should be expected to be right there with child rearing just like women. Men are as important for child rearing as women.” The woman said she’d have to agree with him on that and that she was going back to her seat so other people could ask questions. The audience applauded and James cackled and called her “smart.”
Moving on to a lighter subject, the next fan up talked about James’ comments at the concert the night before, about his pre-show ritual of just being nervous backstage, and then his comment from the stage about the show having “the energy of an impending orgy,” and wanted to find out what his after-show ritual was. “Masturbation,” James deadpanned. The fans hooted and hollered, and he quickly added, “I’m not joking!”
Next, James was asked if it was still OK to ask him anything, and upon his affirmative, the fan mentioned the huge online controversy caused by Lisa Kudrow’s character comments on “P.S. I Love You,” regarding his butt, and wanted to hear James’ take on it. James explained that the character “says she can view men as totally sexual objects because she’s been through that objectification herself. So she’s saying, ‘It’s my turn now.’” He states that he’d never met Lisa previously, but he thought the whole thing was “bullshit, because by your argument, since I got screwed with as a kid, sexually, I should be able to go rape women. I went through it and now I get to give it to you. It doesn’t really work, and so just because you’ve been objectified doesn’t mean you can objectify other people.” He offers Lisa agreed with him, “and then we had a hellacious time getting takes, because she didn’t believe what she was saying, and I was thinking, ‘Oh, if the director finds out I was in her ear, I’m dead! I’m dead! I’m gonna shut up so quickly!’ because it was my first day on set.” He concludes he thought “it was a sexist thing, written by a man. Richard, what’s up?” The fan then inquired whether James thought he had a butt. “Yes, I have what is called a black butt: really high and round, if I work out. Otherwise it’s a little wider.” James then was asked to turn around, so pictures could be taken to be posted on the net, and he obliged while drinking his water, to then move on to the other side of the stage while commenting, “I’m such a whore!”
The next question was what would be his dream show and dream cast to have if he had the ability to create said show. James said he had ideas for two TV shows that can’t be done anymore. “Back in the ‘90s, I wanted to have a series called ‘Black & White’, with a black police officer and a white police officer. The white police officer is trying to live up to the image of his father, and the black police officer is trying to get over his own anger, and they hate each other and they don’t see anything alike. This came about around the time of the Rodney King beating, and I noticed a total divide on how people perceived that, so I thought, ‘Maybe we could have like ‘My Dinner with Andre,’ but with guns and strippers.’ It was basically between the dialogue between these two people who really do hate each other, don’t see anything the same, but are in a car together and need to work together.” People have now told him that was interesting 10 years ago. James goes on to the other show he had an idea for, “a Star Trek series, before ‘Enterprise’. I wanted to explain how you get from WWIII to the utopian environment of Captains Picard and Kirk,” because it was a huge period in history. “I wanted to start with a war hero, who was the only one willing to use nuclear bombs on the Muslims and killed all the Muslims and was a huge war hero. Then it came time to make peace, and the Muslims called for him to make peace, because ‘unless that guy wants peace, we don’t believe you.’ So the guy has a son that’s 5-6 years old, and he’s watching his Dad trying to make peace with the Muslim world on TV, and just as the guy comes out to the podium, they blow his brains out on national TV.” (A massive gasp followed this statement.) James continued saying that the guy’s son is watching this “and he concludes that if you try to change the world, you get your brains blown out,” and as his idea moves into the future, the kid (now an adult) is in military school “because he doesn’t care about anything and is just a massive screw-up, and so they talk him into becoming the captain of the first starship,” because they had the space station and decide that maybe, at this time, the best way to achieve peace is to build a starship and have everybody go explore space together. “The problem is that they’re all spying on each other, and screwing with each other and the Captain doesn’t believe in it at all.” So the basic idea is the Captain has to decide to care for the whole project to work out. “So, they go on a first mission, they get out there… and they’re lost! And the best thing they can do is run away and go back home, and when they return, they’re told, ‘You were gone 10 minutes; what the hell did you do?’”
”Vulcans are scary!”
James concludes that basically they’d be destroying civilization and killing people because they find such things and beings as Vulcans “scary, but they did ‘Enterprise’ and so my idea is in the trash.” The fan then reminded him about the part of the question regarding his dream cast, and James said, “I don’t have one, because I feel you have to audition thousands of people to find it.”
Next, attention was brought back to his butt, and the fact that he still seems really surprised and floored that people like him, and what’s the reason for that. “It’s a question of self-esteem, really. Most people have a hard time accepting compliments, and we all have to mature and learn to s
ay ‘thank you.’” The fan said she didn’t have a problem with compliments, to which James replied a resounding, “Bless you!” He went on to say he thinks, “Fame is toxic to the human soul, so if I actually get into the reception of all this love, I’m probably gonna lose my soul, so I’m trying to buttress myself and keep a perspective. Plus, I have a hard time accepting compliments.”
The “Torchwood” question came up again, regarding the choice of accent, and James reiterated if he does an American accent he’ll be “the character with the accent,” and that he’d like to, given the chance, go back to the show. “I’m preparing an English accent, I’d love for it to be working class and not upper class because it wouldn’t work, and besides, many people in Britain think I’m British anyway, so…”
James was then asked about any favorite moment with his children, excluding birth that just left him in awe. He said, “You can’t just pick one moment. There are really quite a few of those… I guess when my son wrote his first song… When I see my son talking to his younger brothers in a patient and powerful way and he gets them to do what he needs them to do. He’s only 11!” He then proceeded to demonstrate the way his son speaks to his brothers, and stated that “maybe that’s the energy he picks up from me, what I give him.” He also mentioned, “watching my niece win a cheerleading competition. I was a punk rocker in school, I am a subversive artist, and for me to be sitting at a cheerleading competition was like, ‘How did I get here?!’ But she got there and she jumped, and waved her pompons, and they all got in the pyramid, and they won!”
The next fan asked him if he does any work at his farmhouse. James says he doesn’t, “There’s a man named Stewart and he takes care of all of us. I’m in the guesthouse, in the back, and I come out in the morning and wave at him. “Hey, Stewart, how you doin’?” (Shoots a dirty look like the ones Stewart shoots him.) He went on to say that “Stewart does all the work, and I get to play with his kids, so I feel sorry for him, but no, I don’t work one bit.” The farm has “walnuts and now corn on one side, a hog that tried to kill all the chickens, and a dog, a Doberman Pinscher, that just drools on you.” James calls the place “a really beautiful enclave.”
The next fan said she didn’t have an important question like everybody else, and that she just wanted to come up to the mic and talk to him, much to everybody’s merriment. “That’s a pretty brave thing to say,” James quipped, and then she asked whether James was a dog person or a cat person. When James said he thought he was a cat person, there was massive cheering from the obviously multiple cat people in the audience (yours truly included, being proud “mother” to Angelus, Drusilla and Spike. See a pattern? Thought so.) “The real reason is that I had to take care of my Mom’s dogs. ‘They’re my dogs; feed ‘em!’ They’re both great, but cats… you have to win the cat’s respect! He doesn’t give it to you right away.” When asked whether he had any cats, he said no and started talking about his late cat Zachary, which he’d gotten in New York at the ASPCA. “We went there and we wanted a cute, long-haired fluffball, but we met Zachary, and Zachary would not go back in the cage. He drew blood on me, and was like ‘No *censormode*in’ way!’” He demonstrated this thus:
He continued saying that Zach just kicked ass as a cat, and that they had to keep him inside for he “really was the alpha male on the block. He lived for 14 years and died on my couch during ‘Buffy.’ I probably let too much time pass before I put him down, but my girlfriend had left me, and I was all like, ‘Zach!’” (Motions holding on tight to the kitty.) He hasn’t gotten another cat yet because “you can’t replace Zach, man!” The fan goes on to say she had to put her own cat to sleep earlier in the year, and is still emotional about it. James says it’s OK to put animals down if they’re suffering, and that his cat “melted.”
Things lightened up again, as the next question brought us back to the initial question about Puppet Angel vs. Puppet Spike, and what body part did he think would fall off first in a fight, and from who. Everybody was laughing hysterically, including James, and he said that, “In a fight, I always go for the nose, because it messes the guy up, so I’d rip his nose off.” (Massive cheering greeted this last statement, as it is rather well known that the limited edition Battle Damaged Puppet Angel, that’s almost impossible to find nowadays, has a removable nose.)
Steve walked in and said he had “three minutes to yank you off the stage, so I’ll fill them with questions,” and he asked James, point-blank, why he’d been so frisky all weekend. James said it was because he was “well-rested. I’m well rested, and nobody tried to grab my ass all weekend.” This also received massive cheers, as it’s well-known among the Marsters’ fans that the main reason he takes his pictures sitting down is that some people have zero common sense and pinch his butt, a deplorable practice.
Time for the last question comes around, and Steve says that he doesn’t want to be rude by saying that, as they “purposely tried to give you extra time with the autographs and the photographs, so we’re not really watching the clock, except for the fact that he has to catch an international flight and that’s really dicey today.” James quips, “Time to get that strip search!” The final question came from a mother to a boy and a girl, and it’s whether James had ever noticed a difference between his own boy and girl. James thought it was a great question, and that he didn’t want to generalize as he only had one of each, “But I think women are more sexual than men. Girls tap into a need for romance and intimacy and connection very early on, and boys… they’re very sexual, but it comes later. It’s weird, because society feels the guys are the horny ones, but actually it’s women. Because women are so smart! You reckon you have to cover it up and be cool, and you’ve got so much power in covering it up! You let the guy think, ‘Please me, buy me that, and then maybe I’ll give it to you.’” Another difference he noticed is that “boys would play games that involve violence and chaos, to prove their manhood, because I think that what man is is an enforcer of peace, and he does it through violence, only when necessary. A boy is after chaos, so he can prove his manhood. Boys would create chaos and try to play it tough: ‘Hey, Dad! I’m bleeding!’” He also noticed that girls’ games are more towards creating relationships and connections, “and it’s all preparation for later in life.”
As James was in the middle of the final answer, Steve walked on stage purposely and proceeded to put on a plastic glove, signifying the cavity search James would have to go through at the airport, and we all cracked up.
es didn’t know what we were laughing about, until he turned around and saw him. He bid us farewell for the last time, blew a kiss, took his bow and it was over.
We’d like to thank once again the wonderful folks at Creation Entertainment who facilitated our access to the convention for this coverage, especially Adam, Monica, Ben and Leticia. We look forward to many more great events with them.
Next stop: Comic-Con San Diego! Stay tuned…