Elisabeth Rohm, James Marsters and Ken Feinberg
They all said “Hi” to the group, and started joking about not getting enough sleep because they were having too much fun. The first question was what was their favorite movie and why, after pointing out that James had said in his online Q&A that his favorite was Singing in the Rain. James replied first, with a radically different favorite: “I think my favorite movie is Apocalypse: Now. I think it was a really cogent criticism of the softness of American culture, specifically of why we lost that war.” He explained that in the Vietnam war, “we were fighting an enemy that, when they wanted a steak, they’d go kill the cow. They’d go look in the eye of the cow and cut the cow’s throat and have a party. And we microwave, you know, we couldn’t live in that horror. That was maybe the most horrifying film I’ve ever seen.” Elisabeth said her favorite was “probably Out of Africa,” because of the strong female character in it and the fact that it’s “a beautiful sweeping, epic film.” Ken said the question was difficult “because there are so many great films,” but a movie that made him return the next day for a second viewing was Dead Poets Society, which brought applause. “Carpe diem, you only get one shot, so do the best you can.” Elisabeth quotes from the movie, and James repeated the quote, “’Oh, Captain, my Captain,’ right on!” And quickly added, “That film was so good, and then Robin Williams went and did Patch Adams, oh my God! I’m like, ‘Dude…’ But he’s a great actor, great actor.” Ken then mentioned Williams’ movie What Dreams May Come, and Elizabeth called it “amazing.” Since the topic was Robin Williams, James shared a personal story with him: “I owe Robin Williams $300, because I went to the same college he went to, and he had a fund for starving students and I was definitely starving, and I took $300. And then they kicked me out of college, so I never paid it back. I saw Robin at a party, and I told him this story and he goes, (sternly) ‘You should pay it back.’ And I never have, I can’t give money to that college!” Elizabeth then suggests James give the money straight to Robin, and he agreed wholeheartedly. Elizabeth then shared some gossip: Apparently Robin Williams has a shoe fetish, something that surprises James, and causes Ken to crack, “Something you never heard before, here at Dragon*Con,” to much laughter from the audience.
The next fan went up to the microphone, told Ken she loved him, praised Elisabeth for her beauty (“And you don’t love me…” Elisabeth quipped) and said her question was for James, to much laughter. She then thanked him for his great concert the previous night, and the audience joined in in thunderous applause, and then asked James why he feels the need to ask for embarrassing questions and whether he’s challenging us to do so. “Yeah. I don’t think you can do it. I don’t have a whole lot of shame, or regret or guilt or any of that stuff so, go for it. I don’t want it be too polite; I wanna get to know each other, you know? Why be afraid? So, yeah…” and laughed mischievously.
Elisabeth got the next question, from a woman who said she had a friend who was “a huge Law & Order fan,” which prompted Elizabeth to ask, “Would she like to be arrested?” to many laughs. They discussed the woman’s friend a bit more, and the question was about how different were the experiences for her as an actress between Angel and Law & Order, because “they seem like they’d be night and day.” Elisabeth opened her arms to show the audience and went, “This is the biggest difference! They don’t have these for Law & Order or CSI, so it’s you guys! Cos Law & Order fans, as much as I love that show, are just a little different! And they don’t have as many cool costumes!” Ken then asked, “Can you imagine a Law & Order convention?”
James was then asked about his experience working for the BBC, and whether there was a difference in working for a UK TV company as opposed to an American TV company. James replied that he thought “the BBC is the kindest fascist organization!” to much laughter from the audience. He explained that “they control everything; They have everything on television and therefore they don’t really have to care how you feel!” (more laughs) He continued: “That being said, they were really nice to me; there was a bunch of executives that came down from the BBC, and they waited around for four hours for me to have the time to say Hi.” As for the difference in work between the countries, “I don’t really think there was any difference shooting with an English crew as to an American crew, it was exactly the same: They were all pissy and tired.” (Elizabeth quipped, ‘And drunk!’) James concluded that he “had a great time; they knocked my tooth out and they twisted my ankle, but they were very nice about it,” which brought about more laughs.
It was my turn, so I shared with James that when I’d interviewed Andrea Romano (voice director for Superman: Doomsday) and she’d said he was "dreamy". He cracked up, went slightly red, and talked about his experience working with her: “They were so nice to me when I did that! I really thought that I was doing so horribly bad that they were just rushing me through, so they could recast.” (audience laughs) He continued, “Everybody kept saying, ‘Oh, you’re doing a great job!’ and it went really quickly, and they didn’t recast it so I guess they were being sincere!” [more laughs]. I explained that it was a big change in the way Lex looks in the movie as opposed to the way he used to look when voiced by Clancy Brown, and I wanted to know about his process to create the character for an animated version of arguably the best-selling comic book in history, because his voice gave me chills, being so “oily” (at which he laughed out loud) and cold and cynical. James had a simple answer: “I just didn’t judge him, I liked him. I thought he was a great guy!” (audience laughs) He explained, “You have to feel that way or else it’s too hard to play the character if you don’t like him. I really tried not to think of Gene Hackman (who played Lex in the original Superman movies) and don’t think about Michael Rosenbaum either, because they’re both just fabulous Lex Luthors, and if I was to follow them down that road I wouldn’t make it halfway where they go. So, I guess I just tried to make him as accessible as possible, really. And get my voice very low. And rest, so I can have a low voice.” Then James quipped, “That was the most boring answer to a question ever!” to many laughs.
e throne room, and he hears this bloodcurdling scream.” (fan screams) “Yeah! And he sends his man to see, to find out what the heck that was, and he turns to the audience and goes, ‘I can’t feel anything anymore. Things that used to freak me out don’t do anything for me; I’m dead inside. Nothing gets to me any more’. The Siward comes back and says: ‘Your wife, my lord, is dead.’ And there’s this big pause, and he goes:
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Massive applause followed the recitation, and James further explained: “Shakespeare did not believe that. Shakespeare knew that that was a big lie. That was not what he believed life was, that was his way of telling the audience that Macbeth has just lost it. You don’t have to care about him anymore; you just go along with the hero.” He leaned back in his chair, and said, “That felt nice!”
The question that followed was addressed more to James and Ken, since they’re a father and a father-to-be, regarding the appropriate age to show your work on Buffy and Angel, that are so dark, to their own children. James answered with a very definite “Not yet!” and added “After puberty, man!” Elisabeth mentioned that “the good part about having been a small part of Angel was I had teenage fans for the first time, and they get it,” so her answer was “not before then.” James explained some more: “It’s also different if you’re not related. I’m sure that it would be totally cool to have a normal 10 year old or 9, 7 year old watch Buffy. There’d be a lot of questions and a lot of things to talk about afterwards, but that’s not necessarily bad. The thing, though, is if you watch your dad do that… It’s a whole different level! There’s a lot of episodes I don’t think I’ll ever want them to watch! (audience laughs) Elisabeth mentions Juliet’s bizarre experience working with her Dad in Ed Wood, which she’d shared on Friday’s panel, and James pointed the weirdness of Juliet’s experience working with a dummy of her Dad that was supposed to be dead in Carlo’s Wake, shuddering as he did.
The next question was just for fun: “If you guys could choose to have one superpower, what would it be?” Elisabeth chose invisibility, which prompted James to call her “devious!” because “That could come to no good!” Elisabeth shared her experience working on a pilot for The Invisible Man with Kyle McLachlan, which was fun, “but we obviously couldn’t pull it off and that’s why you didn’t see it.” James said he “would like to be able to fly, but I think it would be suicidal without super healing powers! I’d probably choose flying, but then I’d be afraid to do it.” Ken quipped the good thing about having the power to fly is “you could probably skip the elevators and go straight to your room.” This brought on massive cheers! (Waiting for an elevator could sometimes take up to 30 minutes during the convention.)
James was asked how his leg injury (acquired while shooting Torchwood) affected filming his first episode of Without A Trace. James said it “made it hurt. But, it’s not that bad of an injury, so no one really knew I was hurt. Unfortunately, it was a walk and talk from a helicopter pad, and it was like a quarter mile walk and talk, from the helicopter pad to the car, back and forth and back and forth all day, carrying a big, heavy box. But the biggest problem with that day was that we were in the helicopter, and the air conditioning in the helicopter wouldn’t work unless the blade was spinning, and they didn’t spin the blade very much, so I would sweat like a monkey! And they’d be wiping me down, and wiping me down, and so my main memory of that is, ‘Stop sweating! Stop sweating!’” Ken then offered to hook James up in L.A. with a massage therapist to fix his ankle, which got yet another “right on!” from him.
The next guy up said he wanted to ask James an embarrassing question: Did he ever get the chance to grope Sarah Michelle Gellar? James laughed, and replied he “got to grope Sarah and they paid me for it, man!” He explained again how Sarah had become like “my kid sister, who drives me crazy but I love her,” and therefore it became increasingly strange to kiss her and grope her in S6 and S7.” He had a problem while shooting a scene in the S7 episode "Sleeper,” where “Sarah was stretched out and there are several vampires holding her back. I had to lick her arm, and I couldn’t do the shot! I just kept cracking up; I’m licking my sister! He seemed to regret having put her in the “sister” category: “She was really offended by that! Her whole thing was, ‘You don’t tell what it’s like to kiss each other. You’ve gotta say this, and this, and this’ and I didn’t say what she wanted me to say. I’d say, “Actually it was kind of weird, it was like kissing my sister,” and she was like (huffs). Nice try!” Ken suggests, “Maybe if you were her adopted brother…” and James agrees, reluctantly and calls for the next question.
The fan told James the concert the previous night, on a par with the Union Chapel one, and called it “excellent.” James thanked her and reveals that he “almost gave up. I was really backstage, thinking ‘I’d give $1,000 just to walk home right now.” The reason for that was that “the guitar wasn’t holding a tune and I didn’t feel really good about it- but it really goes to show never give up, and never give in to fear. Never give up on yourself.” The fan then thanked him for his online Q&As, and mentioned that in the last edition he mentioned he’d like to one day run for office, so the question is what would President James Marsters do if elected. “Outlaw the Republican party! (major cheering) I would be the first liberal fascist President of the United States.” He explained his reasons for it: “I often feel like Republicans walk all over Democrats because Republicans will say these easy lies. I’m sorry; I’m a liberal… [audience cheers] And easy lies are very good on TV, whereas the complex explanation of the truth is often kind of boring.” He described his ideal Democratic candidate: “Someone who is good at show business, to get the message out in a more sparkly way, and also to kick butt.” He elaborated further: “What I think this country needed in a time of war is a warrior President, because they know how bad it can get. I think we needed like… a Navy Seal. A natural born killer, maybe someone who was in a war, who got out of his boat and charged the machine gun nest, killed everybody, ran up the hill, took the grenade launcher away from the Vietcong, killed him too, came back to his men- someone like John Kerry. That’s what he did, that guy’s a multi-murderer. [audience laughs] He did, he did it for us, man. And he has to sleep with that every night, and that’s not easy.” He charged against President Bush and what happened at the previous elections. “Somehow, George Bush, the draft dodger, made John Kerry his *censormode*! What was that?” (audience cheers) “I would have said, “You got to call him
out! You got to go on television and say, ‘I call you out’. Now, George, I know you’ve never been in a fight in your life; I know I went to war and killed people for you, so I’m not going to call you out to punch you out. You don’t have to be afraid; stop shaking. I’m just gonna kick your butt with words, and I’m going to flay you alive with the truth.’” He should have done that. He tried to be Presidential, but he just ended up being his dog. I think the Democrats need somebody with teeth, yep.” The fan then said she’d vote for James if he ever ran.
The next question came from a martial artist, and was for James, regarding fight scenes: Did he have to learn any martial arts or was it all choreography? James explained he’d studied some martial arts before: “I was a purple belt in Judo. And then took some kung fu, not a whole lot. And then, just street fighting. The ‘80s were an interesting time!” He also explained that doing a lot of Shakespeare helped, because “you don’t get a stunt man on stage, so you learn moves.” He added that he “didn’t get any training on Buffy, I didn’t get any pointers really, they were just kind of happy that I was kind of willing to hurt myself.” He went on to say that his footwork “is weak. The upper grapples and stuff like that, I’m pretty good at, but my footwork was always weak, and all that really meant was that I’d wrench my back more than I needed to, basically.”
The next question came up for the fan as she’d been at the *censormode*tail party James had held on Friday, where a woman was constantly taking his picture and followed him around the room. Had any of them had any problems with “bunny-boiler stalkers.” Elisabeth went first and said she did have a problem with one that required the intervention of the Law & Order people to have the man cease and desist. Ken asked if “they went in costume” to persuade him. James said he doesn’t have that problem, and explained that “if you play a character that cares about other people, or has a heart, then you have that problem. If you only play a jerk, who’s willing to kill people, they’re like (hesitation noises). They’re afraid of you.”
James also got the next question, regarding his first Without a Trace episode, which airs on September 27th. The fans know he has a five-episode arc, and James interrupted her to say, “They think it’s going to be five. But, they thought that about Spike, too.” The question, in essence was, whether he’d be as happy on Without a Trace as he’d been playing Spike and other flamboyant characters, like the one on Torchwood. James said that “on some level– I’m never going to get back on that mountaintop,” and reiterated what he’d said the day before about the Buffy writers who are now on other shows and have “trouble” adapting, “They want to bring a demon on; they want someone to get flayed alive, and they tell them, ‘This is CSI, we don’t do that.’” James says he’s excited about doing a procedural cop show, because “they don’t do any character development, or not much at all, and they just trust that, if they hire the right actor, they’ll put themselves into it and make it work. That’s an exciting new challenge to me, and that I’m trying to find ways to put my character in there without overloading it.” Ken then questioned whether he was saying the writers are not doing their job. “No. I’m saying it’s too expensive in television to develop the characters; you don’t have the time to write the scripts because the turnaround is so fast.” Elisabeth said it’s interesting to deal with a character that’s emotionally cutoff from what they see every day, as it was the case in Law & Order, “because they just become numb to it.” James offered that, in his case in the show, “We’re hunting this heinous criminal, doing these horrible things that, as a human being, make me go ‘Whoa!’ The big mistake is to act all wimpy and scared, because then what kind of cop are you?” Ken says the key is “to look for really good actors to do that.”
The next question was for James and Elisabeth: How did James react when he found out Spike had been William, the bloody awful poet, in life, and how did Elisabeth react to her last line on Law & Order, when Serena came out as a lesbian? Elisabeth said she was “excited, because I always thought she was a lesbian. It was weird that the producers picked up on it!” James quipped “Lesbians are hot!” before asking the fan to repeat the question. He then said he was “really kind of surprised”, because he’d “thought that Spike was a badass before he became a vampire. I should have known, because they always go the exact opposite way than you think they’re going to go. I think Doug Petrie directed that one, if I’m not mistaken, and I felt like I had to protect him. I was the steward of William, and everyone thought that he was stupid or weak, but I didn’t. I though he was a good writer, and I thought that he was a good man, and I thought that he just wasn’t quite himself yet and so I was very, very protective of him. It ended up being a really good experience. He was definitely a romantic.”
Next, the panelists where asked whether there were one actor or one director whom they’d like to work with, alive or dead. Ken said “Steven Spielberg,” and Elisabeth chose “Clint Eastwood, as a director. And within that family, Morgan Freeman as an actor.” Ken added, “James Marsters… Oh, wait! I already did that!” James only said “right on,” and looked for the next question.
The next request was for James, from a fan who’d missed the concert. She wanted him to sing something, very short, “maybe like ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.’” Ken asked if he knew the words for that, but James sang (a little gruffly) the first verse of “All Apologies” by Nirvana, changing a line to “everybody’s gay.” The audience cheered loudly. Elisabeth appreciated the singing “because I hadn’t heard him sing either”, and Ken quipped, “That’s the weirdest version of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ ever!” James added, “I sang for free!”
le of reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and so he’d be either Dumbledore or Voldemort. He also shared a story from the end of last year, when he was doing a version of A Christmas Carol with a very interesting cast, and the guy who played the Undertaker “looked like Sméagol, from Lord of the Rings. We recast the entire play as Lord of the Rings, and I was Gandalf!” There was also an incident, where he came on stage dressed as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and started talking, “and Scrooge was not in the bed!” He had to soliloquy for a while until Scrooge showed up. “Sorry, I was detained!”
The attempts to embarrass James continued, and this fan decided to ask him how he’d lost his virginity. James looked over at his fans, and said, “You guys know the story, right?” About 70% of those present nodded. He still shared that it was “with a threesome. It was two really wonderful women who were going to ACT, an acting college in San Francisco, and yeah, they busted my cherry.” He’s regretful of how it happened though, “I was really stupid because I didn’t tell them that I was a virgin, and they didn’t know I was a virgin, so they didn’t know that they should help me out. And basically, the whole time I just wanted to jump out of the window and run!” (major laughs) He admitted to having been in “way over my head; it was way too much, and I was 14, which was way too young.” 17 would have been a better age, he added. When asked if he’s talked about it with his niece, he said “not yet,” and that he had one word for her: “Norplant!” (the contraceptive implant).
‘How do you do it, man?’
‘How do you do this every week? I just did one episode and I’m toast, man! I couldn’t do two of these in a row; how do you do it? Jeez!’
(Zen-like) ‘Horse racing’
‘Horse racing. Don’t look left; don’t look right. Just keep working.’”
James adds that David “was also the best director we had on the whole season (in the episode ‘Soul Purpose’). Everyone was all-nervous that they were going to let David direct. ‘Oh, no, the sky’s gonna fall! An actor’s in charge! ‘ And then the crew, by the end of that episode, came to me and said, “You should pressure the producers to get David back at the end of the season when we have to have a really tight director, because we’re too tired for a newbie. So please, get David again.” Yeah. It was fabulous!” Elisabeth says she has to see the episode as she “was in Law & Orderland.” James counters, “But you were with Sam Waterston!” She then shares a story of shooting a walk and talk in the street with Waterston, “and all these fortysomething women were hanging out of windows, going ‘Sam!’”
The next question was for James: Which was his favorite Spike and Buffy fight and why? James replied that “there was one fight, I forget which episode it was, but we were outside…” (I volunteered “The Harsh Light of Day”) “The Harsh Light of Day”? And Sarah kept complaining that I was selling the hits too close, because I always sell the hits pretty close. I never hit anyone, but I was that close (separates thumb and index finger by one inch) and she was like, ‘Back off, back off, back off,’ and then she hit me in the nose!” (major laughs) He refused to back off: “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, Sarah, no problem. Let’s do it again,’ and she just clipped my nose really nice. She was like, ‘You will back off.’” Ken volunteers a story of shooting a boxing scene for the movie a friend of his was doing, “and he tells me, ‘He won’t hit you.’ We shoot it and he gets me right on the nose! So I asked him, ‘Did you get the shot? ‘Cos I’m not doing it again.’”
The next question was for Elisabeth, regarding her role in the board of directors at Sarah Lawrence University. She says she is, and details how much help she got at the college, as she “struggled a lot academically. I got kicked out of public school.” Elisabeth also says she got a lot of education from life, “but it was a huge accomplishment for me to stay in school and finally get a diploma.”
Next James was asked whether he could tell us in extreme detail how it was to grope John Barrowman. James asked how many of us had been at the panel the previous day, and most of us raised our hands. He apologized in advance and then repeated the story of having to face “my latent homophobia,” and making it clear he wasn’t up for John’s grabbiness on the set of Torchwood. “If he grabs me? I’m not gonna think about it;, I’m just gonna whale on him. And then he’s gonna go to the doctor, and I’m gonna get fired, and it’s gonna be horrible so I decided that I needed to communicate that I was not into this.” James went into detail about shooting the scene at the bar the next day, “where we had this whole fight/kissing, and he was a whole different guy. And he was just all about being a good scene partner, and keeping each other safe, and make sure that we got through the fight and the kiss without any event.” James got injured on the set later on, and John came to his aid: “I was bleeding pretty bad and I didn’t want the producer to know that I was hurt, because I felt like it was my fault that I got hurt and he got my back. He stopped the bleeding, and he knows all these tricks because he’s from theater, and he got me back on my feet, and helped me save my pride, too. And I’ll never be able to repay him. I really love that man; I think he’s a really good guy.”
The next person up mentions a couple of women a couple of years back, who broke down a door at a convention thinking James was behind it, as well as other women who’d exposed themselves to James at a different time. The question was if anybody else had had such weird experiences at conventions? Ken wonders “if this is a challenge,” and Elisabeth feigns horror, by saying “if this happens at conventions, I’m leaving and I’m not coming back!” James said he likes it, “that’s why I come. The weirder, the better!” He added, “I like people dressing up, and expressing themselves, and not being afraid to do that anymore.” The fan presses on about
the weirdest thing that’s happened to him at a con or anywhere else. James offered this: “This was my first convention, in London. And I didn’t know to be careful. I’m standing in the middle of 200-300 people; it was all packed, and this old lady goes,
(in feeble voice) ‘I have a favor.’
‘All right, what do you want?’
‘Could you turn ‘round?’
And I was clueless, and she was like 70 years old! ‘Well, yeah, okay’ And then she goes, ‘Now, bend over,’ and she just grabs my butt, and goes, ‘Now, clench!’ And I’m like (lets out horrified scream as the audience laughs a lot). So, now I’m a little more careful.”
The next fan asked a two-part question – first was whether he’d gotten in a lot of fights when he was a kid. James said no, “I was a very good kid, until I got kicked out of Juilliard. Basically acting was always my saving grace; it kept me kind of together through a kind of weird childhood. And at Juilliard they told me I was never going to be an actor, that I had no talent at all and I should quit now. (The audience boos and throws epithets at Juilliard) And so I really kind of lost my reason that had been getting me through, and I started… I can’t—oh, man! I started conducting business in Central Park. And you have to defend territory when you do that, and so there was a lot of fighting. I’m glad I got through it and I want my son to freak out before he gets to that.” The fan asked whether James had gotten his nose broken. “No, I was pretty lucky, actually. I got a pipe here (touched left eyebrow), I got stabbed a couple of times… I just ran fast when things got bad.”
The second part of the question was his opinion about his character being named “William Pratt” in the comic books. James said he “didn’t know that” and asked who’d written it. The audience volunteers answers (it was Peter David, actually) and James says he “won’t be mad at them then.” He then shares he’s still mad at Joss, because “at the end of Angel, they asked him who the best ingénue was for Angel, and he said the best Angel ever had was Spike.” He explained: “I come from theater, and in theater there’s a saying: ‘Never work with children or animals and avoid ingénues whenever possible,” because all three of them are performers that haven’t had experience enough to really pass the ball effectively, so you’ll be picking up after their mess the entire play, but they’ll get all the attention. So it’s the worst! And Joss didn’t understand. This is not theater; he didn’t understand what it means to me when he said that, but he basically called me “a talentless, know-nothing, pretty boy.” And I told him, ‘I don’t wanna know where you live, man!’ Ken offered that Joss said it out of love , but James was relentless: “Actually, the thing that incensed me was he kept saying it was a compliment! I screamed at him on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and there was a crowd and all…”
The panel ended on that note. We’d like to thank the people at the Whedon Universe track, particularly its director, Wayne Hutchinson, for all their help.