Fan Expo Canada featured

Fan Expo Canada Interview: ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s James Marsters Talks His Favorite Roles and His Music Career

October 22, 2021Ben MK

Nowadays, the term "vampire" may conjure up images of Robert Pattinson in Twilight, Kate Beckinsale in Underworld, or even the four Nosferatu-like roommates on What We Do in the Shadows. But back in the late '90s and early 2000s, the undead were primarily associated with one show — Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And although Buffy's main star was Sarah Michelle Gellar, it was James Marsters' Spike that really gave the show its — ahem — bite. Of course, Marsters would go on to play Spike on the Buffy spinoff, Angel, as well as taking on recurring roles on such series as Smallville, Dragon Ball Super and Torchwood, to name a few. However, it's Spike that remains his most memorable character. And with Marsters making an appearance at Fan Expo Canada this weekend, you can bet he'll have a story or two to share about this fan-favorite villain.

I caught up with James Marsters ahead of his appearance at Fan Expo Canada: Limited Edition to chat about the fandom, his time on Buffy, and much more. The following is an edited version of that conversation.

First of all, what's it like being back doing conventions again, after the pandemic put everything on hiatus? And what have you missed the most about interacting with the fans?

Marsters: It is absolutely fabulous to be back. I was nervous about it, because of COVID. But I talked to my ex-wife, who is a nurse, and she said, "If you follow protocol stringently, if you get the right mask and wash your hands consistently, you'll be fine." And so I decided, "Let's go out." Being locked down, it was okay to be in my house — I'm a gamer, so it gave me an excuse to game all day. But I really missed being with people live. I missed the community. I think we all did. There's just something that feeds me when I'm around other human beings — getting along with them, finding a connection there. So I'm just drinking it in right now.

Of course, you're best known for your role as Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What did you enjoy most about playing that character, and what was the most memorable moment you had making the show?

Marsters: [There were] so many memorable moments. I was in heaven between the word "action" and the word "cut." Because that's when, first of all, I got to go to work and start playing. But also, I just got to interact with the writing, which I think is some of the best that I've ever seen on television. I didn't write a word, so I'm not bragging. But I came from theatre, and you can tell when you start saying the words of an author — you taste them, and you can how good [the author] is. It's a weird thing. And tasting the words of Buffy, I was like, "This stuff is amazing! You can do so much with these words." So I was in heaven the whole time. And I'm just grateful that I knew how lucky I was at the time. I had been acting long enough to know that this was a singular experience, so I was able to give myself completely to it and not hold back in any way.

But some things that stand out. There was one scene were Spike has a gem on that makes him able to go out into the sunlight, and he tracks down Buffy and they start fighting. And the one gag had [Buffy stunt double Sophia Crawford] jumping down on [me], and I grab her mid-air, twist her around and slam her down onto a glass tabletop, and the glass shatters. It's a really cool shot, and they wanted me to do that. So we did the first take and we got a great shot. Then they said we need another take. So we did it again, and the thought went through my mind that this is the one where I'm going to hurt somebody. But it went great — again. And I hugged Sophia and we walked away, and then my knees buckled realizing that I got through that one without hurting a good friend.

You've also played recurring roles on shows like Smallville, Torchwood, Runaways and Hawaii Five-0. I assume Spike is your favorite of all your roles, but what is your second favorite role?

Marsters: Probably Captain John on Torchwood. I mean, they're all really fun. Zamasu was amazing on Dragon Ball Super. But Torchwood is a show on the BBC by Russell T. Davies who re-did and reawakened Doctor Who. Buffy is a subversive show that's fighting back against the lie that women can't fight back, or can't be leaders or can't be heroes. And Torchwood is pushing against the lie that LGBT people can't be heroes. And the lead on that show is fully bisexual, and he is a total hero and he saves everybody, and I got to play his boyfriend. I got to kiss him on camera and then beat his ass. [laughs] So that was amazing.

You also have your own band, Ghost of the Robot, and you're performing an acoustic show on stage at Fan Expo this year. Can you talk more about that and how you got into music?

Marsters: I've been playing in bars since I was 13 years old, but I was only playing James Taylor. And when I decided to be a professional actor, I stopped playing publicly. But then I met a really talented teenager named Charlie De Mars, and formed Ghost of the Robot with him. And we started making really good music. I was very lucky to be with much better musicians than I am. We got together in 2001, we've toured Europe many times, we've toured the States, Canada and Australia as well. And over the years, I've just gotten a little bit better every year.

At this point, I'm told I am a good, functioning rhythm guitarist on a professional level. And if anyone is interested in coming out to see the music, it's good because you get to learn more about me. When I play Spike, that's someone else's words, and I'm speaking someone else's story. But when I sing my songs, that's really a window into who I actually am. It sometimes makes me nervous, to let people see that much of me. But it's also glorious to be that vulnerable in front of an audience.

Last but not least, do you have a message for all your fans who are coming to Fan Expo to see you?

Marsters: Yes, please come to the convention! If you've been sick of being at home, come to a place where everyone's beautiful, everyone's safe, and you can be whatever you wanna be. That sounds like heaven to me. And if I get to heaven and it's not like that, I may wanna come back.

Fan Expo Canada: Limited Edition runs October 22-24 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

You May Also Like