The Buffy icon en­ters the marvel Uni­verse in Run­aways

SFX - - Contents - Words by Tara Ben­nett /// Photography by Paul Archuleta

That vam­pire guy out of Buffy is back on TV in Marvel’s Run­aways.

James Marsters has a knack for em­body­ing cere­bral bad­dies. From his spin on Pro­fes­sor Mil­ton Fine, aka Brainiac, on Smal­lville to his punk vam­pire Spike on Buffy The Vam­pire Slayer and An­gel, he has a pen­chant for leav­ing au­di­ences just a lit­tle be­sot­ted with his no-good char­ac­ters. So it’s no won­der that Run­aways showrun­ners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Sav­age lured him back into a TV series to play the bril­liant yet darkly com­pli­cated engi­neer, Vic­tor Stein.

In the Marvel comic book and the series, Stein is a fan­tas­tic in­ven­tor but painfully es­tranged from both his wife (Ever Car­ra­dine) and his son, Chase (Gregg Sulkin). Break­fasts are tense, ex­pec­ta­tions run high, and Stein clearly has is­sues with anger man­age­ment. How­ever, as al­ways when Marsters gets his hands on a role, we find there’s more sim­mer­ing be­neath the seem­ingly men­ac­ing ex­te­rior... Like Buffy, Run­aways is a series about the teen ex­pe­ri­ence with a su­per­hero metaphor driving it. As an adult ac­tor in both, how did you con­nect to that?

A great priv­i­lege of be­ing an ac­tor is you get to think about the themes you are en­act­ing. With Buffy it was, “Do you care and en­gage with the world, or have you given up?” When you are work­ing on a show that is delv­ing into that question con­stantly, it begs you to be hon­est with your­self. Run­aways is hav­ing me ex­am­ine, “Have I been the kind of par­ent that I thought I was? How have I failed?” Of course, it’s all re­gret for me now be­cause my kids are in col­lege. They tell me I did okay. Not per­fect, but okay. [Laughs] Vic­tor Stein has some se­ri­ous smarts but he’s clearly flawed. What’s in­trigu­ing about play­ing that?

The thing that ex­cites me about Vic­tor is that he’s right. He’s a man try­ing to save the world by rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing en­ergy pro­duc­tion and trans­porta­tion. He knows un­less he suc­ceeds in do­ing that the world is go­ing to burn. It may not burn in his life­time but it will start in his son’s life­time and it will be in cin­ders by the time of any grand­chil­dren. He sees him­self as hu­man­ity’s hope in that way. He’s come to feel the ends jus­tify the means and if he has to sac­ri­fice his own moral­ity, and flush his soul down the drain to save the world, so be it. There’s some­thing strangely heroic in that. Both his wife and son have re­jected him to a de­gree. Does he ac­tu­ally care?

I think he has great love for his son and his wife, so it hurts. But he’s also not some­one who sec­ond-guesses him­self much. I re­mem­ber hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Josh [Schwartz] early on say­ing Vic­tor is a lot like Mac­beth. One of the things that keeps Mac­beth watch­able for the au­di­ence is that Mac­beth takes a long time to de­cide to mur­der the king, but once he does he does not look back. Then the mur­ders go on and on and he’s march­ing through a lake of blood. He’s not spend­ing time re­gret­ting it. You were a hard­core theatre guy but TV is where you have fo­cused a lot of your ca­reer. Why?

I think tele­vi­sion in the last 20 years has come of its own. It’s re­ally where adults are get­ting their en­ter­tain­ment more than the cin­ema. I re­mem­ber telling Joss (Whe­don), “If I had a choice be­tween play­ing Ham­let and Spike, I would pick Spike.” Shake­speare was re­ally good, prob­a­bly bet­ter than Joss, but he only had three hours to ex­plore his char­ac­ter. We had 22 episodes for seven years where [Joss] would just rip me open and put me back to­gether. Spike had an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney even Ham­let didn’t get. This year was the 20th an­niver­sary for Buffy and you re­united with your for­mer cast. What was that like?

The thing I was struck with as we were all tak­ing our pho­to­graphs and talk­ing was the amount of grat­i­tude that we all had to have been a part of it. The truth is that it was a very dif­fi­cult show to film. We worked 12 to 20 hours a day. You get to a point of fa­tigue on that where you don’t re­ally re­mem­ber what you did. We’d play a game on Buffy of, “What did we shoot in the morn­ing?” [Laughs] So it was re­ally nice that we’re all rested. What a ride and at the end of the day we got to be part of some­thing that mat­tered. Do you think it’s time for it to be, er, res­ur­rected?

I think it would be fab­u­lous if Joss Whe­don re­booted Buffy. He’s the spe­cial sauce on the burger so if he is ever in­volved in the re­boot, then it prob­a­bly will be amaz­ing. If he’s not in­volved, I would have no in­ter­est what­so­ever. How would you feel about Spike be­ing re­cast?

I would hope they find an­other un­known ac­tor who has some ex­pe­ri­ence act­ing but peo­ple aren’t so fa­mil­iar with. That would be re­fresh­ing. And I would hope they also find an­other poor ac­tor who needed the money and the food be­cause they come in hun­gry and loaded for beer. [Laughs]

Run­aways is on Hulu in the US. UK broad­cast TBC.

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