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Wednesday, grey and cool

If you’re a fan of James Marsters, the following ramble may interest you or not. 
If not, it’s going to bore the knickers off you.  The following is simply what has been going round in my little pea brain for quite some time and I am now attempting to verbalise my thoughts. You have been warned!


I’ve been thinking about what makes James, James, if you like and when I met him.

I won’t go into his childhood as what I know of it is only what he has told us over the years but it wasn’t nice.  He comes from a difficult & fractured family existence that by his own admission, he left as often as he could.  As an adolescent, he was always going out to acting class or whatever he could to escape.

Being the often neglected middle child of three is always problematic and stressful and I have seen many who develop ways of getting attention; some to the point of physical ticks & twitches.  Those who find a way out, who find a release and methods to get the attention they need, quite often it seems to me, gravitate towards acting or performing in some way.  When such a child develops or finds a talent, it must be such a relief and a hunger at the same time.

James found this way and because he was strong enough to believe in himself – even to survive Julliard telling him to quit – he pursued his dreams.  Fancy telling someone he was too intelligent to be an actor!

I for one, am delighted that he rose above it, though he says it was a rough couple of years until he did.  He immersed himself in acting and did very well in the theatre for 10 years before branching out into TV.

I started watching ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ after my mother died in November ‘98 and frankly, it helped enormously. I love special effects and science fiction and only started watching on a whim, not expecting much.  I was surprised how well it was written and although Buffy herself, the archetypal Valley girl, bored me to tears, Xander the comic, all-American high school looser and Willow the heroine’s spunky sidekick were okay; to my delight, Giles was wonderful and Spike a revelation.

I started watching when Spike was a regular in Season 4 and I loved his sarcastic, punk attitude and one liners.  He was in short the funniest thing since sliced bread and I frequently nearly fell off the bed laughing.  I bought the seasons I missed on video and caught up.  James says he was the red dot in the picture, used sparingly, and indeed, his appearances were red letter days.

When I found out that James was coming to the SFX in 2002, I really wanted to go meet the actor who played Spike.  I didn’t have much money and I couldn’t afford to go for the whole weekend, so I bought a Saturday ticket and travelled across on the train on Friday night.  I spent the whole day at the Convention, going to as many of the Q&A’s as I could.  I went & joined the line to try and get a photo op with James, when they announced he would do an extra photo shoot for the Saturday attendees – 400 of us - I just made it and got the second to last ticket!

I didn’t know a soul there and the James fans hadn’t coalesced into what they became, so I spent the day pretty much by myself.

I still had a good time, inspite of the primitive conditions in the host Hotel and the dreadful floor of the cavernous hall the Q&As and everything were held in.   The seating arrangements were a total shambles and if you left to go to the toilet, someone would have moved your coat or whatever and nicked your seat when you came back.  So you tended to cross your legs and sit in a different place each time!  All that aside, I remember watching the numbers keenly so I would know when to go queue for the photo op.


My first sight of James came when I saw him hurrying down the side of the queue with his minder, to dash up the stairs and start the photo ops.  I must admit my first thought was, ‘oh no, not another small actor’.  I didn’t realise just how hunched over he was and that he was making himself smaller to be less noticeable.  I never thought it again, he was a lot taller than I realised when i stood next to him.  *be still, my heart!*

When my number group was called, I joined the queue and a couple of the Stewards kept an eye on me and made sure I could sit down when I needed to.   When I finally made it up on to the Mezzanine and close enough to see the photographs being taken, I was amazed.  I have seen many stars and celebrities being photographed with fans before and after that, but I have never seen the level of empathy that exists with James.

This experience was fascinating and almost too personal to watch.  He seemed to know instinctively what each person wanted and tried to give it.

He was perfectly willing to drape himself over this middle-aged, fat woman and be a total honey.  I was quite simply bowled over by his effortless charm and sweetness and I can truthfully say I have never been the same since.


He came down as soon as the photos were finished and did a Q&A and I have never heard anything like the noise of the crowd when he came out on stage; he got a rock star’s welcome.  Only once before that have I heard anything like the welcome we gave James that afternoon – when Patrick Stewart made a surprise visit to the 1st Voyager Convention that Kate Mulgrew attended.  The noise was simply deafening and we hollered and screamed for him.  He gave up trying to quiet us down and just bathed in the sound until we quietened by ourselves.


Later, I spoke to some of the volunteer Stewards, who were very much into Star Trek and who were much more knowledgeable than I, so newly come to the Convention circuit – well, it was all still pretty new then.  But I heard about different Conventions and upgraded the old computer I had and got myself on the Internet.  I progressed to Broadband eventually and never looked back. 

I found groups who were interested in James and the Buffyverse and got myself into the volunteer stewards at ‘The Harvest’.   I won’t dwell on all the negative things of that Con and can say inspite of it all, I got to spend many hours watching James and the other super guests over that weekend.  So when I look back, it was a time picked out in gold and I treasure the memories.  I met some wonderful people, some of whom became friends and one or two who didn’t.  I met the guests on a closer level than the average fan and I liked them very much.  I adored Tony Head and George Hertzberg, Bailey Chase & James Leary.  I got to meet Robin Sachs [briefly], Robia LaMorte, Steve Tartaglia and Julie Caitlin Brown, when I helped her out for a while and got refreshments for them. JCB was a force of nature and reminded me of a benevolent tank, but she was very sweet and supportive of me when a couple of bad things happened to me during the convention. 

And then there was James.  He made it all worth while – the sore back, the ruined feet and aching legs;  I’d have done it all again in a heartbeat.

The only stipulation I had going into the weekend was that I would see everything James was to do; they could have me for whatever they wanted apart from that time.  I gave them far more hours than I’d been assigned, as did many of the volunteers as willingly as I did, and I’ve never been happier.  What a great bunch of people those volunteer stewards were.

James and the guests gave above and beyond to all the attendees, making sure each and every one of them got an autograph;  they were magnificent.

James simply signed until his hand cramped, stopped until it got better and then started again.  He was warm and friendly and nobody had a bad word to say about him.  I was totally hooked and every chance I got over the next six years, I went to see him.


I was thinking about how it all started and about all the things we never get to see, like how Joss Whedon brought in Spike because he didn’t want to have week after week of disposable villains and promptly got hoist with his own petard when the character became so popular.  Poor Joss, he hadn’t reckoned with James’ talents and great charisma and the audience demanded more and more.  It must have been like all the authors who find their characters refuse to die, their audience want more, even if they don’t want to write any more - Dorothy Sayers’ ‘Lord Peter Whimsey’ & Baroness Orczy’s ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ to name just two – they had no choice but to keep writing.  If Spike had been played by anyone other than James, things might have gone in quite a different direction but luckily for us, fate was kind.  Joss might have been unhappy about it and spent a lot of time, de-clawing and de-fanging Spike to make him less ‘cool’ and trying to make him fit in and keep him in the series – not because he wanted to but because we demanded it.  It must have been galling to him to know that there wouldn’t have been a 6th or 7th Season of Buffy without James but the rest of the cast knew it, including Sarah.


There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground for actors of real talent, they either flare up and have their day of glory, get typecast and no matter how good they are, they get stuck in an odd kind of limbo.  If luck and all the other fates combine, sometimes they go on to bigger and better things.  But even for actors of a lesser talent, with a hit series, oh, like ‘Magnum PI’ for instance;  great series but Tom Selleck, while making a few movies and doubtless having a great time being tall, dark and handsome, just didn’t have the acting prowess to become a Harrison Ford [who makes it look easy], though I think Tom has more personality and a better sense of humour.


I so didn’t want the same thing to happen to James.  After seven years of ‘Buffy’ & ‘Angel’, I worried about what would happen next.  James was more pragmatic and knew it would take some time to re-introduce himself to the business – four years, he said and he was pretty much right.  In some ways, I think, we are still waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to us and discover just how great an actor James really is – but it’s getting there.

Too slowly for me but what do I want for him?  What he wants for himself?  Does he have such clear cut goals, other than making enough money to see his kids through college and have a comfortable old age?

I suspect James is the sort of actor who will always get work, maybe not what we would want – a series built solely to showcase his many talents or a series of blockbuster movies [which I’m pretty sure he’d love too!], or better yet a stage play – but he gets better with time.  I once told him I’d wait for his King Lear and I will.  I just have to hope he brings it to Britain.

James has said he looks for something that excites him and makes him want to keep turning the pages and I think he likes to stretch himself – ‘I like jumping off a cliff’, he says, ‘I better start flapping!’  But like most actors, he has to take some of what is offered to him to pay the rent and eat, although he must get such a lot of work offered to him.  Maybe not what he wants and not where he wants either, as he stays on the West Coast as much as he can, to be with his kids.  Canada is a short flight away but not for length-of-the-play time or a regular series in New York [which he says he was offered and turned down].  He may not move away from home for another 4 or 5 years yet and although this must be severely limiting his professional chances, this is what he has chosen to do.  Luckily, filming ‘Dragonball’ was mostly in Mexico and accessible.


Finally, I have been trying to sum up what makes James the remarkable actor he is and the short of it is, I don’t know. 

If I had to try and put it into words, I’d say it’s a stunning combination of sheer raw blazing talent, combined with having learnt his professional craft really well twice over, for stage and TV [something not every actor can do], the sort of star charisma that reduces calm experienced people to nervous, speechless excitement and that indefinable quality once-seen-never-forgotten that makes you watch only him when he is on screen, because the camera loves him.  He bewails the fact he’s not five inches taller and says he’d be rich and famous if he was – but I say, forget the height, he’s tall enough and it’s not height that makes a great man or a big man.  But I gotta say, he’s ALL man.



i'm off to read before bed now...  cuppa coffee, i think - relax, it's decaff!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 25th, 2008 07:38 am (UTC)
Thay was very thoughtful writing. Thanks for sharing.
Sep. 25th, 2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
You're welcome...

Easy to talk about James - i bore the pants off anyone who will sit still long enough to listen! i spread the faith like a religious zealot wherever i go and because i have 'Spike' on my mobile, it frequently makes conversation for me.

i start saving for the next time, as soon as the last event has finished!
Sep. 25th, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
You were at SFX?!!!

Doesn't suppose you remember a bunch of very leery - okay drunk - girls sitting beyond the curtain at the edge of the hall and running in to cheer sometimes during the Q&A..?

And you stewarded at The Harvest too! We've almost met so many times in the past!!! I'm very glad we got to - finally - meet properly. :)

I loved reading your tour of why you're into James and I absolutely agree. :D

Sep. 25th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
LOL No, don't remember just one lot of leery girls, but several! i was only at SFX for one day remember, babe.

Glad you find James as fascinating as i do! He's somethin' else, ain't he??
Sep. 25th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
thanks for this, I enjoyed it a lot. I always like reading your thoughts of him. :)
Hope to see you soon again and have a longer chat than last time!
Sep. 25th, 2008 07:54 pm (UTC)
LOL Thank you, glad you enjoyed it.

i hope we get to have some dinner and a chat at least next time, petal
Sep. 25th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
Interesting read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Sep. 26th, 2008 09:37 am (UTC)
Thanks, babe. :D
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )