Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Anthony Head on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

One of the reasons I wanted to do this blog was to have a place to print parts of my interviews that never managed to find a home. Either my editor wasn't interested or there were space considerations or the subject matter came out of left field and didn't fit with the rest of the article.

Some of this will be classic stuff, which is just another way to say it happened a long time ago, but I still remember it. So I hunted it down, edited it and here it is. Other times I'll get it up quickly for you based on a recent interview.

First up is an interview I did Anthony Head, who I originally talked to about a year ago for his new BBC series Merlin.

I was writing an article on Merlin for the August '09 issue of Sci Fi Magazine, cause Merlin was airing on NBC for the summer. Merlin is a wonderful little show that's doing great in Britian, but didn't do so well on NBC. Luckily seasons 2 and 3 are headed to Syfy at the beginning of April. If you want to find out what Head had to say about his character or the show, check out that issue of Sci Fi Magazine.

However, while we were talking I took him off topic and asked him about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Head played Giles, Buffy's teacher and Slayer trainer. I'm a huge Buffy fan and I couldn't help but ask him about his experiences with Buffy.

Here's what Head had to say (with his wonderful English accent) about Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Anthony Head: What’s remarkable about Buffy is that it hasn’t really gone away. I mean you do get shows that sort of date and gradually wane in people’s imagination, but it’s amazing how many people it affected. And I mean, I get young kids coming up to me now, and I think they’re gonna be fans of Little Britain or Merlin, and they’re actually quite a lot of them… because it comes rather around on digital TV here, and a new generation of Buffy fans grows every couple of years. It’s fascinating. And also, I mean, when I’ve been over in LA to casting, and I walk into a producer’s office. Because Buffy was such a writers’ show, it’s amazing how many producers who’ve come up through the ranks of writing treat me very well when I walk through the door. They have great respect for the show and for those of us that were fortunate enough to be in it. So it has an extraordinary place in TV history really. I mean it basically comes down to Joss Whedon, who is a remarkable, remarkable talent… And I don’t really think he quite gets his just desserts. I think he really deserves to be applauded more.

Kathie: When you look back at the greatest sci-fi and fantasy shows that have ever existed, Buffy is in that group. It stands in the company of Star Trek and X-Files.

Anthony Head: It’s one of the best… it has to be said that it’s one of the best written shows that’s ever been made… I mean not, not all the time. To have that consistency, you’d have to be geniuses, but…

Kathie: Well, no series is perfect every episode. If you look at the X-Files it went on for a few years too long.

Anthony Head: (Laughs). And also, I think Joss made a great decision, a difficult decision to actually pull it after seven years… To give it it’s cycle, let it come back too school…

Kathie: And it had absolutely the perfect ending.

Anthony Head: Yes.

Kathie: I, I was so pleased because so few shows actually end well.

Anthony Head: Right.

Kathie: And it did end on a very satisfying note.

Anthony Head: He had a remarkable hand on the tiller. I think he did get distracted about two-thirds of the way through. He had to run two other shows, and I think that possibly you can see in it, but not that much. Everything had to be passed by him and everything had to be checked by him. But for consistency, for just good story lines, for interesting story lines, which is basically it was allegorical… What was happening in Buffy’s life was a reflection of what happens as we grow through our teens, and it was… he kept it going, and I mean it went through all sorts of fascinating things.

Kathie: I will always remember the musical, and I mean it was just astonishing because I thought, okay, this can’t possibly work. It’s not gonna be good, and yet it was one of the best things I’d ever seen on television. It was like, oh, my God!

Anthony Head: He and I spoke right at the beginning about doing a musical, ‘cause I’ve always loved musicals and so has he. I mean basically, every year I'd go, “Are we going to do one?” And he'd go, “No.” It cannot just come out of the fact that we haven't got any other ideas. It has to spontaneously find its own feet, and it was basically when we were all hanging out singing around his piano that he started to suddenly get, “I’ve got a cast here who can really sing.” And I think that’s when the germ was born. I remember getting a CD with him on the piano banging the tunes out with Connie singing, his wife singing all the female parts, and it’s like, "My God, we’ve got a musical. It’s really good. This is really good." This isn’t just, “I’ll hire in a bunch of writers.” This is him writing the songs, writing all the lyrics, and having a really, really good premise for a musical. The reason why a musical works is that it’s the only way you can hear your thoughts, but what happens if you don’t want people to hear your thoughts, but you can’t help but sing them. Genius.

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