Buffy the Vampire Slayer star James Marsters shares a story about an encounter in which Joss Whedon yelled at him over Spike’s popularity with fans. Marsters joined the show in season 2, playing the punk rock vampire Spike, who was part of Angelus’ (David Boreanaz) group of vampires before his soul was restored and he became Angel. Spike wasn’t meant to become a major part of the show, and his story seemed to end in the season 2 finale. However, in his short time on the show, Spike became a fan-favorite Buffy character. As a result, Spike appeared in one episode of season 3, before returning in season 4 and eventually became a main character. Marsters worked with Whedon again when he reprised his role as Spike in the Buffy spinoff Angel.
After Buffy, Whedon went on to become a major Hollywood director and showrunner, spearheading beloved sci-fi western Firefly, helming The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron for Marvel Studios and taking over on Warner Bros’ Justice League movie when original director Zack Snyder exited the project. In recent weeks, cast and crew on some of Whedon’s projects have come forward with accusations of abusive and unprofessional behavior, including those on Justice League and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now, Marsters shares a story about one particular time when Whedon yelled at him during his tenure on Buffy.
On the Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum podcast, Marsters spoke about how Spike evolved from a short-term villain into a main character and love interest for Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar). In talking about Whedon’s theme for the show – that vampires should be ugly and not be portrayed as love interests – Marsters revealed an incident when Whedon yelled at the actor:
I came along and I wasn’t designed to be a romantic character, but then the audience reacted that way to it. And I remember he backed me up against a wall one day and he was just like, ‘I don’t care how popular you are, kid, you’re dead. You hear me? Dead. Dead!’ And I was just like, ‘Uh, you know, it’s your football, man. OK.’
Rosenbaum asked Marsters if Whedon was joking, to which Marsters responded, “No, hell no.” The podcast host then asked if Whedon ever apologized – he didn’t – then, if Whedon was angry at him. Marsters elaborated, “He was angry at the situation.” The Buffy actor went on to explain that Whedon was frustrated that Spike’s popularity among the fans was adverse to his vision for the show.
Although Marsters frames Whedon’s reaction as understandable at the time, it’s difficult not to view the story through the lens of what’s been coming to light about Whedon’s behavior on sets. Justice League actor Ray Fisher claimed Whedon’s behavior was “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable;” more recently, members of the Buffy stunt team spoke out about Whedon’s treatment of them on set, calling him an “egomaniac.” Together with these accounts of Whedon’s other actions behind the scenes, Marsters’ story further adds to the picture of how the filmmaker acts on set – and, as Fisher said, it’s unacceptable behavior.
It’s unclear if more stories like these will come to light about Whedon’s behavior not only on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but his other projects. It’s possible they will if folks are bolstered by Fisher, Jeff Pruitt and Sophia Crawford coming forward with their experiences. Folks may also feel emboldened to come forward by the #MeToo movement, which has forced Hollywood to take a hard look at what behavior has been excused or overlooked when it shouldn’t have been. Historically, a showrunner losing his temper and yelling at an actor for something they have no control over may have been acceptable, but some (hopefully many) would argue it isn’t. Perhaps these stories about Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Justice League will lead to a better, safer and healthier environment for actors in Hollywood.
Next: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Everything That Happened After The Show Ended
Source: Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum