Jane Espenson is one of the busiest and seemingly happiest writers around Hollywood these days. Not only does her résumé include incredible shows like Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Gilmore Girls, Jake in Progress and Andy Barker, P.I., but she's now working as co-executive producer on Sci Fi Channel's Peabody Award-winning hit show, Battlestar Galactica. TVGuide.com sat down with Espenson at her Universal Studios writing office to talk about working on one of the best shows on television, which TV character she'd like to have lunch with, and the new Caprica series.
TVGuide.com: At the Paley Festival, Joss Whedon and Sarah Michelle Gellar discussed the darkness that Buffy went through in Season 6. Since you were a part of creating those stories, can you explain the thinking behind that sort of character arc for her?
It's so funny for me to think about the darkness on Buffy now that I'm on Battlestar, because there's nothing on Buffy that got anywhere near as dark as on Battlestar. Buffy felt dark at the time, but now I'm looking back on it going, "There were jokes! There were jokes on every page." Battlestar has these dark moments of ironic humor that I absolutely love, but it's never quippy. Buffy, even in its darkest moments, would have these flashes of insane humor. It's all relative. As shows go along, the characters go through a lot. To keep "breezy Buffy" was just not believable or plausible given what she'd been through.
TVGuide.com: Is there any character from the shows you've written for that you'd like to take off the page and have lunch with?
Yeah, totally: the character [Simon], played by Tony Hale in Andy Barker, P.I. Any character he plays would be fantastic. And just lunch with [Arrested Development's] Buster! Oh, and Starbuck, boy, she's….
TVGuide.com: She's a feisty one.
Espenson: She's such a [heavy] load! There's just so much going on with her. I think I'd rather watch her than sit down and have lunch with her.
TVGuide.com: She seems like she'd be exhausting.
She'd be terribly exhausting. But that's the thing: Sometimes a character is so dense and interesting, they're actually the last person you'd want to be splitting a ham-and-cheese with because they've just got so much going on. You know what? I'd love to have lunch with President Roslin. She's got a lot of stuff going on, internal stuff you feel like she can't express. She's one of those characters that's always thinking about things all the time, and doesn't always say everything she's thinking.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of Roslin, can you tell me why she and Adama aren't hooking up? It seems as though they were hinting at that storyline, and then pulled completely back from it.
I think they felt that when they were down on New Caprica, their responsibilities were off their shoulders: There was no ship to be admiral of, and she wasn't president.... But now that the responsibilities are back on them, they are the government. He's the military side and she's the civilian side, so they may have some fear of the perception that, if they were together, [people would think], "There are no checks and balances." But maybe they'll overcome that fear.
TVGuide.com: You started on Battlestar with a freelance script, but did you think it would ever turn into a staff position?
Espenson: Well, that was my plan. [Laughs] I went to them and said, "Can I be on your show, whether it's freelance, staff or whatever?" They gave me "The Passage" to write, but I wasn't just thinking, "I got to do it, now I'm going away." I was totally thinking, "OK, now how do I do my next one?" I was really happy and excited when they called me to do "Dirty Hands" with Anne Cofell. It didn't look like [a full-time gig] was going to work out [logistically] and at the last second, through what I suspect was some pretty hard work by my agent, I got word that I could come on staff. I was soooo happy.
TVGuide.com: It must be amazing to work on a pinnacle show like Battlestar, because people who know it and love it try to convince other people to watch it.
Espenson: Maybe it was Seth Green or Emma Caulfield, but someone at the Buffy Paley event brought up Battlestar as a great contemporary show. I was sitting in the audience going, "How lucky am I?" I'm very pleased that I have both Buffy and Battlestar on my résumé. There's always a sense of, "Where do you go from here? How do you top this?"
TVGuide.com: There's always [Joss Whedon's new Fox series] Dollhouse!
True, or [the Battlestar prequel] Caprica!
TVGuide.com: Are you allowed to say who will be in Caprica? Will some familiar faces from Battlestar appear in the two-hour pilot?
I... don't know what I'm allowed to say about that. But I believe a young Adama is in it — though I'm not sure what era it will be set in. I'm just not sure.
TVGuide.com: I know you have a great relationship with Joss, so what is it like working with Ron [Moore]?
It was so great because during the strike, Ron and Joss got to meet and know each other, and I was so happy. It was like, "Oh, look at my two bosses!" But, yes, Ron is fantastic. I'd be very happy to spend the rest of my career working for Joss and Ron in equal measures.
Look for more on this interview with Espenson next week, including our discussions about Buffy, Firefly and what it's like to work with the mighty Joss Whedon.
For more features, news and inside scoop, check out the latest double issue of TV Guide, which features an in-depth look at all your favorite returning shows.