In the first installment of our interview with James Marsters, he talked about his love life and his sizzling new turn on Torchwood. Here, he chats about his return to Smallville (Thursday at 8 pm/ET, the CW), his starring role in the live-action Dragonball movie, and why he plays bad and doesn't want to be famous.
TV Guide: You're returning to Smallville for a couple of episodes. What's fun about playing Brainiac? He's certainly smart, but not quite as sexy as Torchwood'sCaptain John.
James Marsters: [Laughs] I really like working with the cast, and I loved it in Season 5 when the audience didn't know what I was there for. That was pretty delicious.
TV Guide: When Brainiac was posing as the history professor Milton Fine?
Marsters: Yes. I was pretending to care about Clark's feelings, and that was cool because I really didn't care at all; I just wanted him to be my tool. He sort of kicked my ass, of course.
TV Guide: The last time we saw Brainiac, wasn't he reduced to his black liquidy real self?
Marsters: My schedule had filled up and I couldn't come back, so that was a way to close the door. Then [executive producer] Al Gough called at the beginning of this season and asked if I was available. Luckily, I had some time.
TV Guide: What's up with the evil creature?
Marsters: He's gone from trying to rule the world to trying to survive, hanging out with tramps, warming his hands over open fires. My wardrobe is way cooler, and I get to eat a rat. I assume he'll soon be back with his machinations and making life tough for Clark. What was really fabulous was that I got to work with Marc McClure, who played Jimmy Olsen in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. He plays a scientist. I can probably say he's a good scientist.
TV Guide: Are you ready to do another series as a full-time player?
Marsters: Sure. I love to work. When I was a kid, I would invite my friends over to play, then I would take them over to a recycling plant and we would haul glass all day. They hated me for this, but I thought it was fun. I love to sweat.
TV Guide: Is that one of the reasons you like doing sci-fi — hard work and lots of sweating?
Marsters: One of the reasons. But you know, some of the writers from Buffy are on the best shows around — Grey's Anatomy, 24 —you name it. And they all have the same complaint: "This is great, but I just want to have a big demon come out of a rift hole and suck someone into some interesting universe." I'm like, "You're on 24, man. There could be nuclear war at any time!" And he's, "Yeah, it's boring. I'm stuck to reality!"
TV Guide: You're plunging into a big sci-fi feature next. Can you talk about the live-action Dragonball?
Marsters: Dragonball is the coolest television cartoon in the last 50,000 years. Its only failing is that the female characters aren't drawn well — we're going to fix that in the movie. It's got a Shakespearean sense of good and evil and there are incredible action scenes with characters ofunbelievable power. It's going to be really visually exciting. I was told the budget is about $100 million.
TV Guide: Nice to know you're so enthusiastic. Who do you play?
Marsters: Lord Piccolo. He's thousands of years old and a very long time ago he used to be a force of good but got into a bad argument and was put into prison for 2,000 years. It got him very angry, and he finds a way to escape and then tries to destroy the world. The cool thing is, anybody who has seen Dragonball knows that Lord Piccolo transforms into a character named Piccolo, and that is a whole other ball of wax. That is one of the most popular characters in the whole series. I've been told I'm working for people who will just flay me alive if I give too much information, but what I can tell you is the character is green, bald and has pointed ears. Heroic wouldn't be the wrong term by the end, but it's a long journey.
TV Guide: On the opposite end of the spectrum, aren't you playing serial murderer Ted Bundy in the Lifetime Movie Network miniseries The Capture of the Green River Killer?
Marsters: John Pielmeier, a wonderful man who won a Tony for Agnes of God and who I worked with in Seattle in the '90s, called and said that he was doing this drama and he didn't have a good Ted Bundy, and could I come up for a day and film. Everyone said that I was really scary. They kind of put my hair in that shape and put me in the costume and the director came into my trailer and said, "Oh, my god, you look just like Ted Bundy."Eff off! I don't want to hear that.
TV Guide: Will you be back as the fed (Detective Grant Mars) on Without a Trace?
Marsters: I was scheduled to do five episodes and I thought that it was over; when I got Dragonball, they seemed a little miffed that I wasn't available to them anymore, which was both a surprise and kind of a compliment. My character doesn't die or kill anybody, so I think I could come back. It is a wonderful show to work on; everybody's on top of their game.
TV Guide: Most of us know you from Buffy, but weren't you acting for years before that?
Marsters: Oh, my god, yes. I'd done 100 plays before that. I never really wanted to be famous. I got a taste of it in high school. In a conference of student thespian societies, I was cast as Jesus in Godspell and suddenly I was like the Who and the Stones. Girls would burst into the bathroom to try to see my penis! Fame didn't seem like fun. I went into theater — I ran my own theater in Seattle and it was wonderful. But at the birth of my son, I heard this voice going, "Go make money, James Marsters. Go south now. [Your son] did not decide to be poor. He will not be happy sleeping in the back of your theater like you are now."
TV Guide: And the rest is TV history. Is it true that a few years ago, British filmgoers voted you and Keira Knightley the actors they most would like to see as Romeo and Juliet? Supposedly you beat out Leonardo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom!
Marsters: It's true. Overseas, Buffy was a lot bigger than it was in America. The characters even had their own stamps in one of the former Soviet Union countries. But that was fun to hear. Of course I said, yes, I'd do it, but Keira wouldn't comment. [Laughs]
TV Guide: So life after 40 seems pretty good, doesn't it?
Marsters: Yeah. Forties are good! I'm thinking with my brain now, which is a lot more clear, and women seem to appreciate that. It's a wonderful decade where you're in control of yourself but the women are still interested.
Check out more of James Marsters with clips in our Online Video Guide.
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