Non-Sport Update, magazine, US.
From Coffee to Coffins ...Anthony Stewart Head Has You Covered, August/September 2001 (Vol. 12, #4).
Well, if you think lives are a little topsy-turvy in the world of Joss Whedon, the creator and executive producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, just ask one of his leading actors, Anthony Stewart Head, what's up in his own life. It is about as hectic as the life of his alter ego, Buffy's magic shop proprietor, Watcher Giles.
As Giles, Head attempts to act as rudder on a ship of houng would-be heroes--a ship whose captain just so happens to have turned up dead at the season finale--a feat that has taken five years (and still counting).
Giles has made a great deal of adjustments, having been removed as Buffy's official Watcher, first losing his library, his girlfriend, and as the team left high school, his close participation in their maturation. However, it has also impacted on the real life of the actor who has found he has spent quite enough time on the opposite side of the sea.
Mr. Head was kind enough to speak with us about the changes on Buffy, and in his own life, as the show moves into season six, and onto a new network.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Giles are both still going strong. Are you surprised?
Anthony Head: No. He's a very interesting and deep character and does provide a weight to the show. It's to the credit of Joss's concept where you start with someone who is supposedly light-headed and is gonna save the world, and doesn't care really when she starts, and you counterpoint her with someone who is very thoughtful and very deep and cares desperately, but who can't actually do it himself (laughs).
What's been fascinating about the character Giles and playing it, and playing with it, is that as time has gone on and the character has developed, having to deal with the laws of mortaility, he's grown. As the Slayer has developed, his relationship with her has grown as well.
I'm not surprised he's still going. Even as we came off of season five, Joss came off running with fresh and new ideas for season six. It wasn't a man breathless from a long haul wondering, "What are we gonna do now?"
There were times in season five where I thought, "Where's this going? I'm not sure about this and that," but he manages to take you by surprise.
After high school, Giles seemed out of place.
A.H.: Yeah, sure. Not only did he look it, he felt it as well. When you feel out of the loop, it leaves you feeling unfocussed, unhappy, and in Giles' case, tumbling happily or unhappily into mid-life crisis.
There were times as an actor I was thinking, "Okay, where do I fit in now; what is my role?" And Joss would take those feelings of an actor's insecurities and went with them, launching my character into a whole separate arc, which is great fun to play. It gave me the opportunity to end up pitched at the local coffee shop singing--stuff you could not normally expect in the limited spectrum that is television. You would not normally go down the avenues Joss takes his characters.
As actors we are insecure creatures. That's why we do the job we do, because we're not sure about being ourselves, and like to dress up and be someone else.
Speaking of singing--the local gals were mooning over the café crooner?
A.H.: (laughing) What's the bit with Willow starting to go weak-kneed? I thought, "Where are we going with this?"
What's coming in Giles' future?
A.H.: As season five progressed, I talked to Joss about wanting to distance myself a little from the show. It's no secret that I want to be based in England now and commute to America, so I will take a slightly lesser role in the show. When we talked about that, it fit perfectly with the scheme of things. Next season things will be about that final step into adulthood she has to make, now that her mother's gone.
They would have to be finding things for me to do. Joss and I have talked about doing a series here. You know, Giles goes back to England.
Not the first time the show changed because of the involvement of an actor. Seth Green for example? A.H.: Life presents new opportunities and challenges, and Joss is a genios at using them and seeing where they lead him in terms of story and character arcs. When Seth, having been established as an extraordinarily strong character, had to leave in the fourth season because he got some seriously good movie gigs, it was impossible to work scheduling. Joss was beside himself thinking, "I just established this strong character in the group and now he's leaving." All of a sudden he came up with the idea of Amber, that Willow's actually a Lesbian, or at least isn't scared of it, and so, therefore, is interested in finding out where it leads her. It led to a fascinating bunch of story arcs that would otherwise not have been discovered.
A musical episode?
A.H.: We've been talking about doing an all-musical episode for a long time, since the pilot, but it comes down to Joss writing all the music, and that's a tall order.
Out of the library, into the...?
A.H.: The atmosphere in the library--when that was up and running--used to get pretty thick, because that's where all the exposition would take place. And because I'm the exposition man, you know, two days out of the script will be in the place that I am, usually in one place, and it's wall to wall. But it's less now with the Magic Shop.
A new season, a new network (UPN). Does this change affect you personally?
A.H.: It's typical that I've chosen this moment--when we're about to go to a network that is prepared to pay $2.3 million per episode--I'm choosing to become a recurring role, rather than a series regular (laughing) when I could jump in a ask for a serious bump in salary.
Will the jump affect the show?
A.H.: I think it can only do it good. It can only regerate interest. I have long had a beef, although they (the WB) have served the show well, they always had a limited view of us...having gone public saying it was a teen show, and I never saw it as a teen show. Therefore you would have people in their 40s and 50s coming up to me saying, "I'm ashamed to say I'm a Buffy fan--I actually watch the show." It's like, "It's all right, man, don't worry. You can come out of the closet--it's okay."
And the new Star Trek sounds great. UPN is obviously hanging in there. They want to be contenders. I think originally WB brought us in to raise their profile as their flagship, and I think we'll probably be the same for UPN.
What's extraordinary about Buffy is that it's a cult show, it was a very good viewership, and is critically acclaimed. All three together is very rare.
And strong enough to have a sister series--Angel?
A.H.: Yeah, that's a bonus. And if negotations work out, it will have an uncle, too.
So, what about a new Giles show?
A.H.: It's something that Joss--in one of those moments when I said, "What am I doing here?"--he said the show is called Buffy, not Giles. And he said, "The only other thing I have to say to you is, how would you like a show called Giles?" My little face lit up...but I have to go home, I need to be with my children and partner. They've hung out for seven years.
As my youngest daughter said at an emotional goodbye at the 100th episode wrap party, "You've been away for more than half my life." Bottom line is, it was time to come home.
Then he said he wanted to shoot in England. I've always wanted to do a BBC show. He said wouldn't it be fantastic to have the opportunity to make the show more adult-oriented, that used the cream of British actors, and wasn't the bulk order of 22, but was literally six shows here and there. If there is to be a problem, it would be: where is the money to come from? Because most American studios look at what they will get for their money, and six episodes here and there is not a guarantee of a return. Over here we shoot everything in sixes.
So it's down to Joss really wanting to do it; I'm up for it. I've pitched another story, which I think Joss is interested in. The BBC wants it, and has a slot for it.
What would it be about?
A.H.: Ghost stories and inner demons. It's not people in prosthetics. If it does come off, it's a really interesting concept. It's a great spin-off and not obvious. It takes The Legacy in a new direction.
What's in store for Buffy's sixth season?
A.H.: It's a relinquishing of the crown, a handing over and saying, "Well, you're on your own girl," right at the moment she probably most needs to be able to turn to somebody. I think it was firmly established last season that we don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on everything.
What do you think about Angel?
A.H.: It's darker, more adult-themed. It's good stuff, very different from Buffy.
Have you ever braved the world of conventions?
A.H.: I have been to a few conventions. I went to an English convention last year, and the interest has doubled.
They are now seriously talking to us about a solely "Buffy event" in a big venue. I also did a personal appearance at a toy and collectibles shop in Dallas, and the response was enormous.
They opened up the e-mail to ask me questions, and there was so much they had to close it down (laughing). It couldn't handle it. It makes you aware that you're still doing the right thing.
Obviously you've had to get familiar with the business of autographing?
A.H.: When I appear at a convention, I do at least two hours of autographs.
What really ***** me off is when someone turns up with a cast photo apparently signed by Sarah and a couple others, and I know it's not, and they got it off eBay, and I know they paid money. Yes, be sure of what you're buying, but it breaks my heart. There is no cover for it, no insurance, it's all on good faith.
In fact, I always get into trouble because I always like to chat. For me it's about meeting people and being available. If there's a line and it hasn't been capped, even if it has been capped, I'll always see it through.
Do you sign through the mail?
A.H.: I'm appalling. I've got boxes and boxes. It's just not getting myself together. I must say I'm not alone; Alyson's got piles and Nicky's got piles. Sarah Michelle's got a great service that helps. I keep telling myself someday I will get someone to help me and I will reply to everything.
A.H.: What you do is pay for a service, and the service goes through it. But then, it's largely impersonal, you're actually just sending people a print, which is really no better than not sending them anything. What I love is when I get a fan letter that doesn't ask me for an autograph, because that's great, someone just saying thumbs up.
I sent off when I was a kid to a couple people, and I was thrilled when I got a reply. Now when I get stuff it's like, no, I can't reply to you because I haven't replied to anybody in the past five years.
How did you get involved with Inkworks?
A.H.: I remember we did Comic-Con International at the time of Buffy's second or third season, when Inkworks got involved. We did a signing. It was bizarre because they had a security wedge around us that drew so much attention. That's when David Boreanaz was still one of our number, and there was a fair amount of jostling to get to him, to us all actually. A bunch of us did it, including Joss. At the same time, Dark Horse comics' signing was starting, so we did a stint between both boothes. From then on, Inkworks always sent us stuff. They asked me a couple times to sign a thousand, two thousand actually; it goes on forever. They send you special unsprayed ones so the ink sticks, and coat it afterwards.
Did you ever collect cards as a kid?
A.H.: I collected Beatles memorial cards, and on the back, they made a big picture of them all. And the only other time was Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Slave to collecting now?
A.H.: No. I'm ticked off occasionally for buying CDs. I have very eclectic taste.
Any advice for collecting "Giles"?
A.H.: (laughing) Don't write to me. Just look out for the conventions because I'm doing them now--when I wasn't at one point--because they would crop up when I I'd have a few days off.
And write to Inkworks and ask where my autographs went, because I did no less than anyone else (laughs). Someone must be holding them back.
There are also some Hot Wheels cars that have a very strange collection of collectors' cards with them. They're rare. I should snap a few of those up.
You have your own action figure?
A.H.: He's articulated in 14 places, and he's a choking hazard (laughing)--my girlfriend's really thrilled by that.
Any non-Giles projects on the go?
A.H.: I'm about to do a series for the BBC with seven episodes, which is unusual. It's a TV series called Man Child, and it's like a male equivalent of Sex in the City. It's four middle-aged men deep in mid-life crisis, all driving around in fast cars, dating models and doing all the stuff men dream of, but with all the repercussions. It's very funny. I'm tempering that with going back and forth for the first few episodes of Buffy.
(Editor's note: We thank Anthony Head for his comments and the time he graciously took to participate in this interview.)
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