Shivers, magazine, U.K.
Rupert Bares All, May 2000 (#77), by David Richardson.
We speak to Anthony Stewart Head who plays Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's wise mentor.
Things have been a little different during the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With Buffy and Willow at college, Oz taking a period of absence and Angel and Cordelia in Los Angeles, the Scooby Gang has become somewhat fracture. And, for much of the time, life has been a little quieter for former Watcher Rupert Giles.
In previous years Giles' library would be the base of operations for Buffy and her friends, but the destruction of Sunnydale High School and the move to college changed all that. Now out of a job and out of luck, Giles has had to bide his time and re-establish his role in the Buffy universe.
"It's a whole new ballgame," the actor tells Shivers. "He's the sad man who is left at home when they all go off to college. That's how we started and then he kind of got it together."
When asked if he was at all concerned by Giles' reduced role during the early episodes of the season, Head smiles. "It didn't bother me because I always trust Joss implicitly. I know that he has got stuff in mind. He puts pieces together--it is like a very intricate tapestry that he weaves. He doesn't shove everything together at the same time, he brings in little pieces. It's a very, very complex jigsaw and even if I'm not working much I know that I will be."
In fact, Head's limited involvement towards the end of 1999 proved to be a welcome bonus for the actor, who actually lives in England with his family. A script with few Giles lines in it is, he insists, no cause for trauma.
"I just say, 'OK Cool' and I go on a 'plane home," comments the affable Englishman. "I don't have a problem with that. I live moment to moment. My family live in England and we have horses, a dog, a cast, children at school. I just have a very long commute, I go back as often as I can. I had three weeks at Christmas which was good."
As Head observes, we might have seen a little less of Giles this year, but what's there is pure gold. Just take the priceless scenes with unwanted lodger Spike, the ex-Watcher's brilliantly understated relationship with his girlfriend Olivia (Phina Oruche) and those silent comedy moments in "Hush."
A Kind of Hush
"What an amazing episode," says Head of "Hush," written and directed by Joss Whedon, in which the whole of Sunnydale endures one long, tortuous silent night. "Where else do you work with someone who comes up with the idea of doing an episode where you don't talk! I think it was the hardest writing job Joss has had because you are trying to workout how to fill the screen time and how to tell story without anybody talking." Two episodes after "Hush" Giles got the lion's share of the action in "A New Man," in which Buffy goes on the trail of a hideous creature--unaware that it is actually her former Watcher.
"Giles feels really left out of the loop and goes for a drink with Ethan Rayne and wakes up as a demon!" Head exclaims. "It's funny. I got to play a demon with full prosthetic--horns, the lot! I designed my shoes because I wanted to have hoofs, so we got them made so I am on three-inch heels with hoofs."
Mid-way through the fourth season, Whedon seems to have places most of his cards on the table. The Scooby Gang is back to full complement, with Anya, Riley and a begrudging Spike making up the numbers, while Giles' input has been essential since the schemes of the Initiative have come to light. Despite the changes in the cast, Head claims that the atmosphere on set is as good as ever. "We have sun a fun time working," he enthuses. "Everybody was thinking, 'What is going to happen when CC [Charisma Carpenter] and David [Boreanaz] leave?' Now they are having a great time and we are having a great time and occasionally we can cross over. It has just expanded the family instead of losing members."
There may even be a family reunion of sorts, as Head is confident that before long he will be involved in one of those ratings-grabbing Buffy and Angel "cross-over events."
"I hope so," he says. "We've talked about it, it's just a question of getting a storyline that coincides. There's so much going in Buffy at the moment that I don't know if it will happen this year. It may have to wait until next year."
The actor imparts that he's looking forward to working with Boreanaz and Carpenter once more, and also is eager to hook up with old pal Alexis Denisof, who he first met in England when they appeared together in the play Rogue [sic]. It was Denisof's performance in that production which encouraged Head to suggest the actor to Joss Whedon when the role of Wesley was first being cast.
"They basically said they were looking for someone who thinks he is Pierce Brosnan but is actually George Lazenby! I said, 'I know somebody who can do that!' But Alexis got himself the job because he is such a talent."
At the time of writing, just six episodes are left to air of Buffy's fourth season. As ever, it's impossible to second guess Whedon's complex story arc, and Head is giving away no clues. When asked if Giles might become a Watcher once more, he shrugs. "I don't know. The Council is going to make an appearance one way or another but I don't know if it is necessary. I kind of like Giles being a free spirit.
"Joss is always very cagey about where things are going. He has intimated one idea for next season which would be very interesting."
It's evident that the actor is enjoying his role in the series as much as ever, always eager to praise the high standards of writing, production and performance. Given that the show is always praised for its witty, distinctive dialogue, what are Head's favourite Buffy soundbites? "I still love, 'What is your childhood trauma,'" he laughs. "Oh, and 'Spank your inner muppet!' [sic]"
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