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The Times (London)

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The Times. London newspaper.

  • An Englishman abroad: Buffy's Rupert Giles, December 10, 2000.
  • Interference: Anthony Stewart Head, July 24, 2000.

    An Englishman abroad: Buffy's Rupert Giles, December 10, 2000, by Stephen Armstrong.

    When did you know you had made the grade from Nescafé man to star of the late 20th century's greatest show?

    It was clear to me at the beginning, but neither the network nor the studio really understood it, and they undersold it to the viewers, as well. In the end it was the internet that made us. We did 13 shows, and we were waiting to find out if we had got an extra nine, to make 22, which means you should get a second series. I was on the phone to Alyson Hannigan [Buffy's friend Willow] and asked her if there was any word, and she said: "Get a computer and look online." There were all these websites devoted to the show. And there were sites about me.

    So you escaped being the coffee-advert bloke?

    Not entirely. The ads were shown in America, and when I was reading for the pilot, I met Sarah Michelle Gellar, and she had seen them. She kept saying: "I can't believe I'm sitting next to the Nescafˇ guy."

    Do the audience respond differently to you? You're not a blonde American schoolgirl...

    Every time I go to one of these signings, I'm always convinced there's going to be huge queues for everyone else and about five people for me, but then I end up signing things for two hours. These conventions are unbelievable. There are thousands of people screaming as you enter the room. It's like being a rock star. The fans I get aren't any different from anyone else's. They're a bit more deferential to me at the beginning, until they realise I'm not half as wise as the character. Then it's okay.

    Do you get any weirdo fans?

    Not especially. They're all pretty normal. I do have some fans among the librarian population, and I've been on the cover of the Librarian Association's magazine. Apparently the show is getting kids to visit the library, though I burnt the place down at the end of the last series, so I don't know what they think now.

    What do you think of Juliet Landau's Britpunk accent for Drusilla the vampire?

    I think it's good. I spend a lot of time introducing British words into the script. I'm proud to have got "pillock" in there. And I got "bollocks" in as well, because Americans don't know what it means. James Marsters [Spike the vampire] said it in one episode - although they wrote it into the script as "bollix", and that's how he pronounced it, so I had to correct them. Joss Whedon [the show's creator] is a real anglophile. He lived in the UK, and he even did A-levels. He has started hosting Shakespeare readings every weekend where cast, crew and friends go over and do a whole play. We're doing Richard III next.

    Do you get treated like a father figure by all the younger cast members?

    I suppose I do get asked for advice slightly more often than the others, but I'm not really that much older. Most of the cast are in their late twenties now. The one thing I do get is Sarah and Alyson and the other actresses asking me for massages, because I do very good ones. Amelia's only just worked that out. So yes, I get to massage those actresses as part of my job. It's tough.

    Do you believe in vampires?

    Yes, of course. Don't you?

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    Interference: Anthony Stewart Head, July 24, 2000, by Amber Cowan.

    The former Gold Blend advert smoothie and star of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on what he watches.

    What are your television turn-ons?
    It always used to be Have I Got News For You. I loved that! But I say "used to be" because the schedule got switched around so many times I've lost track of when it is on. So I don't really know now. My girlfriend, Sarah, loves Sex and the City and Ally McBeal - all that girlie stuff - and my daughters love Friends. And I do like ER, because I fancy George Clooney enormously.

    When do you watch television?
    At bedtime. The problem is that during the four months a year that we're in England, we live out in the country and after driving home from London or wherever, we tend to just crash out with the telly on in bed.

    So we watch the news, and on a Sunday morning, Breakfast With Frost - which is always good for a laugh. Frost has this very affable "I'm not going to let this question go until I get an answer" demeanour, and he gets the sort of interview very few others can. He's still a talented presenter, even though he's not quite on the cutting edge any more, ahem!

    What makes you turn off?
    Australian soaps. In the old days I used to watch Neighbours, but it's gone round and round so many times now it has practically disappeared up its own bottom.

    I dislike soaps in general, really. I think it stems back to childhood trauma. My parents always used to switch the television off every time the Coronation Street theme tune would start, so I just do the same automatically. And in America, I hate stuff like Jerry Springer. I thought it was alright when it first started, but after a couple of times I started to clock on. The guests were all wearing the same clothes - week in, week out - and I suddenly realised, this is a fiddle! Honestly. I have it on very good information the whole show is a set-up.

    What do you tape?
    There was this fantastic show on last week called The Secret Life of the Family that we rushed home to tape - mainly because it was about two friends of ours. Paul and Janine (Duvitski, actress) allowed cameras into their house to film them going through everyday life, and at the same time to film the microscopic creatures that live in their home: fleas, bedbugs, etc. It was gripping stuff: I haven't used a tea towel since in fact, because that was where most germs were found. Uurgh!

    Do you listen to the radio?
    In Santa Monica, where I live for eight months of the year, there's this great station indigenous to the area that plays the sort of music I love, from Alanis Morissette to Joni Mitchell.

    Here, I'm ashamed to say, it is Radio 2. I know people are going to read this and think "he is seriously in his mid-forties now", but to them I say, just give it a listen!

    I was cruising along in my car to "Whispering" Bob Harris the other day, and he played some country music which was just beautiful. It's much better than Radio 1 anyway: all that high-energy dance music isn't conducive to good driving. It makes me gnash my teeth.

    Interview by Amber Cowan

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