More on Dollhouse from Joss Whedon
SciFi.com has another interview with Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon on their site.
Whedon, creator/producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, will return to series television with the show Dollhouse. However, Fox won’t debut the show until early next year. Dollhouse reunites Whedon with Eliza Dushku, who kicked butt and cracked heads as Faith on both Buffy and Angel.
She stars in Dollhouse as Echo, an “Active” who lives in a top-secret, for-profit, majorly illegal facility called the Dollhouse, where the Actives are assigned all manner of missions, and with each mission they’re reprogrammed, with earlier memories wiped out and replaced by the information necessary to carry out the latest job. So, for example, Echo might be someone’s dream date on one mission and an assassin the next. Crises arise, though, when Echo begins to retain memories from past assignments and to question who she really is.
Co-stars on the series will include Olivia Williams, Fran Kranz, Enver Gjokaj, Dichen Lachman, Harry Lennix and two genre favorites: Angel veteran Amy Acker and Tahmoh Penikett of Battlestar Galactica. SCI FI Weekly recently caught up with Whedon in New York City, and he excitedly offered a preview of things to come on Dollhouse.
How ready were you to jump into another TV show?
Whedon: I guess I was totally ready. I just had no idea it was going to happen. It literally did happen after lunch with Eliza, which is a tale that sounds like a bad biopic but is actually true. I went home and said to my wife, “Honey, I accidentally created a Fox show.” And she just said, “Fine.” She knew it was right, that this was very organic, and the timing was right. I’d been aware a while. I’d mourned for my last show [Firefly]. I’d been working in movies and then not working in movies for a while. And then it’s just all flowed so naturally that even though I didn’t know I was ready, I was clearly ready.
What will we see on a weekly basis?
Whedon: On a weekly basis we will see Eliza as a different person. On a weekly basis she’ll have a different engagement every week, and she’ll have a different purpose and a different personality. The exciting thing and part of the other reason I created the show is that Eliza is very versatile, and this will be a chance for her to play 100 different people. They’ll all be her. She’s not going to wear old-person makeup or anything like that, but they’ll all be from very different social strata, with very different agendas and very different motivations and very different things. Every week she’ll have an agenda that’s evil or decent or sexual or romantic or altruistic. It can be anything. But there will be a flow-through of the show as well, about her and the characters surrounding her and how the Dollhouse works, how it doesn’t work, and her burgeoning self-awareness. Between these engagements she’s this complete innocent and starts to go, “Hey, here I am in the Garden of Eden. What’s this apple, and what do I do with it?”
Will any of the Buffy/Angel/Firefly team be coming back as writers, producers and directors?
Whedon: Oh yes, absolutely. Liz Craft and Sarah Fain are my co-execs, and I targeted them before Women’s Murder Club went up, and then it went up and I couldn’t get them. When the strike was over, we’d picketed together the whole strike. And then the next day they were off Women’s Murder Club and I, like a vulture, like a panther, picked them out. So they’re my co-execs and running the show with me. And then I have Tim Minear and Steve DeKnight as consulting producers, which is an embarrassment of riches. And then everybody else we hired is sort of a younger writer, baby writers, and they’re all really smart. It’s a great a room, a great room.
Who is Amy Acker going to play?
Whedon: Amy plays Dr. Claire Saunders. She works in the Dollhouse and she’s a very moral force. She’s very, very, very broken. She’s scarred, literally scarred. Something happened at the Dollhouse a while back, and she was scarred. She just sort of lives there, and her whole mission in life is to take care of them. Topher, the programmer, who is going to be cute and funny and sexy, he programs them, and he has a very amoral kind of point of view, and she is sort of his counterpoint.
Who is Echo actually working for?
Whedon: The idea was, “Eliza can do a lot of things, so let’s have her do a lot of things.” The way that works is to have a very varied clientele. Obviously, since it’s an underground operation and very expensive and very illegal, some of them are shifty and a lot of them are rich. That sort helps keep it varied and fun and glamorous, but I also establish in the pilot that they do what they refer to as “pro bonos,” which are just things where they help people [for free], because they discover that even though they don’t remember any of it, it helps them physically that they do these things.
So there’s a physical benefit to them doing good?
Whedon: Yes, and there’s an argument about it. There’s an argument about everything, even in the first episode.
People will compare this show to loads of other things …
Whedon: People would come to me with “It’s just like … It’s just like … It’s just like …” I always feel a little guilty, if you have enough of those, I feel that’s what makes it original. Eternal Sunshine is one of those things we all went, “Oh yeah, of course.” Eternal Sunshine. Never Let Me Go, that novel. Actually, it was Tahmoh who pointed that out to me. Tahmoh Penikett, when I first got on the phone with him, he said, “Have you read this book …?” And I went, “Oh my God, I have.” And, yes, I think I’m stealing from it.
You’re going to get a lot of Eternal Sunshine comparisons …
Whedon: Eternal Sunshine, it’s that same sort of idea of “What about our relationships is real, and what is just what we’re projecting?” And that’s really … this whole [thing] revolves around the idea of what we expect from each other, what we believe about ourselves, and how all of that can be torn apart, and how you can build, from scratch, your own identity. So it’s very dark and very morally gray.
Would you say that Dollhouse is darker than your other shows?
Whedon: Dark in a different way, I’d say. It’s gray, dark gray. It doesn’t all take place at night, I’m very happy to say, because that’s horrible to shoot. But everybody in it is compromised, to a very large extent, and yet I love every character and I’m fascinated by them, as always happens. And the actors we have playing them are phenomenal. So we know that we can take any character, put them through the wringer, find the hope or lose hope, really break them down and then build them up again, which, ultimately, is sort of the whole point of all the dramas I do.
Eliza was pretty dark on Buffy and Angel, and here …
Whedon: She’s a complete innocent as Echo, but what’s interesting to me is, as she begins to build a character as Echo, one of the things that Echo is going to have to learn how to do is [be] evil. Part of becoming human is layering on something that is bad. So, that to me … somebody described it as the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and I thought, “Yeah, that’s her, too.”
People are also wondering who the Actives are working for, where the money goes, if they’re assassins …
Whedon: People thought it’s like an Alias thing, and the two things we’ve had to [clarify] is that, one, she’s not toting a gun every week. That’s not what it’s about. It’s a human drama with some action and all the suspense because, as she becomes self-aware, the Dollhouse becomes kind of a dangerous place for her. So there’s always that friction. But it could be a romantic comedy one week. Eliza jokes that this a cure for her ADHD, and I say it’s a cure for mine.
During the writers’ strike you shot Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, an online musical that stars Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion. What can you tell us about that, and what’s currently happening with it?
Whedon: Dr. Horrible we’re just finishing. We’re going to finishing posting it, and then we’re going to have a whole conversation about how to put it out there. I’m going to put it on the Internet first. Whether or not I can monetize it that way … I’d like to be able to. I’d like to be able to make the money back, pay the crew, because Dr. Horrible, apart from being hilarious and fun, is also a product of the strike. I want to show that there’s a way to make things yourself, but then I also want to show that there’s a way to make that viable for people. So even if I don’t accomplish the second part, I want to do the first part. So we’ll put it on the Internet, hopefully with a sponsor of some kind. We’ll work that out. And then iTunes, DVD … we’re doing amazing DVD extras. It’s going to be the finest 40-minute musical since the last one I made.