‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Creator Joss Whedon Once ‘Terrified’ James Marsters By Backing Him ‘Up Against a Wall’

Joss Whedon created a phenomenon in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer that continues long after it ended its seven seasons on the air. A reboot is in development and comic books continue to publish. Fans revisit the seven seasons on DVD and Hulu, and episodes featuring Spike (James Marsters) are fan favorites. Looking back, Marsters revealed a moment in which Whedon’s hostility towards him and his character blew up.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.]

Joss Whedon with James Marsters and Amber Benson
L-R: James Marsters, Joss Whedon and Amber Benson | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

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Marsters was a guest on Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast on July 14. When Rosenbaum started talking about Buffy, Marsters revealed a moment with Whedon that he says terrified him. 

Joss Whedon fought for the theme of ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’

Marsters said his initial season 2 contract was for five to 10 episodes. Spike was a villain whom Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) could slay. When Spike became popular, Whedon got nervous.

“The thing is that I was imperiling the theme of Buffy,” Marsters told Rosenbaum. “Buffy’s actually the same theme as Hamlet which is how do you get through adolescence? How do you see the world as screwed up and not give up, how do you take arms against the sea of troubles, how do you make a positive difference in the world? Vampires in Buffy are just metaphors for all of the challenges that you face in that period.”

Whedon had already compromised with Angel (David Boreanaz). He wasn’t about to turn Buffy into a teen love triangle.

James Marsters as Spike
James Marsters | Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

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“So Joss felt vampires should be ugly,” Marsters said. “They should be very quickly overcome. They were not supposed to be sexy. He said, ‘I don’t like that Anne Rice crap.’ He got talked into one romantic interest vampire. That was Angel. It wasn’t his idea. That was the only one. That was the exception adn then I came along and I wasn’t designed to be a romantic character but then the audience reacted that way to it.”

Joss Whedon terrified James Marsters with tough love

Most show runners would be happy to have a guest star break out. Whedon was fuming when Spike became popular. Obviously, he got over it when he brought Marsters back for season 4.

“I was terrified of Joss,” Marsters said. “Absolutely terrified. He’s such a nice guy. I remember he backed me up against a wall one day. He was just like, ‘I don’t care how popular you are, kid. You’re dead. You hear me? You’re dead, DEAD.’ I was just like uh, it’s your football, man.”

Marsters didn’t blame Whedon.

Joss Whedon | Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

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“He was angry at the situation I think,” Marsters said. “Why should he? If it had been me in his shoes, I’d have killed me off immediately. He resented a situation where he had to deal with another romantic vampire when his theme was that vampires are the problems you have to get over in high school, in season 2 when he’s trying to hold onto a really good theme and it’s getting corrupted by a surprise character.”

James Marsters believed in ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’ too

Marsters agreed with Whedon’s take on vampires. Even though Spike eventually fell in love with Buffy, he agreed they should portray evil appropriately.

James Marsters | J. P. Aussenard/WireImage

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Evil is not cool. I think that a lot of what we do in Los Angeles and Hollywood, when we portray evil as cool, I think that we’re really lying. I think that evil is stupid and laughable and it should not be portrayed as cool and I really respect Joss that he’s not interested in portraying evil as cool. If I had been producing that show and I had been in control and Spike was getting romantic, I just would have slit his throat right away. I would just protect the theme. I don’t think I’m as brave as Joss. Joss decided to deal with it and try to find a way to explore that.

James Marsters, Inside of You podcast, 7/14/2020