‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’: Why James Marsters Wanted To Give Spike a Southern Accent
Spike entered Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Season 2 like the Billy Idol of vampires. He had the platinum hair and British accent so down that some fans were surprised to learn that actor James Marsters was American. Spike could have sounded very differently if Marsters had gotten his way in his first audition for Buffy creator Joss Whedon.
Marsters was a guest on Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast on July 14. Rosenbaum asked him about Spike’s voice, and Marsters told the whole story about why he originally wanted to try a southern accent for Spike.
James Marsters was southern in a play before he did ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer premiered on The WB in the spring 1997. Marsters would join the cast for the second season in the fall. Prior to his audition for Whedon, Marsters performed in a play where he used a very different accent.
“I had done a play where I used like a Louisiana accent, like deep on south, way on down Louisiana like that,” Marsters told Rosenbaum. “Again, I was playing a killer and the killer was on the phone with the lead of the play and we were getting all of these laughs that we didn’t plan on having. I remember asking the director why are we getting these laughs.”
It turned out the accent Marsters chose was even more transformative than he realized. He ended up playing more than just southern.
“He said, ‘Well, they can’t see your face and you’re using that accent. They think you’re Black. So it’s playing differently than I wrote it but it’s actually working very well.’” Marsters said.
The southern accent could have worked for ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’
Apparently, the accent Marsters had chosen was at one time a universally southern accent, but over time had migrated into the Black community.
“He said, ‘The accent that you’re using would’ve been a white accent, say, 150 years ago but in modern times, only Black people would use that accent now. So they think you’re Black.’” Marsters said.
Spike was hundreds of years old so he could have adopted an accent centuries ago, which would become anachronistic in the ’90s.
“So I thought wow, a vampire, that would be a fun accent to use that one,” Marsters said. “When they asked me later during the Buffy audition, what other accent? I thought, ‘Well…’”
James Marsters couldn’t sell Joss Whedon on his southern accent
Marsters brought his southern accent to the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer audition. In the end, he did what Whedon told him to.
“So I did that as well but Joss Whedon wanted an English punk rock vampire,” Marsters said. “It’s not surprising that he said, ‘No, that other accent is very cute but I want what I want.’”
If Spike were southern, where would he have met Drusilla (Juliet Landau)? Would she have become a southern Belle? It’s probably for the best Whedon stuck to Brit punk vampires.