Burning Questions for Buffy's Creator
All eyes are on Buffy the Vampire Slayer tonight, as the acclaimed dramedy kicks off its sixth season on a new network and with a renewed energy. Of course, with big hype comes even bigger expectations: Will the show be able to maintain its high creative standards especially coming off of what many believe was its strongest year yet? How will Buffy fare sans her bloodsucking beau Angel, who was stranded on the WB? When the ratings come in, will UPN or the WB have the last laugh? All of these questions will be answered soon enough. In the meantime, Buffy's proud papa, Joss Whedon, addresses more pressing concerns like will UPN allow Tara and Willow to finally get it on!
TVGO: Is it difficult trying to top yourself each year with your villains? I mean, Glory was a Goddess who tried to bring about the end of the world. Where do you go from there?
Joss Whedon: It's not a question of topping ourselves, it's a question of doing something new. You know, if we try to top ourselves every time, it would get boring. That's why in Season Four we did the finale as a dream show, because we'd done a giant battle the year before and we knew that we weren't going to top that. So we went a different way. Next year's finale is going to be very, very different in tone from this year's. It's going to have the same kind of urgency, it's going to be just as emotional, but it's going to be a very different kind of sequence.
TVGO: How does UPN's Standards and Practices differ from the WB? As I recall, the WB was skittish about airing Willow and Tara's first kiss.
JW: I think UPN will probably be a simpler process, because [the first kiss] already happened. They know where we are with that and they have no problem with there being a little bit of physical intimacy between those characters. They basically said if something reads wrong they'll let us know and we'll have the same kind of back-and-forth we always do. But I think we're in a good position there.
TVGO: Where do you find the time to juggle everything: The upcoming animated Buffy series, the Giles spin-off and day-to-day work on Angel and Buffy?
JW: Well, one trick is to be behind in everything all the time, which is what I am. The other thing is that I have such great crews working on Buffy and Angel: David Greenwalt and Tim Minear heading up the Angel writing staff and Marti Noxon heading up Buffy. I know they can get a lot done without my supervision. I have a cast who obviously know their roles and directors that I trust as far as I ever trust directors. So a lot of the machine can run without me now, which is good. For a while, I was worried that I had created something that only I could maintain. And now I find that the vision is there and it's shared and I don't have to do everything myself. That's great because it allows me to do these other things. It also creatively feeds you to do things that are different. Every now and then you break out and work on the animated series, or work on Angel or work on some other thing. You get juiced up and you actually get more creative, and when you come back to the show you feel rested. You feel like, "I went to a different world and that was fun and now I'm ready to be back in this one." When I want to relax, generally speaking, I just work on something else.
TVGO: How many Buffy episodes will you write and direct this year?
JW: I don't know; I haven't made a direct plan. We've kept a couple of slots open for me, but I might [be busy] shooting the pilot for [the Giles spin-off] Ripper and I might start working on a movie, because I've wanted to do that for some time. So we're keeping some slots open but it's not definite. The only one that's for sure known is Episode Six, the musical.
TVGO: Can you tell me anything about this movie?
JW: I cannot, except that I'm writing an original script that I hope will be really good. And I want to set that up sometime in the next year.
TVGO: Do you ever look back on a Buffy episode and think, "This definitely wasn't a classic show?"
JW: Oh yeah, a lot of the time; I am very seldom satisfied. A lot of them I look at go, "Okay, fun, good, but didn't really send me to the moon, didn't take me to the next level." And then every now and then an episode that you don't really think that much of when you're making it, you put together and go, "Wow, oh my god! This is really important. This one registers. This changes everything." Yeah, I grade them all in my head. But the thing that's important to me is that there's intent behind every episode. The worst episode we've ever done, we did for a reason with some kind of coherent emotional intent. It didn't register or it didn't come together, but there's still going to be one or two things in there that I am proud of. So even the ones that don't come together, I think I really enjoy. They're all my children. I love them all.
TVGO: Is there one that you would really like to forget?
JW: There really isn't. If you ask me about my movie career, then that would be a completely different answer. People point to certain episodes and they go, "Okay, that one wasn't so hot." And I say, "Look at it again and you'll find three solid belly laughs and one truly interesting character development." But there's none of them even though some of them aren't up to snuff that I would disown.
TVGO: This is a little morbid, but 50 years from now when you're no longer on this planet...
JW: ...12 years from now.
TVGO: ...Will you be happy if your obituary starts off, "Joss Whedon, creator of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer... ?"
JW: I will perfectly happy. I would hope that I will end up saying other things, but I have said something, I have done something as an artist and that is the only thing you hope for. People understood it and they responded to it and it mattered to them. And if I'm unlucky and I never create another thing that touches people, I still feel like I got the one thing that every artist dreams about and I am therefore satisfied.