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Jane Espenson Interview 22 May 2002 - The Succubus Club (Transcript)

Thanks to for the transcription.

Succubus Club - 5/22 - Jane Espenson - Hour One


K: Right next to me, in the hot seat, Jane Espenson.
J: Hey. How ya doing.
K: Writer, executive producer...
J: Co-executive producer. Co means not.
K: Jane of all trades. I think she said that last time.
C: Yes she did.
J: Really?
K: Yes.
J: Oh, I am very clever.
C: Welcome back to the show.
K: This is the third time Jane has been on the show. It has become a ritual.
C: Yes and each time she comes at the end of the season to explain things to us. As much as she can and maybe drop us a few hints and leave us wanting more apparently.
K: We are going to talk about last night's season finale, Two To Go and Grave.
C: But you didn't write either of these episodes, but in fact you didn't write as much this season as you have in the past. Why?
J: Because I wrote a lot early in the season. I wrote episode three and half of episodes four and five and Doublemeat Palace in the middle of the year. So that was a total of three. The other writers at that point had all written like two or two and a half. So they all got assigned, the remainder of the episodes and then they were all gone.
C: Did you want to...
J: Oh god I would have loved to write more. We have a very big staff right now.
C: Were doing something, were you writing for the comic books or...
J: No, I was just sitting there twiddling my thumbs.
C: See I thought you were busy doing something else and maybe that was why.
J: I did the four part Buffy comic, which is called Haunted, which is out now. So that took some of my time but this year we're hoping with Buffy, Angel and Firefly all needing to be written for... um we're hoping we all get more.
K: I saw a little preview for Firefly, it's all sci-fi.
J: It's all sci-fi.
C: Isn't it sci-fi western?
J: It is very much a western. When you go on a planet, there's horses. It's true, there are horses in the pilot. It really has the feel of a western. You know, what Star Trek was originally pitched as, Wagon Train To The Stars. Only this one really feels like a western.
C: And that will be on Friday nights on Fox. Sunday nights on the WB will have Angel at 9. And then we have Buffy on Tuesdays at 8. Nice evenly spread week. Someone did want to know what it was, what entailed the co-writing process. Because you seem to be the only one involved in co-writing. Why is that and how does that work out.
J: I think because I am always the one volunteering. Going hey, who needs help, I'll do something. The two different co-writing experiences this year, were very different. One was with Doug and one was with Fury. Doug and I tried something we really hadn't tried before, I wrote a whole draft, he did his rewrite on it. Then I rewrote him and he rewrote me. It didn't really work well, because both of us would throw out all the other persons stuff and write our own version. And then the next person would get and throw out all the other persons stuff and rewrite. So it was like writing a whole script. It was two views of Mt Fuji instead of... whatever. And Fury and I did it completely differently. Which is much more the normal way to do it. I wrote a half and he wrote a half. And that worked especially well for that episode called Life Serial. Because that was the on where, the four different storylines, each in a separate act. Buffy tries a different job.
C: Which two did you write.
J: I wrote the last two, Mummy Hand in the Magic Shop and um Kitten Poker with Spike. That was a fun one, I really like that, I like writing the comedies.
C: Speaking of which, your first episode of the season, Afterlife was not a comedy. It was of the more serious ones you've ever written.
J: Absolutely the most serious one.
C: We told you how much we liked that episode after it aired and you said it was such a departure for you, can you go into that a little bit?
J: Yeah uh, it was, I don't quite remember how the assigning of it happened. I think it came up, I would normally be third in the rotation. Marti's the top, then David Fury then me. So it would make sense that episode three would be mine. I normally write comedy and I think I remember Joss saying, you don't have to do this one. If you want you can wait for a comedy, but, Doug also said he wanted to write a comedy and Fury wanted to write a comedy. So, you're probably going to want to take this one. So I thought ok, we'll give it a try. I actually had a wonderful time writing it. It's actually interesting finding other ways to be entertaining. It was very challenging and it turned out really well, I was pleased with it.
C: It was one of the better episodes, for me personally, this season. It actually spawned what will be my vote for best one liner of the entire year and that is Spike, the line where he says "Every night I saved you". That is my absolute favorite line.
J: Ohhh, thank you. I was very fortunate on that, because usually those moments like that are all Joss. I've commented before that if anyone ever compliments a line from an episode, it's a Joss line. That scene was just like I wrote it in the first draft. Marti said, this is great, this is a great scene. I think she was saying I didn't know you could write that good. Nah, nah, Marti's cool. But she really loved that scene and I was very fortunate that it stayed how I wrote it. I surprised myself a little with that. There was stuff in that episode that was completely changed, much of it was Joss. The moment I think is so amazing of Anya cutting herself and laughing, Joss pitched just off the top of his head. What if this happened.
C: That was one of the creepiest moments of the season. Did have a couple questions about Doublemeat Palace and Afterlife, let me get to those. About Afterlife, when Buffy went to Spikes crypt and sat there in silence, in Afterlife, why do you think she was there? As the writer of the episode or just as a fan what is going through Buffy's mind at that point and in particular during Spike's every night I saved you speech.
J: Yes she sat there in silence with him there. I think she didn't know why she was there. She wanted to be with someone... who wasn't demanding anything of her... and wasn't expecting anything. And someone who could understand, because he has the line I really like where he looks at her hands and he knows right away she crawled out of the grave. And it's hard to hear, the line that gets a little lost but he says "I've done it myself" or been there. There is the implication that he is identifying with her because he also crawled out of his own grave. Then when he says the I've saved you lots of times, I think all we can do is know what we would be thinking and the kind of person Buffy is... she needs to be thinking, wow what a guy. Buffy doesn't give a lot. Buffy takes it all in and she has her deep feelings but she doesn't open up to people. She doesn't tell them what she's thinking, she doesn't like to show what she's thinking. Maybe she is afraid of demanding something from them that she's afraid they won't give. But she tends to be very closed off as a character. Which is wonderful and interesting fault to play with.
C: It kind of comes back to kick her in the ass in the end, doesn't it.
J: I think the most brilliant thing we did this season... well the musical, but right behind the musical, is this whole maybe her insane delusion. It makes so much sense, when you actually look at it. You inserted Dawn into this fantasy now these three guys are your nemesis'. Your fantasy's falling apart and your fantasy isn't comforting you anymore. Your not happy in this world. And they say your moment of lucidity last summer, when she died. It all made a lot of sense. I think part of what made that make sense is that Buffy is so much in her own head. We know Buffy is always a little bit of an observer, she's watching the world a little bit. So I think after Spike said the thing about I saved you every night, I think Buffy kept her own counsel. I think Buffy didn't show him what it meant for her to hear him say that. Which is exactly why the relationship with Spike didn't work out. It didn't really not work out because he didn't have a soul... the fact that she can't love him has to do with her so much more than it has to do with him. She finds it so hard to love.
C: A lot of people just want to blame it on Spike. I'm not saying he's not at fault for anything he's done... I'm not saying that, but it does go both ways. There both kind of messed up.
J: They are both kind of messed up. Of course anytime we talk about the Buffy Spike relationship, we should remember, he did a very very bad thing.
C: How did you feel about that? Because we know you like Spike.
J: I love Spike. I was very worried about the attempted rape... because that's not something you play around with. That's not something... it's very hard to come back from. And you know, you can say Luke and Laura came back from it, but that was a different time. I think we have to be very careful that we are not saying anything about humans. When we say that Spike looked into his soul, at that moment, and saw the demon in him and that's what made him want to go get a soul.
C: Ok, ok, this is good. Thank you for going here.
J: Yes in my mind, we did a big ole mislead on you all. Where we wanted you to think he gonna go get the chip. We knew, the whole time, from the very beginning he was gonna go get a soul. And when he says I want Buffy to have what she deserves, he means a lover with a soul. Very vague and if we are vague, we're vague for a reason.
  *Lots of Spike soul / Spike human and Fury looks at you like you are insane talk
C: Would it be fair to say that Cordelia and Angel and Buffy and Spike are Buffy / Angel like. It seems like on the surface the formula is just being repeated. Cordy is a warrior, ala Buffy and Spike is a souled vampire ala Angel. To me it seems like Cordy and Spike are becoming Buffized and Angelized in order to accommodate a romantic story, am I completely wrong?
J: It's an interesting supposition, you can make the argument. Certainly we are fighting that, we... I wasn't there on the decision to train Cordy and make her tougher. I mean suppose we decided we can't do that because it makes her too much like Buffy and then we would be repeating the Buffy / Angel romance. Well then screwing Cordy out of a chance to be a good strong female. In souling Spike, I was in on those conversations, and we actually had a lot of discussion about whether or not we in fact should not do it. Because it is exactly like Angel and after much discussion we decided it's only like Angel if we let it be. They have a very different dynamic. Buffy has never been gooey eyed over Spike the way she was with Angel, their relationship. The outside world is what kept Buffy and Angel from being together and in the sense of the Gypsy curse. What keeps Buffy and Spike from being together are their very natures. They are not star crossed lovers, they are two people who are thwarted in any attempt to come together by who they are. To me it feels very different and the last thing we would want to do is repeat a formula.
  *More Spike soul talk
J: He's loves bitch and he knows it. We have established that before, before he even knew he loved Buffy. He doesn't get over things.
C: He's a little obsessive.
J: He saw Hallie and recognized her as either being or looking like Cicely. He doesn't get over stuff.
C: Was that like gag casting or was that on purpose.
J: I'm not sure. I know they didn't call her and bring her in. She came in and auditioned to be Hallie but when she had the role... we made a decision to play with that.
C: The scene in Seeing Red, which I love so much, right after the attack when he is in his crypt talking with Clem...
J: Yeah we love Clem.
K: Who doesn't love Clem.
C: Exactly and people want Clem and Sophie to get together.
K: I say Clem and Dawn.
C: Ok, stop. But that scene, it was amazing. Was it written later in the episode because... do you know?
J: Yeah, I think it was. There were a number of Clem scenes that we inserted in the last couple episodes because they came in short. It's easy to bring Clem in to do it. It's easier than to bring in the stars who are already doing the next weeks episode.
C: That seems like a really important scene for Spike.
J: Yeah I think that was one of the ones that was written late.
C: Cool, let's get to Doublemeat Palace. Somebody wants to know, was the symbolism of the demon in DP deliberate and if so what is it a metaphor for?
J: It was an enormous penis, but... we did not realize that at the time. We did not know it was going to look like that, we really thought it was going to look like an eel or a lamprey. Coming out the top of her head. Now if we thought for a minute we'd realize well a lamprey looks kind of like a big penis and it particularly did the way it was realized. It wasn't intentional, now would we have a lesbian cut off a giant penis? Nooo, that's icky and uh unpleasant, and very strange. However, once it had happened, we felt free to comment on it because you would comment on it. So we had the Willow Tara conversation where they're talking about it. Which I thought worked really well, I felt. It's what's called hanging a lantern on it. When there is something obvious about what you have done, obviously flawed or coincidental or just something that you are afraid people are going to be distracted by knowing... You do what's called hanging a lantern on it, which is where the characters point it out and go oh oh ok there is that funny looking thing in the corner and now you can pay attention to what's happening with the story.
C: Buffy as a show does that as a whole. It mocks itself so often.
J: We don't want to say mock so much because we don't make fun of the show or our characters, but we do sometimes go... look at that funny thing. I guess it's kind of like mocking. So I was very pleased with whoever wrote that exchange, I think that was in ummm... was that in DeKnight's script? It was the one where Anya is trying to get revenge... well whoever it was I thought it was really clever to point that out.
K: It might have been Drew.
J: Yeah might have been, anyway I thought it was very clever. And no we did not intend that to look like a big penis, we were very startled when it did.
C: Who decided on the fast food restaraunt as Buffy's place of employment and did you have a specific experience in fast food that drew on?
J: Everybody had specific fast food experiences except me. I never worked in fast food, but Marti had done a lot, Marti had worked and McDonalds and had a lot of interesting insight. My boyfriend had worked at some dreadful fast food places in Ohio. Really some awful sounding places so he had all the information about the buttons and the beeping and the grill. We almost backed away from having in her in fast food when Joss remembered she had waitresses before. We were like, yeah but this feels like it's different. Fast food is a whole different kind of job than working in a diner. You wouldn't believe the amount and length of the conversations about what Buffy should do for a living. It needed to be something just awful and finally decided that fast food was about as awful as we could think of. And I love food, I think food is funny, there is a reason Band Candy is my script and Gingerbread is my script.
C: Let's talk a little bit about the recent story... about Willow Tara, the whole Tara death and Willow, what happened to her afterwards. Obviously, a lot of people are upset over Tara's death.
K: I'm still upset.
J: Yes as we intended. We're upset ourselves. There was... I didn't think Joss was going to be able to do it. He really had to struggle with killing her and the fact that it was so painful was what we knew would make it work. That's... we knew it would hurt. And that's what we needed, otherwise we just can't take Willow where we needed to take her.
K: What about, how do you guys feel about all the backlash?
J: I hadn't been aware that there was backlash. Although we did talk about it... um we knew... what we knew has been done with gay characters is that you introduce one just to kill them. We knew that wasn't what we were doing. Tara had been on the show a very long time, very long, not as long as Buffy but she clearly had not been brought in as cannon fodder. Because when you do that, you bring them in and you kill them right away. And when you do that it's a punishment. We felt that this was so clearly not a punishment for being gay, her being gay... she wasn't gay bashed. She was shot accidentally. We did talk about it, we did talk about we're doing that thing, we're killing the lesbian. But, we don't... it didn't feel that way to us because she wasn't the lesbian character anymore. Willow and Tara are both lesbians, Willow didn't die. Willow was our main character, if you gonna, wanted to make some horrible message about killing the lesbians, you'd kill her.
C: No, but she went evil.
J: She did go evil, but she went evil out of deep loving grief.
K: That's something you guys had decided.
J: Yes we knew we were gonna make her evil. We had to figure out how and that seemed to be the best way how. And we really do think of them as one of our couples, ya know we've got Buffy / Spike, Xander / Anya and and Tara / Willow... we really don't... when we think of a story for them, a situation for them, we never go from what should happen to the lesbians, it's what should happen to that couple. So we really stopped thinking of them as the gay couple and just thought of them as a couple.
C: Then I guess I would ask, playing Devil's Advocate here, maybe you should have thought of them as the lesbian couple because obviously a lot of people look up to them as uh, as some kind of role models. What is your responsibility as writers to these fans.
J: Well I think we would be shirking the responsibility if um Willow then goes out and get's herself a boy. Then that seems to me that we have said something about lesbianess. What we have said instead, are we view our characters as such real and three dimensional characters that good things can happen to them, bad things can happen to them... they aren't templates anymore, these are people. We hope we've created people.
C: Obviously a lot of people want to know, a lot of the backlash, a lot of the people are going to be tuning out from here on out. Because of what has happened.
J: People always say they are not going to watch anymore and our numbers stay exactly the same.
C: But, but they've gone down this year.
J: Um... yeah... but, our boy numbers went up. So you can look at the numbers any which way but um we're also at season six of a long running show, um fans have gone away to college. I didn't watch tv when I was in college. We certainly feel we did a really bang up season.
C: So that is the general consensus.
J: Oh yeah, we really like the season. We feel we did a really good job. I mean gosh, just look at the musical alone. Even if you took the musical out, I think it's a really strong season.
C: It's a very different season from what you guys have done before.
J: Yes and next season is going to be completely different that, we're going a whole different way next season.
C: Oh, what way is that?
J: We're sort of looping around to the beginning, it's gonna be more funny, more stand alones.
  *Chat about much more funny
J: No, I'm distressed to hear that people are saying they won't keep watching because what does that say... I mean Tara wasn't our only gay character. Willow is still going to be around being a really good role model, dealing... dealing with grief and moving on. I'm sure eventually she will date and we didn't kill lesbianosity, we killed one, one lonely girl who we feel... who we miss too. Who happened to be gay and we miss her terribly. And uh, there is... no reason to not think, that we won't being seeing a little or more of Tara or something that looks like Tara...
K: See I knew it.
C: She is picking and choosing her words sooo carefully. You should see her.
K: It's just like Twin Peaks when you know, what's her face dies and then she comes back as her cousin, with the dark hair.
J: Yeah um, um if people, I don't know if people are... exactly why people are saying their going to tune out, but if they are tuning out because they miss Amber Benson... do hmm, hmm (various sounds of mumbling)
C: Well said.
K: Will Willow, can you just sort of hint, obviously she is going to need to deal with the fact that she killed a human.
C: Yes please, let's deal with this.
K: She filleted a human. Is she going to go to jail, I mean how is this going to work?
J: Um no, she doesn't go to jail. Um, um she is somewhere interesting when we open next season. She is up in a place. Doing a thing. With somebody, with somebody that we know.
C: What the hell is going on... (laughing)
C: She's evil.
K: We always say Joss is evil, it's really Jane.


From: The Kitten Board

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