Whedon Q&A: On Vampires, ‘Battlestar,’ More

Feb 6, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Joss Whedon is finished sucking blood—at least for a while.
While the undead are currently red-hot in Hollywood, the man behind two of TV’s biggest vampire dramas (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”) tells TelevisionWeek Deputy Editor/Columnist Josef Adalian that he’s in no hurry to return to the genre that made him famous.
Joss Whedon
“I’ve really kind of had my fill,” Mr. Whedon said.
But while Mr. Whedon isn’t rushing back to the graveyard himself any time soon, it turns out he actually kind of likes the beautiful creatures in “Twilight.” He’s also a big-time “30 Rock” fan, is open to the idea of working for cable and has some strong ideas about the aftermath of last year’s writers’ strike.
What follows is an edited transcript of Mr. Adalian’s recent telephone interview with Mr. Whedon. For Mr. Whedon’s thoughts on the process of making “Dollhouse,” click here:
TelevisionWeek: What do you think of the fact that a “Save Dollhouse” campaign started months before the show even premiered?
Joss Whedon: In a way it’s sweet, and it’s very funny. And in a way you sort of go, “But let’s not put this in people’s heads that this is something that only a few people know about before it’s even begun to be advertised.”
TVWeek: You’ve been supportive of Fox’s decision to move “Dollhouse” to Fridays.
Mr. Whedon: At the end of the day the move isn’t about getting the fans. The fans are called fans—that’s already covered. That’s doesn’t mean they’ll all love [“Dollhouse”], but it means they’re more likely to check it out than Joe Blow. And we need Joe Blow.
[Previous TV executives] have made the mistake of just targeting [fans]. We need to find a way to communicate with people who wouldn’t normally find a way to watch this show, and Friday night is a better night to do that.

TVWeek: Is the show you’re doing now the same show you originally pitched to Fox?
Mr. Whedon: Yes and no. There are elements of the show that got, if not lost, put on hold. But if the show were truly different than what I pitched, I would have walked away—as I did at one point with “Firefly.” The executives [wanted changes] that went to the heart of what the show was, and I said, “OK, now we’re talking about a different show—don’t pick it up.”
TVWeek: Do you think it would be interesting for you to try a show for cable?
Mr. Whedon: I think it would. Ultimately I’ve never really had a relationship with anyone in that field, and nobody’s ever approached me and said, “Do you want to do this cable show?” I wouldn’t say no to anything wherein I get to tell people stories.
TVWeek: Let’s talk “Dr. Horrible.” Why did you completely shut out the networks and studios from the process?
Mr. Whedon: I never pitched it to the networks, because no network would have bought “Dr. Horrible” as a concept. And if they had, I wouldn’t have been able to make it with Neil [Patrick Harris], because he already had a job. Or Nathan ]Fillion]. Or Felicia ]Day]. … It was just a question of, we made this thing—do we give up control to shoot for the moon monetarily, or do we maintain control and make this mean something a little different? I’m much happier that we made an impact in the writing community and the Hollywood community as a step toward a new understanding of that media than we would have by just making something that people liked for a studio.
TVWeek: The characters from “Buffy” and “Angel” live on through fans and through the comics you’ve done. Any talk of reviving them for TV or movies?
Mr. Whedon: It’s certainly possible, but it isn’t something I’m pursuing. I feel like we did our thing. The comics were kind of a lark, which then it became the (speaks slowly) heaviest lark I’ve ever had to carry. It was a mariner’s albatross.
We could come back to those characters, but I would probably focus on something new before going back there. That was seven years of my life, even before the comic. Eventually your pony gets tired of doing its trick.
TVWeek: What about a “Star Trek”-like reboot?
Mr. Whedon: You could do something like “Star Trek,” where you reinvent it. You definitely have a whole mythology around it. But I think that … so much of [fans’] love depends on those particular characters [Buffy and Angel]. And I feel like I still haven’t had a chance to stretch my legs as much as I’d like to.
TVWeek: Aren’t the folks at 20th constantly bugging you to bring back “Buffy”?
Mr. Whedon: Nobody in the business ever approaches me about a “Buffy” project. It’s only fans. It’s not like I have people holding bags of money who are full of excitement about another project. We talked about a project with Faith (a “Buffy” character portrayed by “Dollhouse” star Eliza Dushku), and after that it hasn’t come up.
TVWeek: What shows on TV do you have to watch?
Mr. Whedon: “Battlestar [Galactica]” is back on, so, you know, life is worth living again. Other than “Battlestar,” I just moved, so I don’t have a TV and I’m behind. But “Terminator,” “30 Rock,” “The Office”—those are my bread and butter.
TVWeek: Vampires are big in pop culture right now. Have you seen “Twilight’?
Mr. Whedon: I saw “Twilight.” And it’s—what can you say? It’s absolutely like crack. It strikes a tweener chord that’s just as loud as the apocalypse. You cannot deny the power of it. It just works. And I sort of like that.
TVWeek: What about HBO’s “True Blood”?
Mr. Whedon: I’ve seen less of it. “Twilight” makes its own rules, as we all do. It takes what it wants and discards the rest but ultimately, it is kind of classical. They’re puffy-shirt vampires in a sense.
“True Blood,” I think, is more what we see in a lot of the comic books, which is, “Let’s deconstruct this and explore what it would be like if [vampires] were really among us.” It’s more postmodern.
TVWeek: Did you watch “Moonlight”?
Mr. Whedon: I did not. I actually don’t love vampires. Anne Rice was definitely a life-changer. It was wonderful. But at the end of the day, I’ve really kind of had my fill.
You know, Buffy wasn’t going to necessarily fight vampires. The idea was always there’s a monster, she fights it. And when I did the Buffy/Angel romance, I thought, “There’s no way in the world I’m getting away with something this cheesy.” I thought, “People are going to laugh at me.”
Over the years, I’ve gotten a better understanding of why vampires resonate so much. I even came up with an idea for a vampire film recently … but then I saw there was this glut, so I thought I better ease off of that. It’s still in my consciousness. But I think I need to spend some time with some Frankensteins.
TVWeek: Looking back, do you think the writers strike was worth it?
Mr. Whedon: Necessary. We lost. But I’m not going to say it wasn’t worth it. And to me personally, “Dr. Horrible” would have never happened, and my eyes would have never been opened to things that I was [previously] able to ignore. I was in a fortunate position, and now I feel that I have a much better handle on what’s necessary from people like me at this time in our industry.


  1. I think if Mr Whedon had actually watched “Moonlight” he might have actually started liking vampires…Maybe he is just sorry he did not come up with the concept of Moonlight’s vampire genre…

  2. @Divastar, oh yeah, I’m sure that’s his big regret in life. Because Moonlight was just so original? I liked it, it was well-executed and fun to watch, but it was hardly groundbreaking.
    In fact, you can sort of pretty easily argue that Joss did come up with the whole angsty vampire as private detective — his name was Angel.

  3. @divastar haha yeah are you being sarcastic? its kind of well known fact that the premise for moonlight was the exact premise of Joss’s show Angel. Like really down to some ridiculously similar details.

  4. i liked moonlight, but angel was a better angsty vampire than mick will ever be. but mick was a good fix from angel deprivation.

  5. Holy monkeys. Really, divastar? Really? I just… Really?
    Anyone else kind of sad that Joss is kind of intrigued by “Twilight?” Anyone?

  6. Yeah, Melanie, I agree. It makes me sad that Twilight doesn’t just make him cry. Although, I was never a Buffy/Angel fan. I am, however, a Joss fan.

  7. I was kinda hoping he would hate Twilight actually. I was expecting him to be outraged by it. He’s ultra feminist and Twilight is mega sexist. But he has a point, Twilight is like crack, addictive yet very bad for you and not worth the trouble.

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