Earlier today we sat in the southernmost sail of the Sydney Opera House and had a quick chat with Mr Joss Whedon.
Australian fans, he says "hi".
In a brief video interview (to be aired on SCI FI) Joss discussed the finer points of Buffy, Angel and Firefly.
We did also ask him about The Avengers. At the moment, with his trip to Australia and being caught up between a bout of insomnia and jetlag, he's using hotel rooms and aeroplanes as the perfect writing platform. We asked him about whether Marvel was hands on or hands off, given that a) he's Joss Whedon and b) he's got a pretty decent resume when it comes to the comics world, having penned a series of Astonishing X-Men books, Firefly and Buffy Season 8 comics. And c) he wrote the script to The First Avenger: Captain America.
Marvel, however, are surprisingly, hands on. But in a good way, says Joss. They do seem to know what they're doing.
The pressure of dealing with so many characters, stories and of course, fan expectations is with him all the time.
We spoke a bit about Buffy (natch) and covered the genesis of the show from Girl saves Boy to monster of the week and beyond. Much to his chagrin, it seems that vamps and only vamps is required to keep a show going. Didn't need to come up with all these different monsters reflecting different metaphors of the human condition.
How many times have I been asked about writing strong female characters this week? This many times.
When speaking about fan fave eps like Hush, Once More With Feeling, The Body and Restless, Joss was clear that these shows weren't 'stunt' shows, but rather challenges that were earned, after creating a show that allowed the space to experiment, because of the nature of the show itself. Hush in particular, the dialogue-less episode that featured 'The Gentlemen' was a particularly exciting, foetal-position in the bathtub 'challenge', proving quite the stretch for even a consumate professional like Whedon. It was these challenges however, that kept the show alive for the writers, and in turn, for the fans.
That fire that still keeps him upset and/or concerned/terrified/mystified about the way his shows have been dealt with, from time to time, by TV executives, with a rather different agenda than that of his own, is what has kept him away from the land of 'hack', gently nodding and accepting notes for the sake of happily trundling on. It's one of the strange dichotomies of a man that for many is wildly, outrageously successful, yet is still a man who strives, even struggles, to get his particular vision across. There is no sense of smug self satisfaction. In fact, the closest he would come to that in our brief little chat is lighting up talking about the key points in creating an ensemble cast, about having 'someone hold each corner of the blanket' so that the ideas bounce back at the audience. Something that he learned from his father's writing on Golden Girls, a small fragment of a subject that he obviously knows deeply and widely. A small hint at the iceberg of knowledge earned by someone who has been running TV shows for fifteen years.
Firefly Season Two - you want to know what would have happened - we all do. Joss answered this point blank with "Serenity pretty much covered it" (Firefly Season 2). "Finding the truth about Miranda, the origins of River, that was all going to be told over Season Two." He was quick to point out that Firefly was about 'moments'. The richly textured worlds of the 'verse were a backdrop to small human moments that revealed character. John Ford storytelling, as he put it. This of course makes sense to fans of the show who know that Firefly was a little more episodic than serialised.
Which was also the case for Angel, designed to be more episodic, more 'noir' ('touched by an Equaliser') than Buffy, which had more of 'musical' sensibility.
Joss also spoke about Spike, who he felt ultimately became the most fully developed character in the Whedonverse, coming from the lowest rung in Season Six (when he forced himself on Buffy) to someone who literally earned his own soul, as opposed to Angel, "who had a soul thrust upon him for a hundred years and moped about it."
More details, more good bits and some classic wry Whedon witticisms will soon air on SCI FI. Look out for them!
Here are pics of Joss being interviewed: