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NYCC Interview: James Marsters & James Leary Talk ‘Slayers: A Buffyverse Story’

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Ten years after the events of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer finale, “Chosen,” a new Audible audio original takes us back to the world of Slayers. The brainchild of Amber Benson and Christopher GoldenSlayers: A Buffyverse Story is narrated by Spike (James Marsters) and features a cast of both familiar faces and newcomers, including an alternate reality Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and a new baby Slayer named Indira (Laya DeLeon Hayes).  At New York Comic Con earlier this month, we had the opportunity to sit down with the creatives behind Slayers and these fresh stories for roundtable interviews.

Two Jameses, one roundtable interview, and a world of insights

James Marsters and James Charles Leary sat down with us for a roundtable interview at NYCC, and we couldn’t wait to pick their brains about working on Slayers: A Buffyverse Story and developing their characters. We chatted about what it was like working as an actor in an audio-only medium and recording with the Buffyverse gang. We talked about how their characters have evolved over the years (especially Spike!) and how they’ve made them fresh and current.

The interview with James Marsters & James Leary about Slayers: A Buffyverse Story

[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. There are mild spoilers ahead for Slayers. ]

Interviewer: “You’ve done stuff with Big Finish stuff and Torchwood . Do you like doing audio dramas?”

James Marsters: “Yeah, I like it very much. I was just saying as someone who does theater, in theater, your face is like that big and your eyes are that big. And so your job is pretty much just hanging words in the air and all the information that you’re conveying about your character is pretty much the words. And so, you get a toolbox if you do theater that you’re very proud of having. It takes years to get this toolbox. And then you come to Hollywood and you’re like, and put that in the closet. That doesn’t work.”

James Charles Leary: “Don’t use any of it.”

James Marsters: “It doesn’t work for film at all. It’s a different, completely different toolbox. And so going back and doing audio, I got to go back to the closet, take them out the toolbox out, and start hanging words in the air. And so I love it. Yeah.”

James Charles Leary: “Yeah. For me it’s a lot more freeing because I was always told ‘that was great, bring it way down.’ I’m like, ‘This is as down as it goes, what you got.’ So it was awesome to get to really just express and go crazy with the lines that we were graciously given by Chris [Golden] and Amber [Benson].”

Slayers A Buffyverse Story
The cast of Slayers: A Buffyverse Story (Audible)

On their first reactions to the Slayers’ scripts

Ayla Ruby: “Can you talk about your first reactions to reading the scripts, hearing about the characters? Was there anything that you maybe had in for both of you that you maybe had a say in and wanted to have?”

James Marsters: “Oh, we had no say.”

James Charles Leary: “Oh, we had no, please. Yes, come on.”

James Marsters: “Do not ask an actor what they think should happen. I’ll tell you what they will say. It’ll be some version of make me look cool.”

James Charles Leary: “Pretty much.”

James Marsters: “I swear to God. And that is only so interesting. And so they don’t ask us things.”

James Charles Leary: “Yeah.”

On doing what the story demands of characters

Interviewer: “Well, let me ask you a question then. If it was in the best interest of a show for a character to die, but it was not in your best interest, would you go for that if it really completed the story?”

James Marsters: “Yes. It is much better to have a smaller role in a very good story than a larger role in a boring one. So yeah, if it serves the story, yes, put me in a dress-”

Interviewer: “100%.”

James Marsters: “I don’t give a… If that’s the best choice.”

James Charles Leary: “Been there, it’s fun.”

James Marsters: “Me too.”

James Charles Leary: “It’s freeing.”

James Marsters: “Actually? I got a Kurt Cobain moment.”

James Charles Leary: “I was Lucille Ball.

James Marsters: “Oh, kick ass. You’d make a good-”

James Charles Leary: “It was pretty good. Very tall-”

James Marsters: “Yeah. Amber Benson put me in a dress actually years ago, right, in Chance. Yeah. What was the question I was answering?”

James Charles Leary: “I forget. No-”

James Charles Leary: “Said it was something about-”

Ayla Ruby: “First reaction.”

James Marsters: “First reactions, yeah, yeah.”

James Charles Leary: “Oh, first reaction. I was blown away. Totally blown away when I, because I was like, “I’m in so much of this.” They were like, ‘Oh, would you like to come do this?’ Yeah, absolutely. Expecting a little bit. And I was like, whoa, I’m part of the Scooby Gang.”

James Marsters: “I was so happy that we have a new slayer at the beginning of every episode of the original property. We said that forever generation has a new slayer, and that’s a promise we’ve never made good on. And now we are.And I just think that that’s where the heart is, is watching someone who is old enough to realize that the world is massively messed up. Who’s making the decision to try to help out. I think that’s where the theme is. I’m glad they stuck with it.”

Slayers A Buffyverse Story
James Marsters recording Slayers: A Buffyverse Story (Audible)

On bringing something new to Spike and Clem for audio audiences

Interviewer: “So both of you basically created these characters for the Buffy-verse. Did you find that there was something new that you could bring to your character in this new media of audio? An audio story?”

James Charles Leary: “Yeah. I felt that you got to see just more of what Clem is, as part of a team. And what I kind of always love is being the humor and getting to do more of that, but also kind of getting to be a little bit of the heart, sort of the mascot of the team. So yeah, that was a lot of fun just to not be relegated to some boring tasks, but to actually be a part of the gang and be a part of the full-fledged story. So it was awesome.”

James Marsters: “And I was always interested in who is Spike with a soul. We’ve seen him at the very beginning of that journey and then not so much. And I always thought, well, how does he survive? How does he get lunch when he can’t kill somebody for it? How can he get new clothes when he can’t rob somebody for it? And so what I love about the project is we fast-forward to 2015 and he’s had a little time to figure some things out, but he’s still Spike. He hasn’t lost his snark. He hasn’t lost his fury, but he’s also got a soul and it’s more ingrained in it. And what I love about the writing is they’re able to put the new pieces in without losing all the cool stuff, about the old stuff. It’s not like suddenly it’s like, ‘How’s everyone feeling? Does anyone want a glass of milk?’ No, no. Yeah.”

James Charles Leary: “Those would be my lines.”

James Marsters: “That’s a fair point.”

James Charles Leary: “I loved The Noir VO. I was like, ‘Ooh, I want a Spike vs Dashiell Hammett.’
Yeah. That’s awesome.”

James Marsters: “Yeah. That was fun.”

On recording the audio together as a cast for Slayers

Interviewer: “It’s also really rare in this medium that you have the opportunity to record as a cast. How did that environment help each of you elevate your performances? And were there any themes or dynamics that were more relevant that you didn’t initially see when you read the script?”

James Marsters: “That’s a good question. And it really is so helpful to naturally react to what the other person is saying and doing. I remember there’s a scene with Juliet [Landau] and I, where Drusilla is trying to tempt Spike into coming over to her side, which may not be the best thing to do. And he still loves her on a certain level, and he is, there is a pull there. And just, she started kind of half crying and I started half crying, and it was really, got really painful like that. And it was because she and I have a whole history together of all of these experiences in character, and we didn’t have to talk about it, or even think about it, it just kind of washed over us in an organic way.”

Interview with Juliet Landau & Laya DeLeon Hayes about Slayers: A Buffyverse Story

NYCC Slayers Buffy interview

“And then the mics can kind of pick that up. It’s kind of my favorite moment in the whole series and that cannot happen if you’re recording in isolation. We, actors, will feed each other, we’ll inspire each other without even really realizing it. And magic can happen, but that can’t, you can kind of tell when people are doing it in isolation.”

James Charles Leary: “There’s always a little-”

James Marsters: “They’re separated. You can tell.”

James Charles Leary: “It was… Real quick. It was amazing. It was so much fun to have everybody there and even though you were in an isolation booth because you were-”

James Marsters: “I had a cold.”

James Charles Leary: “You were Sicky McSickerson.”

James Marsters: “I didn’t want to you give it to everybody else.”

James Charles Leary: “But we could still see you. It was like we were all still there. So I felt it really brought, it felt like doing a play.”

James Marsters: “Right, exactly.”

James Charles Leary: “It was really great. So it was awesome. Great question.”

How to listen to Slayers: A Buffyverse Story

Slayers: A Buffyverse Story is now available on Audible! If you want to catch up with some of your favorite Buffyverse characters, give it a listen. Let us know what you think on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord! 

Check out our other interviews out of NYCC here and keep following for more Slayers interviews coming soon!

Interview: Charisma Carpenter & Emma Caulfield Ford Talk Slayers: A Buffyverse Story

NYCC Slayers Buffy interview

Interview: Amber Benson & Christopher Golden Talk Slayers: A Buffyverse Story

NYCC Slayers Buffy interview

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Ayla Ruby

I am a writer and interviewer based somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant. I love all things nerdy - but Star Trek and Spiderman have special places in my heart. Find me at @TulinWrites on Twitter. And visit my other website for more reviews and interviews:

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