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‘Buffy’: James Marsters on Spike, Spock and romantic vampires

James Marsters — the actor behind the peroxide-haired punk rock vampire Spike in Joss Whedon’s long-running series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — found inspiration for his character from an unusual source: Mr. Spock.

Marsters said he looked to his favorite character from “Star Trek” — Leonard Nimoy’s starship Enterprise science officer Spock — when he was first cast on “Buffy” for what was initially supposed to be a brief role. Marsters ended up acting in 97 episodes of the series, not to mention another 24 episodes in the spinoff “Angel.”

“Spock was that side character that nobody thought would be that much, and he ended up kind of turning the theme on its head,” Marsters told Entertainment Tonight, in the video above. “‘Cause ‘Star Trek’ really was about human beings perfecting a worldview and then sharing it with the galaxy, and then Spock was just trying to figure out how to be human in the first place. And in ‘Buffy,’ I thought that I wanted to be the new Spock. I was like, Spock, Spike. Spike, Spock. … I was a little side character that no one really thought would be much, but I kind of turned the theme at a different angle so that you could kind of look at it.”

Marsters said he was looking forward to “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the J.J. Abrams sequel to the 2009 reboot of the “Star Trek” franchise, slated to hit theaters May 17.

“Anything that J.J. Abrams is involved with so far, I’ve thought was just really tight, so I’m on board, man,” he said. “I’ll be in line the first night.”

Click through the gallery to find out where "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" figures are now.

Joss Whedon | Then: Creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," about a teenage girl superhero with the weight of the world on her shoulders. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Joss Whedon | Recently: Director of "The Avengers," in which the heroes from the recent slew of Marvel superhero movies team up. (Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times and Marvel Studios)

Sarah Michelle Gellar | Then: Buffy Summers, the slayer -- the Chosen One, endowed with super-strength and a lifelong duty to protect the world from vampires and demons. (Richard Cartwright / The WB)

Sarah Michelle Gellar | Recently: Played twins Bridget and Siobhan Martin in the TV thriller "Ringer," which she also executive produced. (Eric Liebowitz / The CW)

David Boreanaz | Then: Angel, a vampire with a soul and Buffy's forbidden love. In his spinoff, he runs a supernatural private investigation agency in Los Angeles. (The WB / Business Wire)

David Boreanaz | Now: Special Agent Seeley Booth, a murder-solving FBI agent. (Greg Gayne / Fox)

Anthony Stewart Head | Then: Rupert Giles, the Sunnydale High librarian and Buffy's Watcher and mentor. (Richard Cartwright / The WB)

Anthony Stewart Head | Recently: Stephen, a PR executive with little regard for his employees' personal space in "Free Agents." (Mitchell Haaseth / NBC)

Alyson Hannigan | Then: Willow, Buffy's best friend, who develops mad wiccan skills. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Alyson Hannigan | Now: Lily, college sweetheart-turned-wife of Marshall Eriksen in "How I Met Your Mother." (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Nicholas Brendon | Then: Buffy's best guy pal Xander Harris. (Richard Cartwright / UPN / 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Nicholas Brendon | Now: Guest roles on "Private Practice" and "Criminal Minds." (Monty Brinton / CBS)

James Marsters | Then: Spike, a British vampire who straddles the line between good and evil and has an impossible crush on Buffy. (Justin Lubin / 20th Century Fox)

James Marsters | Now: A musician in the band Ghost of the Robot, which released its second studio album in March 2011. Marsters frequently guest stars on TV shows, including an episode of "Supernatural." (Michael Courtney / The CW and Robot Records)

Eliza Dushku | Then: Faith, the dark slayer and killer of Vulcans -- er, volcanologist -- in "Buffy" and "Angel." (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Eliza Dushku | Now: Roles in "Ghostbusters III" and voicing Catwoman in the animated "Batman: Year One." (Peter Kramer / Associated Press and Warner Bros.)

Michelle Trachtenberg | Then: Dawn, Buffy's little sister of magical origins. (Richard Cartwright / The WB)

Michelle Trachtenberg | Recently: Guest starred on "Weeds," and as the mean-spirited and scheming Georgina Sparks in "Gossip Girl." (Giovanni Rufino / The CW)

Seth Green | Then: Willow's rocker boyfriend and werewolf Oz. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Seth Green | Now: Creator of “Robot Chicken” and stars in “Family Guy.” (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times and Cartoon Network)

Marc Blucas | Then: Buffy's camo-clad boyfriend Riley in "Buffy." (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Marc Blucas | Now: Athletic trainer Matthew Donnally in "Necessary Roughness." (Richard DuCree / USA Network)

Nathan Fillion | Then: Demented preacher Caleb, right-hand man to the First Evil in "Buffy." Now: Richard Castle, a mystery author who shadows a homicide detective to cure his writer's block in "Castle." (Matt Kennedy / ABC)

Felicia Day | Then: Potential slayer Vi in "Buffy." Now: Roles in "The Guild" Web series, which she created, and "Eureka." (Microsoft)

Julie Benz | Then: Angel's sultry ex-girlfriend Darla in "Buffy" and "Angel." Recently: A role in "A Gifted Man," a TV drama about a surgeon who sees his dead ex-wife. (Michael Buckner / Getty Images and Craig Blankenhorn / CBS)

Marti Noxon | Then: "Buffy" writer and show runner. Now: Writer on the hit high school musical series “Glee” and the Colin Farrell and David Tennant-starring “Fright Night” remake. (Carin Baer / Fox and Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Jane Espenson | Then: "Buffy" writer and co-executive producer. Now: Co-executive producer of “Once Upon a Time” and writer on “Torchwood” (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times and Craig Sjodin / ABC)

David Greenwalt | Then: Executive-producer and writer on “Buffy" and head writer and executive producer for "Angel." Now: Creator (along with “Angel” alum Jim Kouf) of the supernatural drama “Grimm.” (Phil McCarten / NBC and Scott Green / NBC)

The actor also spoke diplomatically about the shinier breed of vampires that have dominated pop culture in recent years with the likes of the “Twilight” book and film series and “The Vampire Diaries,” saying vampires are the “most malleable of all the basic archetypes of horror.”

“I think every generation has their own take on vampires, you know,” he said. “For some reason, vampires can almost be anything. You can use them to whatever ends that you want. So whatever the zeitgeist is in this decade, or whatever, vampires can kind of morph to fit that.”

And when Whedon was making “Buffy,” Marsters said, the goal was ugly vamps.

“Joss used to say that he wasn’t really into the [‘Interview With the Vampire’ author] Anne Rice thing,” Marsters said. “He didn’t really want vampires to be romantic. That’s why in ‘Buffy,’ when we bite people, we become hideously ugly. Because in ‘Buffy,’ vampires are a metaphor for all of the problems that you face in adolescence. So the vampires of today are very different. They are more in the Anne Rice vein. And that’s cool, too.”

Click through the gallery above for a look at what Marsters and the rest of the Scooby Gang are up to post-“Buffy.”

– Noelene Clark


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