Date of publishing: 11th
Joss Whedon, creator of groundbreaking cult favorites
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly,”
returns to television and reunites with fellow “Buffy”
alumna Eliza Dushku in DOLLHOUSE. Echo (Dushku) is
an “Active,” a member of a highly illegal
and underground group of individuals who have had
their personalities wiped clean so they can be imprinted
with any number of new personas. Hired by the wealthy,
powerful and connected, the Actives don’t just
perform their hired roles; they wholly become –
with mind, personality and physiology – whomever
the client wants or needs them to be. Whether imprinted
to be a lover, an assassin, a corporate negotiator
or a best friend, the Actives know no other life than
the specific engagements they are in at that time.
So far in the first 3 episodes,
Echo has gotten an asthma attack, gotten hunted by
a client and gotten wiped in the middle of a mission.
What else can go wrong?
Eliza Dushku: Anything and everything
at any given time is sort of the point I think. We’re
dealing in real situations and that’s why we
have our handlers there, to hopefully protect us from
the bad, but yes; each show I think that sort of thing
is going to go down because it’s obviously not
a perfect system and it’s not a perfect world.
you give us a hint of any more of those conflicts?
I was also wondering how the relationship with Sierra
is going to develop.
Eliza Dushku: Well, I can tell you
I enter a cult of the blind cultess and they send
me in with cameras implanted into my eyes and some
things go down there. I can tell you that there’s
upcoming contact with Agent Paul Ballard, who is Tahmoh
Penikett, and there is going to be some charged stuff
in those episodes. Sierra. I don’t know. How
much can I tell you? I don’t know how much I’m
allowed to give up.
looks like they’re just starting to interact.
Eliza Dushku: Yes. Well, again, we
pick up in the Dollhouse and the dolls are starting
to have these memories and develop these little flickers
of self awareness and recognize one another and remember
things from engagements. Of course, that’s considered
a glitch in the Dollhouse system and that’s
where all hell breaks loose. That’s kind of
where the show expands and that’s where it gets
interesting to me.
fact that you’re essentially a different character
every episode, is that a large part of what blew your
skirt up about the premise of the show?
Eliza Dushku: Well, Joss and I came
up with the show together and we were talking about
what kind of show would suit me right now in my career
and in my life. Basically, Joss and I have had a ten-plus-year
friendship at this point and he knows me very well
and he knows how hard it is for me to sit still for
five minutes, not to mention for an entire episode,
so the premise of the show was sort of based on my
own life and on keeping things moving and on keeping
me active and having the chance to play and jump around
in between these characters every week and sometimes
multiple times every show. That was planned from the
you’re just wound so tight that you couldn’t
be a character that’s slow and methodical?
Eliza Dushku: You’re putting
words in my mouth there. I’ve never said I’m
wound so tight; I just have a lot of energy and I
just have sort of an appetite for people and stories
and telling different stories and being in a different
place and traveling and experiencing just different
emotions. One thing that Joss gave me in this project
is the ability to sort of show some other colors of
mine that other creators and other writers, directors,
executive producers haven’t given me in the
past, but he has seen them in me and wanted to give
me the stage to act them out. I understand, so it’s
a gift and it’s a lot of fun.
Given that you were with
the show sort of from the ground floor and, as you
say, you and Joss developed it, could you talk about
how the show has sort of developed from that first
meeting and that first kernel into what it actually
became and what we’re going to see starting
Eliza Dushku: Yes. Well, when we
first sat down I had just sort of negotiated a deal
with Fox to ultimately come up with a show to do with
them and Joss was really the only person on my mind.
I thought if he wasn’t going to do a show with
me he at least knew me well enough to sort of guide
me and to sort of help me put together the ideas that
were in my head and to help me sort of figure out
what kind of woman I wanted to play and what I wanted
to be a part of. So when we sat down and we just started
talking about life and talking about our careers and
different projects, we’re really like-minded
people and we were talking about sort of what it’s
like for me, Eliza, waking up every day and having
to somewhat be a different person every day and we
were talking about the Internet and how people can
get so much and with just the click of a button find
anything that they want or need or desire or think
that they want or need or desire and then what actually
happens when they get that. We were absolutely talking
about sexuality and what’s taboo and objectification
and just things that are relevant to us. Four hours
later Joss absolutely sort of sprang forward with
the idea, with the basis for the show and said, “It
will be called Dollhouse and it will be basically
exactly this. It will be you with the ability to be
imprinted to be someone sexy or to be anything or
to be objectified every week or multiple times a week
and how that affects people. We’re going to
stir people up and we’re going to make people
uncomfortable because that’s sort of interesting
to us.” Here we are 13 episodes later and
we think we’ve done that. I mean the first show
on Friday we’re super excited about. I love
Ghost. I love Target. I love the first three, four,
five episodes, but the cool thing is the show gets
better even from there. I mean Joss is really a novelist
and you have to give him chapters to tell the story.
He and the other writers just – I participated
on a lot of levels as producer also with ideas of
my own. I mean the show just goes so deep and it’s
so exciting and so thought provoking and relevant.
has the show changed from the original pilot that
you read, because, of course, there was the famous
rewriting of the pilot, etc. and what are your thoughts
on how the show has evolved specifically since then.
Eliza Dushku: We changed the pilot
for sort of more logistical reasons. I think that
any time you’re dealing with a lot of cooks
in the kitchen and FOX had sort of an idea of a pace
that they wanted in the first show or in the first
couple of shows. It maybe differed from how Joss originally
wanted to set it up, but I think that absolutely Joss
and I both feel that where we came out is exactly
what we had talked about when we sat down at the first
meal ... When the idea first came up. We’re
telling this young woman’s story and following
her and following these others as they go through
these first 13 trials of engagements and of self realization
Being an executive producer
of the series and sort of coming up with it with Joss,
has that given you any new perspectives on making
a TV series that you might not have had before?
Eliza Dushku: I mean yes; it’s
sort of been what I expected. I have been in this
business now for over 15 years. I sort of grew up
in this business and it was just exciting and it was
sort of, I don’t know, I guess I could say validating
to have a friend and a partner like Joss in this and
to have him acknowledge that this was something that
he believed, an undertaking that I could make or take
with him. He obviously has ten million things to do
in a day, most importantly, being up in the writers’
room and breaking stories and knowing that this is
sort of our baby and this is something that we, at
that meal, decided to do together with passion and
with enthusiasm and that I would be the constant and
on the set every day. I have sort of picked up and
learned a lot about how the machine operates. It was
just more exciting than anything and it also just
sort of made me that much more invested in just the
fine details of the show and then just even in things,
the political aspects and everything from moral on
the set to making sure our crew members felt heard
and looking for warning signs. There are just so many
elements, but I absolutely loved it because, again,
this is something that I asked for. I mean I asked
for every single bit of it and I can truly say I’ve
loved every bit of it, like the responsibilities,
the effort, enthusiasm, the whole crew, the whole
cast, everyone involved in the show has wanted it
as badly as Joss and I have. Those are the people
that we wanted to surround ourselves with and by and
so it has certainly been challenging, but it’s
been the best kind of challenging, because I mean
I’ve learned so much, but I’ve also just
gotten the opportunity to be more hands on than project
I’ve ever worked on.
we going to find out exactly is there a reason that
Echo is the one that is becoming more aware? Is there
going to be a reasoning behind her glitch or is she
just the one that we’re following because she’s
the main character and we’re just following
a doll becoming aware?
Eliza Dushku: No. I think you’re
going to. Well, I can tell you that you’re going
to find out sort of what kind of time frame the Dollhouse
has been operating under and what maybe happened to
previous dolls. I think that we just come into the
story with Echo, but there have certainly been dolls
before her and there will certainly be dolls after
her. Why Echo? Probably because I’m me and Joss
and I came up with the idea together, so we decided
to bring the story up with me sort at the head of
about this show it’s being described in terms
of sort of game changing and mind blowing. What about
it sort of makes it game changing and mind blowing?
Eliza Dushku: Well, it’s provocative.
It’s disturbing in some ways. It’s controversial.
We’re dealing with altering and programming
people and I think that that’s a very sensitive
topic, but I think that it’s relevant and I
think that it’s exciting because I’ve
always wanted to do work that has to do with us evolving
and questioning, making people uncomfortable I guess.
That’s sort of what interesting storytelling
is to me is asking different questions and taking
a closer look at desires and fantasies and taboos
and sexuality and these are all things that Joss and
I initially discussed in our infamous first lunch
when we were talking about making a show. They were
things that I knew he, as a creative genius, which
I truly believe he is, had the ability and the imagination
to create with me and at the same time roll in a story
that just puts those parts together tightly, cleverly,
with drama and humor and pain and joy. Obviously,
anyone who’s known his work in Buffy and then
anyone who knows him as a person knows that he’s
just all of those instruments. That’s, I think,
what makes this such an extraordinary show.
This question stems from
the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Given that the clients of the Dollhouse are expecting
their fantasy girl are we going to see any episodes
from a client’s perspective where they learn
that that’s a curse instead of a gift or will
it always be a curse because she has a few glitches?
Eliza Dushku: Absolutely.
I mean I think that’s sort of the point; that’s
one of the main themes in this whole story that we’re
telling here is that objectification hurts ... Whether
you’re the one, whichever side you’re
on because that’s why we’re all different
and that’s why there are certain parameters
and morals in our society. When you step outside of
those things and you put such control in certain people’s
hands in terms of what people want and need and desire
versus what they think they want and need and desire
they may be surprised at sort of the Frankenstein
story. You’re absolutely going to see clients
wishing perhaps that they had not decided to add that
extra element to their Active or to their doll I guess
you could say.
all 13 episodes mapped out or are they done?
Eliza Dushku: We just finished them
last week. Yes.
said that you have tattoos, but we don't see any in
the show. Are they covered up for the show or is it
just that they ...?
Eliza Dushku: I have a few,
yes, but they’re all actually in places that
can be covered with just a swimsuit. Sometimes we
cover them up.
there one character in particular when you were doing
your different personalities in the episodes, maybe
one we haven’t seen probably, that you liked
best? Did you like being the bad girl or did you like
being the sweet girl? Was there a certain type of
personality that you enjoyed playing?
Eliza Dushku: Yes. No. It surprised
me, because on the one hand it’s awesome and
exhilarating to be the sexy assassin, but at the same
time I’ve been surprised time and time again
how much I also really enjoy playing; like I play
this blind cultess and it was just so different than
anything, than any skin I had ever been in and I really,
really enjoyed it. It was challenging and yet it was
like liberating to have the opportunity and to see
the world, not see the world, but to be in the world
in these different skins. That was a particularly
special episode, as was being the personality of a
50-something-year-old woman in my own body. That was
another one that’s coming up that was very interesting.
I don’t know if I have a favorite, but they’ve
all had their own special nuances and places for me.
understand listening to some of the press and what
not that you felt out of your comfort zone playing
a woman with a 1940’s up do.
Eliza Dushku: Yes. You have to understand.
I mean I grew up a total tomboy with three big brothers
and I was sort of like this little girl running around
with this mop of hair, tangled hair, climbing trees
and playing tag football with my brothers. I don’t
know. There’s just something about a polished,
bobby-pinned, hair sprayed up do. I don’t know;
the composure and the sophistication. It’s thrilling
and it’s fun for me to play and now that I’ve
done it once I kind of am excited to try it on again,
but it definitely threw me at first. It was something
that was out of my comfort zone, but from the very
get-go Joss told me that he intended on taking me
out of my comfort zone as much as possible on this
show, so I welcome it. I welcome it. I’m up
for any challenge and any uncomfortable scenario he
wants to throw ... because that’s what this
What would you say is the
main theme or message that Dollhouse is going to explore?
Eliza Dushku: I mean without over
simplifying it too much I’d say it’s sort
of about not the search for one’s true identity,
but it’s about sort of identifying what makes
us who we are and our thoughts and our surroundings
and what happens when you start to allow other people
or a big corporation or a mass of people; I think
objectification is a huge theme of the show and just
sort of how and why we are authentic individuals and
what helps make us sort of – I guess I’m
now getting so philosophical it’s just getting
so big in my head, but just what it means to be an
individual and to have that toyed with or to have
that taken from you and what that means and how we
come out and how strong our sense of self is at the
end of the day no matter up against what, any kind
of technology or any kind of tampering, like what
makes us who we are. There you go; I got it out.
like four years from now when you’re working
on season five do you still think that you’ll
have places to go with this character? Do you think
that there will still be places you haven’t
gone yet with the concept of Echo?
Eliza Dushku: Absolutely. I mean
I think look at how much we as human beings have evolved
in a day. There’s constant evolution. There’s
constant, if you think about how many desires and
how many scenarios; apparently from day one Joss has
had a five-year plan for the show and we’ve
talked about what some of those are. I think that’s
one of the things that’s so exciting about this
show is that it’s so open for endless possibilities.
You’re dealing with so much. It’s human.
It’s mankind and it’s thoughts and it’s
thoughts and wishes and desires; they’re by
the millions, by the trillions.
you have a really big lesbian following. Are you aware
Eliza Dushku: I have been made aware
of that over the years, particularly around my Buffy
years. Right on.
do you think that is? Where did that come from?
Eliza Dushku: I know during Buffy
there was a lot of people really dissected that show.
I remember a lot of people leading in to Faith and
Buffy having this deep down love for one another.
I don’t know. I’ve been told in the past
maybe it’s a mixture. I don’t know. I’m
obviously very girly, but I grew up with a lot of
boys and so there’s definitely a tomboy in me
and I’ve found just that I have fans equally
in males and females. I have a lot of lesbian love
fans out there and a lot of gay men, who still do
cheers in supermarkets from Bring It On. I think it’s
awesome. I love loving from all sides in my fan world,
so I appreciate every individual that appreciates
watching me at work.
Is there anything in Dollhouse
that they’ll be able to connect to? I don’t
know if there are any gay elements into it or just
something they can find in there.
Eliza Dushku: To be honest, there
was one that was pitched and some how it didn’t
make it into the first 13 episodes, but we’ve
only told 13 stories here and we’re all so excited.
I mean even Joss and I today were going ... finally
here and yet Joss said it’s crazy because we
just finished these 13 episodes and it’s been
such a hustle and it’s been so crazy and yet
now that I haven’t been in the writer’s
room in a week I’m already thinking up ideas
for the next 13 episodes. I mean I already am dying
to get back in the writer’s room and tell more
stories and tell stories that we had ideas and plans
for from the get-go. We’re exploring every element
of human desire and I think - I know that given the
opportunity we’ll explore every form of sexuality
or that ... Or that’s 9:00 p.m. FOX allowed.
are the best and worst parts about getting to play
such a variety of people, yet playing a single character
as the base?
Eliza Dushku: Well, the base character,
Echo, is in a word, simple or in a few words, she’s
simple. She’s blank. She’s had her personality
and memories erased and she’s ... child with
no inhibition, no fear. She’s sort of a blank
slate and it’s exciting in the sense that every
week there’s sort of a new star of the show
and it’s whatever character I am imprinted to
be. We found sort of early on that one of the challenges
was each character, when they’re introduced,
sort of needs a good scene full of story. You basically
need to sort of give this character’s background
and we found that it was nice to get me in the role
in some of the easier scenes first, before having
me step on set in the outfit as the person with five
pages of dialogue explaining who I am. There was something
about sort of easing into it whenever possible and
when locations permit and shooting schedules. It’s
nice to sort of get in the skin and find something
to latch on to that makes that person distinct as
opposed to forcing it and using the dialogue or the
scene or exposition to tell the story. I mean I some
how, I, Eliza, am a really adaptable person. I was
just sort of raised that way. It’s sort of like
throw me in the water and I can hopefully learn how
to swim and survive and get very comfortable very
quickly, but there is that initial sort of shock to
the system and so we figured that out early on; that
it’s helpful to do some of the other scenes
first, but some scenes are easier than others to slide
into and I have worked with Joss specifically on certain
roles. I also have a coach that I’ve worked
with since I was ten-years-old, who actually lives
in New York and we work on the phone or he comes out
to LA. I’ve taken it very seriously and I really
want to, as much as possible, take Elizaisms out when
they’re not necessary and add other elements
and add other colors to these characters to portray
the reality that I’m a different person every
week as much as possible, so it’s absolutely
been challenging. It’s been humbling. It’s
been exciting and I’m ready for more, more,