Friday, April 1, 2011

(Spoilers) Exclusive Interview with Buffy S.9 Writer Andrew Chambliss

Cover by Jo Chen
Click to Enlarge
If you've been chomping at the bit for some more Buffy comic news, today's been a good day. Wonder Con's Dark Horse Panel just introduced Andrew Chambliss as writer for Buffy Season 9. We've got a great interview below, where the man himself spills the beans on the direction of Season 9, and more. Check out how his "Geek Street Cred" really shines through this interview!

Buffyfest: Although you've been part of the Whedonverse since Dollhouse was on the air, we want to welcome you to the Buffyverse, Mr. Chambliss! Thanks so much for talking with us. Set the stage for us: How were you approached about writing Buffy Season 9?

Andrew Chambliss: I'd been working with Jed and Mo on the Dollhouse miniseries when I got an e-mail from Joss saying he'd heard good things from them about my “Dollhousery”. He then asked if I'd be at all interested in working on Buffy Season 9 with him. It didn't seem like much of a question to me. The chance to work with Joss? In comics? About Buffy? Umm, yes please. And here I am. Okay, there might have been a few intermediate steps, but that's how it all started.

Buffyfest: Great story! In terms of your intro in the Buffyverse, how did you prepare for Season 9 once you got the news you were writing it?

AC: I'd already read the first three or four trade paperbacks of Season 8 over the past year or so, but I'd fallen behind as my life started to get busier and busier. After Joss emailed me about working with him, I quickly ran out and bought the rest. I read the entire season cover to cover two or three times. I also pulled my Buffy DVD set off the shelf and started watching my favorite episodes -- both to remind myself of the world and to start planting the characters' voices in my heads. Joss also held a Buffy summit at his house with Season 8 writers to brainstorm ideas for Season 9 and the Angel and Faith series. Getting to spend an afternoon with people like Joss, Jane Espenson and Drew Greenberg. Geek heaven.

Buffyfest: Oh, to be a fly on that wall! Now that you're at the helm, which character are you most excited to write and why?

AC: It may seem the obvious choice, but I'm going to have to say Buffy. Going into season 9, she's in a really interesting place – she always thought she was going to die saving the world, but now that she actually survived, she has to face her real life (don't worry, they'll still be lots of slaying). And at the same time, she's watching her friends move on with their lives, and has to deal with the fact that the Scooby Gang might not be there to help her like they used to be.

I'm also excited to write Andrew because I can unabashedly let my inner geek shine through him. And I think this is the first time I will have written a character that shares my name.

Buffyfest: What about a character that you're disappointed you won't get to write with Giles dead, Spike off in his Bug ship and Angel and Faith moving over to the Angel title?

AC: Of course, I'm disappointed that I won't get to write Giles. If I learned anything from writing Adelle on Dollhouse, it's that British characters are fun to write. Maybe it's because you can add completely unnecessary letters to their dialogue, in words like “colour” or “aluminium”. Speaking of British accents, I can safely say that Spike won't be on his bug ship for very long. He'll definitely be a part of Buffy's Season 9 life.

Buffyfest: Let’s go back to Season 8 for a minute. Fans have had a lot to say about Buffy's move to comics. How about you? How did you feel about Buffy Season 8?

AC: I'm a big fan of Season 8. I think comics was the perfect medium to tell a story with the scope that Season 8 needed -- how else would you tell the story of Buffy struggling to lead an army of hundreds of slayers, except in comics? Even though the scope was often bigger than anything that could ever be produced on television, Season 8 still felt like it was the show – the voices were spot on, the writing was clever, and at the end of the day, it always came down to character.

Buffyfest: Okay, let’s talk art. Who’s the Season 9 artist and how has working with him/her been?

AC: Georges is returning for season 9, which makes me all kinds of happy. I loved his work on season 8, and have been impressed with what I've seen for Season 9 so far. The thing that constantly blows me away is how much thought he puts into everything he does. Recently, he sent us rough concept art for one of the covers – not only did he have 8 really cool cover ideas for a single issue, but he also had detailed explanations for each one. Right now, we're just getting started working together, but I know I'm going to love the experience.

Buffyfest: You've written comics for Heroes in the past, talk a little bit about your writing process for comics and the difference between comic writing and television writing.

AC: For me, television writing generally starts with the dialogue and builds from there. It's often an auditory medium before it's a visual medium. How many times do people listen to the TV while doing something else in another room? Comics are always a visual medium first, so I often have to remind myself to think visually just as much as I think about the dialogue. There's as much – if not more – that you can tell the reader through the art than captions or dialogue. Which reminds me of the best part about comic book writing – I never have to worry if anything I write is too expensive to draw. In television, you always end up having to scale back to meet the budget of the episode. But in comics, if you can write it, the artist can draw it. It's really freeing, especially when you're writing about things like demon armies or the post-apocalyptic Los Angeles cityscape.

I'm still fairly new to writing comics, so there's a lot I'm learning along the way. But, luckily, I'm writing under the watchful eye of Scott and Sierra who have been great in helping me figure out what works in comics and what doesn't.

Buffyfest: What about the big man himself? How will the co-writing work with Joss? Will you write all the issues or split the work load with him?

AC: Joss and I have been doing most of the story breaking over e-mail and the phone (I think he's busy with a movie or something). We're splitting the script writing duties at the moment and hope to continue to work that way as we continue to write the season.

Buffyfest: Any spoilers you'd like to share for the Season 9? Please?!

AC: They'll be some new characters introduced early on in the season. I won't give away too much, but one of them includes a hunky demon who served time in a mystical prison.

Buffyfest: That’ll definitely have people talking! With the announcement that there will be two main titles under the banner of Season 9, are you working with the Angel series writer to crossover the two stories?

AC: At the moment, we don't have any large crossovers planned, but we'll most likely send certain characters off to one another between both series.

Buffyfest: Switching to Dollhouse, what's the inside story on how you got the writing job for the show?

AC: I'd met at both Fox and 20th shortly after the WGA strike ended, and the executives there told me that they were sending my material over to Joss to read for Dollhouse. Cue the excitement, nerves, and whatever other neurotic behavior you can imagine. And then nothing. A month later, when I had finally forgotten that Joss might be reading my script, I got a call from my agent telling me that I was meeting with Joss the next afternoon (turns out it took him a while to read my script because he had been busy shooting something called Dr. Horrible). Cue the excitement, nerves all over again. The Dollhouse pilot script was delivered to my house that evening, I read it, and stayed up half the night working on pitches.

I met with Joss, Liz Craft and Sarah Fain the next afternoon. I pitched a bunch of ideas that Joss must have liked (which included Victor/Topher – some thing I was super happy to see land in season two) because I got a phone call from my agent saying they were offering me the job as I was driving home from the Fox lot. Twenty-four hours later, I was working on the show. I can still remember how surreal it felt at the time.

Buffyfest: Wow, that’s an amazing story, but there was obviously not a happy ending. From a writer's perspective, was it frustrating working with the network amidst all the problems at the time?

AC: It's always frustrating to have to change course when you really believe in something. The original Dollhouse pilot (it's on the first season DVD – watch it!) was really cool and set the stage for where Joss ended up taking us with “Man on the Street”, but the network was worried that the pilot came at the premise sideways and wanted something that felt a little more stand-alone.

Buffyfest: What are you most proud of when it comes to your storytelling on Dollhouse?

AC: There are things that I love about every episode of Dollhouse I worked on, but overall I think I'm most proud of the first episode I wrote for the show – “A Spy in the House of Love”. It was such a fun ep to write because each act really was its own self-contained story, and I really got to build to some huge character moments for everyone – Paul's realization that Mellie was a sleeper doll, Adelle opening up for the first time to someone who doesn't even exist, and Echo starting to own her burgeoning individuality. I think the fact that “Spy” was also my first episode of produced television adds to my fondness for it.

I'm also really proud of “Epitaph 2”. I was over the moon when Joss asked me to co-write the script with Jed and Mo. First off, because Jed and Mo are awesome to work with. Secondly, because I was going to have the opportunity to say goodbye to all these characters I had grown to love. And finally, it was post-apocalyptic – and who doesn't want to write a post-apocalyptic script? Everybody does. Especially when you throw in a Mad Max-style semi driven by people called “Freakshows”.

Buffyfest: And what story do you wish you could have told before the show ended?

AC: I would have loved to have been able to tell the story of how Topher ended up working at the Dollhouse. His arc from amoral, arrogant scientist to someone who was willing to give up his life to undue the damage his creations had caused was really interesting to me. I would have loved to have shown where Topher began that journey. I had outlined an episode where Topher had to "brain-nap" his former college mentor, and though we scrapped the episode for some very good reasons, I would have loved to have been able to tell that story in a later season.

Also, a post-robocall season 3 would have been a blast to write for TV. But that's why we have comics!

Buffyfest: You've moved from Dollhouse to the very popular Vampire Diaries. It's no secret that vampires are popular right now, so how do you approach the idea of a "good" vampire?

AC: For me, writing "good" vampires is actually a lot more interesting than writing bad vampires. They're in constant conflict between who they are – someone who wants to be good – and what they are – creatures whose instincts are too kill.

Buffyfest: A lot of people have compared Damon and Stefan to Spike and Angel. Do you see the comparison?

AC: I can see why people make the comparison. Stefan and Angel are both characters who strive to be good despite their dark pasts, and Spike and Damon often want to be bad in spite of the good that can't help but come to the surface.

Buffyfest: Any spoilers or scoops you can give to our Vampire Diaries fans out there?

AC: I'm going to stay tight-lipped, but the end of the season will be epic.

Buffyfest: Okay, we’ll just have to wait and see! So, let's finish with some fun fan questions. How did you get into Buffy?

AC: I remember watching the early seasons of Buffy when I was in high school, and never did the thought cross my mind that I might be writing in that universe at some point in my future. When I started to get interested in television writing a few years later, I began to watch the show much more carefully, and that's when I realized just how incredible it was. At that point, I was hooked.

Buffyfest: Was there a particular moment that made you think, "This is more than just an ordinary TV show”?

AC: There are so many moments, but if I have to pinpoint one, I think I'd say Angel losing his soul in season two.

Buffyfest: What about favorite season of the show?

AC: This is tough, but I think I'm going to say season 6. Spike and Buffy. The Trio. Dark Willow. In fact, I think I'm going to go watch some Season 6 right now.

Buffyfest: Us too! Before you go, though, anything you'd like to say to Buffy fans before Season 9 starts?

AC: Just thank you for welcoming me to all things Buffy!

Buffyfest: Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us. We're looking forward to the story you're going to tell in Season 9!


PatShand said...

I'm attracted to this article. Sexually.

Jet said...

Love that cover art. Any chance it could be available as a poster for sale?

Galla said...

I think I'm having a heart attack! A HEART ATTACK OF AWESOME!

Nat said...

The cover is so beautiful. Jo Chen is unbeaten in her incredibleness

mbatz said...

Nice interview festers:)