Q&A: Joss Whedon, creator of Dollhouse

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Joss Whedon

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It's not as funny a show as some of your others. It's darker and more serious. Would you agree?

JW: Absolutely. It is a dramatic thriller where it's very important people invest in the reality of the thing, and the reality of the thing is dark. And yet once people have, we're able to bring some changes. There's no way I'm going to make a show that doesn't have some silly. I couldn't breathe if there was no silly. The fact of the matter is, we're talking about what makes a human being a human being. A large part of that is that they're ridiculous.

FOX is playing up the sexy side of the show a lot. And there is something weirdly brothel-like about the Dollhouse. How much is the show about sex?

JW: It's probably less about sex than it was when we pitched it. Eliza and I were interested in the way people deal with each other sexually — what they need from each other, what they're ashamed of, how they control each other, how power is involved. She was interested in exploring sexuality. And she likes looking good, and being attractive, and that's part of the package. She's a television star for a number of reasons. But I think the network is happy if we gear it toward the conspiracy and the thriller aspect of it, because it does have that aspect of sex for hire, that makes people nervous. But we wanted to explore that. We want to make people a little nervous.

How much directing do you think you're going to do on the show?

JW: Not as much I used to. It's really a question of time. But when I've got people like [Steven S.] DeKnight, and Tim Minear and David Solomon in my pocket, it makes it a lot less painful. (pauses) They're not actually in my pocket.

It would have to be a big pocket.

JW: They're actually very teeny ...

How's the partnership with FOX been?

JW: It's been difficult on both sides for us to reconcile our visions of what the show's about. But it has absolutely been a collaboration. My experience with Firefly was very unpleasant. [FOX canceled it, infamously, after 11 episodes.] This experience was very different. It was never ugly in any sense. It was hard. But art should be hard.

You're a behind-the-scenes type person, but you're also a celebrity. How does that work?

JW: I don't think I'm a celebrity. Maybe I'm a cult figure? I walk down the street, and it's not like people are mobbing me. But I do get recognized sometimes — which is very new for a writer. A writer is supposed to have anonymity. And the result of that is that I think I'm all that. My ego is completely out of control. I think you're going to see that in some of the work coming up.

You had great music in Buffy — in fact, in all your shows. The music in Dollhouse has a different vibe. Could you talk about how you choose the music in your shows?

JW: The first thing was the title, where I had something by Jonatha Brooke in mind, and the next day they got me on the phone with Jonatha Brooke. And I was like, wow, so that's how that works now. It was very surreal for me, because I've been a fan of hers for years. She wrote a beautiful theme that informs the kind of music that I like on the show. And then we basically get sent a bunch. Some of the music is not the music I listen to — for example, in the third episode Echo becomes a backup singer for a diva pop star, and that obviously is not my stuff. It just felt right for the episode.

Is Eliza going to sing? Can she?

JW: Oh boy can she sing. Girl's got pipes. She does sing just a little bit in the episode where she plays a backup singer. I'd love her to sing more, but apparently this isn't just my playground, I do have to tell responsible stories. She can't sing in every episode. Dammit.

I've always wondered about your name, Joss. You don't meet a lot of Josses.

JW: Remember the bad guy from Lethal Weapon 2? "Diplomatic immunity" — that guy? Great British actor. Joss Ackland. And there's the singer Joss Stone. We're out there.

Did you have a dollhouse when you were little?

JW: The dolls I played with were all superhero dolls. I did not actually have a dollhouse. I was pretty much playing with Spider-Man and the Falcon. And I wasn't putting Spider-Man on top of Falcon. No matter what you've heard.

Wait, who's the Falcon?

JW: He was Captain America's sidekick, for a while.

I thought that was — Billy? Bobby? What's his name?

JW: Bucky! Bucky died in WWII, bra! He had to get a new sidekick.

So Spidey and the Falcon didn't have a house? They were homeless?

JW: No. They didn't have a house. Kind of sad, really.

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