James Marsters is best recognized by fans as the platinum blonde, sinfully seductive punk rock vampire who’s a hybrid of Billy Idol and Sid Vicious — and it turns out he’s really good at playing bad.
The 55-year-old found fame in the supernatural drama “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which aired from 1997 until 2003. The American actor also appeared in “Angel,” a spinoff that ran from 1999 until 2004.
Marsters is back on the screen as an evil genius for “Marvels’s Runaways” on Hulu. The series, based on the comics, tells the story of six teenagers who can barely stand each other, but somehow must unite against a common foe — their parents. Marsters plays Victor Stein, an engineering master with an abusive streak that’s at risk of taking over.
Fox News spoke with Marsters about whether becoming one of TV’s most recognizable villains has typecast him over the years, fun “Buffy” facts and what was it about Victor Stein that lured him in as an actor.
Fox News: You’re no stranger to playing villains. At any point in your career, were you worried about being typecast?
James Marsters: Oh, like being cast as the cool rock ‘n’ roll vampire guy? No... Heroes are always running between A and B, trying to save people, feeling guilty that they’re not saving enough people fast enough, having some sort of guilt about childhood. That’s a lot of work!
If you play a villain, you just get to lurk in the shadows and wait for the hero to come huffing and puffing by and then you jump out of the shadows and pop him in the head and then you go home. It’s a lot more fun. Yeah, I’ll take a villain anytime. And also, villains age well. So I can keep playing villains until I’m dead.
Fox News: What are some fun facts about your time on the "Buffy" set that would surprise fans today?
Marsters: They had to bleach my hair every eight days because a vampire is dead so your hair doesn’t grow. So they were bleaching the wounds from the last beaching. I don’t know if you ever made your hair shock-white blonde, but it doesn’t feel great. And if you do it every eight days, it’s horrible. "Buffy" was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but we worked 12-20 hours a day. And to tell you the truth, your short term memory evaporates when you get that tired.
We used to play a game on "Buffy," which was "Quick, what did you shoot this morning?" And people would go, "I have no idea." So, I sometimes watch some episodes of "Buffy" now and I don’t remember the scene. Even though I know I was having a blast doing it, I have very few memories. It’s very weird… I was [exhausted] for seven years in a row. We were known as "Buffy the Weekend Slayer." Started at 4:30 in the morning on Monday and we worked 12-20 hours through the week and we only came out when the sun came out on Saturday morning. I’m not complaining, I’m bragging.
Fox News: Do you stay in touch with any of your former cast mates?
Marsters: Yeah! I see Eliza Dushku. She’s a lot like Faith, but not conflicted. She’s just nice. She’s got that rock ‘n’ roll thing going on. I communicate with Sarah (Michelle Gellar) through email. We’re both parents now and we’re trying to out-brag each other, show each other up on how well our kids are doing.
The funny thing is her kids are very young and mine are in college. Like my son is in China right now studying politics. My daughter is majoring in mathematics. And so, she’s like, "My kids baked really good cookies today!" And I’m like, "Oh, that’s so cute. My son is in Beijing." I’m sure she thinks she wins this contest, but I’m pretty sure that I did.
Fox News: What was it about the role of Victor Stein that drew you in as an actor?
Marsters: I think he’s intelligent. He’s a character who is an inventor and also an engineer. So he can think of something, but he can also build it. He reminds me of Elon Musk in that way.
I’m a science fan and so the fact this guy is kind of a scientist/engineer is really interesting… He’s trying to save the world, but he’s also willing to do anything to achieve the survival of the human race. So he very much sees himself as a hero. And I think it’s arguable that he might actually be one.
Fox News: To prepare for this role, did you read any of the comics?
Marsters: No… I just kind of trusted the producers and writers of the show. They know the comic books backwards and forwards. And I knew that if I was going off in any way, they’d pull me back in really quick. And the weirdest thing kind of happened. I just instinctively fell into the role to the extent that I started to say things that my character was going to do in the next episode before they gave me the script. And for a while, they were thinking, "How is he getting the next script?"
I was just thinking, "What would I do next?" And I remember sitting down with Josh and going, "I think the great thing about Victor is that he is not going to second-guess himself. He made a deal with the devil… He’s going to march through an ocean of blood. He’s not going to look back." And that is what’s going to keep him interesting to the audience.
I wasn’t reading the scripts. I think I was cast really well. I think I have a lot of things similar to Victor.
"Marvel's Runways" is currently available for streaming on Hulu.