Countdown to ‘Dollhouse’: Eliza Dushku puts her faith in Joss Whedon
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It’s the stuff of legend: Eliza Dushku and Joss Whedon, friends from their days working on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” met for lunch at Ivy by the Shore and talked about their careers, dreams and lives, over gouda pizza. Four hours later, Whedon had conceived the idea for Fox’s upcoming “Dollhouse,” including the title and a star role for Dushku.
We met Dushku recently on set. The 28-year-old actress, who has a development deal with 20th Century Fox Television, said she had hoped to lure Whedon back to TV during that lunch, but she didn’t think she could. A year later, she refers to the gouda pizza she bought Whedon “as the best investment.”
When you had lunch with Joss, were you wanting to catch up with a friend or did you have something more sinister in mind, like convinvincing him to return to TV?
I didn’t go with the direct intention of saying, “Write me a show. Let’s be partners.” But I also have always respected him, looked up to him, since I moved out here at 17 to do “Buffy.” He’s been an ally, a mentor, a friend. A hero. I just love the guy. So I had no idea where he was or what he was doing. But we have a lot in common. We’re both artists and we’re both major communicators. We love talking and thought-provoking in the same sort of way. We both love women’s issues and women’s psychology, and also the way that plays in the psychology of all society.”
In the show, your charcter, Echo, becomes other people. Joss said that he was struck during your conversation by the fact that you said that in your life you feel pushed to be different things for different people. Is that what made you want to play this?
Yes, we were talking about me and my life and career and how in the 17 years I’ve been in this business, being pulled into so many directions. Someone sort of wants you to be a differnet person every day. And then we were talking about the Internet and how much control we have, and yet it seems everyone is so out of control. So 13 episodes in, we’ve just run the gamut of putting these different personalities into my character, Echo, and other characters. The show is a study of human conditions and social, moral, conscience issues that to me are very interesting.
But Echo is starting to become aware of who she really was too, so there’s more going on than Echo being imprinted with other people’s personalities. She’s actually going through a search for her own identity.
Yes, and that’s art imitating life. That is the core of the show, and that is the core of me. It’s all about being in different scenarios and all these different skins and all these different personalities, but figuring out who my authentic self is and who I am and what memories we have versus the memories that are imprinted on us every day in our lives. When all that’s wiped away, who are we at our core? So it’s definitely a true parallel with myself and this character.
The show itself has had several stops and starts in its development. When Joss decided to scrap the original pilot and start over, did you get nervous that the project was falling apart?
I only felt as nervous as I think any person would feel. Creatively, I haven’t really felt nervous. I just trust the man. I trust the man. As opposed to cannibalizing the original pilot that we shot for parts and trying to use it and cutting and pasting, he said he wanted to start fresh. There’s obviously the political side of it, which is the studio. Joss had his vision, and they had their vision. But when the pilot wasn’t their vision, Joss said let’s just start again, and I trusted that it was the right thing to do. But, of course, when something doesn’t go the way you expected, you’re disappointed. It was less scary, though, because I have deep, unconditional confidence in the man.
Tuesday, a chat with Fran Kranz, who plays the brains behind the Dollhouse.
— Maria Elena Fernandez