Countdown to ‘Dollhouse’: Fran Kranz spills Attic secrets


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In “Dollhouse,” Fran Kranz plays Topher Brink, the brains behind the morally dubious operation that rents out customized humans to a high-paying clientele.

You might remember Kranz, 26, as the kid writer who moves into a legendary Hollywood apartment complex full of kooks in the short-lived CBS comedy “Welcome to the Captain.” (He won’t hold it against you if you don’t.)


The actor’s role on ‘Dollhouse,’ however, is a little less straightforward. He tries to explain:

Tell us about your character.
I play the whiz kid mad scientist behind the Dollhouse. He’s the guy who understands and knows the technology behind how the whole imprint process works. The dolls are imprinted with different personalities for each of their missions or clients’ fantasies, and Topher designs these personalities.

Is he OK with it?
He’s sort of a cocky, punk kind of guy. He loves his job, and his job is morally questionable. Whether he’s ultimately good or bad remains to be seen. Does he have a conscience? Or is he completely unethical? That’s not something that I’m ready to say. But certainly he loves his job, and that says volumes about who he is. Because of him people are used and abused. Some die.

Seems kind of clear-cut to me: He has no conscience.

But he sees it as an artistic, creative process. When he builds these personalities, I like to look at it like he’s building a brain. He’s using real parts of real personalities. Nothing is completely artificial. They’re pieces of real people. They’re kind of his color palette, and his final product is a complete person. The show meditates on this, obviously.

Will we hear about where these personalities, or “pieces of real people” as you said, are coming from?

What I know and what I can say is that there is a place in the Dollhouse called the Attic that stores failed Dolls and personalities. There’s like a whole warehouse where actual bodies are kept.

Bodies? Yikes.
Exactly. It’s like a library, so to speak. Where do we get them? I can’t say. They are real people.

But you know, there is one episode where a friend of someone working in the Dollhouse downloads his or her personality intentionally for the sake of maybe using it later. So that just goes to show that people can come and download their personalities and clearly go on existing as functional human beings too.

Much has been written about the ups and downs of the production of this show. How has it changed from that original pilot?
From where I stood, it seemed very simple: The network wanted more action, sex and something a little more glamorous. That was one of the major impressions I got, that we needed to make it more flashy. Hence –- minor spoiler warning -- the motorcycle race and that dress. The original pilot started with Echo (Eliza Dusku) talking to some girl in the hospital who had had a drug overdose, trying to help her out.


But I’ve read things where Joss has said that wasn’t exactly the case, that Fox wanted to cut to the chase. They thought there was too much on the characters within the Dollhouse and the conflict and mythology of the Dollhouse, as opposed to seeing what the Dollhouse does on a day-to-day basis.

In one sense, I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s important for the audience to define the Dollhouse before they’re introduced to the rest of the conflicts and stories.

How’s it been so far?

It’s been really great. We’re all excited. And the good news is that the season ends stronger than it starts, because once we’ve gotten through the first few mission-of-the-week episodes, the show turns in on itself and starts to become more about the characters and the story and history of the Dollhouse. The stories of past relationships, past doll malfunctions.

Anything else Whedon fans should be prepared for?

The pilot is the humorless episode of the 13. There are episodes that are hysterical. There’s one in particular that I found to be pretty much a comedy. So stick with it. The last couple of episodes that we’re shooting now are unlike anything I’ve seen on TV. And it could get really, really exciting from there.

-- Denise Martin

Countdown to ‘Dollhouse’: 13 days to go (exclusive footage from the set)
Countdown to ‘Dollhouse’: Eliza Dushku puts her faith in Joss Whedon