It is easy for an actress to become stereotyped into one sort of
role. This can be especially true when the actress in question
is best known for her role in show with a cult following as
strong as Joss Whedon’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. But actress
Amber Benson who played Tara Maclay, a fan favorite and part of
one of the first openly gay couples on mainstream television, is
no ordinary actress.
In fact, just calling her an actress is selling
her talents short. While still working on BUFFY, Amber wrote and
directed her first feature film: CHANCE. She hasn’t limited
herself to film and television either. Amber has also co-written
the Ghosts of Albion
series as well as a number of graphic novels with writer Chris
Golden and she’s just released her first solo novel:
hard at work promoting her new novel, writing her first
children’s book, and co-directing another new film. Despite her
more than busy schedule, Amber has taken some time out to talk
about her many projects, how playing a character as popular as
Tara affected her career, and what quantum physics has to do
with all of this!
ic - Amber,
in addition to your work in movies and television, you are also
a writer. You have a new novel that has just come out called
Death’s Daughter. Can
you tell us a little about the book and where you got your
inspiration for it?
Amber - I had
been reading a lot Urban Fantasy and I really thought it might
be a fun and challenging medium to work in. Callie (the book's
protagonist) just kinda popped into my head fully formed, but I
wasn't sure what to do with her. Then I realized that I wanted
to take her on The Hero's Journey, and, well, that's when the
plot of the book was conceived.
isn’t your first novel. You’ve co-authored a number of books and
graphic novels with Christopher Golden. How is it different
working with another author on a project from going it alone?
Amber - I miss writing with someone else - especially if that
someone is Chris Golden! I learned so much about writing prose
from doing the Ghosts of
Albion series. It was kind of like going to
Chris Golden University and majoring in How to Craft a Book 101. It's a lot harder to write
on your own. There's no one to fall back on if you can't get
past a plot point, or you're stuck on a character's motivation.
During the writing of
Ghosts, anytime I was lost, I'd just call Chris and we'd
talk through the problem together until it got fixed. Now, it's
all on me if stuff doesn't work or I get stuck - and it's a lot
more intimidating that way!
Nic - You
have experience writing not just books but also graphic novels
such as Buffy the Vampire
Slayer: Willow & Tara. Do you find it easier or more
difficult to write for a graphic novel where you have to work in
a ‘story board’ format with illustrations?
Amber - I
love writing graphic novels/comics because the format dovetails
nicely with the story-boarding I do when I direct a film. I'm
very detail oriented when I write a comic (probably annoyingly
so for my artists!) and I spend a lot of time describing how the
panels should be laid out and what each shot (panel) should look
Thinking of your film work, you haven’t just limited yourself to
acting. You not only starred in the film CHANCE, you also wrote,
directed and produced it as well. What is the film about and how
did you get the ball rolling on such an ambitious project?
Amber - CHANCE is a film about a single gal who's
looking for love in all the wrong places. It came together when
I was still working on Buffy. I was having my brain sucked out
at the time (on the show) and since I was spending most of my
days in my pjs because of it, I decided that I needed something
a little more challenging to do in my spare time. So, in a nut
shell, I decided to make a movie. Insane, huh?
Amber Benson and James Marsters
Nic - Which do you find to
be most challenging, working behind the camera as a
writer/director or being in front of the camera acting?
Amber - It's a
heck of a lot more work making a film then just acting in one.
An actor gets to breeze in when shooting starts and breeze out
when their part is finished. A director/writer starts working on
the film months before it shoots and isn't done until the
post-production is done. It's way more time intensive, but in
many ways it's a lot more satisfying.
Nic - Many of your fans know
you best for your role as Tara Maclay in the series “Buffy the
Vampire Slayer”. What was the best part about working on that
series for you?
Amber - Buffy was
so well-written and well-crafted that it has only inspired me to
work harder on my own stuff. It was an amazing experience
working with such great people and I was very blessed to get to
walk in Tara's shoes for three seasons. Joss is a
master at what he does and I think I learned more from watching
him do his thing on set than I ever would've learned sitting in
some film class somewhere taking notes.
Nic - Tara
was an extremely popular character in the “Buffy” series. Do you
feel playing that character helped open further acting doors for
you or did it restrict certain opportunities because of that
popularity and the show’s cult status?
Amber - I think playing a lesbian character hurt
me in the short run as far as getting jobs in Hollywood
was concerned, but honestly I wouldn't have traded playing
Tara for anything in the world. Now that more gay and lesbian
characters have been introduced into the main stream, there
seems to be less of a bias in the industry against playing these
parts. I'm looking forward to the day when gay and lesbian and
transgendered characters are the norm, not a marginalized subset
of the entertainment industry.
Nic - What
are some of the other projects you are working on now?
Amber - I just finished co-directing a film with Adam Busch
called DRONES. It stars Samm Levine and Jonathan Woodward and
it's absolutely awesome! I am so proud of the movie and the work
that we did on it. It just makes me want to co-direct more. I
also just finished a kid's book called
The New Newbridge Academy,
which will probably come out some time next year. Oh, and the
next book in the Death's
Daughter series will be out next spring, too.
Nic - You
sound really excited about DRONES! Can you tell us a little
about that feature and when you think it may be out?
DRONES is an office comedy with alien undertones. It was a labor
of love between Adam Busch and our producer, Jordan Kessler.
They've been friends for a long time and really wanted to work
together. Adam approached our friends, Ben Acker and Ben
Blacker, about writing something for them to produce and a week
later DRONES was born. We shot for fourteen days in
LA on a shoe string budget and I have to say that no one would ever
know because the finished project looks like a million bucks.
Nic - You
said that one of your new projects is a kid’s book,
The New Newbridge Academy. Is it
different writing something for children than writing adult
Amber - I try to tell the story the way it
appears in my head, so whether it ends up being for children or
for adults, it's still the same process.
Nic - As both
an actress and a filmmaker, how do you feel about the pressure
Hollywood places on women regarding appearance, weight, and body
Amber - I think that Hollywood
has set an impossible standard for physical beauty. Real people
can't compete when they don't have access to the nutritionists,
personal trainers and air-brushing that Hollywood stars
(male and female) have. All you can do is to try and set a
Nic - So when
you’re not writing or making movies what does Amber Benson like
to do for fun?
Amber - Amber Benson likes to read. She is a book
whore. That is what she does for fun.
Nic - Can you
tell us one thing about yourself that might surprise people to
Amber - I love quantum physics.
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