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Andrew Chambliss Dishes on Buffy and Dollhouse to TFAW

13 November 2011 Leave a comment

Andrew Chambliss Dishes About Writing Buffy & Dollhouse Comics

Written by Elisabeth@TFAW

Nov 4 2011

When Dark Horse Comics launched Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 in 2007, it was a game changer for comics–and television–that’s still impacting the entertainment industry today. A direct continuation of the hit television show, executive produced (and sometimes written) by series creator Joss Whedon, Buffy Season 8was a quantum leap forward for licensed comics and as popular (and as polarizing) as the original show.

Buffy Season 8 was big. Huge! Not only did it swell far beyond its projected 25 issues (topping out at issue #40) and feature 10 different writers, but it cast Buffy as a leader of an immense slayer army, facing off against cosmic foes, ending with a gigantic climax that featured an earth-shattering reunion, a monumental death, and, oh yeah, the destruction of a mystical seed that got rid of most of the magic on Earth. You know those comic book events that promise to “Change everything forever?” Buffy Season 8 actually did it–in spades.

So Buffy Season 9 is a different animal. Smaller. More human sized. Buffy’s on her own once again, fighting baddies while trying to balance the rest of her life–and figure out her tangled relationships with her loved ones. When she’s not avoiding the subject, of course (the more things change . . . ). Plus, this time out she’s in the hands of just two writers: after Whedon penned the first issue, he handed the reins to Dollhouse writer Andrew Chambliss.

We chatted with Chambliss about Buffy and Dollhouse: Epitaphs, which concludes November 9, as part of Dark Horse Month–read on for his insights into Buffy, Alpha, and more! Plus, check out our four-page preview of Buffy Season 9 #3 and a three-page preview for Dollhouse: Epitaphs #5.

SPOILER ALERT! CONTAINS SPOILERS!

TFAW.com: What was your experience like, writing for the Dollhouse TV series?

Andrew Chambliss: Writing for Dollhouse was a dream job. First off, I was lucky enough to get to work for Joss on a show whose premise thrilled every part of my geeky brain. Secondly, I got to work with a bunch of other really talented writers, many of whom I’m still good friends with and have worked with since (Jed and Mo, Craft and Fain, Steve DeKnight, just to name a few). Aside from the short-lived Bionic Woman, Dollhousewas my first television writing gig and I couldn’t think of a better group of writers to learn from.

TFAW.com: How did that lead to writing Buffy Season 9?

AC: I was writing the Dollhouse miniseries with Jed and Maurissa, and we were halfway through scripting that run when I got an e-mail from Joss. He said he had heard good things about my work on the Dollhouse book and wondered if I’d be interested in working on Buffy Season 9 with him. It took me all of about two minutes to write back with a resounding yes, and before I knew it I was going to a Buffy writers summit at Joss’ house so we could brainstorm ideas for the season with Dark Horse and other Whedonverse writers.

TFAW.com: Were you familiar with the Buffy TV show and Season 8 comics before you took the job?

AC: I’d always been a Buffy fan and was very familiar with the show. I had read some of Season 8 while I was working at Dollhouse, but I got pretty busy on the show and working on other projects so I got a bit behind on my reading. Within a couple days of getting the e-mail from Joss asking me to work on Season 9, I caught up on Season 8 and cracked open my Buffy boxed set so I could immerse myself in the show again. Even now that I’m caught up, I still re-read Season 8 and I’m always re-watching the TV series–just to keep myself in that world and keep the characters’ voices fresh in my head.

TFAW.com: Buffy’s in a really interesting place right now: during Season 8 she was the big leader who everyone respected, with a giant army at her command. Is it anticlimactic for her to be on her own, working as a waitress by day and patrolling by night?

AC: I don’t think it’s anti-climactic for Buffy to go from being a general with an army at her command to a waitress who patrols the city at night. In a way, I think that’s the fun of Season 9. It’s what makes it interesting. Buffy was so used to being able to focus entirely on the mission that she got pretty rusty at all those other pesky things that come along with life. When she’s juggling a job, roommates, and Slaying, it’s not as easy as turning to Satsu or Kennedy and ask them to take care of it. She’s got to figure out how to do both. And that’s what’s exciting for me about Season 9. I think it’s what a lot of people in their 20s end up having to figure out when they get out of school and realize they’re adults who have to balance family, work, friends, paying the bills, etc. Now imagine throwing patrolling into the mix on top of all that other stuff.

TFAW.com: Buffy’s disappointed a lot of people in her life: most of the “Slayerettes” hate her, her relationship with Willow is strained, and Xander and Dawn are distancing themselves from the “Scooby gang” for a more normal life. Buffy seems to be plugging along and avoiding dealing with this–how long can she keep it up?

AC: If it were up to Buffy, I think she’d be more than happy to avoid dealing with all the fallout from the events in Season 8. Usually life is just easier when you let things coast by. But that doesn’t mean Buffy’s friends (not to mention enemies) are going to let her to continue to pretend like the world hasn’t changed. Buffy’s got a wake up call coming very soon, and it’s going to be a big surprise to her.

By issue #4 or #5, it’s going to be pretty clear to Buffy that she can’t avoid this stuff any longer. However, the one person she’s not going to avoid dealing with is Willow. With everything Buffy’s going through early in the season, Buffy needs her best friend, and she knows the only way to make that happen is to set things right with Willow. Of course, the one thing that will make Willow happy is regaining her ability to use magic, so mending thing between Buffy and Willow isn’t going to be the easiest thing in the world.

TFAW.com: At the end of Buffy Season 9 #2 (spoiler alert!) Buffy meets up with a mysterious individual who can turn vampires back into (dead) humans. As a longtime Whedon fan, I automatically think this isn’t as good as it looks on the surface. Am I right?

AC: Severin’s power to turn vampires into dead corpses is definitely loaded with surprises. I don’t want to give them all away, but I will say that the thing that really intrigues me about his power is how, on the micro-level, it mimics what the seed did to the world. Severin’s power isn’t about adding magic to anything; instead it’s another instance where magic is getting sucked from the world–in this case, it’s affecting vampires who up until now seemed to be somewhat unaffected by the destruction of the seed.

TFAW.com: Everything about Season 8 was big, but Season 9 is more a return to the roots of the TV show. What elements are you focusing on?

AC: The focus of the season is really on the characters. For Buffy, it’s really about her coming to terms with what it means to be living a normal life and being a Slayer. She didn’t die saving the world and she never really thought about how she would live a life beyond that. What kind of job can you keep when you’re up patrolling all night? How do you break that news to your roommates? These are the kind of questions that remind me of some of the coolest arcs on the TV series, so these are the types of questions we’re going to ask this season.

The other thing that’s a big focus of the season is rebuilding Buffy’s family. With everything that happened with the destruction of the seed (Slayers turning on Buffy, Willow giving her the cold shoulder, Dawn and Xander starting a normal life), Buffy’s trying to figure out how her friendships work again. Who’s going to be there as a friend? And who’s going to be there as a Scooby? Will the old gang stay intact as some characters try to have normal lives?

TFAW.com: So far, it seems everyone (except Willow) would welcome a more “normal life”–Xander and Dawn are already moving in that direction, and Buffy jokes that she’d be fine with being “put out of a job.” Do you think ANY of these characters can really go back?

AC:I don’t think any of these characters, short of having their memories erased, can ever truly go back to being normal. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to try to settle into normal lives. Some of the characters are going to be more successful at building regular lives than others–and that’s definitely going to lead to conflict as those with normal lives try to maintain friendships with those who are still immersed in the supernatural. We’re already seeing it a little bit in issue #2 when Xander and Dawn don’t quite understand why Buffy didn’t just try to work things out with the police. And we’re going to see more of this conflict as Buffy makes alliances with some of the new characters we’ve introduced so far in the season.

TFAW.com: Can you hint at any future developments with Buffy Season 9?

AC: Pretty soon, Buffy is going to realize that she and Willow need to repair their friendship, and Buffy’s going to accept the fact that it might mean letting Willow go off on her own for a little while. Buffy’s also going to realize that there’s a new kind of vampire that’s being sired because the seed was destroyed. This is going to lead to an interesting relationship with the SFPD, once Buffy figures out a way to no longer be a fugitive . . .

TFAW.com: I re-read Dollhouse #1-4 last night, and I’ve got to say–it’s really, really interesting! How is writing this affecting your perceptions of identity and personal autonomy?

AC: One of the things that always fascinated me on Dollhouse was the question of how much a personality is affected by your personal history, your physical biology, your neurochemistry, etc. If I put my brain into someone else’s body, would I still be me? Or would I be fundamentally changed by being in another body? Likewise, if someone else’s brain was put in my body, would parts of me shine through? Or would their physiology take control?

It’s pretty heady stuff, but I suppose that was the point of Dollhouse. I do think a lot of these questions are a lot more present in my mind as I go about my daily life than they were before I worked on Dollhouse.

TFAW.com: Since this takes place before “Epitaph Two: Return,” you do have some limits as to where the story can go. Does it feel restrictive?

AC: We intentionally wrote “Epitaph Two: Return” in a way that left a lot of backstory unanswered. We wanted there to be a lot of blanks left to fill in case the series ever continued (either on TV or in comic form). Characters had undergone changes since “Epitaph Part One,” but we didn’t explain a lot of the how or why of these changes. That openness actually made it a lot of fun to write the Epitaphs miniseries because it meant we got to fill in those details. For instance, in the series finale, we never explained how it was that Alpha went from being the villain of the show to an unlikely ally. That gave Jed, Maurissa and I the space to create an arc for Alpha in the miniseries.

TFAW.com: It looked like Alpha was getting it together, but after his attempted imprinting, he’s back to killing–and making deals to justify it, like an addict. What’s it like writing for this very fractured, flawed character again?

AC: Writing Alpha is blast because he’s so unpredictable. Even when I sit down to write an Alpha scene, I’m often surprised with the direction a scene can take. The only time I actually got to write Alpha during the series was in “Epitaph Two,” so I can’t tell you how excited I was to get the chance to write for that character for an entire miniseries.

TFAW.com: I think my favorite part is the multiple Ivies and all of their issues and interactions. Was this a scenario that came up while you were working on the show?

AC: The multiple Ivies was something that Jed, Maurissa, and I came up with when we had a brainstorm dinner to talk about the miniseries. Ivy was always a fun character to write, so she seemed like the natural choice when we were trying to decide who to have inhabit the bodies of multiple characters. In a way, I think the multiple Ivies is an outgrowth of the Victor/Topher character from the TV show.

The idea of having two Ivies make out with one another is something I pitched way back on the show. Joss sent us home one night to think of the weirdest fantasies a Dollhouse client could ask for. I came in the next day and pitched the idea of a client hooking up with himself, and I just got blank stares from everyone. Apparently, that was a little too weird, even for Dollhouse–well, I guess not too weird for Dollhouse in comic book form.

TFAW.com: Are there any plans for future Dollhouse comics, after #5?

AC: Jed, Maurissa and I have spoken about ideas for a continuation to Epitaphs with Scott and Sierra. Right now it seems like the thing that’s limiting us is time. We’d all love to work together, but at the moment we’re all pretty busy and finding the time to all get together to break stories is a bit of a challenge. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Jed, Mo, and I have a strong connection to the Dollhouse characters and would love to explore what was going on with some of the characters we didn’t touch on in the miniseries. We’ve talked about a really cool idea for a Dominic/Adelle storyline, and we’d love to go back and explore Tony and Priya’s relationship.

TFAW.com: Scott Allie has said on several occasions that it’s much easier to make the shift from screenwriting to comics than from prose writing. How has the learning curve been for you?

AC:I think that’s a fair assessment. TV and screenwriting is such a visual medium that it seems much closer to comics writing than any other kind. There was definitely a learning curve, but the Dark Horse team helped me through it (and continues to do so). I think the biggest challenge in going from screenwriting to comic writing is to think more like a writer/director than just a writer. In a TV or film script, there are lots of things that I would leave up to the director to fill in, but in comics I end up being much more specific.

TFAW.com: Have you gotten the comics bug? Do you think you’ll embark on some creator-owned comics in the future?

AC: I think I got the comics bug the first time I opened up the file that had the pencils for Dollhouse #1. There’s something really cool about seeing a talented artist create a world, especially something as crazy as the Dollhouse apocalypse. I would love to embark on some comics of my own, but that will probably have to wait until I’m further along with Buffy Season 9.

Our thanks to Chambliss for the stellar interview! You can find all of the Joss Whedon-related comics, graphic novels, statues, and more you crave right here at TFAW.com–and save 10-50%!

Original Interview at Things From Another World

 

 

Andrew Chambliss Talks Buffy Season 9 with The L.A Times

20 September 2011 Leave a comment

Buffy’s toughest ‘Season Nine’ challenge won’t be supernatural

Sep 15, 2011

Sarah Michelle Gellar may have moved on from the Hellmouth, playing twins in the new CW show “Ringer,” but Buffy is still doing what she’s always done — staking (and breaking) hearts.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine” hits comic book stores this week, and new “Buffy” writer, “The Vampire Diaries” alum Andrew Chambliss, said it’s back to the basics for Buffy and her Scooby gang. After the destruction of the Seed at the end of Season Eight, the characters are now learning to operate in a world without magic. Chambliss said it’s an opportunity to explore Buffy’s character.

“Buffy is so much fun to write because she’s so relatable,” Chambliss said via email. “Sure, she may be the Chosen One, and she can stake a vampire in her sleep, but at the end of the day she’s just like us. She struggles to do the right thing, to figure out what the right thing is. And most of the time, her biggest problems are the ones that have nothing to do with slaying.”

In some ways, the new series is a return to the world Buffy and her pals occupied during their Sunnydale years on the small screen.

“Buffy will be trying to sort out her life in the way that most twentysomethings do,” Chambliss said. “This struggle will play a central role in Buffy’s journey throughout the season, and I think it’s fair to say that some of the season’s biggest surprises and challenges will come from the non-supernatural problems that Buffy is going to face.”

It’s a decision that comes from experience, “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon told fans at Comic-Con. Taking the new slayers out of the ruins of Sunnydale and making them part of a worldwide demon-fighting operation “became an albatross,” he said.

“Kind of the point of Season Eight for me was, ‘Hey, we’re a comic, and we can do these things,’ ” Whedon said. “People were more interested in her life than the fact that we could draw bigger things …. Having discovered that we can do more than the television show, I’ve discovered that I don’t really want to.”

That’s not to say the Slayer won’t face her share of beasties.

“Magic has left the world, and its absence is still rippling across Earth,” Chambliss said. “Early on, Buffy will see how this is affecting the vampires that she’s fighting. I won’t give away specifics, but Buffy will be dealing with a new kind of vampire menace.”

Here’s some more insight from Chambliss:

On writing Buffy: “When I sit down and get into the headspace to write Buffy, I end up drawing on a lot of my own feelings and experiences — and writing is fun when I feel so connected to the character I’m writing. The other thing that makes writing Buffy so much fun is her voice — her turns of phrase, the obligatory ‘-ey’ at the end of words, and all the other idiosyncrasies that are just pure Buffy (or maybe I should say pure Joss since there’s so much of him in the way Buffy speaks).  Writing in Buffy’s voice is definitely challenging, but it’s a good challenge and one that I really enjoy.”

On his favorite characters: “So far, Spike lands at the top of my list of favorite characters to write. I think that’s for several reasons.  One, he’s British and it’s just plain old fun to write with those cadences and syntax. Two, he’s a bad boy, which I am decidedly not, so it’s fun to step out of my persona and into his. And three, he and Buffy have been through so much together that there’s so much rich emotional history to draw from when I’m sitting down to write a Spike scene. I was a big fan of Buffy and Spike’s journey together in the later seasons of Buffy so it’s fun to be able to call back to some of those storylines.”

On adding to the Buffyverse: “I have to say, I’m also having fun writing another character. There’s a character named Severin that Buffy teams up with early in the season, and I think part of the reason I’m having so much fun with him is because he’s the first new character I’m writing for the Buffyverse. It’s fun to be able to create a new character and fill in all the details — from his backstory, the way he speaks, all the way down to weighing in on very specific things like his hair and wardrobe.”

On taking the mantle: “So many things go through my mind when I think about getting the chance to be a part of Buffy. … The Buffy TV series is such a big part of what made me want to be a TV writer, and here I was with the opportunity to write for the Buffyverse. It’s such an honor to be able to step into this world and work with Joss to continue it. At the same time, I also view it as such a huge responsibility. Buffy isn’t just important to me, but it’s important to so many people. There are so many fans who have connected and related to Buffy for a very long time and I hope to continue that through Season Nine. Fortunately, I have Joss and the Dark Horse Team helping me every step of the way, and I think that fans will definitely see that we’re really trying to tell stories that feel like they’re continuing the series.”

– Noelene Clark

Original interview at LA Times

Andrew Chambliss Talks Buffy Season 9 with Comic Book Resources

30 August 2011 Leave a comment

CHMABLISS SLAYS WITH DARK HORSE’S “BUFFY SEASON 9

by Shaun Manning, Staff Writer
More than eight years after its final episode aired on television, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spinoff series “Angel” continue to inspire a large, passionate fan base. In 2007, series creator Joss Whedon and Dark Horse Comics launched a canonical continuation of the series in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8,” a forty-issue series that concluded in January 2011. In September, Buffy returns for “Season 9,” this time co-written by Whedon and Andrew Chambliss, with “Season 8” artist Georges Jeanty returning for the new series. Beyond that, Dark Horse is also publishing “Angel & Faith,” set in the same universe and beginning in August.

Both “Buffy Season 9” and “Angel & Faith” spin directly out of the events of “Buffy Season 8,” which saw Buffy, Xander, Willow and Dawn confronting a mysterious, masked villain calling himself Twilight, as Giles and Faith worked behind the scenes to discover and undermine the Big Bad’s plans. Twilight was ultimately revealed as Angel, who had discovered a new, peaceful universe and set events in motions that would allow him and Buffy to live there happily ever after.

Things are never so simple, however, and Buffy returned to our plane of existence to stave off a demon invasion. The sentient universe possessed Angel, leading to a showdown between the former lovers in which Giles was killed and a mystical seed — the key to all magic in the universe — was destroyed. Free of Twilight’s influence, Angel was left catatonic and Buffy struggled to pick up the pieces of her life by starting anew in San Francisco.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8” ended with Buffy in a lonely place, as her decision to save the world by banishing magic from this plane of existence has alienated her friends and turned the army of former Slayers against her. Add to this the death of Giles at the hands of Twilight-possessed Angel and it would seem Buffy has few friends left. But, Chambliss told CBR News, things are not all bleak in the new series. “Buffy starts the season in a better place than where we left her at the end of ‘Season 8,'” the writer said. “She’s settled into her life in San Francisco, moved off Xander and Dawn’s couch and is finally entertaining the notion of a life that doesn’t involve facing the complete destruction of the world. It’s the first time she’s actually thinking about her future because, guess what, she didn’t die saving civilization.

“There’s still the fallout from the destruction of the seed to deal with and the whole notion that the world is a dimmer place without magic in it. And a lot people are still angry about the decision she made to destroy it,” Chambliss continued. “This fallout is going to lead to one of the storylines that kicks off the season and we’ll get to see some interesting side effects to the destruction of the seed that people might not have anticipated.”

With the Slayer armada gone and the comic’s renewed emphasis on slaying vampires, “Season 9” looks to have a stripped-down, back to basics approach as Buffy establishes her new life. “Joss really wanted to think about ‘Season 9’ in the way that he approached the TV show — smaller stories that focused on Buffy and the core group of characters,” Chambliss said. “Instead of Buffy being focused on saving the world, this season is really going to be about how she starts to grow up, sees herself as an adult and balances all that with being a Slayer. She’s going to make a lot of mistakes along the way, because A) it’s fun and B) what twenty-something sails through life without messing up every once in a while? Fortunately, most of us don’t have to deal with vampires and demons while we’re patching up our mistakes.”

Chambliss also confirmed that the new series will feature the core “Scoobies” gang. “‘Season 9′ is definitely going to focus heavily on Buffy, Willow, Xander and Dawn. It’s also safe to say that there’s going to be a fair amount of Spike in the season — writing Spike is fun, so I am digging that,” he said. “There will be some new characters popping up fairly early in the season, a couple of them will actually be in the first issue. Buffy’s also going to end up with some roomies, ’cause what twenty-something doesn’t have to put up with at least one crazy roommate at one time or another? But again, the idea is to keep the core group small in that ‘back to basics’ approach. The season will definitely feel like Buffy and the Scoobies are back together again.”

With Buffy reestablishing herself in San Francisco, Chambliss said that this real-world setting — as opposed to her original stomping grounds in the fictional Sunnydale — will influence the direction of some story elements. “There are a lot of cool opportunities that come out of Buffy living in a real city. For instance, the SFPD. Thanks to Harmony and the reality craze, they now know about vampires, so we get to play around with the idea of how Buffy operates in a city where the cops know about vampires and may be more sympathetic to them than to a ‘vigilante’ slayer,” the writer said. “I love that we’re in a real city, because one of the undercurrents of the season is that Buffy’s life is becoming a bit more grounded and real since magic doesn’t exist.”

While understandably reluctant to give too many details about “Season 9’s” over-arcing story, Chambliss did suggest some of the major themes for the new series. “I can tell you that emotionally, the season will be very much about Buffy questioning what she’s going to do with her life. Without magic in the world, everything’s going to seem a little bit grittier and real for Buffy. On a plot level, I can say that this season will very much be about what Buffy does best — which is slaying vampires, but with some fun twists on it because the seed no longer exists. I’m tempted to say more, but I’d rather leave all the fun surprises for the season.”

“Buffy” is now running concurrently with “Angel & Faith,” though Chambliss said there are no direct crossovers planned at present. “However, “there’s definitely going to be overlap, especially with the supporting characters. They’ll definitely be some who end up moving from one title to another,” he said. “The destruction of the seed is going to affect both worlds in the same way. Basically, both titles exist in the same universe and story continuity, but we’re building self-contained arcs so you won’t have to read ‘Buffy’ to understand ‘Angel & Faith,’ and vice versa (though why wouldn’t people want to read both?!).”

Unlike “Season 8,” which featured a rotating cast of writers, the current plan is for Chambliss and Whedon to be writing the majority of “Season 9,” Chambliss said, though there may be guest creators along the way. “The plan is for Joss and me to write as much of the season as possible. We’ve broken out the 25 issue arc and plan to either write or co-write most of the issues,” Chambliss said. “That doesn’t mean other ‘Buffy’ alumni won’t be involved. We’re going to have a couple writers jump in to do some stand-alones. Right now, it looks like Jane Espenson and Drew Greenberg will co-write a two issue arc a little bit down the line — both writers and people I love — so, yay! Double-yay, actually.”

Chambliss, a seasoned television writer on series like “Vampire Diaries,” recently saw his first comic published, “Dollhouse” #1 — continuing from the Whedon TV series for which he was also a writer. “I had a blast revisiting the Dollhouse. Jed [Whedon], Mo [Tancharoen] and I loved every minute of working on that show, so we were glad that we could fill in some of the blanks in the ‘Epitaphs’ timeline,” Chambliss said. “It was also my first full-fledged experience writing comic books, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with than my editors, Scott [Allie] and Sierra [Hahn]. They really helped me make the leap from thinking about writing in terms of TV to thinking about it in terms of comics.

“I’d definitely love to continue writing ‘Dollhouse’ comics,” the writer continued. “There are a bunch of stories I’d like to explore that we never had the chance to do on the show — Dominic in the Attic, Topher’s mental disintegration, what happened inside the Dollhouse during the robo-call attacks. Right now the deciding factor is time, which neither Jed, Mo, or I have much of. But it’s ‘Dollhouse,’ which the three of us feel a very close connection to, so hopefully we’ll be able to work something out. It’s just too much fun not to.”

Original Interview at Comic Book Resources

Buffyfest Interview Andrew Chambliss and Georges Jeanty

1 August 2011 Leave a comment

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Exclusive Interview with Buffy S.9’s Andrew Chambliss and Georges Jeanty

We’re here at day 4 of San Diego Comic Con and have so many panels and interviews to share, but we felt we must get this interview up as quickly as possible. This morning we interviewed Buffy Season 9’s writer Andrew Chambliss along with artist Georges Jeanty at the same time, which was also the first time they met in person! Wish we had Scott Allie introducing them to each other, it was definitely a Whedonverse moment. Talking to us, they were adorable and even leaked us a few tidbits. We talk timelines, new characters & yes, Spike. So without further ado, here is the creative duo of Buffy Season 9!:

Newsarama Interview Andrew Chambliss

19 July 2011 Leave a comment

DOLLHOUSE Re-opens with TV Writer’s Dark Horse EPITAPHS

By Chris Arrant, Newsarama Contributer

posted: 06 July 2011

You can’t keep a good story down. Especially if it’s Joss Whedon’s.

Several of Joss Whedon’s projects have come back from the dead to live on in other mediums, from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer to Angel and Firefly. And now another Whedon story does the same. Beginning on July 13, after a special, Dollhouse comes back to comics in the five-issue series Dollhouse: Epitaphs.

Set in the near-future world glimpsed in the television series, Dollhouse: Epitaphs covers a future where the prototype technology to wipe people’s mind and imprint it with other memories has gone global as the Rossum Corporation turns telemarketing robo-calls even more evil as they transform unsuspecting people on the other end into mindless zombies.

This comic covers the time between the present day of Dollhouseand the future shown in the fan-favorite “Epitaphs” episodes and how the big bad of the series, Alpha, could switch teams and be one of the good guys.

Although Whedon himself is busy working on the new season of Buffy comics and the Avengers movie, Dark Horse has enlisted one of the Dollhouse TV writers, Andrew Chambliss, to continue on his story. Since the end of Dollhouse, Chambliss has gone on to write for both Spartacus: Blood and Sand as well as The Vampire Diaries, but returning here is something he’d been hoping for since the final episode wrapped years ago.

Newsarama: Andrew, the solicits for this miniseries show the ex-villain Alpha leading a band of survivors in this future world. Although Alpha showed up in the season finale turning from big bad to big good, that’s never been covered. Will that be explained here?

Andrew Chambliss: Alpha nearly killed Paul in “A Love Supreme” and the next time we saw him in “Epitaph Two,” he was a good guy. But there really wasn’t any hint as to how or why. We skipped all that. The miniseries will definitely go towards answering those questions. In a way, the entire miniseries is about that — Alpha’s journey is one of redemption as he struggles to overcome his dark past and make up for the things he did. I’m glad that we left the question as a blank in “Epitaph Two” because it really gave us the opportunity to explore Alpha’s character and give him a real journey.

Nrama: Who exactly are the survivors we should know about?

Chambliss: There are two groups of survivors. First, there’s Alpha and Trevor. Trevor was introduced in the one-shot that Jed and Maurissa wrote. He’s a young kid who manages to survive the initial wave of robo-calls and meets Alpha, who takes him under his wing as they fight back against the apocalypse. He’s young, idealistic and perfect contrast to Alpha, who has seen it all and is much more cynical about what’s happening to the world.

Zone, Mag and Griff make up the other group of survivors. These are the characters who we first met in “Epitaph One”. In the miniseries we get to dial back the clock and see them long before they discovered the Dollhouse. They were just regular people who didn’t pick up the phone when the robo-calls were going out. Their story is a very human one as they learn to survive in a world that’s being destroyed by tech they don’t understand.

Nrama: Where does this series fit into the Dollhouse timeline?

Chambliss: The series picks up some time after the Season 2 episode “The Hollow Men,” but takes place before either of the Epitaph episodes. It begins just after the first wave of Rossum robo-calls so it’s at the very beginning of the apocalypse when everyone is reacting to a world where most of the population’s minds have been erased. It fills in a lot of the blanks about how the apocalypse came to be and shows how a lot of familiar characters managed to survive.

The nice thing about the timeline Jed, Mo and I worked out is that “Epitaph 1” doesn’t take place until 2019. This miniseries starts up somewhere around 2013 so it leaves a huge chunk of time (and lots of story!) to explore in all its post-apocalyptic awesomeness.

Nrama: To borrow a term from Joss, who’s the big bad in all of this?


Chambliss: There’s not so much a big bad as lots of little bads. The real villains in the miniseries are the Butchers and Wielders — the millions of people the Rossum corporation imprinted to destroy civilization. For some of the survivors, like Zone, Mag and Griff, the anonymous hordes of bad guys are actually a lot scarier than any single individual because it seems like there’s no rhyme or reason to all the mayhem and destruction that surrounds them. But of course there is a rhyme and reason to what’s going on, and at the end of the day, we’ll see that the Butchers and the Wielders exist to serve a bigger purpose, and maybe even a bigger bad — BUT it’d be no fun if I gave all that away. At least not now.

Nrama: How detailed a plan do you have for this comic series, and how far could you see it going?

Chambliss: The five issue mini-series has a very detailed plan, with a very specific ending. That said, there is still a huge amount of story that isn’t told in the miniseries and lots of characters from the television series who we weren’t able to fit in due to lack of space. I have a pretty good idea who the big bad of the next miniseries will be and I know which characters I’d like to bring into the comic world (I miss writing so many of the Dollhouse characters!). Given how open we left the events leading up to the “Epitaph” TV episodes and the amount of time that gap encompasses, the comic series could go on for a very long time. Actually, there was a very short cliffhanger-y scene at the end of the fifth issue of the miniseries that we decided to hold off on for the time being. I’m so glad we decided to hold off on that scene because it’ll make for a great issue one of the next bunch of comics. 

Nrama: Since you were on the TV staff, can you tell us how the “Epitaphs” segments of Dollhousematerialized in the writers room? It seemed perfect but also a reaction to what the series was doing, so some people were unsure if it was originally planned or came about as a reaction to the series.

Chambliss: If I remember correctly, the idea for doing Epitaphs didn’t come out of the room. Rather, it was an idea that Joss brought to the room. We needed an extra episode at the end of the first season for international distribution and we needed to shoot it simultaneously with another episode. This meant it would be difficult to use a lot of the regular cast members since they’d be busy on the other episode. Joss had the brilliant idea of setting the story in the future with new characters after the Dollhouse tech had run amuck. The post-apocalyptic storyline would frame a smaller story with our regular cast that explained how the apocalypse happened. As soon as we heard the idea in the room, we all latched on to it because it was so kick-ass. And it really focused us in on where the series was leading.

Nrama: The Epitaph episodes were vastly different than the standard Dollhouse episodes – will this comic series be essentially all in that “Epitaph” future?

Chambliss: The comic series will be set in the Epitaph future. There were so many questions left unanswered by the Epitaphs that it really seemed like the most interesting place to set a comic series. In future comics, there could always be flashbacks to the Dollhouse before the apocalypse, but, c’mon, once you go post-apocalyptic, you never go back.

Nrama: Dark Horse is billing this as your comic debut, but didn’t you do some stories for the Heroes comic awhile back?

Chambliss: I wrote a couple five or six page stories for the Heroes web comics, but this is my first time writing anything full length. It’s a lot more challenging to tell a story that lasts for five ISSUES instead of five PAGES, but Scott, Sierra and Freddye (my editors at Dark Horse) have been great at helping meet that challenge.

Nrama: So, what’s it like to be in the driver’s seat on a comic book series – spinning out of your previous run on the TV series Dollhouse?

Chambliss: It’s a blast to be writing a comic series, especially one that picks up where a TV series like Dollhouse left off. Dollhouse has always been very close to my heart. Writing for the TV series was such an amazing experience, which really helped me grow as a writer (not to mention make a lot of great friends). So it’s extremely rewarding to revisit that world in comic form and do so many of the things that we didn’t get a chance to do on the TV show.

Original Interview at Newsarama

Comic Book Resources Interview Andrew Chambliss

8 June 2011 Leave a comment

CHAMBLISS WRITES “DOLLHOUSE: EPITAPHS”

by Shaun Manning, Staff Writer

Thu, June 2nd, 2011.

Set several years into the future of the main Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” storyline, “Epitaph One,” the thirteenth and final episode of the first season, was notable for several reasons. First, it starred an almost entirely different cast, struggling to survive in a world in which the Rossum Corporation’s identity-swapping technology has led to roughly half the population becoming mindless killers while most of the other half wander blankly with no persona at all; those few who have dodged both versions of the programming are left to pick up the pieces. Another quirk was that the episode was not originally broadcast during “Dollhouse’s” Fox timeslot, instead debuting online and on DVD. But there’s yet another aspect of the episode that set it apart in the minds of fans: It was really, really good. “Epitaph Two” rounded out the second and final season, bringing together the stories of Eliza Dushku’s character Echo and survivors Mag (“The Guild’s” Felicia Day) and Zone. Now, following a successful one-shot written by show writers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen with art by Cliff Richards, Dark Horse is returning “Dollhouse” to comics once again with the five-issue “Dollhouse: Epitaphs,” written by Whedon, Tancharoen and Andrew Chambliss — another writer for the show making his comics debut — with the returning Richards on art.

CBR News spoke with Andrew Chambliss for his thoughts on joining the ranks of Whedon alumni making the move to comics and what fans can expect from the new series.

Chambliss was involved with writing the two “Epitaph” episodes for television, which he said was a special pleasure. “The Epitaph timeline is so much fun to write because A) it’s apocalyptic, and who doesn’t like the apocalypse? (The fictional apocalypse, that is.); and B) anything really goes in the Epitaph timeline,” Chambliss told CBR. “The Dollhouse tech is pushed to its logical extreme, people are switching bodies to stay young, Freakshows can swap out skills on USB drives and anyone can become a villain by answering the phone. It’s a heightened reality, and there really are no bounds to the kind of things that can happen. That makes for fun storytelling.”

Both “Epitaph” episodes take place chronologically after the events of season 2, episode 12, in which Echo, a “Doll” who can retain traits of every personality with which she’s ever been imprinted, has seemingly struck a decisive blow against the Rossum Corporation, which has begun to advance its technology in ways that will allow it to manipulate the world’s population. Jumping forward to the future timeline, though, much has changed, and those changes go beyond a simple apocalypse. Alpha — who, like Echo, can retain skills from his previous personalities but also happens to be a psychopath — has become one of Echo’s most trusted allies, the technological genius Topher has gone insane and rumors of a sanctuary called “Safe Haven” keep hope alive against all odds. Asked whether the writing team had a grand map of what takes place in the “Dollhouse” universe up to Epitaph 2 or whether they built the story out as opportunities allowed, Chambliss said, “It’s a little of both.”

“Back when we were breaking the show, there was always an idea of the events that led to the Epitaph world. And, more specifically when we were breaking ‘Epitaph 2,’ we knew where we wanted the characters to end up. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily knew exactly how they came to be in the situations they were in — for instance, we knew Alpha was good but didn’t know how that happened; we knew Rossum had Topher locked in a lab but didn’t know how or when they captured him,” Chambliss explained.

“So when Jed, Mo and I started talking about writing stories for an ‘Epitaph’ comic series, we had tentpoles to guide us, but the tentpoles left us a lot of latitude for us to find new stories and take characters on journeys that we didn’t see on screen,” he continued. “Before we started breaking the miniseries, one of the first things I did was carefully watch Epitaphs 1 and 2 and make a timeline of everything that was mentioned on screen. I wanted to make sure we honored all of that, yet still find a way to surprise people with things they weren’t expecting. The good news is that the robo-calls that started the Apocalypse began around 2013 and most of the Epitaph events we see in the TV episodes don’t happen until 2019-2020ish. That’s a ton of room to tell some really cool stories and fill in some of the history of how the characters came to be who they were in ‘Epitaph 2.'”

Of all the changes that take place off-screen between the end of the main Echo story and the beginning of “Epitaph One,” Alpha undergoes perhaps the most unexpected shift, moving from mentally unstable serial killer to ally and protector. “When we last saw Alpha in season 2, he stole Paul’s personality and left him for dead. He was still obsessed with Echo and desperately wanted to have a relationship with her because he saw her as his only equal,” Chambliss said. “I don’t want to give too much away about Alpha’s journey during the comic series, but at the beginning of the series he definitely regrets his past actions and sees an opportunity to seek redemption in the apocalyptic world. Why he’s had that shift is something we’ll learn over the course of the miniseries, but suffice it to say that his change of heart doesn’t come easily to someone like Alpha.”

His mission during this first miniseries, then, will be both one of redemption and one with more practical, large-scale considerations. “In the days after the first robo-calls — when Rossum has obliterated most of the world’s population by erasing their minds — Alpha’s first priority is to find a way to stop Rossum from erasing any more brains. And to do that, he’s going to need help,” the writer told CBR. “The story picks up fairly soon after the one shot that Jed and Maurissa wrote leaves off, as Alpha starts to build his army. Trevor, the young kid whose uncle was killed in the one shot, is Alpha’s first soldier, and the first issue follows Alpha as he trains Trevor to survive in the brain-pocalypse (which may involve using some really fun Dollhouse tech).”

Chambliss added that, much as the “Epitaph” episodes followed parallel stories of Echo’s crew and the band of survivors led by Mag and Zone, the “Dollhouse: Epitaphs” miniseries would also feature multiple storylines. “There are two parallel stories happening concurrently in the miniseries, and there are familiar faces in both,” Chambliss said. “Alpha and Trevor are on their journey to stop Rossum from turning survivors into Butchers, Wielders and Dumbshows. It’s a story of people stepping up and becoming larger than life heroes.

“At the same time, Zone, Mag and Griff are stuck in Los Angeles, doing everything they can to survive in a world that’s completely on its head. Theirs is a much more human story about how regular people react to things they don’t understand.

“There are also some other familiar faces (and personalities — this is ‘Dollhouse,’ remember) from the show whom we’ll encounter along the way.”

Though he did not want to reveal details about Alpha’s new team, Chambliss did say that “at the heart of his crew is Trevor.” “Trevor is devastated by the destruction that Rossum has caused and wants nothing more than to step up and be a hero — something that he’s going to find to be tougher than he originally thought. His innocence and idealism serves as a nice contrast to Alpha’s troubled past.”

Given that this is Chambliss’s first project in comics, CBR asked the writer whether there were any challenges in adapting to the format. “There was definitely a big learning curve to the medium,” Chambliss said. “I think the most challenging part of making the transition from television writing to comic writing has been figuring out exactly how much story I can tell in a given issue or in a given arc. In television, I have a pretty good sense of what kind of story is appropriately sized for an hour-long episode. I’m still honing that sense in my comic writing, especially in figuring out how to best pace the story so I’m not cramming every page full of six panels. I’ve been lucky to have been working with Scott Allie and Sierra Hahn on the ‘Dollhouse’ comics. Since they work on so much of Joss’ stuff and Joss has had so many of his TV writers work on his comics, Scott and Sierra are used to easing television writers over to the world of comic books. I’m very fortunate to be working with such great editors.”

Chambliss has, however, worked on several comics-friendly TV shows — in addition to “Dollhouse,” he is also a writer on “The Vampire Diaries” and wrote for “Heroes” and “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” among others. Noting his resume’s genre slant and his new gig as comics writer, CBR News asked Chambliss about his own background as a fan of comics. “I grew up reading comics in the late ’80s, early ’90s. Lots of Marvel. Lots of X-men, back when there were more X-men titles than I can count,” Chambliss said. “I fell out of it a bit when I went to college, but I think the exposure I had to the medium at an early age definitely attracted me to television shows with similar sensibilities. I’ve been getting back into reading comics in the past few years and reading a lot in trade paperbacks — I can get very impatient, so I like reading everything in trades, when I don’t have to wait month-to-month to see what happens.”

Receiving artwork from Cliff Richards, though, provides a new perspective, as Chambliss’s story is brought to life in way that is new to the writer. “I’ve seen a lot of the finished artwork from Cliff. It’s so gratifying to be working with such a great artist who brings so much life to the story through his artwork,” Chambliss said. “The thing about seeing the ‘Dollhouse’ world brought to life through Cliff’s art is that I get to see thing that would have been impossible to do on a television production budget and schedule. If I write a huge action scene with fifty butchers attacking Alpha, I don’t have to worry about how we’ll shoot it or whether a particular stunt can be performed safely. And as cool as the action stuff is, what I really love about getting pencils from Cliff is seeing how he’s rendered the quieter character beats. It’s akin to watching an actor bring that extra something to a scene when you watch them perform it for the first time.”

“Dollhouse: Epitaphs” #1 ships in July from Dark Horse. More exclusive is available at darkhorse.com

Original interview at Comic Book Resources

LA Times Interviews Andrew Chambliss

7 April 2011 Leave a comment

‘Buffy’: Season 9 writer hails from another vampire camp

April 05, 2011

Buffy

Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s gift was death. Fans never exactly found out if that was because of her avoidance of it, her resurrection(s) or her propensity to dole it out to evildoers.  Whatever the definition, we’ll get to see, and read, more about it after  the announcement over the weekend that the Dark Horse comic book will continue with a Season 9 in September.

Along with creator Joss Whedon, and whatever writers come along during the book’s run, Andrew Chambliss will have a guiding hand in continuing the saga of the slayer, her pals Willow and Xander, and other denizens of the Buffy-verse. Chambliss is currently keeping his writing fangs sharpened as a scribe on “Vampire Diaries.” (Gasp! Vampire crossover!) We won’t get any Season 9 spoilers out of anyone, but Jevon Phillips caught up with Chambliss to shed a little sunlight on who he is.

JP: So how’s “Vampire Diaries” going?

Andrew Chambliss: We’re just wrapping up the writing for the season … in terms of airing, maybe six more to go. This season we told a huge story where we found out that Elena was part of this ancient curse. Kevin [Williamson] and Julie [Plec] are so good at finding ways to ground stories that could be really big and find really human moments in it. … It’s such a bigger story where we’ve opened up the supernatural world.

JP: Is there any friction between the crowd that follows “Vampire Diaries” and the crowd that follows “Buffy”?

AC: Not that I know of. I have not come across any fans who take one camp or the other. In terms of approach, “Buffy,” with the demons and magic, goes places where “Vampire Diaries” doesn’t necessarily go. “Vampire Diaries” is a much more grounded show, but I do think there are fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Vampire Diaries” and that there’s a huge amount of crossover. Because at the end of the day, the similarity that Joss [Whedon] has with Kevin and Julie is that it’s always about the characters and their emotions and those real human moments.

JP: How did the Season 9 writing gig come about?

AC: I kept in touch with Joss since “Dollhouse” ended, and I ended up working with Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] on the “Dollhouse” comic book. They’d been talking to Joss about how much fun we were having and said nice things about the work I was doing on it. … I got an email from Joss, and he asked me if I wanted to be on [“Buffy”], and how can you say no to that? “Buffy” is such a huge part of what made me want to become a writer, especially in television. It’s just sort of surreal that I’m going to get an opportunity to participate in that world.

Buffy: Season 9

JP: How far into the development of the season are you?

AC: In terms of the broad strokes and the way we’re breaking down the season — it’s going to be 25 issues — we’re looking at five-issue arcs with some stand-alones thrown in there.  We have those arcs figured out, and we’ll soon be going in there to make sure that all of the character journeys are there. We’re still early on in the scriptwriting process.

JP: So, any particular characters, beside the main ones, that we can expect to see? Any favorites for you?

AC: There are a couple that I can’t mention cause I don’t want to give away any big reveals that are coming down the line. At the end of the day, I’m just excited to write Buffy and where she is in her journey as a character coming off Season 8 where she was running this huge army and it literally was “the world’s going to end.” She ends the season potentially saving the world but destroying magic. She always thought she was going to die, but now she has to answer all of these questions that hit when you normally enter your 20s. Who am I? What am I going to do? Will I be a slayer all of my life? At the same time, you have Willow facing similar questions. She’s been cut off from magic, so how much of her identity was wrapped up in being a witch? It’s interesting. … I’m discovering Buffy as a writer while she is on this path of trying to figure out who she is.  Also excited to be writing Spike. He’s definitely a character that I’ve enjoyed.

JP: Just curious … how was your experience on “Dollhouse?”

AC: “Dollhouse” was kind of like a dream come true. I’d worked on “Bionic Woman,” but there was a lot of turnover. …  For me, the great thing about [“Dollhouse”] was being able to watch all of these really great writers break story and write scripts and rewrite scripts. It was kind of like the perfect training ground to develop great habits.

JP: So with your first comics gig, how has it been working with artist Georges Jeanty? And do you want to continue to write in this medium?

AC: Working with Georges is great. He’s just doing covers right now, and I am constantly impressed. He will send 80 different concepts for a cover, each one well thought out. I can just imagine how it’s going to be to get pages coming in. I can’t tell you how excited I am to work with him. And to the second part of that question — I would love to get more into comics. It’s something I’ve been interested in since I was a kid.  I’m excited to have my entrance into that world with Joss.

(WARNING: Spoiler for those who haven’t read Season 8!)

JP: Do you think that if the show had still been on the air, events that happened in Season 8 like killing Giles and making Angel the temporary bad guy again, and things that you’re planning for Season 9, would have played well on screen?

AC: I think, obviously with a television budget and all, you wouldn’t have been able to do a season as big as Season 8 was, but they mostly would’ve been able to go through all of the same journeys for the characters. And what we’re planning on Season 9, which is mostly about Buffy growing up, is definitely a place that Joss would’ve wanted to take the show — with Buffy questioning what the rest of her life is going to be like and realizing that it might not end with her dying trying to save the world.

– Jevon Phillips

 

Original Interview at LA Times

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