1 of 4 | Charisma Carpenter stars in the new scripted podcast, “Slayers: A Buffyverse Story.” Photo courtesy of Audible
NEW YORK, Oct. 16 (UPI) — Charisma Carpenter says her Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel character Cordelia will always have a special place in her heart, despite the actress’ toxic relationship with franchise creator Joss Whedon.
Carpenter called Whedon a “tyrannical narcissistic boss who is still unable to be accountable and just apologize” last year after he denied calling her “fat” when she was pregnant and fired her and kill off her character after her child was born.
Whedon expressed surprise at Carpenter’s remarks and said that, although he might not have been “mannerly,” most of his interactions with Carpenter over the years “were delightful and charming.”
Carpenter returned to the role when her writer-director friend and former co-star Amber Benson revived Cordelia and made her even stronger in another dimension for the new scripted podcast, Slayers: A Buffyverse Story.
Carpenter and the rest of the cast were at New York Comic Con over the weekend to promote the Audible original.
“This project means so much to me,” Carpenter told reporters during a roundtable interview with reporters.
“I will always want to be Cordelia. The show has 200 or 300 people who put their blood, sweat and tears into it,” Carpenter said, adding that she publicly complained about Whedon because he was “the one person” who made her job difficult. “I gave up and sacrificed a lot.”
Carpenter hopes the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike — now in its third month — helps people understand what most TV and film actors’ lives are really like.
“There is a not glamorous side to working 14-, 16-hour days and not being there for Halloween trick-or-treating with your kids or to be able to take your husband who cut his finger to the hospital or you have strep throat and you still go to work or you can’t stop puking and you still have to go to work,” Carpenter said. “Those are the realities of doing what we do.”
The actress added these jobs are challenging enough without having a boss who makes situations worse.
But she also emphasized she sees a clear division between the negative relationship she had with Whedon and the experiences she had with her co-stars in the franchise’s fandom.
“When I spoke out, I wanted people to understand that I loved this character. I loved that job. I loved a lot of those people,” Carpenter said. “They are separate to me in my mind and I want to give permission to the fandom to enjoy that show and to maybe give it a rebirth.”
The actress also said that, ironically, playing Cordelia gave her the steel she needed to call out what she and others.
“Cordelia is me and I am her,” Carpenter said. “She put me in a position to be able to speak out. That’s kind of rich. It’s almost like one person created this character that ended up being empowered enough to speak out about what was happening.”
Many of Carpenter’s co-stars stood by her when she made the allegations against Whedon. The Firefly and Agents of SHIELD creator was not involved in the 10-episode Slayers drama, which is available on Audible.
Set in 2013, it finds Spike (James Marsters), the vampire with a soul, working undercover with his old demon friend Clem (James Charles Leary) to protect various slayers, including teen newbie Indira (Laya DeLeon Hayes), in Los Angeles.
The story takes off when Cordelia arrives from another dimension, where she is the only vampire slayer, seeking help to battle the evil Queen of the Vampires, Drusilla, (Juliet Landau), who is Spike’s ex-girlfriend.
The new story features the return of Benson as Tara, Anthony Head as Giles, Emma Caulfield Ford as Anya and Danny Strong as Jonathan.
Several of those beloved characters, including Cordelia, got sidelined or met cruel demises that shocked and upset fans earlier in the franchise.
“The best thing about doing the Slayers Audible original podcast was we got to do interesting things with characters from the Buffyverse who maybe didn’t get their due,” Benson told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
Having the actors record their lines together in a studio was crucial to getting the best vocal performances out of them.
“The synergy of having everyone in the room together was very emotional,” Benson said.
“Our favorite scene was Cordelia and Indira and there was not a dry eye in the room — that was everyone,” Benson added.
“Then, when James was recording all of the intro audio, where he is basically our noir narrator, the room was jam-packed with people going: ‘Oh! Spike is in my ears! This is fun!'”
Benson’s co-writer and co-director Christopher Golden agreed.
“Seeing the actors playing off of each other, it wouldn’t have been the same if they were just listening [and responding] to each other’s recordings,” Golden said.
“To be across from each other and to deliver their lines to each other made such a difference. I feel like it made every performance better.”
Benson also said the sound and music of the scripted podcast make the listener feel like they are part of the action.
This form of storytelling also allows actors who last played these roles about 20 years ago when they were in their 20s and 30s to sound like they are still able to physically thwart some supernatural villains.
“Vampires don’t age — how do you do that?” Benson said. “Having James being Spike was wonderful because he is able to do it and still maintain that he is the same age forever.”
Golden said comic books and books set in the Buffyverse are satisfying entertainment for the fans, but the scripted podcast takes it to the next level.
“No matter how good a writer might be to write a novel or an artist might be to try to draw a likeness in a comic book story, it’s still not the same. It doesn’t feel real,” Golden said.
“When you put on your headphones, or are playing this in your car, and you are listening to these characters, listening to these actors deliver these lines in their voices, you are with them,” he added. “You are literally with them in a way that it is not possible otherwise.”