In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, actor David Boreanaz talks about going from a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to heading up his own show as Angel.
Over the years, vampires of all shapes, sizes and even genders have appeared in feature films and on TV. These creatures of the night have included Nosferatu, Dracula, Vampira and even a vampire/police homicide detective, Nick Knight. Not long ago, a good-looking and charming bloodsucker with a dry sense of humour sunk his teeth into TV audiences and has never let go. His name is Angelus a.k.a. Angel and he was born very much human in 1727. When he was only 26, Angel had the bad luck to meet Darla, who turned him into a vampire. In 1860, he did the same to Drusilla, but not before killing her family and driving the young woman insane.
In 1868, Angel killed a gypsy and those of her tribe cursed him by restoring his soul. After that, he began to suffer terrible guilt over the acts he committed as a vampire. The angst-ridden Angel found himself in New York City in the 1990’s. He was befriended by a “good” demon, Whistler, who took him to Sunnydale, the home of a certain vampire slayer named Buffy. This was David Boreanaz’s debut as Angel in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiere Welcome to Hellmouth. For the actor, the job couldn’t have come at a more ideal time.
“I was hungry, and by that I mean creatively,” recalls Boreanaz. “As an actor, I wanted to step up to the next level and take on some new challenges. I’d been doing plays at the time and this role of Angel came along. I was intrigued by the character and quite liked him. My manager back then arranged a meeting for me with Buffy casting director Marcia Schulman. I read for her and was asked to come back in to audition for the show’s producers and subsequently the network executives. Not long after I received a phone call telling me I had the job.”
The actor chuckles when asked about his first day of work on the Buffy set. “What sticks out most in my mind is all the waiting around. We didn’t get to my scenes until three or four in the morning, which I guess made sense given I was playing a vampire,” he jokes. “It wouldn’t have been so bad except that I’d been on-set since eight the previous morning. The wait was worth it, though, because when we shot my first scene as Angel it really worked.
“Those early days on Buffy were especially satisfying. I just loved the connection I had with the rest of the cast. It was uncomplicated and professional as well as a hell of a lot of fun. That’s not to say it didn’t get even better as time went on but it just felt extra-special in the beginning. Joss Whedon [executive producer] had created not only a new TV series but one that was also ground-breaking, so I was just enjoying myself.”
It was in the first season Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Angelthat the character explained to Buffy (Sarah Michelle Geller) that he was, in fact, a vampire. Despite this revelation, the two eventually fell in love and he continued to be a valuable ally to her and the rest of the Scooby Gang.
“I liked the simplicity of the Buffy/Angel relationship in the first year,” says Boreanaz. “They shared a camaraderie and it was obvious that they were both at ease around each other and really enjoyed their work. As an actor it was a joy for me to feed that creative process. A number of positive things came out of Buffy’s first season and they served to build a solid foundation on which the series could grow.”
Things between Buffy and Angel became complicated when, on her 17thbirthday, they made love. Much to their surprise, Angel lost his soul. Apparently, the gypsy curse placed on him was to be lifted if he ever experienced true love. As Angelus, the vampire turned against Buffy and their friends. With Willow’s [Alyson Hannigan] help, he regained his soul but it was too late. In order to save the world, Angel had to be banished to hell. A few months later he was returned to Earth, but he realized his relationship with Buffy was doomed to failure. For her sake, Angel broke up with her and left for Los Angeles in the third season finale Graduation Day. This coincided with Boreanaz being given his own series, Angel.
“Naturally, I was thrilled about Angel,” says the actor. “However, I was so focused on working on Buffy that I didn’t think much about it at the time. I have a general sense of where I’d like to be career-wise, but I think what makes an actor happy is what he or she is doing at the moment. That, in turn, I believe helps dictate your future moves and career choices. I hope that doesn’t sound artsy-fartsy. It’s not meant to be. It’s just my way of looking at the business. So I kept my nose to the grindstone and this spin-off series sort of came to fruition.”
Boreanaz experienced déjà vu when filming Angel’s season one opener City of. “Like that first Buffy story, there was a great deal of waiting around,” he notes. “It took, I think, ten days for us to film City of compared to the eight that it takes today. There was plenty of communication between the cast and crew as well as a strong director in Joss Whedon. He knows exactly what he wants and where to put the camera, which is refreshing. Again, as with Welcome to Hellmouth, this episode of Angel was both an exciting and fearful step into a new venture.”
Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Angel teams up with fellow Buffy alumni Wesley Wyndam-Price (Alexis Denisof) and Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) to stop the forces of evil from preying upon the city’s weak and innocent. They are helped for a time by an Irish demon named Doyle (Glenn Quinn). At the start of Angel’s second season the street-wise vampire slayer Gunn (J. August Richards) joins the team. In year three, they welcome aboard Fred (Amy Acker), a young woman from another dimension, and lounge lizard Lorne (Andy Hallett). Angel’s third season also sees the return of Darla (Julie Benz), who is pregnant with Angel’s child. Sadly, the vampire’s subsequent relationship with son Connor (Vincent Katheiser) is far from congenial. Considering all he’s been through, it’s no surprise that Angel is not the same person he was back on Buffy.
“It’s difficult to believe that my character started out as a recurring role,” muses Boreanaz. “Angel has grown and developed so much just from his relationships with other people and being involved in so many different situations. When we first met him, he was a somewhat bland and darkly driven person, and since then he’s lightened up a bit and has become a more complex character. As an actor, one of the challenges with Angel is to keep him understated. Sure, it’s fun when I get to play his obnoxious over-the-top alter ego Angelus. However, it’s important to me that he comes across as quiet but very strong. My approach to playing Angel changes with every episode. It’s pretty much determined by the way in which the writers are trying to tell the story and how my character deals with the situation at hand.”
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