[04/15/09 - 07:00 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: FOX's "Dollhouse"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: As always, due to the Paley Festival's policy of not allowing electronic devices during the panels, I won't be blogging the event "live." Plus, I don't want to be the douche with a laptop clicking away when everyone's trying to enjoy the show. In any case, look for my handwritten blog - how 20th century - to be transcribed and appear around 11:00 PM PT each night. And if I'm feeling adventurous, you might get a few tweets from the after parties.]

6:58 PM - Tonight's legacy clip is brought to you by a 1963 episode of "The Twilight Zone" featuring a, wait for it... dollhouse.

7:04 PM - Paley guru Craig Hitchcock is back to kick off night five of this year's festival. He brings out Matt Roush, our returning champion from last night. Matt in turn, brings out Joss, who's brought the episode "Needs" (which aired April 3).

7:59 PM - Matt returns and brings out tonight's guests: Sarah Fain! Elizabeth Craft! Miracle Laurie! Dichen Lachman! Fran Kranz! Eliza Dushku! And of course, Joss Whedon!

8:02 PM - Joss offers up a status update on the show: "Basically some of you may have heard that there is a sort of a floating episode, the 13th... I've been talking with the network and the studio, which are two very separate entities - although they have the same name - about this episode. It was made for the studio because they need a 13th for foreign and DVD, many of you know this. And then the network had already paid for their 13 and had no intention, they didn't even watch us make it. We made it sort of on the cheap. It's a very strange and to me extraordinarily lovely episode and they weren't necessarily going to air it. And FOX [the studio] was sort of going, 'This is a DVD extra, [feigning a mad scientist] we're going to sell all the DVDs in the world!' And they weren't really pushing it on the network. I've been sitting down with them saying I just want this to air as part of the season, I'm really proud of it. It's unbelievably strange...

8:03 PM - the work that all of these guys do in it is phenomenal. And they have said, 'Okay, we're going to take a look at it.' They've been talking to each other and so the jury is out on that. We also talked about next season. And, you know, they wanted, they called me specifically to say, 'We hear you sound a little despondent. Be very clear about this: the show is not canceled. The numbers have been soft but the demographic is wonderful, the DVR is great.' They are big fans of the show. And they are just, they're waiting to see what happens. And so right now I've gone from a place of sort of 'Eeeeeh, they don't even care, nobody loves me... I'm old!'" Eliza rubs his arm, "I love you baby."

8:04 PM - "And then she changed everything," a smiling Joss adds. "To a place of, God I can't believe I'm saying this out loud but hope. And, you know, we might actually get the chance to do the thing we're all dying to do which is tell more of these stories with these great people because we have so many more yet to come. So basically it's about what happens in the next few weeks. We're going to have a new lead-in ["Prison Break"], we have a few more episodes coming up - whether it's 12 or 13, they are fierce. They are ridiculous. I am so proud of them. So I know that we're going to go out this season with a bang and hopefully we'll get [a year two]."

8:05 PM - Matt asks for more clarification on what the 13th episode is. "The birth of the 13th was very strange," Joss reveals. "They just said, 'Can't you do a clip show?' That seems lame. 'Can you show the pilot?' I'm like, 'No, not only would it make no sense but we've cannibalized it for parts, and it appears in almost every episode.' So we couldn't do that. And they're like, 'But we promised foreign and DVD 13. It's a thing, we have to have it.' And I'm like, 'Look, I can't help you with your problems! I'm an artist! But... I could shoot a weird post-apocalyptic horror movie on the sets on video with a whole new cast for about half pattern and pepper it with scenes of these people [points to the cast] and do it while we're filming everything else currently and it won't cost you hardly anything and it will be the strangest, most awesome thing they ever had.' And they're like, 'Uh, you had us at half pattern.' And we made it and I'm so proud of it. Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] wrote it. I started writing it and they ended up taking over, I had to stop. They just kicked it out and it's... I watched it and went, 'Oh wow, this was an amazing seven seasons, a perfect capper of the... oh.' It's got that kind of resonance."

8:07 PM - Joss on the much documented labor pains for the show: "This was a normally difficult birthing process that I was abnormally whiny about. And certainly having every, you know, blink of an eye on the web made it seem a little bit bigger. But I did think that anybody who worked on the set will attest that I was just a huge pain in the ass the whole time because, yeah, I had just done ["Dr. Horrible"]... I had to go through the exact same process I'd gone through on all my shows - 'Buffy' got picked up for midseason, 'Angel' got shut down, 'Firefly'... that went perfectly right? But my tolerance for it was, it was, honestly that and the fact that I have kids now. Those both made it much harder for me to go, 'But, just love it, why can't you love it like I do?' But that's not actually how it works - [the network and I] had to meet in the middle and it took us a while to do that. But I don't think it was... it became the stuff of legend but it wasn't actually legend while it was happening."

8:09 PM - Eliza on Joss: "I first and foremost just enjoy the guy. He's a friend. He's fun to hang out with. He was sort of one of my closest friends even though after 'Buffy' we didn't really hang out that much but when we did it was good times. I felt like out of everyone that I've worked with in my career, he was just one of the most intelligent. And my mother is a feminist and he's like, he's just so powerful and a genuine feminist. He gets women and he writes women - and men - so beautifully and their dynamics and... [crowd laughs] that's important man! That's really, that's up there. And so when we worked together and then when I went off and had other television experiences where that was missing, it was really obvious. And so I felt like, you know, for me I've been in this business for a long time and I've loved the big films but there's something also very personal about doing television and I was introduced to it by this man. I had never had an experience like that and I just wanted to do that again with him...

8:10 PM - ...and on top of it he saw a side of me that a lot of people don't see. Everyone sort of painted me in black leather pants and put me in a push-up bra and made me kick ass. And he was like, 'I want to put you in a floral dress! And have daddy/daughter issues scenes.' I was like, 'Really? Wow, not that I can relate to any of that but...' and that was just really extraordinary to me... And we got together and it was organic, we just sort of are like minded and I like his mind." She goes on to add: "[Echo's] just kind of me. I have multiple personalities. I call my mom on any given day and I'm doing something completely random. And my whole family sort of, we have ADHD and we embrace it. [Joss] wanted to explore that."

8:13 PM - Joss and company debate which scenes from the original pilot turned up elsewhere. Nothing major, although Adelle's "pitch" for the Dollhouse appears in the much-ballyhooed 13th episode.

8:15 PM - Fran on his experience with the show: "I always sort of looked at [doing a new pilot] - and maybe this is sort of Joss's inspiration about the right way to look at it - but I always saw it as just another episode. Or maybe Tahmoh even said it's a second chance, you know? So often I guess you can walk away from a scene or a set and be like, 'Ack, I should have done it that way.' This was a good way to essentially look at it as the same story, the same world, the same TV show, but just another episode. That my character wasn't fundamentally changing, the script was changing. A different story but the same world."

8:18 PM - Joss on people's expectations of him: "My dream in life is there will never be a term called, 'a typical Joss Whedon show.' I mean, that's not to say I don't do the same thing over and over again. She's a young woman with extraordinary power! Fresh Joss, we love it! You're topical, we care... but I didn't mind the idea that it was more straightly dramatic and less sort of bells and whistles."

8:22 PM - Joss on Topher: "Most of the people [at the Dollhouse] have trouble with what they're doing - thank God - except for that Topher! He just creates these character people and then he just puppets them around and he thinks it's okay to do that! Who is he based on?"

8:24 PM - Liz on breaking the show's stories: "What cracked me up was Joss would always say, 'Come on, guys' - to the writers - 'what's your darkest fantasy? What would your doll be?' And everyone would just get stone quiet. No one was going to give that up." Joss pipes in with, "Meanwhile, I'm oversharing wildly."

8:26 PM - Miracle talks about keeping her character's secret: "It was very hard knowing what was coming. Because when I would talk to my friends and family I'd be like, 'Yeah, I know I just bake lasagna but I promise I end up cooler!'"

8:28 PM - Dichen reveals she got a scar on her leg from accidentally running into a dolly while filming at UCLA.

8:34 PM - "He's a child," Fran says about his character. "He's little more than an infant. His intellect, his intelligence is so great, his genius is so great that he's never related to anyone. He hasn't had any kind of opportunity to feel passionate or feel real or any connection to anything so he has the Dollhouse. No friends obviously. The guy has no life. We don't see him leave the Dollhouse. There's no reason to think he ever does. [He's] a kid playing with his toys. He's in a young man's body, he has a large vocabulary and he's skilled with these machines but in a way, I think it's important to look at him as a kid playing with toys in a basement. And having said that, morality and good and bad is almost irrelevant to him. He's in a such an insulated bubble - until he's put into our world, we can't judge him by our standards."

8:37 PM - Joss notes that Olivia Williams's casting informed how he conceived her character: "This is a woman who can order somebody to be killed and make you feel so sorry for her when she does it. She's so sympathetic. She really sort of rejiggered my concept of who that person was." He also shares his love of Dichen: "[She] could do the upper crust Brit and then the safe cracker. It's like, 'Okay, she pulled off both those people. I'm amazed.' If only she looked interesting or exotic!" Likewise for Miracle: "When Miracle left the room, we're just like, 'That's the right name.'"

8:41 PM - Joss reveals that the network actually helped shape some key elements of the show's mythology: "For me, the original concept was these are absolutely private engagements. They really don't know. They have a database that knows, but they do things the way they do so nobody ever has to tell anybody what it is that what they want or think they need. It really was a confessional. And, you know, Peter Chernin [of News Corp.] said, 'What if we didn't do that? What if they're collecting the information and there was more going on?' And it turns out to be very useful because it does add another layer. That's something that we explore [in episode 13]. Because the potential for this technology, and therefore this premise, is boundless. And so that actually kind of opened the door for us."

8:43 PM - Audience Q&A time. More warnings about the infamous iPod question.

8:44 PM - Someone asks about the dolls naming convention, which is taken from the army's radio codes. In short: yes, the names are recycled (it's mentioned in the show the previous Sierra met an untimely demise); yes, there are more dolls than the 26 letters in the alphabet; and no, they haven't figured out how to account for that.

8:47 PM - A fan asks if the concept of reincarnation plays into the show at all. "I'm probably going to come back as a toad, but no," Joss quips. "I tend to think more about how messed up we are in this life than I do about the next."

8:49 PM - Fran jokes that he just wants one scene where we see Topher buying groceries... and runs into Paul. "A lot good ideas for season two are coming out," Joss responds sarcastically. Other fun Whedon wit - after Dichen says Enver Gjokaj is claustrophobic and even once got trapped inside his sleeping pod, Joss quips: "It's funny because he's not here."

8:52 PM - Someone asks why doesn't Joss just do "Dollhouse" for the web and charge $1.99 for each download. "We're not there," Joss notes. "But we are approaching an era where something like that [is possible]. A lot of us are sniffing around that very paradigm. But to work on a scale that we're working on with 'Dollhouse,' you know, when we're sitting on the set - which is as relaxing as it appears to be, it's lovely and calming - and ["Dr. Horrible"] was a great labor of love but when you get down to it, it's nice to have a set. It's nice to have to work on the scale that television brings. There's movies, TV, internet and movies can get so caught up in their scale they forget about their stories. The internet, right now it's very, very grass roots and there is only so much you can accomplish even though it's going to change. And I can't wait to see that. But right now TV exists on a level where you can tell kind of epic stories, really cinematic stories in a way you can't anywhere else."

8:57 PM - A fan, citing very specific examples, wonders why the theme of human experimentation runs through all of Joss's shows. "And now so am I," a flustered Joss says. "Wow, yeah, that's a problem there... First of all, I think part of it has to do with, I'm very obsessed with the robot mythos as sort of a modern day Frankenstein thing which all goes back to the what are we, who made us, why are we the way we are. And human experimentation for me is a lot about socialization. It's all about what does society tell us we have to become and what is actually innate within us. So I watched the wrong movies when I was very young... I come back to Gigolo Joe [Jude Law's character] a lot, from 'A.I.'... there's something about the bythe way he lived that's fascinating to me, the specificity of what we're created for. 'A.I.' I think is probably the biggest influence because it's ostensibly about this doll searching for love. Doll/person/robot. But it's really about, you know, whether - as they say in the thing - whether or not we love them and how we imprint on people and what we need from people. I don't trust people and I don't like 'em."

9:03 PM - 35% - according to a joking Joss, the amount of the Dollhouse's secrets you'll learn in the season finale.

9:04 PM - That's it, whew! The marathon continues tomorrow.

  [april 2009]  


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