'Battlestar Galactica' countdown: Jane Espenson and the 'Buffy' connection
"Battlestar Galactica" co-executive producer Jane Espenson has worked on two of the best shows in TV history (to me): the aforementioned "BSG" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Sure, there were "Gilmore Girls," "Jake in Progress" and episodes of "Eureka " and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" -- and even an arc on "The Batman" animated series -- but nothing like the first two. We had a five-question chat with the writer/producer about her past and present.
I'll get this out of the way: I'm a HUGE "Buffy" fan. I assume there are similarities between working on the two shows. Good casts, good stories, etc.? What different challenges did they present?
There are big similarities -- you've listed two good ones -- and big differences, you're right. Some of the differences have nothing to do with the shows other than happenstance, really -- the fact that BSG shoots in Canada results in a different experience for the writer/producers than you have on Buffy or Dollhouse where the set is right over there. Other differences were more inherent -- Buffy had longer scenes, more dialog and more humor. BSG has a quicker pace, shorter scenes and darker, sparser humor. "Buffy" episodes tended to get most of their shape in [writer Joss Whedon's] head, while BSG eps were more likely to draw on collaborative efforts extending even as far as the stage in Vancouver where an actor might have had an observation that changed a pivotal moment in a pivotal scene. Both methods work really well because both shows are built on amazing characters and charged situations and have the loving care and attention of two geniuses: Ron Moore on BSG and Joss Whedon on Buffy.
"Buffy" creator Joss Whedon has professed his love for "Battlestar Galactica." You're also working with him again on "Dollhouse." What makes the relationship click?
Back to "Battlestar" ... Do you have a favorite character on the show, and is that character also your favorite to write?
Whatever character I'm thinking of (or writing) in the moment tends to be my favorite. I'll be certain it's Baltar, and then I'll think of Tigh. Or Starbuck. Or Laura. Or Adama ... I loved writing all of them.
Can you recall a specific scene/situation that may have happened that caused you to think, 'Frak, this show is awesome!' ?
On BSG? Oh, as a viewer, there were lots of them ... the moment where you realize Laura is going to fix the election is a huge one. The discovery of Pegasus. All the head-Six scenes where Baltar had to interact with someone invisible. The hilarious dinner scene in "Tigh Me Up, Tigh My Down." The moment when Starbuck *crawls into* the Cylon Raider. And those are totally random, because there are usually about five per ep. Then I got on staff and there were even more moments, only this time I got to hear them first in the writers' room, which was even cooler. "Wait -- we're really going to DO that?! Awesome! And there are so many of them that haven't aired yet, so I can't even tell you!
A question from commenter Linda: 'In "The Hub," we see Bill Adama take a ring off his finger and put it onto Laura Roslin's. Is that his original wedding ring or one from another ceremony?'
Oh, I don't actually know. That was something, I believe, that [actor Edward James Olmos] came up with himself, so that was whatever ring they would normally have had on his character -- I assumed it was from his original marriage, but I don't actually know. You stumped me! Good job!
-- Jevon Phillips
Photo: Jane Espenson in September of 2006.