'Dollhouse': Jamie Bamber talks about his marriage to Eliza Dushku's Echo
We caught up with Bamber, who spoke to us from the U. K., where he's starring in "Law & Order: UK." He talked to us at length about the differences between filming in America and in the United Kingdom -- No craft services or bottled water in the East End? Actors serving as their own stand-ins? The horror! -- and the mysterious call that led him into "Dollhouse."
How did you get involved with "Dollhouse"?
It was something that came from out of the blue. I was waiting for my kids to finish school in the U.K. so that we could all fly out to L.A. for the summer. Then I got a call from Joss Whedon's office saying that he'd like to talk with me about doing a role in the season's opener of "Dollhouse." That doesn't happen every day in my world so I thought, "Oh, we'll go and see what he's on about." I went straight to work for about four or five days shooting. It was kind of a dream way to come back out to L.A. and get to work with my old friend Tahmoh Penikett [who plays Paul] and to meet and get to know Joss properly, and obviously, to work with Eliza Dushku [Echo, to you].
What was that reunion between you and Tahmoh like?
Oh, it was great! Tahmoh is a very good friend. He took many of us under his wing in Vancouver on "Battlestar Galactica," showed us his backyard and introduced us to many great friends. So Tahmoh and I are very close. He even lived in my place [in L.A.] last year when he was shooting "Dollhouse." It was a real thrill to see him comfortable and very much as the vanguard of Joss' new creation. It was a privilege -- and we got to punch each other as well.
Spoiler alert! Your character is, to put it lightly, not a good guy.
I thought, "Well, I haven't played British on U.S. TV before." I did joke with Joss. I said, "'You wrote in a bad-guy billionaire and he happens to be British?!" And he said, "Yeah, he just sounded better that way." He did give me the choice, though, to do British or American. But I sensed his preference.
It is a thing that I'm very aware of when you're entering the villain world, to be British or to be European or foreign, even, there's a certain, I don't know, it just drudges up a lot of connotations. I was a bit suspicious at first, but the character is great fun. He's an arms dealer who's very charming, and on the surface he's very nice, but you find out that obviously he's not that nice deep down. And, the chance to get married to Eliza Dushku was fun. We rented a big mansion and got married. That was kind of a blast.
You sound sort of in awe of Joss.
You know initially, I was quite intimidated. I think I turned into some kind of tongue-tied fan. It was with "Firefly" that I really began to like Joss' work, and I really liked "Dr. Horrible" as well. He's a very impressive figure. Someone who manages to write and direct. I have a ton of admiration for auteurs, and he's got a tremendous talent for hitting the right nerve at the right time with his audience. I don't know, I don't think I was very cool. Maybe Joss doesn't want to hang out with me anymore because I was too polite. But it was a privilege to watch him work. He's a big Shakespeare fan, and that's really how I started acting was through Shakespeare. I was fascinated to find that out, and often he reads plays at home with friends. He's a cool guy.
Was Eliza cool?
She was great. You know, there's a lot of pressure on her fronting a show like that, and she couldn't have been any nicer. I think we got on pretty well. Yeah, the marriage went well, and then it took a turn. But all will be revealed.
You had some pretty physical scenes with both Eliza and Tahmoh...
I'm pretty good at fighting and Tahmoh is someone I've fought before, so we picked it up quickly and just sort of went to town. We ended up putting big dents in this limo that we were throwing each other all over. They were quite impressed, but it was sort of easy for me cause it was my buddy Tahmoh. And with Eliza, it wasn't so much fighting, but there was that love scene. She made it very easy and Joss made it easy. You know TV love scenes are more about implication than actually showing anything anyway.
Is it weird to do guest work? To come in for one episode and then leave?
The thing about guest stars is that often, they really are the glue that holds the episode together. You have to hit the ground running, and I struggled with that a bit. Not because they weren't welcoming, but you just don't know the order of things and how things work. I think our first day, I walked on the set and there was this big amazing private jet in a Van Nuys hangar. That sort of took me right out of U.K. TV and back into American TV. In the U.K., the jet would always be right off camera and we'd be in a waiting room and there'd be noises and everything would be implied.
Is it possible that your character can come back?
Well, he didn't die, so I suppose it's possible. It's open-ended in that regard. Joss said to me that he never kills off a good character, but obviously I'm here in the U.K. until they finish shooting, so I'm not holding my breath. Though it's always nice not to be completely done away with.
Spoiler alert! So you weren't privy to any big secrets?
No, I really don't know where they're headed. Tahmoh said they had a few problems last year and wanted to make it a bit more of an arc this season, and that there would be two different timelines going on.
-- Jevon Phillips
Photo: (Top) Jamie Bamber and Eliza Dushku on tonight's episode of "Dollhouse." (Bottom, left to right) Dushku, Zoran Radanovich, Bamber and Tahmoh Penikett. Credit: Fox