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'Dollhouse': Eliza Dushku on the dollhouse closing its doors

Eliza4_kwgtwmnc Shows are often canceled "before their time" -- that's the nature of the TV biz and an unfortunate fate that's befallen a few Joss Whedon shows. The latest to be thrown on the pile of low-rated cult faves is "Dollhouse," a series that seemed to have everything going for it: lead actress/producer/"Buffy" alum Eliza Dushku, futuristic rule-the-world technology, prostitution, hand-to-hand combat, a great supporting cast and a fanatically followed show creator. What could go wrong?

"I think it's easy to point fingers at the end and play coulda/shoulda/woulda," Dushku said. "I think initially Fox was really excited about Joss and I teaming up, and I think they were excited about the concept, even though Joss has expressed that maybe the concept that they'd thought up and the concept that he created ... maybe there was a disconnect there."

"Dollhouse's" finale airs this Friday after a two-season run. We spoke to Dushku the day that the final episode was shot.

So you just finished filming?
Everyone was so sad, but we're all really thrilled to have gotten a second season and we're really proud of the second season. The first season was great, but the second just really gelled, and I feel like people that were watching the show can tell. They can feel and see the difference. The writers got into exactly what we wanted to tell with these stories and the characters and conflicts.  We're really psyched.  And also, many shows upon getting canceled ... that's it. Game over. You don't get the chance to finish out all the stories and air all of the episodes. So, it's a really rare thing that we were really grateful for.

What were you doing when you found out the show was canceled?
I was on set and I heard it from Joss. We were optimistic that we would maybe have a chance to go on, but we were also realistic knowing that numbers were the way that they were. It was just a bummer because we're aware of the fan base and the strong audience that we do have for the show and that's what always inspired us and fueled us.

Eliza4_ktdv6dnc Do you, as an actress, access other characters that you've had to play on the show when Echo does it?
Absolutely. Because the characters I've played, even brief ones, were so rich on the page, and we, Joss and the writers, sort of went over them so much, it was in my muscle memory, I think. And when I tapped into different people, for instance, if it was Margaret from the "Hunted" episode or the hired girlfriend from the pilot or Eleanor Penn, and also putting on the clothes and getting the hair and makeup -- it's pretty easy to go back to that.

Echo was fighting to save Caroline's body for her -- until she got a glimpse of Caroline through Bennett. That created a problem we hadn't encountered, right?
Right. Yeah, absolutely. She's been saving this body for her, and what if she's not worth it?  What if who I've [Echo] become is more evolved and has lived through enough to have just evolved further than just Caroline?

As a producer, what did you have to do differently than when you are just an actress?
I just think that the level of emotional investment was heightened. It wasn't just: roll out of bed and hit my mark and do my lines. It was knowing all of the gears were intertwining and making the show go forward and change. Being involved in various things with my co-producers and my exec producers and directors. It was just a different level of connection and sacrifice.

This is a team effort, and I felt more a part of the team. And I made sure my crew was caffeinated! I made sure to have the coffee truck come in! I just felt like every relationship was established under different grounds where if there were problems or insights or feelings and communications that you want to have, I really felt like the crew could come and talk to me about those things. I was not just a middle man or just an actor and could get things done.

Do you think that the show could work in some other medium? Joss ruled out comics, but what do you think about online or something else?
Ummm, I don't think it could. It was a big show, and to get the level of production value and the world and the expansion of the dollhouse -- not just the L.A. dollhouse -- but a huge international corporation. The bigger that it got, I don't think that it could necessarily live in another way.

Fans and followers complained about how Fox may have meddled with the show in the beginning. What did you think about that?
Dushku3_krp6q5nc I think that honestly, advertising is a big part of television -- making people aware that the show is happening. And I feel like a lot of our attention came from critics and people that reviewed the show. In a way, there were a lot of people talking about the show, but as far as people knowing where and when and how to find the show and the big marketing and advertising behind it, that may have been part of why we suffered. It may not have been as strong as it could have been.

The time slot, of course, was death. We had certainly hoped for a night where we had more of a fighting chance.

-- Jevon Phillips

Photos: Top and middle, Eliza Dushku as Echo on "Dollhouse." Credit: Fox. At bottom, Eliza Dushku arrives at Spike TV's Scream 2009 held at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images.

 
Comments () | Archives (43)

I am trying to save Dollhouse. Sign petitions and send emails:

http://toresimonsen.wordpress.com

The show was very well advertised and publicized, the ultimate problem with the show, despite claims suggesting otherwise, although the Friday Night Death Slot did not help, the show should have been featured behind American Idol, and one Fox' Animation Night behind well established strong lead-in shows to get it some much needed attention from meanstream America. That said, however, the lead character on Dollhouse, Caroline/Echo, as played by Ms. Dushku, had no defined personality/no persona to follow episode to episode, for fans to root for as a hero, nor did she have a foe that we could root against, all we saw were endless episodes, of Caroline/Echo's...essentially, zombie controlled body, take on different personas each week, but there was no central personality to say, "Hey, I am a person, and I count!!! The program that I thought I was getting involved in was/is...not what it turned-out to be, and I want out--I want to escape, I want justice, I want to fight back! There are victims and villains here, and now, I will be a hero for those who can't be a hero for themselves, or for me!"

That never happened on Dollhouse, until that last 6 episodes of the show? An action series, without a protagonist, or antagonist to fuel the story arc, or to introduce us to a conflict? Creative Writing 101 demands that any drama worth writing, at least the best of the best, need a protagonist/antagonist if only in metaphor, but we had none of that here, at all, until it was just too late to save the show? Yes, until that point, we did not know if Caroline was a victim, a willing participant, and or, a co-conspirator in the Dollhouse, nor did we know if there were any bad guys/gals, or any reason for us to care either way. No, all we got was grey area characters and plotlines, despite my many complaints about this very issue, in my efforts to save the show? However, when these issues were dealt with, and we, the viewers, finally got a persona for Caroline/Echo, the series' lead, who could finally think for herself, as a continued persona, during and in-between missions, and who decided to fight back--and of course, when we got villains for her to rally against, both fans and critics, alike, cheered the show; but it came a year, and two seasons...too late?

You have to give the fans characters they can root for, invest in emotionally, and related to, whether they be heroes, or villains, etc., again, we only saw that happen in the last 6 episodes out of two seasons of the show, 6 out of about 26 episodes? That was the show's ultimate failing, in not giving us that emotional involvement as only conflict between good and evil can supply, something that it really needed, from episode one, on.

Lastly, the show can survive. I suggest a reboot as a procedural, where the Dollhouse is raided by the Feds, and its freed Dolls are asked to act as programmable government agents, who will retain their memories during, and after, missions--sort of "Alias" meets "Joe-90"--taking on missions, that other spy agencies just can't handle, from terrorism, to assassination, and esbionage. If they, te series creators, had given us that, the series would have been a hit, but no one was listening at Mutant Enemy's offices?

Good interview. I hope Eliza will be approached for some pilots. She'll get on a show that lasts more than two seasons again.

Congrats, great interview! I respect even more Eliza Dushku after that interview, and of course i'm a HUGE Dollhouse fan who is not happy with the way we are having to say goodbye to that amazing show before its time. Shame on Fox and the way they treated that show since the beggining, but it just showed us that Joss Whedon gets more and more genius !
Anyway I do believe that tonight we are going to have an amazing episode and we'll be taking about that for months!

Photos: Top and middle, Eliza Duchku as Echo on "Dollhouse."

Dushku is misspelled.

I have to say even though season one started a little slow, season two has been amazing throughout, and I shudder to think how close we all came to not seeing these wonderful episodes.

Also, did anyone notice that at final count this show ended up with the same number of episodes overall as Dushku's last t.v. series, Tru Calling? A little strange...

Media Massiah...that's not why the show failed, just why it failed to reach casual viewers. For those of us who appreciated the efforts of the cast and crew to challenge viewers instead of dumbing things down so we wouldn't feel ambivalent or uncomfortable, or god forbid have to think, the show was a success.

I liked that it explored themes of personal identity and its commodification, and the way in which technology is developing faster than our ethics can catch up.

I also liked the unpredictability. Shades of gray add interest. There's a reason why you don't see white and black hats being used to differentiate good guys and bad guys anymore. #1 Life isn't that simple, and #2 Fiction becomes boring when it's made that simple. At least for those of us who want something more than mind numbing escapism.

In case you didn't notice it wasn't just Echo coming into her own that people have enjoyed the past few episodes, but the twists and turns the story has taken thanks in part to the ambiguity you're complaining about.

Dollhouse may not be must see TV for people who prefer more predictable fair with obvious good guys and bad guys, but it was unique and ambitious, perhaps overly so...which is far from being a failure.

The only way they could have failed is if they sacrificed artistic integrity to appeal to a broader audience. It didn't have the largest audience, but it probably had one of the most devoted.

If you can continue making a living creating shows that a few dedicated viewers love in an industry that prefers mediocre shows appealing to the widest possible audience, I'd call that a victory.

"all we saw were endless episodes, of Caroline/Echo's...essentially, zombie controlled body, take on different personas each week"

The first season, where the episodes were mainly focused on Echo's personas, was mostly run by the ideas of Fox. It wasn't until the second season that Joss and the crew got more free reign of the scripts and concepts. Fox should've just left it up to him in the first place, along with placing Dollhouse in a better time slot. I feel like everything was rushed because Fox had chosen to show mainstream rerun-able episodes rather than let the story take it's own path. Fox even cut their budget after THEY ruined the show. I can't blame them completely though, the show is hard to watch if you just tune in on a random night. I just hope in the future Joss/Eliza's productions are more successful in the mainstream eye.

I am sooo saddened that this FANTASTIC SHOW & FANTASTIC CAST has ended. I really couldn't believe it was ending. I am crushed. I got so attached the characters. Eliza really shined!!! I agree on the limited exposure/mktg. for it, & the timing on a Fri. night. But, I was so happy, because I am home on a Friday night & f...inally there was a great exciting show on. There had been NOTHING good on a Fri.nt. in so long (except for maybe GW). But, the Dollhouse REALLY livened up the Friday night schedule. I really looked forward to it every week, & I don't get attached that easily. I so wish you could bring it back somehow. If there is a petition to sign,I'll sign it. W/all the run of the mill,same ol' type shows coming out nw, I can't believe they would cut yours. I am really sad over this/I feel like I lost some friends,in a way. Please find a way to bring it back PLEASE!

PS I disagree with them saying that Echo did not have a personality, it grew stronger all the time,& they could have kept that going for years.I can't say how sorry I am that this great,unique show was canceled. I even loved the music they played at the end of the preview. I do hope, and I am sure she will, that Eliza Dushku shows up soon....but I loved her as Echo & also her connection w/her boyfriend too,& he won't be there in the next show or not the same. I just loved all the characters & thought they were all developing beautifullly. Oh well,enough from me,I guess there's nothing to do but accept it. And BTW I never write online to shows,or any stars,or anything.I usually wouldn't waste my time. But for this show, I had to say something. There are actually a couple of more shows that might end before there time too, and it makes me mad that alot of bad shows are still running so long! I do hope you can bring the Dollhouse back- maybe the last ending could end up as just a dream, and they can go back to how it was before the destruction of the planet- PLEASE TRY! But,if not farewell & good luck.

I loved Dollhouse since the first episode! I just saw the ending and I absolutely loved it! I think Dollhouse, despite being canceled, ended in a tremendously high note. One thing that I noticed about Whedon's work is that they're in many ways highly experimental: either it works or it doesn't, and I appreciate the lengths that Whedon tried to stretch Dollhouse beyond a viewer's comfort zone in terms of style and plot. I'm sure some episodes were much better then others, but that's the joy of doing original shows... it was such a thrill to see this series and I hope Whedon is working on something else!

Media Messiah said: the lead character on Dollhouse, Caroline/Echo, as played by Ms. Dushku, had no defined personality/no persona to follow episode to episode, for fans to root for as a hero, nor did she have a foe that we could root against, all we saw were endless episodes, of Caroline/Echo's...essentially, zombie controlled body, take on different personas each week, but there was no central personality to say, "Hey, I am a person, and I count!!! The program that I thought I was getting involved in was/is...not what it turned-out to be, and I want out--I want to escape, I want justice, I want to fight back! There are victims and villains here, and now, I will be a hero for those who can't be a hero for themselves, or for me!"

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I disagree wholeheartedly. The entire premise of the show was that Echo/Caroline had no defined personality, and could literally be anybody. The show dealt both metaphorically and literally with concepts of identity, and the unsettling but pertinent question of what defines who we are as individuals. Is it our experiences? How we're raised? Genetics? A soul? What about amnesiacs? Are they still who they are? Do they become someone else? These are the kinds of themes and questions the shows was trying to explore.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Media Messiah said: An action series, without a protagonist, or antagonist to fuel the story arc, or to introduce us to a conflict? Creative Writing 101 demands that any drama worth writing, at least the best of the best, need a protagonist/antagonist if only in metaphor, but we had none of that here, at all, until it was just too late to save the show? Yes, until that point, we did not know if Caroline was a victim, a willing participant, and or, a co-conspirator in the Dollhouse, nor did we know if there were any bad guys/gals, or any reason for us to care either way.

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When it comes to a show like The Dollhouse, and I intend no offense, but this is outmoded thinking Removing the audience from their traditional comfort zone in which clearly defined evil and good spar week to week was the entire point of the show. Joss Whedon and co. wanted us to have to ask difficult ethical and identity-related questions. The fact that you felt confused, uncomfortable, and uncertain with respect to who was who, what people's motivations were, and who to "root for," means that they succeeded wildly, if only artistically.

The fact that audiences are so dumbed down and incapable of thinking about these things and appreciating something like The Dollhouse on those merits, because they crave simple and traditional entertainment instead, is really sad. It's not a good thing, nor to be expected or endorsed, and is certainly no fault of the show's in my opinion.

So sad! I think the show suffered not only because of reasons stated by Eliza, but it required a reasonable "attention span" to follow--It required thinking. The show's concept was great, but seemed to get away from the "Doll" scenarios of season 1 too fast,(I think). I loved Sierras character and Topher, but, Enver's imitation of Topher was one of the best works of acting I've seen in a very long time.
Will miss all of you and wish you the very best!
Troy

I'll miss this show greatly and hope not to have to wait long before I see Eliza and Joss doing somthing new. I've been a long term fan of both .His shows are always an adventure and her acting always spirted, reaching, and amazing.She has such great range and insight into the charecters and situations she plays.While Joss makes you interested in things others could never touch on in the same way.Again I'll greatly miss this show!

i am very upset about the how they could just end a show like this. i watch the show every week that it's on and i think that they should just keep it on. i am also upset about how they ended the last episode of dollhouse. if anything should be taken off the air it is surviver or something stupid like that.

Media Messiah: You noted that one of the essential problems of this show was that there was no defined personality in Echo for the audience to follow ep to ep.....well, isn't that what the show was about? I mean, she was essentially a doll...and it did not take long for us as an audience to see her start to grow into something more than her "doll" state....show that she remembered bits and pieces of her imprints....

I do understand your thoughts about this, but I also have some understanding that Joss and his brilliant team had different plans for the show....he wanted there to be more of a back story as opposed to the one off episodes....but the network made them change their stories. The network also changed the day of airing right before the series premiere. It wasn't originally supposed to be on Friday nights, but before audiences ever got a chance to see it, they moved it..... The "trailers" promoting the show were constant before they changed the airdate....but these "trailers" only consisted of Eliza in a glittery silver top sprawled out over the screen....I do not recall much more.

Maybe if Fox stepped back just a bit and gave Joss a better chance, more trust...the show itself would have been more successful.

Does anyone else notice that out of all the shows out there, Fox has cancelled way too many before their time....I am constantly seeing people/posters on numerous different sites complaining about Fox cancelling yet another show.....if it weren't for House (and up until now Dollhouse), I would ban the FOX network from my television....

Rest In Peace, Dollhouse.....and thank you Joss and team for ending this show in a wonderful way to where, while not all questions were answered, we felt some type of satisfaction and realize that there was no where else to go from there.....(unless of course, you fill us in on the 10yrs between 2010 and 2020..that could satisfy us just a lil more....)

I think it is a shame that shows like dollhouse, tru calling, and others like it are canceled. I find these shows to be interesting and different than normal dramas. I guess just because you don't get the numbers the network kills it. So I guess fan base doesn't mean a thing.

I am really disappointed that Doll House is cancelled. It was a unique action drama show. Now Fridays TV watching experience will be totally shot. It's ashame that a coll show like Doll House has to be cancelled because of low ratings! A loyal fan base should count for something!!! Bring back Doll House!!!

The Dollhouse was and is one of the best and unique urban sci-fi shows to ever appear on TV, period! It was innovative in it's concept and execution! Fox canceling the show just as it was coming into its own is/ was just stupid! It's further indication as to why Fox will never be a top rated network!

That said the show should be moved to either the SyFy (Sci-fi) channel or the Chiller channel; where it can be given the time it needs to fully blossom! The idiots at Fox would've canceled the new show, " Caprica" too if they had a chance...which is another show that if given the time to grow will also be a legendary TV show and a credit to its genre. Fox network sucks, plain and simple! Those execs at Fox obviously don't have a clue as to how to promote a unique mold-breaking show like The Dollhouse! Fox should change its name to the "Idiots Network".

I'm a urban sci-fi and an urban supernatural genres novel writer; who hopes to have a certain novel ongoing series converted into a television series someday; and I'll tell you this; I wouldn't let Fox network do my series at any price; they'd only screw it up royally - just like they've dropped the ball with The Dollhouse!

Nice going Fox! You stupid idiots! I for one won't be watching any of your crappy line-up, now that you've dumped the Dollhouse! Consider your crappy network boycotted by me! And I urge all true sci-fi fans to do the same; to send a strong message to the Fox idiot execs!

**Eliza; I'll follow you to whatever show you do next; you rock girl! The fans will remain loyal to you, sugar; no worries!


~Wolvercat

I LOVED this show! I was intreged every time I watched it, and I didn't miss an episode! At first I felt so sorry for all of the dolls and I thought "how horrible their lives have been taken away!". Of course I was routing for Paul to save them all! Then I saw how Echo developed in Caroline's body and I thought that even when she wasn't quite "all there" she new deep down that she was going to help save the other dolls and herself. That episode when Alfa got Echo and basically killed Caroline right in front of her when he imprinted her original self in the other woman's body I have to tell you I freaked out! I was like "great now how is Caroline going to get her body back!", but that was what helped Echo become herself and develop her personality that was her own. She could be several different people, but I thought she was coming into her own as well and Echo deserved her existence. I just watched the last show online because I didn't dvr it, which I usually do, and I am pleased with the outcome. I would have loved for Echo and Paul to have ended up together! But the world was going to get back to the way it was suppose to be and hopefully some one was going to clean the place up lol! I want to say that I think Eliza Dushku is an extremely talented and believable actress and producer, and I hope to see you again in something soon! Big fan!

 
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