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