Category: Dollhouse

Joss Whedon on 'Dollhouse's' humor, layers and 'ick factor'


The "Dollhouse" episode that Joss Whedon wants the whole world to see is airing Friday, so the popular TV scribe held a conference call today with the entertainment press to discuss how he's feeling about his new series and why there is still hope for this Fox drama.

The rocky road of Whedon's highly anticipated series has been well-documented, but Whedon is very excited about "Man on the Street," the upcoming episode that he wrote, and the fact that his audience grew by 21% last week to 4.3. million viewers.

The following are excerpts from a Q&A with reporters:

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': The closing arguments

The premiere of "Dollhouse" is but hours away. Reviews have made their way around online, but here are Joss Whedon and leading lady Eliza Dushku to convince you one last time why you should watch the show. (And, if you like it, could you watch it on Friday nights? Not on your DVR? So Fox doesn't cancel it? Thanks.)

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': Enver Gjokaj, sci-fi lover

Envergjokaj2Most of the attention on "Dollhouse" has gone toward Eliza Dushku or Joss Whedon, or maybe even a little Tahmoh Penikett love. Enver Gjokaj, though, will play a major role in the show, shaping the lives of other characters. We caught up with him while he was in Italy hanging out.

Where's the name 'Enver Gjokaj' from?
It's a very common Albanian name. My father's Albanian and my mom is from the States.

How did you get involved with "Dollhouse"?
I fell into it, as luck would have it. I got the [scripts] and they were unbelievable. I went in and auditioned for Joss, and he seemed completely unimpressed. and I walked out of the room convinced that he was never going to see me again. And things went well after that.

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': Amy Acker's back

Amyackerdollhouse2Amy Acker is a favorite among Whedonites (followers of Joss Whedon) for her role as Fred Burkle and Illyria on "Angel," and also co-starring in an influential arc on the show "Alias."  Joss woke up and "smelled the Acker" -- he said it, not me! -- and rewrote a character on his new venture "Dollhouse" for the actress.  Doing one-episode stints on shows such as "Ghost Whisperer," "Private Practice," "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" and more, Acker was ready to fall back into the comfortable confines of Whedon witticisms, supported by a crew filled with familiar faces.

So, you are Dr. Saunders.  What are your duties in the Dollhouse?
I'm there to take care of all the dolls.  I seem to be the multi-purpose doctor, since I'm the only one there.  I've done some stitches, some Band-Aids and some psychological counseling.  It's a fun job because I get to see everybody and do a little of everything.  And I feel like I'm there to keep the morality of the Dollhouse in check.

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': Harry Lennix gets intellectual

Harry_lennixTV has not been kind to Harry Lennix lately. In his last recurring role, he played the ill-fated boyfriend of the president's sister on the messy sixth season of "24." (I forget how his character, Walid, even figured into the plot after he gets beat up in prison, but it's safe to say he probably just disappeared into the "24" ether.) Before that, he was the chief of staff to Geena Davis on the short-lived ABC drama "Commander in Chief."

But for "Dollhouse," Lennix, who next stars in the star-studded political thriller "State of Play," opposite Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe, is betting once again on a TV show. He explains why:

How did you get involved with the show?
I had not been familiar with Joss’ [Whedon]work, but last year I had just finished doing "August Wilson's 20th Century" at the Kennedy Center and had about a week down time. During that week my agent sent a number of scripts, and of those scripts the most exciting one was ‘Dollhouse.’ I immediately read and felt an affinity for the character I’m playing, Boyd Langdon. That very week I got an audition to go in and met Joss and the cast of people, who were very nice. Three days later I went to a call-back, and that very day I heard they decided to go with me. It was very nice, the turnaround on that. It doesn’t always happen that way, let me tell you.

By now, we all know what the premise of "Dollhouse" is. What did you find most appealing about the project?
The possibilities for it are endless. It deals with subject matter that is eternal: What is it to be able to engineer a human being just like you want? We get into questions of eugenics, we get into questions of what is free will. Why is there a need for such a place [like the Dollhouse]? Why is something like, for example, prostitution, considered the world’s oldest profession? What is it about people that orthodoxy does not do a good job in satisfying? When you have something as unorthodox and as high-end as the Dollhouse, that is people who can afford to pay the price to do what they like and go outside of the law, there must be a reason for it. ... If someone voluntarily decided to give up a portion of their lives for a reason, for money in this case, or whatever, to escape the past, then what benefit is derived and is that benefit reciprocal?

That’s a lot of questions.
But those questions will never become old. And of course there are many variations on that theme, so the potential for ‘Dollhouse,’ as we learn where this world is, as we learn more about it, I think the potential is limitless.

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': Dichen Lachman, the doll

Dichenlachman2Dichen Lachman is one of the more exotic actives, or dolls, that hang around the illegal government installation on Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse."  We got to speak with the Australian-Tibetan actress about where she's from and who the mysterious Sierra really is. Imagine an Australian accent with the answers!

So, Dichen Lachman. Where did your name come from?
Well, It's supposed to be 'De-chen.' It's the original Tibetan name that means 'big and prosperous,' but my dad spelt it wrong.  He spelt it 'Di-chen,' which apparently means 'big sin.'  But I don't know about that.  I try and be a good girl.

OK, now we want your entire life's story!  Kidding. But you've lived a pretty international life.  Where have you lived that you liked the most?
That I've liked the most?  It's hard to say. Every city obviously has a good and a bad side, although Kathmandu was obviously an incredible experience living in a Third World country, and I guess I have very dear memories of that because I lived in such close proximity to my family. I shared a room with my parents until I was 7, and I lived with my uncles and aunts and my cousins and my grandfather ... so the house was always full of people.  I loved that about Kathmandu. When I went to move to Australia, it was just me and my two parents for a long time until some of my family came over to live and study there.

But favorite place? I really like L.A.! It's such a wonderful city with so many things. It's geographically diverse with the water and the mountains and the desert so close together.

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': Exclusive photos

"Dollhouse" has lots of photos floating around the Interweb, but David Strick's Hollywood Backlot has exclusive images you won't get anywhere else (until they steal them from us).  Like earlier visits to productions of "Twilight," "Dexter," the recently-released "Coraline," new stablemate "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," and "Bone Deep" (a movie with currently in-trouble R&B star Chris Brown), David Strick has gotten access to some high-powered sets for great looks behind the action. "Dollhouse" is no exception.  Take, for instance, a very bendy Eliza Dushku in one of the dolls' sleeping pods.

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': Spending $100,000 in 15 days

Six days to go.  Set decorator David A. Koneff, a veteran of "CSI: Miami," "Firefly," and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," took on a different challenge when he signed on to beautify the set of "Dollhouse."  Already having worked with Joss Whedon and production designer Stuart Blatt, Koneff stepped in to help shape one of the show's signature characters and create a mood that has extended beyond the show and affects anyone who visits the set.

When you were called in for "Dollhouse," what was the first thing that came to mind?
I was really pleased to get back to working with Joss again because I really enjoy his take on things.  It's unique, I think.  Especially after spending so many years working on "Buffy" and "Firefly" with him where we had such a specific look.  You know "Buffy" was a very realistic look at a very fictitious place in America called Sunnydale.  "Firefly" was a place we had never been before.  An undisclosed time in space.  For the first time, Joss and Stuart were asking me to make something completely beautiful and sexy.  Those were the two key words that I jumped off the cliff with for "Dollhouse."  It's gotta be sexy ... and we went from there.

What on the set are some of your favorite pieces?
My all-time favorite pieces on the set is some of the lighting.  We found this company that made these silk-wrapped lighting pieces in all sorts of different colors.  They're a company from Israel that manufactures in New York.  The name of the company is Aqua Creations.

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': Joss Whedon on women (and sex!)

Joss3_k0tq4onc_2In a conference call to the media for "Dollhouse" on Thursday, Joss Whedon was asked many questions that are sure to be topics of interest to some. A few of his answers:

In terms of 'finding the show': It was probably most similar to "Angel" in the sense of what we had in our mind about what "Angel" was ultimately was different than what the network did.  In our minds, it was darker ... The mandate was "give us the world of the show and not just the structure of the show" ... But there was some real questioning about what exactly we wanted to get at in terms of the humanity, what they do, and why people hire them, and you know, there's a sexual aspect to it, and it makes some people nervous.  Part of the mandate of the show is to make people nervous.

On humor: There is a lot of fun and a lot of humor in it.  What it doesn't have is an inherent silliness that both "Buffy" and "Firefly" had, and even "Angel" ... This has to be a little bit more grounded in order for it to play ...

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': The show's 'funny and twisted' producing duo

All the greats have a stable of writers, actors, producers, etc. that seem to follow them from project to project, and so it is with Joss Whedon and "Dollhouse."  Eliza Dushku ("Buffy") and Amy Acker ("Angel") are on board, and behind the scenes, the producing/writing duo of Elizabeth 'Liz' Craft and Sarah Fain have also made the leap.

Whedon described Craft and Fain, who have written for "Angel," "Women's Murder Club" and "The Shield," as "solid and sensible" in a conference call this morning. "Then they turn in a script and you remember 'Oh, they can write, too.' "

The "funny and twisted" writer-producers answered a few questions for us as the Dollhouse prepares to open next week.

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Countdown to 'Dollhouse': The madam speaks

Oliviawilliams Olivia Williams admits it. Her character, Adelle Dewitt, is something of a “Dollhouse” madam. But the British stage and screen actress -– you know her as the widowed wife in “The Sixth Sense” –- doesn’t mind.

As Williams says, it’s all about the subtext. Williams reveals how Joss Whedon lured her in, more about Adelle's background, and tells us why viewers should care about the show:

You were in London doing theater when Whedon called you about "Dollhouse." Where you familiar with his work?
I have to be completely honest: No. And I had no interest in sci-fi whatsoever. What convinced me was literally his charm on the phone. We hit it off immediately. He’s got a very similar sense of humor and just the way he constructed his sentences in conversation was entertaining. I thought if this man writes anything like the way he talks, then I’m in. I’ve learned subsequently what a great, skillful, powerful producer and writer he is, but at the time I was just going off of this bizarre midnight phone conversation.

Do tell.
I was in England so it was mid-afternoon for him but very late for me. I had actually just been out on the town. I had done a play and had had the statutory large drink afterward. So I spoke to him on the phone and suddenly, at the end of it, I had signed my family and I up for eight years in California. It was like: “Um, honey? I’ve got something to tell you.”

What did he say that appealed to you?
When he described the character of Adelle I first thought: “Yeah, yeah, I’ve done that before.” She was supposed to be cold, tough, British. At the time I was quite keen to play American and not be labeled as a Brit. Then he told me about the twist that happens later for her and I was like: “Oh, that’s cool. No that’s really cool.” And the more he explained what pans out with Adelle, the more I was intrigued.

What can you tell us about her.
She runs the Dollhouse. There are the dolls and there are their handlers. The handlers report to her mad scientist, Topher (Fran Kranz), and then he reports to me. I am sort of the face of the business. When someone has decided they want [to rent out someone] who, I don’t know, can play a piano concerto and likes to have rough sex, they have to come and talk to me about it. I tell them how much they have to pay and tell them that they have to behave themselves. So in that sense I am a madam.

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'Dollhouse': Fridays and 'hot,' 'soulless' stars

Fox looks like it's hoping some girl-after-girl action may help revive Fridays with a new promo for the "Dollhouse"/"Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" hour.

OK, a bit crass, but when you watch the commercial, you get the sense that the network is pushing the duo as a fanboy magnet, with Eliza Dushku (Echo) and Summer Glau  (Cameron) as the Dames of Deception.

The "Grindhouse"-style '70s-action throwback promo is entertaining, exploitative and energetic, but will it work? "Terminator" has been chugging along nicely -- not spectacular ratings, but hey, it's not canceled.  Fox could also be trying to undercut the feeling that "Dollhouse" was scheduled in a ratings dungeon, as some may have thought, though the prevailing feeling is that the night will most likely see a boost initially as Whedonites flood the network.

-- Jevon Phillips


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