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10 November 2002
AOL Live presented a special ‘Angel’ watch and chat in which creator Joss Whedon joined us during the second half hour of the show. Joss chatted and answered member questions about ‘Angel’, ‘Buffy,’ ‘Firefly’ and much more. See what he had to say below!
AOL Host: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to part two of AOL Live's Watch & Chat for ‘Angel,’ which airs every Sunday at 9PM on The WB. We're very pleased to announce that Joss Whedon, the creator of ‘Angel’ as well as ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Firefly,’ has now joined us. Joss, welcome to AOL. It's a huge pleasure to have you here tonight.
Joss Whedon: Thanks for having me.
AOL Host: Tell us about tonight's episode, which you wrote and directed. What inspired the idea of having the characters revert to their teenage personas?
Joss Whedon: It started with Alexis. We talked about how cool his character had become. But we said a fond farewell to the blithering bumpkin he was when he arrived. I got the idea of doing the show where everybody [was the way they] used to be. We got the same feeling about Cordelia. She became wonderful and fascinating; wasn't it fun when she was the biggest bitch in the universe? Wouldn't it be fun to go back to the old days?
AOL Host: We have our first question, from WheresMyDude8: You are awesome, Joss. Is there any chance of adding younger cast members, like you have on ‘Buffy’?
Joss Whedon: Vince is a couple of years older than Dawn – who plays Angel's son, Connor. It is more 20-something than the rite-of-passage youth of ‘Buffy.’ It is possible. It looks like ‘Angel’ could continue to run for a while. It is not our focus, like on ‘Buffy.’
AOL Host: We have a comment and a question from a member, who says: Joss, you are a genius and a really sweet guy. I loved the Vegas episode. Did you actually film that there?
Joss Whedon: Yes, that was filmed at the Tropicana. Andy was actually singing in Vegas. The biggest production values we have probably had, and probably the last.
AOL Host: We have a question from Heyforman124, who wants to know if you look at any of the Web sites or message boards about your shows.
Joss Whedon: I do. I look for comments and what people are liking, not liking, what they are talking about, all of that stuff. I'm fascinated by it.
AOL Host: How important has the medium of the Internet been to spreading the word about your shows?
Joss Whedon: I think it has been essential. The way ‘Buffy’ and the Internet have interacted has been unprecedented. I knew I had fans before I got a chance to see and understand what ratings were, because I would go on sites and meet people. The community that started out from the very beginning has just grown and grown. It is a mob scene now.

AOL Host: Was it fun being able to write Cordelia as the vain and shallow high school character she started out as?
Joss Whedon: Oh, my God. It was so much fun. It is always fun to write people who are extreme like that. When you do a show for a long time, you get to know and love your characters. They eventually become sort of heroic. The worst thing that could happen is the last year of ‘MASH’ syndrome – everybody is lovable, and you can't create conflict. We are not going through that. There is real conflict on ‘Angel.’ It is nice to go back to the raw beginning when everyone is completely in their own world.
AOL Host: We have a question from Boxen360: What is the theme song for ‘Angel’? I love it and it touches my soul.
Joss Whedon: I was thinking how underrated it was and how beautiful it is. The name is ‘The Theme From ’Angel.'' We went to a bunch of local bands and said, here is the basic idea for the theme. The basic idea for ‘Angel’ was cello rock, soulful and rocky. Not like ‘Buffy,’ but its own melodramatic space. Darling Violetta recorded it. I think it is really extremely underrated and it does touch me.
AOL Host: Speaking of theme songs, you wrote the theme for ‘Firefly’ in addition to writing that musical episode of ‘Buffy’ last season. Have you always wanted to write songs?
Joss Whedon: Always, always, always. I just started writing and playing music, more writing than playing. I had always written lyrics as a kid, but never had music to put them to. This is kind of a new field for me. The idea of ‘Firefly’ was to write something that sounded old and bluesy.
AOL Host: A member named TwistedLogicGirl has a question that's on a lot of people's minds: What is next for ‘Buffy’ after this season? Will there be another season?
Joss Whedon: That is a good question. There are a lot of options. I haven't had definite word from anybody about whether they are returning or not. Everybody knows Sarah's contract is up. It is very possible after seven years she may be a little sleepy. If that happens, there have been discussions about what permutations the show might take on. It won't be a watered-down version of ‘Buffy.’ If we do a new show, it will be a new kind of show that works in that world with some familiar faces – or it could be ‘Buffy,’ or it could all go away. The one thing I have learned in TV is expect everything.
AOL Host: Along those lines, we have a question from a member who wants to know: If it is the last season of ‘Buffy,’ will any of those characters end up on ‘Angel’?

Joss Whedon: There are no plans for anybody to jump the puddle as regulars, just because ‘Angel’ is hitting on all cylinders with its own bunch. However, I think it would be great to see any number of them on the show, maybe not as regulars, but certainly as guest spots.
AOL Host: Question from a member: I'm a very dedicated ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’ fan. Which is more complicated to write, ‘Buffy’ or ‘Angel’?
Joss Whedon: Everything is equally hard to write. Writing is hard. They are hard for different reasons. ‘Buffy’ is hard because it is completely grounded in human experience. Every episode has to be about what, you know, what it feels like to go through a certain period in your life, in the rite of passage that is your life. We can never do an episode that is purely fantastical and exciting, because the show is about growing up.
Joss Whedon: ‘Angel’ is not like that. It has become a noirish melodrama of action. We can tell stories in itself. We are not slavish to ‘What does it feel like to do that?’ like on ‘Buffy.’ Although that is a limitation on ‘Buffy,’ it is more grounding. On ‘Angel,’ it is more difficult to find a story line that is truly compelling and feels true to the universe. So they are both hard. It is all hard. It's work. I'm sorry. Do they have a complaining font?
AOL Host: Tonight's episode of ‘Angel’ shows the characters as teenagers, and adolescence has obviously been a huge part of ‘Buffy’ – what were your teenage years like? How did you fit into your high school's social hierarchy?
Joss Whedon: I didn't really fit in. I was very much an outsider and felt myself to be. I was, you know, I wasn't despised or picked on, I just sort of didn't really matter. I tended to come in and make jokes and leave before anybody told me that they wanted me to leave, so I didn't have to hear it. That was sort of – I decided when I was 14 that was my purpose in life, walk into a crowd, say something funny, and leave while they were laughing.
AOL Host: The episodes of ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’ that you have directed have been some of the most memorable ones of them all. Do you wish you had the time to direct more than you do?
Joss Whedon: If I could direct every one, I would. I would be tired and cranky and hateful, but, yeah, I only get to do four or five a year. That is way more than somebody running a show should be doing, and I'm running three. So clearly I have lost my head. I love directing. I love directing all three shows for very different reasons.
AOL Host: A member wants to know: Will you do a musical episode of ‘Angel’ like you did on ‘Buffy’?
Joss Whedon: David and Charisma have informed me they know people who can kill me, so probably not anytime soon. I did a ballet episode. What more can they ask?
AOL Host: We are getting a lot of questions from members about future crossovers on ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel.’
Joss Whedon: Faith is appearing on both shows. We don't have any others planned, but more I cannot say.
AOL Host: NonangelCall wants to know if the electrical girl from the ‘Ground State’ episode will be returning on ‘Angel.’
Joss Whedon: Yes. The electrical girl will be returning fairly soon, in fact.
AOL Host: Can you tell us anything about what Faith will be doing on the shows later in the season?
Joss Whedon: She will probably be looking really sexy and fighting people, based on her history. Apart from that, I ain't saying.
AOL Host: Do you know exactly when she will be coming back?
Joss Whedon: About the middle of the season on ‘Angel.’ She'll be returning [there] first, which is where we left her. Then she'll come to ‘Buffy’ for the end of the season.
AOL Host: How much time are you able to spend on ‘Angel’ vs. ‘Buffy’ vs. ‘Firefly,’ because you are doing three shows?
Joss Whedon: It kind of equals out. ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel,’ I spend an enormous amount of time breaking stories with the writers, trying to find the heart of the story. That is the most important part. I don't have to spend as much time on the set of ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel,’ because they have been in play, and I have producers I trust who can watch the directors and make sure the actors are doing what we are looking for. I have actors on ‘Firefly’ I trust, but it is the first year, so you spend time on rewriting, costumes, being on set. When you first start out with a show, you have to be involved with everything. After a while, you can let things take care of themselves.
AOL Host: A member wants to know what your favorite ‘Buffy’ episode is, if you can name one.
Joss Whedon: It varies, very often. I have to say that ‘Innocence,’ the episode where Buffy slept with Angel and he went crazy, will have a huge place in my heart. That show more purely showed us what we were going to be able to do with that series, kind of took it to the next level. Hey, you never forget your first time.
AOL Host: This weekend, as you may or may not know, there is an academic conference devoted to ‘Buffy’ at a university in England. Are you flattered by that? Have you read any of the scholarly books written about your work?
Joss Whedon: I haven't read any scholarly books. I'm very flattered. I wish I could be there. ‘Buffy’ is made by a bunch of writers who think very, very hard about what they are doing in terms of psychology and methodology. We take the show very seriously. We are perhaps the most pompous geeks of them all. When somebody says there is a philosophy behind ‘Buffy,’ that is the truth. When they say there is symbolism and meaning in what we're doing, that's true to. On any show, [there are] sociological patterns we are not in control of. I think it is absolutely great. I wish I could go there and be all opinionated.
AOL Host: Are you frustrated that the Emmy Awards have not acknowledged you or the show with nominations?
Joss Whedon: You know, how much time do I have to devote to being frustrated by that? Every now and then, it tweaks me. The fact of the matter is it is not why I got in the business. It doesn't fill my day. I have other things to have rage about.
AOL Host: Like what?
Joss Whedon: When you are making a show, you have rage at everything that doesn't come out exactly as it should.
AOL Host: What was the most difficult episode of ‘Buffy’ to write and/or direct?
Joss Whedon: The hardest to direct was ‘The Gift,’ the 100th episode, just because it was right in the middle of the Fox/WB wars. My spirit left the building while I still had a week of filming to go. It was a big action episode with tons and tons of pieces. I think that was the hardest one for me to shoot.
Joss Whedon: To write, they're all hard. And, you know, I've spent, you know, two weeks trying to rewrite half a page of, you know, somebody else's show and written an episode of my own in three days. You never know which is going to be. I have ones that were challenges, like ‘Hush’ and ‘The Body’ and the musical and whatnot. I can't describe that as hard, because it was so much fun.
AOL Host: An interesting question from Aimesy, who says: Is there a point in the writing process where someone stands up and says, “That is going too far,” or is it the sky's the limit?
Joss Whedon: No. I think there are times when we say, I think Buffy should not have intestines on her head. Some things are too gross or unsettling or too sexual, even for us. We don't limit ourselves so much. We are not looking to shock people. At the same time, we are not looking to censor ourselves. We will explore something to the limit to get to the most primal experience.
AOL Host: You have had main characters die, main characters commit murder, a main character who's a prostitute – is there anything a network has not let you do that you really wanted?
Joss Whedon: The networks get hot about teen suicide as well, as expected. I have never approached them with something where they said, that is something you can't do, that is a person you can't have.
AOL Host: What episode or development are you most proud of on ‘Angel’?
Joss Whedon: Episode? You know, I really – ‘Are You Now or Have You Ever Been,’ episode two of season two, the 1950s flashback, where we introduced the hotel. That still stands out to me as just like ‘Innocence,’ an extraordinary piece of work, sort of explaining to me what a truly classic noir the show can be. That and ‘Billy’ from last year, episode six of season three, about the fellow who could basically make men just hate and beat on women. It made a lot of powerful statements and was extremely creepy. I thought it hit on all cylinders. I was really proud of those. Oh, yeah – and the ones I did.
AOL Host: In your last episode of ‘Firefly,’ the characters used a made-up language quite a bit. How did you create that language, and have you created a dictionary for it that you use?
Joss Whedon: We don't have a dictionary, but certain phrases become common and used a lot. I try and introduce new ones to keep it fresh, so it is not the same thing all the time. The language comes from every source – some from Shakespeare and Elizabethan times, some from movies. Some comes from just how I feel like language might get corrupted in the future a little bit. Some of it, you know, I read a book about the Pennsylvania Dutch that was written at the turn of the century. They had some interesting phrasing. Some of them were Irish. You take everything. Add a little Chinese and stir.
AOL Host: Raven wants to know: Besides ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel,’ which characters have you had the most influence in developing?
Joss Whedon: Well, I developed all of them. That is my job.
AOL Host: Question from another member named KRC, who wants to know: Do most shows have a shelf life, and if so, how do you keep the characters alive and interesting?
Joss Whedon: If the writers are still excited when they come into a story and the actors are still doing their best, the show is fresh. With ‘Buffy,’ it's easy – easier because the show kind of recreates itself every year. Every year we have a different sort of mission statement. At the same time, it is the same bunch. People do change, but it is the same core group. But it doesn't feel more difficult now than it did in the second year or the third year. It is really about the enthusiasm. When that goes away, then the show goes away.
Joss Whedon: Also a lot of shows are – and usually the more successful shows are formula shows, where you know what is going to happen. Jessica Fletcher is going to solve the murder. There is a shootout in the warehouse. Sonny Crocket is going to be depressed. Scully is not going to believe it is a monster. Feel like that. That makes for hit shows, as opposed to cult shows. The problem is that really does get tiring. Those end up having a shelf life, because it is so difficult to find something new to say about all of that. So we have that advantage. Although it is also kind of a disadvantage.
AOL Host: Question from a member who points out that in last week's episode of ‘Angel,’ there was a picture of Cordelia's parents. Will they appear on the show and meet ‘Angel’?
Joss Whedon: Maybe. We have no plans.
AOL Host: ‘Firefly’ is part science fiction and part classic Western. Would you have liked to make it a purely Western show or is the sci-fi component just as important to you?
Joss Whedon: I grew up on sci-fi more than any single thing. I love sci-fi. The reason I chose to combine it with the western elements, as well as many other elements, is because I'm interested in history, the history of this country, and I'm interested in life when it's hard. And, you know, that sort of feeling we're barely making it and we're all in this together, as opposed to the distancing, shiny, alien-filled, Spandexy sci-fi there has been a lot of. I wanted to do is show that felt like it wasn't so contemporary it would be dated. So I basically took the past and the future and made a very conscious decision to say, well, they are just about the same thing.
AOL Host: Do you have any more plans to write comic books like the one you did for Dark Horse called ‘Fray’?
Joss Whedon: I plan to finish ‘Fray.’ I just gave the artist issue seven. I have hundreds of plans to write billions of comic books and create an entire comic book empire. Unfortunately, like an idiot, I started running three TV shows. So those comic books will not appear in the near future. I have overextended myself, and I am dying.
AOL Host: What comics have influenced you, if any?
Joss Whedon: When I grew up, very much reading the Marvel universe – Spider-Man, Warlock, Daredevil. The X-Men, of course. Nowadays, you know, pretty much anything Brian Michael Bendis, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore put on the page, I'll pick up.
AOL Host: We are almost out of time. We have time for a couple more questions. Can you give us any hints about where this season of ‘Angel’ is going towards?
Joss Whedon: It is going towards, you know, some horrible, horrible pain and apocalypse. Tonight's episode is very much a gay romp. We had an enormous amount of fun filming it. The actors and I, I mean, we lost a lot of time because they couldn't stop laughing while we were working. That won't happen anymore. Things are about to get pretty dark. I just can't say any more than that.
AOL Host: Will Buffy ever find out about Angel's feelings for Cordelia?
Joss Whedon: I think at some point she probably will. She will laugh and laugh, and they will all have a good time.
AOL Host: A member wants to know if you foresee ‘Angel’ going for years and years the way ‘Buffy’ has, seven or eight seasons.
Joss Whedon: You can't say. It is hitting its stride creatively and in terms of ratings this year. We have a great, great cast and a great staff. As long as they want to do it and the network wants it, it feels viable. So you can never say. It works for me.
AOL Host: Has working in TV, where you've had the freedom to do long story lines and really complex characters, spoiled you from wanting to write or direct movies?
Joss Whedon: No. I'm very anxious to make movies. TV is an extraordinary medium. I'm wicked fortunate. The fact is I love movies dearly, and TV is also an endless grind. I would like a grind that is endy.
AOL Host: Wesley has evolved quite a bit, as this season has shown. At what point did you realize that character was going to be more complex than he was when he was first introduced on ‘Buffy’ as a sort of Giles Lite?
Joss Whedon: Well, you know, on ‘Buffy’ we had a great time just having him be as dorky as possible. There comes a point with every character where you say – where they say, can I be cool now? Alexis was like, how can I be dorkier? What can I do to be sillier? How can I fall down more? Let's think this through.
Joss Whedon: When we brought him on ‘Angel,’ we knew we would want to find what made that character tick. It really is fun, particularly with tonight's episode, to see exactly how he has evolved. When somebody becomes a regular on a show, you know, they can't be a caricature. You have to find out what makes them behave in such a silly fashion. You know, in Wesley's case, it had a lot to do with the way people perceived him and a lack of self-confidence and a lot of naivete, a lot of which he has lost.
AOL Host: A member named Stargirl wants to know if you knew Spike was going to develop into the complex, enigmatic character he is.
Joss Whedon: You never know. They can be a great character or be killed quickly because they are dull. It is impossible to tell. We thought we had lightning in a bottle with James and Juliet. But, no, we never knew. You keep throwing the things at actors. James can handle everything.
AOL Host: In the genre you work in, if you kill a character and want to bring them back, you can.
Joss Whedon: That is a nice feeling.
AOL Host: Well, unfortunately, that's all the time we have tonight. Let's remind everyone that ‘Angel’ airs every Sunday at 9PM ET on The WB. ‘Buffy’ is on Tuesdays, 8PM on UPN, and ‘Firefly’ is on Fridays at 8PM on Fox. Is ‘Firefly’ changing time slots?
Joss Whedon: We should be Fridays at 8:00 for the foreseeable future, at least up until Christmas.
AOL Host: Joss, it was a privilege to have you on AOL. I want to say thank you to our Watch & Chat co-host, Raven, and to all our AOL members for their great questions and comments. Good night, everybody.
Joss Whedon: Thanks, guys.

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