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Chat with Eliza Dushku, star of "Dollhouse"
It was so great to attend the FOX conference call with
Eliza Dushku. She stars in the new FOX show, "Dollhouse", which
starts on Friday, February 13th, 2009. Most of us know her from
her previous kick-ass role as Faith on "Buffy
the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel",
or her starring role in "Tru
Calling", or one of her movies.
She is always a fantastic actress, so I am looking
forward to this show. With writing from Joss Whedon, they can't go
wrong. Make sure you watch this one!
Eliza sounded very passionate about her work. Not
only is she the star of the show, she also shares executive producer
credit with Joss Whedon on the show. Here she talks in depth - as
much as she can - about the show and a bit about herself.
Dollhouse Conference Call with Eliza Dushku February 10,
2009/4:00 p.m. EST
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to
the Dollhouse Conference Call with Eliza Dushku. At this time all
participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question
and answer session. Instructions will be given at that time. As a
reminder, this conference is being recorded.
I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Todd Adair. Please
go ahead, sir.
T. Adair Hello. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today
for our Conference Call with Eliza. As a reminder, Dollhouse has its
series premier this Friday, February 13th from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
eastern Pacific time. Weíll start the Conference with Eliza. We have
about approximately 30 minutes with her and weíll try to get through as
many questions as possible. We can start with the first question.
Moderator Thank you. Our first question will go to the line of Fred
Topel with SCI FI Wire. Please go ahead.
F. Topel Eliza, itís been great following the first three episodes of
the show they sent us and so far Echo has gotten an asthma attack,
gotten hunted by a client and gotten wiped in the middle of a mission.
What else can go wrong?
E. Dushku Anything and everything at any given time is sort of the point
I think. Weíre dealing in real situations and thatís why we have our
handlers there, to hopefully protect us from the bad, but yes; each show
I think that sort of thing is going to go down because itís obviously
not a perfect system and itís not a perfect world.
F. Topel Can you give us a hint of any more of those conflicts? I was
also wondering how the relationship with Sierra is going to develop.
E. Dushku Well, I can tell you I enter a cult of the blind cultess and
they send me in with cameras implanted into my eyes and some things go
down there. I can tell you that thereís upcoming contact with Agent Paul
Ballard, who is Tahmoh Penikett, and there is going to be some charged
stuff in those episodes.
Sierra. I donít know. How much can I tell you? I donít know how much Iím
allowed to give up.
F. Topel It looks like theyíre just starting to interact.
E. Dushku Yes. Well, again, we pick up in the Dollhouse and the dolls
are starting to have these memories and develop these little flickers of
self awareness and recognize one another and remember things from
engagements. Of course, thatís considered a glitch in the Dollhouse
system and thatís where all hell breaks loose. Thatís kind of where the
show expands and thatís where it gets interesting to me.
F. Topel All right. Thank you.
E. Dushku Thank you. I recognize your voice. I knew that one.
Moderator Iím sorry. Weíll move on to the line of David Martin with
Hearst Newspaper. Please go ahead.
D. Martin Eliza, thank you for doing the call. I enjoyed the episode
that I saw. The fact that youíre essentially a different character every
episode, is that a large part of what blew your skirt up about the
premise of the show?
E. Dushku Well, Joss and I came up with the show together and we were
talking about what kind of show would suit me right now in my career and
in my life. Basically, Joss and I have had a ten-plus-year friendship at
this point and he knows me very well and he knows how hard it is for me
to sit still for five minutes, not to mention for an entire episode, so
the premise of the show was sort of based on my own life and on keeping
things moving and on keeping me active and having the chance to play and
jump around in between these characters every week and sometimes
multiple times every show. That was planned from the get-go.
D. Martin So youíre just wound so tight that you couldnít be a character
thatís slow and methodical?
E. Dushku Youíre putting words in my mouth there. Iíve never said Iím
wound so tight; I just have a lot of energy and I just have sort of an
appetite for people and stories and telling different stories and being
in a different place and traveling and experiencing just different
emotions. One thing that Joss gave me in this project is the ability to
sort of show some other colors of mine that other creators and other
writers, directors, executive producers havenít given me in the past,
but he has seen them in me and wanted to give me the stage to act them
D. Martin I see.
E. Dushku I understand, so itís a gift and itís a lot of fun.
D. Martin Good deal. Good deal. Enjoy. Thank you very much.
E. Dushku Thank you.
Moderator Thank you. Next weíll go to the line of Daniel Fienberg with
D. Fienberg Eliza, given that you were with the show sort of from the
ground floor and, as you say, you and Joss developed it, could you talk
about how the show has sort of developed from that first meeting and
that first kernel into what it actually became and what weíre going to
see starting Friday?
E. Dushku Yes. Well, when we first sat down I had just sort of
negotiated a deal with Fox to ultimately come up with a show to do with
them and Joss was really the only person on my mind. I thought if he
wasnít going to do a show with me he at least knew me well enough to
sort of guide me and to sort of help me put together the ideas that were
in my head and to help me sort of figure out what kind of woman I wanted
to play and what I wanted to be a part of. So when we sat down and we
just started talking about life and talking about our careers and
different projects, weíre really like-minded people and we were talking
about sort of what itís like for me, Eliza, waking up every day and
having to somewhat be a different person every day and we were talking
about the Internet and how people can get so much and with just the
click of a button find anything that they want or need or desire or
think that they want or need or desire and then what actually happens
when they get that. We were absolutely talking about sexuality and
whatís taboo and objectification and just things that are relevant to
us. Four hours later Joss absolutely sort of sprang forward with the
idea, with the basis for the show and said, ďIt will be called Dollhouse
and it will be basically exactly this. It will be you with the ability
to be imprinted to be someone sexy or to be anything or to be
objectified every week or multiple times a week and how that affects
people. Weíre going to stir people up and weíre going to make people
uncomfortable because thatís sort of interesting to us.Ē
Here we are 13 episodes later and we think weíve done that. I mean the
first show on Friday weíre super excited about. I love Ghost. I love
Target. I love the first three, four, five episodes, but the cool thing
is the show gets better even from there. I mean Joss is really a
novelist and you have to give him chapters to tell the story. He and the
other writers just Ė I participated on a lot of levels as producer also
with ideas of my own. I mean the show just goes so deep and itís so
exciting and so thought provoking and relevant.
Does that answer your question?
D. Fienberg Well, I guess sort of as a follow up I want to go with sort
of how the show has changed from the original pilot that you read,
because, of course, there was the famous rewriting of the pilot, etc.
and Iím just sort of wondering what your thoughts are on how the show
has evolved specifically since then.
E. Dushku We changed the pilot for sort of more logistical reasons. I
think that any time youíre dealing with a lot of cooks in the kitchen
and FOX had sort of an idea of a pace that they wanted in the first show
or in the first couple of shows. It maybe differed from how Joss
originally wanted to set it up, but I think that absolutely Joss and I
both feel that where we came out is exactly what we had talked about
when we sat down at the first meal ...
D. Fienberg Fair enough. Thank you a lot.
E. Dushku When the idea first came up. Weíre telling this young womanís
story and following her and following these others as they go through
these first 13 trials of engagements and of self realization and
Moderator Thank you. Next weíll go to the line of Matt Fowler with IGN
TV. Please go ahead.
M. Fowler Eliza, I had a question. Being an executive producer of the
series and sort of coming up with it with Joss, has that given you any
new perspectives on making a TV series that you might not have had
E. Dushku I mean yes; itís sort of been what I expected. I have been in
this business now for over 15 years. I sort of grew up in this business
and it was just exciting and it was sort of, I donít know, I guess I
could say validating to have a friend and a partner like Joss in this
and to have him acknowledge that this was something that he believed, an
undertaking that I could make or take with him. He obviously has ten
million things to do in a day, most importantly, being up in the
writersí room and breaking stories and knowing that this is sort of our
baby and this is something that we, at that meal, decided to do together
with passion and with enthusiasm and that I would be the constant and on
the set every day. I have sort of picked up and learned a lot about how
the machine operates. It was just more exciting than anything and it
also just sort of made me that much more invested in just the fine
details of the show and then just even in things, the political aspects
and everything from moral on the set to making sure our crew members
felt heard and looking for warning signs. There are just so many
elements, but I absolutely loved it because, again, this is something
that I asked for. I mean I asked for every single bit of it and I can
truly say Iíve loved every bit of it, like the responsibilities, the
effort, enthusiasm, the whole crew, the whole cast, everyone involved in
the show has wanted it as badly as Joss and I have. Those are the people
that we wanted to surround ourselves with and by and so it has certainly
been challenging, but itís been the best kind of challenging, because I
mean Iíve learned so much, but Iíve also just gotten the opportunity to
be more hands on than project Iíve ever worked on.
M. Fowler Thatís great. Are we going to find out exactly is there a
reason that Echo is the one that is becoming more aware? Is there going
to be a reasoning behind her glitch or is she just the one that weíre
following because sheís the main character and weíre just following a
doll becoming aware?
E. Dushku No. I think youíre going to. Well, I can tell you that youíre
going to find out sort of what kind of time frame the Dollhouse has been
operating under and what maybe happened to previous dolls. I think that
we just come into the story with Echo, but there have certainly been
dolls before her and there will certainly be dolls after her.
Why Echo? Probably because Iím me and Joss and I came up with the idea
together, so we decided to bring the story up with me sort at the head
of the herd.
M. Fowler Sure. Got it. Thank you so much.
Moderator Weíll next go to Joshua Maloni with Niagara Frontier. Please
J. Maloni Eliza, reading about this show itís being described in terms
of sort of game changing and mind blowing. What about it sort of makes
it game changing and mind blowing?
E. Dushku Well, itís provocative. Itís disturbing in some ways. Itís
controversial. Weíre dealing with altering and programming people and I
think that thatís a very sensitive topic, but I think that itís relevant
and I think that itís exciting because Iíve always wanted to do work
that has to do with us evolving and questioning, making people
uncomfortable I guess. Thatís sort of what interesting storytelling is
to me is asking different questions and taking a closer look at desires
and fantasies and taboos and sexuality and these are all things that
Joss and I initially discussed in our infamous first lunch when we were
talking about making a show. They were things that I knew he, as a
creative genius, which I truly believe he is, had the ability and the
imagination to create with me and at the same time roll in a story that
just puts those parts together tightly, cleverly, with drama and humor
and pain and joy. Obviously, anyone whoís known his work in Buffy and
then anyone who knows him as a person knows that heís just all of those
instruments. Thatís, I think, what makes this such an extraordinary
Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to the line of Julia Diddy with
Fancast.com. Please go ahead.
J. Diddy Eliza, my question stems from the saying, ďBe careful what you
wish for.Ē Given that the clients of the Dollhouse are expecting their
fantasy girl are we going to see any episodes from a clientís
perspective where they learn that thatís a curse instead of a gift or
will it always be a curse because she has a few glitches?
E. Dushku I kind of understood your question at first, but then I think
will we see any episodes where what?
J. Diddy Where the clients basically learn that getting what they want
in their fantasy girl is more of a curse than a blessing.
E. Dushku Absolutely. I mean I think thatís sort of the point; thatís
one of the main themes in this whole story that weíre telling here is
that objectification hurts ...
J. Diddy Right. Right.
E. Dushku Whether youíre the one, whichever side youíre on because
thatís why weíre all different and thatís why there are certain
parameters and morals in our society. When you step outside of those
things and you put such control in certain peopleís hands in terms of
what people want and need and desire versus what they think they want
and need and desire they may be surprised at sort of the Frankenstein
story. Youíre absolutely going to see clients wishing perhaps that they
had not decided to add that extra element to their Active or to their
doll I guess you could say.
Moderator Thank you. We do have a question from Walt Belcher with Tampa
Tribune. Your line is open.
W. Belcher I was curious. Are all 13 episodes mapped out or are they
E. Dushku We just finished them last week. Yes.
W. Belcher Okay. I wasnít clear on that. I saw you in Maxim. You look
E. Dushku Thank you.
W. Belcher I read that you had tattoos, but I didnít actually see any in
the show. Are they covered up for the show or is it just that they ...?
E. Dushku I have a few, yes, but theyíre all actually in places that can
be covered with just a swimsuit.
W. Belcher Okay.
E. Dushku Sometimes we cover them up.
W. Belcher Just, one last thing: Was there one character in particular
when you were doing your different personalities in the episodes, maybe
one we havenít seen probably, that you liked best? I mean did you like
being the bad girl or did you like being the sweet girl? Was there a
certain type of personality that you enjoyed playing?
E. Dushku Yes. No. It surprised me, because on the one hand itís awesome
and exhilarating to be the sexy assassin, but at the same time Iíve been
surprised time and time again how much I also really enjoy playing; like
I play this blind cultess and it was just so different than anything,
than any skin I had ever been in and I really, really enjoyed it. It was
challenging and yet it was like liberating to have the opportunity and
to see the world, not see the world, but to be in the world in these
different skins. That was a particularly special episode, as was being
the personality of a 50-something-year-old woman in my own body. That
was another one thatís coming up that was very interesting. I donít know
if I have a favorite, but theyíve all had their own special nuances and
places for me.
Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to the line of Kurt Anthony Krug with
Oakland Press. Please go ahead.
K. Krug Eliza, I just wanted to thank you for doing this and to let you
know Buffy and Angel helped me through my momís cancer, so thank you
very much for that.
E. Dushku Wow.
K. Krug I understand listening to some of the press and what not that
you felt out of your comfort zone playing a woman with a 1940ís up do.
E. Dushku Yes. You have to understand. I mean I grew up a total tomboy
with three big brothers and I was sort of like this little girl running
around with this mop of hair, tangled hair, climbing trees and playing
tag football with my brothers. I donít know. Thereís just something
about a polished, bobby-pinned, hair sprayed up do. I donít know; the
composure and the sophistication. Itís thrilling and itís fun for me to
play and now that Iíve done it once I kind of am excited to try it on
again, but it definitely threw me at first. It was something that was
out of my comfort zone, but from the very get-go Joss told me that he
intended on taking me out of my comfort zone as much as possible on this
show, so I welcome it. I welcome it. Iím up for any challenge and any
uncomfortable scenario he wants to throw ... because thatís what this is
Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to Rachel Bishop with the TheTwoCents.com.
Please go ahead.
R. Bishop Eliza, you touched on this a little bit in an earlier
question, but what would you say is the main theme or message that
Dollhouse is going to explore?
E. Dushku I mean without over simplifying it too much Iíd say itís sort
of about not the search for oneís true identity, but itís about sort of
identifying what makes us who we are and our thoughts and our
surroundings and what happens when you start to allow other people or a
big corporation or a mass of people; I think objectification is a huge
theme of the show and just sort of how and why we are authentic
individuals and what helps make us sort of Ė I guess Iím now getting so
philosophical itís just getting so big in my head, but just what it
means to be an individual and to have that toyed with or to have that
taken from you and what that means and how we come out and how strong
our sense of self is at the end of the day no matter up against what,
any kind of technology or any kind of tampering, like what makes us who
we are. There you go; I got it out.
Moderator Next we go to the line of Charlie Jane Anders from I09. Please
C. Anders Eliza, Iíve watched like three episodes of Dollhouse so far
and I really love it. Iím really enjoying it. Iím so excited to see
more. My question is sort of off the wall ...
E. Dushku Thatís the point. Iím so excited.
C. Anders Yes. Iím really loving it. I think itís like the best thing
Joss and you have ever done. Iím wondering, I have total faith in this
show and Iím wondering like four years from now when youíre working on
season five do you still think that youíll have places to go with this
character? Do you think that there will still be places you havenít gone
yet with the concept of Echo?
E. Dushku Absolutely. I mean I think look at how much we as human beings
have evolved in a day. Thereís constant evolution. Thereís constant, if
you think about how many desires and how many scenarios; apparently from
day one Joss has had a five-year plan for the show and weíve talked
about what some of those are. I think thatís one of the things thatís so
exciting about this show is that itís so open for endless possibilities.
C. Anders Cool. Thank you.
E. Dushku Youíre dealing with so much. Itís human. Itís mankind and itís
thoughts and itís thoughts and wishes and desires; theyíre by the
millions, by the trillions.
Moderator We will move to the line of Jim Halterman from
ProgressivePulse.com. Please go ahead.
J. Halterman Eliza, I was doing research on your career just on-line and
I saw you have a really big lesbian following. Are you aware of that?
E. Dushku I have been made aware of that over the years, particularly
around my Buffy years. Right on.
J. Halterman Why do you think that is? Where did that come from?
E. Dushku I know during Buffy there was a lot of people really dissected
that show. I remember a lot of people leading in to Faith and Buffy
having this deep down love for one another. I donít know. Iíve been told
in the past maybe itís a mixture. I donít know. Iím obviously very
girly, but I grew up with a lot of boys and so thereís definitely a
tomboy in me and Iíve found just that I have fans equally in males and
females. I have a lot of lesbian love fans out there and a lot of gay
men, who still do cheers in supermarkets from Bring It On. I think itís
awesome. I love loving from all sides in my fan world, so I appreciate
every individual that appreciates watching me at work.
J. Halterman Is there anything in Dollhouse that theyíll be able to
connect to? I donít know if there are any gay elements into it or just
something they can find in there.
E. Dushku To be honest, there was one that was pitched and some how it
didnít make it into the first 13 episodes, but weíve only told 13
stories here and weíre all so excited. I mean even Joss and I today were
going ... finally here and yet Joss said itís crazy because we just
finished these 13 episodes and itís been such a hustle and itís been so
crazy and yet now that I havenít been in the writerís room in a week Iím
already thinking up ideas for the next 13 episodes. I mean I already am
dying to get back in the writerís room and tell more stories and tell
stories that we had ideas and plans for from the get-go. Weíre exploring
every element of human desire and I think - I know that given the
opportunity weíll explore every form of sexuality or that ...
J. Halterman All right. Best of luck with the show.
E. Dushku Or thatís 9:00 p.m. FOX allowed.
J. Halterman Right. Best of luck.
Moderator Next we go to the line of Jenny Rarden from TVismyPacifier.com.
Please go ahead.
E. Dushku TV is my Pacifier. All right.
J. Rarden Eliza, my husband actually came up with the name for it.
E. Dushku Very nice.
J. Rarden Thank you. My question is, and youíve talked a little bit
about it, but not exactly what Iím going for, what are the best and
worst parts about getting to play such a variety of people, yet playing
a single character as the base?
E. Dushku Well, the base character, Echo, is in a word, simple or in a
few words, sheís simple. Sheís blank. Sheís had her personality and
memories erased and sheís ... child with no inhibition, no fear. Sheís
sort of a blank slate and itís exciting in the sense that every week
thereís sort of a new star of the show and itís whatever character I am
imprinted to be.
We found sort of early on that one of the challenges was each character,
when theyíre introduced, sort of needs a good scene full of story. You
basically need to sort of give this characterís background and we found
that it was nice to get me in the role in some of the easier scenes
first, before having me step on set in the outfit as the person with
five pages of dialogue explaining who I am. There was something about
sort of easing into it whenever possible and when locations permit and
shooting schedules. Itís nice to sort of get in the skin and find
something to latch on to that makes that person distinct as opposed to
forcing it and using the dialogue or the scene or exposition to tell the
story. I mean I some how, I, Eliza, am a really adaptable person. I was
just sort of raised that way. Itís sort of like throw me in the water
and I can hopefully learn how to swim and survive and get very
comfortable very quickly, but there is that initial sort of shock to the
system and so we figured that out early on; that itís helpful to do some
of the ...
J. Rarden The easy scenes, right.
E. Dushku Other scenes first, but some scenes are easier than others to
slide into and I have worked with Joss specifically on certain roles. I
also have a coach that Iíve worked with since I was ten-years-old, who
actually lives in New York and we work on the phone or he comes out to
LA. Iíve taken it very seriously and I really want to, as much as
possible, take Elizaisms out when theyíre not necessary and add other
elements and add other colors to these characters to portray the reality
that Iím a different person every week as much as possible, so itís
absolutely been challenging. Itís been humbling. Itís been exciting and
Iím ready for more, more, more.
T. Adair We have unfortunately run out of time, as Eliza and Joss have a
public appearance they need to make tonight in New York City. Thank you
so much for your participation in todayís call. The call will be
available via transcript, as well as the transcript for Jossí call
earlier in the week if you need that as well. If you need additional
information you can always e-mail me at Todd.Adair@FOX.com. Once again,
as a reminder, Dollhouse has its series premier this Friday, February
13th, 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. eastern/Pacific on FOX. Thank you, Eliza,
for your time today. Good luck with the rest of your publicity trip in
E. Dushku Thank you, everybody.
T. Adair We will talk to everyone soon.
E. Dushku Thank you. Good-bye.
Moderator Thank you.
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