Interview with Eliza Dushku of "Dollhouse" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Eliza Dushku

Chat with Eliza Dushku, star of "Dollhouse" on FOX.

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


Todd Adair
Eliza Dushku


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 out.

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 identity.

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 before?

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 go ahead.

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 show.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to the line of Julia Diddy with 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 done?

E. Dushku We just finished them last week. Yes.

W. Belcher Okay. I wasnít clear on that. I saw you in Maxim. You look great.

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 about.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to Rachel Bishop with the 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 go ahead.

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 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 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 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 New York.

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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