Slayer Lit

Slayer Lit Interview

heading

Amber Benson Interview
by Shiai

Amber Benson

"Iím sooooooo sorry!"



"Iím sooooooo sorry!" 

One would not anticipate a phone call from Amber Benson to begin with 
the above statement. But in this instance, Amber had gotten a bit mixed 
up about the scheduled time for our interview, and she realized her 
mistake about an hour afterward while she was out to dinner with a friend.

She promptly called me on her cell to apologize.  I figured she would want 
to reschedule our call for another day, since she was already in the midst 
of a night out on the town, but she graciously insisted on cutting her own 
plans for the evening short and doing it right then and there.  This is not, 
I presume, typical Hollywood starlet behavior.  But it seems in perfect 
keeping with Amber, who appears to delight in defying both expectations 
and limitations.

To even the most casual Buffy fan, Amber needs to introduction, having 
memorably played Tara Maclay for three seasons.  But what's perhaps not as 
widely known is that she is doing her level best to be a modern Renaissance 
Woman.  She is an actress, yes...but she has also written, produced and 
directed two of her own films, and is also a published playwright.  In the 
world of print, and she has written several comic books stories.  And October 
of 2005 saw the publication of GHOSTS OF ALBION: ACCURSED, the first of a 
planned series of novels, co-written with Christopher Golden, which follows 
in the wake of their original BBCi animated "Ghosts of Albion" project.

For the benefit of readers, I should explain the genesis of this interview.  
In an apparent fit of temporary insanity, Amber and Chris chose my entry as 
the Grand Prize Winner in a contest to suggest a new ghost for possible use 
in a future ALBION tale.  As my reward, I was to receive a phone call from 
Amber.  However, having already met and/or spoken with Amber a few times in 
the past, I realized I really had nothing of great new importance to say to 
her, other than repeating my earlier assertions that I am a big fan of her
work...which seemed to me like it would be a bit of a waste of her time.  
So, I suggested instead that we make it an actual interview, which she 
readily agreed to.

My next step was to solicit the members of the Slayer Lit Yahoo Group to 
contribute questions for me to ask.  My basic rules were that the questions 
should be (A) creative and interesting, and that (B) her private life is out 
of bounds.  I'm happy to say... and I think you'll soon come to agree... that 
the membership really stepped up and provided sometimes thought-provoking, 
sometimes irreverent, but always worthwhile queries for Ms. Benson.  And as 
you'll soon see, she really stepped up and answered with contemplation, 
candor, and more than a bit of good humor.

The hour long call was the easy part...actually transcribing the 
conversation proved a bit more daunting.  As I quickly discovered, Amber 
uses sentence fragments, funny voices, gibberish, and above all laughter...
from giggles to side-splitting guffaws... to communicate.  It all sounds 
wonderful in person, but trying to capture it in black and white is not 
without its challenges. I like to think I rose to the challenge, and I hope 
you'll think likewise.

Speaking of laughter, you can pretty much insert it throughout the interview.  
She laughed, I laughed, and more than once, I think you will, too.

Anyway, enough prattling from me... let's get to the good stuff!

"I FORGET SOMETIMES THAT THIS IS WHAT I DO FOR A LIVING."
Slayer Lit Interviews Amber Benson

Shiai: I should tell you that I'm taping this. I know that the government 
doesn't really feel the need to inform people of that these days, but I'm 
telling you.


Amber: Thank you, I appreciate it. I'll try to refrain from too much 
cursing.


S: I don't know, that might excite people. Okay, let's get right to it.


A: Okay.


S: At the age of six, you appeared in "The Nutcracker" with the Alabama 
Ballet Company...


A: Oh my God...


S: What have you been up to since?


A: Well, I decided I was going to move to Tahiti and start a Reggae band.


S: How's that going for you?


A: Well, that didn't work out for me, so I got into this acting gig, and 
it's sort of okay. I'm doing alright, you know, paying my bills and stuff.


S: Well, it'll tide you over until your waitressing career takes off.


A: Exactly! How did...? You're psychic!


S: Well, I try. You've said, and I quote, "I'm a freak who sits in 
front of my computer and types my name again and again into Yahoo 
Search." What is your reaction to all of the websites and groups 
and mailing lists devoted to you?


A: Well, I have to say that I was being a little sarcastic when 
I said that. I only do it occasionally...you know, like once every couple 
of hours. You know, it's very flattering, and I'm really lucky because 
I have, as I like to say, the coolest fans in the biz, and they always 
write really nice things. They refrain from being too nasty. They're 
actually always very supportive, and very rarely do I get someone 
who's not, you know, really nice. They like to talk about how much 
Tara influenced them and let them know that it's okay to be gay, 
and all these wonderful things that people say just make me feel 
good. So, going and seeing all this stuff is always very flattering.


S: Does it seem strange to you that all these strangers around 
the world are following your life and career so devotedly?


A: You know, it's...(pause). Sorry, getting into the car.


S: Tell me you're not driving.


A: No, no, no... my friend's driving.


S: Tell him hands at ten and two!


A: Yes! (Relays message.) You know, it's not that I find it 
strange. I just...you know, I forget sometimes that this is 
what I do for a living. I always think that this is like...I don't 
know, to me it's like when someone says, "Oh I love...," 
and I say, "Wait, what are you talking about?" And then I'm 
like, "Oh! You're talking about...!" Okay! So, I forget, so it's 
always strange to me because I don't realize, you know, 
until someone points it out.


S: Yet in certain ways, it almost seems as if your private 
life is really everyone's business, or they assume it's their 
business. Does that ever turn out to be off-putting for you, 
or do you just kind of roll with it?


A: Ummm (pause). It's not that it's off-putting... it's 
just a little invasive. When you get into this industry, you
know that what becomes of your life is sort of public knowledge. 
Who you are, who you're sleeping with...you know, people 
want to know, so they start investigating, and they report 
what they see online. One time, I had someone tell me, 
"Oh, I heard you were at Ikea." I guess they had read 
something online that I had been at Ikea shopping for, 
like, door knob pulls, or something. I said, "My God, 
who writes this stuff?" Apparently I was at Ikea in my 
overalls, looking for hinges for the door. You know, it's 
just very odd that people are interested. 'Cause, you 
know, I'm not interested in me. I'm like, "I don't really 
care what's going on with me...but everybody else is." 
Not really, actually...it's just some people who get very 
excited...I don't know.


The one thing that was tough was when I took over being 
the love interest for Willow. A lot of people had issues 
with that, because they loved Seth Green so much, and 
it was like, (employing high-pitched whine) "We don't like 
that girl, bababababa!" And it wasn't that they were 
talking about me as Amber, they were talking about the 
character. But because I identified so closely with Tara, 
because I really liked her, I was like, "Hrumph! I don't like 
you guys...you're really mean!"


S: I just remember the firestorm of protest when Seth 
joined the show, because so many people were saying, 
"No, Willow has to be..."


A: ...with Xander, yes!


S: And he rode through that well, and I thought you did 
just as well.


A: Well, thank you. I gave Iyari [Limon, who played 
Willow?s girlfriend Kennedy in Season 7] the same 
advice: "You've just got to roll with the punches. 
They're going to be a little bit up in arms, but 
eventually they'll warm up to you."


S: I think she did a good job.


A: Definitely.


S: If it had gone to an eighth season, I think she would 
have really won people over.


A: That's what I always said. If she had just one more 
season, she totally would have had everybody loving 
her and totally hating me.


S: Well, that's not a good trade-off.


A: Nah, they just would have reconciled the fact that 
Tara wasn't going to be with Willow eternally.


S: Oh, I'm shedding a tear.


A: Awwwwww!


S: I don't know if you check out eBay much, but 
there's always a brisk business selling you...and 
that just came out really wrong.


A: Really?


S: I was just checking, and there's someone from 
Azerbaijan right now selling photos of you...


A: What?!?


S: ...and I think that's the mark of the true downfall 
of communism in the Soviet Union, that they are 
now in the business of dealing in Amber Benson 
materials. That's democracy to them!


A: Oh, that's funny! Azerbaijan, hey?


S: I think on Lenin's Tomb they now have written 
that he's Amberholic #2954.


A: Oh, my God...that's soooo funny.


S: Oh, and by the way, bidding on the Amber 
Benson pillow case is averaging at $17.50 now.


A: WHAT?!?


S: Yeah, it's a crazy steal!


A: There's a pillow case? Oh, my God?.


S: All those people sleeping with you now.


A: They're not sleeping WITH me, they're 
sleeping ON me! Now you can sleep on me!


S: You can buy it outright for twenty.


A: Oh, man...for twenty bucks you can 
sleep on me.


S: Now that is a bargain! Okay...from what 
little we've heard, GRYPHON [for the Sci-Fi 
Network] sounds like a very different kind of 
role for you. What can you tell us about it?


A: Yeaaaaah...GRYPHON's awesome! I got 
to play this, like, warrior princess?.


S: This is what we hear, and we have images 
of Xena.


A: It's in that vein, definitely. In that vein...more 
clothing than the XENA crew usually had on.


S: When that gets printed, there's going to be 
this big collective groan from a lot of people.


A: Sorry.


S: They'll just have to content themselves with 
your "Stuff" photo shoot.


A: Heh, yeah. But I learned to broadsword fight, 
and it was so much fun. I was in Romania for 
five weeks, all horseback riding and sword 
fighting and running around out in the woods, 
fighting giant gryphons. It was really a blast!


S: And of course, you're already experienced 
dealing with things that aren't there, which will 
be CGI'd in later, right?


A: Yep! I was like, "See, I can do this! I understand 
this...this is a world I get."


S: Any idea when it's going to run?


A: I'm not sure, but I think probably it would be 
the late summer, or the fall.


S: Chris mentioned that you're in a project right 
now. Is that just post-production for GRYPHON, 
or are you doing something altogether new?


A: I've been really, really busy. I actually just 
finished a movie called STRICTLY SEXUAL. It's 
a sex farce, and I'm in lingerie the whole movie.


S: Again, just so many people are going to have 
a deeply emotional response to something you've 
just said here.


A: I'm in my underwear the whole time. Oh, and I 
also wear a schoolgirl uniform.


S: Okay, I've got to stop this interview and spend 
some alone time with myself. Amber, it's been 
great talking with you.


A: Oh, maaaaaaaaaaan! And then I did another film 
called MOUNTAIN TIME that I'm really, really happy 
with. It's a lovely family film, it's just beautiful. We 
shot in North 
Carolina, and I'm really proud of it.


S: Off the record...do you die in this one?


A: No, I don't actually. You can put that: I don't die!


S: There's been talk online asking if you'll ever again 
get a role where you won't die.


A: Yeah, I know. And then I did another role for 
TRIPPING FORWARD where I don't die. And then the 
film that I directed last December [LOVERS, LIARS 
AND LUNATICS], we're almost done with, and we're 
hoping to take it to some festivals. I won't comment 
on whether I die or not in that one.


S: Do you have any festivals lined up which you can 
announce yet, or are you still working on that?


A: Still working on it.


S: Let's see, where are we on my handy dandy list 
of questions? Oh, and I'll have you know I had to 
excise some of the questions submitted, because 
you probably would have hung up if I had asked them.


A: Nope, won't answer that one...nope, won't answer 
that one...nope....


S: Ah, here we are...do you seek out a lot of the roles 
you've played lately, doing auditions and such, or have 
many of them just come to you because producers 
and directors know your work well enough to believe 
you're right for the part?


A: Most of its comes actually not because people like 
me and know I'm right for the part, but because I've 
made so many friends in the industry now, so that one 
person will work with me, and they'll be like, "Hey, 
you've got to go work with my friend!" So, it becomes 
this ongoing thing where the next person's like, 
(effects deep voice) "Hey, I'm doing this thing!" And 
I'm like, "But, how do you...?" And they're like, "I saw 
the film you did...my friend is the director, or the editor, 
you know." Like, the STRICTLY SEXUAL movie came 
directly from the film I did a year and a half ago called 
RACE YOU TO THE BOTTOM. The guy who directed 
the latest film saw it at one of the film festivals, and hit 
me up, and it turns out he's a friend of a friend. It's like 
kismet.


S: Well, great. It's a big giant circle jerk in Hollywood.


A: It kinda is. Of course, they don't pay you much to do 
these things. These are all labors of love. A hundred 
dollars a day, you can lay on me for twenty bucks kinds 
of movies, you know?


S: Let's get over into the world of books, which is where 
you've been lately. What are you reading, or wanting to 
read right now?


A: I just got a book called "Inamorata." It's really good! 
It's what I'm reading now, and I really like it. It takes 
place during the 1920's, and it's all about debunking 
spiritualists.


S: Oh, so it involves the Houdini sessions?


A: Uh huh. The "Scientific American," when they 
offered the $5000 reward for any evidence of psychic 
phenomenon or whatever, and it was all the debunking 
of it, but this is fictionalized. But Houdini's not in it...at 
least, as far as I've gotten. So I'm kind of bummed, 
because I've just seen a biography of Houdini, and there 
was this whole thing on the debunking of spiritualists. 
I'm reading, and I'm like, "Where is he? Where is he?"

What else have I been reading? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Oh, I just got this book called ["Time Was Soft There: A 
Paris Sojourn at"...] "Shakespeare & Company"...I just 
bought it yesterday. It's all about this guy, James 
Mercer...I think that's the name? Jeremy Mercer. And 
he wrote this about working at Shakespeare & Co. in 
Paris, and it's all about his experience. A non-fiction 
thing...it looks really great.


S: So, non-fiction's a way you've been going lately?


A: Yeah...it's kind of weird. I've always been, like, a 
fiction girl, but recently, I've been trying to get into both.


S: Hmmm...the follow-up question doesn't really go 
anywhere near that, sorry. It's going to be a big segue 
into something different.


A: Okay!


S: Have you picked up any new comics which interest 
you?


A: You know, I've got to get "The Sandman." The Neil 
Gaiman.


S: Has he got something new coming out?


A: No, no, I've just never read any of them.


S: Really?


A: And I was talking to somebody and they were 
like, "How could you have never read 'Sandman'? 
I'm like, "Umm, urrrr, uhhh...." So, I've got to go 
get that. That's my next thing: Get a bunch of 
"The Sandman" and read those.


S: I'm thinking it's maybe the second, or fourth 
trade paperback, where he goes into Hell ["Season 
of Mists"]...


A: That's the one Chris Golden says I HAVE to 
have!


S: Yeah, that's probably the single best span of 
comics of any I've ever read.


A: That's what Chris says, that it's just 
phenomenal. That's next on my list of comics stuff 
to read.


S: Well, treat yourself...you're going to enjoy it.


A: Okay, cool. Yay!


S: Hmmm, let's see. (Mumbling) No, we don't want 
to ask that question. No, I'll save this one for later. 
Okay, here we are...this one is actually an 
intellectual-sounding question: You got into 
professional writing in an unusual way, essentially 
writing a story about yourself...or, more precisely, 
the fictional character which so many people 
often equate you with. ["Willow & TarA: 
WannaBlessedBe"]


A: Yep.


S: Was it difficult to write Tara, or was it liberating 
to put your own brand on the character in a new 
way?


A: It was much easier to write Willow's stuff than 
Tara's. I think Chris had to go in and kind of doctor 
some of the Tara dialogue. I was just too...it was 
very difficult. I could write about her, but writing the 
dialogue was tough.


S: As you were writing, were you sort of editing 
yourself, thinking, "Oh, Joss wouldn't like that"?


A: Uh huh, totally!


S: I think a lot of people were genuinely surprised 
to find with "Willow & Tara" that you could write, 
and write well. And I think it's kind of amusing that 
the "My heart doesn't stutter" line gets quoted so 
often online, I think a lot of people misremember it 
as being used on the show.


A: (Cackles madly)


S: It's kind of entered into that pantheon.


A: It's become part of the vernacular, yeah. It was 
really interesting to do that...it was an interesting 
way to get into the writing side of things. Because 
I had always written plays, screenplays and stuff, 
but I had never done anything with comics. It was 
an interesting way to sort of get involved.


S: Did you find yourself writing it as you would a 
script, or was it a little more freeform?


A: No...you know, I had done a lot of research on 
how it all went, so once I knew I was going to do it, 
Chris gave me the format, and I was able to follow 
it pretty well. I was lucky, I was in the Chris Golden 
School of Writing. Creative Chris Writing 101!


S: Not a bad teacher to have.


A: No, I was very, very lucky to have him sort of 
guiding me along the way. There were times he'd 
be like, "Mmmm, doesn't work like that. Change 
it, do this." So, I think now I've finally got to a 
place where I feel comfortable and I can do my 
own thing without going, "OH MY GOD! OH MY 
GOD!"


S: Alright, this question has to be asked: You''ve 
said that you're distant enough from the role now 
to no longer feel as comfortable writing Tara as 
you once did. Do you ever see a time when you'd 
like to return to the character in print?


A: Ummm (pause). Yeah, I would. I mean, it 
would be interesting to do another run of the 
Willow and Tara stuff. I wouldn't be opposed to that.


S: Well, I know Joss has announced a virtual 
Season 8 to be done through Dark Horse Comics, 
written by him. And I'm sure already the 'Bring 
Back Tara' campaigners have formed ranks.


A: Really?


S: So, perhaps that might happen, and you may 
have another crack at it.


A: Oh, that's funny!


S: Ah, this one I liked. It's not even really a 
question, more like a statement. There was 
a review of the Willow & Tara trade paperback 
in which the reviewer says that the essay you 
wrote for it about being a girl who has finally 
discovered comics ought to be mandatory 
reading for every comic shop owner in America, 
to instruct them on how to appeal to half of the 
population.


A: Oh, that's awesome! That's really cool, I like that. 
It's just, you know, tough...because you want to say 
that women are just like guys, and we're all equal. 
But we're not, we're different. And it's hard to 
acknowledge that. You want to believe we're all equal, 
but we have things we're better at, both as individuals 
and because of our genders. There are things that 
women are better at...like having children.


S: Yeah, you do kind of have the edge on us there.


A: Yeah, a little bit. Not much, but a little.


S: This one's from me, actually, and it's not really a 
question, but just kind of a follow-up. Speaking of 
writing for your own character, I'm not sure if this 
predated your tenure on the show or not, but former 
Simon & Schuster editor Lisa Clancy has told me 
that she wanted to pitch a collection of short stories 
about the various Scoobies, all to be written by the 
actors who played them. But there was only 
something like one-and-a-half cast members who 
were interested, so the idea didn't go anywhere.


A: Awwwwwwww.


S: So, I'm assuming you weren't part of the 
one-and-a-half, because I think you would have 
been on that one like gangbusters.


A: Yeah, totally! Interesting, very interesting.


S: When you write with Chris, which is long 
distance, do the two of you basically split up the 
chores along set lines, or does he write something, 
send it to you, and you then tweak it and write 
something more, then send it back to him?

A: The way we tended to work, especially with 
the book, but also with the comic books, is we 
delegate chapters. You know, "You take Chapter 1, 
I'll take Chapter 2." And so, Chris will write Chapter 
1, send it to me, I'll go back over it, then do Chapter 
2 and send it back to him, and we sort of go back 
and forth until it's completed. It's worked out pretty 
well so far.

S: Ever found yourself strongly differing with something 
Chris has written, and wanting to go another way?

A: Any time that's happened for either of us, we've 
talked about it, and we've been able to either 
compromise, or one of us will go, "Oh, yeah, of 
course...that's cool! Do it that way!" But you know, 
it's been very compromise-oriented, this working 
relationship. We're very much open, you know, to 
trying different things, and letting the other person 
have their say. Both of us are really open to the 
other person's changes. There's no, "This is how 
it's going to be, and you're just going to have to 
accept it!" Which is awesome. It's a much better 
working environment than being just an actor, 
where you sort of have to do what everybody else 
tells you to do.

S: For your hundred dollars a day.

A: Uh huh.

S: Have you found yourself doing any writing for 
"Albion" that's intentionally structured to translate 
easily visually into a film at some point? Like, 
you're already looking ahead to a movie, and you're 
thinking, "Let's write it this way, because that'll 
look better on the screen."

A: You know, I've never approached it like that. 
Chris might, and he might have a different answer. 
But for me, I've always been, "This is what I feel, 
and I'm going to go with what I feel at the moment." 
In fact, I was just talking about this before, about 
how there are different kinds of actors. There's a 
really neat thing on INSIDE THE ACTOR'S STUDIO, 
with Paul Newman, where he's talking about being 
one kind of actor and [his wife] Joanne Woodward 
being a completely different kind of actor, where 
she's very emotional...she just is the character. 
Whereas he does a lot of research and he's very 
meticulous, and he's very thoughtful about the 
character. And I think, that's kind of how I am...I'm 
like Joanne Woodward in everything that I do, 
whether it's writing or acting, I tend to just go and 
do it, and not really give a lot of forethought to how 
I'm going to do it. I sort of just jump in, you know?

And you know, I'm like that, but I'm constantly doing 
my research, because I'm living my life, and I'm 
changing it, growing, reading. So, I'm always doing 
research. You know, always preparing for the next 
role, or the next book, or the next whatever.

S: And your research...is that sparking new ideas 
for you? Or are you only focusing on the thing you're 
researching for at the time? Have you come across 
something and said, "Oh, that's a great idea for a 
story...I have to write that down!"

A: Yeah, I'm always coming across things and going, 
"Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Gotta use that!" A lot of times I'll, 
you know, be smart enough to write it down.

S: With that in mind, let me ask...you wrote an 
interesting short comic story for "Four Letter Worlds" 
about loss. For something that was so powerful, did 
you find yourself personalizing the process of writing 
it, or were you able to simply look at it as just an 
assignment, and keep yourself disengaged?

A: You know, it actually came sort of from a dream. 
I've always been very reliant upon letting what's 
happened around me influence me, and I've had this 
dream about this guy searching for somebody he's 
lost. Like, this idea of somebody going from dimension 
to dimension looking for the woman he had lost, and he 
was responsible for the loss. And how he could never 
find her...this constant search for her, but she doesn't 
exist any more, because every universe has a different 
version of her. Do you know what I'm saying?

S; Yes.

A: It sort of came from that, this guy looking for 
somebody, this person that he lost. And I babbled for 
like ten minutes, but hey, you'll be able to condense.

S: When you go into book stores now, do you check 
to see if they have "Albion"...and if so, do you face it on 
the shelf?

A: Shut up! Shut up! Yes, always. And always I've 
found it...except once, at the Virgin Megastore on 
Sunset, one of my favorite bookstores. Because it just 
has all of this crazy stuff...novels, manga, all kinds of 
interesting stuff. So, I go, "They've gotta have it...they've 
gotta have it!" And they didn't have it.

S: Did you give with some Hollywood drama?

A: Nooooooooooo. I felt like going, (singsong voice) 
"Hey! You gonna order my book? La la la...I'll sign all 
of them!"

S: I've noticed in most bookstores I've gone to that they 
put it under Chris's name...which is understandable, 
because he has a following. But all the same, when 
people look in the computerized file, they see it under 
Benson first, and they go to the 'B' section, and they're 
not going to find it there. So, I've made a point, if there's 
two copies, of moving one over to your shelf.

A: You're very sweet.

S: Aw, thank you. Okay, here's a very profound 
question: "Demon Father John's Pinwheel Blues." 
What were you on?

A: What was I on? I was high on life! That's usually 
what I'm high on. People always ask, you know, "Do 
you do drugs?" But I'm just such a coward...seriously, 
I'm just so terrified of being the one person who never 
comes back from some acid trip. So, I'm like, "No, I'm 
okay, I'm okay. I'm just going to drink some more coffee, 
I'll be fine!"

So, it was probably some caffeine jag I was on. I've 
always really been interested about this idea of fail safe 
points. That once you go beyond them, you can never go 
back. Once this kid goes beyond, once he becomes a 
part of this life, he can't go back. You know, that's the 
sort of thing I was dealing with in my own life. I've come 
to a point where I'm not a kid anymore. I'm going to be 29 
years old...I'm not a kid. I've hit that fail safe point where I 
can never go back to being a kid. I think that was my idea 
with this comic; the idea that I have to grow up now. He 
had to grow up.

Every time I'd write it, it would just get worse, and I'd get 
like, "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" But to go 
ahead and be able to live the life he had to live, he just 
had to destroy everything from his past. He couldn't go 
on, do you know what I mean? Really...I don't know, it 
was a lot of things I was dealing with. So, it's very much, 
out of everything I've ever written, I think it's probably the 
most pulled from my own life.

S: So, it's your rite of passage?

A: Yeah, it really was. The things I was dealing with, things 
I was trying to sort out in my own life.

S: But preferably with far less bloodletting.

A: Yes, there were no eviscerations or decapitations or 
anything of that nature.

S: Do you find horror and fantasy easier to explore as a 
writer than more realistic character pieces like CHANCE, 
or more difficult?

A: I think that there are things that are difficult about it 
that aren't inherent in a character kind of study. But I think 
that it's easier in some aspects because you're dealing 
with things that are completely of your own imagining. 
You know, you're kind of creating theground ruleS: Okay, 
the character can say this and do this, and can walk 
through walls. That's my universe that I've created, 
whereas with real things, you can't say, "Hey, this 
character can walk though walls." People would be 
like, "Wait...what...huh?!? This is supposed to be 
drama...people can't walk though walls!"

S: I can't think of the author's name for the life of me 
now, but it's someone who writes fairly realistic crime 
mysteries, and he was speaking as to why he can't 
write fantasy, because he needs the strict boundaries. 
He said, "I can't write a story where, if I'm stuck, I can 
have a ghost walk though a wall." And someone who 
was with him...this was an author-on-author interview, 
I think...and the other person writes fantasy, and he said, 
"But you're missing the point. The point is, what's on the 
other side of that wall?"

A: Yeah. One way or the other, you've got to get to the 
other side.

S: Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer?

A: Uh, no. I'm much more of a "When the muse hits me." 
When I'm writing with Chris, I'm much more disciplined, 
because we?re under a deadline, and very often we have 
a week to do the chapter, or you have only seven hours 
to get a change done. Do you know what I mean? Because 
it has to be turned in, and it has to be looked over, and 
there are galleys, and there's always like a...thing.

S: Well, do you find your acting muse and your writing 
muse are one and the same, or are they competing with 
one another for your time?

A: No, I'm pretty much able to kind of...sometimes, I'm 
under the gun, but for the most part I've been able...because 
acting, when you're working, you have all of this down time, 
and its allowed me to do a lot of work. I took my computer 
with me to Romania and I was doing work there, and when I 
was in North Carolina I was doing work.

I actually saw a ghost when I was sitting out on the porch 
of this beautiful house we were staying at in North Carolina. 
I was doing some writing, and I look up, and I see this woman 
in white go by, and I thought, "That's weird."

S: Really? Was there some history associated with that 
house?

A; Oh, yes. Old school house, old bed and breakfast. And I 
see her go past, and I thought it was one of the other 
actresses from upstairs...I thought she just forgot something 
in the car, because she's in her nightgown, you know? So, I 
get up to go and look, and...there was nobody there! And 
there was no place they could have gone. I said, "Oh my 
God, I think I just saw a ghost." I scared myself! And I was 
writing something scary for the second book, and I went, 
"I'm just gonna go inside now, I'm a little creeped out!"

S: Well, it's research.

A: It was research, exactly.

S: And speaking of the second book...you're finishing it up 
with Chris right now. And a continuation of the series is 
dependent on the response to the first two. Are you leaving 
things a bit open-ended in the hopes of a third book, or are 
you tidying up loose ends, just in case?

A: We've really left things in a way that we could definitely 
have a third book. But each story is finished on its own, we 
have no long-term sort of, like...I mean, we have storylines 
that are continuing, but there are some things that get finished, 
and some things that don't. But we're hoping that a third book 
will be able to continue some of the existing lines. Each book 
has a conclusion for that particular story, whatever it is.

S: So, come what may, you intend to have "Albion" return 
someway, somehow, somewhere?

A: We would like for it to. We're definitely talking about doing 
a comic book. And we have some people interested in possibly 
adapting it to film or television. So keep your fingers, toes and 
nose crossed!

S: Is there any talk of getting the original BBCi work out on 
DVD?

A: Oh, definitely. We're trying to get that resolved, but we 
have a lot of copyright things, because everybody owns 
different pieces. So trying to get everybody together has been 
very, very difficult for us.

S: This question comes from Maryelizabeth Hart...

A: Awwwwwwwwwwwwww!

S: ...and she asks, how was touring for "Albion" to 
promote it? Was it a different experience from your standard 
con appearances?

A: It was awesome! In fact, (adopting a British accent) there 
was this lovely bookstore down in San Diego! 
[MysteriousGalaxy.com] No, it was awesome...it's such a 
different experience. Because people were there 
because...yes, I know some were there because of BUFFY. But 
they were also there because they liked the BBCi version of 
"Ghosts of Albion" that we had done, and people were really into 
the book. You know, it was a nice sort of departure from the 
convention fodder, where you go, and you're there to sign 
pictures, and you're not really there to talk about your next 
project. But this was all about "Ghosts of Albion." And there 
were a few Buffy questions here and there, but for the most 
part it was very much about the book.

S: Yeah...at this point, you could almost do the Amber Benson 
Multi-Media Spectacular. You know, show your films, discuss 
your books, meet with the fans, talk Buffy.

A: Yeah, yeah...what about the cheese? It's the cheese, I know.

S: Put that on a cruise ship!

A: Oh, never! Never will I go on a cruise again.

S: Really?

A: Oh, it was lovely, and everyone was so nice. But I am not 
a cruise person. There's way too much food around!

S: When you read a book, do you ever find yourself mentally 
editing it, essentially rewriting it in your own mind, as some 
authors say they can't help but do? Or are you satisfied to go 
where the author takes you?

A: No, I do that in movies. Books have always been an outlet 
for me, in a way that film is too, but in a different kind of way. 
Books are what I escaped to when I was a kid, and 
books...unless they're just really piss poor, I get swept up in 
them and I'm gone. You know, my sister would always yell 
at me; I'd be reading and she's just screaming at me, and I 
wouldn't even know, I'd just get so lost. She's like, 
"AMBERRRRRR!!!"

Whereas movies, I'll sit there and go, "God, why did they 
cut it like that? Why did they make the actor do that?" 
Do you know what I mean? With a movie I could find fault, 
whereas with books I tend to be much more forgiving. With 
a book, I just get so involved. As soon as I put a book down 
in the middle, I go, "Oh my God," because I feel that I'm 
going through all of the things that the characters are going 
through, and it's very upsetting. I'm like, "Thank God...thank 
God that's not me going through that." You can take a break 
from it. It's like you deal with it without actually having the 
consequences of it.

S: Speaking of your sister, I think it's curious that both you 
and she are such creative artists, yet in such entirely different 
ways. Was such creativity always encouraged in your family, 
and what do you think accounts for the fact that you each took 
such divergent paths?

A: Very much, our family is supportive of all the artistic 
endeavors. My mom and dad are very supportive of my sister 
and I. They've always been very much in our corner and pushing 
us to do things that we were excited by. My poor mother dragging 
my sister and I to horseback, and ballet, and tap dance, and 
piano lessons, and acting classes, art classes, and whatever, 
you know. They were very supportive of anything we wanted to try.

But my sister [Danielle Benson] has just always been a very 
visual artist...kind of, you know, very much expressing herself with 
her paints and her photos. And I've always been much more of a talker.

S: Personally, I think it's nice that from what I've seen, she's never 
pushed herself off as 'Amber Benson's Sister'.

A: Oh, no...she's the antithesis of that. In fact, I think she'd be 
happier if people didn't know she was related to me. I think she 
pawns herself off as being related to Robert Guillaume from the 
original BENSON.

S: Or better yet, someday you'll be known as 'Danielle 
Benson's Sister'.

A: That's what we always say! I'm waitin', you know...I want to be 
able to make my movies in the comfort of someone else's money. 
I'm holding on to her art, believe me! There are pieces that I'm 
holding on to...I know that someday I'm going to need to sell 
them for cash.

S: So, your sister's an investment?

A: Exactly.

S: Ahh, nothing says love like money.

A: (Sinister laugh)

S: Curiously or not...and perhaps more curious that not...you're 
identified as a bona fide "gay icon." But rather uniquely 
because of a role you played, and not for your own lifestyle. Do 
you ever worry about being typecast as a quote, unquote Gay 
Actress...or Gay Author, or whatever, by default?

A: You know, before BUFFY I would have said, "No way! I don't 
feel that there's any typecasting, you can do whatever you want 
as an actor!" But after having played a gay character, and having 
doors closed in my face because of it, I can honestly say that it's 
still a taboo subject. You know, even though half of Hollywood is 
gay.

I wouldn't change it; I had a wonderful experience with BUFFY, 
and I was just lucky to be the one to get to play Tara and to 
kind of knock those walls down...to be the first long term lesbian 
relationship on network television. It was an honor. But it does...it 
does effect you.

Just look at Rupert Everett: He came out and everything sort of, 
you know, stopped working. And now you only see him periodically; 
he does a lot of voices for cartoons.

S: Have you seen STAGE BEAUTY?

A: No, I haven't seen it.

S: He steals it completely. He's incredible in that.

A: I think he's wonderful. I'm such a fan of his, and have been 
since CEMETERY MAN, long before he was Madonna's gay pal.

But you know, it does hurt you to say, "Hey, I'm gay, and I'm in 
the entertainment industry"...or any, you know, what works in 
this world. It's still something that people don't want to talk about, 
that people are upset about. It's so asinine. If you find somebody 
that you love, you're just lucky no matter what sex they are.

S: I don't know if this is coincidental or not, but since BROKEBACK 
MOUNTAIN came out, Heath Ledger's really seemingly gone to 
extremes to have Michelle Williams with him at his side, whereas 
they kept things quiet before that...almost as if he's saying, "Look, 
I'm not really gay!"

A: Knocked her up nice, didn't he?

I liked Jake Gyllenhaal's quote, though: "Heath and I had sex, 
and nine months later Michelle has a baby."

S: This one's a long one, so bear with me: In what was one of 
your earliest interviews after joining BUFFY, you mentioned that 
you hoped Tara didn't take any evil or unconventional turns...which 
seemed to be a strong possibility at first...because you have some 
conservative family members for whom seeing their Amber play 
against type, so to speak, would have been unsettling.

A: Mm hmm.

S: Then Tara went gay, you barked like a dog in TABOO, and 
you made merchant marine sailors blush with your language in 
CHANCE. Have you simply told your relatives you're a librarian 
now, and you quit this acting thing years ago?

A: I'm in sanitation work. That's what they know, and that's all 
they know. We don't discuss anything beyond. No, they all know 
what I do, that I'm an actor. They knew that Tara was a witch...they 
just didn't know she was a lesbian witch. Come on, they're from the 
deep South...yeah, they still think it's the Devil's work out here.

It's just that my grandparents are very protective of my sister and I. 
They love us and want us to be safe and happy...out in the evil, 
evil LA. You know, it can be! There are a lot of people who have 
really horrible experiences here. I was very lucky, I was with my 
family, and I was protected.

S: So, do you even bring up Bodicea and her flagrant nakedness 
at family reunions?

A: Hah! Chris gets to write that part...he likes to write about naked 
Bodicea. He wants Angelina Jolie to play her. Naked, of course.

S: You seem to have gravitated more toward independent features 
lately. Do you find it more comfortable working in indies, or is it 
more of less the same as doing mainstream fare for you?

A: I basically do what I get offered. There are some things where 
I go, "Ewwwwww, I don't want to do that." But very rarely do I say 
no to something. But it's the same...you're making a film, one way 
or the other. Except that the catering's better on things that have 
money. We have a trailer versus a room...or, you know, nowhere 
to change except the middle of the set, with everybody watching.

S: You did a SAG [Screen Actor's Guild] panel a few months 
ago about major artists in independent films...

A: I did! My goodness, you're abreast of everything I'm up to.

S: I'm doing my darnedest. And shortly after that, I know that 
Lindsay Lohan announced that she's going to be doing a couple 
of indie films. Do you think it's a good thing when...I won't say a 
big star, but a big media presence like her...is suddenly kind of 
"co-opting" the scene? Because is it really independent now 
when you've got someone coming in with an entourage, and 
all this mainstream attention? I don't know if I'm phrasing my 
question properly.

A: I know exactly what you're saying, and its already 
happened...there is no independent cinema anymore. It ceased 
to exist a number of years ago when every independent distributor 
was picked up by a major league studio, or they went out of 
business. I mean, there really is no independent cinema any 
longer. There are very few people that are working outside the 
mainstream, and when they do, you don't see their films because 
they play at one art house theater in LA or New York.

So, when you say Lindsay Lohan is going to do 'independent 
films', Lindsay Lohan is going to do a million dollar movie. That's 
called an 'independent film' now. Ang Lee's doing 'independent films' 
now; BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is an 'independent film', do you 
know what I mean?

They're nominated for Independent Spirit Awards, they play at 
Sundance. Every film at Sundance pretty much has a distributor 
already. Or, was made with big stars. Or, you know, Sigourney 
Weaver is in the 'independent', and therefore it's picked up. Anything 
that's independent...truly independent...does not happen any more.

S: You've got a number of films slated for release in 2006. Is this the 
Year of Amber Benson?

A: Let's hope! You know, I've just been trying to keep busy. I've 
pretty much taken everything I got offered, and I was lucky that 
everything has been some pretty interesting stuff. I was really 
pleased with GRYPHON, and with the film in North Carolina, and the 
one I did just recently. I'm just really lucky that its all been interesting 
work.

S: Well, I know that a year ago at this time, there were people online 
fretting that you didn't seem to be doing much of anything, and they 
were worried you were giving up acting.

A: I was doing so much writing, I was sort of sucked in to the literary 
world. But I'm trying to balance those now. It sort of balances to one 
side, then leans back and balances to the other side.

S: Have there been any films lately you've seen where you've 
thought, "I'd really liked to have played that part!"?

A: God, I really wanted to be Heath Ledger in BROKEBACK 
MOUNTAIN.

S: You love Jake, do you?

A: No, I'm actually not really a Gyllenhaal fan. To tell you the 
truth, I haven't seen BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, because I'm really 
not an uber-fan of either of those guys. I will see it eventually...I just 
wasn't really invested in either of them as actors. I'd like to see it just 
because I want to support gay cinema, but that would be my reason to 
go see it. Some people love it, and I've had other people say they didn't 
like it at all, so I'm kind of a little nervous about it. It looks beautiful...it 
was just beautifully shot, but there's nothing about it that makes me 
say, "I have to do this."

I'd rather go support independent gay cinema. I'd rather go see a 
movie written and produced and directed and filled with people 
that are, you know, trying to change something...not to just say, 
"Ooh, look...we can turn the system on its head and get controversy 
going to get more people into our movie!" Why didn't they hire a gay 
actor? At some point you start to wonder what's the deal; why are we 
putting two straight young male actors in these roles? Because it's so 
that young girls will come see it.

S: And on the flipside, someone like Anne Heche seems to have a 
hard time getting roles, and I've heard the argument made that it's 
because she's out, and people won't buy into her playing a heterosexual 
role.

A: Yep. It's like Rupert Everett...when does he play straight? He plays 
gay now all the time. Because they don't cast you when you're 
gay...they go, "Oh God, you're gay! Young girls aren't going to go see 
this!" You know, like if Leonardo DiCaprio suddenly decided he was gay, 
they'd have a conniption because young girls are his fan base, and they 
go and see his movies ten times in a row.

S: My concern now is that gay cinema is going to take a body blow from 
this, because Hollywood's going to say, "Well, what more do you want? 
We gave you the gay cowboy movie. Why do we have to keep supporting 
you?"

A: But you know, I have gay friends who went to see it, and they loved it. 
They felt that it really represented. I hate to condemn something that I 
haven't seen, but to me personally, I wasn't that involved. I have a friend 
who grew up in Wyoming, and he's gay...my friend Sean, and he loved it, 
said it was actually like his life.

S: I guess it's speaking on levels that some don't get.

A: Like, you know, when you blow that dog whistle; you can't hear it, but 
all the dogs in 
the neighborhood come runnin'.

S: I saw a few months ago YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, 
and I couldn't 
help but think that was a film that you could have made, and that Miranda 
July has an aesthetic vibe similar to yours.

A: Really? You know, I didn't like that movie at all. That's funny! I have 
so many friends who were like, "Omigod, it's the best thing ever, I saw 
it fifteen times!" And I watched it, and I couldn't...I respected parts of it, 
but I just...to me, she presented all this stuff and gave us no answers. 
She just was like, "Look at it...yet I have no comment on it." There 
really was a detachment. You know, I really wanted to love the whole 
thing...and I loved the kids, they were awesome. But I was like, 
"Okay, we're being a little gratuitous here." You're not telling me anything 
I don't know...you're just saying, "Look how fucked up the world is!"

I mean, I don't want something that's going to be hitting me over the 
head with trying to be didactic. I want something that has a point of view, 
know what I'm saying?

S: I wonder if possibly because so many people were telling you, 
"You're going to love this, you're going to love this," perhaps it set it 
up to fail in your mind?

A: Any time someone is like, "This is the best thing ever!"...like, 
THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, everybody said, "God, this is the best 
thing ever!" I watched it, and I was like "blaaaaaah." But the end was 
awesome. But yeah, if people talk it up, I always hate it.

S: Speaking of movies you have done, as we did earlier, there's 
something interesting at the old HOLLYWOOD, PENNSYLVANIA 
website; they have pictures of various cast and crew, and most 
everyone clowns around for the camera...except you. You're busy 
behind the scenes, watching the monitor with director Greg Swartz. 
Even then, were you thinking you wanted to direct, and were you 
taking notes?

A: Yeah, I always knew I was going to direct something. But, uh, 
no...I think I was just tired, and it was one of those, "I'm tired, I'm going 
to sit. Oh, look...there's a big, inviting lap!" So I sat on Greg. He 
probably should have paid me twenty bucks, right?

S: You've managed to appeal to your fan base for support with 
your projects. Do you think this is going to be a growing trend with 
indie film making, or are there limitations to such fundraising?

A: I think you use what you have. I was lucky, I was on a TV show 
that people really responded to, and I was kind of able to use my fan 
base as a way of getting artistic endeavors funded. But on the other 
hand, you kind of wonder, am I abusing that? And so I really want 
to...it was a great beginning, but I'd like to get into a place where I 
actually can create without having to get people to buy my doll.

I was really blessed. Really blessed. But I'd like to be able to use 
that as a stepping stone to the next thing.

S: This is an oddball little question, but I figure you're committed 
now and you really can't back out without looking like a cruel and 
callous person...

A: Heh!

S: You have virtually no trace of a Southern accent, which, as 
you're a native of Alabama, I find curious. Do you consciously work 
to keep your lilt under wraps, or has your West Coast-ish inflection 
kind of just organically become your real voice now?

A: You know, my dad is from out here, so anytime my sister and I 
would say "y'all," he'd be like, "No, no, no! There is no 'y'all'! That 
doesn't exist. It's 'you guys'!" So we'd be like, "Hey, you guys."

S: You've proven yourself to be a talented singer, with some success. 
You've even recorded a pair of your own songs and offered them to 
your fans. Since you pal around with musicians, do you have the 
itch to try a full CD on your own?

A: I would love to do something like that. I don?t play in instrument, 
and so it makes me limited. If I played the guitar or piano, then I 
could create my own stuff. But right now I'm sort of like, "Oh, I like 
that little song in my head!," but I have no way of actually putting it 
into some real metered form. So if I learn the guitar, I'll do an album!

Ohhhhh, I should so be on AMERICAN IDOL!

S: We're going to get into the necessary Tara questions, but I'll 
really try to keep it brief.

A: Okay.

S: You average several convention appearances a year. At any 
time, do you fear that you might be less 'Amber Benson, 
Actress/Writer/Director', and more, 'Amber Benson, Actress Who 
Played Tara A Few Years Back'?

A: God...I feel like I've changed. Do you know what I mean? I 
don't know...I hope I'm constantly changing, and that I'm not 
just stuck in one place, so all I can do is draw on that.

S: But I would think you're coming face to face with a lot of 
people who still see you as this 22 year old lesbian witch, and 
it might be difficult for some to disengage from that and really 
see you as the 29 year old who's making movies, writing books?.

A: Yeah...I mean, you hope that your fan base grows with you. 
That people that like what you do go, "Ooh! I like THAT thing she's 
doing now...and I like THAT thing she's doing now." Whether that 
happens or not, I don?t know. And some people, yeah, are going to 
be stuck. Some people were really, really distraught over the death 
of Tara, and they can't get beyond it. Do you know what I mean?

S: Oh, yes.

A: So, you just hope that people will grow with you. That's all you 
can do is hope...just do your thing and hope everybody is ready to 
accept you as a new person doing new things. But if not, then you 
hope that they have a really good DVD player and they can keep 
watching BUFFY. You know, so long as they're happy, that's all 
that matters. If that's what they want to see, then I'm all for them 
continuing that, and Amber will stay that for them. I'm perfectly 
okay with that; everybody has whatever it is inside them that 
makes them need different things.

Who am I to say what's better or worse? I think you have to 
grow...if you don't grow, you're dead. As long as you're growing, 
you find new things. And that's all you can do.

S: One last trip into the past here: In "The Body," Tara 
tantalizingly revealed that after her own mother's death, she "got 
a little wild." Fans wanna know:  in your own nefarious mind, what 
would 'Tara Gone Wild' encompass, and would there be a video?

A: Tara gone wild probably means she forgot to return a library book. 
Or she took the label off a mattress. Oh my God! Something stupid 
like that. I can't imagine she got too, uh...yeah, she's pretty laid 
back. She has trouble stepping on a bug.

S: It's interesting that a topic that seems to pop up on Little 
Willow's forum...

A: Allie's awesome!

S: ...is, how does Tara get her money? I suggested she found a 
pirate's chest of gold doubloons.

A: That's what it is! How did you guess?

S: Was it ever discussed on the set? Did you get to ask, "Hey, 
what does my character do for a living?"

A: You know, I always wondered that. And they could never 
think of an answer. I think she was there on a scholarship. 
That seems to be the...yeah, I think that's about as good as 
it's ever going to get. That's a Joss question...I'll leave that in 
his able hands.

S: Aww, but he just makes stuff up.

A: He does! He does just make stuff up, doesn't he? Yeah, 
he's a tease.

S: You're pursuing a multi-pronged career as Actress, Writer 
and Director. Do you expect to progress successfully at all three, 
or do you think one aspect of your career might take off far ahead 
of the others?

A: I'm hoping that the making movies part has the longevity...that's 
what I'd like to be doing, making movies ten years in the future. That's 
what I hope takes off, the ability to be a film maker...write, direct, act 
and do it all.

S: Lastly, but not leastly, are you at the point where you only think 
of yourself as an actress who writes, or do you now instinctively think 
of yourself as an Author?

A: I think of myself as an octopus, with many arms.

S: Amber Benson: The Big Giant Squid of Hollywood.

A: You got it! I'm telling 'em it came from you first.

S: Thank you so much for doing this.

A: I'm sure you can clean up anything I've said.

S: Just so you're clear, when I transcribe this, I'm pretty much 
just going to make myself look really good, and I'm just going to let 
you blather.

A: Oh, I'm screwed....