Slayer Lit Interview
Amber Benson Interview
"Iím sooooooo sorry!"
"I FORGET SOMETIMES THAT THIS IS WHAT I DO FOR A LIVING."
"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
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!
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
Amber: Thank you, I appreciate it. I'll try to refrain from too much
S: I don't know, that might excite people. Okay, let's get right to it.
S: At the age of six, you appeared in "The Nutcracker" with the Alabama
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.
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.
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.
S: I was just checking, and there's someone from
Azerbaijan right now selling photos of you...
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
S: Have you picked up any new comics which interest
A: You know, I've got to get "The Sandman." The Neil
S: Has he got something new coming out?
A: No, no, I've just never read any of them.
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
A: That's the one Chris Golden says I HAVE to
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
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:
S: Was it difficult to write Tara, or was it liberating
to put your own brand on the character in a new
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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
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
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
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
S: Is there any talk of getting the original BBCi work out on
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...
S: ...and she asks, how was touring for "Albion" to
promote it? Was it a different experience from your standard
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.
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,
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
S: Or better yet, someday you'll be known as 'Danielle
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
A: Oh, I'm screwed....
"Iím sooooooo sorry!"
"I FORGET SOMETIMES THAT THIS IS WHAT I DO FOR A LIVING."