Why Buffy's writer is deadbeat

Joss Whedon sounds exhausted, and considering his workload at the moment, it’s little wonder.

Joss Whedon sounds exhausted, and considering his workload at the moment, it’s little wonder.

After seven years, the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer has just completed work on the big ending that will put that hit series to rest.

Simultaneously, he’s been penning the Buffy off-shoot, Angel, drawing up plans for yet another spin-off that will be called Ripper and nurturing another new series, Firefly.

And when he returns home at night there’s little chance of a respite – for, five months ago, Whedon become a dad for the first time.

The writer lives in Los Angeles with textile and interior designer Kai Cole and their little boy, Arden, was born in December.

Although he’s not keen on eventually having a small army of children running around the house, Whedon, 38, doesn’t rule out the possibility of more kids.

“I wouldn’t say he’s the first of many,” he says. “There may be another.”

It’s too early to tell whether young Arden will follow in his dad’s footsteps and become a writer, but considering his family tree, it’s highly likely.

Back in the 1950s, John Whedon set the ball rolling by writing for The Donna Reed Show

His son Tom penned classic episodes of The Golden Girls in the 1980s and by the time Joss came along, there was no surprise when he took to TV writing like a duck to water.

Taking inspiration from father and grandfather, Whedon worked on sitcoms such as Roseanne and a small screen version of Parenthood.

His script for the 1992 movie Buffy The Vampire Slayer was eventually snapped up, and although the movie flopped, Whedon decided to give the idea of a cheerleading demon-killer one more go.

He helped turn it into one of the biggest cult smashes since The X Files.

His latest series is Firefly, a gritty science fiction drama which has just begun showing in the UK on the Sci-Fi Channel.

A rough and ready saga of space travellers coping with faulty machinery and personal problems, it has the feel of Buffy mixed with elements of other cult shows such as Babylon 5 and Star Trek.

But despite being one of the most powerful writers and directors in Hollywood, Whedon has found making the new show succeed has been harder than expected.

Indeed, it was axed in the US with three episodes left to run.

The series had not been shown in America in the order Whedon had originally wanted (the episodes will be transmitted as he planned them in the UK) and he confesses he felt one emotion when he heard the show had been cancelled in the States – “blinding rage”.

“You know I was not a good match for the network. I don’t really think they believed it emotionally and so a lot of weird things happened. It was a very hard time. I thought it was a case of I was making one thing and they were making another.”

He continues: “I tend to make cult shows. I’m not going to make ER and get all of America watching, but at the same time the fans care about the show.

"They care about it deeply and are loyal and it thrives in lots of different ways.”

Not one to give up easily, Whedon is keen to give Firefly another go in America if he can get the backing.

But when it comes to Buffy, the show that made his name, Whedon is happy to quit while he’s ahead and give the series a rest.

“There’s something about the process that grinds away at people,” he confesses.

“Even if there are still more stories to tell and they all have good energy, seven years without relief, it begins to show.

“I didn’t want to keep going and keep going. I didn’t want it to putter out. I want it to go out on a bang and boy, do we. The last episode is not small.”

Five episodes lead up to the finale and when Buffy ends later this month in the States, he still has Angel to keep him busy and Ripper in the pipeline.

Ripper is designed as a vehicle for Anthony Stewart Head, the Manchild star who achieved cult status thanks to his role as Buffy’s spiritual guardian, Rupert Giles.

“I realised that what I’d like to do is put something together that’s really about a character and his own personal ghosts rather than a Columbo kind of thing,” says Whedon.

“I’m thinking about Ripper in terms of a two-hour show with the possibility of it being a pilot.

"But I’d like it to be self-contained enough to just be a story about Giles because he’s the character I’m interested in.

" It could be TV movies or it could be a series in the grand British tradition instead of 22,” he sighs.

“I’m a little bit exhausted.”

Sleepless nights looking after little Arden would account for that. As for his other ‘baby’, Buffy could return sometime in the future.

“I like the idea of her coming back,” he says

. “The way things are, anything can happen. I definitely think there are more stories to be told but I feel that everyone wants to chill and go their own way for a while and then we’ll see what happens.”

Even if Buffy doesn’t return, there’s no sign of Whedon giving up the day job just yet.

“Writing is in my blood or my lymph or something. All I know is that I can’t stop.”

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