Most probably remember actress Eliza Dushku as the ass-kicking, vampire slaying Faith on the long-running Joss Whedon hit, Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Though Dushku has retired her wooden stake, she has teamed up with Whedon once again for the new Fox series Dollhouse, a project she and Whedon created together. Dushku plays Echo, a member of a secret group nicknamed “actives” who have their identities programmed for specific assignments (fantasies, crimes etc.) and then have their memories wiped clean soon after.
The role is a welcome departure for Dushku who has typically been cast as a tough ball buster over the years. While the Boston native is still true to her roots, talking Sox and Celtics to our photographer during our shoot at the W Westwood, Dushku is happy to add a new dimension to her work as an actress and even to her career since she is also a producer of the series. Dushku took a moment to tell us more.
How did Dollhouse come about? I read that you and Joss Whedon came up with the idea over
lunch. Is that really what happened?
It is. Joss and I have been buddies since back in the Buffy days, and I was 17. He quickly became a big brother, mentor and ally and we’ve stayed friends over the years. When I was trying to figure out what to do next in my career and what projects I wanted to do I met with Fox and they expressed interest in developing a show together so we worked out a year-long film and television development deal. I called Joss about a week later and asked him to go to lunch and somewhere in the four-hour lunch we came up with the idea for the show.
Were always interested in sci-fi or is that something that has developed because of your friendship with Whedon?
I was interested in the sci-fi genre through Joss and through Buffy. Once I was in it and once I understood it and could see what a multi-dimensional and metaphorical world it was, I was hooked. When we came up with the idea for Dollhouse, I did specify to him that I wanted to play a character that was human, who didn’t have superpowers, but who could be someone different every day. It relates to the universal theme of searching for our true identities. There’s so much stimulus in the world today whether it be technology, the Internet or pharmaceuticals, it’s like we are constantly trying to play with who and what we are so the science fiction is actually not too far off of what is going on today.
Dress by Moschino, Earrings and charm necklace by Belle Style, Bracelets by Swarovski,
Beaded necklace by Virgins Saints and Angels, Ring by Guy and Eva
When you’re playing a character like Echo where you have to have your identity changed in every episode, is that a bigger challenge as an actor?It’s unbelievably challenging at times, but it’s also so much fun. It’s exactly what I asked for from Joss. I wanted to show these parts of me that hadn’t been seen or that I hadn’t been given the opportunity to show in other parts of my career. I have sort have been typecast as this strong, young woman, which I wasn’t opposed to. I can think of much worse things to be typecast as, but there was also a vulnerability and womanliness that was coming through me and Joss saw that and wanted to give me a chance to show other people as well.
You’re also a producer on Dollhouse. What made you want to branch off from acting and try your hand at producing?
It’s definitely an added element that I really enjoy. I’m in this business to tell stories and for so many years it’s just been in one direction and the past couple years I realize I have the resources and the desire to get behind the camera as well and tell stories and be involved in the whole process. My brother also is an actor and he and I just started a production company, Boston Diva Productions. He’s my co-producer and co-CEO so we’re going to now be acting and producing our own things and doing it ourselves.
Like Faith on Buffy, Echo is also a very physical role. Is that something you tend to go for in your projects?I love the physical! I was raised with three big brothers as a tomboy in Boston. Even from my first days on Buffy, I was ready to jump in the action. I’m always ready to jump in and fight with the boys and the girls.
Speaking of Boston, do you think being a tough Bostonian has given you an edge in what can sometimes be a pretty brutal industry?
I think so just in the sense that Boston is such a melting pot. My father was a first-generation Albanian immigrant and he grew up in the Southend and my mother was there from Idaho and became a political science professor at Suffolk University, one of the most culturally diverse universities in the country. There are so many people from so many walks of life and you never know who you’re going to meet so you have to be ready for anything.
Now that you’re in L.A. full-time do you miss Boston a lot?Boston is where I come alive. It’s home to me, and I have so much support. I drive through the toll on the Mass pike and I have people going, “Hey Eliza! Welcome home! We’re watching your show!”
How did you wind up in acting in the first place?
I tripped and fell at my brother’s audition when I was nine and they asked me to go on camera and I got my first lead role in an independent Warner film.
Dress by Pamela Rolland, Necklace by Raquel Hirth for Rockelle Jewelry, Blue ring by Swarovski,
Gold and silver ring by Virgins Saints and Angels
Do you have a preference between TV and film either as an actor or producer?It all comes down to the writing. I’ve learned, “if it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.” Wherever you can get the best material is where you want to be.
How do you manage to balance starring on a show that you are also producing and overseeing your own production company?My whole family has embraced our A.D.D. since we were born. My mother is a pretty amazing woman herself. She was a single mom and she raised four kids herself and was a professor so we’ve learned that where there’s a will there’s a way. I’m a worker bee at heart.
Any interest to direct?I’m just going to take it as it comes.
By Jillian Gordon
Photos by Bobby Quillard (www.quillardphoto.com)
Photo Assistant: Casper Brindle
Styling by April Steiner, Exclusive Artists Management
Makeup by Carola Gonzalez, The Wall Group
Hair by Vito Trotta
Location: The W Hotel, Westwood