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Writer-producer Tim Minear on directing `Darla`

Posted on November 13, 2000

" I said, 'You know what? That's a big fucking romance is what that is.' "


Tomorrow night, the WB airs the first big Buffy/Angel crossover event of the new television season with the episodes "Fool For Love" and "Darla." Both episodes go a long way in detailing the "origins" of Spike, Drusilla and Darla, with a heavy dose of Angel thrown in for good measure. The Angel portion of the event, "Darla," is written by supervising producer Tim Minear, who makes his directorial debut on the episode as well.

"Basically," he says with a smile, "I said, 'Can I direct one?' It fell as episode seven, so that's what I was scheduled to do. When we were trying to figure out what episode seven should be, it felt to me like it was time to get back to Darla. We had previously played the revelation that she is now human, and my feeling was, 'What does that mean for her?' The best way to explore that would be to see what she was as a human four hundred years ago before she was vamped, and possibly do kind of an origin piece of her. You can only do that so much, because it should really be her story with Angel throughout the 150 years that they were together. But I wanted to show her as a person and what that meant. Joss said, 'That's all well and good, except that very night we're doing a Spike origin episode.' I said, 'Why be afraid of that? Let's do both!'"

The key to tying the two shows together lay in the characters—Angel, Darla, Spike and Drusilla—who’ve naturally crossed paths at different times over the centuries. "What we decided to do was completely separate stories, although there would be natural instances in which the characters would cross paths," explains Minear. "So in Spike's story [on Buffy] you'll see scenes that will actually repeat in the Angel episode, but will be from a slightly different point of view. There are a few scenes in both that are not in each episode, and there is actually one point in history where they all came together. In the Spike episode, it has a particular meaning for Spike, but in the Angel episode we discover that there were pieces in Buffy that make it mean something else.'

Minear views this storytelling approach as being akin to the one taken by writer-director Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction. "Pulp Fiction starts off in that coffee shop with Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer," recounts Minear. "And at the end of the movie we're in this coffee shop with John Travolta and Sam Jackson, and we see Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer in a booth across the way and they're having the conversation they had at the beginning of the movie, and we realize that this is the same time and place. It's a different story happening in the same universe."

In exploring what he brings to an episode as a director rather than just a writer, Minear offers, "I think what I bring to it is an innate understanding of what the scenes are about, and I think that worked out well in terms of my interaction with the cast. I didn't have to second-guess and figure out what the producers wanted, since not only was I a producer but I wrote it. Basically I got [the actors] to where I wanted them to be very quickly, and I know that David Boreanaz really appreciated that. Not that they weren't bringing out things that I hadn't even envisioned, because that's certainly happened. Julie [Benz, who plays Darla] and David are amazingly good together.'

Their chemistry came as no surprise to Minear. "I had seen episode five and when she says to him, 'We were together for 150 years,' that was also part of how I got the idea for episode seven. I said, 'You know what? That's a big fucking romance is what that is.' A hundred-and-fifty years of being with somebody, that's what I call having a history. But at no time was I trying to play this as being Angel's true love. It's more like the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe; this troubled, old married couple with secrets. I wasn't trying to take Buffy's place in his heart by any stretch of the imagination. But here's a guy who's been around for a couple of hundred years before he ever met Buffy and certainly he was shaped in some way. So we just tried to explore that a little bit."

Minear has made a habit of exploring Angel's background in a number of episodes that aired during the first season, and in year two's second episode, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?" That story takes place largely in the 1950s in the hotel that, in the present, has become Angel and company's new headquarters. Back then, though, it seems to be a magnet for lost souls, who ultimately end up providing sustenance to a demon that has taken up residence there. The Angel we meet in this story lies somewhere between the one living on the streets in Romania and the one who was found by the demon Whistler during a flashback sequence on Buffy. As such, although he does reach out to help someone in the episode, it doesn't take much to push him out of that light.

"He's cynical, I-don't-get-involved guy, and I thought that was a very interesting place to be," says Minear. "The fact that it's a series now and not just a character on the show, it's more meaningful. We've been accused of a lot of retconning—retroactive continuity—by the fans, who say, "We all know Angel was living on the streets of New York in the early 1990s when Whistler came to him." I believe he was, but I don't believe he was thrown out of that room in Romania by Darla in 1898 and has been on the street ever since. What you'll discover in 'Darla' is that he went back to her. He says to her, 'I still believe I can be what I was if you just give me another chance.'"

"You have to be true to what's there and try not to contradict it. This is probably a really bad example given it's the same genre, but [author] Anne Rice has been very successful at doing that. You read Interview with a Vampire and it is so clearly Louis' story, then you read The Vampire Lestat and you get a much different picture of who Lestat was. It's not that it doesn't match Interview, but now it's this guy's story. I don't think it's retconning at all. You can choose to tell a story from any particular point of view, and depending on the point of view you're telling the story from, that's what it's going to be. So what I was saying was that in the 1950s, that was the beginning of his descent into the streets."

This article originally appeared at Fandom.com.

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