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Acker Opens The Dollhouse Door

Once you’re in the Jossverse, it’s hard to escape, Amy Acker has discovered. Not that you’d really want to. There are worse things than being associated with Joss Whedon, the writer-director-producer whose cultlike fanbase worships his creations: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and the upcoming Fox SF series Dollhouse.

When Acker, who played Winifred “Fred” Burkle on Angel for three years, heard that Whedon was developing Dollhouse, she naturally wanted in.

Co-created with Eliza Dushku, another Whedon veteran, Dollhouse centers around a secret organization that programs specially modified humans–known as “dolls”–with temporary memories and personalities suited to different assignments. Acker plays the role of Dr. Claire Saunders, the caretaker of the dolls, who has a mysterious past of her own. The role was originally written for a woman in her 40s or 50s, but Whedon ultimately decided to adapt it for Acker based on his experience working with her and their ongoing friendship.

Acker spoke with SCI FI Wire exclusively in a phone interview last week and talked about reuniting with Whedon, with a peek at what Jossverse fans can expect from the new series. Dollhouse is set for a January premiere on Fox and will air Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

How did you get involved in the show?

Acker: Joss is also one of my very best friends since Angel, so he had told us about Dollhouse, and I kept telling him how jealous I was of Eliza and all the other people. And he was like, “Yeah, I wish I could write a show for my friends.” And then about a week or something before they shot the pilot, my husband picked up the phone and was like, “Joss wants to know if you’re going to come do the thing for Dollhouse.” And I was like, “What? What’s he talking about?” And this character sort of came in later.

So it wasn’t originally written for you?

Acker: Originally it was going to be an older woman, like in her 40s or 50s. And then I think he was worried about having a crossover between Buffy or Angel and this, and then finally he just said, “Ultimately I kind of thought you were the right person for it.” So they brought me on. And I was like, “Um, thank you,” because I was asking if I could do makeup or wardrobe or something. I just wanted to be a part of it. It sounded really cool.

Tell us about your role.

Acker: I’m the doctor who takes care of all of the dolls in the Dollhouse, and I have these horrible scars all over my face, so you get the sense that there’s a little history to my character, and you’re going to find out what happened to her and why she got these and why she kept them and all of that stuff.

So she’s a bit mysterious?

Acker: Yes. I’m always hiding in the shadows. It’s a really fun character.

How similar is it in tone to Buffy and Angel?

Acker: It’s hard to say. We’re only on the second episode now. I definitely see some similarities, just because most of the writers are people who were on Buffy or Angel or Alias [in which Acker also had a role, as an assassin] or all of those shows. So they all have such a familiarity. They’re all really familiar with each other, and they all just write so well together. It’ll be a little bit different, but I think the stuff that people love about the writing is all going to be there.

Is there a lot of humor in it, or is it a more straightforward drama?

Acker: The great thing about it is that it can really be anything. There’s going to be some dramatic stuff, and then I think episode three or four should be really just kind of a farce, the whole thing. It’s really going to switch between all different kinds of stuff, which is great for the actors, because if you’re going to be on the show for a number of years, you can’t ever get tired of your character, because it’s always changing.

Your character doesn’t get as much variety as the dolls do, though.

Acker: Yeah, but it never seems like Joss’ characters are really boring anyways. Even if I’m not a doll, I still get to do all sorts of cool stuff.

You’ve done quite a few science fiction and fantasy projects. Are you naturally attracted to that?

Acker: I enjoy doing it, because I think you really get to be imaginative and you get to do stuff that’s not in real time and something that’s totally different. It’s something you would never get to experience. I think it’s fun to just take it to that whole other level.

Source: SCI FI Wire