LA Times (2009)
Amy Acker is a favorite among Whedonites (followers of Joss Whedon) for her role as Fred Burkle and Illyria on “Angel,” and also co-starring in an influential arc on the show “Alias.” Joss woke up and “smelled the Acker” — he said it, not me! — and rewrote a character on his new venture “Dollhouse” for the actress. Doing one-episode stints on shows such as “Ghost Whisperer,” “Private Practice,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” and more, Acker was ready to fall back into the comfortable confines of Whedon witticisms, supported by a crew filled with familiar faces.
So, you are Dr. Saunders. What are your duties in the Dollhouse?
I’m there to take care of all the dolls. I seem to be the multi-purpose doctor, since I’m the only one there. I’ve done some stitches, some Band-Aids and some psychological counseling. It’s a fun job because I get to see everybody and do a little of everything. And I feel like I’m there to keep the morality of the Dollhouse in check.
How tough of a job is that with apparently shady characters like Olivia Williams’ Adele DeWitt?
Yeah, she seems a bit nasty sometimes. No, I think you never know what anyone’s objective is there: if they’re doing what they think is right or what the right thing really is. It’s hard to navigate what is right in this world.
How different is your character from Fred in ‘Angel’?
Whenever I’m doing scenes with Topher or Franz’s character, I think, “Hey, that’s like Fred.” He’s always thinking and just moving around. Dr. Saunders is totally direct and focused and always knows what she wants. It was a hard transition to not be the silly, eccentric one.
When Joss originally wrote the doctor character, it was supposed to be an older person, I think. What do you think about re-teaming with him and the fact that he had you in mind for a role?
Well, I think the only part of that you’re missing is me calling him up and saying, “Why can’t I be on the show!’ … Anytime I hear he’s doing anything, I’m like, “I’ll do craft services. I don’t care, whatever … can I be your assistant?” He’s just such a great person and so talented, and it’s fun to watch people bring the words he writes to life…. He’s just so good at choosing amazing writers and an amazing cast without any drama, and everybody gets along.
What did you think of the Dollhouse when you first stepped on the set?
Mainly it was jealousy. I was like, “I have to go home, and my house isn’t even close to as nice as this.” They just did a great job, and it makes you feel so relaxed. It’s all designed as this Japanese spa, and it’s like you’re at peace when you’re there. It seems to lower the stress level.
If you were a doll or an ‘active,’ what kind of mission would you like to be programmed to go on?
I was pitching to Joss that I would like to … well, I’ve always been obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. So I was thinking, “What if someone was obsessed with Audrey Hepburn, and they wanted me to be her!” That was my idea. Didn’t happen.
When you first got the call, how did you react and prepare for what you’d have to do?
When I first got the call, I was in the shower and my husband said, “Joss said he’s sending over a script.” And I said ‘What?!?’ … Mainly I was in shock, then I just got really excited. Then I got to go over and hang with Joss and he told me what the character was supposed to be…. You know, with new shows, they’re figuring stuff out, then you see an episode and you’re like, “Oh, this is where I’m supposed to go.”
Being Fred, then Illyria, on ‘Angel,’ you had to switch personalities, so can you kind of empathize with the dolls?
I think it’s the best job on TV for all those guys. Just the ability to change the way you look and you get to do different things and you’re not stuck just interrogating someone. Even the people who aren’t dolls are put in such different situations. One episode’s a comedy or one’s really sad. Working with Joss is the best thing for an actor.
What would be the thing that you’d most want to do in your career?
I really like television, and I haven’t done a whole slew of movies or anything, but I’ve been lucky with “Alias” and “Angel” and “Dollhouse” now, just working with a group for an extended period of time, to learn and grow with a character. To me, television is where it’s at.
There seem to be some obvious similarities among ‘Angel,’ ‘Alias’ and ‘Dollhouse.’
For “Angel,” more of the similarities have to do with the people involved. All of the crew is all from “Angel,” so walking on the set I would say, “Where’s Alexis [Denisof]? Where’s J [August Richards]?” … The quality of the writing is there, but the premise is so much different.
For “Alias,” I guess … the similarities would be the dolls getting to be all different kinds of people, and then Jennifer [Garner] was amazing in being in so many different roles, having to also change her appearance and personality, she was just fantastic.
Regressing. Do you follow your ‘Angel’ character’s evolution in the comic books?
No. I’ve seen a couple, but no, I don’t really follow it. What am I doing?
Well, you just almost destroyed all of creation with Gunn (J. August Richards).
Oh, no. Oh well, at least I’m not alone.
Yeah. Speaking of character progression … as the show went on, did your ‘Dollhouse’ character go where you envisioned?
I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s pretty amazing how far the show goes. You definitely go way further than you’d ever think from the first episode to the last. It’s exciting, and I hope everyone watches until the end because they get more and more exciting.