Celeb Spotlight: James Marsters

Age: 43
Hometown: Modesto, Calif.
Current gig: Playing Superman nemesis Brainiac on the WB’s Smallville

He likes a touch of evil
Marsters, who played the sexy-scary vampire Spike for seven seasons on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has no problem playing another bad guy. “I love doing villains – they’re good roles,” he says.

Still, his Smallville character – an evil android from Superman’s home planet of Krypton masquerading as Clark Kent’s political-science professor, Milton Fine – is a far cry from Spike. “(Brainiac) is like 500 IQ points above Einstein,” says Marsters. “Spike was much more instinctual. I was always playing Spike thinking things through kind of slowly.”

Marsters also dropped the English accent he had adopted to play Spike, as well as the trademark platinum hair. How did it feel to give up the bleach after so many years? “It felt great, man,” he says, laughing. “I could look in the mirror and I was like, ‘Hey, James, I remember you! I used to live with you a long time ago.’ ” He also gets recognized less: “With the white hair, I was like a light bulb. Not that you would immediately recognize me, but you’d spend the time to figure out who the freak was.”

He’ll always have Spike in his heart
In some ways, Marsters was relieved to leave his love-struck blood-sucker behind. “So much about Spike was loneliness and a view of the world that was, ‘The world is not really my friend,’ ” he says. “I didn’t really realize how much that rubbed off on me, but I have to say that, getting out of the role, I like coming back into the light.”

That’s not to say he wouldn’t revisit the role, although he doubts that the long-rumored TV movie about Spike will pan out. “(Buffy creator) Joss (Whedon) has said he has no plans to do anything, but if he ever got plans, would I be interested?” he says. “And I told him yeah. I said he had five years, because I’m not a vampire, and I am aging.”

One of Marsters’s favorite things about Spike? His legacy as a character on a show that united fans. “People come up to me in autograph lines at conventions and say, ‘I’ve got friends I’ve had for five years off this, my best friends now – thank you!’ ” he says.

He’s a long-distance lover
These days, the classically trained actor is in London performing his one-man show, Words & Music, which incorporates his own music (he played in the band Ghost of the Robot before going solo a year and a half ago, and recently released the album Civilized Man) with dialogue from Macbeth. “I love Shakespeare because you get to talk to the audience directly, and I love looking in people’s eyes,” he says. “People freak out a little bit in the beginning.”

Marsters has another connection in Europe as well: For about a year, he’s been dating a German college student whom he met while on tour with Ghost of the Robot. “I met her backstage and got her phone number, but then my jeans were cleaned out by the crew and they threw it out,” he says. “I’d given her my number, but she took down one digit wrong. It took her six months to call all of the different combinations.”

The overseas relationship has been a challenge (“We’re in different time zones, so it’s hard to even connect on the phone regularly”), but, he says, “I hope she has the patience to stick it out just a little while longer so she can get to know me.”

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