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Whedon Need No Stinkin’ <i>Dollhouse</i> Interview!

The March 20th episode of Dollhouse is the fabled sixth episode, the one in which everything supposedly changes and the series really kicks into high gear. Angel has already told us her impressions of it, but now we have a lot of questions about the rest of the season -- luckily, show creator Joss Whedon was standing by to take our conference call, and play defense on a bunch of questions about sex, dolls and Dollhouse Season 4.

Obviously, the primary reason for the Dollhouse to exist is weird sexual engagements, but the first five episodes only touched on that a little. Was that a choice because you're on network TV, or did you just want to wait to get to that place?
Joss Whedon:
Some people at the network definitely said, "Well, wait a minute -- this idea that we've bought is illegal and very racy and frightens us!" That, for me, was frustrating, because I was telling them it was dangerous ground, and it was meant to be. That's not to say that the only thing I pitched them was "Echo has sex." I thought of her as a kind of life coach, the person you absolutely need in your life at a certain moment, who will either change you or comfort you or take your life to the level that you want it to be. And that could be something nice, evil, sexual... It could be any number of things. It was never just meant to be the one. The one sort of took over because it's the one that frightens people the most and also, obviously, interests them the most. So, yes, I think we ended up not going there as much as we would have in the first few episodes, because we were still in that dialog with some of the people at the network. You end up doing a disservice if you just sort of gloss over it and never hit it head-on. Having said that, I still have no problem with the idea that somebody very rich and very far off in the mountains would hire the perfect midwife, because -- the birth of my child? You don't want a thinker.

Some of the Whedonites are still looking for the snappy banter and/or pop-culture references that have been the hallmark of your previous shows. Do those have a place in Dollhouse?
Whedon:
There is humor in the show -- there's a lot in the episode after "Man on the Street" -- but the fact of the matter is, this is not a comedy. If there is a typical Whedon show, this is not it. It's not the lighthearted romp that the other shows were. It's not going to play that instrument. You have to do different things at different times. If people are feeling like it's too serious, then either their expectations have to be changed, or we need to lighten up a little. There's definitely funny stuff coming up, but, I don't think they're ever going to see the same sort of long, six-page runs of just pure humor. This is not that show.

Boyd seems the most sympathetic and moralistic of the characters who work for the Dollhouse. Will we learn a little more about why is he working there? In some ways, it's hard to understand why he does the job in the first place.
Whedon:
It is hard, and we keep asking the question. I will tell you without reservation that, in this season, we don't answer it. Way before we had it cast or even written, I had a feeling I knew what had happened with Boyd. There was a line from an episode that ultimately wasn't even filmed, where he talks to Saunders: "None of us in here were next in line for Pope. Everybody has a reason." Rolling out how people came to this place is part of something we wanted to do a little bit later on, when we have people invested in the characters enough to be asking.

There's been a lot of fan speculation as to whether any of the people we know as staff members could possibly be dolls. Is that something you've thought about?
Whedon:
Yes, we talked about that -- the different possibilities that we could tweak, the pasts that people have, and how many layers of unreality you can have in somebody's identity. And, to an extent, we get very excited. We have to pull ourselves back and say, "If we make this a lie within a lie within a lie within a lie, people are just going to start slapping us." Like, now they're not invested in anybody. So we've talked about it, but we've been very restrained with the concept, because you have to have some touchstone of reality, even in this world.

If the possibility of dolls within the Dollhouse staff exists, is that going to prevent us from seeing what, say, Topher does outside of the Dollhouse? Are you handcuffed, as far as showing that stuff?
Whedon:
We're not handcuffed. It's just that at this point, we're still interested in how they relate to our actives and particularly Eliza. So we don't spend a lot of time with people in their outside lives, although we do spend some. We will learn a little something about the private lives of some of our employees, but it's something we're threading in lightly. That's really something you would come to later in a season. Our first 13 [episodes] are basically just, "take the baseball bat and keep on hitting." And then later on, if you have people hooked, those threads are easier to weave in, because people are more invested. But at this point, we're just swinging for the bleachers, emotionally.

Amy Acker's character, Dr. Saunders, is just a cloud of misery. Are we going to learn more about her?
Whedon:
Yes, we sure are. I love that character, not just because it's Amy Acker, but because she wears misery and torture on her face -- literally. We will definitely learn how she came to this fabulous career. In the last few episodes, we get to turn the Acker up pretty hot, and it's very exciting.

Are we going to learn how Paul came to be so obsessed with Caroline and the Dollhouse? Is that something we would learn in a season one?
Whedon:
We don't really go back into his story in the first season, the first of so many seasons that there will inevitably be.

But season four, though, for sure?
Whedon:
Oh, yes, totally -- season four is like a whole two-parter. We're about to send him forward in ways he doesn't he expect. We feel like there's a thorn in his side, and we feel that we can push it further and twist it and possibly hit a vital organ. We want to make it as hard for him as possible to explain himself, why he's doing what he's doing.

Any other Whedon alumni slated to appear on the show?
Whedon:
Well, I did mention that Felicia Day was going to appear in an episode, and that's pretty much it for Buffy. Most of them are, I'm happy to say, working. I do like to see the gang, but we have to establish to reality of this world before we can bring in somebody without it being too jarring. Although we have one episode with a guy who looks a lot like Nick Brendon, and his character's name is "Nicholas" and that was a terrible idea. We should have never named him Nicholas, because every time I see his footage, I go, "Hey, wait a minute! Oh, I'm confused."

We learn tonight that there are other Dollhouses out there, are we going to see any of them?
Whedon:
We do get to see one of the higher-ups, and we talk about the other Dollhouses. We didn't want to do an Italian Wolfram & Hart gag, where we just use the same set and fill it with Italians. It's one of my favorite things we ever did, but that's because Angel was a lot sillier. So as the economy started to take a toll on our budget, that and the fact that we'd thrown out our pilot, we hunkered down. So, no, you will not see Dollhouse Tokyo this season, but, boy, I'd like to.

We'll save that for when the show starts franchising itself.
Whedon:
That's what I'm thinking.

Dollhouse New York.
Whedon:
Dollhouse Miami. [Does David Caruso impersonation] "It looks like we" -- glasses off -- "have got a doll."

Yeeeeaaaaaahhhhh! What do you think about the new episode? And would you watch Dollhouse Miami? Let us know below, then read Angel's reaction to the sixth and seventh episodes.

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