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<i>Dollhouse</i>: Nobody Puts Eliza Dushku in a Corner

Eliza Dushku is a living doll. ...You know, if the dolls you're used to have downloadable personalities that turn them into killers, thieves and sexual role-players. As Echo, one of an illegal group of "actives" in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, Dushku gets a new personality every week. But as the second season gets started, we'll see her default "Echo" personality plan and scheme based on what she's learned from the various personas that have passed through her head (including her original, pre-Dollhouse identity, Caroline). We sat in on a conference call with Dushku as she talked about what her character would be up to this season, and how it is working with Whedon, the writers and new castmate Summer Glau.

TWoP: How do you feel the direction of this season is different from the last one?
Dushku:
Well, there's so much being cracked open and explored, especially with Echo having this new place that she's in, in terms of what we picked up from last year. She had all of the personalities downloaded into her in one swift punch, and they're not going away. So every pick-up this year, she's still tapping into these personalities. Sometimes it's not in her control, and other times it is. But, overall, she's just really absorbing things from her engagements, and from the Dollhouse, and she's really becoming self-aware, not necessarily as Caroline, but as Echo, as her own person. So it's definitely complicated. It's a little darker all around. We'll explore the origins of some of the other dolls and the other characters and then bring in a bunch of guest stars, so there's a lot of exciting stuff happening with those things as well.

What trouble with Echo run into this season?
Dushku:
I'm sure every kind and all kinds, because it's a Joss Whedon show. I mean, we're starting episode seven, and there are so many directions and so many layers, and it's all over the map. Of course, a main story line is Agent Ballard, who spent last season trying to get into the Dollhouse, and now that he's in and Echo's handler, he's working with her, and they may possibly be trying to bring the Dollhouse down from the inside out. Also, we get some backstory for Dell and her superiors, and other Dollhouses around the country and around the world, just to give you an idea of how big the Rossum Corporation is. And Summer Glau will join us and play a programmer from the D.C. Dollhouse, and we'll get an idea of the way the other houses are being run.

In episode three, you're imprinted with the personality of a college student. Now does that trigger any memories of Caroline's?
Dushku:
It does. You'll have to watch the show. I definitely start out as a college girl, but when an imprint goes haywire, I spend more of the episode -- I think it's more serial killer than sorority girl. Also, I don't think Caroline was a sorority girl. She's a college kid, but far from who Caroline was.

You and Summer shot a promo last year, when your two shows were fighting for the last spot in the lineup, and now she's a part of your show. What's the dynamic like between you and her?
Dushku:
She's great. I love her. We've had such a good time the last two episodes. She's just come in with her A game, and she's just a sweet, positive, fun actress. You know, she's great to play off of. Our characters have some backstory that we have to fight out, so that's a lot of fun, and anyone that's from Joss' past, and he's bringing back, I assume he had a great working relationship with them. He wouldn't bring any bad eggs into our house, so I always can pretty much safely know that we're going to have the cream of the crop coming in.

How much closer will Echo get to rediscovering her true self this season?
Dushku:
I mean, every single episode, it's been a little bit more. We're on 7 now, and we have 13, and this episode that we're doing, we've been building; we've been building. And we have a real kind of -- a really extreme-- I'm scared to say too much because the feeling I get when I read these scripts and I get the surprise of what's next, I would never want to ruin for the viewers. But she really is becoming an entirely different character in many ways, because she is getting farther away from Caroline, even though Caroline is still the initial, her original self. So Caroline is in there, but I think she starts to realize there are things about Caroline that she's discovering are unsavory, or that are not Echo. The development of the character of Echo has just been so exciting and so fascinating, because the way our writers and the way Joss can pick pieces from each of her experiences and weave them into this new character is just fascinating. So you'll absolutely see a whole new Echo this season who is the sum of all the parts that she has been.

Do you guys pay attention to the blog sites and what the fans are saying when you're coming up with like how to shape the episodes and the series?
Dushku:
I know that Joss and I, we've always paid attention to the fan love, and we love the fans right back, absolutely. But I don't know how much he takes tips from storylines from the fans. I mean, on the contrary, from what I've seen, when he sees someone falling in love with a character, he's been known to assassinate them or do something terrible. So I think, maybe that's a blessing in itself, so maybe yes. But he definitely has a mind of his own. Within the group of writers, they aren't really conformists, I can confidently say. So whether it's fans or critics or studios, for that matter, they do their best work when they're left alone, and they reveal things when they feel they should be revealed -- and that goes for me and the other actors as well. Sometimes it's really exciting for me. I don't necessarily want to know what's going to happen in three episodes, because it may affect the way I'm playing Echo today. And that thrill, that adrenaline from reading the next chapter and the next layer that Joss brings in is one of the most exhilarating things that I know as an actress.

Is there a particular role or character in an upcoming episode that you're going to play that was hard for you to get into?
Dushku:
Well, I'll tell you, playing a mother was certainly something I hadn't expected. I'm an auntie, and I've always loved other people's children and babies, but playing a mother and trying to tap into that maternal instinct was a challenge, but also a thrill, and a beautiful thing, so you'll have to let me know how you think I did after this week's episode. Mother was harder than serial killer sorority girl, I can tell you that. Maybe that tells you something about me. Also, trying to breastfeed someone else's baby is difficult. I'll just leave it at that. When you're not an actual mother, trying to breastfeed a baby is harder than it looks.

They just released a film that you did called Open Graves, that kind of flew in under the radar. Can you kind of tell us a little bit about it?
Dushku:
I shot Open Graves about 2.5 years ago, and we shot the movie in Spain. There are some times movies don't come together at the pace or with the expectation that was initially intended, so I actually haven't even seen the movie. It premiered on Syfy the weekend I was in Italy, but I have yet to even watch it on my TiVo. It was a cool experience. I was interested in working with the director, who had worked very closely with Pedro Almodovar, and I thought the script had some interesting and different sci-fi horror twists to it. And I enjoy working in that genre. It never quite gelled into the movie that sort of I had anticipated, but you know, it happens. You keep going. You don't quit. I certainly won't quit horror forever.

Dollhouse airs tonight at 9/8C on Fox. To see what Mr. Whedon has to say about the new season, click here!

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