Eliza Dushku’s faithful fans have followed her from project to project, and she wants them to know she thinks they’re “the dopest.”
The 33-year-old actress had gathered those devotees over her long history with genre projects, from her earliest role in True Lies through her time in the Whedonverse with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Dollhouse to her voice work on such animated characters as Catwoman and the She-Hulk.
She returns once again to her genre roots with The Scribbler, a dark sci-fi thriller based on the 2006 Image Comics graphic novel by Daniel Schaffer. Arriving today in select theaters and on iTunes, director John Suits’ film stars Katie Cassidy (Arrow, Supernatural) as Suki, a young woman who attempts to “cure” her mental illness using an experimental machine designed to eliminate multiple personalities. But as she comes closer to reaching her goal, she wonders: What if the final unwanted identity turns out to be hers?
As Dushku also makes the move from Hollywood back to her native Boston to pursue her studies in sociology, she spoke with Spinoff Online, making one thing clear: Her fans are always welcome to let their freak flags fly high when she’s around.
Spinoff Online: What was the first thing about this project that kind of got its hooks in you and made you say, “This is something I want to be a part of”?
Eliza Dushku: I think the script was the first obvious thing. I was just intrigued by the adaptation from the graphic novel, and it was interesting that the graphic novel itself had the hand in bringing it to a screenplay. And the guys involved, I think, were really interesting, and I liked the mission that they laid out for how they wanted to bring it to life. When I initially read the script, actually, I don't know if it was just habit or what, but I was looking at the movie through the Suki lens and through that role. And when I went in and met with them, they already had the already amazing Katie Cassidy in mind for Suki, and me for Jennifer Silk. And I kind of stepped back and had to re-conceptualize the whole story through her eyes, and I actually found it to be a really cool and different role in a movie like this for me.
What was the key to playing her? What did you figure out about her that made it work for you?
I think the key was the connection to, and with, Suki, because they're sitting at opposite sides of the table in so many ways, it really calls on Silk to try and get in her head and try to heal. She really had listened to her, and she really had to sort of understand. And I think that relationship between the two women was really key to the story. They come from seemingly such different places, and they're sitting at opposite sides of the table looking like such different women. But I think they're connected, and that's where the story was interesting to me.
As you look around for different new challenges in your career, what are you thinking about, in general, these days?
That's a good question. It's always changing, you know. I mean, two years ago I got really hooked on, “I want to do broad comedy!” And I started to try to seek out really specific comedy friends and people and writers, and then I sort of had some experiences there and I loved it. I've done comedy in my past, I've done a lot of dramatic stuff, and I've always said it's one of those grass-is-always-greener kind of scenarios. When you're on a comedy, you're like, “Oh, God, I want to do something serious!” When you're on a drama, you'd do anything for a laugh. But now, I just feel like I'm into just opening it up and exploring, and it's all about the people you're working with. I love the collaboration part of this most, and the selfish, me, “What do I want to do, who do I want to play?” least because I think that's when you don't get the magic and the connection and the humanity. So I think I'm really open and at the same time, I'm stepping back a little bit because I just started university last week. I moved back to Boston to go to school, so I'm interested in living a little bit of a different life and then seeing where my entry point is, if there is one for me.
In our past conversations, I've always gotten the impression that you really worked at keeping a professional and personal balance in your life. Going back to school – what prompted that for you?
It's just, “Stop talking about something and do it,” which has always been my motto anyway, but I was enrolled in university before I signed on to Buffy, and ended up withdrawing from school 15 years ago and to go out, to do Buffy, and ended up moving out to L.A. And my mother was a college professor, and I feel like sort of led me and shaped me into who I am. I mean, she traveled the world, with myself and my three brothers growing up, and the whole thing was to share people's stories. And I think that's sort of the accident that was me becoming an actor, but I always knew that I wanted to do something else. But I've been – no regrets – really grateful for the career that I've had. And who knows what the future holds, but it's always been important to me that I get my degree and really learn, fill in the holes, so to speak, of having an education about people and about sociology and about service, I feel.
I hope you have a great time back in school.
Thank you! I'm a super-nerd. I'm like the most enthusiastic kid in the class [laughs]. I'm a 33-year-old freshman, super-loud and proud, and I don't know if anybody loves school more than me. I get super-excited.
This movie, coming from a graphic novel, certainly fits the fan base of the people I'm writing for, and you've had a lot of success in genre projects throughout your career, and a lot of fans that have followed you from project to project because of that. What has that meant to you?
It means everything to me. I just can't say enough how much I – my relationship with my fans is one of just ultimate gratitude. I love going to the comic conventions and meeting the fans. I think I've got some of the dopest fans. They're like kinky, freaky-smart, cool, just thought-provoking, awesome humans. So I love whatever path that I sort of – I don't know if I consciously decided on a path. My projects all sort of came together, and of course, being a part of the Joss Whedon universe, blessed me with this mass of people internationally. That they connect. They feel, and they relate to these characters on a really smart and deep and visceral level. And then they come and share about it. And I get to share with them, and it's a lovefest.
It's always been interesting to observe that relationship you have with Joss, which seems to be one of the most honest and trusting relationships I've seen in Hollywood. Do you guys still have a chance to chit-chat about possible projects and collaborating again?
Yeah, he's a bro, and he's been a bro since I was 17 and moved out to L.A. to do Buffy. And I can always call on him, I feel, as a friend or if I have questions about roles or female roles or the genre, he's always been a loyal and helpful sort of compass for me. But I have to say, I don't want to be greedy. I mean, he loves working with the same people, but I've really hit him up a couple times now, and he's really delivered for me. And I realize that I have to share Joss with the rest of the world and that Joss has other projects and other things that he wants to bring life to. So from Buffy and Angel and Dollhouse together with me, I have to share [laughs]. You have to share the Whed, man!
You've been doing some voice acting lately, and one of the characters you’ve played recently is the She-Hulk for Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. What was the key to getting into character?
I just think green and think of all my tomboy days growing up with all the boys, with all my brothers, and just that sort of competitive, “Anything they can do, I can do, if not better” [attitude]. And I think about my little niece and nephews. I have a little feminist niece and I a little feminist nephew, and they watch the show and love the show, and I kind of become a kid when I'm with them. Well, I'm kind of a kid all the time, but I try to remember to just have fun with it and be that outspoken, little feminist badass that I want them to look up to.
The Scribbler also stars Garret Dillahunt, Michelle Trachtenberg, Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Michael Imperioli and Billy Campbell.