James Marsters Talks Runaways and Where Dragonball Evolution Went Wrong

The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle -- colloquially known as MoPOP -- launched an extensive new exhibit, "Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes," late last month. The two-level show hosts some of the rarest comics in the world alongside some of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s coolest costumes. The grand opening was attended by a number of special guests including G. Willow Wilson (co-creator of Kamal Khan/Ms. Marve), Ann Nocenti (co-creator of Longshot), filmmaker Kevin Smith and genre TV vet James Marsters.

Whether you’re a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, DC and Marvel’s animated fare, the Metal Hurlant Chronicles series, or the recent live action adaptation of Runaways, you likely love to hate Marsters. Taking on villainous roles such as Spike, Piccolo, Brainiac, Lex Luthor, Korvac and, most recently, Marvel's Runaways' Victor Stein, he spent a good portion of his career playing the intelligent, ruthless type.

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CBR sat down with the geek icon at MoPOP's opening event and ask him a few questions. While he may be good at portraying bad, Marsters is amiable and funny in person, and answered whatever was thrown at him with true candor.

CBR: I want to start with Dragon Ball. You were, of course, in the live action Dragonball Evolution movie from 2009, but there’s persistent rumors that you recently voiced Zamasu in the Dragon Ball Super series and the Dragon Ball FighterZ video game as well.

James Masters: I was just in the movie, which was not exactly what I was hoping for. I remember my son was so excited. He didn’t care about any of the roles that I ever did, but then when I got [cast as] Piccolo, he was like, “You rock! You’re amazing!” He was like nine or 10 or 11, [around] that age, and it’s opening weekend and he’s leading my daughter and me. He’s running ahead into the theater and I’m like, “Slow down, son.” He runs into the theater, and as I walk into theater I’m thinking, “Just give us half a house, Lord… just half a house. We’ll build with word of mouth.” And I get in there and it’s packed. There’s no seats. It’s amazing. It’s all older brothers with their younger brothers together.

We all sit down and suddenly my head says this is too good to be true. So, I turn to this 13 year old next to me and I go, “Is this Dragon Ball?” And he goes, “What?” And ask again, “Is this Dragon Ball?” He goes, “No, man, this is The Fast and the Furious!” So, I had to get my kids up and walk the daddy walk of shame across the hallway. Then, I’m like, “Lord, just a quarter of a house… just a quarter of a house.” We walk in there and including us three, there is five people… on opening night. It’s probably for the best that not a lot of people saw it.


Yeah, they told me it was a $120 million dollar picture and that Steven Chow was producing. Steven Chow who did Kung Fu Hustle.

And Shaolin Soccer!

I usually say that too, but most people only ever know Kung Fu Hustle. So, I get to Durango, Mexico and it’s a $30 million picture and Steven Chow was just on paper to fool us down to Durango, Mexico. Chow Yun Fat and I were cursing in the desert over this like, “Son of a bitch!”

So, you weren’t in the recent Dragon Ball series and video game?

There’s a lot of rumors going on. I should stoke the rumors. So, yeah, no comment. I can’t talk about that. That’s cool, [getting to use] “no comment.”

One of the best aspects of the Runaways show is how it took a great concept and expanded on it. How did you feel about how they adapted the source material?

I can’t speak to the source material. I did a French show based on Metal Hurlant, which was the French comic book that gave birth to Heavy Metal, and I did read the short story that my episode was based on. And what happened is, I ended up doing an impersonation of the character that was portrayed on the page. And I was like, I don’t want to do that again. I want to just trust that the producers know the source material really well, and I’m just going to go in with instinct. I’m going to go to them with all my ideas and they can tell me if they’re right or wrong. It’s getting weird because I’m guessing what’s happening…I can tell what my character would do.

We’re filming the very first episode and we’re all around the coffee machine, and I’m like, “What happens if this teenager goes in the box and it doesn’t work? What if we don’t kill her? What do we do then?” And the other parents are like, “That’s a really interesting ethical choice.” And I’m like, “No, it isn’t. We f*cking kill her. Jesus! We already decided to kill her before. You just choke her out. She’s a witness now. Guys, come on.” The producers, Josh [Schwartz] and Stephanie [Savage], were like, “You’re scaring me. You’re so much like Victor. Victor is a killer. Wow.” And I’m just like, “I’m just in character, I’m a nice person.”

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