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-Interview by Nic Brown-


It is easy for an actress to become stereotyped into one sort of role. This can be especially true when the actress in question is best known for her role in show with a cult following as strong as Joss Whedon’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. But actress Amber Benson who played Tara Maclay, a fan favorite and part of one of the first openly gay couples on mainstream television, is no ordinary actress.

In fact, just calling her an actress is selling her talents short. While still working on BUFFY, Amber wrote and directed her first feature film: CHANCE. She hasn’t limited herself to film and television either. Amber has also co-written the Ghosts of Albion series as well as a number of graphic novels with writer Chris Golden and she’s just released her first solo novel: Death’s Daughter.


Now she’s hard at work promoting her new novel, writing her first children’s book, and co-directing another new film. Despite her more than busy schedule, Amber has taken some time out to talk about her many projects, how playing a character as popular as Tara affected her career, and what quantum physics has to do with all of this!



ic - Amber, in addition to your work in movies and television, you are also a writer. You have a new novel that has just come out called Death’s Daughter. Can you tell us a little about the book and where you got your inspiration for it?


Amber - I had been reading a lot Urban Fantasy and I really thought it might be a fun and challenging medium to work in. Callie (the book's protagonist) just kinda popped into my head fully formed, but I wasn't sure what to do with her. Then I realized that I wanted to take her on The Hero's Journey, and, well, that's when the plot of the book was conceived.

Nic - Death’s Daughter isn’t your first novel. You’ve co-authored a number of books and graphic novels with Christopher Golden. How is it different working with another author on a project from going it alone?

Amber - I miss writing with someone else - especially if that someone is Chris Golden! I learned so much about writing prose from doing the Ghosts of Albion series. It was kind of like going to Chris Golden University and majoring in How to Craft a Book 101. It's a lot harder to write on your own. There's no one to fall back on if you can't get past a plot point, or you're stuck on a character's motivation. During the writing of Ghosts, anytime I was lost, I'd just call Chris and we'd talk through the problem together until it got fixed. Now, it's all on me if stuff doesn't work or I get stuck - and it's a lot more intimidating that way!


Nic - You have experience writing not just books but also graphic novels such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow & Tara. Do you find it easier or more difficult to write for a graphic novel where you have to work in a ‘story board’ format with illustrations?


Amber - I love writing graphic novels/comics because the format dovetails nicely with the story-boarding I do when I direct a film. I'm very detail oriented when I write a comic (probably annoyingly so for my artists!) and I spend a lot of time describing how the panels should be laid out and what each shot (panel) should look like.


Nic - Thinking of your film work, you haven’t just limited yourself to acting. You not only starred in the film CHANCE, you also wrote, directed and produced it as well. What is the film about and how did you get the ball rolling on such an ambitious project?

Amber - CHANCE is a film about a single gal who's looking for love in all the wrong places. It came together when I was still working on Buffy. I was having my brain sucked out at the time (on the show) and since I was spending most of my days in my pjs because of it, I decided that I needed something a little more challenging to do in my spare time. So, in a nut shell, I decided to make a movie. Insane, huh?

Amber Benson and James Marsters in CHANCE

Nic - Which do you find to be most challenging, working behind the camera as a writer/director or being in front of the camera acting?

Amber - It's a heck of a lot more work making a film then just acting in one. An actor gets to breeze in when shooting starts and breeze out when their part is finished. A director/writer starts working on the film months before it shoots and isn't done until the post-production is done. It's way more time intensive, but in many ways it's a lot more satisfying.

Nic - Many of your fans know you best for your role as Tara Maclay in the series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. What was the best part about working on that series for you?

Amber - Buffy was so well-written and well-crafted that it has only inspired me to work harder on my own stuff. It was an amazing experience working with such great people and I was very blessed to get to walk in Tara's shoes for three seasons. Joss is a master at what he does and I think I learned more from watching him do his thing on set than I ever would've learned sitting in some film class somewhere taking notes. 



Nic - Tara was an extremely popular character in the “Buffy” series. Do you feel playing that character helped open further acting doors for you or did it restrict certain opportunities because of that popularity and the show’s cult status?

Amber - I think playing a lesbian character hurt me in the short run as far as getting jobs in Hollywood was concerned, but honestly I wouldn't have traded playing Tara for anything in the world. Now that more gay and lesbian characters have been introduced into the main stream, there seems to be less of a bias in the industry against playing these parts. I'm looking forward to the day when gay and lesbian and transgendered characters are the norm, not a marginalized subset of the entertainment industry.


Nic - What are some of the other projects you are working on now?

Amber - I just finished co-directing a film with Adam Busch called DRONES. It stars Samm Levine and Jonathan Woodward and it's absolutely awesome! I am so proud of the movie and the work that we did on it. It just makes me want to co-direct more. I also just finished a kid's book called The New Newbridge Academy, which will probably come out some time next year. Oh, and the next book in the Death's Daughter series will be out next spring, too.


Nic - You sound really excited about DRONES! Can you tell us a little about that feature and when you think it may be out?


Amber - DRONES is an office comedy with alien undertones. It was a labor of love between Adam Busch and our producer, Jordan Kessler. They've been friends for a long time and really wanted to work together. Adam approached our friends, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, about writing something for them to produce and a week later DRONES was born. We shot for fourteen days in Baton Rouge, LA on a shoe string budget and I have to say that no one would ever know because the finished project looks like a million bucks.

Nic - You said that one of your new projects is a kid’s book, The New Newbridge Academy. Is it different writing something for children than writing adult fiction?

Amber - I try to tell the story the way it appears in my head, so whether it ends up being for children or for adults, it's still the same process.

Nic - As both an actress and a filmmaker, how do you feel about the pressure Hollywood places on women regarding appearance, weight, and body image?

Amber - I think that Hollywood has set an impossible standard for physical beauty. Real people can't compete when they don't have access to the nutritionists, personal trainers and air-brushing that Hollywood stars (male and female) have. All you can do is to try and set a better example.


Nic - So when you’re not writing or making movies what does Amber Benson like to do for fun?

Amber - Amber Benson likes to read. She is a book whore. That is what she does for fun.


Nic - Can you tell us one thing about yourself that might surprise people to know?

Amber - I love quantum physics. 

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