NYCC 09: Dollhouse Panel Report

by admin on February 9, 2009

Dollhouse Spoiler Alert!

IGN’s report from the “Dollhouse” panel at the New York Comic Con yesterday. Spoilers may follow.

Spoilers for the first few minutes of Dollhouse follow in this paragraph: The opening of the show introduce us to Eliza Dushku’s Echo in what is presumably her true identity, a woman named Caroline. We see her meeting with Olivia Williams’ character Adelle DeWitt, discussing her entering the Dollhouse program – which DeWitt refers to as a volunteer decision, while Caroline/Echo says she has no choice. We then cut to sometime later, with Echo in a much different persona – a sexy, wild child on a motorcycle, spending an exciting weekend with a man she clearly cares deeply for… only for her time with him to be up, and for her to be escorted away. We see her mind wiped, as she reverts to the childlike state she and the other Actives retain while inside the Dollhouse. We see her handler Boyd Langdon (Harry Lennix) display some clear doubts about what is going on, while programmer Topher Brink (Fran Kanz) is the opposite – excited by what they do. We then are introduced to a clearly wealthy man being driven in a car, talking to his young daughter, when his car is stopped – only for his daughter to meanwhile be grabbed at home by masked men, who take her away.

Penikett’s character was not seen in the footage shown, causing Penikett to quip, “That clip would have obviously been a lot better if I was there.” Penikett said his character, Paul Ballard, was “an FBI agent given the case of the Dollhouse; trying to expose the urban myth of the Dollhouse. Nobody has any confidence he’ll get to the bottom of it, because nobody really believes it exists.” Penikett noted, “Paul on the other hand absolutely believes it and he becomes quite obsessed and driven to expose it.”

Whedon said that when it comes to Paul’s investigation and how it’s portrayed on the show, “He can get close to it; even get close to her, but she won’t remember. So they can meet for the first time all year! But he does make progress.” However, he noted that the people behind the Dollhouse “are as anxious to not be discovered as [Paul] is to discover it.”

Whedon described Dollhouse as “far and away the most disturbing thing I can remember doing, at least since Season 6 of Buffy, and probably more than that.” He then noted that there were potentially disturbing elements in the show, regarding Echo seeming somewhat enslaved, and the fact that she sleeps with clients, only to not remember it. He said that for those offended, “they’re not wrong” and “I went for something that is very dark.” Or as he joked, “I’m such a bitter, sad man, and this is my bitter, sad show. Welcome to it!” He noted that his intention was “The audience comes away as unclean as the people in the show – everyone is compromised.”

Whedon noted “The subject matter is daunting and potentially creepy. We want to make sure we’re not just objectifying people – it’s a very fine line.”

Asked about those working for the Dollhouse, Whedon said they weren’t all necessarily evil, noting, “They are, sadly for them, people – people with power, who do one thing, which is abuse it.” As for the clients, “A lot of them are [evil], but not all of them. Some of them are just lonely and strange.” He remarked that some people hiring an Active, “Are misguided, but not terrible.”

Looking ahead through the thirteen-episode season, Whedon described episode 6 as a “key episode” and “involves Paul Ballard getting a little bit closer and meeting a client and not finding what he expects.” As for the end of the season, Whedon said, “We didn’t hold back – We didn’t wrap everything up, but [the finale] makes statements on how corrupt people can be.”

Dollhouse has gotten a lot of attention for what has been perceived as a troubled history, with the original pilot discarded and other re-tooling along the way. Whedon admitted that during this process, “There was a period where I said, ‘I don’t know what this show is anymore.'” He added, “It was the same with Angel. We didn’t find it for five years!”

While he described this as “a dark and scary Joss period,” he said that eventually, “We not only found the show that we were excited about making and the network was excited about airing, but the show actually ends almost exactly the way we had [originally] intended to end this season.” While he admitted that in the early episodes, “I think you’ll see some growing pains,” he also remarked, “I’ve been pumped about what we’ve been putting out the last few months.”

Whedon had an infamously bad experience with FOX on Firefly, but said that when it came to working with a very different regime at FOX on Dollhouse, “They’ve been completely honest and totally supportive… except for the things they don’t like!” He said that he felt a very collaborative vibe with FOX this time, and as for the show being put on Friday nights — which is feared by some fans as a death sentence — he said he completely understood the decision, noting that he and FOX both felt the show would be allowed to grow on Friday nights and “Our expectations are that people will come to this the way they come to all my shows, which is usually kind of gradually.”

When it came to Dushku getting to play a different character each week, as Echo is reprogrammed, Whedon remarked, “It’s an actresses dream, but also a nightmare – every episode is a pilot [for her]! She has to rethink how she moves; how she thinks. It’s an exciting opportunity for her and for us.”

Returning to the darker themes of the show, Whedon noted that he is a vocal feminist, but that because of the storyline of the show, “I expect there to be some kind of backlash” because, depending on how it is handled, the show could end up either being “A fight for her identity or just a misogynist fantasy.” Remarked Whedon, “I’m scared witless by how people will react, but I find I do my best work in those situations.”

Source: IGN

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