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'Buffy' Villain Comes to NoHo Stage

Juliet Landau, who played the vampire Drusilla on TV's 'Buffy, the Vampire Slayer' and 'Angel,' talks about her lead role in the Crown City Theater production of 'Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.'

On TV’s Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Juliet Landau played Drusilla, a vampire who was turned by Angel (David Boreanaz) in his evil Angelus days. Drusilla returned to haunt Angel many times through the series Buffy and into his own spin-off Angel. Landau stars in the play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea playing at in NoHo.

The play, by John Patrick Shanley, has only two characters. Roberta (Landau) and Danny (Matthew J. Williamson). The two meet in a Bronx bar and have a volatile relationship that unfolds before the audience. The show previews Oct. 18 and 19. It opens Oct. 21 and plays through Dec. 18. (, the play's director.)

In addition to seven years on the cult hit shows, Landau has appeared in many films such as Ed Wood, with her father, Martin Landau. She also provides many voices for animated shows like Justice League, Ben 10: Alien Force and Green Lantern. Her mother is Barbara Bain, from the TV show Mission: Impossible, so acting is in the family. Landau spoke with Patch by phone during rehearsals to talk about Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and let us geek out a little. To see Landau live, visit www.crowncitytheater.com for tickets.

PATCH: Have you done North Hollywood theater before?

LANDAU: I haven’t. I’ve actually done a lot of theater in Los Angeles but not in North Hollywood.

PATCH: Well, welcome.

LANDAU: Thank you.

PATCH: Did you actually bring this play to John McNaughton’s attention?

LANDAU: I did. I just loved the material. I think Shanley is an incredible writer and John and Matt and myself had worked on a stage reading of A Streetcar Named Desire and it was an incredibly wonderful collaboration. So I thought this would be a terrific project for all of us.

PATCH: Does having a film director make this different from other plays?

LANDAU: John is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Working with him in any medium is a complete thrill. He just knows exactly what to say and when. He’ll do this wonderful thing where you’ll be working on something and he’ll start to tell you a story. Sometimes at first you’re like, “I don’t know what this story means or has to do with it?” Then all of a sudden a light bulb will go off and it’s a completely different story about some other thing, something in his life perhaps. Literally this light bulb will go off. "Oh, that’s what this means here."

PATCH: What do you love about Roberta?

LANDAU: I love that Roberta is a survivor and that despite the many obstacles that she has come from, she still has a glimmer of hope. She really champions to connect to another human being, to connect with Danny.

PATCH: What do you think it is about these brutally raw emotional stories that audiences enjoy watching?

LANDAU: Well, I think with this play, there’s also a lot of humor in it as well. I think it’s a universal story about people needing to heal and needing to find love.

PATCH: With only the two of you in the whole play, do you have an easy time memorizing all the lines?

LANDAU: You know, I don’t generally have a hard time with memorization. If something is well written and if the stakes are strong within it, the words kind of find their way in.

PATCH: I’m of course used to hearing you speak with a British accent. Do you have a different voice as Roberta too?

LANDAU: She’s from the Bronx so I definitely sound very different.

PATCH: Are accents easy for you?

LANDAU: I love working with them. I’ve definitely picked them up in my travels and when I’m working on a particular character, I’ve done it all different kinds of ways. Sometimes I’ve worked with a dialect coach but what I really love to do is to work with someone, a very specific person from that area and just listen to them a lot.

PATCH: Was there a specific person for Roberta’s voice?

LANDAU: Yes, I worked with a friend of mine who is from the Bronx. I spent time with her and tape recorded it. I asked her questions and got her talking about her childhood, because that made her accent get even more pronounced. 

PATCH: How do you like the space at Crown City Theater?

LANDAU: Oh, I love the space. It’s wonderful. It’s a really creative, warm, great space.

PATCH: Have you played small houses like that before?

LANDAU: I’ve done both. I’ve done all sorts of equity waiver and I’ve done equity shows too with huge houses.

PATCH: How have you enjoyed the area of North Hollywood as you’ve been rehearsing?

LANDAU: I’ve loved it over there. It’s vital and there’s a lot going on. There’s great places to eat, it’s great. We’ve gone to a bunch because it’s open and the theater crowd go in there and there’s good food.

PATCH: How is theater different for you than film or television?

LANDAU: Well, it’s an incredible thing to live with a character for a length of time, which on television when you’re doing a role you do get to do that. But this is the same text so you’re basically going through the same experience and it just broadens and deepens. Also working with an audience, they’re an additional character if you will in the play. Working with them and feeling what they need tonight and what their response is, having that live experience is different.

PATCH: What other L.A. theaters have you worked with?

LANDAU: Gosh, so many. I’ve worked pretty much everywhere around town. Pretty much every theater, except for the NoHo area.

PATCH: Do you have a bunch of films coming out too?

LANDAU: Yes, I just finished a movie called Dark Hearts. It is directed by a fantastic director named Rudolf Buitendach. It’s got a wonderful cast and again, a very different role than I’ve ever played before. I play a character named Astrid and she’s an artist and art gallery owner who’s kind of beatnik inspired, dresses as an art object herself and is always a little bit stoned. I’ve also been doing a lot of other animation as well. I just did ADR yesterday on the new Green Lantern series. I did two episodes for that and a movie called Justice League Doom which is animated as well.

PATCH: So you get to be some comic book characters.

LANDAU: Yeah, I did. I’ve worked a lot in animation and it’s really a joy. In Justice League the series I was a number of character. Justice League Unlimited I was Tala and Plastique and a character named Bernadeath, another character named Rama Kushna. A whole bunch of characters but I did Tala a lot. Then I’ve also been doing Ben 10, a number of characters on that. In Justice League Doom, I’m a villain. I don’t know if I’m supposed to yet reveal who I am. I did another animated film called Strange Frame which is with Tim Curry and Iggy Pop. In that I played a character named Bitsea.

PATCH: All the comic book readers will know who they are.

LANDAU: Yes, some of them and some of them are new characters as well.

PATCH: What do you feel is the legacy of Drusilla?

LANDAU: It’s hard for me to think in terms of the legacy. I know it from the inside having played her. The wonderful thing is that people still really respond to the character in the show and it’s just got an incredible fan base that’s so supportive of all of your work and follows you into whatever projects you’re doing.

PATCH: Does Drusilla appear in any of the comic books?

LANDAU: She does actually, and I cowrote two issues of a comic book with Brian Lynch for the Angel series about Drusilla. There’s some rumblings, they’re talking to me about possibly doing some more. It’d be really, really fun.

PATCH: As an actor, how does it feel to see a character continue after you’ve finished playing her?

LANDAU: Well, Joss, having always been a comic book fan and being ingenious as he always is decided to continue the story in this other format and brought a whole audience of people, in addition to the comic book loves, to comic books that hadn’t necessarily read comic books before, that loved the series and the characters and wanted to find out the journey of where they would be going next.

PATCH: Is it nice that the last episode you shot doesn’t have to be the last word on Drusilla?

LANDAU: Yes, absolutely. Were you a big Buffy fan? Did you watch Buffy and Angel?

PATCH: Yes, I did. I met you once before at the Buffy finale party.

LANDAU: Oh fantastic.

PATCH: So now it’s great to talk to you for a local production.

LANDAU: Yay!

PATCH: You did the movie Ed Wood with your father, Martin Landau. Have you ever done plays with him?

LANDAU: No, we’ve never done stage together although I did do a play with my mother called Failure of Nerve at the Los Angeles Theater Center which was an original play. So I did get to work with her on stage.

PATCH: What surprised you about working with your family?

LANDAU: It was an interesting show, that show, because I was sort of the catalyst for everything that happened in the play. At the end of the play, my character actually commits suicide so it was very dark. I’d see my mom in the wings every night holding Kleenex. I would finish the scene and wiping up my tears saying, “I’m so glad this is just a play.”

PATCH: Does your family discuss acting a lot or when you were growing up?

LANDAU: Yeah, when I grew up I think it was kind of in the air and always being talked about in terms of creative choices and ideas.

PATCH: What memorable piece of advice did your father give you?

LANDAU: I think that more than any piece of advice, what was instilled in me was the idea of really loving the work and what you do. There’s so much of it that isn’t in your control, that’s difficult in the business, but if you hang on to what it is that you love about why you do what you do, then you’re excited to get up every day and do it. You’re fortunate to get to do what you love to do for a living. A lot of people don’t get to do that and that really is a blessing.

PATCH: Do you go out for pilots or try to get back into series television?

LANDAU: Yeah, I’ve been going up for some stuff recently and there’s a couple things that we’ll see. Actually there’s a film that’s looking like it may happen so we’ll see. In addition, I formed a production company called Miss Juliet Productions a couple years ago. So I’ve been producing. I produced Streetcar. I directed a short documentary film about Gary Oldman that Gary really loved. I’m starting to generate more projects now.

 

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea plays Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.

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