He was one of the most likeable characters on television, Xander Harris, the affable everyman, who was a rock of normality in the chaotic whirlwind of the Buffyverse. Since wrapping Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2003, Nicholas Brendon has gone on to star in Criminal Minds, make nifty sci-fi films such as this year’s Coherence and, bonus nerd points here, even write comics. This weekend he is a special guest at Australia’s first Oz Comic Con. Ahead of his visit, we shot the shit in an amusing chat in which I learned that Nicholas Brendon is a lot like Xander Harris but likes to deliver lines that will clear out the room. And he reveals why Robert Downey Jr and Matthew McConaughey want his ass, bad.
You’re writing the comic series Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 with Christos Gage. What’s it like writing Xander as opposed to playing him?
The fans love it because I’ll just riff on things that Xander would say. So I’m improving as Xander as Xander would improv, so that’s how I come up with the lines. Me and Xander are a lot alike. Our senses of humour are alike, very much so. When you’re on a TV show for seven years, writers typically will study the actors and their senses of humour, and will write like the actors, because that’s how they hear things. It makes their job easier. So Xander and I are very mano e mano.
I read somewhere that you hated Archie, which seemed funny to me and kind of surprising because Xander seems a bit like him in a way.
I was seven years old and I received this comic book and I just opened it up and thought it was the lamest thing in the world. I thought, ‘What is this?’ Why are the kids into this stuff?’ So, I got to page four and I thought, this is just not me. I wish that hadn’t been my first comic because then I probably would have read more comics. I started playing baseball that next week.
You also made a webcomic with illustrator Steve Loter called Very Bad Koalas. Do you hope to do something similar to that again? Was that a lot of fun?
Yeah, it was. My writing partner with that, Steve, he did all the drawing too, so we would come up with the stories and then the jokes and he would draw everything. Then he got a three-picture deal over at Pixar, so his time became no-existent. I had a blast doing those 26 that we did.
He said the most outrageous and disturbing things in the strip were your ideas. Is that true?
Yeah, yes… probably. Very much.
What’s your sense of humour like? Where does this stuff come from?
In terms of shocking, I try to think, what’s the worst thing that could be said right now? Like, what would clear out a room? I tend to start there. And then if there are kids in the room I won’t say it, and sometimes there are kids in the room and I do say it. Sometimes when I do Q&As, I will always start my panel by having a disclaimer, saying to parents and kids that I just want you guys to know that I work blue so if there are any kids in the audience go f–k yoursevles. That’s kind of how that happens.
That doesn’t sound too Xander.
If Xander could cut, that’s exactly what he would cut.
I wanted to ask you about the film Coherence too, which I’m really excited to see, and I read that you did it with no script. How was that as an actor?
It was challenging because we had no idea what was going on. But we were each given five to ten notes per day, because we shot it in chronological order. It makes you pay attention to everything that’s going on around you. It was a great acting exercise and it became a really great movie.
It sounds like a giant roleplaying game, to nerd out on you there.
If you’re into that sort of thing… (laughs)
So you didn’t see the ending until it was all put together?
I had no idea how it ended. I’m like, holy moly, this is awesome.
It is Twilight Zone inspired, is that right?
Yeah, 100 per cent. It really is like a great Twilight Zone episode.
Is that the sort of thing you were into growing up? What were you into growing up?
I watched Three’s Company and Chips and The Incredible Hulk, things like that. The Love Boat.
I want to ask you a question, which I ask a lot of people. I ask them if they remember their dreams, and if there’s a significant or stand-out dream that you might remember.
I had one last week where Robert Downey Jr was trying to make love to me.
You’re clearing the room now! Keep going…
He was aggressively trying to enter me. But then there was one I had about Matthew McConaughey where I got dropped off at an airport and Matthew McConaughey was there waiting for me to kill me, and then so I take off and then he takes off and then we go through this chase scene. And then when he gets to me, he kills me, and then I get up and I wake up and then I’m at the airport again. So, it’s Matthew McConaughey. So basically he chases me again, and then I get further along than I did last time and then he kills me. And then what happens is I remember every time that I die and then I’m back at the airport. So I learn his movements and then I get the upper hand on him.
Wow, what do you think that means?
Matthew McConaughey wants to make love to me.
It sounds like a movie.
It’s kind of like a screwed up Groundhog Day.
So you’re coming out here for our convention, have you been to Australia before?
Three times for work and one time I went to see my friend who was on a two-year honeymoon. We went camping and surfing.
I’m sure you’re going to get the royal treatment, but is there anyone that you fanboy out over at these events?
The only time I ever have before, there is a documentarian by the name of Morgan Spurlock and we were in Paris together doing a show. We were at the same hotel and Morgan came up to me because his girlfriend was a fan and took pictures to us. And I was talking to Morgan, and I didn’t realise how much I loved Morgan Spurlock.
As for your fans, how big is the Buffy family? Not just your characters and the people you work with, but all the people that you meet. How is it meeting these people after so many years?
I love it. The show too really helped a lot of people out through really bad times of their lives. And I hug all my fans too. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to in Australia, because of time constraints, but I’ll give all my fans a hug and hear all their stories, so, no, I love it. It makes me happy.