A Behind-The-Scenes Buffy Connection Landed James Marsters His Caprica Role

The undisputed star of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is, well, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar). But if there's a runner-up, it would be the British, platinum blond vampire Spike (James Marsters). The series' breakout character, Spike underwent a dramatic transformation over six seasons, from villain to hero, from Buffy's foe to her lover.

Originally, Spike was meant to die after only five episodes, but Marsters charmed the audience so much that his run kept being prolonged. By season 4, the writers relented and added him to the main cast. He even defied death in the series finale by returning for the final season of spin-off "Angel."

Marsters' career post "Buffy" hasn't been the most illustrious, but he's a regular face on genre television. One of these roles was the terrorist Barnabas Greely on "Caprica," a short-lived "Battlestar Galactica" prequel. Marsters got the part due to a connection he made with writer Jane Espenson during his days as Spike — even actors need to network!

The Buffy Connection

If you've watched any TV at all since the 1990s, you've probably seen something written by Jane Espenson. Initially a sitcom writer, with credits on "Ellen" and "Dinosaurs," she first tried her hand at sci-fi and fantasy writing with the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" episode "Accession." Two years later, in 1998, she joined the writing staff of "Buffy." Her debut episode was "Band Candy," where Sunnydale's adults mentally regress to teenagers. She wrote 22 more episodes and earned a producer's credit.

One of the almost two dozen shows Espenson worked on after "Buffy" was "Battlestar Galactica." During the series' latter two seasons, she wrote five episodes and became a co-executive producer. When "Caprica" was launched, co-creators Ron Moore and Remi Aubuchon recruited her as an executive producer.

In a 2010 interview with MovieWeb before his "Caprica" debut, Marsters spoke how he had Espenson to thank for getting him on "Caprica":

"I'm glad that [Jane Espenson was] working with me on 'Buffy' because she fought to get me on 'Caprica' ... It's like being at the circus. I follow writers. In my little mind, I cast my own group of writers around Hollywood, the ones that, if I was forming a production company, I would call and try to get together and, if any of those people call me and they're writing for something, I'll go. And, Jane is on the top of that list. She had called me for a different role on 'Caprica,' and I auditioned five or six times for that role, and they finally said, 'No, you're really not right for that,' but Jane said, 'No, get him on the show,' so they thought of another role, which I think is actually a lot more."

Marsters on Caprica

"Caprica" is set 58 years before "Battlestar Galactica." It takes place on the titular planet, one of the 12 colonies of man. Industrialist Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) is just beginning to develop the android Cylons that will spell his society's doom. Caprica is further plagued by the Soldiers of the One, violent monotheists whose religion became the foundation for the Cylons' own.

The series opens with a bombing by the monotheists that claims many lives, including Graystone's daughter Zoe (Alessandra Torresani). The mastermind turns out to be Marsters' character Barnabas. A zealot who practices self-flagellation, Barnabas is totally different from the hedonistic Spike. "Buffy" season 1's villains were the Order of Aurelius, vampire cultists who followed dark gods called the Old Ones; their Master (Mark Metcalf) is slain by Buffy in the season finale "Prophecy Girl." Come season 2, Spike takes leadership over the survivors but makes it clear he has no time for their traditions. His debut, "School Hard," ends with him declaring that under his leadership, there will be, "a little less ritual and a little more fun."

Marsters didn't have as long to play Barnabas as he had Spike; the Soldier of the One got the early death that the Vampire had avoided. While Barnabas' death took place offscreen, a sure sign the writers wanted him to return, he didn't because "Caprica" lasted only one season. The series didn't help itself by being even less sci-fi than "BSG" had been; try as the writers did to avoid cheese, that series was ultimately still set on a starship. "Caprica" was too slow and different to sustain an audience.