Is this man a traitor? Steven Eramo spoke to Alexis Denisof about Wesley’s questionable future.
After spending the last three years in Los Angeles helping save lost souls ‘Angel’s’ Wesley Wyndam-Pryce became one himself in the show’s third season. By trying to protect his boss/friend Angel’s newborn son Connor as well as the centuries-old vampire from a deadly prophecy, Wesley set in motion a chain of events that affected his life and the lives of those aroud him. Betrayed, abandoned and ay one point lying at death’s door, life has recently been anything but a walk in the park for the ex-Watcher. However, just as in the real world, such hardships are destined to make a better man out of Wesley, and continue to be great fun for his off-screen alter ego Alexis Denisof to play out.
“I was actually quite pleased with Wesley’s story arc in the third season, but I know some fans may not have been,” says Denisof. “For me, though part of the challenge and enjoyment of working with ‘Angel’s’ writers and creators is that they keep the character constantly evolving. So last year was one of change for Wesley. He started out the way we expected he would, as the figurehead of sorts for Angel Investigations and in charge of its daily running. However, that was hardly the case by episode 22”, jokes the actor. “The incident surrounding him taking Angel’s baby, then the child’s subsequent kidnapping by Holtz. Wesley having his throat slit and ultimately being ostracized from the group made for some very dramatic changes in his life.
“So, Wesley’s been through a lot and the third year was a tough one for him in many ways”, he continues. “Just think back to episode six, ‘Billy’, where he’s infected with the disease that made him turn on Fred in such a horrifying way. That opened up a dark corner of Wesley and showed him he was capable of the things he did and said to Fred. Even though he understood it wasn’t his fault, it was just the idea that such behaviour was latent in him and coould at any time be tapped. That darkness lay beneath the surface unti it was revisited later on in the season when Fred chose Gunn over Wesley. This triggered a quiet, emotional crisis inside him and one he didn’t want to face up to. Then there was the amazing miracle with the birth of Angel’s baby. It was the ramifications of that and the prophecy that finally spurred Wesley to take matters into his own hands.
“All this gave us the opportunity to explore areas of my character that we really hadn’t before, and as an actor that was a pleasure and a challenge. Still, I had people come up to me in the streets and say ‘I can’t believe Wesley betrayed everyone. When are you guys going to get back together?’ I know it’s difficult for those who want to see us happy all the time, but that’s the strength of ‘Angel’. Joss likes a universe in which things don’t remain stautus quo for too long, and I think he felt it was time to upset the apple cart. If we go right back to my character’s origins on ‘Buffy’, we’d see that he had already changed a great deal by the time ‘Angel’s’ third season rolled around. It was only natural that that evolution should continue. Even I was surprised, though, by the depth and breadth of the changes, all of which resulted in last year’s finale [‘Tomorrow’] with him bedding Lilah. So there were plenty of suprises with Wesley, as well as some twists and turns, but I enjoyed them all.”
Except for Cordelua, who went off with Groosalugg at the end of ‘Couplet’ for a short off-screen adventure, Wesley’s kidnapping of Connor and his subsequent actions had a negative impact on his relationships with the rest of his friends. “With Angel there’s a rift between them that’s going to be difficult to mend”, notes Denisof. “In choosing to take the baby, Wesley also became responsible for the loss of the child, and that’s more than he knows how to cope with. The reaction Angel and the others have to his acrions is quite severe indeed. So there’s no question of them beinf comrades now.
“Wesley’s relationship with Fred is complicated by the fact that he has a powerful attraction to her and feels that they’re meant for one another. It’s clear, though, that Fred doesn’t feel the same way because she’s opted for Gunn. This, of course, also affects him and Gunn who’s the closest thing to a friend Wesley has. As for Cordelia, she missed the whole fallout, so there’s a big question mark there becaise she and Wesley haven’t spoke[n[ since she went away. So all those relationships are diametrically opposed to wher ethey started when the second season opened. These are people that Wesley trusted with his life and would do anything for, and now he can’t be in the same room with them. They won’t talk to him and they definitely don’t trust him and that’s a lot for him to deal with.”
And what does Denisof think of his character’s one-night stand with the deliciously devilish Lilah? “He doesn’t go looking for her but she comes looking for him”, he explains. “Wesley really wants nothing to do with Lilah but he’s in a vulnerable emotional state and there’s a lot of dark thoughts and energy surging through his being when she comes to see him. It’s almost like a Jacobean tragedy where these two alienated people meet on the battlefield and have hot sex. It’s either that or shoot each other,” laughs the actor, “so they opt for the bedroom, and I thought that was such a cool surprise. At least it was to me, and I’m guessing the viewers too.”
Besides the aforementioned ‘Billy’, the actor has a handful of other third season episodes that are particularly memorable for him. “I loved ‘Waiting in the Wings’, says Denisof. “That’s one Joss wrote and directed and he always brings our characters right back to the centre of their journey in such a wonderful way. When we work with him the series really takes off. The story is a very stylized one set in the world of ballet, but within it each of our characters is experiencing these incredibly real personal dramas. Fred and Gunn get together in that episode and Wesley finds out. Meanwhile, Angel and Cordelia kind of get together too. There were just so many interesting things to play with in the script.
“I also enjoyed the two-story arc [‘Loyalty’ and ‘Sleep Tight’] where Wesley takes Conner, who Holtz then kidnaps, and my character ends up with his throat cut by Justine. I remember working very hard during that time to come up with the right note for all those intense scenes. It was a challenge, too, keeping my character in that emotional state for the duration of those episodes.”
When ‘Angel’ returns this autum for its fourth season, Denisof syays fans will find that all is far from being right in Wesley’s world. “I think it’s going to be another year of changes for everyone, most certainly for my character. We’re starting this season where we left off last year in terms of all the relationships, so by no means is Wesley back in the fold and everthing hunky-dory. That means more soul searching for him as he tries to figure out what went wrong and how to move forward. However, Wesley is not only a determined man but a resourceful one as well. So when we find him at the start of the season he’s not loafing around wallowing in self-pity. He’s back out there on the streets doing what he does best, which is being a Watcher-for-hire and solving extraordinary cases that are over the head of the average private investigator.
“As for getting back together with the people he loves and trusts the most, that’s going to take a while yet. There’s a lot of water under the bridge, so it won’t be easy for everything to simply fall back into place. It’ll be a very complex process and our characters will spend the early partt of the season trying to work things out. That said, once they’re together again it doesn’t mean Wesley will go back to being the sweet goofy guy who looks up facts in books and bumps into the furniture on occasion. As much as I love that guy, we’re finding another person who was inside him all along, and we’ll be getting to know that someone much better.
“Once again, I like where we’re taking my character, and I find it to be a marvellous contrast to the uptight, former Watcher who arrived in Los Angeles in season one. Some of the scenes we’e already shot this season are sure to take viewers by surprise. They’re going to see things that they didn’t think Wesley had in him. There are fight scenes and even some moments in the bedroom that will leave peoples’ mouths hanging open. I hope so, anyway.”
When ‘Angel’ wrapped production of its third season, Denisof chose not to pursue other work, but instead spent most of his recent hiatus travelling abroad. “I thoroughly indulged myself in my own life, which I’m not at all used to doing when I get time off,” he says. “However, I’m going to start to buckle down and look around for other projects in addition to ‘Angel’. With the show now more well-established it’s probably a good time to explore beyond the world of ‘Angel’ and ‘Wesley.’
Considering that Wesley was originally supposed to be killed off in his second ‘Buffy’ episode, ‘Consequences,’ he and Densiof have certainly come a long way. “I immediately had an affinity for the character when I read the pages that were sent to me for the audition. I had no idea, though, that I would get the part or that I’d still be playing Wesley after all this time”, the actor muses. “If you had asked me in my second epsiode as a guest star on ‘Buffy’ ‘What do you see in Wesley’s future?’ I’d have said ‘Well, he’s either going to be blown up, eaten by a demon, or else dragged behind a car by a chain until he’s nothing but dust.’
“I thought he would be a short-lived character that they would take great pleasure in getting rid of. That may have been how Wesley stared out but thankfully, he ended up being too likeable to kill off. So he survived the rest of season three on ‘Buffy’ and has gone on to fight quite a few other days for Angel Investigations. His death may stil be around the corner, but I just cross my fingers every day that they’ll keep him alive for another episode. Long live Wesley!”
Original article at TVZone