In a world of for-rent starlets, Eliza Dushku is the queen of her castle.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's October/November 2009 issue.
Eliza Dushku should be out of a job. After all, her futuristic TV show Dollhouse (about people who are brainwashed and given new personas) was a hit with critics but a miss with the ratings—so much so that the network declined to air the season finale. Dushku even prepared to be slapped with the C-word (“cancellation,” morons). But then a funny thing happened on the way to the Internet forums: viewers, galvanized by the news, rallied around the show and fox picked up Dollhouse for a second season. And right now you’re looking at why.
See, the 28-year-old Dushku is an O.G.—Original Geek—and the fans love her for it. She stole scenes in the cult fave TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer (and later in the film Bring It On and Tru Calling) and has been kicking ass ever since. While Hollywood is busy trying to win over fanboys, Eliza has had them in her leather pants pocket for ages. of course, It doesn’t hurt that her mentor, TV impresario Joss Whedon (the guy behind Dollhouse and Buffy), is the only other person with more geek cred than her. Now Dushku gets a second season and another round of playing a killer/mom/thief/hostage negotiator/girlfriend/blind cult follower/whatever else Joss can think of. But in a show where she can be anyone, Eliza Dushku just wants to be herself. And we couldn’t appreciate it more.
You just started shooting the new season of Dollhouse. How’s it going so far?
I got married, consummated my marriage, and had my honeymoon—all yesterday! Today me and the hubby are beating each other down and breaking things. A lot going on, a lot of brawling. Jets and exploding Tahoes and me against a hangar full of giant stunt guys.
I was mom and dad’s sweet little girl...with a rough side.
That’s a big week.
Only when I come into my trailer do I, in secret, peek at my bruises and bangs. [Laughs.] ’Cause while I’m out there I’m like, “I’m good, let’s do another one!”
What’s the biggest difference between last season and this one for you?
We’re back because of the love of fans and people who found and stuck with the show. Critics and viewers saw something really special, and the fact that we’re back just confirms that it’s all real. Now we have a chance to go deeper and really look closer in the beast.
Where were you when the show got renewed?
I was in Uganda with my mother—who is an African politics professor—and some of her students. We were learning about some of the child soldiers from the war in Uganda and looking at building a trauma center for the rehabilitation and integration of these poor child soldiers. I’ve always had a plan B in terms of my life and my career. I love acting and producing, and I love this business, but at the same time my world is live-or-die based on if I’m on the hottest show. So I live my life, travel, and see what else is out there for me to be a strong part of, you know?
So you’re saying Dollhouse fans really fucked it up for Ugandan child soldiers?
[Laughs.] C’mon, man, I’m a multitasker. If I can be four personalities in a day I have the capacity to be a few places, emotionally, at once.
Speaking of multiple personalities, it seems as though you’re able to handle different types of roles with—wait for it—aplomb. Yeah, I said “aplomb.”
Well, I grew up with three big brothers, and I had a different personality for each one. I was a precocious kid and figured out early on how to be chameleon-like. I had one brother who was the wild child—kind of street, a rapper, a Beastie Boys kind of bro—and with him I would have to get into that tough-guy routine. I had another brother who was very nerdy and super-creative and I could put on my Dungeons & Dragons cap with him. Then I was also mom and dad’s sweet little girl—with a rough side. [Laughs.] I think I thought I was a boy until I was like 10 years old. My mother used to try to put me in flowery dresses and couldn’t. And now Joss, incidentally, can.