Where will Dollhouse go? Eliza Dushku peers into the future

Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon (left) on set with star Eliza Dushku.

Eliza Dushku—the star and a producer of Fox's upcoming sci-fi series Dollhouse—wrapped the show's first 13-episode season last week, but says that she and series creator Joss Whedon are already thinking about more.

"We've only told 13 stories here, and we're all so excited," Dushku said in a conference call on Tuesday. "Even Joss and I today, Joss said, 'It's crazy, because we just finished these 13 episodes, and it's been such a hustle, and it's been so crazy, yet now that I haven't been in the writer's room in a week, I'm already thinking up ideas for the next 13 episodes. I'm dying to get back in the writer's room and tell more stories and tell stories that we have ideas and plans for from the get-go.'"

In Dollhouse, Dushku plays Echo, an "active" who is imprinted with a new personality to perform secret and illegal missions for rich paying clients. In early episodes she plays a hostage negotiator, a bow-hunting wilderness adventurer and a master thief. After each mission, her memory is wiped clean. But something goes wrong each time. (Spoiler alert!) In subsequent episodes, Echo has asthma attacks, a spontaneous memory wipe and a client obsessed with the most dangerous game.

During the conference call, Dushku teased some other upcoming episodes. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of the call. (More spoilers ahead!) Dollhouse debuts on Feb. 13 and will air Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

So far Echo has gotten an asthma attack, gotten hunted by a client and gotten wiped in the middle of a mission. What else can go wrong?

Dushku: Anything and everything at any given time is sort of the point, I think. That's why we have our handlers there, to hopefully protect us from the bad. Each show, I think, that sort of thing is going to go down, because it's obviously not a perfect system, and it's not a perfect world. I can tell you I enter a cult as a blind cultist, and they send me in with cameras implanted into my eyes. Some things go down there. I can tell you that there's upcoming contact with Agent Paul Ballard, Tahmoh Penikett. There's going to be some charged stuff in those episodes.

Will we find out why Echo is the one glitching?

Dushku: Well, I can tell you that you're going to find out what kind of timeframe the Dollhouse has been operating under, and what maybe happened to previous dolls. I think that we come into the story with Echo, but there have certainly been dolls before her, and there will certainly be dolls after her. Why Echo? Probably because I'm me, and Joss and I came up with the idea together, so we decided to bring the story up with me at the head of the herd.

How is her relationship with Sierra [Dichen Lachman] going to develop?

Dushku: We pick up in the Dollhouse, and the dolls are starting to have these memories and develop these little flickers of self-awareness and recognize one another and remember things from engagements. Of course, that's considered a glitch in the Dollhouse system, and that's where all hell breaks loose. That's kind of where the show expands and gets interesting to me.


Joss said a goal of the show is to make people uncomfortable. How do you see that?

Dushku: Making people uncomfortable, I guess, is sort of what interesting storytelling is to me. It's asking different questions and taking a closer look at desires and fantasies and taboos and sexuality. These are all things that Joss and I initially discussed. I knew he was a creative genius and had the ability and the imagination to create with me, at the same time, in a story that just put those parts together tightly, cleverly, with drama and humor and pain and joy. Anyone who's known his work in Buffy and anyone who knows him as a person knows that he's all those instruments. That's, I think, what makes this such an extraordinary show.

Will we see any clients learning that getting exactly what they want with an active is more of a curse than a gift?

Dushku: Absolutely. I think that's sort of the point. That's one of the main themes in this whole story that we're telling here. Objectification hurts, whether you're the one being [objectified], whichever side you're on, because that's why we're all different. That's why there are certain parameters and morals in our society. When you step outside of those things and you put such control in certain people's hands, in terms of what people want and need and desire versus what they think they want and need and desire, they may be surprised. It's sort of the Frankenstein story. You're absolutely going to see clients wishing perhaps that they had not decided to add that extra element to their active or to their doll.

Was there one character out of the 13 imprints that you liked best?

Dushku: It surprised me, because, on the one hand, it's awesome and exhilarating to be the sexy assassin, but at the same time, I've been surprised time and time again. Like, I play this blind cultist, and it was just so different than anything, any skin I've ever been in, and I really, really enjoyed it. It was challenging, yet it was liberating just to have the opportunity and to see the world—well, not see the world—but to be in the world in these different skins. That was a particularly special episode, as was being the personality of a 50-something-year-old woman in my own body. That was another one that's coming up that was very interesting.

I don't know if I have a favorite, but they've all had their own special nuances and places for me. I don't know, the composure and sophistication, it was thrilling, and it's fun for me to play. Now that I've done it once, I kind of am excited to try it on again. It definitely threw me at first. It was something that was out of my comfort zone, but from the very get-go Joss told me that he intended on taking me out of my comfort zone as much as possible on this show. So I welcome it. I'm up for any challenge and any uncomfortable scenario he wants to throw me, because that's what this is about.

Do you think there'll still be places to go in season five?

Dushku: Absolutely. Look at how much we as human beings evolve in a day. There's constant evolution, if you think about how many desires and how many scenarios. Apparently, from day one, Joss has had a five-year plan for the show, and we've talked about what some of those are. I think that's one of the things that's so exciting about this show, is it's so open for endless possibilities. You're dealing with so much. It's mankind, and its thoughts and wishes and desires are by the millions, by the trillions. I mean, Joss is really a novelist, and you have to give him chapters to tell the story. The show just goes so deep, and it's so exciting and so thought-provoking and relevant.

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