Watched the 'unaired' pilot the other night. It incorporates many of the story ideas used in 'Welcome to the Hellmouth' and a lot of Joss' distinct humor. ASH, SMG, CC and NB looked very comfortable in their roles from the get go. Though, the actress who portrayed Willow? Uh, I can see why she was canned. Not only was she a subpar actress, but, whether she was or not, she looked to be about thirty. I have no idea what Joss saw in her at the time, but thankfully he rectified the mistake.
I was also reading the current Buffy magazine. Some interesting tidbits of information which lead me to believe things are not as planned out as ME would like us to believe. Granted, the FE storyline was probably put in play months before production began, but quite a bit of the character development seemed to come up during the course of the season.
Tom Lenk was not originally supposed to be a 'regular'. And Wood being Nikki's son? That was Jane's brainchild. Originally Nikki was to have a daughter show up in Sunnydale but Jane had the epiphany that her child was already there and it was Wood. Considering the amount of new characters this season, I'd call it a smart move.
Many of James comments I had heard before (I swear the man has memorized responses to questions) but his mention that the AR was portrayed as more violent and painful the anticipated was intriguing. Considering his and ME's defense of the AR as being necessary to Spike seeking a soul, I'm glad it wasn't 'softened', if such a thing is even possible.
And speaking of the soul, James comments on this subject can be confusing. In two interviews I've read, he's given slightly different explanations as to that plot twist which seem to contradict each other. Apparently two endings for 'Grave' were at least written, if not filmed. In the one they scrapped, Spike had his chip removed instead. Now, as Spike's portrayer he was intrigued by the notion of what Spike would do sans chip. Would his love for Buffy be enough to keep him from resorting to his old ways?
Yet, in light of the AR and Spike's attack on the girl in 'Smashed' (which was to show Spike as still being evil, but considering the way James was allowed to portray the scene, did not work), did they have any other choice but to give Spike back his soul? People can argue the choices ME made in including the AR and attack, but once they were included, there really was no going back. They proved that the chip alone was not enough to hold Spike back - the demon would still make it's presence known. As hard as Spike may have tried to be good without the chip for Buffy's sake, he couldn't always keep the demon in check.
Having been so shocked and appalled by his behavior towards Buffy, it wouldn't have made any sense for Spike to seek getting the chip removed. Unless he decided to give up and revert to his old ways, negating years of character development. I could hardly envision ME taking 10 steps forward and 10 steps back.
Finally, I use to think every television actor wanted to make it on the big screen. Not James. He wanted Buffy to continue and embraces the notion of long term projects. Not to say he'd turn down a movie role if it were offered, but he seems to enjoy the security of television as long as it's good material. Lucky us. :)