James Marsters has played an array of villains in science fiction — ranging from the vampire Spike on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Brainiac on “Smallville” to the devious Captain John Hart on “Torchwood.”
The actor’s guest arc on Syfy’s “Caprica,” however, may be his most menacing role yet. Beginning on the Friday, March 5th episode, “Know Thy Enemy,” Marsters plays a mere human, but one with such fervent convictions, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goal.
Barnabas Greely (Marsters) is a “monotheistic revolutionary” who gets pulled into the action when Keon (Liam Sproule) introduces him to Lacy (Magda Apanowicz) who needs his help to fulfill a promise to her friend Zoe (Alessandra Torresani). The meeting unfortunately opens her up to danger.
“He’s living in a time which is coming apart at the seams just like the Roman Empire did,” observes Marsters. “People are committing human sacrifice and mass executions and [having] mass orgies. Friends are shooting each other in the head for fun.”
Barnabas blames Caprica’s decadence on the rise of V-clubs in the V-world, a virtual arena in which people can enter as avatars using a holoband and participate in lawless activities — violence and depravity — that unfortunately influence their morality in the real world.
“He sees that the [current polytheistic] religion is not being helpful in steering people towards moral behavior. So he wants to have a religion with one god that’s going to tell people exactly what to do and exactly what the punishment is if you don’t do it and what the reward is if you do. He’s willing to try to make a revolution to make that happen and he’s willing to hurt people.”
Hurting people includes hurting himself in religious devotion, as viewers can witness in this sneak peek clip:
Barnabas is part of the monotheistic group known as the Soldiers of the One of which Sister Clarice Willow (Polly Walker) is an underground leader.
“I’m kind of trying to take my little wing of the church over,” says Marsters about his character. “So I’m at odds with Clarice. People have different ideas about how to achieve the revolution, and Clarice and I see things a little differently.”
Barnabas’ distinct outlook comes from his personal pain, which fuels his passion for change.
“He lost his father to this [decadence],” reveals Marsters. “He used to respect his father a lot but his father has become addicted to these V-clubs and he found him in there doing things that he doesn’t even want to remember. So it comes from a personal place but it has become a very large thing in his mind.”
Trying to puzzle out his character’s motivation isn’t too difficult for the actor, who sees science fiction projects such as “Caprica” as metaphors for the state of the real world.
“You can call it Caprica, you don’t have to call it America,” he says. “It may be true though we are starting to become decadent as a society. And this cycle is repeated in all societies that dare to call themselves empires I guess. We can address these issues fairly directly because we just change the name and we give you some spaceships and laser guns and robots. We can all think about the stuff we don’t want to think about but need to anyway.”
Marsters can even imagine how Barnabas would behave in our reality.
“He’d be spiking trees. He’d be blowing up hydroelectric dams. Can you imagine what he’d do to the World Trade Organization if he had a gun? He’d be the one getting arrested outside.”
Photo credit: Syfy