Anthony Head, the British actor best known for playing stammering mentor Rupert Giles on the seminal geek-fest “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” laughed with exasperation Monday when I asked him why a proposed movie reboot of the Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle could ever be moving along without the involvement of Joss Whedon, the guy who, you know, is largely responsible for the franchise becoming a cult classic.
"I've no idea," said Head, in an interview on stage at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour, where he had come to speak about his supporting role in NBC's upcoming Hank Azaria–led ensemble sitcom "Free Agents."
Head sounded every bit as perplexed as ardent fans of the classic WB and UPN series have been about the proposed reboot, which is currently being shopped by husband-and-wife producing team Kaz and Fran Kuzui, and which would feature none of the characters from Whedon's television series, other than Buffy Summers.
Fran Kuzui directed the 1992 theatrical film, which Whedon wrote, and she and her husband have retained the development rights. The Kuzuis didn't initially come to Whedon with their plans to move the concept in a darker direction, and only did so after news had leaked. Whedon declined to get involved. The Kuzuis hope to make the reboot a reality by the end of 2012, despite widespread disgust by fans of the series that has already led to at least one Facebook boycott campaign.
Head said that he managed to have dinner during Comic-Con with Whedon, and chortled after quoting the screenwriter's sarcastic comment about the Kuzuis' possible film: "Eee, gee, I hope it's cool."
On "Free Agents," Head plays Stephen, a frequently divorced bigwig at a public relations firm, the kind of boss who pawns off all duties on subordinates so that he can have more play time. It's a role Head knows quite well — given that he played the same character on the short-lived British version on which the sitcom is based.
Head left "Buffy" in the middle of season six so that he could spend more time raising his two daughters back in England. He spent the intervening years continually working on television there, and currently also co-stars on "Merlin," the BBC series that airs on Syfy in the United States.
But now that his two daughters are in their twenties, he was able to accept the part on the American version of "Free Agents," and he's clearly enjoying himself.
Head cracked up often during the 30-minute session at the TCA panel for the show, and called the British original “a critically acclaimed gem."
Head sat next to Azaria, who plays a divorced public relations executive who probably stupidly sleeps with a co-worker (Kathryn Hahn), and explained that the reason he signed on to do the American version was “because it’s a lot of fun playing somebody who doesn’t have a care in the world.”
Azaria deadpanned, "And he is getting paid."
"In dollars, unfortunately," another panelist quipped.
"Yeah, he was on the fence until we brought up the money," said executive producer John Enbom ("Party Down").
I asked Head if he planned any shout-outs to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on "Free Agents."
"I thought I’d have a massive book, a tome, in the middle of my desk, leather bound and with tantric symbols on it," he said. "Maybe I'll also travel with a stake."