by Tami Katzoff (@tvtamijo)
Sixteen years ago this week, with the premiere of an episode titled “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” television audiences were introduced to Buffy Anne Summers, high school student and slayer of vampires. There’s so much one can say about “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s” legacy, but Jose Molina sums it up nicely. “For me, the most significant thing to come out of ’Buffy’ was that it forced people to re-evaluate their perception of what a genre show was and what it could be,” he says. “A show with a goofy name and an outlandish premise came out of left field and told some of the most original, moving, surprising stories on television. It forced people to pay attention and not judge a book by its cover. ’Buffy’ paved the way for thoughtful, bold genre shows that sought to break with convention, and the TV landscape is much better for it.”
Molina is currently an executive producer on “The Vampire Diaries;” back in the “BtVS” days, he was the assistant to writer/producer Howard Gordon. “It was not a terribly glamorous or interesting job,” Molina says. “It did, however, allow me a fantastic entree into the TV world. I was exposed to some incredible writing and some really nice people, and it’s a time for which I’ll always be grateful.”
Molina’s assistant job carried over to “Angel,” and by the time “Firefly” came around he had advanced to Executive Story Editor – “a shiny title that basically means ’writer,'” explains Molina. “I helped break stories and write scripts and tried to absorb every bit of wisdom I could from Joss, Tim Minear and Ben Edlund.”
Ten years and several TV series later, Molina was on hand to celebrate “Firefly’s” milestone anniversary at San Diego Comic-Con. “For a day, I felt like a Beatle. Okay, so I was Pete Best, but it was still great to feel so much affection and enthusiasm from the fans,” Molina says. “The reunion itself was a blast. I hadn’t seen Alan [Tudyk] or Sean [Maher] in ten years, so it was nice to chat with them again. My only wish is that we could’ve had more time.”
Molina has worked on TV projects as varied as “Law & Order: SVU,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Castle,” where he reteamed with Nathan Fillion (“He’s a diva,” Molina jokes. “And he smells just awful”). When it comes to writing, he’s learned from the best. “There are countless ways of writing a scene or telling a story, and the best writers find the most surprising versions,” Molina says. “When I approach a scene, I usually think of three versions of the scene. First, there’s the conventional, straightforward version; then there’s the ’upside down’ version — in which I turn the characters upside down and see what they say from the opposite point-of view; then there’s the ’different angle’ version, which is neither straightforward nor Bizarro World, it’s just… skewed.
For instance, a character asks ’Do you love me?’ In version one, the response is ’yes.’ In version two, the response is ’no, I hate you.’ In version three, the response might be ’you know what I love? French fries.’ Each version will lead to a different scene, and I’m always curious to explore the different versions. I learned that from Mr. Whedon.”
Previously on The Weekly Whedon:
» Tim Minear, Joss Whedon & the best Comic-Con ever
» Tim Minear challenges Joss Whedon in the Bram Stoker Awards
» Julie Benz talks TV death, undeath and ’Defiance’
» Adam Baldwin talks Joss, Jayne and ’Serenity’ dreams
» Joss Whedon and ‘Star Wars’: What might have been
MTV News producer Tami Katzoff presents The Weekly Whedon, a column exploring all corners of the Whedonverse from “Marvel’s The Avengers” to “Buffy” and beyond. Assemble your reactions in the comments section!