When college basketball star Marc Blucas did not make the NBA, he decided to apply to law school. The day before he was scheduled to take the Law School Admission Test, he unwound by watching Rob Reiner's courtroom drama A Few Good Men (1992) and realized that what excited him about the film was not the law, but the acting. A few years later, Blucas was a television veteran with several feature films under his belt and a coveted spot in Vanity Fair's prestigious Hollywood Issue. Born Marcus Paul Blucas on January 11, 1972, the actor grew up in the small town of Girard, PA. The son of a school superintendent and an education administrator, he made his stage debut as a cupcake in his third grade class' production of Hansel and Gretel. At 6'2" tall, he was the star center on the Girard High School basketball team. An All-State athlete, Blucas averaged 20.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and lead his team to two 2A championships. In his senior year, the team went undefeated and was ranked among the best high school basketball teams by USA Today. Blucas earned a full scholarship to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, where he majored in business with a minor in speech communication and played shooting guard and small forward for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. He competed in four NCAA tournaments and won the Murray C. Greason Sr. Athletic Academic Award and the Weaver-James-Corrigan Postgraduate Scholarship in his senior year. When Blucas was not picked in the NBA draft, he joined the Manchester Giants and played pro basketball in England for one season. After starting a company that was targeted to assist athletes in endorsement and contract negotiations, he intended to go to law school but tried his hand at acting instead.
Blucas had already appeared opposite Marg Helgenberger and Kris Kristofferson in the television movie Inflammable (1995), when a friend at Wake Forest informed him that the producers of the Whoopi Goldberg comedy Eddie (1996) were looking for a baby-faced basketball player to appear in the picture. He was a perfect fit and made his feature-film debut as a benched player on the New York Knicks. After working as the technical advisor on NBC's sports biopic Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story (1996), Blucas was able to expand his part as an athlete in Pleasantville (1997) by coordinating the film's basketball sequences. He then dedicated himself to honing his craft through workshops and acting classes, before resurfacing as Jerry O'Connell's best friend in the NBC miniseries The '60s (1999), and as Carmen Electra's ex-beau in Jeff Abugov's The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human (1999). He also appeared on MTV's Undressed, the WB's Clueless, and HBO's Arli$$.
Blucas' breakthrough role came in the fall of 1999, when he was cast as a regular on Joss Whedon's hit series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Portraying Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) demon-hunting boyfriend, Riley Finn, he became a recognizable actor with a sturdy fan base. Blucas left the show in 2000 (with the promise that he would be back) in order to pursue film work. After starring in the baseball-themed Summer Catch (2001) with Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jessica Biel, he began a back-to-back shooting schedule that included Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) with Ben Affleck and Jason Lee, John Sayles' The Sunshine State (2001) with Angela Bassett and Edie Falco, and Randall Wallace's We Were Soldiers (2002) with Mel Gibson and Chris Klein. He also joined the casts of the Gwyneth Paltrow comedy A View From the Top (2002), the thriller They (2002), and the period piece I Capture the Castle (2002).
While still swearing to fans that he will return to Buffy the Vampire Slayer as soon as he can, Blucas signed on to director Alex Steyermark's Pray for Rock 'n' Roll, which stars Gina Gershon, Jennifer Esposito, Jane Adams, and Shelly Cole as a struggling Los Angeles-based girl band. Despite his onscreen success and his busy schedule, the actor still makes time for basketball. He plays on an adult team and serves as a referee for a Los Angeles youth league.
Marc Blucas Talks About "First Daughter"
Two teen TV veterans, Marc Blucas ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and Katie Holmes ("Dawson's Creek"), star in the romantic comedy “First Daughter,” directed by Forest Whitaker. Holmes plays the college-aged daughter of the President of the United States who wants nothing more than to lead a normal life on campus, away from the happenings in the White House. Blucas co-stars as the guy Holmes falls for before discovering things aren’t quite what they appear to be on the surface.
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is over however loyal fans are still interested in what’s going on with actor Marc Blucas, Buffy's one-time love interest, Riley Finn. It seems that no matter how many years have passed since he co-starred on the cult series, the subject of “Buffy” invariably comes up, no matter what project he’s actually promoting.
In this interview, Blucas talks about working with Katie Holmes and Forest Whitaker on “First Daughter,” and, of course, the continued support of “Buffy” fanatics.
INTERVIEW WITH MARC BLUCAS (‘James’):
What’s the story behind being cast in this film?
What happened was, all of this I learned after the fact of course, he could have saved me a lot of stress and agony by not putting me through the audition process. I was outside. I was going to the meeting and Forest (Whitaker) was going to the meeting as well, and I parked my truck and he was about 20 feet away. We had never met before. I said, “Hey, Forest. I’m Marc. I’ll be in in a little bit.” And he kind of stopped and looked at me for a beat or two too long, and I’m like, “I was just judged right there.” And he went in. Probably three or four months after we wrapped, the casting director said he just walked into the room and said, “I just met my guy right in the parking lot.” So, yeah, he could have saved me a lot of anguish, some stress going in there.
It probably wasn’t his decision alone though.
Right. And obviously, I think it was at the point where they had narrowed it to seven or eight guys at that point. I think he wanted to see people with Katie [Holmes] because chemistry really isn’t something you can just wish to happen. I think it either does or it doesn’t.
Did you read with her?
Yeah, which kind of shows her commitment and her professionalism. That was something she probably didn’t have to be at, at that point. She wanted every guy in there to have a fair shake, and it was very easy. I think we found a cadence. I think ease is really the best word. We just found a very easy way of being with one another.
Had you met her before?
Socially, one time. But it was brief. I think it was when she was with Chris (Klein) at something.
Were you a fan of “Dawson’s Creek” at all?
I don’t have satellite or cable. I don’t really even watch television, so I can’t really say I was a die hard [fan]. But I could say that about my own show (“Buffy”) at that time, too. So, it’s not any slight to that.
Were at all aware of the other First Daughter movie being made around the same time?
(Teasing) I have no idea what you’re talking about. Yeah. All along, as an actor trying to find work in town, I knew about both of them. I knew, I guess rightfully so, it was a race to see who comes first. But that happens a lot in town. There’s a concept out there and suddenly all of a sudden there’s three of the same things out there. And I think that, we forget that when “Big” came out there were two other movies very similar to that that we really don’t remember, and it was kind of a race to see which one came out first then.
Obviously, as an actor, we have no control. We don’t weigh in on the decisions the studios make, but I would like to think that they saw some of their footage and said, “Hey, we’re going to give the filmmaker as much time as he needs to finish out his vision, to make the movie he wants because we think we have something special and it doesn’t matter when it comes out. We don’t feel like we need to feel the pressure of going first.” But, I don’t know what the decision process was there.
Did you practice much for the dancing in the movie?
It was so hard to get onto two and four instead of one and three. It was the gown I was most worried about, this Vera Wang gown. I was like, “I gotta stay away from this thing.” But Katie had some ballet training growing up so she’s kind of been around it, so I took her lead a couple of times. Our dance coach, I think she choreographed “Dirty Dancing.” She has some impressive credits to her resume and I don’t think anybody’s going to be calling us Fred and Ginger anytime soon. But hey, the spoils of an actor, you get the opportunity to learn a skill that you normally wouldn’t learn or have access to or have time to go learn.
How was working with Forest Whitaker?
I think that any actor who has the opportunity to work with another actor who has decided to get behind the camera, it’s usually a pretty great experience for that person. I’ve been such a fan of Forest as an actor for a long time, just as I have Michael Keaton. And it’s the actor’s job to come to the table with a take on the role and the scene and the story. That’s what we’re supposed to do, as a filmmaker, that’s what a director is supposed to do. But it kind of takes an ego-less environment to have what you have planned - to be able to let go what I’ve worked out in my mind and for the director to say, “Hey, I’m willing to listen…” To be able to elevate something - I’m not saying this well.For Forest, for a filmmaker to be open-minded yet to have a specific vision of what he wants to execute, it’s a fine line. It’s a hard thing to do to say, “Hey, I have a vision. I know what I want to see out of this role. I know what I want to see out of this scene and with this story,” but yet be open enough to his actors and the people he hires to trust, to listen to their opinion and to be open to changing what he has in mind. That’s a difficult thing, but that’s the only way that something can be elevated. To be able to say, “Hey, I can take from my opinions and we can take what you have to say and let, from that, something different and magical happen.” That was Forest.
Did you do any Secret Service research?
We did have a Secret Service kind of a tech advisor with us on the set and it was great to kind of do what you guys do; pick their brain for a while and try to get more and more and more. But, it gets to a certain point with those guys where they’re like, “I can’t tell you that,” and they pull the classified card on you. But it’s real and you’re like, “That’s so cool. I want to be able to do that!”
What was fascinating for me was I kind of fell into the trap of the clichés. We look at those guys as the grunt work. They’re the guys with the sunglasses and the guns and they jump in front of the bullet and you don’t realize the intellectual, psychological approach. They are constantly thinking. They are always on their toes in terms of ‘is this a threat?’ They’re looking at the worse cast scenario all the time. “Is this a threat? Is someone coming through this door? If they come through here, is that the best way to go or is that just a decoy to get us to go that way?” These guys are always thinking in that capacity, and I never really looked at these guys as the brains behind the operation. You just kind of look at them as the grunt work. So, it was pretty fascinating to look at it from that side of it. I’d keep pushing these guys for more detailed information on a story and they’re like, “I can’t tell you anymore.”
Did you learn any physical tricks of the trade?
Not really. I didn’t have to. It’s not like I was handling a weapon or anything like that. That really wasn’t this movie. There were interesting things they would come up with like you’ll never see a Secret Service guy with his jacket buttoned because they need to be able to get at their gun and their radio. I thought that was interesting. [Spoiler deleted] Just little things like that that you find out. It was interesting information to get.
Did they ever tell you what might happen to them if they fell for the person they were assigned to protect?
Nothing like what happened in the movie. That’s obviously a fine line that Forest had to walk. For me, the best thing that [the Secret Service advisor] did for me, his name was Marc, I said, “Hey, in a situation like this there would be a ton more Secret Service people around.” But giving us the Hollywood license, I asked him to walk down the Santa Monica Promenade with me as if he were protecting me but I didn’t know it, the exact situation that happens in the movie. In a public situation, I don’t know that you’re guarding me. I just wanted to see where he stood in relation to other people, in front of me or behind me. How much he actually looked around without trying to tip your hat and give those things away. Those were interesting observations for me to make because Forest and I had those discussions. How much do you want to give away versus… It’s nothing we ever butt heads about. Forest and I didn’t disagree, but he didn’t want to tip his hat at all to this. But I said, “Well, I think there have to be some moments where you see him want to tell her because he’s actively deceiving her.”
If you look at the movie a second time, if you don’t see that there are times when he wants to come clean with something, then he’s not a likable guy. He’s being deceitful on purpose. I think this character wants to come clean and wants to tell the truth and then something happens that he can’t. He’s about to tell her and then goes in another direction until it gets to that moment when it’s revealed, he never got to say it.
Is there someone in your life you feel you would take a bullet for?
I’d certainly like to think so. Obviously, that’s such an instinctual moment of choice, I would like to think that I would for my family in a second. But, at the same time, it would be nice to think that we’re all good enough human beings that you would for anyone. But whether that is a truthful statement or not, you kind of need to be in the moment to deal with it.
Didn’t you have to tote Katie around a lot up and down stairs? How did that go?
What comes together as a 10 second clip in the movie was four different nights of shooting because they were different locations: the stairway, inside the bar, down the street, in her dorm room. The walk and talk, all the dialogue was one take.
Walking the full block was miserable on both of us because her stomach was killing her because she’d be dead weight on my shoulder. She can’t breathe and [she was] bouncing up and down. The scene calls for the pace to be quick. He’s getting her out of there and he’s angry at what she’s doing, jealous and all these other things, and so to do that 24 or 25 times has got to be…you know. I think we faked it well, but I don’t know how much we liked each other at the end of the night. I was looking at her like, “What are you having for lunch because it had better not be much.”
Speaking of working out, do you still play basketball a lot?
Occasionally. I try not to when I’m shooting because I’m the kind of guy that will walk in the next day and show Forest my eight stitches above my eye and that won’t go over well. It’s hard for me to turn off the competitive juices. They somehow creep back up when there’s two minutes left in a game and I’ve been good all game and all of a sudden something happens.
Do you play in a league?
Yeah, actually the NBA runs a league, the NBA Entertainment League, which is for people in front of the camera or behind the music, anything in the industry. It gives us all a chance to live our dreams of being a professional athlete. Everyone in this town, with their ego, thinks they’re Michael Jordan anyway. But it’s on the clock. We wear NBA uniforms. It’s officiated. It’s really well-run. It is fun.
Are you competitive about acting also?
[Pointing to bottled water on the table] I’ll race you to see how fast you can drink that bottle of water. I’m pretty much competitive about anything. By nature, it’s a competitive business but I’ve also been that guy, I’ll walk out of an audition and see the six guys waiting and say, “Hey, we didn’t do the second scene. It’s only the first and the third.” I don’t wish bad will on anyone. We’re all after the same thing and whatever happens, happens. If they like what I did in the room and my energy and my thing, then that’s great. But I’m not going to intentionally sabotage anyone - or at least I haven’t yet.
Is it a different experience to do a film like this that is supposed to me more commercial than some of your other work?
I don’t know if it’s a different discipline. Certainly it was a different genre from what I’ve done lately. But, I don’t think I had to come about it a different way. The minute you find yourself thinking, “Oh, this is maybe a big mainstream studio movie,” then that defeats the creative purpose and kind of what drew you to the movie in the first place.
Do you find yourself fighting that sort of Boy Scout typecast or is that gone?
Fighting’s not the right word, I don’t think. I think that I’m realistic in how I’m going to be cast. I know the right things and, on the same token, I didn’t think I’d get a movie like “Prey for Rock and Roll” where I got to play the drinking, smoking, tattooed, ex-con. But, the truth is, I’m not always cast like that. So any actor is going to sit here and tell you that, “Hey, it’s nice to be cast outside the box and do experimental things and things that you normally wouldn’t be thought of for right off the bat.” At the same time, regardless of the level of where actors are, you have to deliver how they want to see you, I guess. We want to see Julia Roberts be Julia Roberts. So you have to deliver that.
What is next for you?
I won’t work for three weeks in December. I always take three weeks to be home and play in the snow with the family.
Where is home?
A small town in Pennsylvania. That’s next. It’s nice. You work really hard to reach certain plateaus as an actor and so it’s nice for me to finally to get to that place to be picky. It’s very lucky.
What are you looking for?
I’m not reinventing the wheel to say it’s nice to do different things all the time so in the past couple of years, I’ve done a couple of period pieces, I’ve done real life stories, “We Were Soldiers” and “The Alamo,” and the war pieces and ensemble pieces and general romantic comedy so, next, I’m not going to make my target small than it already is by saying, “Oh, I know I want this.” If I read something and it doesn’t hit me in my head, my heart and my stomach, if it doesn’t hit me in the right places, then I’m in a position now where I don’t have to do it, which is a nice, lucky place to be. It’s nice to say, “Whatever job I do next, it’s for the right reasons.”
What if a director you really admire offered you a movie that shoots in December?
I hope it happens. It would be a nice bridge to have to cross but, in general, the business kind of shuts down during Thanksgiving and Christmas time. There’s not much that shoots because no production wants to shut down for two weeks. You lose your momentum. But, sure, if it was the right thing. I love what I do and I’m the guy that would like to wrap and go right to work the next day on something else. If it were the right thing, one way or another you’ll find time for family and make them both happen.
Do you still get the “Buffy” fans?
Sure. And, hopefully that will never be over. It was so great to be part of a big hit show with such a loyal fan base that has a huge, cult, loyal following. I don’t think that will ever go away. You might talk to some of your friends and say, “Yeah, I saw ‘Friends’ last night but I didn’t see it three weeks before that.” It was do or die with “Buffy.” You either didn’t watch it or it was every week and you didn’t answer the phone, you didn’t go to the bathroom, you don’t miss it. So, yeah, it was fun to be part of a show that has that kind of fan base.
Have you found it easy to balance your craft doing commercial films?
I guess yes and no. Sometimes it is. The lesson you learn your first year of college is time management. It has nothing to do with the curriculum, it’s like you’re forced to do those things. At the same time, doing the bigger studio movies, I still look at that as the craft. It’s a credit to Forest because this could have very much been a movie where the classic formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back, and he made sure that every character had their own set of obstacles that they were trying to overcome. Here was a guy that was leaving college and wondering [if] he is on the right path. Is he doing the right thing? And this is a very relatable idea. These are things we’ve all been through. Am I doing the right thing in life? And, for her character, someone who is away from home for the first time and is falling in love for the first time and who she is and what she does obviously complicates those things, but it takes these two people to get together to learn from each other and it happens to be romantic in the case of the movie, but to see each other through and help deflect each other on the right path. We’ve all experienced those moments in relationships in life, romantic or otherwise, where we’ve met someone and said, “That was a meaningful thing. They kind of pushed me in this direction and it was a necessary thing to have happen at that time.” I think that’s what these characters do for each other in the movie.
Are you romantic?
Sometimes. Certainly not when I’m with a wrench underneath my car but I’m not opposed to lighting a candle and cooking dinner either so…