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Amy Acker.

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Amy Acker on Much Ado About Nothing and Joss Whedon’s Dance Parties

Joss Whedon fans already know how wonderful Amy Acker is — she was Fred and then Illyria on Angel, Dr. Claire Saunders and then Whiskey on Dollhouse, and Lin in The Cabin in the Woods. And if these parts didn't showcase enough of her abilities (with her shifting and/or mysterious personalities), Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing remedies that pronto. Demonstrating a fluency that makes it seem as if she speaks like Shakespeare in her sleep, Acker is a revelation as Beatrice, the sharp-tongued heroine of the piece, who fights against her attraction to Benedick and tries to salvage her cousin Hero's engagement with Claudio. The actress chatted with Vulture about Whedon's Shakespeare brunches, how Romeo and Juliet spawned a blue demon goddess, and giving Fred/Wesley shippers a happy ending.

When we last saw each other, you said you were planning to catch up on Game of Thrones. Did you in fact catch up?
[Giggles] No. I'm way behind. Nathan Fillion got me hooked on it. I was like, "Is it really that good?" And he said, "Oh, yes." I haven't quite gotten my husband to watch it with me. So that's my goal, to get him to watch it with me. I know, I know! I've got to make it a priority.

When you auditioned for Joss for the very first time, for Angel, he wrote you something inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Yeah! He wrote a scene that was in iambic pentameter, that Alexis [Denisof] and J. August Richards were basically cast under a spell that made them fall in love with whichever woman they were looking at, and I came up to them. I think Joss had seen on my résumé that I had done Shakespeare before, and then he wrote that scene, and then in my first couple of weeks on Angel, he asked if I wanted to come do one of the Shakespeare readings at his house. So we've kind of had a Shakespeare connection from the beginning.

The version of Much Ado that you did with Alexis in his backyard is what made Whedon think it could be a movie, he said.
Well, I'm glad he didn't tell me that, because I would have called him every day and said, "Are we making that movie today?" Luckily, I didn't know he had that in mind. His house [where they shot the film] is giant, but it feels so welcoming and comfortable. If I could ever get [Joss's wife Kai Cole] to design me a house, that's my new dream. When I came back to do Dollhouse, season two, we were actually living in New York at the time, and I was like, "I don't know if I can go to L.A. I don't know where I would stay," and Kai was like, "Stay with us!" and I was like, "Okay!" And the house he lived in before, where we started the readings, had this English-garden feel in the backyard, so it was very appropriate for reading Shakespeare.

Perhaps now that you've done the film, teachers can use the film to hook students on Shakespeare.
Yeah! I feel like this has an accessibility. I went to a screening in Dallas, where I'm from, and my dad bought like twenty tickets and invited all his friends. At first, he was really dragging them there, like a lot of them didn't really want to go. They were saying, "We're just telling you — we don't understand Shakespeare. So don't be mad at us if it's not our thing." Then, at the end of it, they were like, "We totally got it! We loved it!" They had a completely opposite reaction to what they expected. So it would be awesome if kids could have that same experience, too. Teachers keep telling us, "I'm so excited to have something to show in my classroom." It was meant to be performed, to hear the different voices and see the subtext and everything else going on. And the thing that I like about what Joss did is adding that first scene, the flashback. In my experience, a lot of people who come out with quick insults, especially against one person particularly, the way Beatrice does against Benedick, it's almost like a defense mechanism. So I like that it has that history built into it, that there's a history they have together.

And there's another history you guys have together. Fred and Wesley finally get a happy ending.
Exactly! [Laughs] You know, I probably should have, but I didn't necessarily think about it at the time. I'm interested to see what fans of Fred and Wesley think of this. I do think there's something special for people like me who were like, "Why can't they be together?" I always thought Fred was in love with Wesley from the beginning, and then one day, I got a script where all of a sudden I was making out with Gunn, and I was like, "Wait! What?" I feel like there are so many people who felt like they should have been together, and then of course, in true Joss fashion, it got yanked away. 

Who was more fun to play: Fred or Illyria?
What I really liked was getting to switch back and forth between them in the same episode. I definitely have a fondness for Fred, but I never would have thought that anybody would let me be cast as a blue demon goddess who got to beat up by James Marsters and David Boreanaz and all the big boys. And that actually came out of the Shakespeare readings as well!

Wait, how did that happen?
I think it was from Romeo and Juliet. I think I was reading Lady Capulet, and Joss got the idea for Illyria, and that's how he decided to change me to a blue demon goddess. I was mean, and he liked me playing mean. [Laughs]

Did you join the cast on the Bus Ado About Nothing tour to Austin for South by Southwest?
No, I did not. I think everyone on the bus except for Joss were the people who didn't have kids at home, so they had a little more time to do it. I went to the bus in L.A. and sent them off with banana bread and candy, and then I met the bus when they got to Austin, and joined them for a few dance parties on the bus. That's kind of a requirement. In order to be in the Joss universe, you have to dance. He doesn't cares if you're good or not, but there's going to be a dance party, so you might as well get onboard.

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty