Welcome to the Dollhouse
BY Harrison Pierce
March 06 2009 1:00 AM ET
In Greek mythology Echo is a nymph cursed to repeat what
others say, which makes her a little bit like an actress stuck
with a script she didn't write. How has producing the show
given you more of a voice in terms of shaping your
First and foremost, Joss and I came up with this idea together
-- but I have to be realistic and say he is absolutely the
genius behind many of the finer details of the project as a
whole. But the show's a little biographical and makes strong
parallels with my life. As producer, I'm involved in the sense
that Joss and I talk almost every day -- ever since we had our
four-hour lunch [to develop the concept] and the following week
when he sent me the pitch before taking it to Fox. I sort of
live my life and articulate my struggles and my fears and my
thoughts with Joss and he listens to me and we have this
friendship. We also have a very like-minded view of what those
stories translate into and what they're saying about who we are
and where our culture is leading us with the addition of
technology and identity. Sexuality was also an important theme
I told Joss I hoped we could explore with my character -- you
know, face some of the taboos and beliefs that we support or
You've made a career playing some tough chicks -- was Eliza
Dushku the kind of girl who ever actually played with a
I played with G.I. Joes, Transformers, and
figures with my three big brothers [laughs]. I remember having
a neighbor that had a big dollhouse and there was this sort of
intrigue and fascination with it. When my brothers weren't
looking, I'd go down to my neighbor's house and play with it.
That is the sort of dichotomy Joss recognizes in me -- you
know, "OK, Eliza, you've been typecast as this strong,
kick-ass woman, but if you see through the cracks, there's this
femininity, vulnerability, and innocence." In the past couple
years I've been ready to let that come through more.
Early in your career you worked opposite acting legend
Robert De Niro in
This Boy's Life.
Did you realize the significance of it at the time, or was he
just some old man coworker?
I had no idea. We were the family that, like, didn't have TV.
Literally, we saw two movies growing up --
The Gods Must Be Crazy.
My mother didn't know who De Niro was, I didn't know who De
Niro was. I was this precocious little kid and this guy was
playing my dad and I had no idea he was one of the greatest
actors of our time. When I worked with him again, at 19 [in
City by the Sea
], we laughed about it. I remember seeing him on the first day
and going, "Hey, Bob, I'm back, I'm bigger, I'm louder, but I
also know who you are now, so I'm gonna, like, get into it" [
]. He just couldn't stop rolling his eyes.
What about working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in
-- did he give you any advice on being an action heroine?
Well, I spent four weeks on that shoot hanging from a harrier
jet on top of a Miami Savings Bank with Arnold, a stunt team,
and Jim Cameron. In terms of learning what it takes to make a
true action movie, that was pretty good training. And Arnold
was fantastic -- the guy is so fun to work with -- he brings
the energy and the humor and the enthusiasm every day. He truly
is a man who worked hard to get where he is. And he is
grateful. I remember him saying little things, like, "Eliza,
I truly try to learn something new and be better every day."
Another little thing that he gave me early on is -- well, you
know, I sort of tripped and fell into this business and my
mother is the antithesis of a stage mother, so we were sort of
learning as we went along and people would always tell her,
"Your kid has a funny name, Judy -- you should think about
changing it." And Arnold said to me and my mom [in the famed
Austrian accent] "Eliza, Judy, trust me, keep her name,
people will learn it, take it from me" [
On that same note, do you have any advice for our Governator
in terms of current California politics?
I hope that he truly stays connected and makes the necessary
strides to [repeal] Prop. 8 in California. That's the
one thing I'd really rally for him to advocate for --
legalizing gay marriage. It's a big deal, a big fucking