Remembering the Dollhouse

Tahmoh Penikett, Eliza Dushku, and Miracle Laurie reflected on deep existential questions related to their time on the short-lived but popular series Dollhouse in a panel in the Westin Peachtree Ballroom, Sunday at 1PM.

Dushku described her favorite “Tahmoh blunder story.” During the filming of the pilot, on Tahmoh’s first day, he was so nervous, he misspoke his line and it came out, “The Wallhouse is real!” Penikett jumped in at that point to explain that he’d just finished filming several years as Karl ‘Helo’ Agathon on Battlestar Galactica. He remembered feeling like “the new guy” and “out of place” especially as compared to the established relationship between Joss Whedon and Dushku, who had previously worked together on both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

One of the things that made filming Dollhouse challenging was that, from the beginning, the uncertainty of the show’s survival caused Whedon tons of stress. All the panelists expressed disappointment that the show got cancelled. An audience member asked if they were comfortable with how the show got cancelled. Most felt at least three or four more seasons were needed to thoroughly tell and wrap up the story lines, but they all also felt Whedon did the best he could. Another challenge of doing this particular show was the “imprinting” process that required the actors to change roles every episode, which stretched and strengthened their acting abilities.

Penikett reflected that he personally found the first three or four episodes of Dollhouse difficult because he wasn’t sure he was making the right choices about how to play his character. Between the stress on the set and Whedon’s very different directorial style, Penikett felt he didn’t get his acting ego stroked as he’d been accustomed to with the BSG directors, which made his transition difficult. He said that even after working with writers and directors to understand a character, the actor still needs to take the journey of dropping into the character.

Dushku said there are many different processes for bringing a character to life and making them more real. Dushku works with an acting coach, who helps her to “reflect on the subtext of my own life; what is most charged in my life and how to bring that energy to the scene.”

“Acting is awesome, it’s a dance,” expressed Penikett. “The other actor may give you something that you have to adapt to and flow with.”

Miracle, who played Mellie and Madeline, described that actors have a toolbox of tricks and techniques to help them access their character. “If it’s good writing, you just move naturally into that character.” She uses music to affect her mood and created a “Mellie Mix” playlist on her iPod to help her get into a sad enough mood that she could cry a lot on set.

Penikett said, “So much could have been done with this show.” He continued, “There were incredible actors on this show…I would have liked to work with some of the others more.”

The enthusiastic and loyal audience appreciated the panelists’ candidness and openness and praised them with a standing ovation at the end of their panel.

Author of the article

Inara de Luna is a writer, editor, desktop publisher, and SF/F fan. She has been published in a variety of genres and venues and has edited dozens of books, articles, and essays. She is currently a monthly contributor to Inara is also a Relationship Coach and Sexuality Educator who works with people around the country via phone and video. As a Sex, Gender,  & Relationship Diversity Specialist, Inara specializes in offering her services to those who identify as poly, queer, trans, and/or kinky. Inara can be found online at The Sex Positive Coach (, on Facebook at and on Twitter as @inaradeluna. And yes, her chosen name was inspired by the beautiful courtesan on Firefly.  :)