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Was ‘Angel’ change just part of a plan?
Quinn is written out of the show; Denisof joins cast

SHARE Was ‘Angel’ change just part of a plan?
Quinn is written out of the show; Denisof joins cast

LOS ANGELES -- In the midst of its first season, "Angel" is still trying to find itself somewhat.

And not just because it's a new show that was spun off from cult hit "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Nine episodes into the year, "Angel" took a sudden sidestep when one of the three regular characters was killed off and replaced.But according to executive producer/creator Joss Whedon, the genius behind both shows, killing Doyle, the character played by actor Glenn Quinn, was part of the plan from the time the show was first developed.

"We had always wanted to shake things up by getting rid of Angel's mentors by setting up somebody that we had assumed was going to be there the whole time and then killing them really surprisingly," he said with no small degree of sarcasm. "And what a surprise it was since everybody knew about it a couple months beforehand. But we tried, anyway."

Indeed, the news that Quinn was being written out broke weeks before the episode aired. And gave rise to early speculation about why the change was taking place.

For the uninitiated, Angel (David Boreanaz) is a most unusual vampire -- one with a soul who feels remorse for the crimes he has committed in the 243 years of his existence. After 3 1/2 years of star-crossed romance with Buffy, Angel moved to Los Angeles, where he took on the role as champion of the underdog, fighting against evil in its various forms on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves.

And he hooked up immediately with Doyle, a half-human, half-demon who was Angel's link to the mysterious Powers That Be and whose painful visions pointed the vampire toward those needing his help. Which made him seem rather essential to the "Angel" format.

Until he sacrificed himself to save a group of "good" demons from being killed by "bad" demons, first passing that vision thing on to a more-than-reluctant Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), the third member of the original cast.

(Quinn has since been replaced, sort of, by Alexis Denisof, who plays the smart-but-buffoonish Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, a role he played last season on "Buffy.")

Whedon has consistently maintained that Doyle was not written out because of any unhappiness he, the other producers or WB network officials had with Quinn's performance. But such rumors have, not surprisingly, swirled nonetheless.

"That's simply not the case," Whedon said to TV critics on the "Angel" set. "He knew from the very beginning that he wasn't going to be on the show forever."

A fact that Quinn hid quite well in a wide range of interviews.

"Well, he's an actor. And, like us, he thought that it would be a surprise," Whedon said.

He did, however, acknowledge that the plan was not set in stone when "Angel" began shooting.

"There were different scenarios that could have taken place. We could have reversed the decision and suddenly gone, 'Oh no, we can't do that,' " Whedon said. "But we thought it was a valid idea."

And even coming early in the show's run, Quinn's departure nonetheless was somewhat painful for his fellow actors.

"It was hard," Boreanaz said. "We miss him."

(Not that their friendship has ended. "I see him all the time," Boreanaz said. "He's really a great friend of mine. He's doing great. Glenn's a great friend and he's got a lot of things in the works right now, so we'll see what happens.")

The loss of the character has played into continuing storylines.

"I think Angel's character didn't really quite understand," Boreanaz said. "He was very angry about that, and I think still has a lot of anger inside him because of that. Because here's somebody who was telling him about The Powers That Be and now he's supposed to be his man that brings him to the bridge. And I think that that anger is coming out in a positive way in the episodes that we're doing. And he's dealing with it.

"Angel's character stuffs a lot of stuff down inside of himself, and doesn't show that." And that was always part of the plan, Whedon insisted. "We actually had wanted to do something very similar on 'Buffy' back when that show started," he said.

According to Whedon, he wanted to include a relatively minor character and the actor who played him in the opening credits of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to make viewers believe he was going to be a continuing member of the cast -- and thus create a bit of a surprise when the character was killed off two or three episodes into the show's run. (It was an idea the WB and the folks at the Fox studio, which produces the show, shot down.)

Killing off Doyle was meant "mostly just to keep the audience on their toes. Keep surprising them. Not let them feel safe in the world they're watching. To me, that's the most important thing," Whedon said. "The best thing you can give someone is a genuine surprise. Now, obviously, for most people this wasn't one -- but we tried."

Of course, there's a big difference between including a minor character in the opening credits and then killing him -- particularly when he would have been one of half a dozen continuing characters -- and killing off one of the three leads in a show. And Whedon acknowledged that there was nothing he could do or say that would entirely end speculation that there was more to Quinn's departure than some sort of long-held plan.

"But I don't know what else I can tell you," he said. "That's what happened."