For Mr. Whedon’s chief contender, he’s going to have to cast carefully; the role of the melancholy Dane is one of the toughest in the English language. This is heavier stuff than his actors are usually forced to shoulder — but there’s something about James Marsters, aka Spike, that makes him seem capable of the dramatic lifting. In later years, he nicely captured the role’s tragic underpinnings, and (bonus) we know he can do a faux-British accent, if necessary. And in the role of his tragic victim Ophelia? She’s got a delicateness, physicality, and (ultimately) madness that screams Summer Glau.
Like Much Ado, Twelfth Night demands a big comic ensemble, and Whedon should have no trouble filling it with old favorites. The de facto leads are Viola, the shipwrecked young woman who dons the disguise of a young man, and her identical twin brother (because that’s a thing) Sebastian. So we need a pair of charismatic young actors who can play light comedy well. Sounds like a job for Felicia Day and Fran Kranz.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Another big-cast comedy, though the main player (and instigator of most of the play’s action) is the mischievous fairy Puck. That role sounds like the perfect opportunity for Firefly and Serenity’s Alan Tudyk to take center stage. And while the supporting roles have plenty of rich casting opportunities, the uproariously thick-skulled work of Nathan Fillion in Much Ado should assure any Shakespeare fan that this man was born to play poor, dumb Nick Bottom. (In fact, you could pretty much just transition the Much Ado “security” crew into the Mechanicals.)
The go-to role here is Prospero, once Duke of Milan, now the sorcerer king of the play’s island setting. It is a character that requires weight and great wisdom, but also the capability for kindness — he is powerful and knowing, yet must display at least a modicum of tenderness for his daughter Miranda, who is quickly outgrowing him. So, in a strange way, it’s a role not all that different from Buffy’s Watcher, Rupert Giles. Is Anthony Stewart Head old enough for the part yet?
Marc Antony’s eulogy for the fallen title character, opening with “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” and including those little jabs at Brutus (the “honorable man”) is one of the finest in all of the canon, and requires the kind of actor who can handle both the florid text and loaded subtext. It’s a perfect role for newish Whedon favorite Clark Gregg. The title role, meanwhile, requires an actor who conveys a firm presence but perhaps not a penetrating intelligence. Sounds like a good fit for Adam Baldwin.
The title role of Richard is one of the richest in all of Shakespeare—a conniving, bitter, ruthless villain of the highest order. And maybe this is a stretch, but the character is actually not that far from Whedon’s most notable villainous protagonist: Dr. Horrible, of the eponymous sing-along blog. Sure, we’ve never seen Neil Patrick Harris in a role that serious before. But has there been any evidence yet that there’s anything that guy can’t do?
Angel and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. co-star J. August Richards seems the obvious choice for one of Shakespeare’s few protagonists of color, but this must be said: his serious works have a serious shortage of juicy roles for women, which tend to be Whedon’s primary area of interest. Maybe Othello is due for a creative re-write in the form of a sex change — if for no other reason than to create a killer role for Firefly’s Gina Torres. And one would presume that, in that scenario, nasty old Iago would get a sex change too. Is Eliza Dushku busy?
The Taming of the Shrew
No need to overthink this one — position Shakespeare’s classic battle of the sexes as a spiritual sequel to the Whedon Much Ado, and re-cast Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof in the commensurate roles of Kate and Petruchio. Let’s get on it, Whedon; just clean your house again and set aside another month.