Nathan Fillion and Morena Baccarin

Interview by Johanna Juntunen - LA, September 2005

Q: It must’ve been quite a roller coaster, having a TV show cancelled and then having a movie made of it?

N: Yeah.

M: And in that ride when you plunge three-hundred feet…

N: That was the cancellation. But it’s been good, nothing like a major motion picture to make you feel better about having your TV show cancelled.

Q: What was different about the show and this movie compared to Star Trek and to Star Wars that made people notice it and become fans?

M: I think it’s good. I think that people identify with the characters and they like the stories that are being told. It’s really exciting.

N: I agree. I think that’s Joss Whedon’s talent. He writes interesting people, I love my character. And I love the stories and the relationships. I think that’s what the fans invest in. It takes them by the heart.

Q: Maybe they can also identify because the world seem so similar to ours, a world where they want to make us better. It’s almost like a Bush program?

N: (laughs) I think Joss Whedon’s view of the future is extremely…

M: Realistic.

N: Yeah. I don’t see aliens around us right now. I don’t see any reason there would be tons of aliens five hundred years from now.

M: It’s very tangible, you can see everything.

N: It’s the same. People are doing the same thing they’ve always done: screwing each other over for money and power. That’s what happens.

Q: When Star Trek made the leap from TV to the big screen, the show had been playing for years. In your case it’s fascinating that there is a cult based on a cancelled show?

N: I wonder what would’ve happened to Star Trek then if they had the technology, the internet, DVD technology, box sets.

Q: But what is your perspective on it?

M: We had to move on. It was my first TV show and I really fell in love with it and I got really heart broken, I’m sure we all did. So I moved on. I thought it was over. I had to move to my next job.

N: I didn’t move on very well. I was very bitter. I wasn’t prepared (laughs). I didn’t see it coming.

Q: How did you get the news?

N: Joss came down to the set while we were working.

M: Jewel called me and then Joss called. And then we all went to Nathan’s house and got drunk.

N: Yeah, that’s true. We were so afraid that the last three days that were left were going to be torture, and we went in and everybody was determined to have a great time.

M: We kept saying “what’s the worst that could happen?”

N: “They’re going to cancel us?”

Q: How did you react when Firefly came out on a DVD and it became such a hit?

M: I think I was the last to know that because I had moved on. Somebody said that it’s coming out on DVD. I thought “oh, that’s great, a couple of people will buy it.” (laughs)

N: The show getting cancelled was a downer because we thought we had a great show. The DVD selling well was like a little pat on a back, like a consolation prize. It said “guys, you weren’t doing anything wrong”.

M: Right. “We still want to see this and now this is how we are going to watch it”.

Q: What kind of feedback do you get from fans?

M: They have a very mutual understanding of the work, I think. They really enjoy the same things that we enjoy in it. They have such an in-depth understanding of the world, the universe that was created. They really do their research, and they read things about it. They’re very intelligent. And they’re really passionate about it. They get really into the world, and they dress up as us sometimes. They have these really intelligent questions about the Alliance vs. the Browncoats, it’s really cool.

N: There’s beautiful art work and posters on the internet. “Things I’ve learned about Firefly” lessons.

M: They have quotes that we’ve said.

N: Yeah, makes you feel pretty clever. And it makes it look like this show ran for years.

Q: This movie has more humour than most sci-fi films. How did Joss put it in there, because the audience is laughing both at you and with you, which is unusual?

N: Well, I think both are true. Joss is solely responsible for how the characters turned out.

M: He credits us for the deliverance of it, but he really tells us how to do it (laughs). It’s in the writing, it’s all there.

N: That’s real life. It’s dry humour, not punch-line funny, but it certainly is dry.

M: It’s ironic. Joss mirrors life very well. I love that part where you’re trying to get into the Gore-Tex and you say “it’s hard to get into!” It’s funny because we feel your pain. It’s not funny because it’s a funny line.

N: “Dead guy gave me an understatement!”

Q: How did you originally get the roles on Firefly?

N: My manager told me about this new sci-fi western, and I said “what???” And he said “yeah, it’s Joss Whedon”, and I had auditioned for Angel when Buffy first came around. So I was well aware of his talent and I had a couple of friends on Buffy. So I was intrigued, read it…

M: Did you have a script?

N: No, it was the treatment written by play by play how the script was going to be, it hadn’t been written yet. I had a holding deal with 20th Century Fox. It was like “we’ll give you a job, we don’t have anything yet but just hang in tight”, and they set me up with a meeting with Joss Whedon. I was in his office, Amy Brit was there I remember, she’s lovely, and there’s this guy in the corner with this purple sweater with a big hole in it, scraggly red hair and big red wiry beard. I was thinking “who is this guy and when is Joss Whedon going to get here?” We sort of started chatting and I realized that that was Joss. We spent about forty-five minutes chatting about the show, and that’s how I got my audition and eventually the show.

M: I came in last. They had already cast somebody in my role. The treatment came to me similarly as to Nathan, but I was in New York. And I was so sick of going to tape things and not getting jobs, that I passed on it and said “no, I don’t want to audition for this”. I went to do a play and came back, and decided to go to L.A. for a week. Somebody already had the job but got fired, and the part was open again. I saw it as fate. I had to audition at 3 p.m. and at 5 p.m. I had to go to meet Joss. I was also wondering who this guy was, but we just chatted for thirty to forty-five minutes and I was like “I’ll do anything this guy does”. He’s so passionate and intelligent. And you’re just playing, he had me do this Russian accent. Then I tested the next day and got on set. These guys were all there, and they’re already shooting. I was like “what??”

N: We were a week in and she came wide eyed to the set. Joss explained everything to her.

Q: You started in soap opera One Life to Live. It’s a double edged sword; a great starting point but you get easily stuck?

N: Bob (Robert) Woods, he played my uncle, he played Bo Buchanan, I was Joy Buchanan, and two years into my three year contract he pulled me aside and said “look, I’m here to tell you that they are going to come and renegotiate your contract. I’m telling you, say no. The harder you say no, the harder they are going to make it to leave. They offer you more money, but daytime drama is the golden handcuffs; they’re gold but they’re handcuffs. If you leave and go to L.A. and try it out, and if it doesn’t work out they’ll take you back, so go out there and try your luck”. So every time I go to New York, I buy Bob a bottle of something nice.

Q: What are your expectations on the movie?

M: I don’t know what’s going to happen. I‘m trying to take it day by day at the time. I just hope that it does really well. I’d love to do another movie.

Q: What if they came back and said that they’re going to bring back the TV show?

M: Twist my arm (laughs).

Q: Would you do it?

N: Sure.

M: As long as all these guys are in it and Joss is involved, yeah.

Q: Did you go to Comic-Con?

M: Yeah.

N: Four times I think.

Q: What kind of feedback did you get this time when the movie was coming out?

M: They were so excited about the movie. We showed them a little clip and people just wanted more and more.

N: We stopped. Nothing wrapped up. So there are a lot of people out there who invested and are left hanging.

M: Including us.

N: Yeah. I remember watching the first season of Alias and they had those wonderful cliffhangers. At the end of each episode I wanted to see the next one, thinking how were they going to get out of this one. And Firefly fans have been left like that for almost two years. That’s a long time to wait for the cliffhanger.

Q: Who did you base your character on, is he like a John or something else?

N: A friend of mine grew up in Texas and he worked on a farm with his grandfather. He would tell me these amazing stories of his grandfather who can’t be flustered. This one story that particularly struck me was, they were castrating bulls. The process is that you throw them into this stall, close the gate behind them, do your business and get the next one in there. While they’re getting this one bull in, they’re shutting the gate, the bull kicked and hit the gate between his thumb and a post. And it severed his thumb which remained inside his glove, but it was hanging. He was “oh well, we have six more to do, so let’s keep this going”. He didn’t show the pain in any way. And there’s my friend Cory, nine-ten years old going “grandpa, you have to go to the hospital”, crying. Because of him he decided to go, but I think he was a tough man. He’s had some hard living. That’s the kind of man I imagined Malcolm to be, he grew up on a ranch. He’s a hard worker, not somebody who cries from a little pain.

Q: Is there some Han Solo in him as well?

N: That comparison can be made, and it’s often made. I’m glad for it because I’m a big fan of Han Solo, but if you’re going to this movie expecting Han Solo I think you’d be disappointed. But I do enjoy this character. Malcolm is a little crankier and more weird than Han Solo. If I invited Han Solo to a party, I wouldn’t invite Malcolm.

Q: Were there any scenes that you remember thinking were silly because the sets were not that detailed and got finished later digitally?

M: Anything with action in, personally I sort of shy away from, because I don’t think I’m so good at it, especially the scene where the ship is rotating out of control, and we were basically all sitting in a circle in the dining room area, like this going (moves her upper body to the left) and then Joss would go “to the right!” and you’re like (moving towards right), and you’re making these faces and thinking that “this is going to look terrible” (laughs). But that looks great.

N: Anything with green screen you have to release. When I’m on set anything I do when I’m acting I have complete control over, when I have interaction with other people I share that control with them. When you’re looking at the green screen you’re sharing that power, relinquishing that end of it to somebody else entirely, with a computer who is going to work on it for months. And we’ve got some clever guys doing that. So when you’re staring at the green screen and Joss is telling you that there’s something really scary up there, and you look at a big pink taped X on the screen, you’re going “This will be good, I know it. I’ll leave it up to these guys”.

Q: Are you big on DVD's, and do you collect them?

N: I’m trying to back away, actually.

M: I know, it’s hard. Like you said the other day, I don’t watch half of the things I buy. For some reason I have to have them.

N: I loaned a stack of DVDs to somebody who was laid up with a bad foot or something, actually to a friend whose sister was laid up, and she said “oh, I’ve got to get those movies back to you”. Her sister had returned them to the restaurant, and they were gone but she said that she could get them back. Now there’s this big stack of DVDs gone, and I couldn’t tell you what was in it.

M: But something’s missing, right?

N: Not for me. I’ve stayed pretty much the same.

Q: What are your three favourite DVD's?

M: I’m obsessed with Friends.

N: Do you watch the DVD sets of Friends?

M: I do. I bought every single one that’s out already (laughs). I have seasons one to eight. I like the practical jokes like the one in Joey’s and Chandler’s apartment where the bedroom door gets sliced in half, and when Chandler goes to open the door he falls over the other half. And I love The Family Guy, it’s a great show. And I just recently purchased my favourite childhood movie which is Labyrinth. It’s kind of goofy now when you see it.

N: I would say The Incredibles. I like that movie, I see something new every time I watch it. Sin City I have. Somebody bought it and left it at my house. And Firefly (laughs). And I bought the Lost box set.

Q: Are you into comic books?

N: I collected comic books when I was a kid, yeah, until they got too expensive. I don’t know what kids do for money nowadays but back in my day we had to earn it.

Q: We heard the Wonder Woman rumours surrounding you, are they true?

M: It’s one of those things, it’s not up to me. I’d love to be Wonder Woman. That would be awesome, but you have to ask Joss about it. I think he’s still trying to write the script. It’s very premature.

Q: What kind of training did you do for Serenity?

M: I was in a ‘fight club’ for three weeks. I was trying to do one kick for probably two weeks.

N: I was there barely three weeks. And I would complain about my time there, and every time I’d come in there I’d see Summer doing her thing, kicking something above her head about 60 times. I’d be warming up and doing my stuff, cool down and leave, and she’s in the corner fighting nine guys. And she had to start months before us. She worked really hard.

Q: What about with guns?

N: We got to fire off a lot of really cool looking futuristic weapons and they brought in a quick draw artist; the fastest drawer in the world. And he taught me how to quick draw.

Q: How fast are you?

N: I wasn’t bad. My drawback is that my gun is very long, so you have to pull it high and then drop your shoulder. Instead of pulling it up in front of you, you actually have to pull it back first.

M: I did archery which I really liked and that was all. I didn’t get to do any guns.

Q: What’s next for you?

N: I got a horror movie coming out called Slither.

M: I’m auditioning a lot, that’s about all I’m doing here. I almost went to Brazil to do a new soap opera but it would be for eight months and I wouldn’t be here for any of this stuff, so I couldn’t do it.

The 'Serenity' Interviews - Part 4

Serenity is released on DVD on February 27th. 

Interview courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Previous Zeta Minor News entries can viewed here.


Site content copyright © J.A.Knott - 2002-2010