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Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

September 15, 2005

Based on the acclaimed, cult television series Firefly, Serenity is the cinematic continuation of the exploits of a crew of space-faring adventurers making a living on the fringes of the law. Like the TV show before it, Serenity is a blend of genres, styles, and cultures. It deftly mixes science fiction with the classic western, and is as equally loaded with comedy as it is with blockbuster action adventure. Above all, the writing is sharp, and the cast delivers a strong ensemble of endearing, interesting, and multi-faceted characters.

The crew of Serenity includes intrepid ship captain and leader of the pack Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion); the captain's loyal, gunslinging, right-hand woman Zoe (Gina Torres); resident businesswoman and representative of the world's oldest profession Inara (Morena Baccarin); hilariously crass gun for hire Jayne (Adam Baldwin); sweet but not-as-naive-as-she-seems mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite); the ship's brilliant onboard medic Simon (Sean Maher); and the enigmatic, ticking time bomb of an experiment in superhuman abilities, River (Summer Glau).

Written and directed by Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), Serenity is both remarkably accessible to audiences completely unfamiliar with its Firefly predecessor and ideally satisfying for fans of the sci-fi phenomenon.

The camaraderie and easy-going nature of the actors involved in this project are clear in both their onscreen chemistry and their offscreen interactions. In this interview, Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, and Morena Baccarin talk about the making of Serenity, the dedicated fan support, and the transition from the small screen to the big screen. Thrown together in such a setting, they come off like great friends who moonlight as a comedy troupe. Their constant joking and playing off one another made this a lot more fun than the average film interview.

The Interview

MEDIA: What was it like returning to this world and these characters after the cancellation of the TV series?

NATHAN: Vindicating. [to Gina] What was it like for you?

GINA: It was good for me. It was deja vu. I think we all sort of have different stories about going onto the ship. Well, the ship set. [laughs]

MORENA: It's not a real ship.

GINA: [jokes] I know, I just found that out! No...It was the same, but it was different. And it was bigger in some places and smaller in others, and it went up in other places. But it was definitely..."redemption" is the word that Adam Baldwin likes to use.

MORENA: It felt like we hadn't left, too. It just sort of felt a little different. It was a little like coming into your living room and your mom rearranged all your furniture, and things aren't where they were, but you're still home. And it felt like we picked up right where we left off, sort of.

GINA: Yeah, absolutely. And just seeing each other was great. [laughs] Although we never really stopped seeing each other.

NATHAN: Yeah, we never stopped seeing each other. But you know what actually was good? Seeing the characters again. [to Gina and Morena] Seeing you guys in your outfits again...

MORENA: Uh-huh.

NATHAN: That was a little something for me. It was good.

GINA: Focus!

How long was the lapse between the TV show and the movie?

MORENA: About a year and a half.

Although Joss was constantly fighting for the show's survival, was there a point when you resigned to the fact that you wouldn't be back playing these characters?

GINA: The day that we were canceled! [laughs]

NATHAN: Joss had that plan of finding another home. He said, "I'll find another home." And I said, [mock enthusiasm] "That sounds great, that's a really wonderful thing to say!" [mock despair] "It's really dead isn't it? It's dead!!!" I wasn't prepared to fall in love with Firefly the way I did, and I wasn't prepared for Firefly to dump me the way it did. So I was pretty depressed, and I was pretty sad.

GINA: Like a cold, crusty whore, you got dumped!

NATHAN: So I wasn't prepared to kind of have that hope and say "maybe."

MORENA: Well, you don't want to get crushed again.

NATHAN: I wouldn't want to set myself up for another depression and gain 20 pounds sitting in my house not going anywhere.

MORENA: Not that that happened.

NATHAN: Right! [mouths the words "it happened"]

Was it hard to get back into these characters? What did you do to prepare yourselves to jump back into your respective roles?

MORENA: [referring to her character being a "companion"] Well, I had a lot of sex. [laughs] I had to say it. There's a whore thing...

NATHAN: [distracted by talk of sex] What was the question?

Was it hard to get back into these characters?

NATHAN: No. Certainly the TV series was a process because we had time to learn the characters.

GINA: We had seven months of just learning each other and falling in love and falling into these people and getting to know each other.

NATHAN: Feeling each other out.

GINA: Yes.

NATHAN: So to speak.

GINA. But by the time we got back, these relationships were already established. [referring to her character's tight pants] And I know for me, it was just getting into those damn pants.

MORENA: [laughs] [to Gina] It wasn't the gun?

GINA: That old friend? No.

Are you all signed for another Serenity movie?

MORENA: Two more. Yeah.

GINA: Two more.

NATHAN: [to Gina and Morena] You are?

How did you like working with the newcomers to the franchise, Chiwetel Ejiofor and David Krumholtz?

NATHAN: Chiwetel was wonderful.

GINA: Didn't get to work with him. I had no contact.

MORENA: [referring to a fight scene] We had contact. It hurt.

NATHAN: He's good. He's very, very good. And David Krumholtz...we didn't really get to hang out with him either. I got to hang out with him a little bit, but he was dead for the scene.

What do you guys think of Summer Glau?

GINA: Summer...[whispers with mock viciousness] That little...

MORENA: Summer's so sweet.

NATHAN: [jokes] Let's tell the truth, though. She's unprepared, she's unprofessional...

GINA: Oh, that's not fair. She's not here to defend herself.

NATHAN: If only she was flexible!

MORENA: [laughs] I can't do that. You can go on about her, but she's so sweet that it's hard to say anything about Summer, even jokingly.

GINA: We really all just wanted to take care of Summer, in our own way. And some ways are kind of illegal. [pats Nathan]

NATHAN: Not in this state!

GINA: But she's adorable and she's sweet and she just wanted so much to do a great job. And so how do you not support that, you know?

Why are so many people attracted to Serenity?

NATHAN: The same reason that I'm drawn to it...the people. These characters. I am invested. I've spent time with them, I've hung out with them, I've learned about them through their choices and the decisions they make, and I am invested in these people. I like them. They're flawed. They're not all perfect--except for [my character] Malcolm Reynolds. And I'm invested. I think people are invested. That's Joss' gift.

MORENA: You can relate to something in each of the characters. I've been watching them, I have to admit, recently. [to Gina and Nathan] You guys were great, by the way.

GINA: [laughs] Oh, you too!

MORENA: Thanks. You didn't have to say that. [laughs] I think what was drawing me to it again and again is the stories are stories that you want to be told. They're not just relative to that universe. They sort of symbolize something. I think that the style of Joss' writing is so grand and stylized, and it's sort of Shakespearean. These people's plight [is] extreme accessible. And I think that's what draws me as a human being.

How do these characters compare to the heroes of other sci-fi franchises, like The Matrix or Star Wars?

GINA: I think unlike The Matrix and the Star Wars trilogies where you have a very heightened reality, and black and white is very clear, and the lines are very definitively drawn, and you sort of fall into it because you want to aspire to the grandness of these heroes that are put in front of you...We're just regular people in extraordinary circumstances. And that, in turn, can be more inspiring because you think, "Well, if these people, as jacked up as they are in these circumstances with all their issues and unpreparedness, can meet these tasks and actually survive them and learn something from them and get past it and live another day, then I can, too."

MORENA: And they're each also discovering things about themselves that they didn't know were there. And that's what's interesting to watch. You're discovering Malcolm Reynolds has a vulnerable side--he has something he cares about. [to Nathan] I know you may not think so...

NATHAN: I do. I do. And you're right, these are nobodies. These are nobodies. I don't have very much in common with Jedi Knights, but I have a great deal in common with nobodies.

You've been meeting a lot of fans at sci-fi conventions and appearances. Can you imagine spoofing them in 20 years like William Shatner did on Saturday Night Live?

NATHAN: [laughs] [William Shatner impression] "Get a life! Have you ever kissed a girl?" Ummm...yeah, sure, absolutely.

MORENA: [laughs] That'd be fun.

NATHAN: You know what though? Here's the thing. Did you see Trekkies, that documentary on Trekkies? There's people that are out there that are fanatical. And I prefer to use the entire term rather than just "fan"--they're fanatics. I find Serenity fans to be pretty thoughtful and pretty intelligent people.

GINA: Yeah, now. [laughs]

NATHAN: [laughs] No, they're really wonderful. My experiences have been really, really positive. And I can say this so much about the fans: we all have one thing common--we're all in love with the same damned show. If they think they're fans, man, they got nothing on me. I'm a fan.

How similar are you to your Serenity characters?

GINA: I think it would be a much more interesting question if we sort of answered that...

MORENA: ...about each other?

NATHAN: All right. Who do you want to do?

GINA: [to Nathan] I'll do you.

NATHAN: You do me.

GINA: Yes. I think what Malcolm and Nathan have in common is ultimately, they do want to do the right thing, no matter what they put you through on the way to the right thing. [laughs] You kind of have to love them for it. But yeah, I think they both do have a great moral streak that runs through them, and it's endearing, and it's wonderful.

MORENA: But Nathan doesn't have that--or, at least, not that I've seen--dark sort of...There's something about Malcolm Reynolds that's a fallen man.

NATHAN: [comically shakes head "no"]

GINA: [laughs]

MORENA: Maybe you do. Are you a fallen man?

GINA: You've never seen him play Halo. He's a whole other person!

NATHAN: I'll say both of you...Very classy, very sexy. [to Morena] You're a little more on the demure side, whereas Gina...I know you are not to be crossed.

GINA: [surprise] Oh!

NATHAN: You are not to be crossed. You're a force to be reckoned with, aren't you? You know you are. You don't lose your cool. You never lose your cool.

MORENA: She likes to play like she's not going to do anything. She's shy about it. But yeah, it's true. [laughs]

NATHAN: Remember I said I wanted something taken care of, and I called you?

GINA: Yeah, you did.

NATHAN: Somebody called me and said, "Nathan, can you get this taken care of?" I said, "Sure, I'll call Gina."

MORENA: But you know what? Gina's a lot more feminine, and I think girlier (for the lack of a better term) than [her] character.

GINA: That's true. Thank you.

Did you have to learn any new skills for the movie?

MORENA: Yeah. I had to do archery, which was very cool. I really took to it, actually. I remember when we were shooting, that scene came where I'm supposed to shoot one of the Reavers with an arrow, and the whole set was like, "All right, let's clear the set! Only the people that need to be here have to be here!" Everybody put on goggles. All the camera guys had these hard hats on. And everybody was freaking out. And they gave me an X to hit. [proudly] Every time I hit that X!

Gina? Any new elements to your character for the film?

GINA: No, I was pretty straightforward from series to movie. Zoe still has her gun. [motions to Nathan] Still right by this guy's side. It was good. It was fun.

Nathan? Any change in your character in the transition to the movie?

NATHAN: Malcolm was allowed to be a little darker than the series allowed him to be. In the series, we experienced a little pressure making him [exaggerated flamboyance] "more likeable, and nicer! Let's make him funnier! Let's make the show more action!"

MORENA: [commenting on Nathan's accompanying flamboyant hand motions] Jazz hands!

NATHAN: And in the film...[Universal executive] Mary Parent had the faith in Joss' vision to say, "Do it how you want it to be done." So we were allowed to make Malcolm a little darker than he was, and it made a lot of sense. In the time that passed since the series till the movie, some events have happened that have made him a little more bitter. And Malcolm...there's one thing he finds easy to express, is bitterness and anger. He's comfortable there.

Nathan, is your character ever going to hook up with Morena's?

NATHAN: Remember Moonlighting? As soon as they hooked up...pptthh!

MORENA: Yeah, who knows where this relationship is going?

NATHAN: Yeah, for my druthers, if we ever hook up, I hope it's on my deathbed.

MORENA: You don't want to kiss me, do you?

NATHAN: I do, but not for the sake of the show.

MORENA: Good answer!

Related Material

Cast Interview with Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, and Summer Glau
Exclusive Interview with Jewel Staite
Movie Coverage: Serenity


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