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Nathan Fillion

A Fillion and one reasons - Gateway.ualberta.ca Interview

Meghan Potkins

Thursday 7 September 2006, by Webmaster

The Gateway caught up with Serenity star Nathan Fillion when he returned home for the Fringe Festival, and we got the scoop on why Edmonton-and the U of A-are the best places to be.

“Put this in your article: I dropped school and was four months away from graduating. Put a bug in the ear of the administration saying that I sure would like my degree.”

Nathan Fillion once wanted to be a teacher. Then he wanted to be an actor. Then, his starring role as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in the short-lived but critically acclaimed series Firefly, which was followed up on the big screen with last fall’s Serenity, ensured Fillion’s success-at least in the acting respect. But, despite all of his big-screen accomplishments, Fillion still has another goal he hasn’t yet conquered: he wants his teaching degree from the University of Alberta.

“I’m not going to go teach or anything, but they could give me an honorary degree of some kind,” Fillion laughs. “I was going to be a high school teacher. I was doing a drama major and an art minor.”

Four months before he was set to graduate, Fillion went to New York to audition for the soap One Life to Live, leaving his teaching practicum incomplete. He was just shy of completing his requirements for his Bachelor of Education.

“[The University Administration] was really cool,” Fillion recalls when he approached faculty and administration to ask permission for a leave of absence. “I asked, ‘Can I put a hold on my spot? I’m going to New York to try this soap opera, but it might not pan out and I might be coming back and picking up where I left off.’ They said, ‘Yeah, go ahead, knock yourself out,’ and they held my spot ... they were very cool to me.”

As it turns out, things ended up just dandy for Fillion on One Life, and before long, he was auditioning in Los Angeles, landing plump roles on television programs like Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and later on, of course, the lead in another Whedon project, Firefly.

Despite his success in LA, though, Fillion hasn’t left Edmonton entirely behind him. Since moving to the US, Fillion has returned several times to his hometown in order join the cast of the improvised soap opera Die-Nasty, a hobby he’d spent a good chunk of time on during University years, and this past August, he came back, once again, for the 25th anniversary of the Fringe theatre festival.

“I’m very happy to be back doing improv, doing Die-Nasty. Getting back up there with those guys was very, very important to me,” Fillion says. “They’re always so welcoming and supportive, and they’re always just so willing to embrace me whenever I come home. It makes me feel great.”

In recent years, Fillion has been one of several homegrown Edmonton improvisers/performers to make the trek south to North America’s entertainment Mecca. Another fame-gaining performer hailing from our fair city is Rapid Fire Alumni Josh Dean, better known for his work on the Fox sitcom Free Ride. And, aside from having similar roots, Fillion also considers Dean to be a close friend.

“We hang out all the time,” Fillion says. “[Right now], he’s house-sitting for me and feeding my cat.”

While Fillion may have fellow Canadians like Dean to keep him company, he admits that there are some things about Canada that he misses. Fillion describes how surprised Americans are at what he considers the common courtesy all Canadians extend to strangers.

“If I’ve got a giant shopping cart full of groceries and someone comes behind me with only three items and I let them go ahead rather than wait for me, people are so taken aback. It makes me feel great, but it also kind of disheartens me to know that someone would be so taken aback when you just [show] common courtesy,” Fillion explains. “Canadians aren’t afraid to be kind. They’re not afraid to be polite. They’re not offended by everything. It just seems to be more relaxed and easygoing.”

Still, Fillion will probably remain in LA for the time being while he pursues new projects. He has just completed work on an independent film called Waitress with actress Keri Russell, and White Noise: The Light, which will be released sometime in January.

Although Fillion enjoys the challenge of taking on new roles, he hasn’t forgotten the project that first introduced him to wider audiences, and most importantly, he hasn’t forgotten where he got his start. With a few films under his belt and no end to acting in sight, Fillion will always find the time to return home to Edmonton at least twice a year, whether it means reacquainting himself with the Fringe stage, or dropping in to local classrooms to speak about his achievements.

“My best friend from school teaches [in Edmonton]. I go talk to his drama classes all the time when I come back during the school year. My family brings me back. This is where I’m from.”