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From Dreamwatch Magazine 107
FireflyInterview with Nathan Fillion - Dreamwatch Magazine 107
Transcribed by Katriena
Tuesday 9 September 2003, by Webmaster
After earning his spurs as the star of the sci-fi Western Firefly, Nathan Fillion got to terrorise the Slayer in the final hours of Buffy. The Canadian actor tells David Bassom about his experiences on the two Joss Whedon-created shows.
"My favourite villains are the ones you don’t see coming," says Nathan Fillion, as he outlines the philosophy behind his chilling portrayal of Caleb in the closing episodes of Buffy. "What I enjoyed about playing Caleb was that he was so very, very clever, so very, very sweet, and so very, very twisted.
"I liked that he’s not a typical villain. He’s soft and sweet and righteous, and yet he’s perverted and twisted in his head!"
A loyal disciple of the ultimate ’Big Bad’, the First, the ’Preacher’ Caleb arrives in Sunnydale in the late seventh-season Buffy episode Dirty Girls, and proceeds to lead the battle against the Slayer and her allies for the rest of the show’s run. Fillion had just finished working on Joss Whedon’s sci-fi Western series Firefly when he was offered the role of Caleb on its sister show, and jumped at the chance to appear on Mutant Enemy’s flagship series after missing out on another—and even better known—role much earlier on in Buffy’s run.
"I actually auditioned for Angel in Buffy," he reveals. "I can still remember the audition. I remember the scene I read. And I told Joss Whedon that too. I said, ’You know I auditioned for Angel?’ and he goes, ’I don’t remember you.’ And I said, ’Yeah, well, I never made it far enough to meet you. I got to the casting director and that was it!’
"What was great about getting the role of Caleb was that no one had ever let me play a villain before," he continues. "No one wanted to take that chance. So I’m hoping now that people will see I can play a villain and give me more opportunities to do so."
Fillion reports that he thoroughly enjoyed shooting his Buffy guest role, especially as it reunited him with many former Firefly crewmembers. And that wasn’t the only personal link he had to the series.
"Sarah Michelle Gellar and I know each other from way back," he says, referring to the Slayer’s real-life alter ego. "When I used to do a soap opera called One Life to Live, she was doing a soap opera called All My Children right down the street. So I met her when she was quite a bit younger. We have mutual friends, and we’d see each other every so often. She has always been a sweetheart, and she made quite a home for herself on Buffy.
"Sarah was an excellent host. I enjoyed working with her and all of the cast of Buffy."
Reviewing his five-episode stint on Buffy, Fillion’s favourite hour proved to be Caleb’s debut episode, Dirty Girls, as it allowed the actor to "step into some new character shoes" and shoot "a massive fight scene" that he couldn’t believe was being mounted for a TV series. He was also pleased to be a part of the show’s final episode, Chosen, which he feels offers an appropriate conclusion to Buffy’s seven-year run.
"For me, Buffy has always been about empowering young women," he explains, "and I think the end is very fitting for that."
WAY OUT WEST
While Fillion has no complaints about Buffy’s conclusion, he was far from happy with the way Firefly left US screens midway through its first season, following the Fox network’s controversial decision to pull the plug on the much-heralded series.
"Getting cancelled was a heartbreaker," he admits, "especially because I knew it fell into some sort of weird decision. It didn’t get cancelled because it was a bad show. If it was a bad show and I didn’t have a good feeling about what I was doing, I wouldn’t mind it getting cancelled.
"But as it was, I was really enjoying the stories we were telling on Firefly. I knew they were quality stories."
Ironically, when Fillion was initially approached about starring in Firefly, he wasn’t sure that Joss Whedon’s idea of mounting an alien-free Western in space (complete with mid-19th Century-style weapons and costumes) would fly. Nor was Fillion convinced that he was right to play the show’s lead character, the Serenity’s burned-out captain, Mal Reynolds. But after discussing the project with Whedon and reading his treatment for the show’s pilot episode, Serenity, Fillion became keen to sign up.
"Once I started to get a real picture of what Joss was doing, I got real excited about it," he recalls. "Joss had the whole thing planned out really carefully. I remember asking him, ’Are we talking Cowboys in space?’ and he replied, ’Well, what is a Cowboy really except someone who kinda goes out there and tries to make his way in the frontier?’ The show’s frontier mentality makes it a Western—the idea of setting it in a lawlessness environment where you make you make your own law with your gun.
"The future in Firefly is just an extension of now, and I think Joss’ idea of the future makes perfect sense," continues Fillion. "The Star Trek future is a great idea. The idea of humans realizing that they’re not the only one sin the universe and making peace with themselves and starting to explore this incredible universe is really neat. But it’s also a neat idea that we’re the only ones in the universe—and that human beings just keep repeating their troubles over and over again."
Fillion had a "great time" making Firefly, and lists Out of Gas and Ariel as his episodic highlights of the series. He also seized the opportunity to make Mal Reynolds a different kind of TV sci-fi protagonist.
"I always called him the anti-hero," he explains. "He’s like the everyman hero. It’s not like Mal wanted to come out victorious and on top—he just wanted to get out of the battle with some food and gas. He was not after anything glorious, he just wanted to get by.
"My approach to the role was one of discovery. I’m a happy fella, my life is simple and I’m very blessed, so to play this embittered character who feels betrayed by God I had to discover him as I went along. It was an incredible journey."
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Following Firefly’s cancellation and the completion of his work on Buffy, Nathan Fillion is currently seeking new screen projects and is waiting to hear if a comedy pilot he shot for NBC will be picked up as a mid-season replacement. He’s not ruling out a return to the Serenity, though, and hopes to be a part of Joss Whedon’s planned revival of Firefly.
"As it stands right now, they’re in negotiations for purchasing the rights to making a Firefly movie," reveals Fillion. "It’s right at the beginning stages, but all the signs point to this happening.
"I’m very excited about it. Joss promised he wouldn’t make it without me—and I keep calling to remind him that too!"
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