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Jewel Staite - "Firefly" Tv Series & "Serenity" Movie - Raygunrevival.com Interview

Saturday 27 October 2007, by Webmaster

RGR Interviews: Jewel Staite by Paul Christian Glenn Pg. 13

Ray Gun Revival magazine Issue 32, October 15, 2007

Anyone who knows anything about RGR knows that Joss Whedon’s Firefly is a program close to our hearts. The inspiration for this ‘zine came, if not directly, at least indirectly from the adventures of Captain Mal and his ragamuffin crew, and for that, I will always be grateful.

Last month, Universal released a Collector’s Edition of Serenity, the big-screen sequel to our beloved series. The film is a brilliant, sometimes brutal denouement that doesn’t just capture the spirit of the series, but expands its universe and takes the characters to places, both literally and figuratively, that we’ve never seen before. Serenity is the rarest of specimens: an old-fashioned adventure story that manages to be both frightening and funny, both heartbreaking and heartwarming, both thrilling and thought-provoking. You know—everything that Star Wars used to be.

The cast of Serenity has since moved on, but Jewel Staite, who played happy-go-lucky mechanic Kaylee Frye, took a few minutes from her work on the set of Stargate: Atlantis to talk with Ray Gun Revival about Firefly, the film, and the future.

RGR: Let’s begin with the Collector’s Edition DVD of Serenity. To the chagrin of many fans, you were absent from the commentary track. This was due to a massive, ugly falling out you had with Joss, Nathan, Summer, Adam and Ron, right?

JS: Not so much massive and ugly but more like large and homely. Seriously, I was filming Stargate until midnight the night before my flight was supposed to leave, and my passport was in the middle of getting renewed and hadn’t come in the mail yet. I wish it was juicier than that, but there is no juice with us Firefly people. We all get along and love each other and it’s really boring.

RGR: How did Joss originally pitch the character of Kaylee to you, and how did that original concept evolve as you brought her to life?

JS: I read a small synopsis on Kaylee before I auditioned that basically said she was a warm, bubbly, chubby, lovely little individual, and I immediately realized that they would want me to eat copious amounts of cheeseburgers once I got this part, so I made it my goal to be as impressive as possible. I honestly thought I was a bit wrong for it at first and I actually wanted to audition for River, but I was told that Joss was pretty specific in wanting to see me read. Once I had the part and we started to shoot, it was a bit unclear how bubbly Kaylee was supposed to be. Is she just happy or is she more manic? Is she hiding something and that’s why she puts on the happy facade, or is she just drunk? I figured the best route to go was to play up her innocence, her frankness, and her warmth more than anything. “Out of Gas” put me straight on the whole innocence thing, so after that I added horny flirt to her repertoire.

RGR: One thing we never got to see on the series was Kaylee’s life before Serenity. Did you ever imagine her previous life, and if so, how did you integrate those elements into your performance?

JS: I did a bit of imagining, but I also trusted Joss with any kind of backstory questions I had. I knew she had a great family, maybe not such a well-off one, but a family that was supportive of her and her abilities, otherwise why would they have let her go with someone like Mal? That’s one of the things that was most disappointing for me when the series got canceled so prematurely; I would have loved to learn more about her life off the ship.

RGR: On the series, you played Kaylee with a sort of childlike innocence; she was an optimist who saw the best in everyone. In the film, however, she seems to have reached a darker place—doubting the captain, shutting Simon out before he could apologize for leaving, etc. Were these simply functions of the script, or did you make a conscious effort to put Kaylee in an edgier place?

JS: It was pretty much spelled out in the script what kind of mindframe everyone was in. The crew has reached a dark time, they’re sick of being poor and on the run, and because of that, they’re not getting along. Joss writes great dialogue; it’s easy to take a character into a different place.

RGR: On the new commentary track, Joss notes that Morena felt she got “lost” in the final cut. With the romance between Kaylee and Simon being such an important part of the series, were you disappointed that it didn’t get more time in the feature film?

JS: Morena’s always lost, so that’s no big surprise. Honestly, that did kind of suck for her, because she and Nathan had some really amazing, really beautiful scenes. But the movie was too long, so a lot of stuff that wasn’t totally integral to the plot had to be axed, and it’s a shame, because there’s one moment they had in particular that always made me cry. In contrast, I think the amount of romance seen on screen between Kaylee and Simon was just enough; the movie was about so much more than who gets to finally sleep with who, so I thought that while our moments were important, they were also relatively light and sweet, which gave everything a bit of balance.

RGR: Every actor wants to grow and find new parts that inspire them. How do you feel about being associated with a show that has thousands of fanatical followers who will always see you as the smudgy, smiley mechanic?

JS: It’s kind of funny: I’ve met some fans at certain events and conventions and things who say I look “sooooo much better” with grease on my face and overalls on. Like, thanks. But at least she’s a likeable character! I never imagined when I signed on to Firefly that this would happen. I think we all knew from the very beginning that we were creating something quite special, so when I meet people that understand and appreciate it, it feels really nice. The whole experience holds a lot of wonderful memories for me. Like when Nathan put hand lotion under the door handles of my trailer and laughed at me when I fell down the stairs. Other than that, I love all those guys, and I miss them a lot.

RGR: If the series had succeeded, how would you have liked to see Kaylee evolve?

JS: I would have loved to meet her family, like I said before, but I’ve always had this desire to see Kaylee become a mother. She’s child-like in a lot of ways, but also loving and maternal. I think she would have been a really great mom.

RGR: Honesty time: how creeped out are you by the more salacious fan fiction that appears online, and how do you feel about “fanfic” in general?

JS: I don’t really read the “fanfic.” Someone gave me a link to a particular short story involving Kaylee and Jayne getting it on... and then Kaylee and River getting it on....and then Kaylee and Inara (not such a huge stretch I guess, considering they’re both ridiculous flirts) getting it on... and I just thought, “What does this say about me?” There sure are some creative minds out there, but anything involving me and, well, Jayne getting together is just barf-worthy. Adam’s like my dad.

RGR: Switching gears, what can you tell us about your new role as Dr. Jennifer Keller on the upcoming season of Stargate: Atlantis?

JS: I’m having a lot of fun with this one. Keller’s such a juxtapositon of so many things; she’s this amazingly brilliant doctor, way ahead in her field, well-respected and perfectly capable of dealing with almost any medical emergency, but she’s a scaredy-cat who hates guns, violence, heights.

She’s really out of her element in the world of Atlantis. But she’s holding her own, and becoming braver all the time. She’s got a great sense of humor too, and a natural ease with people. But she’s very different from Kaylee. Kaylee’s a lot more confident in herself, while Keller’s a lot more grown up and practical. It’s been really fun getting to know this person and figuring out where she’s going to go and how she’s going to evolve. This season’s going to be a lot different from other seasons, with lots of surprises, but I’m really excited for it to start airing so I can finally talk about it!

RGR: Finally, the upcoming film The Tribe will mark your first foray into the horror genre. How has the experience been different from all the sci-fi you’ve been involved with over the last few years?

JS: The Tribe’s not a horror movie! I’m not a fan of horror in general, unless it’s done really intelligently, but even then all the guts and gore and cheap scares kind of annoy me. The reason why I signed on to The Tribe was because it was a story about letting go of your fears and being able to take care of yourself. I loved the character of “Liz”; she starts out as such a meek, nervous little person and grows into so much more. I’d call it an action/suspense/thriller rather than a horror movie. And yeah, it’s definitely been a different experience—lots of action, lots of conquering of my own fears, and becoming my own person. I learned a lot about myself on this one. I feel like I can do anything... I feel like Wonder Woman! (They’re still casting that damn thing? You listening out there?)