Adventures in Serenity
Recently MovieWeb visited for the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to sit down with the cast and director of the highly anticipated sci-fi epic, Serenity. Adapted from Director Joss Whedon's cult favorite TV show, "Firefly", Serenity centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family - squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.
When Mal takes on two new passengers-a young doctor and his unstable, telepathic sister-he gets much more than he bargained for. The pair are fugitives from the coalition dominating the universe, who will stop at nothing to reclaim the girl. The crew that was once used to skimming the outskirts of the galaxy unnoticed find themselves caught between the unstoppable military force of the Universal Alliance and the horrific, cannibalistic fury of the Reavers, savages who roam the very edge of space. Hunted by vastly different enemies, they begin to discover that the greatest danger to them may be on board Serenity herself.
Up first in the roundtable discussions were Nathan Fillion (Malcolm Reynolds), Gina Torres (Zoe) and Morena Baccarin (Inara), and it was clear by their playfulness throughout the interview that these actors are genuinely fond of one another. "It was deja vu," Torres states about returning to the role of Zoe and this sci-fi world. "It was the same but it was different. I think Adam Baldwin described it as ‘redemption.'" "I feel like we picked up right where we left off." Morena added.
The actors also thought these characters and the world of "Firefly" were over when the show was canceled. "I thought it was dead." Torres stated matter of factly. Even though there was talk of brining the show back somehow, "I wasn't prepared to have that hope," Fillion noted. When it was apparent that this movie was going to get made, it was very easy for the actors to get back into their roles. "These characters were already established," says Torres. All 3 actors then confirmed that they have signed on for 2 more sequels of Serenity.
"Chiwetel was wonderful," Nathan Fillion said about new cast member Chiwetel Ejiofor (who plays the part of The Operative, a calculating, yet idealistic villain). "Everyone was great." "We all wanted to take care of Summer," noted Torres. When asked why this show is so popular among it's rabid fanbase Fillion was philosophical and witty. "These characters... I'm invested. I've spent time. I've hung out with them. They're flawed, they're not all perfect... except for Malcolm Reynolds." "They're stories you want to be told." Morena states. "They're not just relative to that universe. These people's plight is really accessible." "They're just regular people in extraordinary circumstances," Torres adds. "Each one discovers something about themselves," Morena explains. "I find our fans tend to be pretty thoughtful and pretty intelligent people. We're all in love with this damn show!" Fillion exclaimed.
He then spoke about his role of Bill Pardy in the upcoming sci-fi, horror film Slither. "I play an anti-hero who doesn't know what to do when the sh*t hits the fan." He laughs. "There's lots of prosthetics. The director (James Gunn) leaned away from CGI."
The actors closed out their discussion by looking at the personalities of the characters they play versus the people who play them. "Malcolm and Nathan ultimately want to do the right thing," Torres states. "No matter what they put you through on the way to doing the right thing." Nathan's take on his costars was a bit different. "Gina and Morena. Very sexy. Morena is more demure where Gina is not to be crossed!"
After this, Summer Glau (River), Jewel Staite (Kaylee), Sean Maher (Simon) and Adam Baldwin (Jayne) were brought in to continue the discussion. "My dance training helped," Summer explained about doing the very physical role of River. "Really... it's just muscle memory." The actors then discussed the difference from making the Serenity movie, as opposed to the "Firefly" TV show. "We could devote more time to a 3 page scene," Jewel offered. "We had 2 weeks prep before shooting," Baldwin started, "it felt like we were right back workshopping our little TV show." "It felt so similar to the show. Everything felt a little more spectacular." Sean Maher stated. Considering the inglorious ending to the TV show, the cast has a sobering take on where they are now with Serenity. "When the show was canceled it happened really quick," Baldwin stated. "Joss asked for the rights to make it somewhere else and he never gave up. I always felt that this is where we would end up." All 4 of these actors are also signed on to do 2 more films.
They then discussed some of the inherent character conflicts that feel need to be resolved. "Mal and Inara" was agreed upon by all. "Haley should have a baby." Jewel stated with a grin. "We should meet Jayne's parents." Baldwin offered. "I'd like to see my character get rougher," Maher added. "But not lose his gift for medicine." The actors then talked about their weapons training. "They made me shoot everything!" Jewel exclaimed. "It's scary how fun it can be... shooting off a gun." Maher cited. "I've been comfortable with weapons for years." Baldwin laughed. "It's all me," Summer stated when asked about the ending scene of the movie in which she puts some serious hurt on a pack of Reavers. "All the blade work and guns I did myself. Joss wanted it to look real."
"He's open to a good suggestion it's just that he's raised the bar so high, it's got to be really good." Baldwin stated when the group discussed how much the actors were able to deviate from the dialogue Joss Whedon had written in the script. "There's such a specific way these characters speak," Maher said. "There's something cool about the term ‘explosive dung of an elephant'," Baldwin starts. "Then Joss would translate it into Chinese and you get to say it."
The actors then spoke about their respect for their fans. "We very much appreciate how much fans have helped our return to the screen. They give us useful gifts like shirts and buttons." Baldwin smiled. "They quote our lines!" Jewell stated excitedly. "What we get from the fans comes out in the energy of the show." Baldwin offered. The actors all agree that while Serenity stems from the "Firefly" TV show, the movie itself "stands on it's own." The actors then thanked the us, the Internet community for supporting the film and covering the event.
When asked what they have coming up next, Baldwin will he playing "a younger, better looking version of the Ernest Borgnine character in the updated version of Wolfgang Petersen's The Poseidon Adventure." (Baldwin's name in the film is Mike Rogo). Summer Glau will be doing an "indy, sci-fi comedy". Sean Maher has the upcoming film Living ‘til the End and other than the movie Story in Atlantis, Jewel Staite is interested in doing something "completely the opposite" of everything she's done.
Next up was Joss Whedon, a man who seems to be growing in stature everyday. With the positive feedback already generating a heavy buzz for Serenity, he settled into his set and promptly fielded every question that came his way.
Is he nervous about how Serenity will be received both by fans and non fans alike? "I'm calm. Not really nervous. It's out of my hands. There's only so much that's in my power. I believe in the film. I Ioved making it." Then he paused and stared at of all us, a slight smile coming to his face. "That's me now. Talk to me the morning of the 30th when I'm hiding."
"Getting to invent a language, it reads like poetry to me." Whedon stated about the way the characters in Serenity talk. "In terms of advice about writing, I try to define every character's voice very specifically. I use what I call "The Golden Girls" model. Everyone is from a different place that's equally valid."
He then talked about the differences he noticed in making the "Firefly" TV show and then tuning it into the movie Serenity. "In a movie you have 9 characters and 2 hours to get the characters across. Mal is the hero so you have to focus on him, but this doesn't mean that everyone else isn't accessible." Having focused so much energy into making this film, he wasn't even able to "talk" about a possible sequel. "Now that I've finished it and I'm marketing it, I think about it all the time."
"I wanted a villain who was more then an antagonist," he started, when discussing the different type of "bad guy" Chiwetel Ejiofor ultimately embodies as "The Operative." "I wanted one who was idealistic and dedicated to nobility. Chiwetel was soulful. He didn't play it harsh at all. He understood he was a decent man who was also a serial killer. He can play anything."
Next he discussed bringing the film to people who had never seen an episode of "Firefly." "It's the hardest job I've ever had. You explain the world as much as you need to. The beginning and the end. That you have an arc. That's the difference between TV and movies. TV is a question and movies are an answer." As for the type of stories that attract him, "people who have no business being in an epic and get caught up in one."
"Legally speaking, no." He laughed when asked if he takes fans suggestions about the characters who inhabit the worlds he creates. "I use them as a barometer based on what they're responding to." Finally, he was asked the ultimate question. Who would win in a fight between Buffy and River?
"I'm gonna have to watch. Buffy's got strength but River's got training. It's tough. It's a smackdown."
Serenity blasts into theaters on September 30th, 2005.
Dont't forget to also check out: Firefly: The Complete Series [4 Discs]