The actors talk about moving the Firefly storyline to the big screen, what they'd like to see in a Serenity sequel and their love for the fans.
Joss Whedon's upcoming sci-fi western, 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.
All the cast members are excited about not only Serenity, but the “Firefly” TV show upon which it is based, which they have hopes that both will reach wider audiences. One might get the sense that the cast members would act for free, just to be able to continue working together and telling creator Joss Whedon’s unique, humanity laden, sci-fi story.
Recently we got a chance to site down with Adam Baldwin (Jayne), Sean Maher (Simon), Summer Glau (River) and Jewel Staite (Kaylee), to talk about the film.
How much did your dance background help prepare you for the physical role of River?
Summer Glau: It did help me because I was training everyday. Going to the gym and working out all day, and doing lots of different types of training. But really, it’s completely different muscle memory. I completely transformed my body. It took me 3 months. All day, every day.
What’s the difference between doing the TV show and doing the movie?
Jewel Staite: I think it was the time factor. There was so much more time. We had so much more time on the movie than we did on the series. We could do a three page scene all day long if we wanted to; which was nice. Doing series work you have twelve hours and that’s it. In those 12 hours you have about 8 or 9 pages to shoot. On the movie I just felt like we had all this rehearsal time. We could stop, we could talk about the characters. We could talk about the vibe of the scene, what we were going for.
Adam Baldwin: We had two weeks of rehearsal before we started filming, and I think we focused a lot on the main dialogue scenes early on, but we also focused on the “mule chase” scene. We had two weeks of exterior work on location that we had to get in those two weeks, to stay on budget and on time. The weather cooperated and we were able to get all that stuff in, and I feel once we got to the studio, the controlled atmosphere on the soundstages, we were home free. It felt like we were right back workshopping our little TV show, on the gigantic Universal soundstages. It was just great.
Sean Maher: Yeah, I agree, I think time was a big thing. We had obviously a lot more time to tell the story than when we were shooting the series, but to me it just felt so similar to the show. Everything just felt a little more spectacular. It felt a little grander and there was a wonderful feeling of redemption to sort of come back with these people. It was great. There was a wonderful sense of energy...
Jewel Staite: And a sense of closure, too. When we got canceled it all happened very quickly. I’m from Canada, from Vancouver, so I packed up and went home. And I felt like there was no closure whatsoever. When we were greenlit to do the movie and we saw each other again, and we were able to play these characters one more time, it just felt nice. It felt very gratifying.
Adam Baldwin: I think an important aspect of that though is that we felt, and I think the fanbase felt, that we were kind of under the gun from the get go. Our ratings were low, everyone kind of new our ratings were low, we knew we needed to figure out a way to push them up, we never did, so we got canceled. The cancellation all happens really quickly. “Okay, you’re done go home.” But Joss immediately asked for the rights to “Firefly” to make it somewhere else. To try and sell it to other TV networks, they didn’t bite and over time he was ultimately able to get Universal’s attention and they made the film. Joss never gave up. Joss never stopped quote unquote “fighting for the future.” While it was very hard for all of us and devastating emotionally, I never felt that Joss gave up. And I kind of felt though that this is where we’d end up, until he said, “I can’t do it anymore.” And he never did, so while we miss our show, you’re right, we have closure, whatever happens to the movie. We do. And we can move forward. Whether we’re a hit and we get to make two more, or come what may...
Are you all signed for two more?
The Cast: Yeah.
What is one thing you’d like your character to do that they didn’t get to do in the movie and the series?
Adam Baldwin: Needlepoint.
What one story or plotline do you feel needs to be resolved in the series or the movie?
Jewel Staite: You know what really bugs me? Mal and Inara. Their tension just gets to me. I want them to kiss and get together and get it over with. It drives me crazy. Those characters are so incredibly stubborn that no matter what, they cannot admit how they feel about the other person. And that’s definitely the story arc that I would like to see come to some type of conclusion. Just because it bugs me.
Adam Baldwin: Joss will disagree with us but my subtext was that Jayne had a crush on Inara, and that was sort of his driving energy. Joss was always like, “No! Wrong Adam, he does not.” What would I like to see happen? I’d like to see Kaylee have a baby.
Jewel Staite: I think there needs to be a baby on that ship.
Sean Maher: Yeah, we always talk about what new characters could come on the ship, and sadly we’ve seen two. If, godwilling, the story continues who joins the crew...
Adam Baldwin: I think we should meet Jayne’s parents.
Sean, your character gets to have some action scenes in this movie, did that feel good to break this character out of his shell?
Sean Maher: Yeah, that was great. What I would like to see happen is him go further with that, because it was very gratifying to see him get a little rougher around the edges. I’d love to continue with that but not lose... he’s got an incredible gift for medicine and I’d sort like to mesh the two.
What about weapons training?
Sean Maher: We’ve had quite a bit.
Jewel Staite: They made me shoot everything. This one gun was so incredibly heavy..., I looked like the biggest geek in the world. I was leaning back it was so heavy. I thought I would be cute that day and wear shorts and a tank top, and everytime I would shoot the gun it would put a ricochet and I would get burns all over my legs. Wasn’t super fun, but...
Sean Maher: It’s scary how fun it can be.
Adam Baldwin: I’ve been comfortable with weapons for years.
Sean Maher: I think our training, they weren’t exactly sure who was shooting what, so they just had us get familiar with everything that could possibly find it’s way into the script.
Summer, in the final scene where you’re killing all the Reavers, how much of that is you and how much of it were stunt people?
Summer Glau: It’s all me. There were two dangerous stunts that they wouldn’t let me do. That one, falling down the stairs, that was just too risky. And one flip, that my stunt double got hurt doing and I felt terrible. But everything else, the swords and all the bladework I did myself. All the work with the daggers. Joss wanted it to look real. I felt it. Every punch. Every kick.
Can you talk about the humor in the script?
Adam Baldwin: I keep going back to Jayne being a practical guy. What do you do in the face of mortal peril? You either panic and cry and crap your pants, or you make a joke and try to survive. If Jayne can’t run anymore, then turn and fight. Joss wrote the lines for me. It’s a great device for that character. This false bravado, yet backed to the wall, turn and fight, what other choice do you have?
Is Joss precious about the dialogue? Can you make changes
Jewel Staite: He’s pretty specific.
Summer Glau: It’s like poetry.
Adam Baldwin: Well, he’s open to any good suggestion, it’s just his standards are very high. To get there you have to come up with a very good idea. He was not completely inflexible, he’s got it so completely formed on the page for you, and in his mind and his vision. Again, we had two weeks of rehearsal to solve all the problems. By the time we were actually shooting, it was just go, go, go. It was great. There were no real stumbling blocks.
Sean Maher: I think with the dialogue in Serenity, I don’t know how it was with “Buffy” or “Angel”, but there’s such a specific way these character’s speak. There was a very clear rhythm.
The Chinese... is that hard?
Sean Maher: I got none in the movie.
Summer Glau: It’s hard for you to make an emotional..., the Chinese, I had this one real emotional scene and I had to do Chinese and I just thought it was really hard.
Sean Maher: I think the hardest thing about the Chinese is that there are these phrases. It’s not just, “Yes or No.” It’s just these chunks of phrases that the other actors have to stumble over.
Adam Baldwin: It’s just great that he would figure out these phrases like, “Explosive diarrhea of an elephant,” and translate it into Chinese. And then you get to go and say that.
Do you guys get any input on the costumes?
Jewel Staite: I think the costumes are very specific, too. I lucked out. I got to wear a nice, comfy jumpsuit for the entire movie. It was great. I think Ruth really knew what she was doing, she had a specific vision and she sort of had it all planned out when I arrived.
Summer Glau: I kept the boots.
Have you guys had any run-ins with the fans? What’s that like for you?
Jewel Staite: We’ve been doing these science fiction conventions. That’s been really interesting.
Adam Baldwin: We’ve had a lot of interactions with the fans. They’ve been most supportive from the get go. Again, I think it goes back to this underdog story, of us struggling to get back in the air. And the people who have been going along for the ride have been very helpful in keeping us there. I know that the DVD sales are very important to Universal’s decision, I don’t know if it was the ultimate decision, but it was very important. We very much appreciate how much the fans have helped us with our return to the screen.
Jewel Staite: Absolutely, I’m not even sure we’d be here if we didn’t have such an amazing, dedicated following.
Adam Baldwin: They make us shirts and they make us trinkets.
Jewel Staite: And they dress up like us.
Summer Glau: They sing our songs.
Jewel Staite: They quote our lines. I don’t even remember my lines.
Sean Maher: This past summer there were a bunch of secret screenings, with fans, us specifically, that we all attended and watching the movie with the fans is just an experience unto itself. There’s really nothing like it. They’re incredibly loyal and it’s flattering.
Jewel Staite: And they’re smart, too.
Adam Baldwin: They’re smart but you also get this huge cross section of demographics. Young and old. Men and women. Left and right. Everyone. They love the writing. They love the characters. They just love the show. It’s amazing.
What’s the strangest thing somebody has given you?
Jewel Staite: I had a fan come up to me, who was so sweet, and I guess he was quite nervous and he farted.
Adam Baldwin: Nice gift.
Jewel Staite: It was audible. And I felt so bad and I know that he felt bad and we both pretended like it never happened. We took a picture with each other and then he walked away.
Adam Baldwin: There have been a lot of useful gifts like t-shirts, and we actually get stationary with logos. I can’t remember exactly the line that Joss gave in Edinboro, but it was a brilliant line. It talked about his struggle, his journey to get this movie made, utilized the fuel of love as opposed to the fuel of anger... because that fuel doesn’t keep you going. Anger is not a sufficient fuel, love is. And it’s true. The love that we get for the show, for the characters, for Joss’s writing is... a lot of that you see in the energy of when you watch the show. I love the show. I love the movie. It’s great.
Are you able to separate the movie from the “Firefly” show itself?
Adam Baldwin: It definitely stands on it’s own.
Sean Maher: It stands on it’s own but it also embodies everything the show had.
Jewel Staite: I’m hoping people will see the movie and say, “Wow, that was really interesting. There was a TV show? Oh great, and I’m buying the box set.”
Serenity blasts it’s way into theaters on September 30th, 2005.
Dont't forget to also check out: Firefly: The Complete Series [4 Discs]