Nathan Fillion Interview
Stars in Waitress
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Nathan Fillion was born March 27, 1971. He was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is best known for his lead role in the cult hit television series "Firefly."
After working in several theatre, television and film productions, including Theatresports with Rapid Fire Theatre and the improvised soap opera Die-Nasty, Nathan Fillion moved to New York City in 1994 where he acted in the soap opera One Life to Live as Joey Buchanan, for which he was nominated in 1996 for a Daytime Emmy Award in the "Outstanding Younger Actor" category. In 1997, Nathan Fillion left the series to pursue other projects.
After moving to Los Angeles, Nathan Fillion played a supporting role in the sitcom Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place and was cast as "James Frederick Ryan" or "The Minnesota Ryan" in Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan."
In 2002, Nathan Fillion starred as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in the Joss Whedon science fiction television series Firefly, for which he won the "Cinescape Genre Face of the Future - Male" award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA. Nathan Fillion also won the SyFy Genre Awards in 2006 for Best Actor/Television and was runner-up for Best Actor/Movie.
Although the show was cancelled, it was adapted to the big screen; Nathan Fillion reprised his role as Reynolds in Whedon's movie Serenity - however, "Serenity" was a huge bomb at the movie box office.
Nathan Fillion also had a recurring role as Caleb in the final season of Whedon's series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whedon has a history with reusing actors, and had also used Firefly alums Gina Torres and Adam Baldwin on Whedon's other show, Angel.
Nathan Fillion has lent his voice to the animated series King of the Hill in 2001, the video game Jade Empire (as the voice of Gao the Lesser), and the animated series Justice League Unlimited (as Vigilante in the episodes "Hunter's Moon" and "Patriot Act") in 2005 and 2006.
Nathan Fillion starred in James Gunn's 2006 horror film Slither. For his starring role as Bill Pardy, he garnered a 2006 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards nomination in the category of Dude You Don't Wanna Mess With. However, Slither, too, was a box office bomb, earning a disappointing $3,880,270 in its opening weekend, and grossing a worldwide box office total of $12.2 million, substantially less than its total budget of $29.5 million.
Nathan Fillion currently stars in the romantic comedy film "Waitress," from Fox Searchlight, written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival January 21, 2007.
Nathan Fillion has made one appearance in the 2006-2007 season of the television show Lost, as Kevin, Kate's ex-husband.
In October of 2006 Fillion signed a talent holding contract with the Fox Broadcasting Company, and in December of 2006, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Fillion was cast in the lead role of Alex Tully in the series Drive, set to debut on FOX in Spring 2007. Drive was created by Fillion's longtime friend and former Angel and Firefly writer Tim Minear. Ivan Sergei played Alex Tully in the original pilot episode of Drive.
The first two Drive episodes premiered on April 15, 2007. However, the show did not deliver the ratings FOX desired, and on April 25, 2007, the network announced that the series was cancelled. The final two produced episodes may air on FOX sometime in May, or may alternatively be streamed online.
Wild About Movies: What do you think was so attractive about your character’s stilted dialogue?
"Nathan Fillion": I think you can feel it when someone is attracted to you. There’s something in their actions, there’s something in the energy that somebody gives off that says I like you more than maybe you realize or maybe I should. Whether subconsciously or not, I think people read that and feel that. I think it’s part of when somebody likes you, even not in a romantic sense, but somebody truly likes you and cares for you and respects you, that’s what keeps you coming around and hanging out with that person is that you have that sense, that feeling on some level that they’re there for you. I think there’s certainly that going on with Jenna and Dr. Pomatter.
Wild About Movies: Did you do any research in order to be authentic in the role as a doctor, such as when you perform the sonogram?
"Nathan Fillion": Well that was actually the only technical thing I had to do and they had a nurse who told me the baby was a little lower, a little farther south. That was fine. And basically the way to angle it and how to find where the baby would be and what that motion would look like. Otherwise you’ll notice that Dr. Pomatter never straps on any gloves and gets any more intimate than actually making out with Keri.
Wild About Movies: After having done so many action projects, is it nice to do a movie where you just talk and kiss?
"Nathan Fillion": Now this is where we get into another area that we talked about earlier today. There are people who say, ‘this is a real departure for you’ because they’re only familiar with my last few projects whereas if you go back a little further, I was a romantic foil in a sitcom, before that I spent three years on a soap opera. This movie screams soap opera – infidelity between a doctor and a patient. Everything I do I try to ground in reality and if you’re on a spaceship, you’re still playing the reality of what that relationship is. If you’re in a speeding car, you’re still playing the reality of a relationship, so regardless of the backdrop and the setting, I just try to always be truthful. It’s fun. There are different challenges with every job, of course. I’m always having fun.
Wild About Movies: What was it like working with Adrienne Shelly as a director?
Editor's note: "Waitress" director, Adrienne Shelly, was murdered in NYC late last year. An episode of Law & Order, 'ripped from the headlines,' loosely based on her murder, aired not long thereafter.
"Nathan Fillion": Lovely, absolutely lovely. I remember there were times when I said to her, ‘I can do it like that. That’s how you want it? Alright.’ It was a strange angle she was taking and I wasn’t there for the filming of the rest of the picture, but in seeing the completed project, now I see her vision and now I see the throughline that writers and directors, they have that gift of that vision that I actually don’t share with them. When I saw the movie for the first time, it was in Sundance at our very first screening. I was more than pleasantly surprised. I knew it was going to be a beautiful story. I knew I loved the story. What I didn’t know was how much it would affect me and I’m just glad to have been a part.
Wild About Movies: What was her vision? What was her message to the public?
"Nathan Fillion": Good question on that. I knew what I got out of it as far as seeing people, like we talked about, trying to be happy and trying to make the right decision. Andy Griffith pretty much hits the nail on the head when he says, ‘in my life when I’ve been faced with choices and I could take one path or another, I always took the wrong one, I always made the wrong decision. It’s not too late for you to do what’s right’ trying to save her from the life that he’d had that had made him a crotchety old lonely fellow. That’s the message I take away from that. We all want to be happy. It’s the decisions we make. Are they going to make us happy? Are they the right decisions, the right thing to do?
Wild About Movies: What was that experience like working with Andy Griffith?
"Nathan Fillion": There's a guy I've been familiar with him and his work all my life. I'm thinking, every time I go into one of these situations, it's not as Nathan Fillion: Professional Actor. It's more so, Nathan Fillion: I studied to be a high school teacher in Edmonton, Alberta and I can't believe where I am right now. So I'm very much an observer more than a participant even. I thought I would be really star struck by him. I thought it would be very nerve wracking, exciting and amazing and wonderful. It was amazing and wonderful but in a way I didn't expect as far as hearing his voice is like listening to a family member. When you see him in front of you, you have a familiarity that I did not expect at all. He feels like family. Listening to him, I was like, ‘I completely trust you, everything you say. I believe everything you say. I'm nodding, I'm smiling, your voice soothes me.’ I feel very comfortable when he's talking to me and it's that familiarity. All my life I've heard that voice. I know what that sounds like. I know what he looks like.
Wild About Movies: What's it like now that Hollywood is going more to Canada?
"Nathan Fillion": That actually works out really well for me as I am Canadian. It's not super easy making a living as an actor in Canada, thus I'm here in the United States. When I'm in Los Angeles and I'm auditioning for things, if they were to hire me as a Canadian, that's a tax credit and what not, I think it behooves a lot of productions to hire Canadians, due to a Canadian content law to protect jobs in Canada even though there are movies going up there. I hear a lot of complaints a lot about- - I see these bumper stickers around town with the Canadian flag, film strips on the side and a big circle with a line through it saying, ‘Got work?’ And it breaks my heart. It's like, aw, man. I'm pretty sure if you really look into it, the percentage of work that goes to Canada is less than 10% of what's filmed in Los Angeles, never mind the rest of the United States. Less than 10% of work in LA goes to Canada. And last time I checked, this was a capitalist economy? Aren't you supposed to compete? I think these people are getting a little bit hoodwinked into saying, ‘Blame Canada’ when really they ought to be maybe moving the system around a little bit down here to make it easier for Americans to film in their own country. I think maybe the problem isn't north of the border. Maybe the problem's right here in the city. I'll probably raise a lot of eyebrows saying that but I'm a Canadian and it breaks my heart. Don't say it wouldn't break your heart to see an American flag with a circle around it and a line through it. It'll break your heart inside. I wouldn't do that to you, America. Why you gotta do that to me?
Wild About Movies: Are you looking forward to the steadiness of a TV job again?
"Nathan Fillion": I absolutely, yeah. Even if it's just for the sheer schedule of it, having some place to go every morning is a great feeling for an actor. Rather than calling your friends up, ‘Wanna see a movie? We can go to the 11AM one because I'm unemployed.’ Yeah, I'm very much looking forward to it. I mean, I wouldn't look forward to it if I didn't like the stories we were telling, the dialogue and the people I'm working with but I have all those things going on so I'm really hoping that Drive will be around for a few years at least.
Wild About Movies: What do you do in your off time? Rattlesnake hunting?
"Nathan Fillion": You know what, I saw a rattlesnake just the other day on my hike. I do a lot of hiking up in the Hollywood hills. I love to just go travel up there. It's a nice place to go when you don't want to feel like you're in the city anymore. There's a lot of beautiful hikes if you want to see something with a waterfall, there's a lot of beautiful hikes up in Malibu but that's an all day project, go to Malibu just for a hike. Go to movies, I have a very close knit circle of friends, travel. I have a cozy little home. I invite people to my home. I have barbecues.
Wild About Movies: What was the set like on Waitress?
"Nathan Fillion": I feel terrible because they all worked really, really hard for twenty days. I was done in less than a week. I would come in, film a couple scenes, I'd go home, piece of cake, no problem. What'd you do today? Made out with Keri Russell. Sounds good. But the atmosphere on the set was very friendly, very cordial. I mean, it's not like we've got major money behind us, we've got something huge and elaborate. It felt very down home as far as filming is concerned. It was a lot of fun. Everybody pulled for ‘let's make this day, we've got to get it out, it's got to happen.’ It was very positive and very quick.
Editor's note: We spoke with Nathan Fillion before his show "Drive" aired on television, needless to say, before it was canceled.
Wild About Movies: How many episodes of "Drive" have you shot?
"Nathan Fillion": We’ve shot six.
Wild About Movies: Do you know the end point to your character yet?
"Nathan Fillion": No. It’s a little journey we’ll take together.
Wild About Movies: Are you guys shooting green screen all the time? You look so intense. After seeing you in Waitress then seeing those Drive commercials, you are two different people.
"Nathan Fillion": Isn’t it just? It’s like I’m an actor or something. No, but thank you very much for that. It’s a pleasure. Basically what I do is I go to work and I pretend. Everything I do is glorified pretending and it’s just how well can you do it. So I go to work and I pretend to be a nervous Nelly doctor. I call upon whatever I need to call upon in my experiences and then I go and I play it up. Or I imagine or call upon some experiences or imagine what it would be like to be this really intense ‘maybe he’s got a dark past’ kind of a driver who’s driven. Let’s use that metaphor. That’s a lot of fun as well. I mean I have a good time going in to work and pretending to be different people, but it’s always Nathan having fun.
Wild About Movies: Have you gotten as attached to the "Drive" character as you were to Malcolm Reynolds?
"Nathan Fillion": Well I haven’t had the time with Alex Tully that I’ve had with Malcolm Reynolds, but there are certainly things that I can appreciate about both of them. Alex Tully is a little more everyman than Malcolm Reynolds but not much more. Here’s another person who has made difficult decisions in his life, and maybe not always the right decisions in his life, but now he’s created a life that will make him happy. The life that he’s wanted he’s created, but now his wife has been kidnapped and now he’s forced to dip back into that old life. How far can you go back and can you return again?
Wild About Movies: And we’re not going to find out what that is for a good while?
"Nathan Fillion": Yeah, I think if we wrapped it up right away, it wouldn’t be very interesting for being a long term story.