For fans of Joss Whedon’s TV show Firefly this is like the week before Christmas. The movie version, Serenity, opens everywhere this weekend, finally continuing the story of the crew of the titular space ship as they attempt to outsmart the agents of the fascist Alliance.
Last week I brought you my two part Joss Whedon exclusive one on one (read part 1 here, part 2 here) and a press conference with Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin and Nathan Fillion. This week we have more one on ones coming – Nathan and Adam Baldwin – and more from Joss. But first here’s another press conference, this one with the remaining four cast members who came to the junket. There’s Adam Baldwin, who plays the edgy tough guy Jayne, Summer Glau, who plays the mysterious object of Alliance tinkering, River, Sean Maher, who plays her brother and the ship doctor Simon, and Jewel Staite, who plays Serenity’s mechanic, Kaylee.
This interview is riddled with spoilers. Beware before proceeding.
Q: How much choreography and training was there? Did your dance background help, Summer?
Glau: It did help because I was used to training every day and going to the gym all day and doing lots of different types of training. But really it’s completely different muscle memory. I had to completely retrain my body. It took months, three months, all day, every day.
Baldwin: And it worked!
Q: What was the biggest difference between the TV show and the movie?
Staite: I think it was the time factor. 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, and that was nice. When you’re doing series work you have twelve hours and then that’s it. In those twelve hours you have about eight or nine pages to shoot. On the movie I felt like we had all this rehearsal time, we could stop and talk about the characters, we could talk about the vibe of the scene, what we were going for.
Baldwin: We had two weeks of rehearsal before we started shooting and I think we focused a lot on the main dialogue scenes early on. But we also focused on that 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. I feel that once we got to the studio, the controlled atmosphere on the soundstages, we were home free. It felt like we were workshopping our little TV show on these gigantic Universal soundstages. It was just great.
Maher: I agree. I think time was a big thing. We had a lot more time to tell a story then when we were shooting the series. But to me it felt so similar to the show, everything just felt a little more spectacular, it felt a little grander. There was a wonderful feeling of redemption to come back with these people. It was a great reunion, so it was a wonderful energy.
Staite: And a sense of closure, too. When we got cancelled it all happened very quickly. I’m from Vancouver, so I packed up and went home and felt like there was no closure whatsoever. When we were greenlit to do the movie and saw each other again and were able to play these characters one more time, it was gratifying.
Baldwin: I think an important aspect of that 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, and everyone knew our ratings were low, and we needed some way to push em up. We never did and we got cancelled. The cancellation happens real quick – you’re done, now go home. But Joss immediately asked for the rights to Firefly to make it somewhere else. He tried to sell it to other TV networks and they didn’t bite, and over time he was able to ultimately get Universal and Mary Parent’s attention and they agreed to make the film. But Joss never gave up. Joss never, quote unquote, stopped fighting for the future. So while it was very hard for us and devastating emotionally, I don’t know about you guys but I never felt Joss gave up. I always kind of felt this was where we would end up. While we miss our show, we have closure, whatever happens to our movie. We can move forward if we’re a hit and make two more, or come what may – I’m not even going to spell out what the other alternative is!
Q: What was the one thing that you wish your character could still do?
[Maher and Staite look at each other soulfully]
Q: That won’t work because you guys did!
Baldwin: Needlepoint. No seriously, little girlie things.
Staite: You know what really bugs me? Mal and Inara. Their tension 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 can’t admit how they feel about the other person. That’s the story arc that I would like to see come to some sort of conclusion. Just because it bugs me.
Baldwin: And what would you like your character to do in the future?
Staite: I think Kaylee should have a baby.
Maher: Yeah! I agree.
Q: Shouldn’t Jayne come out of the closet and admit his love for Mal?
Baldwin: Joss’ll disagree with this, but my subtext was that Jayne had a crush on Inara, and that was sort of his driving energy through there. But Joss was always like, “No! Wrong, Adam. He does not!” And I would think, “Yes he does!”
But what would I like to see happen? I’d like to see Kaylee have a baby.
Staite: I think there needs to be a baby on that ship.
Maher: We always talk about what new characters could come on the ship. Sadly we’ve seen two leave us, so it only seems right that maybe, if God willing the story continues, someone should join the crew.
Baldwin: I think we should meet Jayne’s parents. That would be fun.
Q: Sean, you get to have some more action stuff in this film – you have a daring do rescues in the opening scene, and there’s that battle at the end. Is that nice for you after having Simon be the worrying brother on the show?
Maher: Yes, yes, yes! That was great. What I would like, specifically in Simon, is to go further in that. It was very gratifying to see him get a little rougher around the edges. But not to lose his incredible gift for medicine. He was figuring that all out in the movie, so I would like to see that go further.
Q: How much weapons training did you guys have?
Maher: Quite a bit.
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 look cute that day and wore shorts and a tank top, and every time I would shoot the gun it would ricochet and I would get little burns all over my legs. It wasn’t super-fun. It was crazy.
Maher: I thought it was fun. It was scary how fun it can be.
Baldwin: I’ve been comfortable with guns for years!
Maher: I think that our training, they weren’t sure who would be shooting what or what would be used, so they had us get familiar with everything that could possibly find its way into the script. There was a lot of firing to be done.
Q: Summer, how much of the final scene where you’re fighting the Reavers is you and how much is a stunt person?
Glau: It’s all me. There were two dangerous stunts that they wouldn’t let me do. One falling down the stairs, that was just too risky. And one other flip – where my stunt double ended up getting hurt! I felt terrible. But all the swords, all the blade work I did myself. All the guns I did myself. The daggers. Joss wanted it to look real. And I felt it – every punch and every kick!
Q: The script is filled with gallows humor.
Baldwin: I keep going back to Jayne as a practical guy. What do you do in the face of mortal danger? You either crap your pants and cry or you make a joke and try to survive. If Jayne can’t run anymore, turn and fight. It’s a great device for that character, the false bravado.
Q: Joss is so well known as a writer, for his dialogue. When you’re on set is he precious about the dialogue, or can you go up to him with suggestions?
Staite: He’s pretty specific.
Glau: It’s like poetry.
Baldwin: He’s open to any good suggestion, but his standards are very high. To get there you have to come up with a very good idea or alteration. He was not completely inflexible, but 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 suss out all the problems. By the time we were actually shooting, it was all go, go, go. It was great. There were no stumbling blocks.
Maher: I think specifically with Firefly and Serenity, I don’t know how it was with Buffy and Angel, there was such a specific way that these characters speak –
Baldwin: A rhythm.
Maher: Yeah, it’s a very clear rhythm.
Q: And the Chinese? Is that hard to get?
Baldwin: I hated it! I hated it.
Maher: I got none! It was a piece of cake.
Glau: It’s hard for me to make it emotional, the Chinese.I had this one really emotional scene where I had to do Chinese and I felt ridiculous.
Baldwin: It damaged my calm.
Maher: I think the hardest thing about the Chinese is that it’s these phrases. It’s not just yes or no, it’s these chunks of phrases that the other actors had to stumble over.
Baldwin: But it’s great that he would figure out these phrases like, “The explosive diarrhea of an elephant” and translate it into Chinese. And then you get to go and say that!
Q: Have you guys had many encounters with the fans?
Staite: We’ve been doing these science fiction conventions. That’s been really interesting. Yeah.
Baldwin: We’ve had a lot of interaction with the fans. They’ve been the most supportive from the get go. Again, I think it goes back to this sort of underdog story of us struggling to get back in the air. The people who are going along for the ride have been very helpful in keeping us there. I know the DVD sales were very important to Universal’s decision. I don’t know if it was the ultimate decision making reason, but it was very important. We very much appreciate how much the fans have helped with our return to the screen.
Staite: I’m not even sure we’d be here if we didn’t have such a dedicated, amazing following.
Baldwin: They make us shirts and they make us trinkets.
Staite: They dress up like us.
Glau: They sing our songs!
Staite: They quote our lines. I don’t even remember my lines. They all know the dialogue.
Maher: This past summer there were a bunch of secret screenings with fans that we all attended. Watching the movie with fans is just an experience unto itself. There’s really nothing like it. They’re incredibly loyal and it’s flattering.
Staite: It’s exciting. They’re smart too.
Baldwin: They’re smart, and you get this huge cross section of demographics. You get young and old, men and women, left and right. Everyone loves the writing, they love the characters, it’s amazing.
Q: What was the strangest experience you have had at a convention?
Staite: I had a fan come up to me, he was so sweet, and I guess he was quite nervous. And he farted. It was audible!
Staite: I felt so bad, and I know he felt really bad, and we both pretended like nothing happened. We took a picture with each other and he walked away.
Baldwin: We have gotten a lot of useful gifts, though. Like t-shirts. You actually get stationary –
[At that moment, Pat Lee of SciFi.com gets a cell phone call. His ringer is… the Firefly theme song! The cast cracks up]
Baldwin: That’s so great.
Maher: That’s perfect!
Baldwin: I can’t remember exactly the line Joss gave in Edinburgh, but it was a brilliant line, and it was about how his struggle, his journey, to get this movie made utilized the fuel of love and not the fuel of anger, since that fuel doesn’t keep you going. Anger isn’t an efficient fuel, but love is. That’s true. The love we get for the characters and the show and Joss’ writing, a lot of that you see in the energy when you watch the show. I love the show. I love the movie!
Q: In a few weeks we’ll know the fate of the Serenity franchise. But in the meantime, what do you guys have coming up?
Baldwin: I was just on a show called The Inside, which has been recently cancelled, so back pounding the pavement. I’ve actually been working hard, between Serenity and The Poseidon Adventure I’ve been working eighteen months straight, so I’m a little tired. I’ll find something. Fingers crossed.
Q: What do you play in The Poseidon Adventure?
Baldwin: I play the younger, better looking version of Ernest Borgnine. My character’s name is Rogo!
Glau: I just got back from Romania. I finished an independent there, it’s called Mammoth. It’s a sci-fi comedy. Something new. It was so much fun! It’s going to be released on the Sci Fi Channel. It was fun for me because it was sci fi, but it was completely different! I’m used to playing really sad, serious characters and this was fun for me to get to do action and laugh. It’s a really different character.
Maher: I have an independent film coming out in October called Living Until the End. Ghost Whisperer, the new show on CBS.
Q: Are you a ghost?
Maher: I’m a ghost. It’s a lot of fun.
Staite: I did Stargate Atlantis, which is shot in Vancouver, where I live. I don’t know if I’m going to go back. There was talk of me going back as a different character, because I was under very heavy duty prosthetics for my first guest star. But other than that, I want to do something completely the opposite. I want to do maybe a really light romantic comedy. Maybe a musical at some point. I’m open to being challenged.
Baldwin: In closing I want to say thank you to all of you for being here. This is a labor of love for us. We hope for the best for it.