INT: Serenity cast #1

Never underestimate the power of a legion of geeks. In the case of SERENITY, they were able to get Universal to greenlight a feature film based on a cancelled TV series (Joss Whedon's "Firefly") that didn't even make it through its first season. At least "Star Trek" lasted for 79 episodes before it got canned, spawning innumerable films and series spin-offs. It remains to be seen if SERENITY will fare better than its TV predecessor, but if you head to the multiplex this weekend, don't be surprised to see hordes of "browncoats" (that's what they call themselves) begging you to see the film. They're not known to be violent, but I wouldn't tempt them.

A few weeks ago Universal hosted a trio of press conferences to promote SERENITY. The first featured cast members Summer Glau, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher and Adam Baldwin. Here are some excerpts:

Summer Glau Jewel Staite
Sean Maher Adam Baldwin

What was the biggest difference between making 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, which was nice.  When you’re doing series work, you have 12 hours and that’s it.  And in those 12 hours, you have about eight or nine 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’ve been going for.

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 that mule chase scene, because 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 able to get all that stuff in.  I feel that once we got to the studio and the controlled atmosphere on the soundstages, we were home free.  It felt like we were right back 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 obviously a lot more time to tell a story than we did 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 just felt a little grander and there was a wonderful feeling of redemption to sort of come back with these people.  It was this great reunion.  So it was a wonderful energy on the set.

Staite:  And I think of closure, too.  Because when we got cancelled, it all happened really quickly.  I’m from Canada , from Vancouver , so I packed up and went home.  And I felt like there was no closure whatsoever.  So 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 felt nice.  It felt very gratifying.

Baldwin:  I think and important aspect of that though is that we felt – and I think the fan base felt – that we were kinda under the gun from the get-go.  Our ratings were low; everyone kinda knew our ratings were low and we needed to figure out some way to push them up and never did.  And we got cancelled.  The cancellation all happens really quick.  It’s like, “Ok, you’re done.  Go home.”  But Joss immediately asked for the show, the rights to Firefly to make it somewhere else.  We tried to sell it to other TV networks; they didn’t bite.  And over time he was able to ultimately get Universal’s and Mary Parent’s attention and they agreed to make the film.  But 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 don’t know about you guys but I never felt that Joss gave up and I always kinda felt that this was where we would end up until he said, “You know, I can’t do it anymore.”  And he never did.  So while we miss our show, you’re right that 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. 

Maher:  (The film) stands on its own, but it also embodies everything that the show had.  I think people will see the movie and say, “Wow, that’s really interesting.  There was a TV show?  Oh great.”  And then buy the box set.

Baldwin:  The box set is a really cool package and they put it together really well.  That was our 15 episodes, 6-7 months of workshopping the movie.  And people can go and revisit the workshop. 

Does Joss Whedon allow you to play with dialogue at all?

Staite:  He’s pretty specific.

Glau:  It’s like poetry.

Baldwin:  He’s open to any good suggestion; it’s just his standards are very high.  So to get there, you have to come up with a very good idea or alteration.  He was not completely inflexible.  He’s got it so completely formed on the page for you and in his mind and his vision.  And again we had two weeks of rehearsal to suss out all the problems, that by the time we were actually shooting it was just go go go.  It was great.  There were no real stumbling blocks.

Maher:  I think specifically with Firefly and then Serenity – I don’t know how it was with Buffy or Angel – there’s such a specific way that these characters speak, that there was a very clear rhythm and language.

Summer, how much choreography did you have for the fight scenes?  Did your dance background help?

Glau: It did help me, because I was used to 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 had to completely retrain my body.  It took months.

How many?

Glau: Three months.  All day.  Every day.  (laughs)

In the fight sequences, how much is of that is you and how much was done by stunt people?

Glau:  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 other flip that my stunt double ended up getting hurt doing.  I felt terrible.  But everything else, I mean there’s swords and 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.  (laughs)

How much weapons training did you have?

Staite:  We had quite a bit of gun training.

Maher:  Quite a bit.

Staite:  They made me shoot everything. And this one gun was so incredibly heavy.  I looked like the biggest geek in the world.  I was leaning back it was so heavy.  And I thought I would be cute that day and wore shorts and a tank top.  And every time I would shoot the gun it would sort of ricochet and I would get little burns all over my legs.  It wasn’t super-fun (laughs).  It was crazy.

Maher:  I thought it was fun.

Glau:  I loved that part.

Staite:  Everybody else thought it was fun but me.  I was scared.

Maher:  It was scary how fun it can be. 

Baldwin: I’ve been comfortable with weapons for years.  (laughs)

Maher:  But I think…our training they weren’t sure exactly who was shooting what or what was going to be used, so they just had us get familiar with everything that could possibly find its way into the script somehow.  So there was a lot of firing to be done. 

Have you had many encounters with fans? What has that been like?

Staite:  We’ve been doing these science fiction conventions.  That’s been really interesting.  (laughs) 

Baldwin:  We’ve had a lot of interaction with the fans.

Staite:  A lot.

Maher:  Yeah. 

Baldwin:  They’ve been most supportive from the get go.  I think again it goes back to this sort of underdog story of us struggling to get back on the air.  The people that are going along for the ride have been very helpful in keeping us there.  I know that the DVD sales were important to Universal’s decision.  I don’t know if it was the ultimate decision-making device or reason, but it was very important and we very much appreciate how much the fans have helped with our return to the screen.

Staite:  Absolutely.

Glau:  It’s from the beginning.

Staite:  I’m not sure we’d be here if we didn’t have such an amazing, dedicated following. 

Baldwin.  Yep.  They make us shirts and they make us trinkets-


Staite:  And they dress up like us.  (laughs)  They do.

Glau:  They sing our songs.

Staite:  They quote our lines.  I don’t even remember my lines from the series and they all know the dialogue.  It’s amazing.

Maher:  This past summer there were a bunch of secret screenings with fans, specifically, that we all attended.  Watching the movie with fans is just en experience unto itself.  There’s really nothing like it.  They’re incredibly loyal and flattering-

Staite:  And they’re smart too. 

Baldwin:  They’re smart.  But you also get this huge cross-section of demographics.  You get young, old, men and women. 

Staite:  Everything.

Baldwin:  Left and right.  It’s just…everyone… they love the writing, they love the characters, they love the show.  It’s amazing. 

What’s the strangest experience you’ve 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.

Baldwin:  Nice gift.  Memorable.

Staite:  It was audible.  I felt so bad and I know he felt really bad.  And we took a picture with each other and then he walked away.

Baldwin:  There have been a lot of useful gifts though, like t-shirts.  You actually get stationery with logos. 

Baldwin:  I can’t remember exactly the line that Joss gave in Edinborough, but it was a brilliant line.  He talked about his struggle, his journey to get this movie made utilized the fuel of love, as opposed to the fuel of anger or vindictiveness, because that fuel doesn’t keep you going…it was beautiful.  It was like anger is not an efficient fuel; love is.  I’m paraphrasing it but that’s basically his intent was.  And it’s true.  So the love that we get for the show, for the characters, for Joss’s writing, a lot of that you just see in the energy, I think, when you watch the show.  I loved the show.  I love the movie; it’s great.


How was it to lose two characters? How did you feel when you read that in the script?

Baldwin:  I think you’ll have to ask Joss and Alan that. Put those questions to them.  But Joss has said in public, so I’m not giving away (anything), if we get back and make (more) movies, I’m sure you’ll see those characters again.  I’ve heard him say that in public, so I don’t think I’m stepping on any toes there.

Maher:  I think it was to tell the story.  I think again it’s a question for Joss, but I know he says that he just felt these characters have to die.  This is what has to happen. 

Staite:  If we all lived it wouldn’t be very believable. 

Maher:  I think the wonderful thing that happens with Wash and Shepherd Book is I think there is a moment in the movie, and for me when I watch the movie, you do wonder what’s going on here.  Are these people really going to survive?  There’s a moment where I think quite possibly they’re not going to make it, even though I read it and shot it and know what’s going.  I think it’s a wonderful tool that brings you to that point.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com



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