Nathan Fillion seems to be a love-him-or-hate-him kind of guy. Fortunately for him, it seems like most people love him. I can see why some might not – he seems to be constantly joking and horsing around, even going so far as to photobomb some of Bruce Campbell’s paid photo guests at Phoenix Comicon – but what those folks might not realize is that even while he’s doing that, he’s endearing himself to his fans, building his persona, and thus working. Isn’t that what stars are supposed to do?
The thing is, Fillion’s as genuine as they come so far as I can tell. I’ve seen stars choose to not show appreciation to their fans – Paltrow, I’m looking at you – but Fillion seemed to get it from the start, and that’s only part of why he’s essentially hit legendary status with the nerd crowd. Lead in a sci-fi role? Check. Voice actor of a major comic book character? Check. Makes parodies of his voice acting work with Tim Daly? Check. Lead role in a crime procedural with a unique premise on network TV? Check. Fortunately for us, his schedule was free to spend a some time with his throng of Phoenix fans, albeit a little blinder and doomed to be late forevermore (or until he picks up a new watch).
What follows is a selection of questions, answers, and comments from Fillion’s spotlight panel at Phoenix Comicon 2014. Some of the comments were edited for brevity, poignancy, or both.
NF – Hi Phoenix! [Waves, pauses, sits down] This morning I woke up, I stepped outside, and the heat hit me. I hit me so hard I could no longer see…I was Phoenixian blind. Yes, thank you. I just wrote that back there.
Q – What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven?
NF – I’m not the guy to push my luck. I’ve got a lot to live for! I really enjoy my Sunday morning ride on my motorcycle…but I was once a passenger at 193 at the Indy 500, screaming and peeing my pants the entire time.
Once he finished answering the question, he explained how he sometimes will go into his junk drawer at home and bring things to conventions to give to his fans after they ask questions (which I can corroborate after having seen him do just that at SDCC some years ago), but that he didn’t do that this time. So he tossed the lady his watch instead. His freakin’ watch! Uh, awesome! The next question must not have been that interesting because I didn’t write it down. Also possible – it was a great question, but I completely forgot about it because Fillion was so sad about having nothing to give this young lady that he made the MC give his watch to the fan!
That’s the power of Fillion. “Give her your watch!” Done and done. With that kind of power, I’m glad he didn’t ask the MC to give away his underwear.
Q – Do you think the movie (Serenity) gave the fans enough closure?
NF – Chuckles. I’m gonna say no. Gonna go out on a limb and say no. Firefly was the best thing that had ever happened to me, and it still is. In a lot of ways it still is. Having it cancelled broke my heart, and not even 28 gallons of chocolate ice cream could satiate that. Getting Serenity was like getting that love back, so it’s really hard for me to say it wasn’t enough closure for me. Here, have my watch.
And he tosses her his watch. Wait, what??? Yup. If the minds of a few thousand of Fillion’s closest fans didn’t already have their minds jumbled up from the heat, then this surely did it. Yup. He just took his watch right off and tossed it to her. None of us have a clue what the hell just happened or how…until we see him reach under the table with his hands while the next fan is asking the question, and when his hands reappear he’s sporting another watch on his wrist.
Aha!!! The gig is up, you sly devil, you! We won’t say nuthin, tho…just keep feeding us watches and awesomeness. Moving on…
Q – I was in the Mark Sheppard panel earlier and he said you were the nicest guy on the planet and that you gave him sandwiches. What’s the nicest thing ever done for you on set?
NF – Being a guest on someone’s show is much like being a guest in their house. I’ve been on shows where you’re little more than a speed bump, and I’ve been on shows where they ask you to go on smoke breaks. “Oh, sorry, I don’t smoke…but thanks!” “But you talk, so lets go chat while I smoke.” [Fillion hears a baby crying in the back of the hall] Yes, we’re all still sad about Firefly being cancelled. [Laughs from the crowd] The thing I appreciate the most is kindness, courtesy, and appreciation, which I think we all deserve.
Q – The first time I saw you, I absolutely hated you.
[At this confession, the crowd spontaneously channeled the fires of hell and directed them towards the fan. If you're going to a panel for one of the most beloved nerdy TV stars around, it's probably best you not make such an admission, if for no other reason than your own safety. Fillion immediately sensed the angst and jumped in.]
NF – Hold on! I think she’s going somewhere with this…hold on.
Fan – Then I saw you in Firefly and I loved you!
[...which now makes me wonder what she saw originally to make her hate him. Hmm...]
NF – [Mimicking the girl] “But after that I saw you in Buffy. Then I thought you were creepy and horrible and I hated you again!”
Fan – Not exactly, no! What famous person would you wait in line for to see at a con?
NF – John Ratzenberger. Just did it today, in fact! I watched Cheers like crazy when I was a kid. Hearing his voice is like talking to family because it’s so familiar. Also, anyone from the Star Trek universe. I was fortunate enough to sit down and have dinner with almost the entire bridge crew, save for the captain and Wesley Crusher at one dinner. Had LeVar Burton, Jon FRakes, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn…everyone was there. Boy, I head a great time!!!
Q – What’s been your most rewarding experience on Castle?
NF – I’ve never had a job last this long. We’re about to start season seven!!! I work with a lot of talented and amazing people, so many of whom you never see because they’re never on TV. I work with a huge crew…an incredibly hard working crew and they’re incredibly talented.
Q – What was your favorite part about playing Captain Mal?
NF – I learned a lot playing Malcolm Reynolds. I learned lots and lots. I had an idea as to what acting was, and that idea evolved or changed or flipped entirely once I worked with Joss Wheddon. I would say – there are actors who talk about acting like, “Don’t talk to me, and don’t call me by other than my character name!” That’s fine because they do wonderful work, but that’s not my flow. Not my jam, folks. I pretend. I don’t like to get she she foo foo about the process and how I pretend. I just do what I do and I don’t like to torture anyone in the process. However there are times when I was filming Firefly and when everyone’s talking to you like you’re the captain and calling you captain, and sometimes for a second you feel like you’re the captain! There were times on a break like, I got to go memorize these lines. I would be walking around the kitchen sitting in the corner chair, doing my lines, trying to get into my headspace, and you would look around and that place felt like home. You felt like the captain of a starship. Those were pretty cool times.
Q – Dr. Horrible 2. Where are we for that?
NF – I know the title. I know how it opens and the bare bones of the plot. I know the title of two songs. And I know everyone’s super, super busy, ‘specially Joss doing I-can’t-remember-what. But once everyone frees up, I know its something we want to do.
NF – You know, it’s weird. When Joss Wheddon calls and says, “Hey, would you like to…?”, you say yes. “Neil Patrick Harris is the villain, and we want you to play the super hero that’s the dick who ruins his life.” And I said, “Yeah! I want to ruin Neil Patrick Harris’s life!”
“And it’s a musical.”
Um…less enthusiastic yes?…As for Broadway, there’s incredibly talented people for that job. Like Neil Patrick Harris, who keeps raising the bar for people like me. Thanks, asshole!
Q – Have you had a funny accident while filiming?
NF – I split my pants. Firefly. Those pants? Not denim. They were canvas. Hard canvas. Thank goodness not chaffy. Had no give in them, and if there’s something I’ve got in spades, ladies and gentlemen, its boo-tay.
A young lady approaches the mic…
Q – I love Firefly so much!
NF – How old are you?
Fan – Twelve.
NF – Thank you!
Fillion realized in that moment that people were just being born when Firefly was aired are still finding and appreciating his work. The moment here was real…this was a genuine lightbulb moment, and genuine, sentimental gratitude was being given back to the fan
Fan – Who was your favorite cast member in Firefly to act with?
Fillion – This is gonna sound stupid, but I didn’t have a favorite. The hardest part of my job was being in scenes with these amazing actors and I’m watching the work they do and going, “God, this is gonna be such an amazing scene of television, and he is doing such an amazing job right now, and she is doing so well, and…why is noone saying anything right now? Right..it’s my line!!!”
A very well-costumed Dr. Horrible (post-Evil League of Evil admission) steps to the mic. Fillion rises to meet his nemesis, then slowly sits back down after a long stare.
Fan – Hi.
NF – [Long pause, staring] Hey.
Fan – Doin’ okay?
NF – [Still staring, more pausing] Yeah. Thanks.
Nice little villain – anti-hero moment there.
NF – I’m gonna tell you right now, guys, this is fun. Take stock. Evaluate. This is fun, right? Seeing good friends. Bonding. Some of you back there are sitting next to strangers, but you all got something in common, don’t you. It’s a little bit like family. My family!
Q – What’s your favorite line from a character that’s not one of yours?
NF – “Yes, were I not married, I would take you in a manly way.”
NF – In case you didn’t know already, and I can’t wait to tell you, Jonathan Frakes directed the sci-fi Castle episode. Did anyone not know that? [Nobody raises their hand] You’re the best fans in the world! And you’re all mine!!!
NF – This is my favorite part of any convention. I get to look at you in the eyes and faces and I can hear your cheers and clapping and I feel like we’re on the same page in a lot of ways. In a lot of ways. I’m a fan like you! I love you guys!
← Phoenix Comicon 2014 Panel: Stephen Amell