After a series of unsuccessful TV shows, the world finally discovered the wonder of Nathan Fillion when he starred as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in the cult hit series Firefly. Then came the Firefly movie, Serenity, and a memorable cinematic turn as a love-struck, unfaithful doctor in Waitress. Currently, Fillion has a starring role in the enduring crime drama-comedy Castle.
The Canadian-born actor, as renowned for his tweets (3.37 million followers!) as his acting, recently reunited with Firefly costar Alan Tudyk for the super-popular Web series Con Man (click here to check it out), in which the guys send up their own geeky path to fame (oh, and for the gay gamers out there, Fillion also provides the voice of Edward Buck in the latest Halo game). Fillion turned his legendary charm on us to talk to us about his expansive work.
The Advocate: Hi, Nathan. Tell me about Con Man — how much input did you have into your character, which seems mostly based on the real you?
Fillion: I would love to take full credit, but this is a thing that Alan Tudyk has been thinking about for years and just finally put it together, and the way in which Alan writes, he really leaves no stone unturned. You can certainly add a little tidbit here or there for dimension, but you have a fully fleshed-out character by the time Alan hands you the script. So I wish I could take more credit, but Alan will probably read this, and then I’ll hear about it for sure.
Is the show indeed based on real experiences?
It’s a heightened reality, for sure, but it’s merely a parody of what we think a super successful celebrity would be like. And at the same time, there is a kernel of truth in it. The fact that Wray Nerely and Jack Moore never get to see each other except on FaceTime. That’s not very far from the truth. I’ve been working on a network television show for eight years. I rarely get a chance to see my friends. We keep very odd hours here on a show, and it’s hard to nail down time just to see your friends for months at a time.
Did you see Alan during the filming of Con Man, or was it all remote?
No, no, I was there. In the scenes I'm in, Alan was there directing. And while Alan was directing, I was there hanging out for the first few days of the shoot just to show some support. Alan pretends like he needs people around him, but really he doesn’t. He had it handled, and it was very impressive. It was his first shot at directing something like this, and he really handled it very well. His crew plainly loved him. It was really neat to see, because he really appreciated his crew, and his crew really seemed to appreciate him. Boy, he really loved those people.
I’ve been a big fan of both of you since Firefly, and it’s really fun to see you back together again.
Aw, thanks for that. And you know, it’s funny too, because people say that and Alan and I are best buddies. We’ve been hanging out for the past 13 years, and when people say, “It’s nice to see you back together again,” we kinda snicker, because we’ve been hanging out all this time.
In the show, Wray deals with overzealous fans who feel an ownership over him. Is that something you go through?
Absolutely. And you know what? I completely understand it. I think about TV shows I really like: Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead. I feel a sense of ownership for those shows. [People say], "I gotta get home and watch my shows." We even speak about it in terms of ownership. So it is a strangeness that I actually relate to and understand. You’re spending time in people’s living rooms for however long that might be. An hour a week. Or if they’re gonna watch a movie, if they’re gonna binge watch your entire series, you’re in their living room. You’re a part of their home. They feel familiar.
Do you often get hit on by gay male fans?
I don’t get hit on often by any fans. A flirt now and again. But I have had some very nice compliments from gay male fans, yes.
And how do you feel about that?
A compliment is a compliment. I take ‘em where I can get ‘em, Robbie.
Which of your projects do you get recognized for the most?
It’s a toss-up. Castle is certainly a big deal to my career and the recognition factor. But I’m not out in the world much to experience that, unless I go to sci-fi conventions, at which point it’s a toss-up between Castle and Firefly. Firefly, having been canceled 13 years ago, is very strange in that it keeps getting more and more fans every year. Younger and younger people are coming up to me saying how much they love it, and I can’t believe it. I’m so grateful for that experience.
It’s definitely a cultural phenomenon. You have somewhat of a following among gays for your dreamboat role in Waitress.
Is that right?
Yeah, we love that movie! Can you tell me about deciding to do it?
You know, I thought it would be a very cute movie. I was really looking forward to the chance to be working with Keri Russell and Cheryl Hines. Jeremy [Sisto] I had known from before and hadn’t had a chance to work with him. I had no idea just how cute it was going to be. That movie works out really well. I always point out to people that they think it’s a pure and wonderful love story and I say, “Just a reminder: these are two married people, and they’re both having extramarital affairs, and you’re rooting for them.” That’s how sweet and cute, and really wonderfully, Adrienne Shelly handled that subject matter. It made it OK to the extent that we actually root for these people to cheat on their spouses.
Yes. And the ending of that was such an interesting choice. It’s a surprisingly feminist film. Thanks for making that one.
It was a pleasure.
Do you have a man crush?
Umm, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper. Who else do I think is really great? Both of the Wilson brothers. Who else? There was somebody I was just watching the other day and they were amazing…
You led off with three Marvel actors, and I know you had a small part in Guardians of the Galaxy. Is that your run for superheroes, or —
Tom Hiddleston! Tom Hiddleston! That was the one! Did I mention him?
Another Marvel man. Do you have aspirations to play a superhero?
I think all the really great heroes have been taken. And they’ve really done some wonderful jobs with goofy heroes. When Ant-Man came out I thought, This is really a lower-rung hero for comics. That movie was spectacular. Boy, Paul Rudd? I like to think I’m a charming guy. That Paul Rudd makes me look like an idiot manchild, he’s so charming. It’s so neat to watch him. But I would certainly think that for every superhero out there, there’s gotta be at least 50 villains. I think I’d like to take a crack. All the heroes are out there. Give me a villain.
Is there anything that you’d like to say to your gay fans?
Say it loud, say it proud [laughs].