Matt Rorie wrote in October 2011 an interesting and without concession piece about genre actors.
The premise of the article is that many of our favorite actors from sci-fi and fantasy media wind up doing...pretty much nothing but sci-fi or fantasy for the rest of their careers? The author of the article mentions many sfi-fi actors, including our very own Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and now Arrow's Summer Glau.
I have reproduced below a paragraph but please bear in mind that Summer is not as the center of the article.
Another example: Summer Glau. From Firefly to Serenity to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to Dollhouse to The Cape to her upcoming fan-service-y appearance in a comedy about LARP-ing with a name that embarrasses me even when I think about it, I would be shocked beyond belief if she did not wind up signing autographs at the Great Lakes Comic-Con in 15 years in order to float her rent. That sounds cruel, and perhaps it is, but if Glau was going to escape the whirlpool of genre acting and break out into something more mainstream, it certainly seems like it would’ve happened by now, right?
This is the kind of career arc that seems to befall genre actors fairly often: you make a splash early in your career in some beloved and well-known (or beloved and cultishly-adored) sci-fi show or horror franchise, and then...you jump to another sci-fi show or horror franchise, and then...your career is effectively locked into place (see also: Linda Blair, still awkwardly hosting SyFy channel programs about possession 30 years after The Exorcist). You continue down the path of genre filmmaking, taking what paychecks come your way, while always looking for a role that never quite comes in something that might gain you a bit more credibility.
Read the full article article at Screened
This article reminds of a 2008 lecture by renowned genre writer Neal Stephenson, who has his own rather sophisticated (using the term descriptively, here) theory on why sci-fi actors become niche actors, specifically using Sigourney Weaver, Lena Headey and Summer Glau as one of his examples. His ideas here are part of a larger argument in the lecture (entitled "Science Fiction as a Literary Genre"), but you can watch the short version below:
KortoloB at the Summer Glau Reddit made an elaborate and interesting graph that details the minutes of genre vs. non-genre episodes/films she's been in so far:
KortoloB's comments on the graph:
You can see from the graph that the only times that she hasn't been in something non-genre is when she's been working on big genre projects, such as Firefly, Serenity and TSCC.
Some fun facts from my statistics:
To watch all episodes and films Summer's been in in one straight run, you'd have to sit down for almost three days straight.
81% of that time you would be watching a genre show/film.
2004 is the only year in her career where she wasn't on a genre show, but in 2002, '05 and '08 Summer was exclusively in genre-shows/films.
Summer has commitment issues. The only years she has been faithful to a show (not counting Sleepover since she was in it for less then a minute) is in 2004, when she guest starred on an episode of CSI, and in 2008 when she starred in TSCC.
Here's a graph where minutes are divided between shows instead of genre:
On a similar topic, check out Summer Glau's detailed Filmography
Summer Glau is an amazing sci-fi actress. She has played two of the most iconic characters in recent sci-fi history, River Tam in Joss Whedon's Firefly and Cameron Philipps in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Her action shots during Firefly & Serenity alone qualify her to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with action 'diva' Sigourney Weaver. But she's also somewhat of a low profile actress and that is very respectable. The hollywood jetset seems to crave popularity at a too high cost. Up to now it seems, Summer is doing a pretty good job.
That said, I hope she becomes more recognized and more successful; She deverves that much, such a talented actress. Whatever role she’s played, and regardless of which was the first time you saw Summer perform, you knew at that moment you were seeing something special. When she cried, you were crying with her in sympathy, when she was kicking ass you were cheering her on like nothing else, and when she was troubled you wanted to tell her it was going to be okay. That ladies and gentleman is what Summer Glau does with her varied roles. She doesn’t just act, she makes you believe.
Summer Glau is and always will be my number one favorite actress.
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