A press junket was hosted by Universal on September 24th 2005 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to promote the worldwide theatrical release of Serenity on September 30th 2005. There was three mini press conferences: the first one was a conversation with Joss Whedon himself. The second one was with Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres and Morena Baccarin. Next up was with Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite and Sean Maher (Ron Glass and Alan Tudyk didn’t make it).
Journalists had later the possibility to conduct one-one-one interviews. Don't miss the two videos interviews with Summer Glau and Sean Maher at the end of this Blogpost.
Here's the transcript of the bigger panel featuring cast members Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, and Jewel Staite, during which they spoke about coming back to replay their characters.
Summer, did your experience as a dancer help you with all of the fight scenes and the stunts you had to do?
Summer: It did help me, because I was used to the training every day, going to the gym and working out all day. Doing lots of different types of training. But really it’s completely different muscle memory. I had to completely retrain my body. It took three months, all day, every day.
Adam: And it worked!
Besides the quality, what was the biggest difference between doing Firefly the show and Serenity the movie?
Jewel: I think it was the time factor. We spent so much more time on the movie than on the series. We [could] do a three-page scene all day long if we wanted to, and that was nice.
[On the television show,] if we had … twelve hours, that was it, and in those twelve hours we had eight or nine pages to shoot. On the movie, I felt like we had this personal time, we could stop, we could talk about the characters, we could talk about the vibe of the scene, what we were going for…
Adam: 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 [during] those two weeks to stay on budget and on time. The weather cooperated and we were able to get all that stuff in. … Once we got to the studio and the controlled atmosphere on the sound stages, we were home free. It felt like we were right back workshopping our little TV show on these gigantic Universal sound stages. It was just great.
Sean: I agree, the time was a big thing. We obviously had a lot more time to tell a story than we did we when we were doing the series. But to me it felt so similar to the show. Everything just felt a little more spectacular, a little grander. There was a wonderful feeling of redemption, because we’ve come back with these people, this great reunion, and there was a wonderful energy…
Jewel: …and a sort of closure too. Because when we got canceled, it all happened very quickly. I’m from Canada, I’m from Vancouver, so I packed up my stuff and went home, and I felt like there was no closure whatsoever. So when it was decided and we were green-lit to do the movie, and we saw each other again, and we were able to play these characters one more time, it felt nice… very gratifying.
Adam: An important aspect of that is that we felt, and I think the fan base felt, that [with the TV show] we were kinda under the gun from the get-go. Our ratings were low. Everyone knew our ratings were low. And we needed to figure out some way to push them up, and never did. We got canceled. But the cancellation all happened really quick. It was like, ‘Okay, you’re done, go home.’ But Joss immediately asked for the show and the rights to Firefly to make it somewhere else. They tried to sell it to other TV networks and they didn’t bite.
But over time he was able to get Universal and Mary Parent’s attention, and they agreed to make the film. But Joss never gave up. Joss never gave up quote/end-quote “fighting for the future.”
It was very hard for all of us and devastating emotionally. [turns to the other actors] I don’t know about you guys, but I never felt like Joss gave up. I never felt that this was where we would end up until Joss gave up and said, “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.
What’s the one thing you wish your characters could do that they haven’t done yet?
Adam: Needlepoint. Little girlie things.
*You could make Jayne hats!
Jewel: I think Kaylee needs to have a baby.
Sean: I agree. …
…Shouldn’t Jayne come out of the closet…?
Adam: [scowling intently]
Sean: … and admit his love for Mal?
Adam: Joss will disagree with this, but my subtext was that Jayne had a crush on Inara and that was sort of his driving energy. And Joss was always like, “No! Wrong! Adam, he does not.” “Yes he does.” …
… What would I like to see happen? I’d like to see Kaylee have a baby.
Sean: We’re always talking about how we want new characters to come on the show, to come on the set. And if, God willing, the story continues, who joins the crew?
Adam: I think we should meet Jayne’s parents. That would be fun.
Jewel: You know what really bugs me is Mal and Inara. Their tension… I want them to kiss and get together and get it over-with. Those characters are so incredibly stubborn that no matter what they can’t admit how they feel about the other person. And that’s definitely the story arc that I would like to see come to some sort of conclusion.
Sean, you got to do more action scenes in this film. Did you like that?
Sean: Yes. And, we never got to answer [those last questions] but, yeah, it was very gratifying to see [Simon] get a little rougher around the edges, and… you know, he’s got an incredible gift for medicine… mesh the two.
Did you all get firearms training?
Jewel: Quite a bit. Yes. They made me shoot everything, from this big to THIS big. This one gun was so incredibly funny. You remember?
Sean: [laughing] I remember that!
Jewel: I was like the biggest geek in the world. I was leaning back, it was so heavy. I thought I would be cute that day, and I 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 on my legs. It wasn’t super fun. It was crazy.
Adam: I thought it was fun.
Sean: It’s scary how fun it can be.
Adam: [grinning] I’ve been comfortable with weapons for years. …
… I think [in] our training, they weren’t exactly sure who was shooting what. They just had us get familiar with every [weapon] that could possibly go in the script. A lot of firing.
Summer, how many of the stunts did you do?
Summer: It’s all me. There were two dangerous stunts that they wouldn’t let me do. One, falling down the stairs, that was just two risky. One other flip, one that my stunt double ended up getting hurt doing, and I felt terrible. But everything else, those swords, all of the blade weapons I did myself, all of the guns I did myself… the daggers. Joss wanted it to look real. And I felt it. I punched everything.
Can you comment on Joss’s constant use of gallows humor and morbid jokes?
Adam: I keep going back to Jayne being a practical guy. What do you do in the face of mortal peril? You either panic and cry and crap your pants, or you make a joke and try to survive. If Jayne can’t run anymore than trying to fight… yeah. Joss wrote the lines for me. So, I don’t know. It’s a great device for that character… the false bravado and then, back-to-the-wall, you turn and fight, whatever choice you have…
Is Joss really precious with his dialogue? Does he let you make suggestions and revisions?
Summer: He’s pretty specific. It’s like poetry.
Adam: He’s open to any good suggestion. It’s just that his standards are very high. So to get there you have to 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 in his mind and in his vision. …
… And again, we had two weeks of rehearsal to suss out all the problems, so by the time we were actually shooting, it was just go go go… It was great. There were no real stumbling blocks.
Sean: Specifically with Firefly and Serenity—I don’t know how it was with Buffy or Angel—there was such a specific way that these characters speak, such a clear rhythm.
Was it hard to learn how to speak the Chinese lines?
Sean: It was a piece of cake. I got none, so it was a piece of cake.
Summer: It was hard for me to make it emotional. I had this one really emotional scene where I had to do Chinese, and I just felt ridiculous.
Adam: “It damaged my calm.”
Sean: I think that the hardest thing about Chinese is that they’re these phrases, it’s not just ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It’s just these chunks of phrases that the other actors would have to stumble with …
Adam: But it’s just great that he would have to figure out these phrases like ‘the explosive diarrhea of an elephant’ and translate it into Chinese, and you get to go and say that. Well, terrific!
Did you have any input on your costumes?
Jewel: I think the costumes were very specific too. I lucked out. I got to wear this comfy jumpsuit for the entire movie. It was great! I think Ruth really knew what she was doing. She had a specific vision and she had it all planned out when I arrived.
Summer: [I got] to fight in a dress. I kept the boots.
Have you had any interesting or memorable encounters with fans?
Jewel: We’ve been going to these science fiction conventions. [wide-eyed] That’s been really interesting.
Adam: We’ve had a lot of interaction with the fans. They’ve been most supportive from the get-go. I think it gets back to this 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 are very 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.
Jewel: I’m not sure we’d be here if we didn’t have such an amazing dedicated following.
Adam: They make us shirts and they make us trinkets.
Summer: They dress up like us.
Jewel: They sing our songs. They quote our lines. I don’t even remember my lines.
Sean: This past summer there were a bunch of secret screenings with fans that we all attended. And watching the movie with fans is just an experience in itself. There’s really nothing like it. They’re incredibly loyal and …
Jewel: Excited. And smart too.
Adam: But you get this huge cross-section of demographics, young and old, men and women. Left and right. Everyone. They love the writing, they love the characters. They just love the show. It’s amazing.
What’s the strangest experience you’ve had with a fan?
Jewel: I had a fan come up to me who was so sweet, and I guess just quite nervous, and he farted.
Adam: Nice gift.
Jewel: It was audible.
Jewel: And I felt so bad. And I know he felt really bad. And we both pretended like it wasn’t happening. And we took a picture with each other and he walked away.
Adam: There have been a lot of useful gifts, though, like t-shirts. And you actually get stationary with logos, and they use a lot of…
[We're interrupted by a journalist’s cel phone ringing… which is, of course, the Firefly theme song... making the stars laugh, delighted.]
Adam: … the ringer on the gentleman’s phone is a Firefly theme song. Hey, join the club!
I can’t remember exactly the line that Joss gave in Edinborough. It was about how his struggle to get this movie made was to utilize the fuel of love, as opposed to the fuel of anger or vindictiveness, because that fuel doesn’t keep you going.
[to the other actors] Do you remember him saying that? It was beautiful. Anger is not an efficient fuel. Love is. Basically I’m paraphrasing, but that’s what his intent was. But it’s true. So the love that we get for the show, for the characters, for Joss’s writing … a lot of that you see in the energy when you watch the show. I love the show. I love the movie. It’s great.
In the meantime, what do you guys have coming up?
Adam: I was just on a show called The Inside that’s just been canceled. So, I’m back pounding the pavement. And then I’ve been working on Serenity and then The Poseidon Adventure. I’m a little tired. We’ll find something. It’s kind of a busy time. Fingers crossed. My manager’s in the back. What’s next, Steven?
I play the younger, better-looking version of Ernest Borgnine. The character’s name is Rogo.
Summer: I just got back from Romania. I finished an independent there. It’s called Mammoth. It’s a sci-fi comedy. 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 serious, sad characters. This was fun for me to get to do action. It’s a really different character.
Sean: I have an independent film called Living Until the End, coming out on October 21st, and then [I’m in an episode of] The Ghost Whisperer. I’m a ghost. It was a lot of fun.
Jewel: I did Stargate: Atlantis. I don’t know if I’m going to go back. It’s possible that I could go back for a totally different role… I was in very heavy prosthetics for the first one. Other than that, there are things floating around, but I want to do something that’s like completely the opposite, like a light romantic comedy. Maybe a musical at some point. I’m open to being challenged.
Are you able to separate out Serenity and Firefly as two separate things?
Adam: It definitely stands on its own.
Sean: It stands on its own, but it also embodies everything that the show had.
Jewel: I’m hoping people will see the movie and say, ‘Wow, that was really interesting.’ And then, ‘Oh, it was a show? And then buy the boxed set.’
Adam: The boxed set is a really cool package. They put it together really well. But that was our fifteen episodes… what was that? … six or seven months of “workshopping the movie.” People can go and revisit “the workshop.” …
… Could I just say in closing… thank you for being there. Because this is a labor of love for us. We hope for the best for it. You actually being here shows that you care about the show too. Thank you for taking your time for this.
More answers from Summer at the Serenity press event:
Summer, how much work did you do to get ready physically? Did Joss know you could do it?
Summer: Actually, he knew I was a ballet dancer. I danced on two episodes, once on Firefly, once on Angel. He knew I was very athletic and very physical, but I remember, I think it was after one of our Shakespeare readings that we have at his house- - sometimes on the weekend we get together and do a Shakespeare play- - we're fabulous nerds. But he said, 'I have this idea for River to be this secret weapon.' He told me that I was going to go in and meet with the stunt coordinator and he's going to choreograph some fight scenes for me. I thought, 'Oh, it's a wonderful idea until you see me try to do it and then you're going to quickly write it out.' But then when the stunt coordinator saw me, he said, 'Okay, it's obvious you're a dancer and you're kind of leggy and limby and we're going to try to give it this type of martial arts, we're going to take from this technique and take from this technique and make something that will work well on your body. So the style that we ended up with was very fluid and almost like a dance, but like a brutal aggressive dance.
Adam: Didn't David Carradine from Kung Fu start out as a dancer? I don't know.
How do you as actors wrap your mind around Joss's style of writing?
Jewel: It was a little difficult at first. I mean, what you were saying early, he has a certain rhythm to it.
Sean: Yeah, it's very specific. I think I'm used to it.
Jewel: I find myself talking like that normally at this point.
Summer: I have a funny story about that though. I actually did go in and read for X-Men 3. I went in to read for Kitty Pride and there was a scene and they wouldn't let us look at the scene before we went in. usually, when you go in for an audition, you get to see the script at least one day in advance and work on it and decide how you want to play it. Well, I went in and I was so nervous, I looked down and I read these lines and I got very emotional right away and I thought, 'I know exactly how I want to play it.' So I went in and I memorized it right away and I did it and it felt familiar somehow. So afterwards, I was talking to Joss about it and I was describing the scene, and he said, 'I wrote that, Summer.' And I knew it. Then it made sense to me. He wrote it and that's why it felt familiar. I didn't know the story at all and I didn't know what I was going to be saying but I recognized him in the scene. He has such a special way of writing and it makes me very emotional. I can see it right away.
Did he write the script?
Summer: It was a scene that had been taken from one of the comics that he wrote. They didn't have a script at that time so they were using that to audition girls.
Adam: My dad used to take me to what he called Shoot 'Em Ups. The Wild Bunch and The Good, Bad and the Ugly. So Jane, when I first went in to read/audition for that guy, I tried to keep in my head Eli Wallach, Warren Oates, Jason Robards, guys like that in those movies. And then I would just kind of drop it down in there. Joss was constantly saying, 'Okay, that's too much. That's too much. Too much of the southern.' Too much of the gruff.
Do you have action figures?
JS: That all depends. I don't know. I heard talks of two action figures coming out. They were going to do a Jane and they were going to do a Mal.
AB: Yeah, they have two Janes and two Mals and then they have a Rever action figure. Diamond Select toys. They're cool.
SG: I played with the Mal.
Here are two videos interviews with Summer Glau and Sean Maher during the press junket:
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