nycc 2015

5 Things We Learned From the Firefly Reunion at New York Comic Con

Photo: Mutant Enemy/20th Century Fox

Ten years since the release of the follow-up film Serenity, the cult-favorite cast members of Firefly are still too pretty to die — and so series stars Nathan Fillion (Mal), Alan Tudyk (Wash), Gina Torres (Zoë), and Jewel Staite (Kaylee) came to New York Comic Con on Saturday to celebrate the much-loved, woefully-cancelled 2002 show. Despite the early death, the fandom for the show will not let go of their hopes for more, this reunion panel being but the latest physical evidence that Fox may have underestimated what it had on its hands during the show’s out-of-order, single-season run. As Staite told the crowded, cheering ballroom, “I learned if the network tells you that no one is watching the show, sometimes they are wrong.” What else was left to learn?

Torres and Tudyk did some real-life snuggling on set.
One day, while the camera crew was busy filming another scene, the actors, who played a married couple, waited to shoot a love scene. “And it’s weird and it’s cold and we’re on a spaceship,” Torres recalled. “And we’re horny,” Tudyk laughed. “But do you remember?” Torres asked him. “We got into bed, and sort of spooned and snuggled and talked about our day, and chilled out. It was cold, so we just snuggled up.” And when the crew showed up to shoot the scene, they asked the actors if they’d want to get out of bed, but Torres laughed, “We said, ‘No, we’re good.’”

“This is how I remember it,” Tudyk said, turning red. “That was the only scene I had to shoot that day, so I came to work, got into my space pajamas, asked, ‘Where’s my bedroom?,’ got into bed, and I thought, ‘I’ll just sleep until they show up.’ And then I heard Gina from behind me going, ‘Damn it.’ Like I had the same idea she did. ‘I’m getting in, too.’ And she did, and there was a moment of silence, and then she said, ‘Well, get over here!’”

Staite caught Fillion stealing props.
“I saw someone go up with a box and take things off the wall, and I’m looking at you, Nathan,” she laughed. And this was before the show was canceled, before the set was being dismantled. “He had no shame ripping things off the wall,” she said. “He didn’t care who saw!” (“I gotta find that box,” Fillion then muttered to himself.)

Torres also took a few things — some bullets, some infinity hair clips — but not her leather vest, which oddly “went missing.” “I didn’t take anything,” Staite said, “but I’ve been in the business since I was five, and the first thing I learned was you don’t do that.” Still, she wishes she did. “Because what were they going to do? Fire me?”

Fillion thinks Kaylee should have died in Serenity.
(Staite disagrees.) “I learned a very valuable lesson from that film,” Fillion said, “If everybody says, ‘We’re willing to lay down our lives for this idea,’ and nobody dies, there are no stakes. So people dying, it wasn’t for no reason. When Book dies, it’s to let us know how much this guy wants us dead. There’s no question. He killed a whole town. Little kids and everything. Everybody got killed. And then we lose Wash, because it’s a dangerous thing we’re doing. It looks like we’re all going to die.”

In fact, while they were reading the script for Serenity, Torres and Fillion were pretty sure that almost every character would die. “Well, except me,” Fillion smiled. “You mean, except me,” Staite countered. “You can’t kill Kaylee. That would be like drowning puppies!” “That’s why it would be better!” Fillion argued, “It would be like, Wow, I can’t believe it. It would be so emotional. If Malcolm Reynolds died, you’d think, Well, he was bound to. But Kaylee?! If they did that, you’d be like bawling!” Staite accused Fillion of wanting her character to die just so he could have a good crying scene, “where Mal just loses it,” and he cheerfully agreed that would have worked for him. “I’d have snot coming out of my nose, sort of hanging like a string!” he laughed, imagining how far he could go. “Season ten,” she allowed. “Season two!” someone in the audience shouted.

Learning to swear in Chinese is harder than you think.
“We got the translation from the script, and then we would get a cassette tape,” Fillion said, “remember those?” But the cassette tapes were recorded by someone who spoke in a polite tone of voice, so even the curse words, while in the correct pitch, sounded “really soft and nicely said,” even if the line was supposed to sound angry. “The inflection was so specific,” Torres said, “and then if you’re trying to be angry, like American angry, but the inflection wouldn’t work with the Chinese cadences.”

“I have a confession to make,” Staite said. “I never listened to the tapes. I just swung it. I was terrible. Actually, all of my Chinese [on the show] is ADR’ed later on, to be more precise, because they couldn’t figure out why I was the only one who wasn’t getting it. And that’s why!”

Not so with Fillion, who made a diligent study of his cassette tapes. “They made me say a Chinese line on Castle for one episode,” Fillion said, referring to how Castle is rife with Firefly references, “and they had this lady come in and tell me how to say this Chinese stuff. And afterwards, she said to me, ‘Your accent is very Mandarin!’ Thanks, Firefly!”

It’s difficult reading a comic book based on your character.
Just as the television show’s story continued on the big screen in Serenity, it also continues in the Dark Horse comics series, where Zoë is having “an awesome time,” Torres said. “And by awesome, I mean awful. She’s had a baby, her man is dead, she gets taken in by the Alliance. The last one I saw, she was in prison on some no-man’s-planet. Does anyone get me out? I’m behind.” A helpful fan yelled out, “You get yourself out!”, news which made Torres gleam. “I get myself out? Of course I do.”

Still, having a future for their characters in the comics feels “bittersweet” to Staite. “As much as it’s nice to have things carry on that way, it’s sort of like reading a script that you don’t get to perform, do you know what I mean?” Staite explained. “It’s a bit of a tease, for me. It makes me go, Awww, I want to say that.” Torres’ solution? “Read it out loud.” Fillion then jumped at that idea and suggested they do exactly that. “Let’s go to my place, dress up … similarly … and act out the comics!” (Can someone please make webisodes of that? Thank you.)

(Update: When Vulture talked to Fillion later that night at the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog reunion at Paleyfest, he said not to get your hopes up to actually see these comics read-thrus, should they ever happen. “I was just joking around. If we’re going to talk about the logistics of that, I would have to license that, because we don’t own that property, and it’s not really my call.” Still, he likes the idea in theory, “because it would light the Internet on fire.”)

And if Firefly, by some miracle, came back for a second season, the cast would love to resume their roles, for the record. “Uh, full time, please?” Fillion said. “Otherwise, they’d have new people …” Staite said. “And nobody wants that,” Torres concluded.

5 Things We Learned From the Firefly Reunion