With Firefly, Old is New Again
By Gail Pennington
Its a sci-fi space adventure. No, its a shoot-em-up Western. Guess
what? Its both.
Firefly, shown at 8 p.m. EDT Fridays on Fox, was born in the
uniquely quirky mind of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) when
two of his passions happened to converge.
"I was reading The Killer Angels, the book on Gettysburg, and I just
got obsessed," Whedon explains. He became particularly fascinated with
the minutiae of life way back when, that early life, frontier life,
when things were not so convenient as they are now.
Meanwhile, looking ahead to his next TV project. After Buffy, based on
his movie about a teen-age girl whose destiny is to save the world from
demons, and Angel, featuring a 400-year-old vampire, Whedon was
thinking science-fiction. Old West, meet the 26th century.
Firefly is set on a rattletrap transport ship roaming space 500 years
in the future and six years after the end of the war to unite the
planets. The totalitarian Alliance, the victor in the conflict, is
spreading its control further and further throughout the galaxy, a
voice-over setup informs us, and the defeated freedom fighters have no
choice but to live by its laws.
But some never would, the introduction goes on, and those few found
themselves drifting, flying to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, where
the Alliance might not control their lives. These were hard worlds, and
work was where you found it. Those who got by lived by a simple creed:
any job, anywhere.
Whedons heroes, the captain and crew of the Serenity, are flying
mercenaries forced to accept sometimes dubious tasks while struggling to
retain their principles. Nathan Fillion is Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Mal
for short, as in malcontent or possibly maladjusted, but not
malevolent); Gina Torres is First Officer Zoe (only Mal seems to have
more than one name). Alan Tudyk is Torres husband, Wash, the ships
pilot, and Adam Baldwin is volatile Jayne, the muscle in the bunch.
The motley crew also includes a young engineer, Kaylee (Jewel Staite); a
missionary, Book (Ron Glass); a doctor, Simon (Sean Maher), who came
over from the Other Side; his whacked-out sister, River (Summer Glau);
and, most intriguingly, a prostitute, or authorized companion, Inara
(Morena Baccarin). In this future, prostitution is not only legal, its
a highly honored profession.
Another major character is the Serenity itself, which seems to be held
together by 26th-century chewing gum and duct tape. During a tour of the
huge set on the 20th Century Fox lot, Whedon told TV writers that the
look of the ship helped to illustrate his concept for the show: that we
dont solve all our problems and have impeccably clean spaceships in the
future, that were all exactly the way we are now and were 100 years
The Serenity is furnished with shag rugs and salvaged sofas that look
very 20th century; the crew carries six-shooters in hip holsters
straight out of the 1800s; but the futuristic technique of
terra-forming makes any planet a livable Earth. Whedon calls the
melange timeless (and also, in some cases, arbitrary).
His characters are also timeless, he believes.
"They're not superheroes," he says. "They're not bigger than life.
They're not fighting monsters and all that stuff. It's really about
people who are just people."
Note that no-monsters credo; Whedon means it.
"I'm not going, No monsters, this is a Western," he says. "I'm going,
No monsters, this is reality. In fact, that's really the shows mission statement. I wanted to stay
away from the easy science-fiction fixes, the android, the clone, the
alien, all that stuff. I wanted to go low-tech. It's not so much about
being a Western. The frontier is the area that I want to be in, and its
Grapes of Wrath as much as its Stagecoach, in that sense.
The show works from the premise that no contact with aliens has been
made. I believe we are the only sentient beings in the universe," Whedon
says. "And I believe that 500 years from now, we will still be the only
sentient beings around."
Plus, Aliens, you know, that's something everybody else has done.
Whedon has done it, too; he got screenplay credit on Sigourney Weavers
1997 Alien: Resurrection. In fact, the Serenity will remind some of
the Betty, the smugglers ship in that movie.
Never crossed his mind, Whedon says, until staffers pointed the
resemblance out to him.
"I was like, wow, I really only have two ideas," Whedon says. "And
then I fired them."
Whedons cheerful outlook on the series belies early problems. After
seeing the original pilot, Fox asked him to expand it to two hours, and
then asked for a different opening episode entirely, seeking (as Fox
Entertainment president Gail Berman puts it) a more action-packed
hour. (The two-hour episode will most likely air during the season as
an origins special.)
"Foxs mandate was, basically, We don't want to see them come together,
we want to see them together at the start. We want to hit with a bang,"
Time for some thrilling heroics, tough guy Jayne says before lowering
himself onto the speeding train to loot its contents.
The action quotient of Firefly has clearly gone up since Whedon
pitched it as a thoughtful drama.
"But they're not changes in the world view," he says. "They're not
changes in the characters. So, ultimately, they're not changes that even
I disagree with."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Gellar, Prinze Wed!
Buffy has staked a groom.
Vampire slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar married Scooby pal Freddie Prinze Jr. Sunday in Mexico, publicists for the couple confirmed Tuesday.
For those who must know such things, the bride wore Vera Wang; the groom, a custom-made linen suit. The guest list consisted of friends and family. (Sorry, no bloodsuckers allowed--although an agent or two might have slipped past security.)
Officially, this is the first wedding for both Gellar, 25, and Prinze, 26.
But, according to E! Online gossip columnist Ted Casablanca, this could be the second time around for the twosome. Casablanca reported the two tied the knot back in June in one of Las Vegas' insta-wedding houses, the Little White Wedding Chapel. ("It was a midday ceremony," the officiant said at the time, "but I have to respect their privacy. I can't give out all the details.") Even the pair's frequent costar, Matthew Lillard, referred to the couple as "newlyweds" while doing press for Scooby-Doo.
However, Gellar and Prinze never confirmed those nuptials and their rep denied the two had sealed the deal--at least until today.
Gellar, linked previously to Crossing Jordan's Jerry O'Connell, announced her engagement to Prinze, son of late Chico & the Man comic Freddie Prinze Sr., in April 2001.
The two first costarred together in the 1997 teen scream flick, I Know What You Did Last Summer. They hooked up on screen again this summer as Mystery Machine mates in Scooby-Doo.
Gellar, the Emmy-winning ex-soap star, is heading into her seventh season as the titular vamp foe in UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Prinze's next project--aside from learning how to be a hubby, natch--is providing vocals for the animated Cinderella flick Happily N'Ever After. His leading lady? Miss Gellar, of course.
Going over to the dark side
By Kate OHare
Early last season, The WB Networks Angel aired an episode called
Billy, in which a part-demon escapee from a supernatural prison was
able, with just a touch, to bring out the worst and most violent impulses in otherwise good men.
One of those affected was Wesley (Alexis Denisof), the manager and chief
researcher at good vampire Angel's (David Boreanaz) private-investigation firm in Los Angeles.
Normally a fighter against all things evil, Wesley transformed into a brutal stalker, chasing
co-worker Fred (Amy Acker) with an ax through the halls of the hotel that serves as
the companys headquarters.
For many, the scene evoked memories of director Stanley Kubricks 1980
movie version of Stephen Kings The Shining, in which a caretaker
(Jack Nicholson) driven mad by ghosts hunts his family through empty hotel halls.
We borrowed rather heavily, Denisof says, but why not? "I'f youre
going to borrow, do it from the best. When I say borrow, we weren't
simply repeating what they did in The Shining, but some of the images
and the way that suspense and fear were captured were very reminiscent
of that movie."
Asked if playing the scenes with Acker were hard, since he seems like a
mild-mannered person, Denisof laughs. "Catch me in a dark alley! No, I'm
not (violent). I don't think I do express myself in real life with violence, but that
isn't to say that we dont all have the potential for violence in us."
"So then your task as an actor is to make a connection with that area of
your personality that is capable of violence and communicate with that,
express it in the episode without getting carried away or hurting anyone
or allowing it to affect your in your real life."
"All actors deal with very dangerous elements in their personalities,
and some handle it better than others. But whether you like it or not,
you're using the raw elements of your ego and super-ego and your various
deadly sins and all of the light and dark aspects of ourselves."
Even so, Denisof wanted to make sure that Acker knew he didnt mean it.
"Mostly I was going (to her), Are you OK? I'm sorry. There was a lot
of apologizing and hugging."
Angel launches its fourth season on Oct. 6.
Lighting up Firefly
By Kate OHare
Joss Whedons sci-fi/Western series Firefly, set to air Fridays this
fall on Fox, has had its ups and downs so far, what with a last-minute
pickup and revisions to what will be the opening episode, but actor Sean
Maher is still happy to be there.
Well-known to Fox viewers for his guest appearances on Party of Five,
and starring roles as a rookie cop in Ryan Caulfield: Year One, and a
New York stockbroker in The $treet, Maher had to take his new role
pretty much on faith. And a lot of that faith had to do with Whedon, who
previously created Buffy the Vampire Slayer and co-created its
"Speaking during the Fox upfront presentation to advertisers recently,
Maher says, I had a meeting, then got the role a couple of weeks later.
There was no script available. There were only scenes. There were only
sides. I had to go on the sides. They were fantastic.
Then meeting Joss ... hes one of the most amazing people I've ever met
in my life. Hes a genius."
Maher plays Simon Tam, the medical officer on the transport spaceship
Serenity, whose crew struggles to make ends meet in the wake of a
universal civil war, 400 years in the future.
"I'm not actually part of the crew," says Maher. "I'm a doctor, a trauma
surgeon. My sister is this prodigy, this amazing genius, so we sent her
away to this government-sponsored academy that we think is just an
amazing school. Then it turns out that she is part of this government
test, and they screwed with her brain."
"I spent all this money to have her snuck out. Then I get on this ship,
and its disreputable and innocuous and all that. So I'm sort of a
doctor-turned-fugitive. I become resident physician."
Texan Summer Glau who previously appeared as a prima ballerina in
Waiting in the Wings, episode of Angel directed by Whedon has been
cast as Simons sister, River. She's described in the press materials as
Firefly marks the first time Maher has appeared in a science-fiction
project. "Initially, I was turned off by the idea of that, because I
wouldn't want to do science fiction. But its not really science
fiction. It's Joss version. It almost feels like a post-apocalyptic