CCI, Day 3 - Serenity Panel

Tue, July 19th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Hannibal Tabu, Columnist

The applause was thunderous when fan favorite Joss Whedon took the stage, then introducing the vocal and vicarious cast with a series of questions. "Who's my favorite? Mmm, Morena Baccarin! (walks out to applause) Who do I want to punish? Sean Maher! (walks out to applause) Who am I scared of? Ron Glass ..." and so on, as Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Gina Torres and Adam Baldwin (wielding an action figure of himself) were introduced. The panel began before the cast started wheedling Whedon about maybe forgetting somebody. "Oh ... who's probably going to kick my *** in a few minutes? Jewel Staite!" The actress stomped out, frowning, as Whedon crossed the stage to bow prostrate before her. She stared angrily for a moment, as the crowd hooted with laughter, and after a moment she came over to hug the still-prostrate director. She walked to her seat and he returned, on his knees, to the podium. Alan Tudyk had a prior commitment and could not attend.

Leaping into the Q&A, Whedon was asked how many special effects were in the film. "Twelve," he replied. "Sixteen? No, we had to cut it to twelve."

"You said we couldn't get paid more because there were only eight," Torres interrupted.

"That's before I replaced you with a CGI beagle," Whedon answered calmly.

The same fan had allegedly stood behind Whedon at a bookstore the night before, waiting for the midnight release of the latest "Harry Potter" novel, so she asked which character was his favorite. "Hermione!" Whedon replied with a kind of "duh" tone.

Whedon answered the next question about the differences in the work based on medium by saying that the film offered a more "epic scale to do lots we couldn't do on the TV show. There were many character threads that I wanted to pursue, that now I can't. Yet. If we're all very good, and they let us do another one, I'll do that. I took the overarching idea I had, that was going to be the first two years of the series, and made that the plot for the movie."

Whedon and the cast then talked about how they handled the transition from small to big screen. "Nervous breakdown?" Whedon asked. "We handled it better than you," Baccarin quipped, which amused both the cast and the crowd.

"The biggest benefit we had was all the time we had for preparation," Baldwin said. "It was all one big long episode, and we all got to fall in love again."

Shifting the mood, Torres said, "The catering was better ... and I'm taller. You know, on the big screen." The joke fell dead, which made for even bigger laughs, as she looked away nervously.

"The difference for me," Fillion said, "coming from a TV background, you're always saying 'are we taping?' You can't say that to Joss. He keeps saying, 'It's a motion picture film. It's a movie!" Smugly, Fillion concluded, "There's the difference."

Another fan asked how they all liked the movie, and slowly Fillion stood up, clapping stridently. "That was the slow building clap, people," he admonished. "Let's try it again." Again he did the same, with the audience following suit, and Fillion said, "that's better."

"Very Eighties," Whedon offered.

"Seriously ... for those of you who haven't seen the movie, I have good news," Fillion continued. "I just saved a bunch of money on car insurance!" As the crowd howled with laughter, he said, "Oh yeah, I went there."

The next question came from a Norwegian man who "represents a group of roleplayers" who base their game on Whedon's work. "We think you're the best thing since aerosol cheese," the man said, "and wonder if there's anything you can say to these people."

Whedon stroked his newly shaven chin and said, "Let me pass this off -- Sean? What would you say to our roleplaying Norwegian friends?"

Maher stared dumbly and said, "I'm just thinking about aerosol cheese ..." Nobody had anything coherent to offer, short of thanks.

The next question wondered whether or not Whedon had considered making an "untraditional" choice and casting Gina Torres as Wonder Woman. "She and Morena have to fight to the death," Whedon said thoughtfully.

"Hey, other people here have a lot to offer in that role!" Fillion protested.

"She, Morena and Adam have to fight to the death," Whedon amended.

Fillion was not satisfied. "All I have to say is this ..." he stated, before standing up and spinning around, like Lynda Carter in the classic series, and then posing daintily.

"I've really started to rethink my career choice," Whedon said grimly, to great laughter from the audience.

The next question was how did each actor think their character would die.

"My character would die in his bunk," Baldwin said firmly.

"With a smile," Torres nodded, "with all her guns on. In Jayne's bunk."

"I think Malcolm would die from some obvious disease misdiagnosed by a doctor," Fillion said.

Glau was less pessimistic. "I think she's going to outlive everybody."

"After those three die," Maher said, pointing to Fillion, Torres and Baldwin, "Simon would crash the ship and kill those three."

"Kaylee would die in Simon's arms," Staite said sweetly.

"I would die with a bang," Maccarin said.

"No, I think we'd all die in a group hug ..." Glass said. At just that moment, a loud alarm klaxon sounded for reasons that were never explained, causing the panel to jump with surprise. After settling down, Whedon said, "Today's mystery word was 'group hug!'"

Glass continued, "In my ultimate fantasy, Book is immortal and would never die."

A clip was then shown, an action packed bar scene with Summer Glau beating the hell out of a lot of large, unhappy looking men.

"I want to do a commentary with everybody," Whedon said after the footage showed. "All right, including Nathan. Get everybody together, get a few drinks in 'em, and get the real story of making this film. It's a question of getting them all in a room. And I might forget that one of them's there ..."

Staite did not look amused.

Members of the cast talked about how the show has affected their lives. "I've already had people liking me for such a long time ..." Glass said dryly.

Maher said, "I've moved like four times because I can't get out of my garage without fans in the way of my car. I'm kidding. I really don't feel that my life has changed so much, but experiences like this are so unbelievably inspiring and so rewarding, because you guys really are why the movie was made. It's extraordinary to experience the love."

Baldwin agreed and said, "It's really important to mention that the fan base has been so important to getting us back in the air. It bears repeating how important you've been, so thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

"The most significant thing for me is that I don't have to pay late fees at Blockbuster anymore, so thank you for that," Torres said.

"People say they like my work, I'm like 'thanks,'" Fillion said, "people say they like 'Firefly,' they're my best friend. I was passionate about my work. Not any more. We all had close ties, back then. Not anymore. We had ties that could not be broken, except by the passing of time. Like a rock. A broken time rock." Turning to the panel, he finished, "and you're very special to me, my broken time rock people."

The penultimate question was about sound in space. "In the blackness of space, there will be no sound," Whedon confirmed. "At the very edge of the blackness of space, there will be some sound. On planets, there will be lots of talking."

Finally, the panel was asked about how much of themselves are in their characters.

Glass said, "What happens here, stays here."

Baccarin said, "Inara is extremely beautiful and smart ..."

"Nothing like Morena," Staite interrupted.

"I, in my head, think I'm playng a character," Baccarin finished.

"I'm obviously nothing like Kaylee," Staite said, "I think I'm more sarcastic, I have a sicker sense of humor ..."

"No!" Glass said, faking shock.

"Ron's not sarcastic either," Staite laughed. "I can be mean sometimes."

"Jewel's very mean," Maher agreed. "We've been with this character for three years now, and the characters and actors, the lines are blurred. I sometimes forget. I always like to say I love my sister, and I ... whatever"

Glau said, "When we came back to read for the movie, I wondered if everybody would change. And it was exactly the same. Playing River, I'm surprised how natural it feels for me, except the smart part. I feel really safe and comfortable."

"I think Jayne represents a man alone who is searching for family," Baldwin said. "He puts up a tough exterior to stand strong against the world and is desperate on the inside to find some sort of connection with a family that he's lost or is far away, that mirrors my life in some ways that I try to draw upon."

"Hm," Torres wondered. "I think the great similarities between Zoe and Gina is that we're very sarcastic, and hate other people in our frame. Zoe doesn't get to express her feminine side, and Gina's a big girl. That's the biggest separation. Would we ever see Zoe in a dress?"

Whedon simply said, "Sequel."

Fillion said, "Someone actually made me a bracelet with 'WWMRD?' on it. What would Malcolm Reynolds do? I have, in my real life, taken what I call the Malcolm moment and seen when things aren't going the way I want 'em to go and I think ... [looks at fist], it's either a fight or a pass."

"I thought that it was whatever Zoe tells him to do," Torres wondered.

"Word," Fillion agreed.

Whedon closed out by saying, "When you write a character and somebody plays them for a number of years, you find the actor and the character start to mesh. Willow gots sexier, Giles got hipper, it bleeds in. You start to draw from them when you're writing the character. That happened so fast and so completely that I never think about the characters, I think about the actors and the things they're doing to play the characters. They do not exist without these people. Malcolm Reynolds walks and talks, I know him and I've met him. I was amazed by it. This is a crew, this is a family, and they will always be that way. one of the reasons that I could not let this die is not because I thought they were good to play these parts, it's because they were born to play these parts."

This led Fillion to lead a final slow clap, which ended thunderously as the panel concluded.

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