Friday, September 18, 2009

Interview: Nathan Fillion on Life after One Life

Nathan Fillion first burst onto the scene as Joey Buchanan, a character he played for three years on One Life to Live. After that, he branched out and went on to star in the TV series Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the feature films Serenity and Waitress, to name just a few. But Nathan never forgot his roots, and he is proud of them.

Daytime Dial: Many actors who start out on soaps but go on to other things tend to try to forget their soap-opera past, but you embrace it. Why is that?

Nathan Fillion: OLTL was an incredible experience for me. I’ve talked to other guys from other shows whose experience wasn’t nearly as positive as mine. I went to One Life to Live, and it was my first show, and I knew I had a lot to learn. I was surrounded by people who’ve been in the business for 15, 20, 25, 35 years. They nurtured me. They took me in and treated me like family. I can’t say enough about them and about my experience there.

If it weren’t for Bob Woods (Bo Buchanan), I’d have never moved to Los Angeles. I’d probably still be doing daytime. He sat me down and said, “This is how it’s gonna work, and this is what you’re gonna do.” I followed his advice to the letter, and here I am. Every time I go back to New York City, I buy him a bottle of scotch down the street, I walk in and say, “Thank you, Bob Woods.”

These people took care of me, they taught me, they mentored me. I’ll never pooh-pooh on soap operas. They are a valid source of entertainment with a plethora of talented people, probably the hardest-working people in the industry. I can’t say enough about them.

I went back — I think it was two summers ago — and I did two episodes of OLTL as Joey Buchanan to attend the funeral of Asa Buchanan, played by Phil Carey, who tragically died a short while after that. Some people expressed surprise that I had come back. I was like: “Why are you surprised? You know I had a wonderful time here. This is my home.” For three years, that was my home, and I loved it.

DD: Your hit show, Castle, will be back to start its second season on Monday, Sept. 21. Why do you think the show has struck such a chord with fans?

NF: I think I am a pretty good judge about what’s good. I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like. Obviously crime shows, murder mysteries and procedural shows are doing very well right now — I don’t know how many CSIs are out there, but I don’t think you can hold them all in one hand — so there is something very appealing to being presented with a mystery and trying to figure it out. I get caught up in that as well. I think what we do on Castle is we take away the brooding, haunted cops and the obscure, weird lighting of those shows, and we try to make it more real life.

We filmed the pilot in New York City, and we had a bunch of New York homicide detectives hanging around as consultants. And I tell you, these guys were not brooding, and they weren’t haunted, and they weren’t tortured. They were hilarious. They had the most brilliant stories that had me bent over double laughing, and they all start with, “So this guy gets killed ....” They bend toward being light to kind of lighten up a bit of a dark job.

DD: Is it fun for you to play a character who is kind of a jerk and do things you would never do in your real life?

NF: There was a time when I said, “I don’t care what kind of job I do, so long as I’m acting.” But now I’ve learned that I do care. I want to do things on TV that I don’t really do in real life. Castle is a nice guy; there’s nothing really wrong with him. I just don’t think I’d really want to hang out with him that long. He’d weigh on me after a while.

He just doesn’t have that filter that says, “Maybe now’s the time to stop” or “Maybe this joke wouldn’t go over right about now.” He really wears his joy on his sleeve. He’s joyous, and I like that about him. He’s unapologetic. He’s kind of fearless. He doesn’t have a sense of “This looks dangerous”; he’s more like “This looks fun!” He’s living this dream life that he only would write about in the past, and now he’s in the position to live it and he is so excited. It’s kind of like me in that I used be like “I’d love to be on movies and TV,” and now I’m living my dream. So I can really relate.

DD: Richard Castle certainly has a nontraditional home life. How does this factor into who he is?

NF: The nuclear family certainly still exists — the mother and father who are still married and the 2.5 kids. It’s still out there, it’s just no longer the norm. The nontraditional family is now the majority. I think the family unit that these people have is very realistic: an irresponsible mother who is now a grandmother, living with her son who is now a father, whose daughter is a mother to him, and he is kind of a parent to his mother. These are very realistic family dynamics. It’s very modern and contemporary, this whole idea.

I think it plays very well with the kind of person Castle is. He never had a responsible adult role model in his life. He doesn’t have any male role models in his life, no father figure. No one ever taught him how to be a man, so he runs around in his life being a boy. It’s part of his charm and part of his flaw.

DD: Another aspect of the show that makes it a success is the solid foundation in the cast. You all seem to work so well together and get along. How is the working environment on the Castle set? You must have a lot of fun.

NF: We do have a lot of fun, and it is great. There’s not a weak link in the cast. And we’ve also been blessed with our guest-cast members. It takes only one weak guest-cast member to make your show suck, and we’re just always so blessed with who we get on the show. It’s been wonderful.

And you have to take into account that there are 200-plus people who are on set when I arrive in the morning and who are still there when I leave. They work harder than we do and they deserve every accolade I can give them.

Tune into ABC on Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT to catch Nathan in new episodes of Castle.