The first time we talked to Nathan Fillion for this week’s cover of Entertainment Weekly, it was shortly after 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 6. Fans of Firefly, which was canceled by Fox in 2002 after 11 episodes, will recognize that date and time as the day reruns debuted on the Science Channel. Fillion did not. “Is that tonight?” he asked. “I knew it was going to record because I got the old search term ‘Nathan Fillion’ [programmed on my TiVo], so if I’m doin’ somethin’ it pops up. But am I doing anything special? No, I am not doing anything special. I thought I might go to a movie tonight.”
That sounds like the (healthy) response of a man who’s let go of the past, but, of course, one of the reasons fans love Fillion is because he hasn’t. Speaking to EW.com in February about Science Channel’s plans to rerun the Joss Whedon space Western — and seriously, how many actors with a current show, ABC’s Castle, averaging 10.6 million viewers do interviews for reruns? — Fillion innocently mentioned that were he to win $300 million in the California lottery, he would buy the rights from Fox and don Capt. Mal Reynolds’ tight pants again. Within three weeks, a fan-created Web page had received $1 million in pledges toward the cause of resurrecting the show. “Would I want to do [Firefly] again? Yes. Do I want people sending in money? No,” Fillion said, admitting the thought made him nervous. “But it warms my heart that people are going, ‘Wouldn’t this be great?'”
And that still includes Whedon, who Fillion said hadn’t mentioned the campaign to him but must have heard about it. “Joss sent me a text that said he had a dream that we were all shooting Firefly again and, you know, this was happening, this was happening, this was happening, and the scripts were coming in late — ‘It was like a little slice of heaven.’ Which is just like it used to be,” Fillion told us. “We were always under the wire with scripts. Scripts were coming in the day before, or the day of, or would change for that afternoon, and everybody said ‘Okay. No problem.’ We loved it. We loved it. Because what you see on TV is what we ended up with in our hands. So it was always great. There was never a day I went to work on Firefly where I looked at the script and went, ‘Eh, today will be alright.’ Everyday I was doing something so great. So great.”
If it was so great, fans might be asking themselves why he doesn’t want them to help make that dream a reality. (Some are now exploring other ways to raise funds and return the rights to Whedon, who’s currently consumed with preproduction on The Avengers, with hopes that the spaceship Serenity would someday fly again.) “I don’t think people understand the infrastructure that goes into actually making a TV show, and whether or not Fox would even be willing to let go of those kind of rights,” Fillion explained. “Let’s say you did buy the rights to Firefly. I think it cost about a million bucks an episode to make. There’s a lot going on that I think people oversimplify. But, that having been said, I appreciate so much people who still have such love for it. And I think that that’s love. I don’t think that’s fanaticism. I might be biased, but I think something like Firefly rises above fanaticism. I think it touches people in their hearts. It makes them feel, and it makes them feel something good. I feel it, too.”
For more from Fillion — including how he tells Firefly and Castle fans apart, and his reflections on 12 roles that have taken him from Geek God to one of primetime’s favorite leading men — pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands today. Or, you can click here to buy this issue online.