Sorry, Firefly fans: Nathan Fillion and Joss Whedon didn’t bring any new internet-melting surprises to the table on Sunday, when some of the beloved series’ cast reunited for a Comic-Con@Home online chat. But they did credit Firefly and its Browncoat fan army with helping, over nearly two decades, to bring sci-fi fandom into the pop culture mainstream.
Fillion, Whedon, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk and more connected for a panel talk that served as a whirlwind tour of Fillion’s career well beyond his TV turn in the early 2000s as Serenity captain Malcolm Reynolds. But somehow the talk kept circling back to Firefly, with everyone involved crediting the show — as well as Fillion’s wholehearted early embrace of its impassioned fan base — for helping them to appreciate the power of science fiction, back before being a sci-fi fan was cool.
Fillion asked Tudyk (Hoban "Wash" Washburne on the show) how Firefly rated as a career experience, and the versatile Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor didn’t hesitate: “Oh God yes; I’d say ‘number one.’ It’s definitely the one I get the feedback on the most…When we [first] went to the [fan] conventions, and being introduced to a world I thought I knew; [a world] that was kind of poked fun at, it wasn’t what it is now for sure.”
Nearly two decades after the short-lived Fox series aired, Torres (Zoë Washburne) said she’s still approached by fans “who want to talk about specific moments — and those specific moments were, wow, a long time ago. [But] that’s what television and film are designed for: it’s to capture those moments in time.”
Firefly’s fan following, said Fillion, has provided exactly the sort of positive feedback loop that rewards the team who made the series in the first place. “You never lose the Firefly fans. Once you’re a Browncoat, you’re locked in,” he joked, adding that science fiction, as a genre, “has been good to me. I’d never been a part of something like that; with that intensity…thank God it had meaning for me.”
If that sounds like fan service, it isn’t. Fillion said he still keeps in touch with the Firefly team more than with any others from his past projects. Whedon (who's worked with Fillion as far back as Fillion's role as Caleb on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) even revealed that Fillion remains the “captain” of an ongoing text thread between the original Firefly crew that, to this day, has never stopped going — even though their last team-up, Whedon’s standalone movie Serenity — is closing in fast on the 15th anniversary from when it first premiered in theaters.
“What’s really lovely about the legacy of Firefly,” said Torres, is that “it’s like any great book that touched you. When you [first] read it, maybe you were 15. And then you revisit it when you’re 25, and it says different things to you… Firefly does that. You have people who experienced it the first time who are now sharing it with their children.”
The show “is such a staple,” of science fiction, added Tudyk, that about half the engagement he gets from fans of all stripes (including Star Wars, because, as he joked, “Star Wars movies are pretty big”) still revolves around Firefly: “If you’re into fandom and you haven’t seen Firefly, it’s like — ‘Come on!’”
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