ABC’s hit show CASTLE, wrapping up its third season Mondays at 10 PM and coming back for a fourth season, is named for its hero. Nathan Fillion’s Richard Castle is a hugely successful NY-based mystery novelist who lives with his mother Martha (Susan Sullivan) and teenaged daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn). He has become unofficial partner to NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), who treats Castle with a combination of affection, annoyance and attraction as he trails her, ostensibly as inspiration for his writing, but clearly more because he just enjoys her company.
For anyone who doesn’t know Fillion’s pre-CASTLE background, the actor from Alberta, Canada is perhaps best known and loved for his portrayal of Mal Reynolds, antihero spaceship captain on the short-lived science-fiction Western series FIREFLY and its theatrical sequel SERENITY.
Fillion also been a regular on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, TWO GUYS, A GIRL AND A PIZZA PLACE, DRIVE and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, had a notable character on LOST, and starred in Joss Whedon’s hit Internet musical mini-series DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-ALONG BLOG, as well as appearing in the feature films WAITRESS, SLITHER, TRUCKER and SUPER.
ASSIGNMENT X: When ABC approached you about CASTLE, had they been looking for something to do with you after you were on LOST and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES?
NATHAN FILLION: I sure hope so. You always hope that you’re somewhere in their hearts, don’t you?
AX: FIREFLY is obviously an enduring hit with its ardent fan base. CASTLE is a hit, but a different type of hit. Do you have an enjoyment of one sort of success over the other?
FILLION: Good question. Success – hard to shake a stick at success. The CASTLE success – obviously more apparent, more mainstream, just simply more people watching the show. There are far fewer episodes of FIREFLY. I’ve never done anything that has had legs like that show. People talk about it like it was yesterday. It was almost a decade ago. [At 2010] Comic-Con, there was a three-year-old boy dressed up like Malcolm Reynolds. Man, it lights my fire. Kids are into it. People are still coming to it, people are still enjoying it. That show and that experience especially has a very special place in my heart and in my life. That shaped everything. [FIREFLY creator Joss Whedon] gave me my very first opportunity to step up and take a leap [as a dramatic leading man]. No one wants to give you the opportunity. No one wants to give you the chance. No one wants to gamble. “Yes, he’s good, but we don’t know if he can handle a lead.” I’ve heard that so much. If you want a job, they look at your resume and say, “Well, but you haven’t worked.” Everywhere you look.
AX: Do you still miss playing Mal, or would missing him too much interfere with playing Castle?
FILLION: Oh, no, I miss him terribly. That doesn’t interfere with anything. I love that character, I loved how much he would lose. I loved that he was a loser. He kept losing, and I loved that it never stopped him. He would fight knowing he would lose [laughs]. I loved that about him.
AX: Where is Castle’s stop-fighting point?
FILLION: I don’t know that Castle knows he’s in a fight. What I love about Castle is, Castle gets knocked down and he doesn’t know that he’s been knocked down. He thinks he’s pretty cool and when things happen and shows everybody how cool he isn’t, he’s unfazed. It doesn’t bother him. I think that’s one of his strengths. First of all, he lacks a filter in what he does and says on his actions going out, but on the rest of the world coming in, he has a filter that he doesn’t understand when he’s losing.
AX: Sometimes it seems like he’s making progress in his relationship with Beckett, sometimes it seems like he’s losing – sometimes it seems like he’s got control and she’s losing …
FILLION: On CHEERS, remember Sam and Diane were going to get married and right at the last minute, she said, “No,” and blew it. And now he doesn’t want her any more and now she goes, “I’ll convince him.” I think it’s a dance that people want to see. I think it’s a tennis game that people want to see. I think in the same way that people don’t want to see a perfect hero, a perfect character with no flaws, in the same way, people don’t want to see a perfect relationship. They want to see, “Why won’t they? Oh, my God, you’re blowing it! I can’t believe what you just did!”
AX: Castle seems to have a much more stable relationship with his daughter Alexis, one that a lot of parents of teenaged daughters would envy and it’s something a lot of viewers really love about the show.
FILLION: Me, too.
AX: When did you first feel there was good father/daughter chemistry between you and Molly Quinn, who plays Alexis?
FILLION: As soon as she walked in the room. I sat in on so many auditions for Becketts, for Marthas, for Alexises. I’ve sat in auditions before. All you want is for someone to walk in the door and be in the moment, accessible, real and then just do an amazing job and knock it out of the park and make you feel, “Oh, my God, that’s who it is.” And that was Molly. She walked in, in the moment, completely relaxed, looked you in the eye, communicated, knocked it out of the park, took adjustments, knocked it out of the park again. By the time she left, they picked up the phone – “She’s got the job.” And that’s how she is every day. She knows what she’s doing, she handles it incredibly well, she handles herself incredibly well.
AX: You also seem to be a great fan of fellow actor Dana Delany. You worked together initially on PASADENA in 2002, then played her husband on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES in 2007 and then you had her guest star as an FBI agent on CASTLE in a two-parter last season …
FILLION: Dana is fantastic. I know exactly what to expect. She’s a tremendous actress.
AX: How did you wind up on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES with her? Did she suggest you going in, or was that ABC, or HOUSEWIVES creator Marc Cherry? And was your character originally written as a gynecologist, or was that an homage to your role in WAITRESS?
FILLION: Marc Cherry had seen me in SERENITY and he knows Joss Whedon and he’s a fan of Joss Whedon’s work and worked with Joss Whedon’s father. He never even saw WAITRESS. He heard it was good, he heard good things, but it was already a gynecologist before I got there.
AX: You didn’t have to audition for HOUSEWIVES?
FILLION: That’s correct. That was one of those wonderful things. I was cast over a salad, instead of an audition.
AX: So you weren’t worried about being typecast as a gynecologist …
FILLION: You know, two gynecology parts does not a gynecology typecast make, that’s what I always say. I [was] only too happy to lock onto another brainiac.
AX: Any funny memories of playing a doctor on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES?
FILLION: [First day of shooting], “So Nathan, welcome to the show, here’s a read-through, meet everybody, that’s great, now put on this doctor outfit, this is Teri [Hatcher], Teri, take off your clothes and go [laughs].” And that’s another one of those things where I came in to [be married to] Dana Delany and the first day, we were going to shoot [giving Teri Hatcher’s character an examination]. That’s another one where it can be awkward, but there’s a wonderful woman, she’s very professional, and she’s there to have fun and just there to make it the best it can be. Any time you’re doing something like that, it always has the potential for being awkward. Thank God for Teri Hatcher, [that] fourteen-hour day, she and I doing a scene and she has that awkward moment of finding out that her new gynecologist is her new next-door neighbor. So that could be weird, that could be awkward at the best of times, but I’ve got to say, number one, she’s an extremely talented actress, number two, with no effort at all, she makes me feel very welcome and she’s there to make that show and that scene and that job the best it can be. And that’s all you can hope for. She’s great. My favorite line was “skooch down.”
AX: On CASTLE, there’s a full set for Castle’s home, but on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, the show has its very own street of houses on the Universal lot in North Hollywood …
FILLION: [The street] is so tranquil. I thought it would be smaller for some reason, but it’s huge. It’s all real grass, it’s all real trees. They staple in fake flowers so that everything’s always blooming. You can also hear in the distance people screaming from the JAWS lake.
AX: Right before you did DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, you had just come off of being the lead in DRIVE, which only aired four episodes before it was canceled …
FILLION: Oh, I thought that [quick cancellation] was really cool. No, no, wait, the other thing. I didn’t like that so much. I’ve heard terms knocked around like “mishandled.” I think I read about [the cancellation] on the Internet. You hope you get a call from somebody who knew first, and you hear it last.
It took me a long, long time, right before I moved to Los Angeles, not to take it personally. And in the beginning, I found that really tough, really, really difficult. Now, though, I see if you keep working hard and enjoy what you’re doing, there will always be another job.
AX: Do you know what the conclusion to the first season of DRIVE would have been?
FILLION: From what I hear, I get three of the racers pregnant and I win. I make up a new answer to that story every time. Last time, it was not only do I win, but I take over the race and then I start operating the race.
AX: In 2007, you went back to where you got your start in American television on ONE LIFE TO LIVE and did a guest appearance on the soap when they wrote a funeral scene for the late Phil Carey’s character Asa Buchanan [the actor passed away in 2009]. How was that?
FILLION: Quite frankly, I’ll say that I think the toughest gig in show business is soap operas. They put out a one-hour show every day and sometimes more than that. Not every episode is cool, but the actors are out there, putting their face on it, and they have to make it as good as they possibly can. And the pace is breakneck compared to films, compared to television, compared to what else we do. There’s not much time to rehearse, to fine-tune it and to get it right. On a soap, it’s now.
I’ll never forget ONE LIFE TO LIVE, I’ll never forget what those people did for me, both professionally and personally. That was my first big gig, it sure was. My personal wish is [regarding returning under those circumstances], I wish there had been another way, but I wanted to go back. I felt it was important to go back, number one, because that’s where I got my start, number two, to honor Phil Carey. Phil Carey was very kind to me. I don’t know of many soap departures that are super-happy. Even mine was bittersweet. You’ve got to imagine how many years they spent there, doing those things. I was there for three years and it’s every show, every day, every week. So you just think about the amount of years he’s invested in it.
[On nighttime series like CASTLE], certainly they take a lot more time to film. So your filming process is also kind of a rehearsal process, and you get to go back and redo it a lot. On soaps, you don’t get to do that. It’s very important that we get it done and get it out. [On CASTLE], certainly there are challenges, certainly, there are threats. Long hours. The fact is, I chose this career because I really enjoy it. My worst day is still a really good day. Do I complain? Oh, yeah [laughs]. Oh, my God, I complain, but I have to try to catch myself. If I catch myself complaining, I count my blessings. I’m truly blessed. There are challenges, yes. Stress, yes. But it’s not rocket science. Some people are built for it, some people find it less challenging or more challenging than others, but it’s a great job. I love my job.
AX: You’ve done some voice work for animation and videogames, including some of the HALO titles and GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD NIGHTS, but on screen, most of your work lately has been naturalistic, excepting of course the Holy Avenger in SUPER. Do you miss doing live-action science-fiction in general?
FILLION: There’s a lot more to do with the action stuff, certainly there’s a lot more to just be physically involved. There’s a lot of fun in that. And certainly the family I had while I was doing [FIREFLY and SERENITY]. So not so much the science-fiction genre, but I miss the people – I hang out with all of them anyway. Not all of them – some of them are so damn hard to get ahold of. Sean Maher, I’m talking to you. So print that.
AX: Do you have a theory as to the secret of your personal appeal?
FILLION: They’re totally into that Canadian thing. I think underneath all this, I’ve got a little maple syrup wafting off me. They smell that.
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Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Interview with CASTLE star Nathan Fillion