Nathan Fillion Interview – WAITRESS

     May 2, 2007

Opening in very select release is “Waitress”, the final film from writer/director Adrienne Shelly. While the film has an uplifting message about a woman who finally gains the courage to pursue her dreams, the film is marked by sadness as its Adrienne Shelly’s final film. There is no way to write about the movie without mentioning the tragedy of Adrienne’s murder.

While the filmmakers were waiting to find out if they would get into Sundance last year, Adrienne was murdered in her NYC apartment. While I won’t cover the grizzly details, know that a woman with a unique voice was silenced and rather than this being another happy tale from Sundance, “Waitress” will end up being what she is remembered for.

And it’s a tragedy for all involved. The reason is “Waitress” is a great character piece and it’s made with the same love that Keri Russell (the main character) puts into her delicious pies.

The film is about Keri Russell’s character Jenna. She makes these amazing pies at the southern diner she works at and while her work life is great, she’s in a loveless marriage to a controlling husband. When she hears about a pie baking contest she starts to dream about winning and with the money, escape and start a new life.

Her plans take a turn when she finds out she’s pregnant and when a new doctor arrives in town (Nathan Fillion) she finds love in the most unexpected place. Also her fellow co-workers (who are played by Adrienne Shelly and Cheryl Hines) are big parts of the film and help her along the way.

“Waitress” was a Sundance hit and it’s great that it’ll be seen by many people.

To help promote the film Nathan Fillion did some press last week and you can either read the transcript below or listen to the interview here. It’s an MP3 and easily placed on a portable player.

And when you get to the questions about the recently cancelled FOX show “Drive”, realize we did the interviewed a few days before that announcement.

So you seem to be pretty busy right now.

I’ve got a full plate, yes I do. That iPod that’s nice. A phone recorder? Nicely done. All right I’m a bit of a tech geek. I have a subscription to Popular Science and I keep up on all this stuff.

That’s how you’re able to pilot spaceships and all that?

That’s exactly how–that and watching a lot of Star Wars.

Can you talk about how you came to this project and what the experience was like working on it?

I had a meeting with Adrienne Shelley. I heard about the project. I was able to read the script. I knew that Keri Russell and Cheryl Hines were going to be involved and I’m a big fan of both of theirs so I had an opportunity to go and meet with Adrienne Shelley. It almost didn’t work out actually. When she was free I actually had a trip planned that overlapped with when she was going to be in Los Angeles because I was going off to New York to see a friend of mine who was doing a Broadway show. It worked out that she was only in LA for the day and she was going back to New York so we got to have our meeting but we had it in New York in of all places—a diner.

What was the experience like being on set?

A piece of cake. This movie—we shot it in 20 days and Keri Russell I think there’s not 30 seconds of this movie that she’s not in—so she carried the movie. She had to work the hardest, she and Adrienne both and of course the crew. I was finished in less than a week. I think I had 6 maybe 5 working days. I was in and out and nobody got hurt. For me it was a piece of cake.

Can you talk a little bit about the motivation of your character? What motivated her to fall in love with? Was it the pies or was it her?

You know, obviously Jenna is a…in the beginning she’s obviously guarded. She’s obviously got a wall up to the world around her. She is inside a wonderful, loving caring individual but the only way she can express this to the outside world is these amazing pies that she makes. Something happens to her in her life, how she deals with it is she closes her eyes and she invents a pie and that pie affects everybody around her. The people who eat that pie something moves inside them and that’s her way of expressing herself. I think Dr. Pomatter is one of these people that can look at someone and see their worth and see what they are inside and he was able in expressing his affection for her he was able to kind of pull that out and bring that to the surface in Jenna.

Do you see your character as a philander or just someone who just….

No, absolutely not. This is a guy who’s …I mean he’s married. What this movie is about for me is for people simply trying to be happy. That’s what we’re all doing in this grand life of ours is we’re just trying to make decisions on a daily basis that make us happy and how conscious we are of it or how conscious we are not. We make decisions all the time that shape how our life is going to end up. I think Dr. Pomatter is simply looking for something that makes him happy and he sees that in Jenna. Is it the right decision? That’s also what this movie is about. Are we making the right decisions to bring us happiness? I mean, he’s married, he’s obviously unhappy. He’s obviously in a relationship where he’s looking for something else. He needs something else. Jenna we can forgive a little more readily for being unfaithful to her husband because it’s obviously an abusive relationship and even a dangerous one. Whereas Dr. Pomatter—it doesn’t look like anyone’s getting beat up over there. It looks like he’s got a perfect life, a perfect wife, she’s beautiful, and she’s a doctor and they live in a nice house. What could possibly be wrong? But it’s one of those nebulous things. We all know couples and hear about people and say they’re getting divorced? They seem so good together. What could possibly be wrong? But we don’t know what brings people together and what drives them apart. What’s in their heart and what’s satisfying people. I think that’s where I put Dr. Pomatter is in the kind of nebulous obviously there’s something that’s unfulfilled.

So you feel Dr. Pomatter’s initial attraction to Jenna was something deeper than a waitress fetish right?

Oh absolutely.

Because he does mention that in conversation on the park bench.

Certainly she’s an attractive woman and that can’t be denied but like I said there is something within Jenna that she doesn’t readily express. You have to dig or you have to have that ability to see that within someone.

You’re also on the show Drive right now.

That’s true.

Can you talk a little bit about what’s upcoming on that show and what’s the experience like vs. when you were working on Firefly?

What was the 1st question?

Working on Drive and what’s coming up on the show.

Working on Drive, a lot of fun. This is Tim Minear whom I’ve worked with before on Firefly of course. He called me up and said I’ve got a part for you that you will love and I love Tim’s writing. I love his stories. I love his characters, his dialogue. He has a knack for reveals and he has a knack for moments. He builds moments and that’s ….if there’s anything that draws me to a character that makes me want to play a character badly it’s specific little moments that tell me exactly who that character is and I’m dying to play those moments. On Drive I was very excited to work with Tim because I know his talent and respect it and if he said I’ve got a part for you that you’re gonna love then I believe him and he was right. The similarity to Firefly? Where are the differences? His pants are as tight, it’s not an old spaceship it’s an old sports car, it’s an old muscle car, so there’s a similarity there. A guy with something inside. There’s something inside him that’s dark. I think Malcolm Reynolds had that. I think Malcolm Reynolds was a little more on the surface with Alex Tulley I think it’s reversed. I think on the surface I think he wants to be as happy in himself. He wants to be the old Alex Tulley that he was when he grew up but his life took him in a different direction and he made some decisions and he became a darker kind of a person. Well, he pulled himself out of that to live a life he wanted to live so I think there’s a darkness that lives within you.

You’re pretty tight with Joss and there’s obviously a lot of people out there who really like Serenity and etc, etc. Is there ever any talk about what can we do to continue the character whether it be animated, comic book or whatever it might be?

Oh there’s a lot of talk… between Joss and I? We don’t talk about that a lot no. Between Joss and I our experience is we had an amazing television show that was short-lived. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. He wasn’t ready to say goodbye as evident in his effort to make that film. So, you have this fantastic, amazing job and it gets cut short. All you want is to bring it back and have it again in some way. The way we got it back was a major motion picture. You couldn’t ask for more and that’s how I feel. I got my 2nd chance and I got my 2nd shot in such a big way with a major motion picture, how could I ask for more? I got what I wanted.

Do you fear being on the Fox Network that they have the reputation for having a trigger finger on shows?

I can’t live in fear and I’ve been there, I’ve lived there. I’m in control of a finite amount. I go to work. My intent is to tell the best story I possibly can, to breathe life into this character as best as I possibly can and to enjoy myself while I’m doing it. I love my job. I have the best job in the world. As far as where it goes from there, it’s out of my hands. Once it’s out of my hands I find the less I worry about it the better off I am.

Have you worked with many female directors?


Do you see a difference? Is there a difference on a film set or a TV set when a woman is in charge instead of a man?

No. You know what? I don’t see a difference. My mom’s a woman and I used to take orders from her all the time so yeah, I’m not…I don’t find myself being gender specific as far as how I deal with people. It matters very little to me.

But in terms of this screenplay in particular would you think that this kind of feeling or this kind of insight could have come from a guy or do you think this is something so unique to the female perspective?

Adrienne told me that she wrote this when she was pregnant and she was having fears and feelings that weren’t the “oh, I’m the miracle of life and it’s going to be wonderful and I’m going to be a fantastic mother”, all these things that you figure that women are supposed to be feeling whilst pregnant, she was feeling terror and fear and she said you know, people don’t really deal with that and it’s a truth. There is a truth in what she was experiencing and other women experience it as well so she said that was her inspiration to write this film. So, could a man have that insight? Probably not.

So obviously that’s the one sad part about this whole experience that Adrienne made this whole movie that’s very inspirational at the end and a lot of people leave the theatre feeling very happy and uplifted for what happens to her character but her own fate is incredibly tragic. Has this been a surreal experience to experience an independent movie that you that you never know if its going to get picked up something tragic happens and then it goes to Sundance and gets bought for 5 million dollars and could be a big word of mouth hit?

Yes, certainly, you know my entire career has been surreal. I studied to be a high school teacher in Edmonton, Alberta. So, anything after that that has to do with the entertainment industry to me is surreal. I kind of look at it as an observer rather than a participant. Going to Sundance was surreal. Having a movie at Sundance was surreal. The tragedy, that was surreal. That’s life and that’s this movie. Sometimes life is tragic and sometimes life is sad. What do you do with your life and what do you make of your life? I’m really happy that Adrienne Shelley made this movie. I’m sad that she wasn’t able to see what it became and how it’s affecting people. It’s unfortunate that this wonderful piece of work that should have been just one more piece of work in a long line of amazing things that Adrienne Shelley did now it’s her legacy. I’m sad about that. I’m happy and I’m proud to be a part of that.

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I know it’s generic to ask what’s it’s like to work with so and so but could you talk a little about working with Adrienne because like a lot of people this was kind of my first exposure to her and I loved her performance and her story so…

I’ve always noticed a difference between working with a director and working with a writer/director. In how much they’re invested and how specific they are. I remember talking to Adrienne Shelley about some of the scenes and thinking I mean, I can do it like that no problem but that’s what you want? Ok. And laughing about it and thinking that will be a little strange and a little weird but now after having seen the final product now I see her final vision. Now I see her vision. Now I see what kind of a little slice of life that she was creating and she was right on the money. What was your question I’m sorry?

How it was working with her?

She’s a lovely, lovely lady. I remember she’s has a very easy smile. She’ll smile for no reason. There are people who have energy that say don’t come near me, don’t get too close. There’s people like Adrienne Shelley who have the energy of come over here and give me a hug and if you’re around me you’re going to be happy about it. She has this…she’s always wearing hats. There’s something about someone who’s always wearing cute little hats. She’s a little tiny girl with lots and lots of energy and lots of responsibility being a writer/director and one of the actors in the film. That’s a lot of hats to wear. But to handle it with her attitude, with her warmth and with her ….yeah, it was very positive. She was a very positive person.

Can you talk about the experience with the kissing scenes in this film?

Any romantic scene I’ve ever done the last thing that they are is romantic in any way. You’re there in front of a bunch of guys. Nothing is real about it. It’s all choreographed and it’s all …you want to have these 2 characters have this experience and have this feeling but as 2 actors you’re pretty much strangers trying to have this collaborative effort. Kerri was absolutely wonderful to work with and she was so sweet and willing to be thrown about the room, over desks and up against the walls and onto medical exam tables. It’s certainly not the most…it’s awkward to say the least, but to have someone there who you know are there to make it the best it can possibly be, that’s what makes it worthwhile.

Is it in the script or directions or your guys improvisations, those kinds of kissing scenes?

All of the above. It’s important to the story. It was written in there and we came up once we were in the set we can come up with mores stuff as to how it can go and where it can go. So, all of the above, yeah.

Can you talk about what you have coming up after Drive?

I think that’s it. I’m actually off to London. I’m going to go do …I’m going be involved in an art piece. I don’t want to talk too much about it until it actually happens but it’s pretty exciting. You’ll learn more.

When is White Noise II is coming out?

I have no idea when White Noise II is coming out unfortunately.

How important is improvising to your process as an actor?

Someone told me a long time ago I would far prefer rather than see someone acting I like seeing someone reacting and I think…I did improv where I actually got my start was in Edmonton doing improv. It’s helped me phenomenally in just so far as being present in the moment. I know what my next line is but if you’re not listening and processing what you’ve heard that makes you create your next line. That’s what improv taught me is to be present in that moment and to listen and to react rather than to act.

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