Nathan Fillion is currently starring on ABC’s The Rookie, but most people still pick Malcolm Reynolds from Joss Whedon’s Firefly as their favorite character portrayed by the actor—Fillion included. In his San Diego Comic-Con at Home panel moderated by The Rookie showrunner Alexi Hawley, Fillion said up until his current gig, playing Reynolds on Firefly was his favorite project.

Firefly has been my favorite job I’ve ever had until The Rookie,” he explained. “Firefly and The Rookie. Firefly did a great deal for me. The Rookie is transformative as far as my life is. Yeah, it’s a slice of heaven.”

Fun fact: As we all know, Fillion appeared in the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb, the sadistic, misogynist priest working for The First, but he initially auditioned for broody vampire-with-a-soul Angel. The part obviously went to David Boreanaz.

Nathan Fillion
Nathan Fillion and Alexi Hawley

Throughout the conversation, many of the actor’s costars popped in to chat. Appearances included fellow Firefly alumni Alan Tudyk and Gina Torres, Molly Quinn, Seamus Dever, and Jon Huertas from Castle, and Mekia Cox from The Rookie. Whedon also chimed in.

Tudyk (who chatted from his car while his wife shopped) and Torres agreed that Firefly is one of those shows that even though it didn’t have a tremendously long run, it made an unforgettable mark in pop culture.

Nathan Fillion
Gina Torres

Torres said, “What’s really lovely about the legacy of Firefly is…it’s like a good book. It’s like any great book that touched you when you read it, maybe you were 15 and then you revisit it when you are 25 and it says different things to you. It speaks to a place in your heart and your psyche. And Firefly is that you have people who experienced it the first time, who are now sharing it with their children and they’re feeling it, their expression and their understanding of what family is has changed. And so the fact that it tends to grow with the fans, and that the fan base is growing as well is such an extraordinary thing.”

Nathan Fillion
Alan Tudyk

Firefly is such a staple that if you’re into fandom and you haven’t seen Firefly, it feels… a little bit like, come on, you got to watch Firefly,” Tudyk agreed. “You’ve gotta get a certain number of things under your belt if you want to come aboard. And Firefly’s one of them. So I go to cons. I can’t wait to go to another one. You know, you put up pictures of yourself. They’re like, here’s me on this show. Here’s me as a robot. Here’s me as a different robot. And then people have you sign whichever picture. And no matter what I have done since, you know, Star Wars, there’s a big fandom around Star Wars. Half of the things I sign are the pictures that we took on set when we did Firefly back in 2002 or three, whichever one it was.”

One thing was clear as the guests chatted about their experience with Fillion. They all learned and grew with him, and even if he was the star of the show, the project turned into an ensemble. There was collaboration at every turn.

Nathan Fillion
Mekia Cox

“When it’s a television show. I mean, you’re on a ride. It’s a long arc. And no one is that interesting. No one single character, no matter how well it’s written,” Torres explained. “Ultimately, you learn more about your lead by how they’re spoken of, how they interact with the other characters around them, the world that they’re in. So, you know, I like to believe that every major lead show becomes an ensemble show and eventually some sooner than others because that’s what’s interesting.”

Cox pointed out that the virtual panel itself is the perfect analogy for working with Fillion, “This is what happens with Nathan. We are on a call about Nathan and he makes it about everybody else.”

To watch the full panel click here.

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