There was thunderous applause and cheering as I waited patiently backstage for my interview. It was possible to tell whenever a zinger went off with every loud burst of ooh’s and laughter. Finally, the cheering reached a crescendo and the four members of the cast of Serenity rounded the corner of the partition in the Centennial Ballroom. A moment later, I was shaking hands with Jewel Staite, still grinning from her panel. A quick flurry of pleasantries and we were off to the green room for our talk.
For those who missed all the press, the fans, the cosplaying, and the talk, Jewel is a member of the cast of Serenity, the follow-up movie for the incredibly popular and very cancelled series, Firefly. Tremendous amounts of fan support allowed series creator Joss Whedon to parlay the unfortunately short series into a major motion picture, which is due to be released by Universal Studios in the United States on September 30th. Due to the fact that the movie has not been released and this humble reporter’s desire to not be lynched for giving away spoilers, my questions for Jewel focused more on her personally and her role within the cast of Serenity.
I began with a question that many Serenity fans will be curious about: What it’s going to take to get another Firefly movie? The internet buzz that I found before the interview had the magic number for a sequel to Serenity to be something like $60 million in domestic gross. Jewel shook her head and said that the number sounded awfully high. “I really don’t think that’s right,” she said. “I think the number I remember hearing was actually something like … $80 million worldwide? I don’t know. I think that would maybe be something like $50 million domestic. I think that would be the trigger number.”
When asked about how Dragon*Con stacked up with other conventions and press excursions, Jewel was very complimentary. “D*C is very big and very personable. The people are very friendly.” She also remarked on the amount of freedom that the guests are allowed at D*C, which is something else that she really enjoys. “Here we have a lot of freedom. We can do signings, panels, get invited to parties… we can choose what we want to do.” She said that the fact that D*C wasn’t as regimented as other cons was a definite plus in her book.
With the recent international release of Serenity, support abroad has built. Jewel remarked that at the release at the Edinborough Film Festival she was impressed by the support of the UK fans. She said the response was so strong and so positive that it was uplifting. When asked about the Australian fan who came all the way to Dragon*Con to see the cast, she enthused, “God do I wish that they would send us to an Australia convention! Put that in your article will you? Put in there that I want to go to Australia.” So, any promotion people who may read this should take note—The Land Down Under needs an infusion of Serenity!
When asked about how she was allowed to interpret Kaylee by Joss for Firefly, Jewel said that originally, Kaylee was a very tomboyish character.
“I am so totally not that,” Jewel said with a laugh. “I wanted to keep her a girly-girl but she fixes stuff. If Kaylee could fix an engine in a dress, she would. She wears the jumpsuit because it’s her job, not because she wants to. Joss was totally down with that.”
I laid out my theory for Jewel about the women of Firefly, to see if she agreed with me. Every character on the show conforms to an archetype. Zoe (Gina Torres) is the strong warrior woman, River (Summer Glau) is the child, Inara (Morena Baccarin) represents female sexuality—and has practically transcended her role to become the ideal for modern feminine sexual mores—and Kaylee was the bubbly girl next door. So my question to Jewel was whether she felt Kaylee was getting shoehorned into an archetype because of the characters around her.
Her reply was succinct. “Certainly not. She’s got so many sides and so many aspects to her. She’s sad; she’s depressed a lot. She says things that are just like ‘Where did that come from?’ She’s got a lot of depth there, so there’s no shoehorning in,” Jewel added, “Joss would never write a character in a corner like that anyway.” Given that the topic of Joss was right there, I asked if the rumors I’d heard about Joss being a perfectionist were true. “He’s very perfectionistic about his vision. If he gets it right in one take, then he’s like ‘Okay, that’s it.’ But if it takes fifteen takes and he doesn’t get what he wants, we’ll be doing another take.”
Having been on multiple television shows that feature ensemble casts, I asked Jewel what the social dynamic was like with the Serenity. “This is the closest cast that I’ve ever worked with. There is a whole lot of trust here between us and I am really treasuring it because it’s a very rare thing. Sometimes you see people and they act like they’re all friends and they’re not. We really are. It’s awesome.”
I made the silly assumption that because Alan Tudyic was one of the lesser seen members of the cast that he was one of the quieter members. When I mentioned this idea to Jewel, she laughed out loud. “Alan is not the quiet one. He does the funniest impressions around. They are so funny, you just die laughing. Really, Adam [Baldwin] is quieter than Alan.” I guess my expression of disbelief showed because Jewel continued. “Adam is really pretty quiet in person. He’s really sweet and really nice. I remember when we first started reading the script together. We were sitting around and Adam started reading his parts in this voice and Nathan [Fillion] and I looked at each other and just kind of said, ‘Is that what he’s going to say?’ It was so totally opposite of him.”
When asked about future projects, Jewel said she would like to do television again, even though movies are as fun as they are. “There’s a feeling with television. A closeness with the cast because you’re working together for so long and you get to really explore the character. I mean that film is something completely different than TV. I love both. I’d want to do a comedy if I could. And I want to do at least one musical.”
Jewel admitted to hitting the stores when things are going sour. “If I feel bad, I go shopping. I have a bad day, I go shopping, I feel better.” Her favorite brands, of which she has many, include Steve Madden, Coach for purses, Chanel for glasses and Puma for her kicks. “If I had to have just one designer, it would be Michael Coores. I love Michael Coores,” she admitted, giggling. Animal rights are an issue that is near to Jewel’s heart. “I’m not a vegetarian or anything. I mean, I wear leather shoes. But anything that causes animals to suffer…” She shook her head sadly. “No.. just no.”
My final question was what an average day like was for Jewel Staite the Person as opposed to Jewel Staite the Actress. Jewel thought for a second and said, “Well, I sleep in. That’s like 9:30 ‘cause I’m an early riser. Then I take the dog for a walk. I shop some and work out for thirty minutes. I cook a lot. I absolutely love Rachael Ray. She’s my favorite! And we have a lot of DVD’s so there’s a lot of DVD watching.” With Firefly booming and doing fantastic things with the fan base and Serenity on the way, hopefully there will be more than a few of those future DVDs that feature Jewel and the rest of the cast of Firefly.