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Why Nathan Fillion Was Never The Same After Firefly

"He was grateful for the work." That's the short version. There are stories about actors who take on beloved roles, only to have their careers and personal lives harpooned as a result. Burt Ward has some nasty anecdotes about living out his 20s as Robin the Boy Wonder. William Shatner's documentary The Captains is populated by aging theater majors expressing their gratitude for the work while the dark glimmer of actual years spent in convention halls being asked about Andorians peaks out from behind their eyes.

By all accounts, however, Nathan Fillion wasn't one of those actors. When he landed the part of Captain Malcolm "Tight Pants" Reynolds on Joss Whedon's Firefly, he seemed pretty tickled at the opportunity. Check out just about any interview with Fillion, and two things will happen: someone will ask him if there's a Firefly reunion in the works, and he'll very politely talk about how great that would be. He'll also, in most cases, smilingly recall what a great time he had making the show and talk about the friendships that he made in the process — friendships that helped to keep him busy for years.

Firefly boosted Nathan Fillion to be able to keep flying

If you take a look at Nathan Fillion's IMDb page, you'll notice that his career has a couple of through lines that all start in the early 2000s with his early Whedon work. Firefly made him a go-to for the writer-director's future projects — see: Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog and Much Ado About Nothing — including a recurring gig on Buffy the Vampire Slayer's final season the very next year. More than that, Fillion's nerd cred landed him roles in other projects made by space cowboy aficionados. Halo 3 saw him re-teaming with Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyck, who played Jayne and Wash on Firefly, in the first of several voice parts that Fillion would land in the series. 

Then there was his two episode stint on The Guild, his ongoing work voicing the Green Lantern in animated DC Comics adaptations, and his continuing professional bro-down with Tudyck, which has seen Fillion working on niche projects like Con Man. Swim in the right circles and you'll notice that he's become a big enough celebrity to warrant roles playing himself in Big Mouth and Resident Alien. In short, the 14 short episodes of Firefly lifted Fillion to nerd demigod status. The snowball looks set to keep picking up momentum when he appears in James Gunn's The Suicide Squad later this year.