In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Beloved actor Nathan Fillion has had a fairly charmed career ever since his breakthrough role as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly almost 15 years ago. Since then, he’s become a geek convention favorite, appearing in niche projects like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, making cameos in major films like Guardians Of The Galaxy, and all the while keeping an incredibly successful mainstream career, primarily as the star of the long-running ABC series Castle. At the beginning of this week, he unveiled a new Uncharted short fan film in which he plays swashbuckling treasure hunter Nathan Drake—a role that fans of the franchise first pointed out he was perfect for more than a decade ago.
When he got on the phone to do our 11 Questions feature, he was in the midst of a very busy press day. Fillion’s Uncharted director Allan Ungar was there listening in, and even amid some very earnest answers, the actor couldn’t resist using one of the questions to have a little fun at his new director’s expense.
Nathan Fillion: Electric cars. And solar panels. Electric cars and solar panels.
The A.V. Club: So the possibility of a less environmentally destructive future?
NF: Renewable energy, free energy. I think once we all have energy that’s free and we can move around on that energy, we can transport our products, we can transport our people, ourselves, once we’re flying and driving electric and solar or wind power we’ll have nothing left to fight about. There’ll be nothing we need so badly. Then we can just kind of focus on growing our own foods. And I think about the Star Trek future where if you have replicators for everything you need, then you don’t have to fight for anything anymore. There’s no arguments anymore.
NF: [Laughs.] Um, I think the obvious answer, or the answer I think everybody would want to hear right now, would be Firefly. But at the same time it was a project that got canceled and then we got a major motion picture out of it. So for a canceled TV show, I think that got a lot of great attention. So I find it hard to complain about that one. I would say I did a series called Drive that would’ve been a really good TV series if more than two episodes had aired.
AVC: That was the one I was suspecting you might mention, because when it came out there was a sense of, “Oh, this is going to be great. It’s going to go forever.” And then it just sort of immediately vanished.
NF: Yeah, it was a lot of fun and it was very short lived. Sometimes I forget I was in it.
NF: It was a Monkees album.
AVC: Do you remember which one?
NF: I don’t. I remember what the cover looked like. I had seen the Monkees when I was on a trip to the United States. We didn’t have cable in Canada and I’d never seen much music and I turned on The Monkees TV show and I said, “What is this?” And I bought the record immediately when I came home. I remember I played it on the Mickey Mouse record player too.
AVC: Did you become a Monkees superfan after that?
NF: I don’t know how super-fan I was. I was 7 or 8. You didn’t have access back then. It was harder to be a fan. If you wanted a poster or something, you got it out of a magazine and it had creases all up and down it. Things were different back then. Fandom was different. It was harder to be a fan.
NF: I’ve never seen one, but I want to see a ghost to shake the foundations of everything I believe in.
AVC: So technically you don’t, but you would love to be proven wrong. Is that what you’re saying?
NF: Yes. I want someone to prove to me that ghosts exist.
NF: Is salt considered a condiment?
AVC: Wouldn’t it be considered seasoning?
NF: You’re right. That is seasoning. Is guacamole a condiment?
AVC: Not normally, but that seems fair enough. That’s something you put on other things.
NF: I could live without ketchup. I would just have tomatoes. I don’t eat enough things with mustard on it. Those seem to be like the classics for me, and relish I could do without. I could live without relish. But guacamole, oh god, if there was no such thing as guacamole, if all of a sudden no one knew what guacamole was, I would be in a terrible nightmare world.
NF: In a crowd of people who are drinking.
AVC: What is it about that that triggers your uncomfortableness?
NF: Strangers can be weird. Strangers who are drunk can be weirder.
AVC: You seem like you’re speaking from personal experience here.
NF: I’ve had weird experiences. I get a little nervous in crowds, and if you add alcohol to the mix, I get nervous.
NF: Indiana Jones. And that’s actually true. Or Buck Rogers, actually, even before Indiana Jones, I wanted to be Buck Rogers. I wanted to fall asleep and wake up in the future and my job be flying spaceships, and shooting guns, and robots, and pretty ladies. I thought, “That’s a good job. Can I have that job?” And then Indiana Jones came along, and now I’m an actor and I actually had my Buck Rogers in Malcolm Reynolds, and now I’ve had my Indiana Jones in Nathan Drake. So my dream’s come true.
AVC: Do you remember the moment when you realized, “Maybe I will be able to be Buck Rogers and Indiana Jones for real”?
NF: I didn’t know that it was a possibility. When I was 22 years old, I found myself on a soap opera in New York City and I thought, “Oh my god, this can actually happen to someone exactly like me.” So I was an adult when I realized that sometimes dreams do actually come true.
NF: Nothing. If I’m in a hotel that means I’m traveling. I rarely, if ever, turn on the TV in a hotel room. Typically on the pay per views they’ll have some movies that have only just been in theaters, so if I’ve missed them in theaters I might try to catch them then. But typically if I’m traveling I don’t spend time watching TV, in a hotel room. I’m out in whatever city I’m in trying to enjoy it.
AVC: So if your flight is delayed or something and you’re stuck, you wouldn’t stay in your hotel room, you go out into the town?
NF: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I would explore. I would get up, I would walk, seek to experience something.
AVC: Do you have a preferred tactic for exploring a city when you’re out and about?
NF: I will ask the concierge what’s cool to see nearby, and I’d actually stop a local rather than looking up yelp reviews and stuff like that. You ask people who are in the neighborhood, they’ll help you out.
AVC: So it’s mostly just finding whoever seems approachable and getting the scoop on where you should be at that moment.
NF: Yeah, I’ll walk into a store, I’ll walk into a shop. I’ll just talk to people. What’s cool, where do I go? What do you like?
NF: Art should be separated from the artist? No, I don’t think so. I don’t know quite what that means. Why would you.... No. I’d say my answer is no.
AVC: The reason we came up with that question was because a lot of people suddenly this year are finding it hard to enjoy certain entertainment that they used to be able to enjoy in the past because of the person or persons who made it.
NF: I’ve had some complaints myself in the past when art meets finance, but not when art meets artist.
AVC: So for you, you can’t draw a distinction between the artist and the art itself.
NF: You don’t get art without the artist.
AVC: That’s fair enough.
NF: Whether or not to trust Allan Ungar with the intense responsibility of honoring the Uncharted franchise. [Ungar laughs—Ed.] It was a tough choice, but I made it. And I think I made the right choice. I know I made the right choice. And if Allan was here right now, I would tell him exactly that. [Laughs.]
NF: 32, because no one respects you in your late 20s. You’re still looking for respect. And it’s like your prime health-slash-money-making years.
AVC: So your 32 was one of your favorite years, you would say?
NF: When I look in the mirror, I always expect my 32-year-old self to be looking back at me. I’m always disappointed. But that’s who I expect to see looking back.
AVC: That’s one of those things I feel like nobody tells you when you’re younger, is that you eventually hit a certain age and your mind stops growing up but then your body just keeps on aging.
NF: I feel exactly like you said. I echo those exact sentiments—with, I have a whole lot less patience for people who are younger than me.
AVC: Do you always have the impetus to say to them, “Look, I’ve been around the block a few times, I think I know what I’m talking about”?
NF: [Laughs.] I try to resist that temptation, but that’s me in a nutshell.
Bonus 12th question from Peep Show’s Robert Webb: Why are you what you’re like?
AVC: I think he’s just asking, why are you the way that you are.
NF: I would say strong family ties and being brought up in a safe, nurturing, loving environment.
AVC: Oh, that’s a very sweet answer. That’s nice.
NF: And it’s absolutely true, because I feel like the foundations of everybody’s “who you are” is how the world was presented to you as you grow up in. I had a safe, cool, supportive environment growing up. I feel pretty confident in the world knowing that I have all that behind me.
AVC: So what would you want to ask to ask the next person we interview?
NF: My question to the next person is, what modern convenience could you absolutely not live without?
AVC: How would you answer?
NF: Hot water. Clean water.