‘Firefly’ Anniversary: Saluting Serenity’s Big Damn Heroes

by Tami Katzoff (@tvtamijo)

Today at The Weekly Whedon we celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Firefly.” It’s a bittersweet celebration; on September 20th, 2002, the show premiered on Fox but was cancelled after only eleven episodes aired. Captain Mal, Inara, Wash, Jayne and the rest of the Serenity gang disappeared from our TV screens way too soon.

“I always think of ‘Firefly’ as this wonderful, beautiful island that rose out of the ocean that I got to live on for a while,” says writer/producer Jane Espenson, who scripted the episode “Shindig.” And as evidenced by this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, plenty of folks are still passionate about Joss Whedon’s space western.

“It has a reach,” Espenson says. “It’s not just that people like the show, but people are touched by the show. People are really moved by it.”

Executive producer Tim Minear remains an outspoken defender of “Firefly.” The following are his thoughts and recollections about working on the project.

“It was a very special experience. It was unique in a lot of ways. We were the underdog; we were completely unloved by the network. They did not like the show at all. They did not air the pilot. And when I submitted ’Out of Gas,’ which has three time frames and a flashback, etcetera, the note was ‘Can you put this in order? It’s too fancy.’

And I told Joss, ‘If they make me do this, I quit.’ And he said, ‘If they make you do that, I support you in quitting.’

The last day of shooting, I was directing pick-up shots for unfinished episodes. So literally it would be like a line here, a scene there, a piece of a montage… actually a lot of it was for ‘Heart of Gold’ – we were doing a montage of them getting ready for the shoot-out, so we had this little tiny set, and I’d bring in an actor and I’d get some shots of them nailing up boards or whatever, and then at the end of their shot the A.D. would announce, ‘That’s a ‘Firefly’ wrap for Gina Torres.’

Now when an A.D. announced that somebody’s wrapped, usually it’s a guest cast member. So if somebody comes in and they’re in an episode and they’re done for the week, then the A.D. will announce, ‘That’s a wrap’ for this character and people will applaud or whatever. But here he was wrapping out for the series the main characters, which had a real sense of death. So this little tiny set became sort of an abattoir. Like they’d send in an actor and they wouldn’t come out alive, because they’d be done with the show.

So he would announce, ‘That’s a ‘Firefly’ wrap for Gina Torres, that’s a ‘Firefly’ wrap for Ron Glass,’ and every time he would do that, the actor would then make this impromptu speech to the crew and the other cast members about what the show meant to them, and it was all very moving, very sad.

So finally at the end of this, everybody went out to get drunk again except for me – I don’t drink – and I was exhausted, so I went home. And it was a Friday. I went home, I turned on the TV, and they were airing the pilot, finally. So it’s like, oh that’s great. Perfect timing, guys.”

Previously on The Weekly Whedon:
» Joss Whedon’s ’Much Ado About Nothing’ triumphs at the Toronto International Film Festival’
» Joss Whedon’s ’Much Ado’ isn’t ’scary Shakespeare’
» Joss Whedon keeps it in the family for ’S.H.I.E.L.D.’
» Spike’s 50 for 50: Happy birthday, James Marsters!
» Joss Whedon puts on an act for ‘Husbands’

MTV News producer Tami Katzoff presents The Weekly Whedon, a column exploring all corners of the Whedonverse from “Marvel’s The Avengers” to “Buffy” and beyond. Assemble your reactions in the comments section!