Nathan Fillion: will such a geek icon ever become A-list?

News Ti Singh
7 Sep 2010 - 17:34

Nathan Fillion may be a recognisable name to cult movie and TV geeks, but does he have what it takes to break into the mainstream? Ti weighs up the possibilities…

In the world of cult movie and TV geekdom, there are actors that are revered and worshiped. Actors who, in the eyes of their fans, can do no wrong and attract a large and loyal following wherever they go.

Names like Bruce Boxleitner, George Takei and Bruce Campbell may not mean much to the average person, but say their name to someone wearing some sort of retro t-shirt and their eyes will light up.

Unfortunately, these actors have never been truly embraced by film studios and have never achieved A-list status, making their cultdom all the more endearing. However, every now and then a geek icon threatens to break into the big leagues and all it takes is one role or one film to make it so.

Take, for example, Heroes' Zachary Quinto. Formerly that bloke from 24 and Heroes, Quinto is arguably heading towards the A-List after his blockbusting turn as Spock in the Star Trek reboot. The same can be said of Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Jennifer Aniston. They all started in TV and, through the popularity of their individual shows, they now command hefty paychecks.

For many, it is a fine line of having the screen presence and charisma to make the leap, but there is one actor who arguably should have made the leap a long time ago or is due it now. Nathan Fillion.

For many, Fillion first came to note in Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place, but then acquired more fans after his turn as Caleb in Joss Whedon's Buffy The Vampire Slayer. However, it was his role as Mal Reynolds in the ill-fated Firefly that sealed his position in the hearts and minds of geeks everywhere.

Displaying Indiana Jones-esque cockiness, withering sarcasm and his ability to take a punch, Fillion's Mal Reynolds became the Han Solo of a new generation. His undeniable 'star quality', coupled with a cool jacket and a revolver, made him arguably the closest we have to a 21st century Harrison Ford. Except maybe for Harrison Ford, but he's far too grumpy these days.

The fact that Fillion even appeared to be channelling Harrison Ford made his character even more appealing, but it was his natural charm that won over so many fans, male and female alike.

When Firefly was cancelled, it seemed Fillion's chance to break out of TV hell went with it, but Whedon resurrected the character and Firefly for the theatrically released film, Serenity.

Fans of the TV series went nuts for the big screen outing of the Firefly crew, but the general audience was apathetic and a disappointing box office return meant the end for the show and its characters.

For Fillion, though, his geek credentials grew and he got cast as the lead in James Gunn's excellent B-movie tribute Slither. You can argue that Fillion really only specialises in playing various forms of the same character, an honourable, over grown man-child with a wit as dry as a desert, and it was no different in Slither where he played Sheriff Bill Pardy, the local lawman who must defend his town from alien parasites.

Again, Slither found a cult audience, but its box office wasn't enough to put Fillion on anyone's A-list.

Roles followed in the likes of White Noise 2 and TV hit Lost, and then it looked like Fillion might get another shot at TV stardom with Drive, a drama about various people competing in an illegal cross-country road race. However, the series was cancelled after six episodes.

It was another series that catapulted Fillion into the mainstream audience's consciousness, Castle. Cast as Richard Castle, a crime writer who follows around a female detective for inspiration, Fillion displayed chemistry with his co-star, Stana Katic, reminiscent of Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd in Moonlighting. Essentially built around Fillion's personality and charm, the series has been a hit and is currently filming its third season.

Bit parts in highly acclaimed indie films like Waitress and Trucker show his acting chops to movie producers, while his part in Dr Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog as the egotistical Captain Hammer has only solidified his appeal in the hearts of geeks around the world.

He'll be seen soon in Super, James Gunn's next film, where he'll star as The Holy Avenger, as well as  appearing in the new series of Castle, but his name has been bandied around a number of projects for the past year.

Firstly, he was rumoured to be a contender for the Green Lantern role, but this was merely fan speculation. However, it still led to the creation of a fan trailer that was incredibly popular on the web.

While the role went to fellow Canadian and Two Guys cast member, Ryan Reynolds, Fillion was rumoured to be in The Avengers film, especially when it was confirmed Joss Whedon was directing, but this turned out to be false.

However, no matter what the role is, Nathan Fillion is always one name thrown out by the fans. It just appears to be the studios that don't agree. For this writer, he would be the perfect choice to play Nathan Drake in the proposed film version of the popular PlayStation series Uncharted.

The character is very Fillion-esque in his humour and manner. Hell, the character looks exactly like him too.

The only thing standing in the way is the studios.

Either way, with the third series of Castle out in September, his star is going to continue to rise for quite a while to come. It just remains to be seen whether he can escape the TV screen for the silver screen.

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