Morena Baccarin interview: V, Firefly, Serenity and Shakespeare

Morena Baccarin chats to us about her starring role in V, as well as squeezing in time for a bit of Firefly, Stargate and Shakespeare...

Morena Baccarin earned her geek stripes many years ago simply by jumping aboard the good ship Firefly. More recently though, she’s been fronting up the new version of V as Anna, and it’s her face that’s been beaming down from the publicity posters. Here, she spared us some time to talk about the show, and what else she’s up to…

From the outside, it looks like you had a mad year prior to V starting up. Your casting announcement came quite late in the show’s production, and within eight months, four episodes had already been screened. Presumably it all happened very suddenly for you?

It did. I auditioned on the same day I had the role, essentially. I went in at 9 in the morning, and they were really having a hard time finding this character. And I heard they were seeing a lot of girls. The casting director told me that. I said thanks! I’m about to walk into the room and audition and you tell me that!

But that same night I tested for the studio, the next day the network said I had the job. And I got on a plane and went, and now I’m here!

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When you find out there’s lots of people auditioning, do you just kind of figure you’ve got nothing to lose?

Exactly. It’s generally the case, anyway. You go on a million auditions anyway as an actor, and one out of a hundred you get. It’s a hard life, but you can’t really think about it that way.

How long between the audition and shooting the first scene, then? That must have been very quick.

It was. Probably four days or something like that, and then I went up to Vancouver and shot for three weeks. The waiting period after that was longer, because we took a break in April and didn’t get back until August.

Did you have much foreknowledge of V?

Yes. I heard they were remaking it and I thought that’s such a great idea. I can’t believe they’ve not remade it before. I remember the original. I remember watching it with my brother. The face peeling. The things everyone remembers. I haven’t rewatched it since getting the job, but I was very excited, and when I read the script I thought they’d done such a wonderful job of contemporising it.

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And we bet you’ve never been asked this: you remember the guinea pig?

Yeah, of course! [laughs] Who would forget that? Are you going to ask me that?

Of course I’m going to ask you that!

I’m going to print out a press statement! [laughs] I haven’t eaten a guinea pig yet, but I’ve been told we’re going to pay homage to it.

Is your character vegetarian, then? Eat some carrots or something?

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That would be far better! Something will be happening, but I’m not sure what form it’ll take!

Can you tell us a little bit about what your reaction was to reading how they’d managed to update V when you took a look at the script?

First you feel that I hope it’s going to be good. It’s a remake of the show from the 80s that was very much about Nazi Germany, Nazi Youth programmes, the cold war stuff going on. When I read the script I thought I really hope they’ve updated it.

What they did is they contemporised the character so that Chad Decker, played by Scott Wolf, is an ambitious reporter, which is something we can all identify with.

There’s multi-ethnic and cultural relationships in it, which is really great. And a priest, the idea of faith, and what we’re playing with is wonderfully contemporised too.

And terrorism, which is something that we today are dealing with more than we were in the 80s.There’s a really scary thing that you can’t trust your neighbours and you don’t really know who is with you and who is against you. I like that idea, that we are not safe in our own borders.

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From your point of view, it’s an ensemble piece. I love what television drama is doing with ensemble casts at the moment, and you’re front and centre of this one. It’s your face on the poster! Relating back to something like your days on Firefly, how does it feel now to be such a focal point?

It’s an actor’s dream and an actor’s nightmare at the same time! I feel very humbled and excited that they’ve chosen me as the leader of the Vs!

We’ve got so many fans of Firefly over here, such a remarkable show.

It was.

That was your first job too…

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Surely that’s the definition of landing on your feet?

It is, definitely!

The thing is as well, I think Joss Whedon’s work has had real ramifications for television since. We’ve seen some of the bumps in the production on V in the first few months, but nothing surely can compare to what happened with Firefly?

I know, it was very bad. And I think what’s been going on with V only shows how positive Warner Bros and ABC feel about the show. It costs money to shut a show down, and keep writing, and keep everybody on and say we’re going to make this show what it deserves to be, and give people what they want.

We didn’t have that opportunity on Firefly. We were just shut down, and it was really sad. And then we had a following, and I think Fox kind of went “Oh crap, we didn’t really give the show a chance.”

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V is such a great story and cast of characters and great scripts, and we just want to make the best show possible for people.

This is the part of the interview where you give me the exclusive that you got a phone call about Serenity 2 yesterday. Help yourself, however you want to phrase it?

[Laughs] Well, I can’t possibly play Inara and Anna at the same time!

What do you watch yourself when you’re switching off? You’ve done lots of science fiction, so we’re supposed to sit here and assume that all you watch is science fiction. But what about when it’s just you and the telly?

I’m actually not the sci-fi girl you guys think I am! I watch Modern Family, which is one of my favourite shows. A really funny show with great actors.

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Is comedy something you’re keen to tackle more of yourself?

Yeah. I’ve done some sitcoms here and there, but nothing long term. I would love, it’d be really fun.

If V goes the way you want it to, in three or four years time when you’ll be a major international star with the clout to get a project off the ground. So what will be the dream project? What’s the one you want to do the most?

Oh, so many! I’d love to do a comedic film. I’d love to do a very epic Shakespearian film.

Which Shakespeare would you do?

I still want to play Juliet! A role I really love. Who else would I play? Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Portia in Merchant Of Venice. I think Juliet is the one I’m really aiming for before it gets to be too late.

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Who would be your Romeo, then?

Ryan Gosling! He’s really great. Yeah, I like him.

That’s the first question I’ve asked you that you’ve not been asked before, isn’t it?

Yes! [laughs]

You come from an acting family too. Does that shape your personal ambitions? Does your mum ring you up and say you should do that differently, you should do it like that?

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God, no! That would kill me! My mom is an actress, but she never really pushed me into it, and it was never something I thought I would be doing. She was very happy I decided to, but she certainly doesn’t offer me criticism because she knows I’d tell her to shut up! Nobody wants to hear that from their mum!

And we do very different things. She’s an actress in Brazil and does comedies, big broad things. I think I’m more the method acting school. It’s really nice and it’s lovely that she can understand my strife, that when I’m in LA and haven’t worked for a while, she’s the one who’s saying everything will be fine.

Most parents are like, quit now and become a doctor!

Who were you in the school play?

I did a lot of them! My final year I did Cecily in The Importance Of Being Earnest

You went to a good school. We just did rubbish at ours…!

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I did! We did Love’s Labours Lost too!

Having a mum in the business, does that help you see through a lot of the pretence and a lot of the problems that surround acting?

Yeah, but I’m also from New York, and we have a very low bullshit tolerance, so I’m pretty streetsmart in that way.

Stargate is shooting near you in Vancouver. You went back and did The Ark Of Truth, of course, and they’re reportedly keen to do more TV movies if they can sort the DVD market out for them. Is that a franchise you want to go back to again?

I’m not sure. I’m really loving V so much that I don’t want to take away from that world and that character. I think there’s a great mystery about Anna, so maybe doing Stargate is not the best thing. I think they’ve got a great thing going with that franchise. Who knows, though? Maybe!

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We do always seem to read about people on recurring seasons of shows who somehow manage to squeeze two or three movies in too. Do you get that pressure too, is that something you want to pursue?

It is. I’ve love to do more movies. Just because I’m interested in the medium very much. I’ve done a lot of theatre at this point, and I’ve done a lot of TV. I’ve done a few independent films, but a lot of them have not seen the light of day. It’d be really nice to be in a film that gets out there.

Morena Baccarin, thank you very much!

V is screening in the UK on SyFy.