The Fillion files |


The Fillion files

The affable actor shares his memories of the roles, directors, and costars that have helped define him

One Life To Live (TV, 1994-97)
Played lovesick Joey Buchanan. ”It was kind of like work, kind of like summer camp. I was in New York City. I had never been there, never seen it, and I was now living in it. What I liked about Joey was that while he made some bad decisions, he made them for the right reasons. He was the only good guy on the show. But I learned later that there’s a lot of value to being flawed.”

Saving Private Ryan (Film, 1998)
Played the wrong Private Ryan — the one Tom Hanks finds before Matt Damon. ”All I had to do was cry. That’s all I did on that soap opera. I could cry at the drop of a hat. But I was so tense, so nervous. Steven Spielberg was very encouraging. He said, ‘You’re acting it, but whatever you’re feeling, it’s not coming out.’ And then he told everyone to take five, and he took me for a walk and sat me down behind this Army truck and we started talking. He gave me all these things to think about, and I just started crying on the spot. He said, ‘You look ready.’ And I did it, because he took the time to help me. I ran into Steven Spielberg years later. He said, ‘Hey! Do you remember me?’ [Laughs] Yessir, I do.”

Two Guys and a Girl (TV, 1998-2001)
Played handyman-turned-fireman Johnny Donnelly, joining the series starring Ryan Reynolds and Traylor Howard in season 2. ”He wasn’t that good a handyman, and it turns out he was really cheap. In other words, he was flawed, and what that show taught me was the kind of comedy gold that could be mined from a flaw. Two Guys and a Girl gave me what I had been missing from One Life to Live — the live audience. I love that energy, that visceral reaction of the audience there with you.”

Firefly (TV, 2002-03)
Played the leading man, space cowboy Capt. Mal Reynolds, in Joss Whedon’s short-lived sci-fi Western. ”My first lead role. No one would hire me for a lead role before Joss did. I felt a lot of pressure… No, pressure is the wrong word. I felt a lot of responsibility. A lot of ‘Don’t blow this.’ That was my mantra. I learned so much and have taken so much from that experience. There was a period of time in the ’80s when heroes were unbeatable and they couldn’t be stopped. That’s fun, but I don’t think people could relate. I think there’s a lot more to be mined in someone who doesn’t win a lot — who loses a lot. That was Mal. And that’s all of us. We don’t have spaceships, but we lose every day. And I think there’s something very relaxing about seeing someone on TV who loses as much as, if not more than, you do.”