Beyond ‘Firefly’: Nathan Fillion


You can’t take the sky from me.

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Television

Despite Firefly‘s short-lived run (I will never be over them canceling it, okay?), the show has managed to retain a cult following among nerds everywhere, even 18 years later in 2020. While Nathan Fillion had been previously involved in projects such as Saving Private RyanFirefly (and the sequel Serenity, intended to tie up some loose ends in the wake of the cancellation) served as his break-out role into television, capturing our hearts as the roguish antihero Captain Mal Reynolds. While Nathan will always be remembered for his role as our favorite space cowboy at the helm of his infamous ship, he has undoubtedly branched out into more prominent and accessible roles since the sci-fi/adventure/drama aired back in 2002 and attained great success. Let’s take a look at just what Nathan Fillion has been up to beyond Firefly.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)

Courtesy of Fox 2000 Pictures and TSG Entertainment

Okay, disclaimer: as an avid Percy Jackson & the Olympians fan, I feel morally obligated to tell everyone that the movie franchise is an absolute travesty and does not accurately reflect the narrative of the novels at all. With that being said, the fault lies in the screenwriting and not the actors themselves. In the second (and final, as the movie series was discontinued) installment of the Percy Jackson movies, Fillion portrays Hermes, messenger of the gods and father to wayward demigod Luke Castellan. Fillion’s lighthearted, comedic performance with references to both Firefly and Castle was a definite bright spot in a film that viewers were all too ready to forget. With the Disney+ live-action series in the works — thankfully written by Rick Riordan himself this time –, will we see a return of Fillion in some form or fashion? Only time will tell.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003)

Courtesy of The WB

In yet another Joss Whedon production, Fillion took his first foray into villainy in cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portraying the psycho priest Caleb *internal shudder*. Nathan’s acting prowess shined through in this role, managing to display the dual natures of the character with his rugged charm and sadistic, blatantly misogynistic streaks that comprised his identity. Despite his excellent performance, I think it’s safe to say that we were all happy to see him go in the series finale.

Castle (2009-2016)

Courtesy of ABC

Another masterpiece that I was quite sad to see go, though it had a good run with eight seasons under its belt. In this popular series, Fillion starred as one of the leads, Richard “Rick” Castle, a shallow, goofy mystery novelist who finds himself in a partnership with NYPD officer Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) after they team up to catch a copycat killer drawing inspiration from one of his novels. The on-screen chemistry between the two bickering partners, endless clever plot lines, and an interesting cooperative dynamic between the two opposing personalities resulted in a show that will always have a place in my heart as one of the greats on ABC — though the abrupt cancellation left something to be desired with that series finale.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2018)

Courtesy of Netflix

In this Netflix Original children’s dramedy based on the book series with the same name, Fillion portrays Jacques Snicket, Lemony and Kit Snicket’s brother and a member of the V.F.D. secret society. His plucky performance as a secret agent trying to lend a hand to the Baudelaire orphans who constantly find themselves in terrible predicaments brings a lighthearted brightness to a show that is honestly pretty grim (the theme song will even attest to that). Once again showcasing his talents as a foil across from Neil Patrick Harris, who plays the dastardly Count Olaf, Fillion does an excellent job in helping bring this classic children’s story to life.

Santa Clarita Diet (2017-2018)

Courtesy of Netflix

Starring in another Netflix Original series, Nathan Fillion portrayed Gary West, a smarmy real estate agent that falls victim to the dietary needs of his newly undead coworker Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) in Santa Clarita Diet. Fillion’s character was reduced to a talking head after protagonist Sheila gets a hankering for human flesh and decides to take a chomp out of Gary but leaves his brain intact. Fillion’s venture in this horror-comedy was short-lived, as his character was replaced by fellow Firefly alum Alan Tudyk – a.k.a. Wash – as he went on to pursue other roles (honorable mention for Rainer Shine in Modern Family).

The Rookie

Courtesy of ABC

In Fillion’s most recent pet project, ABC’s The Rookie, we see him step into a slightly more dramatic role as compared to his comedic ventures of the past. While the show definitely has its laughable moments, Fillion showcases a more diverse range of emotions in this series as John Nolan, a 40-year-old man who reevaluates his life after a near-death experience and decides to become a police officer, making him the oldest rookie on the force. Fillion has also stepped into the role of executive producer, with experience from his days on Castle as well as working on Con Man and Uncharted: Live Action Fan FilmThe Rookie was recently renewed for its third season in ABC’s 2020-2021 lineup. Stay tuned for release dates.

With voiceover roles in pieces such as Gravity Falls, Robot Chicken, Big Mouth, and the DC universe, as well as appearances in multiple other films and shows, I think it’s safe to say that Nathan Fillion’s success has only climbed since landing his first lead role in the Joss Whedon production we love so much. Nathan Fillion is still at the top of his game, and we can’t wait to see what he does next, though I personally wouldn’t be opposed to a Firefly reboot after all these years *cough cough*. To peruse Fillion’s full filmography, you can head over to his IMDb page found here.

Kenedi is a college student with her sights set on attending medical school. When she isn't hard at work, Kenedi enjoys reading, watching her favorite shows, and listening to music. Some of her favorite fandoms include Supernatural, One Tree Hill, Bones, Abbott Elementary, Percy Jackson, and Scrubs.

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