Waitress - Nathan Fillion interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
NATHAN Fillion talks about working with late director Adrienne Shelly on Waitress and the impact her death has had upon him and the rest of the cast.
He also talks about his career to date, comparisons with Harrison Ford and his hopes for the future – as well as his cat!
Q: What was the appeal of Waitress?
A: Well, first of all I thought it was a very pretty little story. I thought it was a very cute little slice of life tale. I had no idea how emotional it might be when I started the project. I didn’t have the vision that Adrienne [Shelly] obviously had about what these characters have to say. In some ways, the story seems to be larger than life, yet it’s really just a simple, tiny little story. I love it because it speaks to me so clearly. I think about my own daily choices every day in terms of how to find happiness.
Q: What are your memories of Adrienne, of working with her and knowing her?
A: My most vivid memory about Adrienne is the first time I ever met her, which was in a little diner on the lower east side of New York. I can’t even remember the name of it, but I remember how tiny she was sitting in a little booth and how she had an easy smile and was so friendly. And even in times of stress or pressure when we were filming, she always had that energy that drew people towards her. She was wonderful. She always wore hats – which is an excellent metaphor, because she wore a lot of hats in this movie as an actor, director and writer. She was very talented. I was in a scene with Adrienne and Cheryl Hines, right at the end of the movie, so I did get to act with her, which was wonderful.
Q: How much medical research did you do to play the gynecologist?
A: Zero! If you notice when you see the film, I never had to do anything technical or complicated at all, or anything difficult. I moved around a sonogram at one point and that’s about it. Really, all I had to do was to put on a white coat and be awkward and embarrassed, which is how my character feels a lot of the time.
Q: What was it like working with Keri Russell?
A: Great, I’m very proud of the job we did. What we wanted to do was communicate an attraction, a passionate feeling. These are two people who need and long for something grand and passionate in their lives and obviously they can’t express that in their current relationships, which is why they come together. Together they have some magnetic chemistry that is romantic and intense and passionate. Keri is absolutely wonderful and we just had a great collaboration.
The sex scenes can be difficult and embarrassing. It was supposed to be awkward because our characters are relative strangers, but she’s just so wonderful and easy to be with. All you want to do in those passionate scenes is be comfortable, in what can be a very awkward situation.
Q: Do you have especially emotional feelings about the film? Audiences and critics really enjoyed it in the States?
A: I think that judging by the screenings and by how well the show is doing and how it seems to affect people, it’s obviously having a great impact as a film in itself, and the critics obviously are just loving it. It seems to be hitting people in just the right spot. What makes it hard for me is that Adrienne is not able to see just how much people love her film. I think she knew she was doing a good project, she was putting her heart into it obviously and it meant something to her. But I don’t think she could ever imagine how much it would affect people so deeply.
Q: How much was acting a dream for you?
A: I was going to be a High School teacher. I was studying at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, up in Canada. I was also acting in a wonderfully supportive theatre community in Edmonton. There’s a lot of support for theatre there. So, I was having a great time, but I didn’t consider acting as a serious career initially, because even the most successful actors that I know in Edmonton are not super successful. Acting over there is just not a success-oriented career. Never mind Los Angeles, I was in Edmonton. I’d watch TV and I’d see movies, and I’d think: “God, I could do that. I’d love to do that. How do I do that?” It was a window to a world that seemed so far away, and now I understand that it’s not far away, and it’s just a job and here I am and I’m having a great time. I’m not a famous celebrity of any kind. I’m a guy from Edmonton who’s got a great job and I’m loving it.
Q: How do you feel about the comparisons to Harrison Ford?
A: That might be because I steal from him constantly. People say: “Is that a homage to Harrison Ford?” And I say: “Not so much a homage as it is a direct copy, but thank you.” I love his work and I’m a fan.
Q: Do you have any kind of philosophy or approach to your work?
A: Somebody once said that you can never act and be another person; you’re only acting facets of yourself. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I look at a role and I think I basically boil it down to: What would I do, had I experienced those things. How would I react? I know what I would say, but how would it make me feel? I lean very heavily on that approach. So I relate to those characters – and any character I play – in as much as I put myself in their positions and feel how I would personally deal with their experiences.
Q: What are your goals in general as an actor?
A: I have already had such an incredible ride since leaving Edmonton. It’s a rollercoaster for sure, and I don’t know where it’s going but I’m enjoying it the whole time. I’m fortunate enough that every job I do seems to be, at the very least, teaching me something fantastic. I make new friends. I work with talented people. And each project and experience seems to be better than the last. I seem to be topping myself all the time. I think to myself: “It can’t get better, it can’t get better…” And then something happens that makes me feel like I’m truly richer for the experience.
Q: What are your interests outside acting?
A: My friends and my family, I like to see movies. I live in Los Angeles and I like to do a lot of hiking. I live a very relaxed life. I think that acting can be a very pressurized existence. So when I’m not working, I spend very loose and un-pressurized time and I like to meet people who have a similar attitude. I also have a cat. I’m not a cat-person, but she came with the house that I’m renting. I was told she was 18 when I moved in, so I thought: “How long can she possibly last?” And that was six years ago! I don’t know how many hundreds of dollars worth of bump removals, teeth removals, cleanings and vet fees I’ve been through since then. But of course I love her and she’s worth it.