TV's Next Great Leading Man

Castle’s leading man Nathan Fillion on what he knows about the supersecret Star Trek film (and the Serenity sequel), why a Canadian can never be Captain America, and the highly-anticipated return of Dr. Horrible.

Castle’s leading man Nathan Fillion on what he knows about the supersecret Star Trek film (and the Serenity sequel), why a Canadian can never be Captain America, and the highly anticipated return of Dr. Horrible.

Nathan Fillion is poised to take flight as TV’s next great leading man. Fillion first endeared himself to sci-fi aficionados as the wisecracking Captain Reynolds in Joss Whedon’s Firefly (and follow-up film Serenity). He also proved he could sing last summer when he starred in web series smash Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Tonight, he debuts as the fast-and-loose Rick Castle (in ABC’s aptly titled new cop drama Castle), a famous mystery novelist even Fillion describes as a “brat.” When the murders he writes about begin happening in real life, sparks fly between Castle and NYPD detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), who is assigned to the case. The sexual tension that follows is hardly a mystery.

The 37-year-old Fillion gave The Daily Beast the dirt about Castle and Beckett’s impending hook-up, auditioning for Star Trek, and the highly anticipated return of Dr. Horrible.

In all honesty, this whole hero comic-book genre has proved to be such a phenomenal moneymaker that they’re obviously not going to hand over Captain America to me.

I’ve watched the pilot, and I have to say, Castle is very flirtatious. Would “womanizer” be too harsh?

Castle is constantly surrounded by women, and he’s super comfortable around women. He doesn’t have any father figures or male role models in his life. His mother lives with him, he’s a single dad to a 15-year-old daughter, and he’s been married twice. He’s forward and says what’s on his mind. 'Womanizer' kind of has a negative connotation that he purposefully breaks hearts, but that’s not him. He’s not a turd, he’s just a brat.

The writer-as-playboy figure is reminiscent of Californication.

I can see the comparison. I think that David Duchovny’s character is a little bit darker. He’s a little bit ruined and empty. Richard Castle isn’t tortured, he’s lighthearted. He makes friends, writes books, makes connections and then uses those friends. People like him wherever he goes. Most people.

But the will-they-or-won’t-they tension between Castle and Kate fuels the show. How long before they get under the covers?

You want me to tell you how it ends? Ah, I can’t do that! Castle’s been married twice before, and Kate Beckett has a history before Rick Castle ever met her, so other people will enter into the story and create romantic foils or turbulence for our two main characters.

Can we expect to see one murder solved each episode, or will viewers have to continue tuning in to follow the plot?

You’ll see a murder mystery that we solve in each episode, so you won’t have to turn in next week to see if we solve the case. But there are through-lines, certainly, that prevail. Certainly the relationships between characters develop and we learn more about them and they become more interesting and we invest. Each episode will be a standalone murder mystery.

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You voiced Col. Steve Trevor in a Wonder Woman cartoon released on DVD last week. Is there a superhero you’re gunning to play in the future?

I’m trying to remember which superheroes are left. In all honesty, this whole hero comic-book genre has proved to be such a phenomenal moneymaker that they’re obviously not going to hand over Captain America to me. They’re going to go with a big name. I’m Canadian so I don’t think they’ll ever give me Captain America. It’s like being president, you have to be American. There’s Aquaman, which, I don’t know if that will be a good movie, and there’s Green Lantern, but I don’t know who he would fight. I’m not sure there are many [superheroes] left. There’s a whole passel of mutants left over from the X-Men genre if someone wants to tell those stories.

Speaking of superheroes, Watchmen just had a monster opening weekend and Star Trek is on everyone’s radar this summer.

I’ve read Watchmen many times and I have the animated comic on my iPhone. It’s a great story, a fantastic story. Star Trek, I’m dying [waiting for it]. I auditioned for one of the roles in there and so did a lot of my friends. We all got together and did the scenes as we remembered them. You weren’t allowed to take the scenes when you left, they were under lock and key. So I went there, did the audition, and left empty-handed. Afterward my friends and I got together and did our audition scenes for each other, as we remembered them, and from that we could glean a sort of preview from the movie. It’s really, really good.

Your breakout role was Captain Malcolm Reynolds in the space western Firefly. You must have been devastated when it was canceled so quickly.

Firefly was the best time I had on a television program. I got my heart broken when it was canceled, but if it were never canceled it never would have given me Serenity [the follow-up film to Firefly], which was my very first opportunity to be a lead in a film. It’s hard to shake a stick at Firefly getting canceled. I would jump at an opportunity to do any kind of Firefly thing again. I go to these sci-fi events, like Dragon Con, Comic Con, and it’s so great to see a piece of work that you did and how it affects people so deeply, and that it moved them and affected their life in some way. That’s a gift that job has given to me.

Fans are so eager for a Serenity sequel that rumors keep returning even at the slightest mention.

Here’s what happens. I go to these conventions and I made a wry comment or joke about Serenity 2, and somebody told it to [creator Joss Whedon] to get his reaction. It upsets me a little bit that the reporter would intentionally rile the fans when what I said was obviously a joke. It gets into “he said this” and “he said that” and it’s almost like someone is trying to start a rift, and I don’t go for that.

What I need is the phone number of the guy who brought [my comment] to Joss. I just want his phone number to say “Hey, great real, be honest here. What are you trying to do?” He’s intentionally trying to rile something for, I don’t know, a story? It’s not even a story, he’s just trying to get something going.

Speaking of Whedon, next month the cast of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog will reunite for a screening at the PaleyFest. Any chance a sequel is in the works there?

If there’s going to be an announcement at the PaleyFest I’ll leave it for a surprise. I’m saying if there is going to be an announcement. No one’s told me anything.

That web series was a huge hit, especially considering it premiered during the writers’ strike.

People are well aware that times are hard right now and we are very fortunate to be working. ABC has cut back their orders for all the shows this spring season, so that’s a little bit frightening. I’m happy that in the middle of this turmoil, not only are we employed but also what I believe to be gainfully employed. I think Castle has legs and a future. It’s got a lot of the ingredients that make for a successful show.

Has the Internet changed the way people are telling stories?

The Internet purifies the system. You’re taking a lot of chefs out of the kitchen to tell the story as it’s intended. Finance people are always going to have a say in how their money is spent and will look at the numbers and see the return on their investment. All of a sudden the story is not being told as it originated. You look to the Internet and you have your distribution right there.

So, was it a coincidence you were Captain Hammer on Dr. Horrible and nicknamed Captain Tightpants on Firefly?

You know what, in my lifetime I hope to play many captains. The next is Captain Stubing [from The Love Boat] so I hope that works out.

Kara Cutruzzula is a culture reporter at The Daily Beast and recent graduate of UCLA.