NEW YORK — In the much lauded film “Waitress,” opening Wednesday, Keri Russell’s character, Jenna, a particularly talented baker, treats audiences to a visual orgy of her mouthwatering desserts, complete with cheeky names like “Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie.” It’s ironic, then, to learn that her co-star, Nathan Fillion, doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth.
“We weren’t a big dessert family,” explains the Canadian actor. “There’s a story we all laugh about: We were having dinner, relatives over, and I was very young. Someone asked me if I would like any pie. And I said, ‘What’s pie?'”
He’s certainly familiar with the concoction now. In “Waitress,” written and directed by the late Adrienne Shelly, Fillion plays Dr. Pommater, new in town, who Jenna starts seeing when she becomes pregnant with her abusive husband Earl’s child. “What I love about this film is it’s certainly not a woman’s piece. Initially I thought it was leaning towards pregnancy, motherhood, things that maybe I can’t relate to so well, but it turned out to be about people making decisions to try to be happy,” says Fillion.
The quirky romantic comedy might seem a departure for Fillion. He is perhaps best known for his science fiction and thriller-esque work, particularly his projects with Joss Whedon such as “Serenity” and the cult TV series “Firefly.” But the actor insists his earlier soap opera and comedy credits attest to his diverse tastes.
“There’s certainly something to be said for, ‘Well, today I get to blow up four magazines with this machine gun; today’s a spaceship day.’ There’s certainly some action and fun to be had there and that satisfies the little boy in you,” admits Fillion. “But where I find my satisfaction, my happiness, is in telling good stories.”
Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Fillion is the son of two high school English teachers. As a boy, he was a comic book geek, meticulously cataloguing them on his own rotating rack.
His mother encouraged him to go out for high school musicals, an experience that led to local improv theater work and roles in two plays in Edmonton’s Fringe Festival. Fillion went on to study at the University of Alberta, with plans of becoming a high school drama and arts teacher. But four months shy of graduating, he landed a soap opera role and hasn’t looked back since. Luckily so.
This story first appeared in the May 1, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I nearly failed one class and it was bringing down my GPA. I was going to have to retake that course, maybe blow my summer, and I thought, ‘What am I gonna do?'” he recalls. “The phone rings. Three weeks later I’m living in New York City. Problem solved.”