Joss Whedon, creator of the highly successful "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" television shows, was caught off guard in 2002 when the Fox TV network cancelled his latest venture, "Firefly," after only 11 episodes. It was a particularly hard blow for Whedon, who cast "Firefly" with the intent of keeping it on the air at least as long as "Buffy" or "Angel," which lasted seven and five years, respectively.
Driven by his own desire to do right by his cast, Whedon pounded the pavement to find a way to bring the show back.
What he got was something bigger than he or anyone on the cast anticipated – the chance to bring "Firefly" back as a feature-length film through Universal Pictures.
Serenity is set in the "Firefly" universe, but Whedon wants to make it clear that it is not the TV show on a bigger scale.
"I worked for a long time to come up with something epic enough to be a Universal movie and not just a glorified episode of ‘Firefly.’ I wanted to make a movie that made me feel or made people feel the way I felt the first time I saw the first Star Wars."
It’s not necessary to be familiar with the "Firefly" series in order to understand the plot of Serenity, which revolves around a rag-tag group of space outlaws who discover that a passenger on their ship is harboring a secret that the existing government will do anything to hide.
The movie’s title comes from the name of the ship.
The entire cast of "Firefly" is back in Serenity and many believe Whedon
more than lived up to his promise to keep fighting for them.
"We’ve had a long ride back from a cancellation of a short-lived television series to the release of a major motion picture. I don’t know if there’s any other story equivalent to that in Hollywood history," says Adam Baldwin, a veteran of "Angel," who plays the wise-cracking, gun-toting Jayne.
Sean Maher, who plays Simon, hoped "Firefly" would continue, but he didn’t expect it to become a full-length movie for Universal.
"It’s extraordinary and it still surprises me to sit here today and talk about the movie. Now that it’s done and people are loving it, and it’s getting this wonderful response, it continually surprises me. It’s like we’re this little show that could," he says.
Nathan Fillion, who plays the ship’s captain, Mal, says re-creating the "Firefly" universe for the big screen was easy. "We had more time and more room to swing our arms. It didn’t feel like we had bit off too much. It felt real."
Gina Torres, who plays second-in-command, Zoe, says the larger format just felt right. "We didn’t have to meet anything that we hadn’t in some way, shape or form experienced in the series. It was all part of this world that we had come to know. In that way it was organic."
With the movie completed, Whedon and the cast must now wait for the box office receipts to roll in to see if they will return to serenity once more.
"It could potentially be something big, but come what may, we have closure on a very sad chapter of our lives when the show was cancelled. Now we have this movie that stands on its own and hopefully we’re all part of something special, and I think we are," Baldwin says.
Serenity releases in theaters Sept. 30.