"We're still flying."
Those words have become the rallying cry for Firefly fans who have kept the memory of the Joss Whedon sci-fi western alive for a decade after it went off the air. For its 10-year anniversary, Whedon and cast members Nathan Fillion (Capt. Malcolm Reynolds), Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb), Summer Glau (River Tam), Sean Maher (Simon Tam) and Alan Tudyk (Hoban "Wash" Washburne) reunited at a Comic-Con panel in San Diego before thousands of screaming fans.
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The intense fandom eventually drove a major motion picture, Serenity, to be made as the final live-action chapter of the Firefly story. Mal & Co. also still live on in Dark Horse Comics' graphic novels. Science Channel will air a marathon of the series followed by the premiere of the anniversary special Browncoats Unite, exploring the Firefly phenomenon, on Sunday, Nov. 11.
Check out these nine shiny highlights of the reunion panel:
1. Firefly isn't really dead. Fillion said, "When Firefly died, I thought it was the worst thing that could possibly happen. What I realize now, 10 years later, looking out on this room, is that the worst thing that could have happened was if it had stayed dead. That it died was OK."
2. Thank Whedon for Capt. Tightpants. "Firefly was a lot of firsts for me," said Fillion. "No one would give me a chance to be anything other than No. 5 Guy or the lead girl's ex ... 'He's good, but we don't know if he could carry a show.' ... Joss Whedon was the guy who gave me the best character I've ever played."
3. A leaf caught in Fillion's wind. Tudyk says that his co-star was a captain behind the scenes as well and set the tone early on. "Right in the beginning, Nathan came up to all the actors and he says, 'We're going to be learning everyone's names; it's a contest. His name's Jim. His name's Alan. His name's Brian. Alright? And I'm winning!' And he took off. That brought everybody together. I was like, 'Uh, hi, Brian.' It brought us together as a family."
4. Baldwin goes to bat for Jayne's hat. Baldwin said, "One of the women in the office knitted a couple [hats]... And I made a conscious choice and talked with Tim [Minear]. 'Since this is the last episode we shot, Tim, can I wear it pretty much throughout the whole episode?' He's like, 'Uh, I don't know. Maybe that's a little --' I said, 'I'm doing it! Joss isn't here; I'm doing it.' ... Doings. I always liked to have doings. Jayne was a man of few words, but he had a lot of props, so I worked really hard with the prop guys. This hat, this is a goldmine, this is like a birthday cake in a wasteland."
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5. How Glau dipped into River. The actress accessed that strange part inside herself by "remembering myself at 17, which was like two years before," she admitted. Whedon gave her more credit. "Summer is so crazy!" he said. "The amount of vulnerability and strength that she can convey is beyond magnetic. I look at her, and i think, 'I will come with her if I want to live!'"
6. Fox's least favorite fan art. Tudyk explained the origins of a painting in Whedon's home. "My sister is an artist and when we were canceled, I asked her to make a painting," he said. "I commissioned her to do this painting of Joss protecting a firefly in a jar from some evil Fox executives."
7. Let's put on a show! Whedon thinks it'd be fun to do a Firefly radio show, and the cast immediately began performing a farce in which Mal hits on Zoe. Later, Maher/Simon diagnosed the captain, saying, "I think you might have a fever," to which Fillion/Mal replied, "A fever? And the cure is more Firefly!"
8. Wash lives! If Whedon had known Season 1 would be Firefly's only season, he would have written the finale differently, and it would have diverged a lot from the big-screen Serenity. "If I absolutely knew that that was the end of the show, I don't think I would have killed anybody," he said, as Tudyk raised his fists to the crowd's cheers. (Spoiler alert: Wash dies in Serenity.) "A film is a different animal and has different needs. And I think we would have delved more heavily into the Blue Sun conspiracy aspect of it, which we had to drop for the movie, which I was sorry about. And we would have learned about Book and we would have learned about Inara."
9. We're still flying in Whedon's 'verse. Whedon got choked up after the moderator asked what the Firefly fans mean to him. After the crowd's encouraging cheers died down, he said, "When you're telling a story, you're trying to connect to people in a particular way ... The way in which you guys have inhabited this world, this universe, has made you part of it, part of the story. You are living in Firefly. When I see you guys, I don't think the show is off the air. I don't think there's a show; I think that's what the world is like. ... The story is our lives."
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