As a journalist I am duty-bound to conduct interviews that aim for revelation, probing my subjects with deft questions that are supposed to push them beyond where they want to go. That’s how Oprah does it, that’s how I’m supposed to do it, but funk that.
I reached out to Jewel Staite, a globe-roaming gourmand and portrayer of both Kaylee Frye, the ever lovable mechanic on FIREFLY, and Jennifer Keller, the resident Doctor on STARGATE ATLANTIS, with the hope of having a fun conversation that I could share with you.
The following conversation does not contain revelations on the internal struggle of a suffering thespian, or a questionnaire inspired by Bernard Pivot; frankly I’m not that good at my job.
No, instead of that stuff we touch on brain eating, cheap wine, the ego of Nathan Fillion, shrimp pot pie, Muppets, the creepiness of shag carpeting, and Jewel’s plan for world domination.
And now without further delay, Jewel Staite…
So, you’ve been acting since you were 9 or 10. How are you so normal? Or is it all a clever ruse?
Jewel Staite: Sorry, did you just call me normal? That might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. I grew up with a mom who wouldn’t put up with any sort of diva-like behavior. She frightened me into being a well-adjusted person. Thanks, Mom.
I have become slightly addicted to late night re-runs of DA VINCI’S INQUEST, with Nicholas Campbell and Donnelly Rhodes (DANGER BAY!). You were on that for much of the first and some of the second season, and it seems like a role that was a key pivot point toward more mature projects. What was that experience like?
JS: I think that was the very first set I worked on where two of the lead actors were doing a love scene I had to walk in on. It was a very different change of pace from Disney and Nickelodeon, that’s for sure.
You’ve got the very wonderful blog, happyopu.net where you have revealed yourself to be a foodie and a wino, or rather, a wine connoisseur – I’m curious, does my preference for $5 bottles of Strawberry Hill “wine” make me a bad person or am I just keen on depriving myself?
JS: Sorry, I didn’t hear anything past “very wonderful”. Just kidding! Go ahead and drink your cheap wine. I’ve been known to down a glass of Yellowtail on the plane if that’s all they’ve got. But please do yourself a favor and make up for it with something expensive soon.
If one has the opportunity to saunter into a particularly fine restaurant, are they better off ordering from the menu or giving the Chef carte blanche?
JS: Carte blanche, always! Some of my favorite meals have been when I’ve trusted Chef to do what he does best. Plus, it feeds their ego when you let them do the deciding for you, and they really let loose most of the time. I like a loose chef.
There are stock questions like “What kind of weapon would you use in the middle of a zombie apocalypse?” and “What would you’re death row meal be?” that I could ask, but those are boring so let’s mix it up: What do you want on your plate if you’re on death row during a Reaver apocalypse?
JS: The lobster pot pie from Michael Mina’s at the Bellagio in Vegas, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. And maybe a Xanax.
I was at New York Comic Con this weekend (and so were you, but you know that), and I had a former pro wrestler call me “Big Daddy” and then give me an impromptu bear hug. What’s your weirdest con moment?
JS: Well, I signed someone’s back at New York Comic Con that they later had permanently tattooed on themselves, so I think I trump you, Big Daddy. Weirder than that, though, was when a very respectable-looking older lady asked me to sign her boob. And I said yes. If you’re reading this, I’ll never forget you, Crazy Lady! XO
You played Doctor Jennifer Keller on STARGATE ATLANTIS; does the medical jargon stay with you, and also, how’s your Mandarin? Do you know medical jargon in Mandarin?
JS: I know no medical jargon or Mandarin anymore. As soon as it’s out of my mouth and the scene’s done, I promptly allow my puny brain to forget it. I have been known to use the phrase, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a mechanic!”, however.
Has Nathan Fillion changed now that he has “cop show, screw-you” money?
JS: He hasn’t changed at all. But I have. I let him pick up the check more.
Being a part of the “Whedonverse” surely comes with perks; I imagine some typecasting drawbacks as well. Is it an overall joy or is it frustrating to be so strongly associated with Kaylee and FIREFLY?
JS: It’s totally an overall joy. Really. That show’s one of the things I’m most proud of being a part of. I adore being associated with it, and I love every single person on that cast like family. And that’s about as serious as I’m going to get in this interview.
What were your thoughts when you first read the script for FIREFLY, and how surprised were you when Joss got the band back together for SERENITY?
JS: When I first read it, I couldn’t believe my luck, honestly. And I think we were all stunned when Joss got that movie greenlit. That stuff just doesn’t happen very often. Plus, I was really relieved I was going to see Nathan again, because he owed me money.
So say AVENGERS makes a billion dollars, and Joss gets a greenlight for SERENITY 2. Is he touring the country, going from set to set like Kermit the Frog trying to track down stray Muppets or are you on his doorstep in full ragamuffin attire the next day?
JS: Who you calling a ragamuffin? Seriously, this Muppet would be there in a heart beat. Wait – which muppet do I get to be? Can I be Gonzo?
What can you tell me about THE PACT?
JS: THE PACT was a short I did last year for a friend of a friend that ended up getting into Sundance. It’s dark and moody and super creepy. Because it has a lot of shag carpeting in it.
How are you not like Kaylee Frye, how are you better than her, and how is she maybe better than you?
JS: She’s overall a better human being than me. She’s sweet and lovely and wide-eyed and wears her heart on her sleeve. I just wear my liver on my sleeve.
DOOMSDAY PROPHECY seems like one of those, “make a bag of microwave popcorn, Saturday afternoon on the couch, fun disaster movies“. What do you say to those who get a bee in their bonnet and think that Syfy originals are an affront to mankind and puppies?
JS: Those people are the kind of people that don’t believe in having cable because it’ll turn your brain to mush. Well, sometimes a mushy brain is exactly what we need on a Saturday night. I love movies I get to check out on. Not every movie needs to be flippin’ PRECIOUS.
We can’t avoid it – you ate brains on SUPERNATURAL. Now, you’re a bit of a food gangsta, would you find your inner Bourdain/Lector and eat a (non-human) sautéed brain of some kind?
JS: What makes you think I haven’t already…?
It seemed like Kaylee’s favorite place was her hammock (which I understand you stole, thief). What’s yours, geographically and I suppose spiritually?
JS: Listen, that thing was given to me, I swear. You want to talk about being a thief, talk to Fillion. He’s got boxes of stuff he stole from that set, and the irony that he’s playing a guy who helps cops right now is not lost on me. But I digress. My favorite place is Maui. I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid, so that’s my recharge the old batteries place. One of these days I’m going to pull a Woody Harrelson and just move there permanently and become a beach bum and wear hemp and grow dreads. Okay, maybe not the dreads part. And that hemp’ll be Chanel.
JS: Same thing I do everyday. Try and take over the world.