The Asian influences in "Firefly" carry over to "Serenity." "Joss feels like if you were to look at the world like a giant cultural pie, Asia is very important and that if you were to advance civilization by 500 years, that's going to be the predominant culture," says Peristere. "It's looking at what scientists and sociologists are forecasting and putting that into this world. Also it's pretty, intricate and beautiful, the art and culture. It brings a nice sort of tone to the space that we're in."
Whedon stresses, however, that "Serenity" is less about visuals than character -- and what the actors playing them can do. "What Summer Glau can do with her feet, money can't buy," he says, referencing the ballet-trained actress' transformation into the lethal fighting machine that is the telepathic River Tam.
"I was used to training and going to the gym, but this is completely different muscle memory. I had to completely retrain my body, and it took three months, all day, every day," says Glau, who did all but two sequences herself. "But all the swords and blade work, the guns and the daggers, I did myself. I felt every punch and kick," she notes.
Her co-stars trained too, albeit less intensively than Glau, in what Fillion says the cast affectionately called "Fight Like a Girl Club." "I'd be done and Summer was still there, fighting against nine guys," he says admiringly.
Weapons were another major part of the action mix. "They weren't sure who would be shooting what so they had us get familiar with everything that could possibly work its way into the script," says Sean Maher, who plays Dr. Simon Tam. Jewel Staite (ship's mechanic Kaylee) adds, "This one gun was so heavy that every time I shot, it would ricochet and I'd get burns all over my legs." Baccarin had to learn archery for the movie. "I really took to it. But when the time came to shoot, they were like, 'all right, let's clear the set.' Everybody put on goggles and hard hats. But they gave me an X to hit, and I hit it every time."
Reprising their roles took less effort. "We'd already established these characters and relationships," notes Gina Torres, who plays Zoe. "For me, the hard thing was getting into those damn pants."
Incidentally, all the costumes were remade for the movie. "This time my pants had pockets, which they didn't in the series. I had a place to put my script sides," says Fillion, who relishes playing the darker side of Malcolm. "He's a cranky, mean guy but I like him because he fights all the time -- fights he knows he's not going to win. He doesn't fight knowing he's the champion and is going to kick everybody's a**. He fights because he's got anger inside him and he needs an outlet."
He and his co-stars stayed in close touch since the end of "Firefly," and appreciated the chance to reunite and finish what they'd started. "We got canceled so quickly that there was no closure, so being able to play these characters again felt very gratifying," explains Staite.
Next, we'll look at plans for the future of "Serenity."