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What Drives Nathan Fillion

What Drives Nathan Fillion (photo)

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Even if Nathan Fillion weren’t currently playing the eponymous mystery writer on the hit TV series “Castle,” the genre fans out there would surely know the charming Canadian actor from his work with cult-beloved producer Joss Whedon. Fillion had a pivotal role as a serial-killing priest in the final episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” captained both the ship and ensemble cast of space western “Firefly” (and its spin-off feature “Serenity”), and goofily played Neil Patrick Harris’ superhero nemesis in Whedon’s web musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.”

Fillion currently co-stars in writer-director James Mottern’s terrific desert drama “Trucker,” starring Michelle Monaghan in a career-launching performance as Diane Ford, a free-spirited (okay, promiscuous) big-rig driver who’s forced to watch over the 11-year-old son she all but abandoned to her ex. Fillion plays Diane’s drinking buddy Runner, one of the locals whose casual relationship with her proves complicated by the fact that he’s married. In support of the film, Fillion called me to talk about trucks, villains, Joss Whedon’s super-fans and the superhero franchise he’d like to reboot.

What’s the largest vehicle you’ve ever been behind the wheel of?

I had a Ford F-250. It was a big ol’ farm truck, but it wasn’t a rig. That’s about the biggest I’ve ever driven. That’s what I drove back and forth to high school. I was a poor guy, and it was a truck that my uncle owned and let me drive because I had no money. It was little compared to the thing Michelle [Monaghan] was driving around.

Runner’s relationship with Diane is unconventional, to say the least. Some people believe that men and women can’t be just friends when there’s any chemistry between them. Would you agree?

No, I don’t agree. I think when there’s chemistry, you know if there’s going to be some sort of compromising. You can know that. I like to think I’m able to draw the line. When it comes to married women, or if you’re in a relationship yourself, I try to keep myself out of situations that would force me to make decisions that could [lead] to trouble.

Michelle Monaghan’s been getting a lot of buzz for the role since the film premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Could you share any outside observations about her in this performance?

I’ll tell you what I really enjoy. We all go to the movies, we all watch television, we know what they’re about, how they work. When the main character is a cop or a spy, it’s very exciting, but I also very much enjoy when the main characters are nobodies — a trucker. Michelle’s as serious as a heart attack about her work. She’s just very, very natural. You don’t need to have a huge role to attack. She attacks what is seemingly a small character.

Your career has been a bit entrenched in the Cult of Joss Whedon. Have you had any bizarre encounters with Whedon’s super-fans?

Yeah, one or two. [laughs] One thing I can say about Joss’ fans is that they’re dedicated, passionate, intelligent and very excitable. If you go to a sci-fi convention and there’re 3,000 of them in a room, one of them is going to get a little riled up and ask you to take off your pants. I’m a pretty reasonable man. I don’t let things get too far out of hand. I try not to mix fans and booze. I keep a lid on things.

10132009_DrHorrible.jpgSpeaking of Whedon, the only villain I’ve known you to play was Caleb on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Do you feel you’re ever typecast as the nice guy?

Not in the least. If anything, I’m typecast as a guy who’s maybe not so nice. He’s the hero who’s the anti-hero, or you think he’s a nice guy but he’s an adulterer. I’ve played so many roles, like a man who is married who cheats on his wife.

Maybe it’s your even-keel disposition that gave me this perception.

I agree. That’s part of the trick. People don’t walk around acting like they’re the villain. The villain walks around acting like he’s the good guy. The villain always thinks the show is about him, he’s going to win. The villain doesn’t think he’s a villain.

I know you’re too busy with your own TV show to work on Whedon’s series “Dollhouse,” but if you had time, what kind of character do you think you’d play?

Well, I wouldn’t be a doll, because they’re all in really great shape. I would be some incredibly rich businessman who hires a bunch of dolls to be some kind of private army. Yeah, that would be me.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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