Jewel Staite, star of Serenity, Firefly and Stargate: Atlantisrecently sat down to speak with Nathan Lai in preparation for Oz Comic Con. Hitting Adelaide 31st March and then Melbourne on June 30th & July 1st, tickets are still available on their website OzComicCon.com or at the door.
Nathan - Welcoming the illustrious Jewel Staite for the inaugural OZ Comic-Con in Adelaide in a few weeks time. Would this be your first time visiting our fair shores?
Jewel – It’s my first time to Adelaide, yes! So far I’ve been to Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, and Brisbane. I feel like after this trip I’m going to be an Australia aficionado.
With all your time and experience at these types of conventions – what would be your favourite and/or embarrassing moment at any con?
Oh, I’ve got plenty. I signed a woman’s boob once, and then she got my signature permanently tattooed there. She was worried I thought it would be creepy. Can’t imagine where she’d get that idea from.
Talking a little Firefly – can you define the unique Firefly experience, working with Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion and the whole cast and production?
How do you define something that changed your life? It was one of the best experiences of my career. Other projects have come close, but nothing will ever be like Firefly. For some reason, that cast just clicked right off the bat. I can honestly say those people are still some of my closest friends, and probably always will be. Seriously, I’ve been trying to shake them, and it’s just not gonna happen.
What would be the highlight during your Firefly Days?
We laughed a lot, I remember that. I don’t know how much film was wasted ruining takes just trying to get a laugh out of each other. Especially Nathan. He’s a bit of a clown, that guy. No one can make me laugh harder than him.
Playing the iconic role of everyone’s favourite bright eyed bubbly engineer Kaylee, is this a role you’d happily be synonymously associated with?
Absolutely! Kaylee’s kinda the best. She’s the nicest person in the world, so whenever people meet me, they’re usually crazy friendly and want to hug me all the time. I get total strangers embracing me in the street. Everyone wants to hug Kaylee for some reason.
For the role of Kaylee, you were asked to gain a little weight by Joss – was that a daunting factor, just part of an actor’s job or was it a joyous occasion with free license to indulge?
It was total joy for the first two weeks, and then I just wanted to lie down. I was nineteen at the time, so keeping weight on was a bit of a challenge. I literally had to eat all the time. It got to the point where I just didn’t crave anything anymore, and all I wanted was a detox. I was such a whiner. Now I’d give anything to be able to do that.
Speaking of indulgence, you’ve recently started a brilliant blog – happyopu.net – where did the name come from and what’s it all about?
Opu means tummy in Hawaii and I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid because my grandparents lived there. My grandma used to comment about people’s “happy opu’s”, which was a really nice way of saying they were fat. Happy Opu is about everything indulgent, food, wine, vacations, basically all the things that make me happy.
How did you get started blogging about your favourite indulgence and food obsession?
I’ve always loved writing, and I’ve always loved cooking and dining out, and I figured I might as well find a way to combine the two. Plus, keeping up a food blog is the best excuse to eat at amazing restaurants all the time. And you get to write off the bill!
Onto current projects, for those who don’t know – i.e. most people in Australia – can you describe your new project, The L.A Complex to fans and your role of Raquel on the show?
The L.A Complex is about a group of people living in the same apartment complex in Hollywood trying to make it in the entertainment industry. It’s a very real look at what goes on behind the scenes in achieving your dreams, and it isn’t all glitz and glamor, that’s for sure. Raquel is the oldest one living at the complex. She’s an actress who had a hit TV show when she was young, and she hasn’t been able to make it back up to the top since. She’s extremely cutthroat, street smart, cynical, and very dry, and she’ll do just about anything to get what she wants. And she always gets what she wants.
Can you relate more to Raquel than Kaylee?
Well, since I’ve never lived on a spaceship and I’ve been in Raquel’s shoes more than once, I’d say definitely. Raquel’s been in the business since she was a little kid, as have I, and we both have the same sarcastic sense of humour. But Raquel’s got a lot of baggage, and she’s ruthless in a way that gets her into a lot of trouble all the time.
Being previously similarly typecast with Sci-Fi roles on Firefly and Stargate – how did you approach the role of Raquel in The LA Complex?
I approach every role the same, regardless of genre. My job is to portray the character as real and as human as possible, no matter what the circumstances. My biggest challenge with Raquel was making her likeable, which was a little tough to do, considering how self centred she is. So I wanted to play the humour of that as much as possible, which hopefully worked.
Where do you see your character going and what are you excited for fans to see?
Raquel kind of goes off the deep end a little bit in season one. She’s at a breaking point, so the things she ends up doing to crawl her way back to the top are pretty juicy. I used to get cast as the bratty mouthy teenager all the time, and then for whatever reason that switched to “girl next door” for awhile. It’s been super fun for me to go back to playing the brat again. I haven’t had this much fun on a job in years.
One of the stranger facts I read somewhere is that you would proudly liken yourself to the fruit Durian. Can I ask – have you ever held, smelled, been in the presence of, or eaten a Durian? Do you know what you’re in for?
We had a few of those near our house in Maui when I was a kid, so I know all too well how awful those things can smell when they start to rot. In all honesty, I’m probably more of a pineapple. Prickly on the outside, but really quite sweet on the inside. Just don’t tell anybody.
Nathan Lai - Read his blog play.by.proxy.