Fifteen years after its premiere, Firefly remains far more beloved than anyone could've possibly imagined. In 2002, Fox had no idea how to promote the quirky space western. The network showed the episodes out of order and some were never aired at all. There was nothing on television quite like Firefly and Fox pulled the plug without even giving the series a fair shot. Joss Whedon’s planned seven-season arc was whittled down to a mere fourteen episodes and not all of them even made it to TV.
Luckily, the show’s popularity increased dramatically with DVD sales and in 2005 Whedon was able to give the series a proper send off, in the form of a film, aptly titled Serenity. The movie was very well received and the show’s fan base is still exponentially growing, thanks to streaming services. Browncoats are loyal and they are legion.
For many of us, no matter what else these actors do, they will always be their Firefly counterparts, which speaks volumes about both their performances and Whedon’s writing. An incredible world built from the ground up and populated by fully realized characters, Firefly was given a bittersweet ending, but fans are still looking for more. Luckily, Dark Horse has released some excellent comics continuing the adventures of our favorite crew.
Let's see what the actors who played them are up to with Firefly: Where Are They Now?
15 Nathan Fillion – Malcolm Reynolds
Captain Malcolm Reynolds wasn’t a hero, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. Left beaten and broken by losing a war he wholeheartedly believed in, Mal found his skill set left him equally suited for life as an outlaw. Unable to leave the war behind, what he wanted most was to be left alone. Fortunately, Serenity’s crew made up for everything Mal had lost, piece by piece, slowly helping him to become whole once again – but if you tell anyone that, he swears by his pretty floral bonnet, he will end you.
Nathan Fillion auditioned for the part of Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but lost out to David Boreanaz. Since his first major starring role on Firefly, Fillion has become a bona fide star. He has had several notable TV appearances in shows as varied as Desperate Housewives, Lost and Modern Family. Fillion has also voiced Hal Jordan in multiple DC animated features and starred in the titular part of Castle on the NBC show for eight seasons.
Even still, many will always remember him best as the former sergeant who was aiming to misbehave.
14 Gina Torres – Zoë Washburne
Whether her friends were counting on second-in-command Zoë Alleyne Washburne for her sidearm or her acerbic wit, she never let them down. Easily the toughest crew member on Serenity, Zoë was also Mal’s closest confidant. Having fought a losing battle side by side, the two former soldiers had formed an indestructible bond. Zoë always had Mal’s back, but she also wasn’t afraid to stand up to him. She was fearless and would do anything to protect those closest to her.
Gina Torres has worked steadily since Firefly’s untimely cancelation. She has shown up in everything from Alias to Gossip Girl and has acted opposite her real life husband, Lawrence Fishburne, in another show that ended too soon, Hannibal.
Most recently, Torres had a recurring role on The Catch and plays Jessica Pearson on USA series, Suits. The show just began its seventh season and reportedly, the finale will also serve as a backdoor pilot for a spinoff starring Torres – fingers crossed!
13 Alan Tudyk – Hoban Washburne
Zoë ‘s devoted and loving husband, Hoban Washburne was Serenity’s unparalleled pilot. He got the crew out of countless jams right up until one of those jams got him killed – he was a leaf on the wind and we’re never getting over it!
Wash was probably the most laid back member of the crew and did his best to quell heated arguments. He was not only sincere, but his allegiance was unshakable. Despite clashing with Mal over his close relationship with Zoë, Wash’s loyalty never wavered. He may not have been a fighter, but he was incredibly brave.
Since Firefly, Alan Tudyk has continued to work primarily in television, but has done some film work as well. He may not have appeared on-screen in Rogue One, but he voiced beloved character K-2SO. Other notable voice work includes Green Arrow in Young Justice and King Candy in Wreck-It-Ralph. Recently, Tudyk showed up in the short-lived NBC show, Powerless.
Tudyk also created his own series, Con Man, which he wrote, directed and starred in.
12 Summer Glau – River Tam
Not only was River Tam a child prodigy, but she can kill you with her brain. Her happy life was disrupted when the Alliance attempted to turn her into a weapon. They succeeded, but with severe psychological repercussions for River. Despite the fact that her compromised mental health and frightening abilities made her a difficult traveling companion, she became part of Serenity’s family and as such, was both valued and protected at all costs.
Joss Whedon chose Summer Glau to play River after working with her on Angel – she has since appeared on Dollhouse as well. Her ballet training enabled her to approach fight scenes with a certain grace, making her a different kind of fighter.
Since Firefly ended, Glau has appeared in a long list of other shows, many of them in a similar genre. She was in the great, but short-lived Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles as well as another underrated sci-fi series, The 4400. These days, many fans know her as Isobel Rochev from Arrow.
11 Sean Maher – Simon Tam
Simon Tam risked everything to save his sister, River. He went from being an incredibly successful trauma surgeon to a wanted fugitive. No matter what was going on, Simon always put River’s well being ahead of everything else, including his own happiness. Luckily, what began as a seemingly poor choice of transport worked out in the best possible way. Simon was able to find both life and love aboard Serenity, as well as a safe harbor for his sister.
Sean Maher’s acting career has been sporadic since his portrayal of Simon Tam. He has appeared on some TV shows, and like many of the actors on this list, went on to work with Joss Whedon again.
Also, like other performers listed here, Maher voiced an iconic DC character in more than one of their animated features. He has lent his vocal talents to Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, in three films so far.
10 Adam Baldwin – Jayne Cobb
Jayne Cobb was definitely the most morally ambiguous member of Serenity’s crew. He only joined them in the first place because Mal made him a better offer than the criminals he was working with. For quite some time, Jayne was the one person aboard the ship that couldn’t be fully trusted. He tried to betray the crew on more than one occasion. However, the more time Jayne spent around this rag-tag group of smugglers, the more he came to regard them as friends, even family.
Before playing Jayne Cobb, Adam Baldwin had portrayed Animal Mother in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. By the time he boarded Serenity, he already had a very extensive television resume. After Firefly ended, Baldwin played another fan-favorite character when he landed the role of John Casey on the much-loved NBC series, Chuck, which ran from 2007-2012. Baldwin is still acting, most recently as XO Mike Slattery in TNT’s The Last Ship.
9 Jewel Staite – Kaylee Frye
If the crew of Serenity had a heart, it was Kaywinnet Lee Frye. The extraordinary engineer may be a bit on the naïve side, but she always looked for the best in people. She’s also a genius when it comes to ways of keeping Serenity in the air. Although Kaylee wasn’t the ship’s first mechanic, she quickly proved that she was the only woman for the job and the crew never looked back. For better or worse, they are a fairly jaded bunch and without Kaylee’s inexorable cheerfulness – and mechanical skills – they never would’ve survived.
Jewel Staite was no stranger to the world of television when she was cast in Firefly. She had been acting in TV shows since childhood and when Firefly ended, she continued to do just that. She has since had recurring roles on series such as the criminally underrated Wonderfalls, Stargate: Atlantis and The Killing. Like many of her former costars, she has appeared on Castle and continues to pop up on various TV shows.
8 Morena Baccarin – Inara Serra
Although some may have found Inara Serra’s profession offensive, there’s no denying that she was the classiest person aboard Serenity. In the world of Firefly, Inara’s job as a Companion made her the most well respected member of the crew. Inara wasn’t just beautiful and impeccably trained, though. She was also incredibly intelligent, witty, and not afraid of anyone, including Mal. Although the undeniable chemistry between the two was left unresolved by series end, their relationship has since evolved in the comics.
Inara Serra was Morena Baccarin’s first major role, but it wasn’t her last. Aside from voicing several animated DC characters, Baccarin has appeared in countless TV shows since Firefly ended. Her largest role up until a few years ago was Jessica Brody on Showtime’s Homeland. However, since then her career has been continually on the rise. She has had a recurring role as Leslie Thompkins on Gotham and played the character of Vanessa in Deadpool.
Baccarin is currently working on the Deadpool sequel, which is slated for release in June 1st, 2018.
7 Ron Glass – Shepherd Book
Derrial Book was the most mysterious person aboard Serenity. He is also the character whose story felt the most unfinished, even after the film. Luckily, a graphic novel, The Shepherd’s Tale shed some light on the life of Shepherd Book in 2010. However, you didn’t need to know the Shepherd’s backstory to love him. He was the lone representation of faith in a crew of people desperately in need of some.
Although he may not have been what he seemed, Shepherd Book became an integral part of the Serenity family and added a different perspective to the series.
Ron Glass was a veteran actor when he joined the cast of Firefly. Most well known for playing Detective Ron Harris in Barney Miller, Glass initially balked at the idea of taking on a sci-fi series, but the script completely won him over.
After Firefly’s cancelation, Glass continued his career as a prolific television actor, appearing in shows such as CSI and Agents of SHIELD. Sadly, the beloved actor died of respiratory failure last year at the age of seventy-one.
6 Christina Hendricks – Saffron
One of Firefly’s most memorable side characters would have to be Saffron, aka Bridget, aka Yolanda. Originally appearing as an innocent, submissive woman who Mal unwittingly and very drunkenly married on her home planet, Saffron was not what she seemed. She was a character made up by a brilliant con artist who actually planned on scrapping the ship to pirates and leaving everyone onboard to die – and yet Mal was still convinced to work with her when she reappeared. Luckily though, she wasn’t able to fool him twice.
Christina Hendricks has continued to appear in television and film, but is best known as Joan Holloway on AMC’s award-winning Mad Men. Hendricks has been busy since that series ended and has several films currently in production.
Look for her in the upcoming comedy Pottersville, and Strangers, a horror film. She will also reunite with Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner for his new anthology series, The Romanoffs. Her new show with Tim Roth, Tin Star, recently began streaming on Amazon.
5 Zac Efron – Young Simon
We only get a glimpse of young Simon Tam in the episode, “Safe”. There are flashbacks throughout the installment, giving insight into River and Simon’s lives before they fell apart. Sure, the character had less screen time than anyone else on this list, but the performance is noteworthy for being Zac Efron’s television debut.
Since then, Efron has become a household name, beginning with his lead part in High School Musical. He has appeared in a long list of films, such as Neighbors, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and most recently, Baywatch. In December, he can be seen in two major movies: The Disaster Artist, a James Franco directed film detailing the making of Tommy Wiseau's The Room, and The Greatest Showman, which was inspired by P.T. Barnum.
4 Mark Sheppard – Badger
Badger, a crook who fancied himself a businessman, only appeared in two episodes. He also showed up in the comic miniseries, Serenity: Those Left Behind. Interestingly, Joss Whedon wrote the character with the intention of playing him. Doing business with Badger never really went well for Serenity’s crew, but when you need a job, sometimes you don’t get to be picky.
Mark Sheppard is another actor with an incredibly extensive resume. Since his time on Firefly, he has been very busy, playing characters on everything from 24 to Battlestar Galactica. In more recent years, fans know him best as Crowley, the crossroads demon who became the King of Hell, on Supernatural.
What began as a fairly minor role evolved into a fan-favorite character, and viewers are still heartbroken over Sheppard’s recent departure. We’ll just have to wait and see how the series gets on without him when season 13 begins October 12th.
3 Richard Brooks – Jubal Early
“Objects in Space” was one of Firefly’s best episodes. Aside from writing and direction, this is due in large part to Jubal Early. Inspired by Boba Fett, Jubal was a bounty hunter intent on abducting River and trading her in for a large sum. He was an incredibly adept fighter who managed to basically take out the entire crew by himself. Jubal was clever and knew exactly how to best everyone on the ship, with attacks specifically tailored to each of them. Although by episode’s end he was left floating in space, Jubal returned for the miniseries, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind.
Despite his memorable turn on Firefly, Richard Brooks will always be best known as Paul Robinette, the Law and Order district attorney he played regularly for the show’s first three seasons – he has continued to appear as the character as recently as this year. Brooks can currently be seen on the BET series Being Mary Jane, which just concluded its 4th season.
2 David Krumholtz – Mr. Universe
In the novelization of Serenity it is revealed that Mr. Universe and Wash were actually classmates in flight school. Mr. Universe only appeared in the film and was a tech genius living the dream on a moon with his foxy love-bot. Although he betrayed his friends, he was also the only reason that they were able to broadcast the truth, so he came through in the end.
David Krumholtz is another actor that made a single, memorable appearance in the Firefly universe, but will probably always be thought of as the character he played on another show, Numb3rs. He portrayed Charlie Eppes for the entire series run from 2005-2010. However, before that he had already appeared on a long list of TV programs.
Krumholtz has since had a multi-episode arcs on shows such as The Good Wife and Mom, and can currently be found on HBO’s new series, The Deuce.
1 Chiwetel Ejiofor – The Operative
One of Joss Whedon’s many strong suits as a writer is crafting memorable, three-dimensional villains. Simply known as the Operative, this man wasn’t evil, but he was Serenity's main antagonist. He was doing his job and fighting for something he very much believed in, which is what made him such a great character. The Operative wasn’t a monster, but he was hunting for River and willing to kill anyone that stood between him and that goal.
Whedon may have written an excellent character, but it was Chiwetel Ejiofor who made him unforgettable. Ejiofor has since become one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors. Ejiofor won an Oscar for portraying Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave and played Mordo in Marvel's Doctor Strange.
He has several upcoming projects, including a role as Peter in Mary Magdalene, in which he will star alongside Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix. Ejiofor will also lend his voice to the villainous Scar in John Favreau’s reimagining of The Lion King, due out in 2019.
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