Nearly a decade has passed since Adam Baldwin played the hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne on FOX’s criminally short-lived “Firefly.”
Since that time, Baldwin hasn’t exactly been absent from the small screen. He was a regular on “The Inside” and “Day Break.” He did guest appearances on shows including “Angel” and “Stargate SG-1.” There was also that little five-season run as John Casey on “Chuck,” one of the few shows capable of giving “Firefly” a run when it comes to pure cult dedication.
But for all of those credits in the intervening years, there’s still something instantly and specifically pleasing about seeing ABC press stills of Baldwin sharing the frame with Nathan Fillion on this Monday’s (April 16) “Castle.”
In Monday’s episode, titled “Headhunters,” Baldwin plays a gritty detective named Ethan Slaughter. There aren’t many actors who can get away with playing a character named Detective Slaughter, but with Baldwin, it seems only fitting.
I chatted with Baldwin last week about reuniting with Fillion. I don’t think you’re going to be able to mistake the respect that exists between these two.
Click through for the full interview…
HitFix: So how much of what drew you to this part was wanting to work with Nathan again and how much was just wanting to play a character named “Detective Slaughter”?
Adam Baldwin: Yeah. “Detective Slaughter”! I had thought that maybe we could call him “Captain Slaughter” so that the tables would be even more turned on Nathan and he would have to call me “Captain” in this show, but it didn’t work out. So he’s just Detective Ethan Slaughter. But the opportunity to play opposite Nathan again was one of the more thrilling ideas that had been thrown my way, because I miss him so much whenever I’m not around him, even though I’ve had the opportunity to work with great people. It’s just that we had such a close family that was torn assunder back in ’02 — and of course then we got a little revival back in ’04 with a little movie — but just to be on-set with Nathan again and just have the laughs and the great professionalism and the good writing and the supporting cast was just a treat. It’s the way every show should be.
HitFix: Is it the sort of dynamic where it’s like no time has passed when you guys work together again? Or do “Firefly” and “Serenity” feel like ages ago?
Adam Baldwin: The first one. It’s like putting on an old, comfortable brown coat or a nice pair of comfortable combat boots. When you sit down in a car scene or just hang out on set with Nathan, it’s the same as it was, the same as it ever was, same as 10 years ago. He was leader then. He’s a leader now. He carries a show on his shoulders, but the thing I love about Nathan so much is that he wants the other actors to do well and he’s a very giving leader. So while our job as supporting actors for the main character, the title-role character, is to lift him up, he would lift us up or pull us up and push us up above his shoulders and make us funnier and make us better. That’s why anybody who knows Nathan or wants to work with Nathan just realizes that he’s one of the true gentleman and one of the most talented guys working in the business today. That’s why he’s so loved.
HitFix: And what is the dynamic like between Slaughter and Castle here?
Adam Baldwin: Slaughter thinks Castle’s a piece of crap, but he brings him into the fold and is using him for selfish reasons, not unlike Jayne would, but fortunately, Slaughter this time has more authority over Castle than Jayne did over Mal, so it was sweet revenge, sweet revenge for me to have Nathan under my thumb for a while.
HitFix: You’re just coming off a long run as part of a really close-knit ensemble on “Chuck.” What’s it like dropping in as a guest star on a different close-knit ensemble?
Adam Baldwin: Yeah, guest star work can be dicey, not knowing what the temperament or what the feel on a set is like that. But “Castle” is so welcoming and loving because it has, first of all, nice people, grizzled veterans on the crew, people I’ve worked worked with back on “X Files,” the first assistant director was the AD on “X Files” and there were other guys I’ve been working with for a couple of decades now. So for me to walk onto that set was like just walking onto “Chuck” or another show that I’ve been working on, because there were so many familiar faces. And then there was Nathan, with the laughs and his arm around my shoulder like, “This is my guy, this is my guy,” very welcoming, so that’s very helpful and comforting.
HitFix: You’ve talked about how things are the same when you and Nathan work together now. How are you guys different than you were in 2002?
Adam Baldwin: Well, we’re 10 years older and wiser. I think our choices are probably more grounded than they were then, being younger. I dunno. I’ve known him as a friend for 10 years, so that also plays into the dynamic. We’re not scared anymore, I think. That’s the main thing.
HitFix: Oh come on. I have a hard time imagining you scared. What were you scared of?
Adam Baldwin: Well, being unsure of where the show is going. On “Firefly,” we were on the chopping block from basically the get-go and that’s not the sense that we have now. “Castle” is an established show. I was on an established show for five years. There’s a comfort level that comes from that not feeling like… Although “Chuck” was a bubble show, there was still a lot of confidence that we would return. So it’s a confidence level that you have, I think.
HitFix: Obviously this show drew you in for a particular reason. What else are you looking for in terms of future guest appearances, other kinds of shows you might drop like to drop by? Or are you already looking for your next regular gig?
Adam Baldwin: Oh, I’m always looking for regular work. That’s always nice to have. Didn’t catch a pilot this year, but that’s not unlike other years, so that’s OK, too. It’s a different landscape, the television business these days. There’s less real estate available for newer shows and for scripted shows. So the key is to live below your means and not blow all your money. There’s one thing that I did that I can’t talk about yet, because it’s hopefully going to be something that’s a surprise. So, in the meantime, we punt…
HitFix: OK, then, what would the perfect Adam Baldwin vehicle be, do you think?
Adam Baldwin: I kinda like Ethan Slaughter. He’d be a perfect vehicle. That’s just the kinda character that I grew up on, the kinda character I love to play. He’s funny, but dangerous.
HitFix: And is this a guy who could return to “Castle,” do you figure?
Adam Baldwin: That’s above my pay grade. I would be honored if they asked me, but they have bigger fish to fry right now. They’re gonna finish up Season 4 and figure out Season 5 and I doubt that… Again, above my pay grade, but if they invited me back, I’d run there.
Adam Baldwin appears on Monday (April 16) night’s “Castle,” airing at 10 p.m. on ABC.