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August 2005
Serenity: An Interview with Gina Torres

Serenity: An Interview with Gina Torres

By Wilson Morales

Since the days of Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton, we haven't had too many strong female sci-fi characters on the big screen. Most recently, we saw Sanaa Lathan kick some butt in "Alien Vs. Predator", but aside from that, not many characters have stood out. Well, thanks to Joss Whedon, the creator of the TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel, the cancelled TV show Firefly is coming to the big screen under the title "Serenity" and one of the main characters of the show/ film is ZoŽ Warren, played by Gina Torres. Zoe is a fierce fighter and second-in-command aboard the ship. Torres was last seen in the last two sequels to the Matrix franchise playing Cas, the wife of Harold Pirreneau's character. Torres was recently at the 2005 San Diego Comic Con to promote "Serenity" and spoke to blackfilm.com about her character Zoe as well as working with her husband Laurence Fishburne on her next film.

For those who may not know that "Serenity" is based on the cancelled TV series, Firefly, what role do you play?

Gina Torres: I play Zoe Washburn, who is the captain's right hand on the Serenity firefly craft, a spaceship. I also happened to be married to the pilot, played by Alan Tudyk (I Robot).

How different will your character be from what was seen on TV?

Gina: She's the same chick. (Laughs).

Did Joss (Whedon, the director) make Zoe tougher in any way or was there any change to her personality?

Gina: No. It's a continuation of where we left off. It's a continuation of the stories. So basically all of the characters are in tact. All of the characters that you came to know and love are all present and are who they are. Circumstances determine certain reactions that we have. Circumstances that are particular to the storyline and so, stakes are very high and therefore we have to react in an appropriate manner.

It's very rare that a cancelled show makes it to the big screen, especially a show that only lasted 11 episodes. Were you surprised when you heard that Joss was making a film out of the show?

Gina: Absolutely. I wasn't surprised that Joss could pull it off. He could pretty do anything that he puts his mind into; but it was an extraordinary thing for me and everyone involved to have a studio do the first film.

Joss has a flare for creating very strong female characters such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What do you think you have added to Zoe? Is there a little bit of her in you?

Gina: Yeah. There's a little bit of me in everybody that I play. Zoe was quite drawn in a way that was both very specific and left a lot for me to fill in. I certainly think that we share a sarcastic wit. That was cool.

Having done two of the "Matrix" films as well as your role in this film, would you say that you have a passion for the sci-fi genre?

Gina: No. It's just worked out that way. (Laughs). I like good movies. Not to say that there aren't wonderful sci-fi films out there, but it's not where I go first. It's not where I go first in the rental aisle I should say.

One of the things that's an interesting of the show/film is the western aspect of it. What do you make of it?

Gina: I thought it was great. I thought it was so smart. It's a really wonderful departure from a sci-fi world that we have come to be comfortable with and familiar with; typically speaking, the Star Trek world, the Stargate world, where there's sort of a cleanliness and neatness about it regardless of whatever trouble they may get into at some particular point. The future has both. The future has both gritty and savage and clean and "techno-hip". I think it's a very realistic point of view.

There seems to be a fascination with Hollywood to either put a female in a distressing view or in leadership position such as Ripley from "Aliens".

Gina: Yes, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot in the middle. Here's the thing. Once given an opportunity, we absolutely show and in many cases surpass many people's expectations of what a woman in charge can do. As long as it's cast well, and as long as the right woman is in the role and we feel we can follow that woman anywhere, then there's no problem. Sanaa had an authority. Sigourney (Weaver) had an authority. Linda Hamilton (from The Terminator) had an authority that was indisputable, and I'm told that I have some of that as well. I'm very excited about seeing Geena Davis in her next show, "Commander-in-Chief". I think it's exciting. I think it's wonderful. We are capable of a great many things and to portray or see that on the big screen, it's not a lie or a fantasy. It's just showing another aspect of what is very real.

In the film, there doesn't seem to be a lot of interaction between you and Alan Tudyk's character. Do you think fans will be upset by this?

Gina: I think there was so to accomplish in terms of pleasing people who are already coming to the table with a love for the show and introducing other people and also getting the story rolling that the focus had to be on the story and getting that story told; and sometimes things fall away. I think we tell a great story. I think we do a good job of bringing people into our world. Hopefully we will leave them wanting more and wanting to explore by buying the DVD and seeing where these people have been and getting more into their past.

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