Morena Baccarin: Inara Off Broadway
Sexy and talented Morena Baccarin played high-class call girl/ambassador Inara in the popular Sci-Fi TV series "Firefly". With Brazil in her blood, the young actress looks like a more exotic version of Ashley Judd. Her mom is a well-known South American actress but Morena claims that it was her own decision to attend the LaGuardia School of Performing Arts in New York and then Julliard where her beauty graced the stage in many classical plays.
A few years ago, Morena played Rebecca, a struggling actress, in the ensemble dramady Way Off Broadway. The film festival winner is finally getting a wider release on March 18th and we caught up with Morena in L.A. to chat about that role and her much-anticipated upcoming bigscreen part as Inara in the movie spin-off of the "Firefly" series Serenity. This girl is warm, friendly and puts off a great welcoming vibe.
TeenHollywood: How close is your character Rebecca's struggle to your own in the beginning as a new actress? Were you ever treated that badly at auditions?
Morena: I wasn't at the time but I have been since. I'm exaggerating. I've had the typical actor struggle at auditions where you're frustrated to get your work done and people aren't receptive or they're on their phone or they're asking you to do things that aren't appropriate but I've never been hit on, to my knowledge anyway. I got Way Off Broadway while I was still in school and at that time I hadn't quite struggled. But I had an idea of what it was like growing up with an artistic family. I've been at the place where you say 'God, when is my break coming?'
TeenHollywood: Your mom is a famous actress in Brazil. Did she help you get started?
Morena: No. It just sort of happened on my own. She never said anything or pushed me in any way. I auditioned for La Guardia High School of Performing Arts and really liked the school and I realized really soon that that's what I wanted to do with my life.
TeenHollywood: But, you didn't always know, right?
Morena: It's so interesting. I used to be painfully shy. When I was in elementary school, we did plays and I was always like 'please give me the smallest part'. At the same time, I really enjoyed it once I was doing it. Then, somehow, in high school, I guess you kind of blossom. Something happened and I really started to love it. I think it was the difference in being in a class full of actors as opposed to being in a school just doing a school play. Studying the craft of it was really interesting to me.
TeenHollywood: You did a lot of famous classical plays while at Julliard and after.. any desire to return to the stage?
Morena: Absolutely. Every day I think about it. I'll do it for sure.
TeenHollywood: Who did you play in the movie Roger Dodger?
Morena: It was a small part. Toward the beginning of the movie I'm with a group and my boss and I go to the bar to get a drink and he just starts giving me his theory on who I am and I just want to throw my drink in his face. It was funny.
TeenHollywood: Did you ever have a group of close school friends like those in Way Off Broadway?
Morena: I never did. I've always had like one or two really close friends and I've stuck with them for a couple of years. That's been my thing. I still have my friends from high school. Out here in L.A., I seem to be having new groups. This is a city that you really need your friends in. They become a little community.TeenHollywood: Did you ever have them over to watch your first five second part on TV like Rebecca does?
Morena: (laughs) I was lucky enough, my first thing on TV, I was in a TV show (not just a walk on). But, I did have them over and it was fun.
TeenHollywood: Do you have a good friend on whose shoulder you can cry when things go terribly wrong?
Morena: Absolutely. When I'm feeling down about things, I have definitely a couple of girlfriends that I run to, that I know will always be there and that's really great. And I know I can also lean on my mom because she's really familiar with the business. She knows what I go through.
TeenHollywood: What's the best advice You've ever gotten and who gave it to you?
Morena: It was from a friend of my mom's. I was probably ten years old. She said to me, 'do not be afraid to say 'no', in anything in your life'. That will come a lot with guys, in work, just don't be afraid to say 'no'. Sometimes, it's more difficult to say no than yes to something.
TeenHollywood: Among your friends, were you the peacemaker or the jokester or the mom figure or what?
Morena: I think I'm more of a mom figure. I'm sort of a nurturer. I love to cook. I'm always making dinner for everybody.
TeenHollywood: Worst date story? Anybody as full of himself as that pompous actor Rebecca dated once in the movie?
Morena: That was so funny. I remember, when I was younger and I was going on one of my first dates, I was with this guy and we went to school together and he asked me out finally and I really liked him. At that point, I don't think I'd even had a first kiss. It was so cold outside in New York City and this guy could not think of a thing to do. We kept walking around. I swear I walked for five hours. We were talking. I was trying to be polite but I've since learned my lesson. I'm polite but I'm not afraid to voice my opinions. We walked for five hours and I got the worst cold I've ever had and I never wanted to speak to him again. That was painful.
TeenHollywood: What was the worst job you ever had as a struggling actress? Rebecca works in a bookstore..not so bad.
Morena: I've babysat. And I was a hostess at a restaurant and that was pretty bad. The owner was so annoying and mean. I was constantly getting ordered around by his friends who would eat there for free. That job lasted only a couple of months.
TeenHollywood: What is more satisfying for you, a small character-driven film like "Broadway" or the big Serenity with effects etc.? Or do you feel that Serenity is also very character-driven.
Morena: Serenity is also very character-driven. That's the quality of work that Joss (Whedon) does which is really incredible. Every character has a thing that they are doing. And, that's tough. He's got a movie with nine people and he's got to tell nine stories. He did the best he could. If there are sequels, we'll learn more and more about each character. But Way Off Broadway is a little more concentrated because it's a smaller scale, smaller story, less characters and they are all intertwined with each other. They're different in their own genres. I've enjoyed both.
TeenHollywood: What will be different for Inara in the feature film? Can you give us any hints of your arc in the story?
Morena: She's definitely in a different place in her life than in the series or where the series left off. She's heading towards some really big changes. It's really, really cool.
TeenHollywood: Will she get more involved in the action part?
Morena: Yeah, she will. It was fun.
TeenHollywood: What music do you like to listen to?
Morena: I love David Bowie. He's an all time favorite. I love this guy called M. Ward, he's new and Kings of Convenience I really enjoy. Devochoska, (I think that's how you spell it, she says).
TeenHollywood: Do you sing or play an instrument?
Morena: I don't sing. I can't sing to save my life. I don't play any instruments. I'm not very musically-oriented but I do enjoy listening to music and singing in the shower where nobody can hear me.
TeenHollywood: What qualities does a guy have to have if you are going to go out with him?
Morena: Well, somebody with initiative (not walking around for five hours with nothing to do). I enjoy people who know who they are and know what they want and are not wishy-washy or going to not be clear or be themselves because they want you to like them. I really enjoy confidence; somebody who is just who they are.
TeenHollywood: Can you give us a hit about the costuming in Serenity. Are you going to look even hotter?
Morena: (laughs) Let's just say there will be more belly showing.
TeenHollywood: Anything you would like to say to your fans about Serenity or about Way Off Broadway?
Morena: They're both very different but I think different is good. I don't think that people who are fans of "Firefly" should be wary of going to see Way Off Broadway because both of those are human stories. Everybody will be able to identify with both. Vice versa too. If you're not really into sci-fi, I think a lot of people surprise themselves and became sci-fi fans because of the way Joss writes. You can identify with it. I also want to thank all the fans because they have been incredible. People have really shown their colors. I'm utterly humbled by it. Very loyal fans.
TeenHollywood: What's up next for you? Is Serenity finished?
Morena: Yeah. We finished. I'm still doing some post production, some ADR (voice recording) stuff. I've just been working on a cartoon called "The Justice League". I'm Black Canary. It's for TV on the Cartoon Network. It's my first time doing that. It's really fun.
TeenHollywood: Are any of the other voice actors ever in the room with you?
Morena: Sometimes the actors are there and other times I've had to do it on my own and it's okay. They're just read me the lines and you're reacting vocally anyway. You can hear your voice.
So, bye for now. See you at the Serenity press day!
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.