'Castle': Stephen J. Cannell (and Nathan Fillion) on Fillion, Novels and Napping
On Monday, May 17, in "A Deadly Game," the season-two finale of ABC's sophomore hit "Castle," legendary TV writer/producer -- and successful mystery novelist -- Stephen J. Cannell (in purple shirt in photo) makes his third appearance as himself and as part of the regular poker circle of fictional mystery novelist Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion, in photo at right), which also includes real novelists Michael Connelly and James Patterson (also as themselves).
"They're terrific," says Cannell, also a longtime friend and mentor of "Castle" executive producer and director Rob Bowman. "They're fun. They only take about three or four hours to do. I get to work with other great novelists, and I get to act with Nathan. It couldn't be more fun."
(BTW, the two might just work together on something else. Click here for details on their mutual interest in remaking "The Greatest American Hero.")
Asked what he likes about Fillion, Cannell says, "He has so many interesting qualities that you don't often find together. You often can get a good-looking leading man who can do humor, or you can get a good-looking leading man who can do action.
"But not only can he do both of those things, but he adds things that you would actually think would be unattractive, like arrogance. His character is arrogant. To pull off arrogance and make yourself lovable while you're doing it -- it's a lot harder than it looks."
In fact, Fillion does it so well, that he's not even sure he'd like Castle if he met him -- and he also has great sympathy for Castle's unofficial partner, NYPD Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic, on right with Fillion in photo below).
"I don't think," he says, "if Castle were a real guy, that I would hang out with him that much. He'd probably get on my nerves. His advantage is, for the audience, people get to see him at home. He's a pain in Beckett's side all the time, God bless her -- woman's tortured, tortured, tortured.
"People enjoy seeing someone get under someone else's skin like that."
In the critically acclaimed but short-lived Fox series "Firefly," Fillion played the brooding yet witty starship captain Malcolm Reynolds.
Asked what Reynolds might think of Castle, Fillion says, "Hah. He'd certainly punch him in the face a lot. But we get to watch Castle go home (to his mother and daughter), and that's where the show lands. We can forgive Castle a great deal of his antics and his behaviors, because we get to see what kinds of things actually do matter to him.
"We can all relate to that. I don't believe in being the supercool dude who's unfazeable and just on top of it and super-duper cool all the time. I believe in the guy who's not that cool. As cool as he thinks he is, he's not that cool.
"That's me -- only I'm aware of how uncool I am, how many times a day do I go, 'Shortcoming, yep, shortcoming.'"
Fillion is also very aware that he's not a novelist, but only plays one on TV. That goes double for the "Richard Castle" novels, which, despite the book-jacket photo, are not written by Fillion.
"I was approached in one bookstore," he says, "and they said, 'We only have three copies left, could you sign them?' 'Sure.'
"I always sign as Nathan Fillion, because that's the autograph I practiced since high school. If I were to sign 'Richard Castle,' it just wouldn't look right.
"He's probably got a very flourishy 'Nathan Fillion,'" says Cannell.
And, by the way, Cannell didn't write the books either.
"They do have these Castle books," he says, "and I blurbed the book. Everybody thinks that I wrote it, or that Michael Connelly wrote it, or that James Patterson wrote it. Of course. none of us did.
"But I think the guy who wrote the books did a really good job. It's a secret, because as we know, it's supposed to be written by Castle. I don't know that I'll ever get around to co-writing a book with Castle, but we'll see."
Fillion may not be a novelist, but he does have a talent aside from acting.
"I am the Napmaster 2000," he says. "It's a gift, napping. It doesn't really matter where. I once slept on a rock in the rain during a shoot. We had 15 minutes, it was a rock, it was raining, and I was out.
"Know what they used to do to me? I would fall asleep in the chair (on set). I'd wake up, and there'd be a Polaroid on my chest of me, right then, sleeping on my chair, but littered with empty pizza plates, toilet paper wrapped all around.
"They'd dress me all up, take the photo, clean me all up, leave the photo, and I'd be oblivious."
Click here for a Zap2it story I did with Cannell, talking about Fillion and the idea of him starring in a big-screen remake of "Greatest American Hero"