overthinking the idiot box

October 3, 2005

"I'm a tough guy, what are you going to do?"
Interview: Adam Baldwin, Part Two
by Alison Veneto

Two weeks ago, Adam Baldwin talked about his film Serenity and the TV show on which it's based - Firefly. The film is currently in theaters and hopefully you've seen it about a hundred times by now. But Adam's long history in the industry, on television and in science fiction is also certainly worth chatting about.

The Industry
Adam Baldwin has the kind of insight into the industry and the craft that only someone who has been a 'working class' actor for 25 years could have. He summarizes his rather inspirational philosophy, "Well the mistake that people make is to look at it as highs and lows and it isn't that at all, it's lefts and rights, zigs and zags along the path."

Adam's career has zigged and zagged in several directions. He's done everything from play a very memorable role in a Kubrick film to a number of TV shows, cancelled or otherwise. But his philosophy is very sound: "So for people to fixate on highs and lows that gets into better than worse than and I don't play that game. It's really a waste of time. Yeah, there are disappointments sure and road blocks along the way so the challenge is to — I come back to that analogy of a forest path or a jungle path and if the tree falls on the path what do you do? Do you just stop? No. You climb over it, you keep going. So that's kind of how I try to approach life. Because otherwise you just beat yourself up all the time and that's self defeating and...it's really a waste of time."

You know, Eddie Murphy once — he tried to break out into dramas and they didn't do as well and he went back to comedies and was successful. And he made that conscious choice. It's a living, it's a job.
If you've seen Adam in anything from My Bodyguard to Serenity, you may have noticed that he's playing a tough guy. Does he feel type cast in these tough guy roles? "I'm a tough guy, what are you going to do? I'm not going to fight against it. You know, Eddie Murphy once — he tried to break out into dramas and they didn't do as well and he went back to comedies and was successful. And he made that conscious choice. It's a living, it's a job. That's the way I try to approach it. If I'm to be typecast and continue working — so be it."

Most of Adam's fans became his fans after watching him on one or a number of awesome science fiction TV shows. And he does enjoy the genre, "I like science fiction fine yeah. It's been very good to me. And the people I've been lucky enough to work with have been just wonderful fun from Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich in Independence Day and The Visitor — all the way up through Joss Whedon here and Firefly and Serenity."

When asked about his favorite sci-fi show, he goes with a classic, "I liked the Twilight Zone."

Adam first started getting a raving fanbase of his own after appearing on the hit television show The X-Files. He played Knowle Rohrer, an old friend of John Doggett's (played by Robert Patrick).

I asked him if he was nervous entering such a successful Show late in it's run, "Nervous, no. They seemed to have enough confidence in me to hire me so that helped me a lot. I wasn't nervous. I enjoyed very much working on a legendary show at the end of its run. It was an honor."

Now, not to spoil a plot point, but if you haven't watched the last couple of seasons of X-Files by now, you're probably not going to. But Adam's character turns out to be a super soldier, not something he was aware of when he signed on, "they sprung it on me later."

On Angel, Adam was once again asked to play a pivotal role near the end of a fantastic series. He says, "I felt honored to have been given a vote of confidence by Joss to enter that world and to take on a role that stood up to an icon really of a main character in Angel." Baldwin played Marcus Hamilton, a liaison for the senior partners in the law firm Angel administrated. And he got to wear a very nice suit. He also had super human powers, a trait that helped him in his confrontations with Angel, and with some of the other, less physically intimidating characters. "I was glad that I didn't hurt Amy [Acker] too bad when I flipped her to the floor... I just pretended to be strong. And I relied on the wires and the special effects guys." However, he definitely enjoyed the physical aspects of the character, "That was a good scene — that final fight scene with Angel. We put him on these wire rigs and we threw him all around, that was cool." It was a short but very memorable guest stint and Marcus Hamilton was certainly one of Angel's most dangerous opponents.

The Inside
On The Inside, Baldwin played Special Agent Danny Love — one of a team of investigators going after serial killers. It aired this last summer on FOX.

When I asked him about playing the wise cracking contrarian again he notes that "somebody has to be funny." The Inside was created by Tim Minear, a writer for Firefly and Angel. "I guess Tim and I were friends from Firefly and he felt that he wanted a wise cracking guy and perhaps that my comedy hasn't been seen enough out in the world so he gave me another try."

But unfortunately, we didn't get to know Danny all that well before the show's cancellation. "We didn't delve too far into the guy in the 13 episodes we did. There were other priorities up-front and other characters to take care of before we got to my story but fate stepped in."

Suit man
On The X-Files, Angel and The Inside, Adam was seen pretty exclusively in suits. But when I ask whether he considers himself a suit man: "No, not at all." He says about the roles he's played that "those characters weren't comfortable wearing suits. But I'm happy to if they're well tailored." He also notes that Jayne, his character in Firefly and Serenity is certainly not a suit guy.

Guest Star
Adam has also made appearances on other prominent sci-fi shows. Ok, one wasn't so prominent, but it was my favorite show of all time — VR.5 (which also starred Anthony Stewart Head of the Buffy (Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but not when Adam was on it). Baldwin starred in the pilot for the mid-90s show, going on a date gone wrong with the main character played by Lori Singer. He says, "VR.5 — That was strictly a one shot deal for me. I just thought it would be cool to play a character in white face and lipstick. I always wanted to do white face and lipstick." I won't try to explain that if you've never seen the show, but it's not what you think.

He also had a guest stint on The Sci-Fi Channel's Stargate TV show. He said the atmosphere was very welcoming. "Richard Dean Anderson and I had been friends for many years — we used to play hockey together so that was very cool."

And he got the proper Stargate experience, "I went through the stargate and got shot at by those staff things — I don't even remember how to say the name of the creatures anymore. Don't test me on that."

One of the things Adam talked most animatedly about (no pun intended of course) was his cartoon voice work. He plays a reoccurring character on one of my favorite shows, The Jackie Chan Adventures. He's also done voices for Static Shock, Invader ZIM and most recently Justice League.

He says, "cartoon voice work is very enjoyable for me because there's no pressure for anyone in the room on what they look like. It's all about what your voice is like. And what your acting ability is. And therefore you are able to work with some of the best and most talented actors that you would probably never even know and certainly never recognize if they walked by you on the street. I mean, some of the celebrity voices you would but the bulwark of cartoon voices is guys who — men and women who — have been making their living in it for years. Wonderful talents. And you get to come in in jeans and t-shirts. Unshaven. It's great."

When asked about being mistaken for a Baldwin brother he says, "I'm not anymore. I don't look like them. The only thing that we have in common is that my name is spelled the same way. The question I'll get is that question — don't you get tired of getting confused with the Baldwin brothers? I don't get 'hey you're one of the brothers.' I don't get that. Because I don't look like them."

Well, even if you did still think he was a Baldwin brother (and I know some of you did), he's ok with it. "It never bothered me. First of all I like the guys so yeah, great, I'm in good company. They're talented guys so that's fine. It doesn't bother me."

What's Next?
While you can see Adam Baldwin on movie screens right now, you also can see him again on television soon in the mini-series The Poseidon Adventure. He plays "the younger, better looking version of Ernest Borgnine" from the original.

But after the cancellation of The Inside and leading up to the release of Serenity, Adam was taking some well deserved time off. "Just taking some personal time. Yes, there's things on the outlook for the fall, but no they're not signed sealed and delivered. But I'm actually happy to have this time off."

Hopefully he won't take too much time off and we can see him again soon.

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