Morena Baccarin has captured the attention of audiences and critics alike for her moving performances across television and film.
Amongst the hallowed halls of the San Diego Comic-Con, she’s beloved for her work as Inara on Joss Whedon’s enormously popular cult show FIREFLY (and its movie adaptation SERENITY) and Anna in V from Kenneth Johnson and Scott Peters. Garnering an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Jessica Brody on Showtime’s Golden Globe® and Emmy® Award-winning drama series, Homeland, she can now be seen on Fox’s GOTHAM, based on the BATMAN series of comics.
On the big screen, she was most recently seen alongside Melissa McCarthy in Fox’s SPY, as Karen Walker, the all-too-perfect secret agent McCarthy’s character wishes she could be.
In Fox’s upcoming DEADPOOL, based on the Marvel Comics character created in 1991 by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, Baccarin plays Vanessa Carlysle, a former prostitute whose first encounter with Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson is a meeting of minds. She’s there for him when he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, and sticks by him as he’s co-opted by the same Weapon X program that created Wolverine, which leaves Wilson permanently disfigured but impervious to pain and able to regenerate from his wounds.
Dubbed “The Merc with a Mouth”, Deadpool is a pop culture-literate antihero unique amongst comic book characters in that he can break the fourth wall and flip superhero conventions on their head. From New York, Baccarin explains why she fell in love with the character of Vanessa, and details the challenge of keeping up with Reynolds and delivering a different kind of comic book movie.
Vanessa doesn’t mess around. How much fun has she been to play?
It’s been so rewarding to know that’s been the case. When I read the script, I was like, “Finally, a girl in a movie who’s not just like, ‘Save me!’”. She’s struggling a little bit when they first meet. She’s a prostitute who has come upon some hard times, but she’s a survivor. She’ll do whatever it takes to survive. She meets Wade in a bar and some guy smacks her ass. She really gives a damn, and Wade is sort of taken aback. They start talking and they just connect over their mutual dark humour. Her ability to keep up with his shtick makes it love at first sight for both of them. They have this immense chemistry together.
The film plays with the very notion of cinema and its tropes. Was that an element that appealed to you?
For sure. It plays with every convention. We break the fourth wall, and we don’t care who we’re offending. The jokes they’d come up with on the spot… I was like, “Oh god, can we really say that?” They’re like, “YES.” It was so fun to be in a movie where I didn’t have to edit myself or worry about what I was doing. As a female, to not be like, “I have to be proper, or a certain way,” you know, it was really fun to just let it all go.
It’s a very meta read on the damsel in distress; in many ways she’s a lot more capable – and probably saner – than Wade in the movie.
For sure. [laughs]She’s definitely saner than Wade. But I think she likes his crazy, and she says in the movie, “Your crazy matches my crazy.” It’s true; they just fit together. The proposal scene was so fun. We had a couple of hiccoughs on the day; trying to figure out how to keep it funny but still tell the story of two people who have fallen in love. In order for some of the humour to land and be brutal, you have to feel a deep connection there. We wanted it to be funny but still have a couple of serious moments in there, and it feels like we got a little bit of both.
How did the role come to you?
I auditioned for it, just with some sides because they didn’t give me the script right away. I met with the director and we hit it off, so I tested for the studio. At that point I got to read the script and was thrilled it was so good. [laughs]
How quickly did you find the chemistry with Ryan?
It was relatively quick. The day we tested, we rehearsed first with Ryan and it really solidified it. At that point it was one scene, and it didn’t take long to learn, so by then I was sick of it. When we finally shot that scene, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t do this scene anymore.’ So it was fun that we got to reinvent it together on the day. Ryan was just incredibly fun and so hard-working. Every scene we tweaked and perfected and really worked-on on the day.
There’s lots of GREEN LANTERN references in the script for Ryan. Did the script change at all when they cast you?
No, my character stayed pretty much as she was originally. We tweaked some scenes and put in some moments, but nothing major changed.
Half of the lines in the movie aren’t in the script. Did you enjoy the improvisational aspect?
At first it was terrifying because it’s tough to keep up with Ryan Reynolds. He’s the funniest, quickest human being ever. But then you just go with it and allow yourself to relax into it. Once you’ve got the character down it becomes really fun. There was a lot of freedom and you start to have ideas and want to play around with things.
The project has been in the public eye for so long, and you took the movie to Comic-Con, which I imagine wasn’t a first for you…
Not even a little bit. [laughs]I’ve been there far too many times! To be honest with you, I haven’t had a lot of interaction with the DEADPOOL fans yet but am looking forward to it. The only stuff we got to do with the DEADPOOL audience was screen the trailer, which had a phenomenal reaction. It went really well. I haven’t yet had any one-on-one moments with them, like I have with SERENITY and FIREFLY. I have a feeling the DEADPOOL fans are going to be a bit like Deadpool. Not too serious and completely unabashed.
I remember the outpouring of love that greeted SERENITY a few years ago, and I get the sense that DEADPOOL fans are similar in their passion for what they love.
I know, SERENITY was crazy and something I’d never experienced. You’re right, with DEADPOOL it feels there’s a built-in audience of people you don’t want to let down, and there’s already a lot of anticipation for it.
This is Tim Miller’s debut feature. How was he to work with?
Tim was really amazing considering how much he was juggling. If you hadn’t told me beforehand that he was a first-time director, I wouldn’t have believed it afterwards. He was really with it and gave us really great notes on set. We loved teasing him, because he’s the kind of person with no filter. Whatever goes into his brain comes out of his mouth. You’re like, “Did you just say that out loud to me? We’ve only known each other 24 hours…” (laughs).
You’ve had an eclectic and varied career, which is a rare gift. Has it been hard fought on your part to find these kinds of fully-developed roles?
I feel that I’ve been lucky, but it’s no coincidence that the majority of work I’ve done has been genre-based stuff. I think the majority of strong female characters are in genre movies and shows.
Why do you think genre roles are the ones getting it right?
Genre is a made up universe and it’s a world where you can put on paper what you would like to see reflected. I think there’s more need and desire for more interesting female roles. With realistic things, it’s somehow harder to put that out there. I don’t want to be all kumbaya about it, but I think it is gradually changing. There have been several articles in The Atlantic and The New Yorker about women working more and earning more, and I feel like it’s slowly changing. There’s always a lag, though, between that change happening and it actually being seen.
What is actually next for you?
GOTHAM. I’ll be busy with that until March of next year. And then maybe DEADPOOL 2 – you never know!
Deadpool is available on Blu-ray™ & DVD from 13 June courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Joe Utichi – www.joeutichi.com