This has to be a first – a television series that was cancelled after one season has been adapted into a feature-length film and is currently the most eagerly-anticipated, critically-acclaimed sci-fi picture to hit theaters – probably since “The Empire Strikes Back.”
    “Serenity,” opened with actress Gina Torres among the lead roles, is adapted from Joss Whedon’s 2002 TV show “Firefly,” which also starred Torres as the second in command on a space ship (Serenity) as it tries to survive a galactic war some 500 years in the future.
    The show was cancelled by Fox after one season, despite a deluge of rabid fans demanding the show be given another chance. When its 14 completed episodes came out on DVD, stores couldn’t keep the discs in stock. Universal Pictures stepped in with the no-brainer to adapt the popular series into a film, and suddenly the cast and crew of “Firefly” found themselves back under the guidance of writer-director Joss Whedon, and with a renewed sense of confidence.
    “We all knew we were working on a miracle,” said Torres.  “And when you get up every morning at 5:30 to get to set, or to drive out to the desert, knowing that you’re working on a miracle, it makes it that much easier.”
    One of the challenges of resurrecting a dead television series for filmgoers who may have never heard of “Firefly” is unraveling the back story for new fans without boring the old ones.  Torres says that the characters’ histories are cleverly revealed in the first 15 minutes, thanks to the writing wizardry of Whedon – the scribe behind TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The long-running Sarah Michelle Gellar series also enjoyed die-hard fans that helped sustain the show during its early years. The undeniable common denominator is the writer, whom Torres and the rest of the cast credit for the film’s pre-existing following.
   “‘Firefly’ had a short run and they found us anyway,” says Torres of the fans. “When the DVD sets hit the stands, they were gone inside of 48 hours.  That, to me, just spoke to the fans and their commitment to us, and trying to make us successful, which is unbelievable.
   “They felt like they were doing the right thing in keeping us alive. I think that speaks more to the fact that there just wasn’t a whole lot of quality programming on the air that these people could jack into and enjoy.  When they saw something that was wonderful, that was unique, that was intelligent, that was well-written, that’s what they became attached to and committed to, and fans of. And god knows we need fans of good television that are willing to fight for it. I think we all feel blessed that they were willing to go to the extremes that they did.”
    Torres’ next big screen project is “Five Fingers,” a film due next year that pairs her with husband, Laurence Fishburne in the story of a Dutchman (Ryan Phillippe) who is abducted by a terrorist (Fishburne) while in Morocco to set up a food charity.
     Both Torres and Fishburne have worked together just once before, although barely, on “The Matrix Revolutions.”  On the opposite side of the budget scale, the extremely indie “Five Fingers” offered the couple their first chance to work closely together on screen.
     “It was everything that we hoped it would be,” Torres said of the experience.  “We’re two very strong people and have strong convictions about work and character and approach. The fact that we were able to come together and create something was wonderful. The fact it was a low-budget movie and we didn’t have a whole lot of time, and we were all working towards the same end just made that whole experience better.
      As for the temptation to discuss their characters during the husband-wife off hours at home, Torres explained: “We’d go home and run lines. It’s not like we were strategizing [about our roles]. It was just, ‘Okay, we got 12 pages to do tomorrow, let’s go.’  It was a great experience and we’re looking forward to repeating it on the right project.”
      The couple just celebrated their third anniversary on Sept. 20. Torres, the youngest of three children in a Cuban American household, says of the off-screen relationship with her husband: “We always make time for each other, we support each other in the projects that come up. We travel to wherever the other is and it’s good.”
     This article was reprinted with permission.