Nathan Fillion Takes Leaf Out Of Joss Whedon Playbook For eOne’s ABC Cop Drama ‘The Rookie’

Firefly star Nathan Fillion wants his new TV series The Rookie to reach the same “high bar” as Joss Whedon’s fan favorite as he embarks on his debut exec producer role. Fillion, who also starred in ABC procedural Castle, tells Deadline that he is “certainly more invested” in the Mark Gordon Company and ABC Studios-produced drama as a result of his behind-the scenes role.

“I had an experience on Firefly where everybody that worked on that show considered it the bar to which we could compare all of our other jobs. That was the benefit of Joss Whedon, who said ‘I want great actors that can make this language sing and I want people I can potentially spend seven years with’ and I benefited from that. I want The Rookie to be similar,” he said.

In The Rookie, which received a straight-to-series order from ABC, Fillion plays John Nolan, the oldest rookie in the LAPD.  At an age where most are at the peak of their career, Nolan cast aside his comfortable, small town life and moved to L.A. to pursue his dream of being a cop.  Now, surrounded by rookies twenty years his junior, Nolan must navigate the dangerous, humorous and unpredictable world of a “young” cop, determined to make his second shot at life count.

Fillion is exec producing the light crime drama alongside his Castle executive producer/co-showrunner Alexi Hawley, recently installed eOne creative chief Mark Gordon, Nicholas Pepper, Michelle Chapman and Jon Steinberg.

“I’m certainly more invested; it’s like getting on a train that’s already moving versus building an automotive. You’re trying to put together the right pieces, that will spell longevity. You see these wonderful actors in the room and then I get to be one of the people to call them up and say welcome. It’s a great phone call to make,” he adds.

“This is the first time that I ever signed on to a project before there was a script. I had all the elements of a recipe for success. I’ve worked with Alexi Hawley before and I really enjoyed that. Mark Gordon’s resume speaks for himself and sitting down with the man and starting to get an understanding of who he is and the type of work environment he promotes is something I can get behind.”

Fillion will star alongside Dark Matter’s Melissa O’Neil, who is thought to be playing Fillion’s love interest and fellow officer, Eric Winter (Rosewood, Secrets & Lies), Afton Williamson (The Night Of, The Breaks) and Wisdom of the Crowd’s Richard T Jones, who plays his nemesis.

Fillion, who is about to turn 47, says he can relate to his character, who becomes a rookie officer after a number of life-changing moments. “I started out this gig as the youngest son in a rich family on a soap opera in New York, then I was somebody’s uncle, then I found myself playing a dad to a baby, then a dad to young adult now I find myself playing the oldest rookie. Life changes.”

The producers, who are still looking to cast one role before moving into full production, are hopeful that it can have the same longevity as Fillion’s previous role as novelist-turned-crime fighter Richard Castle, which ran for eight seasons between 2009 and 2016. “I had never been on a show that was on so long. That’s the dream. But now it’s part of potential reality, it could happen so I want to prepare for that eventuality,” he adds.

Fillion is an engaging character, who spent the morning at eOne’s annual Drama Preview , charming international buyers looking to acquire the drama. He laughs when he recounts a conversation with a Scandinavian buyer who told him she would only be interested in buying the show if it featured more palm trees than snow. “We don’t need any more snow,” she told him.

When asked whether it had given him the bug to become more involved behind-the-scenes on future projects, he jokes: “I’ll let you know how it turns out.”