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Nathan Fillion on Lending His Voice to Starfinder, and How it Avoids Sci-Fi’s Greatest Weakness

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Paizo’s Stafinder tabletop roleplaying game is leveling up on Amazon’s Alexa devices. The Starfinder skill for Alexa is a multi-part interactive audio adventure game bringing the sci-fi setting of the TTRPG to life, with players using their voice to make decisions to advance and influence the outcome of the story. The first three episodes of the Starfinder story are now available by saying “Alexa, play the Starfinder game.” The game is intended to transport Starfinder players into their favorite sci-fi setting, while also offering a barrier-free entry point for curious listeners who don’t have any experience or familiarity with the Starfinder universe.

Starfinder features a voice cast of 13 actors, including Nathan Fillion (no stranger to sci-fi settings thanks to his time on Firefly) as Garvin. ComicBook.com spoke to Fillion about his TTRPG experience, what Starfinder gets right about sci-fi, and how audio experiences are flourishing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Starfinder Nathan Fillion
(Photo: Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

In recent years, a lot of celebrities have come out to say that they play role-playing games and often have for years. Is that you? Do you have a history with role-playing games, or was this all new to you?

Nathan Fillion: I confess I have had a very few role-playing experiences, and the role-playing experiences I have worked great. I should have been in better hands. Does this harken back to those experiences? Yes, but with one exception. The dungeon master is exquisite. The voice work, the characters, the music, the sound effects; It’s a radio play. It’s the radio play that is your dungeon master. You’re listening to this fantastic story and all of a sudden it’s, ‘What do you want to do? This, or this? I’ll do that.’ And you don’t even have to roll. They have an automatic roller for you. I didn’t have my 20-sided dice. I have one somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. But similar. Clearly better. In my experience, I’ve never had a DM with a musical score inside of it.

What can you tell me about the character you’re playing in this Starfinder adventure? What is his role, and how does he interact with players?

He finds out his brother has been killed. It’s dark. Yes, but one of the things I think is a trap in sci-fi is that it can become too grandiose. Space is monolithic and huge, and spacecraft seem to be majestic, but when you bring it down and you dirty it up Star Wars style, you bring everybody into their real motivations, things that actually matter, things that we can all relate to. I can relate to themes about a brother. I can relate to that. If I lost my brother for not a good enough reason, nothing would stop me from getting to the bottom of that. And this is who Gavin is. He’s a fellow who’s lost his brother and is not satisfied. He’s just an office worker. He’s not prepared for this kind of excitement, but this is something he wants. Real motivations.

You’re someone with a history in sci-fi. Was your time in the Stafinder universe reminiscent of your time play Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly?

Reminiscent in that same because it’s not grandiose, it’s not a grand majestic sci-fi space opera. It’s dirtier. It’s about people. People who care about real things that we can relate to. And I just don’t want to get into a space opera that I have no reference for. I find it difficult to care sometimes. Sci-fi has a weakness as a genre that if you’re not careful, it gets too big. And that’s what I like about Starfinder. It’s just people.

I’m not going to go off on a tangent here, but getting the Firefly crew back together via Starfinder, maybe with one of the show’s writers as a gamemaster, is something I think fans would line up to see.

Yes, they might actually watch that. I could see us sitting around with some frosty beverages and laughing and discussing choices. Yes. I could see that happening.

You mentioned that this is like a radio play, and I feel like audio fiction is having a big moment right now. As an actor, how is doing something like this different from doing your regular television work?

I’ll tell you I have a lot of crutches that I use while acting that I can’t use while just doing solely audio. Mugging for the camera. Expressions. There’re so many nonverbal expressions, nonaudible ways of communicating that it’s really tieing your hand behind your back. I also have a tendency to mumble, which you don’t care as much about if there’s a bunch of action going on, lots to look at, but if you’re only listening, you only hear mumbling. It is my kryptonite.

What about as a consumer, as a fan, as someone looking for entertainment? Have you done much listening to that kind of thing? Is it a different kind of experience for you?

You know, just by virtue of it being a pandemic, we’re going to run out of content. And like you said, these audio experiences and these audio entertainments, they’re one of the few industries that will not be interrupted by the pandemic, so long as we have people writing at home, as long as we have people composing music and doing it fully at home, which is possible, entirely possible. It’s done all the time, and it’s one way of people recording at home. If you just have a couple of items, the proper equipment, a decent enough sound, this industry will continue to flourish while others are waiting for a break.

That brings me to something I’ve been asking pretty much everybody I talk to recently. How have you been staying safe and staying sane while the pandemic is happening?

I’m so glad you asked. One of my first projects, seeing the forest for the trees, I said, “Only the prepared we’ll be ready. Only the prepared will be prepared. I think it’s going to pay to be prepared,” is what I thought. I converted one of my back bedrooms into a little video suite. Over in the corner over there is a little recording studio that I soundproofed to the best of my ability. It’s fairly quiet in here, and I’m ready to go. I’m ready to record. I’m ready to do Zoom meetings, Zoom interviews, podcasts, guesting. Everything that you can do remotely, I am now ready for. It took a lot of work, but it kept me sane.

Now it’s about getting this house I’m living in. I’m living in this house like I’ve never lived in it before. And I look around, and I see all the things that I don’t need, and I’m trying to do the old Zen cleanout. And I’ve done one closet now. I’m on my third time going over it, not to say that the rest of the house is clean. I should really get to the rest of the house, but this one closet has been a challenge for me, but it keeps getting cleaner and cleaner. And then I’m going to move on to the next closet, the next cupboard, the next room. I’m just getting decluttered. I’m trying to stay sane by decluttering my life.

You show up in episode three of this Starfinder adventure. Is that it for you, or are you coming back for more?

I come back for more. The other episodes will be coming in October, and we haven’t even recorded those ones yet, so I couldn’t even tell you the direction they’re going in, but I’m excited to find out. And again, it’s just fun. It’s so easy, and we do it from home, and now you listen and play from home as well. I think we all win.

How would pitch the project to someone who just hears, “Nathan Fillion is doing this sci-fi audio thing,” but who isn’t familiar with Starfinder and games of its kind? What do you tell them that this is to prepare them and draw them into the experience?

If you have a 20 sided die, bring it. If you don’t, don’t worry because Alexa will roll for you. Now, I would say, treat this like any entertainment. Fix yourself a little snack, get yourself a drink. And if you have someone who can sit and not talk through the movie, have them sit with you and play with you, discuss the choices, have fun.

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The pilot and episodes 1 to 3 of Starfinder are now available on any Alexa-enabled device, including Amazon Echo, Fire TV, and the Alexa mobile app. Episodes 4 to 6 will be available in October. The pilot is free to play, and customers can purchase each episode for $1.99 or the full season for $9.99.

Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.

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