Castle, which premieres tonight on ABC, stars fan favorite Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, a crime novelist who finds himself sucked into assisting the New York Police Department when a murderer starts carrying out crimes based on scenes from his books. There, he finds himself working (and flirting) alongside Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) while also navigating the relationships with his Broadway diva mother (Susan Sullivan) and wise-beyond-her-years teenage daughter (Molly Quinn). A few days ago, Fillion hopped on the phone to chat with me about the appeal of Castle, what it's like to be a leading man again, and whether there will ever be another Dr. Horrible. Read on for highlights:
When you first heard about Castle and read the pilot script, what appealed to you about the character?
I heard that Castle was a crime drama. I'd been reading a lot of police procedurals that ABC had for pilots — I have a deal with ABC, so I'm gonna do something with ABC. And I was reading a lot of dramas, a lot of heavy stuff, a lot of heavy, emotional dramas that they were putting out there. And then Castle, for some reason, was at the bottom of the list of all the pilots I was going through.
I was 15 pages into reading Castle, and I stopped, and I turned to my girlfriend and said, "I'm going to start at the beginning of this pilot and I'm going to read it out loud to you, and you tell me if you don't think this wouldn't be an amazingly fun job to do." Because here's a guy who enjoys every day of his life like he's on a field trip — he is thrilled to be there. He's thrilled to be around crime and murder and he's having a blast. He doesn't get emotionally involved. He's not without heart, he's just simply very lighthearted. He doesn't see crime and say, "I've got to find this murderer before he gets the chance to do it again. He just simply says, "Whoa! Did you see the way that fella was hangin' there?" He's crazed by these phenomenal endings to what he believes would be an incredible story, and he wants to find the beginning and the middle to the ending that is the murder.
Watching the pilot, I thought of him as kind of a playboy — but not just with women, with everything in his life.
I kind of started [filming] thinking, 'Well, here's a wild partier, drinker, womanizer . . . " but actually he's far more childlike than I even knew when we were shooting the pilot. He has a joy — he's playing all the time. He's playing grown-up games.
To find out the secret to Castle's lightheartedness, just
Is there something in his past that has made him be so lighthearted about everything? He's dealing with a lot of crime, both in his novels and, when he gets involved in the case, in his everyday life, and sometimes it's nasty. How does he stay so upbeat?
He's a writer of mystery novels, so the genre of what he's doing pleases him — he likes it, he writes it, he knows it, he's studied it. When he was a kid, his mother was an actress, and she did a lot of moving around and a lot of touring and just not a lot of parenting. He spent most of his days locked up in the New York Public Library reading. He taught himself to be a speed reader; he reads voraciously. But I think he almost missed out on his childhood, so when he began writing and began enjoying success and got a lot of money — I mean, he doesn't have a lot of responsibilities. He makes his own hours, he lives in a beautiful apartment, he can afford the nicest toys. It's kind of like my life.
One of the things I thought was interesting in the pilot was his relationship with his daughter. How would you describe Castle as a parent?
Castle is very much mothered by his 15-year-old daughter, and at the same time he turns around and mothers his own mother. So it's not a typical nuclear family. It's a very interesting relationship. His daughter does a great deal for him and makes him a better person.
Without giving too much away, how will Castle's relationship with Kate Beckett change over the course of the first few episodes we'll be seeing?
We're going to be able to solve a case every week — there's not going to be a murder that lasts three episodes. However, just like in real life, the more time you spend with a person, the more you learn about that person, the more you say, "Oh, well I did this when I was a kid, I know what this is about because I used to . . . " You learn more about people as you spend time with them, and he gleans more and more understanding of Kate Beckett as time goes on.
You said you were reading a lot of procedurals. What do you think makes Castle more than just a cop show?
I think Castle is a little bit more in tune with real life, in that we're not walking around heavy and brooding about murder. Life is simply life. We spoke to some homicide detectives when we were in New York City. These guys were not darkened souls, you know, meandering the earth looking for justice. They were very jovial, very funny guys who would tell you incredible stories . . . It's real life, and there's comedy in real life. So I would say that in the lighthearted part of Castle, the comedic part of Castle, is truer to real life.
Quickly changing subjects — do you think there could ever be another Dr. Horrible?
I'm crossing both my fingers.