Pies play an important part in the romantic comedy, Waitress, starring Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, and Nathan Fillion, and written/directed by the late Adrienne Shelly. Russell plays Jenna, a small town waitress who’s a genius at creating pies. Jenna names each of her unique treats after events in her life, pinning her hopes on winning a $25,000 pie contest with her ‘Kick in the Pants’ pie. Hines is a fellow waitress and one of Russell’s friends, while Fillion (Serenity) plays the town’s only OB-GYN who has an affair with the married Jenna.
Playing along with the film’s pie-naming scheme, Nathan Fillion joked that if a pie were made of his life it would be called the ‘Look At Me, I’m On TV’ pie. Fillion says he’d model his special pie after his Aunt Lorette’s meat pie, and his pie would be a tasty meal unto itself. “It’s the pie that eats like a meal,” explained Fillion. “You don’t have to wait for dessert for that pie.”
Waitress was complete but had not yet been accepted at the Sundance Film Festival when writer/director Adrienne Shelly was murdered on November 1st, 2006. Fillion recalls his time on the set with Shelly as a complete joy. “Lovely, absolutely lovely. I remember when there were times I said to her, ‘I can do it like that. That’s how you want it? All right.’ It was a strange angle she was taking and I wasn’t there for the filming of the rest of the picture, but in seeing the completed project, now I see her vision and now I see the through-line that writers and directors, they have that gift or that vision that I actually don’t share with them. When I saw the movie for the first time, it was in Sundance at our very first screening. I was more than pleasantly surprised. I knew it was going to be a beautiful story. I knew I loved the story. What I didn’t know was how much it would affect me and I’m just glad to have been a part.”
Asked if he knew what message Shelly was trying to get across to audiences, Fillion ventured an educated guess. “Good question on that,” said Fillion. “I knew what I got out of it as far as seeing people…trying to be happy and trying to make the right decision. Andy Griffith [who plays the owner of Joe Diner’s] pretty much hits the nail on the head when he says, ‘In my life when I’ve been faced with choices and I could take one path or another, I always took the wrong one. I always made the wrong decision. It’s not too late for you to do what’s right,’ trying to save her from the life that he’d had that had made him a crotchety old lonely fellow. That’s the message I take away from that. We all want to be happy. It’s the decisions we make. Are they going to make us happy? Are they the right decisions, the right thing to do?”
It was a short film shoot for all the cast, but a really short stint for Fillion who was done with his work on Waitress in less than a week. “I would come in, film a couple scenes, I'd go home, piece of cake, no problem. ‘What'd you do today?’ ‘Made out with Keri Russell.’ ‘Sounds good.’ But the atmosphere on the set was very friendly, very cordial. There's a lot of people there who were having a good time, believing in the project. I mean, it's not like we've got major money behind us, we've got something huge and elaborate. It felt very down-home as far as filming is concerned. It was a lot of fun. Everybody pulled for, ‘Let's make this day, we've got to get it out, it's got to happen.’ It was very positive and very quick.”
As the handsome – and married - Dr Pomatter, Fillion gets into a relationship with Jenna (Russell), one of his pregnant patients whose marriage is not going well. It’s evident what’s wrong with Jenna’s marriage, but figuring out why Fillion’s character would cheat on his adoring wife is a little more difficult. “It’s interesting that we’re both being unfaithful to our marriage, but Jenna we forgive far more readily because she’s in what’s obviously an abusive and dangerous relationship that we don’t want her to be in,” said Fillion. “But we’ve all known couples or people that are together for some reason or another where it’s, ‘Oh my God, they broke up? They were so perfect together. What could possibly be wrong?’ And although it’s not abuse and maybe no one’s getting beat up, certainly something within them is not bringing them together and they’re not happy. I think we all know people who are in a marriage that they’re not happy in. Does that make him a bad person that he’s looking for happiness elsewhere? I think that’s what the movie becomes about, for me at least, as far as everybody is looking to be happy. But it’s about the decisions you make. Are those decisions the right decisions that will bring you happiness?”
Fillion continued, “I put it in that nebulous ‘what could it possibly be?’ that these people are together. They seemed so perfect. I obviously don’t know their relationship, so I put it in that nebulous thing that obviously he’s unhappy for a reason. The reasons why were not important – not important to the story. He was looking for happiness, she was looking for happiness. If they found something together that stirred something within them, there’s obviously an attraction. He was obviously attracted to her. Did he instigate? Man, I think she was all over him, if you know what I mean. (Laughing) I’m hoping you don’t write that down, but she jumped on him.”