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Throughout his varied career, Nathan Fillion has shown an impressive range of roles in a variety of cult-status films & TV shows.

Finding Serenity: Nathan Fillion’s best roles to date

Since emerging in the late 90s as an actor to keep an eye on, Nathan Fillion has gone from strength to strength as the reigning king of cult fandoms. Throughout his varied career the actor has shown an impressive range of roles in a variety of cult-status films & TV shows.

With his new show The Rookie currently on the air, now’s the best time to celebrate Fillion’s previous roles – if only to remind the folks at ABC what a national treasure this man is. Here are ten of his finest moments, ranked.

10. Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place (1998 – 2001)

Johnny Donnelly

One of Fillion’s first roles was opposite Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) in this teen show where he played the often put-upon boyfriend of Sharon Carter (Traylor Howard). It continues to be one of Fillion’s straightest roles to date, with him winding up the punchline of many jokes (rather than delivering them as he went on to do.)

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003)


As a sociopathic & misogynistic evil preacher (with an admittedly dicey Irish accent), Fillion played one of the final villains ever to torture the Scooby Gang. Caleb wasn’t one of the best villains of the show, but Fillion’s performance is a hoot nonetheless.

8. Waitress (2007)

Dr. Jim Pomatter

Fillion was sweet as pie opposite Keri Russell (August Rush) in this delectable romance, where he plays a physician who inspires a young pregnant woman to live her best life.

7. Gravity Falls (2014 – 2016)

Preston Northwest

It may only be Fillion’s voice lent to this animation, but you can almost hear him twisting a mustache malevolently as the prestigious & villainous patriarch of the Northwest family.

6. Rick and Morty (2017)

Cornvelious Daniel

The Galactic Federation agent is part of the reason why we now know so much about Rick’s love for Szechuan Sauce. Fillion’s cool-as-ice portrayal of the often-aroused character was one of the best cameos of the entire season.

5. Santa Clarita Diet (2017 – 2018)

Gary West

A brief (but hilarious) appearance as a sleazy co-worker who ends up devoured by the undead mom Sheila (Drew Barrymore) makes Fillion’s role a particular highlight of the Netflix comedy. Considering he was dead and buried by the end of season one, it seems unlikely he’ll be returning for more japes in the second instalment. But since his IMDb page indicates he’ll be starring in the show in 2018, we live in hope for his return . . .  whatever form that could take!

4. Slither (2006)

Bill Pardy

Fillion was perfectly cast in James Gunn’s cult tribute to B-movie horror as a small-town cop fighting back against a local infestation of extraterrestrial parasites. The collaboration would eventually lead to Fillion enjoying a small (but memorable) cameo in Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy eight years later.

3. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)

Captain Hammer

Joss Whedon’s musical comedy saw Fillion showing off an impressive set of pipes opposite Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) & Felicia Day. The movie features the actor’s most fun performance to date by giving him room to poke fun at himself.

2. Castle (2009 – 2016)

Richard Castle

As smug crime-fighting mystery novelist Rick Castle, Fillion was able to play up to everything fans loved about his previous roles. Serving up lashings of charisma and comedy alongside some endearing bravado, week after week Fillion was a pleasure to watch.

1. Firefly (2002 – 2003)

Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds

The “Space Cowboy” himself! As Captain Mal in Whedon’s sadly short-lived series, Fillion enjoyed what has gone on to become one of his most iconic & beloved roles. He was sarcastic, heroic, and wonderfully cynical, and fans continue to adore the character to this day.

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  • If you want to see him in more obscure projects, he gave a great performance in “White Noise 2: The Light” where he plays a grieving husband and father who develops a supernatural power. The script isn’t great and the premise is really cynical, but he does an amazing job with the material and his chemistry with Katee Sackhoff is wonderful. He’s both touching and hilarious as the stoner brother in “Outing Riley / If Dad Only Knew”. Water’s Edge is a film noir… it’s not terrible but not really great either. Again he does a good job – although the femme fatale puts in one of the single worst performances I have ever seen on film. All worth seeing just to find out what you think about it.

    February 27, 2018
  • I believe his accent in Buffy is meant to be a southern accent, not an irish one. :)

    February 27, 2018
  • You need to update this article and add Jacques Snicket in “A Series of Unfortunate Events”.

    It’s ok to go up to 11.

    December 10, 2019
  • I have binge watched Buffy several times as it has some of the most interesting concepts and always a serious evil doer and several lesser ones, and at the end of the series Nathan Fillion was cast as an evil preacher, and to me he played the part so well, to me he was the most evil of all the previous monsters etc, but him being human I think made the evil even more significant and scary, I’m at that point now in the series, so next week I will probably start it all over again, I watch it in rotation with a few other programs that I like.

    October 20, 2020

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