On TNTís new drama HEARTLAND, Morena Baccarin plays the romantically entangled nurse Jessica Kivala and has to balance her love affair with leading man Dr. Grant (Treat Williams) and her medical career. Of course, romantic entanglements are nothing new to the attractive young actress and Joss Whedon fans thrilled to watch her match wits with Nathan Fillion on FIREFLY, when she played Inara the courtesan. Baccarin is a charming interview subject and lulls the interviewer into a safe comfortable placed filled with laughter and great stories as iF MAGAZINE soon discovered.
iF MAGAZINE: What drew you to your new series HEARTLAND?
MORENA BACCARIN: The hunger in my belly from not working. [Laughs] No that wasnít it. I had read the script and I was a big fan of David Hollanderís from THE GUARDIAN. The script was so beautiful, and I was so excited to go audition for it, and then I was lucky enough to get the job.
iF: How much research did you have to do for the medical aspects of this role?
BACCARIN: It was a very specific thing because O.R. nurses are different from I.C.U. nurses. We went to a UCLA medical center and we got to see a couple of operations, which was intense. It was fascinating to see how much work they do, and how much prep work the head nurse has to do before an operation; prepping and all of the things they have to do before the surgeon comes in. I wanted to be familiar with all of the procedure and how they hand instruments to the surgeon and I wanted to see what everything meant; the difference between types of clamps and sutchering I definitely followed some people around and asked a lot of questions it was a lot of fun.
iF: At any given moment in a script, how much medical terminology do you have to memorize?
BACCARIN: I didnít have too much; it wasnít too bad for me. I think I had a couple of episodes where I had to say things like, ďdiaphoretic and duodenumĒ which are words that are otherwise not familiar to me, but now I know what they are. [Laughs] It was never too bad, I was always able to find out what everything meant before I had to say it.
iF: Since you actually went and watched surgeries, do you have any issues with blood or wounds?
BACCARIN: Not any more! I used to have them. When we went in there I decided to not get too close. Thereís a definite smell to the rooms; I donít know if itís the flesh or the blood, but itís really weird because after a couple of hours you get used to it. The way they treat the body and the way they work on the patient is sort of like working on a car. Itís like they disassociate from the body being a person; which I think is good when you have to be objective about something.
iF: How different is a medical drama from previous series that you have worked?
BACCARIN: The hours that we spent in the operating room, was definitely something different for me. We had on masks, and gowns, and gloves; then weíre doing a transplant where we have a fake liver and we have to be in the body clamping arteries, and thereís all of the technical material we had to be familiar with in order to get the dialogue out organically and not be fudging it. That was a new challenge for me, but I really enjoyed it because the more I had something that I was physically doing and had to focus on, it made the acting a lot easier because I wasnít focusing so much on the line.
iF: Did you have technical consultants on set all of the time?
BACCARIN: Yeah we had med techs. We had a woman named Michelle who was really helpful. We would rehearse a scene and I would turn to her and make sure of what I was doing. She would tell me how to hand the doctor a clamp or stick my finger in to check for a bleed. She was very specific and without her I would have had no idea what to do. [Laughs]
iF: Any fun stories involving the fake bodies used for the surgeries?
BACCARIN: There was a scene in the third or fourth episode where a patient who had gotten an illegal liver transplant starts to bleed through her shirt, and I see it first and call it to Dr. Grantís attention. We did that take about five times and it was the end of the night and everybody was really frustrated because the blood would leak out but it wouldnít go through the cotton of the shirt. So, her entire belly would be covered with blood and you couldnít see any of it through the shirt. It was so frustrating because it would make a huge slurping sound of blood gushing out [Laughs] and I was waiting for it to show. So, we had a few technical difficulties with blood because you never know how itís going to come out.
iF: You done stunt work in some of your previous roles, were you relieved that you didnít have to be thrown around or roll across the floor?
BACCARIN: Yes. There was something really nice about showing up to work and putting on scrubs and knowing that most of your day would be in the operating room or relating to people and not involving a lot of action.
iF: So how is Treat Williams as a love interest?
BACCARIN: Heís very sweet and really fun to work with. We both felt like in the real world would this relationship really be happening? He made a lot of jokes and all of the boys on set were very raunchy and working with them was a lot of fun.
iF: How is the dynamic of Dr. Grant, his ex-wife, and your character going to develop as the season progresses?
BACCARIN: Thereís something really great in Davidís writing which is he doesnít state the obvious. All that stuff is going on but what were doing in the scenes and how weíre relating to each other; weíre not addressing it. So, I thought there were a lot of layers and dynamics, so us being in the same hospital and having to see each other everyday is there, weíre just not talking about it.
iF: What do you think Nurse Jessica ultimately wants to get out of her relationship with Grant?
BACCARIN: I think that she is genuinely in love with him and she wants him to reciprocate her feelings for him. Sheís someone who is really driven and smart and knows in the end that heís just not available.
iF: Do you think romance in the workplace is a good mix?
BACCARIN: Um, thatís a hard question because Iím an actor. [Laughs] I think that when I got to work, itís really work and Iím getting my work done. After that if something happens as long as both parties are smart and communicative itís ok. What are you going to do? Most of us spend a lot of our time at work, regardless of whether youíre a garbage collector or and actor, you meet people all the time and things happen.
iF: So Iím jumping tracks to STARGATE, which you just did a DVD movie for. Did Adria ascend, because when we last saw her she wasnít in the best of shape?
BACCARIN: Letís just say that the form in which I come back is very powerful and I can do lots of new things, which are very exciting.
iF: Is STARGATE: THE ARK OF TRUTH on DVD the last of the Ori story or have they talked to you about future DVD movies?
BACCARIN: I think in that world with ascension and special powers that there is always a way out of death. I think there is always a possibility. Any explanation will do.
iF: Do you like working in the Sci Fi genre or the straight forward drama genre better?
BACCARIN: I like it all. As long as the story is interesting and thereís some fun things to play I really enjoy doing both.
iF: Going further back in your acting career, FIREFLY catapulted you into a world of instant fandom how did you react to that?
BACCARIN: I still canít believe that people were as into that show as they were and are. Itís great and I loved the series, because I was in it and working and loved the people that I worked with. I am always amazed and humbled by the amount of fans out there for FIREFLY and its so touching to me that people feel as passionately about it as I did.
Just the other day I went to eat in a restaurant here in Los Angeles, and the owners were huge FIRELFY fans wearing SERENITY shirts. I had no idea and told the owner that I liked her shirt and she said, ďOh my God, I was hoping one of you would come in eventually.Ē Itís so great. Itís so sweet.
iF: Were you surprised when you got the call to do SERENITY?
BACCARIN: Yes I was very surprised. I didnít think it would happen. Joss [Whedon] had said that we would move to another network or get a movie done and I thought, ďpoor Joss he just canít move on.Ē [Laughs] When I got that call I was ecstatic. How often do you say goodbye to something and then get to have a second chance at it? We really had a good time doing it because we knew it was our last chance to be together.
iF: When FIREFLY ended did Joss ask you to be on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER or ANGEL like some of your co-stars?
BACCARIN: I was supposed to do ANGEL, but I was doing another television show at the time called STILL LIFE, which ended up not airing but it was a conflict so I couldnít do it.
iF: How much contact do you still have with the whole Whedon group?
BACCARIN: I just spoke to Joss actually a week ago. We stay in touch. Iíve seen Nathan around town a few times. I saw Sean Maher at the farmerís market yesterday. We all see each other and run into each other and itís always really nice.
iF: Any conventions that you are doing coming up?
BACCARIN: Iím going to one in New Jersey on the weekend of the 21st, and I believe there is one here in Los Angeles in October.
iF: Whatís the most unique gift that a fan has given you?
BACCARIN: I didnít get this as a gift, but Christina Hendricks did. She was on FIREFLY as ďOur Mrs. Reynolds.Ē She received coasters with all of our faces on them so she gets a really big kick whenever I go to her house giving me the coaster with my face on it so I can put a glass on top of it. [Laughs]