on the verge: morena baccarin
We sat down with 23-year-old Morena Baccarin, the sultry star of Firefly — the hot new show from Buffy and Angel creator Joss Whedon. She gave us the lowdown on the show and some hot tips for aspiring actors everywhere.

How did you get into acting?
My mom acts, as does my uncle, so I've always been around the theater — I thought that was what everybody did for a living! I considered being a photographer, but when we moved from Brazil to New York, I went to [New York City's] LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. I got accepted to study for drama and got bitten by the bug. My family was super encouraging. It's usually the opposite — whenever kids tell their parents they want to go into acting their parents are like, "No." My mom was like, "Yay!"

What can you recommend to girls who want to get into acting?
They should study drama and try to go to a performing arts school if they can. I also recommend seeing a lot of theater.

How did you get the part of Inara in Firefly?
I was here in L.A. looking desperately for a job — I was sick of being unemployed in New York. I'd been here a week when my agents called me and said that Rebecca Gayheart just dropped out of this pilot. The producers were desperate to find somebody since they had already started shooting. It didn't sound like something I'd want to do, but my agents said to take a look at the script, because Joss Whedon is a great guy. So I went in, auditioned that very day, and met Joss. I thought, "Wow this guy is really, really cool. I would work with him doing anything." From there, I tested the next day and I started working the day after. It was so fast.

What's Inara like?
She's extremely classy and very worldly. And she's certainly smarter than I am! She's learned a ton of different languages, so she's very smart.

Joss Whedon is a pretty big TV guy. What is it like working with him?
He's very friendly, fun to work with, and really great with the actors. I see him practically every day, since he directs a lot of the episodes. We just joke around. He's very enthusiastic about this project, so he's naturally excited about every actor he has cast — which makes a huge difference.

Can you tell us what Firefly is really about?
I'm sure you've heard the phrase "space Western" — it's how people describe Star Wars. Well, that's pretty much what Firefly is about. It's a new frontier show. The characters are traveling to different planets and they don't know what they're going to find there. It's uncharted territory.

What kind of costumes do you get to wear?
I get to wear all the pretty dresses. I'm so blessed because everybody else on the show is in these gray jumpsuits and I'm sitting there in these glamorous, archaic dresses. They're stunning — though I'm scared I'm going to rip one of them.

Do you do any stunts?
We all pretty much get to do them, though I have very few. There are some stunts coming up where I just get to roll out of someone's way. The producers are careful with us, so they hired a stunt person for the dangerous ones.

You've been in the independent movie Way Off Broadway and now you're doing Firefly. How is television acting different from film?
TV's much faster. You don't have as many takes, and you just have to roll with the punches. You have to be ready, because you don't get the script until the night before shooting. The cool thing about TV is you're finding things out as you go along about who your character is, and what will happen in the story.

What actresses really inspire you?
Meryl Streep is my number one. I would love to have a career like hers, although I have a feeling that that just doesn't happen anymore. I've always admired her. One of the first movies I saw her do was Ironweed, with Jack Nicholson — it was amazing.

What would you most like to do next, and with whom would you most like to work?
I would love to work with a really great director. I've been blessed, because every project I've done has been fun and pretty challenging so far. I'd like to do something like a movie version of a Shakespearean play — something I could really sink my teeth into.

—Mohit SantRam