playboy - rob walton
Brazilian-Italian beauty Morena Baccarin, the 23-year-old New Yorker (by way of Rio de Janeiro), catches eyes as Inara, a revered sex worker on Fox TVís acclaimed new "space Western" Firefly, set 800 years in the future. The daughter of a South American stage and TV actress, Morena moved with her family to Greenwich Village when she was 10 and later attended LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts (the Fame high school), before she entered the theater program at Juilliard, where Wes Bentley was a classmate.

Fresh out of college, Morena landed her first movie role in the improvised fashion world comedy Perfume with Rita Wilson, Carmen Electra, Kylie Bax and Mariel Hemingway. That was followed by a lead role in the film festival hit Way Off Broadway. Shortly before heading to Los Angeles, Morena appeared in the acclaimed Central Park production of The Seagull with Natalie Portman. Firefly is her first television show.

This dark and beautiful actress stirs the imagination as a royal courtesan on television. Sheís got the looks and the talent to make it on the stage and the screen, and sheís got brains to boot. You acted with Natalie Portman and understudied for her role in last yearís Central Park production of The Seagull. Any stories about Natalie?

Morena Baccarin: We chatted some. Sheís a very, very nice, very smart girl. Sheís got a great heart. Sheís a foster mom for dogs before they get adopted, so sometimes I would baby-sit the dogs while she was onstage.

PB: Now that youíre starring in a sci-fi show, have you talked to her about her role in Star Wars as Princess Amidala?

MB: I havenít. While we were doing The Seagull, I didnít anticipate that Iíd be in space, too. I did talk to her about doing that and what it was like. She said it was very intense in terms of costumes and everything you have to wear. I can now understand, but I think mine are a little easier. Theyíre very simple, but I get to wear the most exotic and interesting costumes I think.

PB: On Firefly, you play Inara, a "companion" or highly revered sex worker better compared to a courtesan than a call girl. On the show, companions are universally respected and they choose their partners. Is this an enlightened attitude of the future, do you think?

MB: I think so. I think it could be something very interesting because sheís modeled in some ways after a geisha. Thereís a lot of ceremony and history that comes with being that character. They say that geishas are keepers of tradition, and Inara has a very old-fashioned feel to her. She went to a companion academy, a training school, as a child, where she learned different languages and different instruments. Very cultured. It seems like sheís a keeper of an older tradition in a world where everything is so fast and about survival, and itís more about indulging the senses and the arts. Itís so fun.

PB: What is Inaraís code of behavior?

MB: She doesnít sleep with any crew on the ship. That would be bad. Thereís this thing called the Companion Database where a client enters their name. I will look it up and pick and choose really carefully whom Iíll choose to be my client. You start to have the same clients over and over because you do know them and itís more revered that way.

PB: What kind of research did you do for the role?

MB: Iíve been fascinated with geishas for a long time. I read that book Memoirs of a Geisha, and I really loved it, and thereís another book called Geisha: The Life, the Voices, the Art with beautiful pictures of geishas today in Japan. Iím reading a book right now about legalizing prostitution. Iím very curious about that because Iím not sure how I feel either way. There are pros and cons to it. There are very strange and interesting arguments. The argument is that it might clean up its association with drug dealing if it were legal. For example, places like the Mustang Ranch seem like a very controlled environment. But also, itís bizarre because it seems to me the women there donít really live like regular people. Theyíre confined to that space and theyíre objects.

PB: Were you a big sci-fi fan before this show?

MB: No, I never really watched sci-fi shows. I loved Star Wars, of course.

PB: How does Firefly compare to Star Trek or Star Wars?

MB: I would consider it more similar to Star Wars, except for the aliens. We have no aliens in the show. Itís closer to the human side of Star Wars where youíve got the love interest, and youíve got people you donít like who you have to work with.

PB: The look of the show is less sterile than Star Trek, too.

MB: [Our spaceship] Serenity is a very worn shuttle. In a way, itís very romantic and gritty. Itís in the future where the earth has disappeared. When earth was around, China became the world-dominated power and so thereís a lot of Chinese influence. We speak Chinese sometimes.

PB: In real life, do you speak Portuguese, as well?

MB: Yes, I do, even though I havenít been back to Brazil in a while.

PB: Is Morena a Portuguese name?

MB: Yes, it means "brunette" or "tawny."

PB: What did your parents do?

MB: My mom is an actress in Brazil. Sheís pretty famous now, especially with The Vagina Monologues, which sheís been doing there for two years now. Itís huge there. My dad is a news editor for Brazilian television. I have a younger brother, whoís not an actor, thank God. Heís in college right now in New York, studying graphic design, graphic arts and sculpting. Heís quite an artist.

PB: Someone wrote about your movie Way Off Broadway: "Brad Beyer and Morena Baccarin are the most charming couple to hit the screen since Tom Cruise and Renťe Zellweger." How do you account for that?

MB: It was the second movie I got after school. It was a great director and a great cast...the chemistry was all there. It was a great part for me because it was a young actress who just graduated from school and trying to make it. Her friends are artists or writers and sheís struggling with the business. She falls in love with her best friend.

PB: So, itís patterned after your real life?

MB: Very largely.

PB: Did you fall in love with your best friend?

MB: At the time, I had just broken up with somebody and did end up falling in love with [co-star] Brad Beyer. And weíre still together, which is good. He just finished an episode of Hack, David Morseís new show.

PB: What is your passion?

MB: I love reading. Iím an avid reader, poetry, fiction, non-fiction. I just finished reading Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is basically the history of the world the past 13,000 years. It was so interesting. I love movies, especially old movies because it seems those old movies you can learn so much, not only about generations, but about acting also.

PB: Whatís your favorite movie of all time?

MB: Definitely The Piano is up there...Casablanca.... Can you tell Iím a hopeless romantic? Natural Born Killers is one of my favorite, favorite movies, also. Oh, God, I just love movies. What I saw recently that I loved was Sex and Lucia. It was amazing. Itís one of the sexiest movies ever.

PB: What are the sexiest film scenes ever?

MB: One is Il Postino, with the poetry in that. Itís not really a love scene; heís just looking at her and heís saying these poems about how "her smile creeps up like a butterfly." Itís so sexy and beautiful and she starts to laugh. In a recent movie, Unfaithful, the scene where Diane Lane and Oliver Martinez first get together and sheís just trembling...thatís so intense.

PB: Whatís the most romantic thing a guyís ever done for you?

MB: My boyfriend said, "Just come over to my house at 7:30." On the door was a sign that said, "Hello. Welcome to the love spa." I opened the door and he had beautifully candle-lit his entire apartment. He led me with rose petals to the bathtub and he read me poetry in the bath. And then we had this wonderful three-course meal in his dining room, all candle-lit, and he got me a vegan cake.

PB: Whatís not on your rťsumť, and for good reason?

MB: Iím lucky to say that I have a very young career. I donít think Iíve had the time to do anything really cheesy yet. Although Iím sure somebody will find some audition or something.