Gyn of the times

Nathan Fillion finds some stability as Desperate Housewives's resident gynecologist.

As Fairvew’s new OB-GYN, Fillion, right, cozies up with Longoria.

As Fairvew’s new OB-GYN, Fillion, right, cozies up with Longoria. Ron Tom/ABC

“If these guys had any idea what kind of kiss of death I am to television, I wouldn’t have gotten the job,” Nathan Fillion says of his new role on Desperate Housewives, and he’s not exaggerating: The science-fiction drama Firefly, on which he starred as square-jawed space captain Malcolm Reynolds, was notoriously canceled by Fox in 2002 before becoming a cult favorite on DVD (it was later revived via the 2005 movie Serenity). His most recent series, Drive, was yanked after just three broadcasts in the spring, and Pasadena (2001) and Miss Match (2003) didn’t last much longer. Now he’s got a meaty recurring role on an established hit—and his story line, involving the Mayfields, a family that mysteriously returns to Wisteria Lane after having moved away before the series began, is actually intriguing (miles away from season two’s painfully uninteresting story arc about the Applewhite clan). Besides being the new kid on a block swarming with scandal-seeking sirens, he plays a—ahem—gynecologist. How’s this for a first day of work: Fillion arrived on the lot and spent 14 hours pretending to be Teri Hatcher’s (extremely personal) doc. If you missed the season premiere, the scene can be wrapped up as such: It involved little more than Fillion, Hatcher, an exam table, stirrups and a pair of rubber gloves. Sure, Fillion describes the filming of it as “awkward at best,” but c’mon, we’d be hard-pressed to find another male actor who wouldn’t give his left, um, arm for the job. “It’s such a cool place to work,” he says of the Housewives set. “I try to keep on my best behavior over there. If it were my show, I’d be playing practical jokes on people left and right.”

So here he is portraying hunk-about-town Adam Mayfield, much younger husband to long-lost Wisteria Lane resident Katherine (Dana Delany) and stepfather to her alleged daughter Dylan (Lyndsy Fonseca). “This is a couple who are running from their darkened past,” explains Fillion, who promises plenty of “juicy stuff that’s just under the surface.” (Shocker.) Besides the “fun with Teri” he had in the first episode, Fillion’s scenes with Delany— with whom he costarred in Pasadena—are delectable. “She gives these icy glares,” he says. “We have a great little scene together where she cracks the whip on me. When they say, ‘Cut,’ I go, ‘Thank God you’re not really mad at me.’ ” Other scenes are just as promising, including a public brouhaha between Katherine and Gaby (Eva Longoria) incited by jealousy over Adam.

After years in the trenches, Fillion may finally strike gold with his new gig: So far, his comedic and dramatic timing are spot-on with the Housewives mood and pace. “They have a particular brand of comedy that you’re not called upon to use very often,” he explains. “But it’s right up my alley. And they do it well, so it’s not hard to latch onto the tone of it.”

In addition to the Housewives role, Fillion has an unpublicized cameo in a project aimed at a completely different demographic: Along with his Firefly costars Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk, he has a brief voice role in the ridiculously successful Halo 3. The video game hardly needs more promotion, but he’s hoping the Housewives role will draw attention to the forthcoming DVDs of two independent comedies in which he costarred, director Adrienne Shelly’s romantic Waitress (in stores November 27), in which he coincidentally also plays an OB-GYN, and the 2004 gay-themed Outing Riley (available October 30). “I’m so incredibly proud of [these movies]. I think they’re good stories, I think they’re beautifully shot, and I think there are some fantastically talented actors in them,” he says. “So anything that gets people to see those pieces—that’s a good thing.”

Desperate Housewives airs Sundays at 9pm on ABC.