As everyone knows, starting over isn’t easy. And it’s especially hard for John Nolan who, at 40 years old, is pursuing the life he always wanted, to become a police officer. But to the people he works with at the Los Angeles Police Department, having the oldest rookie on the force can be challenging to them, and him.
Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Modern Family, Castle) stars as Nolan, who uses his life experience and humor to propel him into his new position, but is it enough? The actor came to the TV Critics tour to talk about his new series, which premieres on ABC on October 16th 2018.
The Rookie - TCA: Alexi Hawley, Richard T Jones, Afton Williamson, Nathan Fillion, Alyssa Diaz, Titus Makin Jr, and Mercedes Mason
The Rookie – The cast and producers, Alexi Hawley (Writer/Creator/ Executive Producer), Richard T Jones, Afton Williamson, Nathan Fillion, Alyssa Diaz, Titus Makin Jr, and Mercedes Mason at the Disney | ABC Television Summer Press Tour 2018, at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California ©2018 ABC Television Network, photo by Image Group LA

ABC has clearly had a vested interest in you with multiple episodes of Modern Family.

True. Next question. (he laughs)

After Castle there was American Housewife then Modern Family, could you talk a little bit about what your relationship with the network has been and where The Rookie came into play in the timeline of all of this?

Right after those, actually. Alexi (Hawley, Executive Producer of The Rookie and Castle) rang me up and said, ‘I had this idea.’ If you know who you are going to be working with, you know that you can rely on their talent. It takes a lot of the guesswork and the tension out of a decision. I know I can bank on Alexi. We’ve worked together before with tremendous success. We’ve had a lovely time working together.

I accepted this job before the script was even written. That was new for me, a first. Here I am at 47 years old still experiencing firsts. I love it. All the right ingredients were there. I feel pretty smart saying yes to this one. I really do. I feel like I made a good decision.

The Rookie, 103 - Nathan Fillion
The Rookie, 103 “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” – John Nolan (Nathan Fillion) ©2018 ABC Television Network, photo by Eric McCandless

When you take lead roles, they seem to be people who are solving things. Mal Reynolds, in Firefly, was solving the problems of the galaxy against the evil empire.

In his own way, yes.

Castle was involved in law enforcement, and now the rookie is. Is this something you are particularly attracted to in characters that you may be playing for a while, or is this just how you get cast?

This is just how I get cast. You want drama, you need conflict. Breaking the law is an automatic conflict right there. I think it kind of sets itself up for easy storytelling.

Playing a guy who gets out of breath after he runs really hard, and has trouble climbing up a fence, was that acting, or is that pretty realistic for you?

The Rookie, 102 - Afton Williamson and Nathan Fillion
The Rookie, 102 “Crash Course” – Talia Bishop (Afton Williamson) and John Nolan (Nathan Fillion) ©2018 ABC Television Network, photo by Eric McCandless

Six pounds of Epsom salt, that particular day of shooting, and bruises up and down my thighs.

Listen, I’m at the point in my life where, if I can have a stunt guy run down the street for me, these knees will appreciate it. They really do. Running in those big boots and with all of that equipment on your belt, it’s not a dream.

I’m a natural sprinter. That’s a marathon. I like that it’s rough for John Nolan. That is not far away from my truth. Like I said, kneeling is a stunt for me.

This whole thing we used to call ‘middle-age crisis,’ we call ‘reinvention’ and it’s a good thing now. You are doing that, at least a little bit, because many of your roles have been more specifically comedy. This is mostly dead serious with some comedy. Does it feel like you are reinventing yourself a little bit in this role?

Yeah, certainly.

You make your way through your career, and you find yourself playing somebody’s son and then somebody’s brother. And then maybe all of a sudden now you are married, and now you have a baby. And then your baby is actually 14, and then she grows to 22, and now you are the oldest.

That’s your jam now. That’s your title, ‘the oldest.’ That happens. Thank God?? I still feel a little bit relevant. My hair is that of a lighter color. So it doesn’t show the gray quite so much. Just don’t have any direct sunlight.

The Rookie, Season 1 - Titus Makin, Melissa O'Neil, Eric Winter, Nathan Fillion, Afton Williamson, Alyssa Diaz, Mercedes Mason and Richard T Jones
The Rookie, Season 1 Gallery – Titus Makin as Jackson West, Melissa O’Neil as Lucy Chen, Eric Winter as Tim Bradford, Nathan Fillion as John Nolan, Afton Williamson as Talia Bishop, Alyssa Diaz as Angela Lopez, Mercedes Mason as Zoe Andersen, and Richard T Jones as Wade Grey ©2018 ABC Television Network, photo by Ed Herrera

You have a great sense of humor. What do you find funny about this situation, on and off camera? What just makes you laugh about this?

I think it’s really hard to make people laugh. I think it’s easier to let people laugh at you, and I think what the rookie does really well is it puts us as an audience in the very safe position of saying, ‘Thank God, I am not him going through that.’

So I think the comedy we’re going to see is not one-liners and zingers and jokes, but actually grounded in reality, situational, this actually happens in real life, and wouldn’t that suck to be that guy?

If I asked you today how you look back at your time on Castle, how would you sum it up?

Oh, my gosh. You don’t spend eight years with that many people telling stories and entertaining people without forming some incredibly strong bonds. I love those people. We had a great time.

We all know how incredibly fortunate we are. This is not a success-oriented career. To have a television show is a big deal. To have one last for more than two weeks is an even bigger deal. Eight years? It’s more than I could have hoped or asked for. I would say I look back on it fondly.

Rookie actor Nathan Fillion Soundbyte

We are all rookies at some point in our lives, and Nathan was asked what he remembered about being a rookie actor? Click here to listen to his reply.
The Rookie - TCA: Nathan Fillion
The Rookie – TCAs: Nathan Fillion ©2018 ABC Television Network, photo by Image Group LA

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.