Totally Fanning on Summer Glau

There are some aspects of fandom that you just glom onto. Often it’s the larger work: a Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Battlestar Galactica, or something equally epic.  Sometimes it’s a character or actor from those works that has managed to become compelling enough that you follow them from project to project because you know they won’t disappoint. For the past few years, one of those actors for me has been Summer Glau.

Like many who have long been entwined in the Whedonverse, my introduction to Summer Glau was as a dancer in the Angel episode “Waiting in the Wings”. She played a ballet dancer…which was a huge stretch given her history of being a classically trained ballerina. Her are excerpts from that eppie:

[Excerpt was removed from YouTube. Sorry, guys.]
From that, creative guru Joss Whedon took notice of this special talent and cast her as River Tam in his short-lived 2002 sci-fi/western series, Firefly. Oh, what a journey that was. (And continues somewhat with EW.com’s Firefly Fridays, which help keep Summer and the rest of the cast in the public mind.)

It was very difficult to get to know River Tam, owing to Fox’s decision to air episodes out of order and with many preemptions. River Tam was the whopping-great genius what the Alliance (central government) used in experiments to develop a psychic assassin. What they got (accidentally, as it turned out) was a very confused and unfocused teenager whose nonsensical rantings were seemingly random but did actually make sense in hindsight. In the episode “Safe”, we finally got a glimpse of the person too often hidden behind her Alliance-caused psychosis, and blogs at the time pretty much tagged this as the moment when River became everyone’s mei-mei (little sister).

[Excerpt comes and goes from Hulu.com. Apparently it’s not available. Sorry guys]

No longer a raving lunatic, but instead a damaged girl wanting only to be what she was, River became the hero of the show (in literary terms). But as brilliant as the writing was, Summer brought to the part a lot of subtle grace, a knowing innocence, and her own sense of humor to make those eleven aired episodes (14 on DVD) seem like we’d known her character for seasons. Writing alone can’t accomplish that [take that from a writer-CJ].

The movie Serenity only served to fill in a lot of the holes that Firefly‘s premature cancellation had caused. We got a resolution to the story, and we also got to discover how impressive this ballerina was when she let loose and kicked ass.

[Excerpt comes and goes from Hulu.com. Apparently it’s not available. Sorry guys]

It really comes as no surprise that Summer found her way into a part that few would have likely expected: a Terminator. That’s right, in 2008 Summer took over the roll of being John Connor’s protector (the T2 incarnation being manned by Arnold Schwarzenegger) in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Despite the restrictions on the character brought on by being a “scary robot”, Summer is able to give a lot of humanity to the role:

[Excerpt comes and goes from Hulu.com. Apparently it’s not available. Sorry guys]

My favorite TSCC scene to-date (note to self…never insult the scary robot):

[Excerpt comes and goes from Hulu.com. Apparently it’s not available. Sorry guys]

In any event, no matter what she has done in the acting realm, I’ve yet to see Summer stumble. While she’s been gifted with some very good material, that only goes so far…the rest is up to the person trying to make the make-believe seem real. What she has brought to the craft has been a joy to watch. I’ll try to remember to thank her should I ever run into her (various “Terminators” film in and around Albuquerque from time-to-time—apparently we don’t much mind gunshots and explosions at 4 in the morning [actually, we’re just used to them]—so the possibility exists). I hope that when I babble incoherently, she’ll be kind enough to accept it as the thanks it was intended to be.

See also: Wild Speculation On the Cameron Phillips Terminator

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