Sean Maher in Serenity
Pink Lady and Jeff. Manimal. Hello, Larry. None of those short-lived TV series ever commanded feature-film follow-ups. But Fox's Firefly — woefully promoted, questionably handled and then unceremoniously yanked off the air after just 11 episodes in 2002 — is big-screen bound. Serenity, which hits theaters Sept. 30, catches up with the transport ship's crew, led by Captain "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), as they fend off big-government interest in some precious cargo they are carrying. Tending to the occasionally wounded is the Serenity's Dr. Simon Tam, played by Sean Maher, who was more than happy to speak with TVGuide.com about the revival of little show that could.

TVGuide.com: Would you say that the Internet played a key role in resurrecting Firefly?
Sean Maher:
I think the Internet still plays a huge part in the support — the Browncoats [official fan club members], specifically. Even when the show was still on the air, I can remember Nathan being the liaison between the fans and the cast. I knew they were out there, but I didn't really get a taste of what it felt like until we went to [the 2004 San Diego] Comic Con. The response was extraordinary. Nothing compares to walking into a room of almost 5000 screaming people. It really makes you feel like a rock star.

TVGuide.com: Were you disappointed with the handling of series (e.g., Fox skipping over the pilot, running episodes out of order)?
Maher:
Yeah. I mean, I think there was always a little confusion from the beginning. I don't know if we ever were understood 100 percent, and then they preempted us for... I can't remember what, exactly. I just sort of felt like they didn't get it, you know?

TVGuide.com: What do you think allowed Firefly to be not just another canceled show?
Maher:
 I attribute a lot of that to the fans. There were a ton of people out there who understood what we were trying to say and fell in love with and were completely captivated by this world that Joss [Whedon] created. What I love about the show is that it's this entire other world that is so complete and thought-out and genuine. Although it's set in the future, so much of it is about humanity — these characters and their relationships, their dynamics, their pasts, their secrets.

TVGuide.com: The 500-years-in-the-future setting is almost, "By the way...."
Maher:
Exactly. It's just a backdrop. And that's what I think is so unique about it. Here we are in a sci-fi genre film, and it's really more about the people and their lives intertwining.

TVGuide.com: Is it true that you used to accidentally call the character of River by her portrayer's name, Summer [Glau]?
Maher:
[Laughs] It's so funny, I keep reading that everywhere! I think I did that once. It might even be on a DVD blooper reel.

TVGuide.com: Would you do another Firefly series or Serenity film if warranted?
Maher:
Honestly, wherever Joss goes, I follow. And the cast, I would do anything with this group of people, whether it's television or film... even if we take a circus act on the road. I feel blessed to have been a part of this. The more and more it continues, it's overwhelming. We had this little show that could, you know?

TVGuide.com: When doing the movie version, could you "feel" the bigger budget?
Maher:
In terms of the script and the tone and the dynamics within the characters, that all felt so familiar — it was like coming back to school after summer vacation. So I, myself, didn't really feel a big difference, especially having Joss there and surrounded by a lot of the same people. Even the spaceship [set] was built in such a way that was the same, almost to a T. I'd be like, "I gotta run to the rest room," and I'd run out the north side of the cargo bay and hit a wall! "Oh, right, I'm not on the Fox lot. Where the hell is the bathroom again?!" Everybody did that.

TVGuide.com: OK, but the costumes had to be a bit nicer, yes? Better-quality cotton?
Maher:
The costumes were a little different. They did a different take on me — I didn't have to wear any vests this time around, which I was happy about!

TVGuide.com: You're also in the upcoming indie Living 'Til the End, which sounds interesting. A guy is told by a psychic that he will die on his next birthday?
Maher:
He just lives out the year trying his darnedest to make sure that he doesn't get sick, doesn't get hurt, doesn't get hit by a bus. He's so afraid of dying that he becomes agoraphobic and basically locks himself in his apartment. But he's an estate planner, and he meets a girl [played by Jaime Ray Newman] who has a list of things she wants to do before she dies, and she wants him to do them with her. In turn, she teaches him to be fearless and to live life again.

TVGuide.com: Where else might we be seeing you?
Maher:
I did an episode of Ghost Whisperer a couple of weeks ago that airs [during the first couple of episodes]. I play a ghost who died in a triathlon and a year later he's still lingering around his fiancée, who can't move on and has been terribly depressed for a year.

TVGuide.com: So basically, Jennifer Love Hewitt is Whoopi Goldberg and you're Patrick Swayze.
Maher:
Exactly.