'Much Ado About Nothing': Talking Shakespeare with Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker & Alexis Denisof

Most people tend to decompress with a massage, a beer or even just some quiet time with a book or some music. That’s all elementary relaxation to Joss Whedon. The man behind many of your favorite TV shows and the captain of Marvel’s Avengers vessel was actually about to embark on a mandatory break from filming said epic superhero adventure, when he had an idea.

“I have this extraordinary staple of people. It was a delicate process with me asking people where they’d be (during) the next month. It’s an embarrassment of riches. I got my dream cast,” explains Whedon. Shot in just 12 days on his Malibu property, the director filmed his adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, entirely in black and white and surrounded by a cast full of loved ones. “I felt very strongly that (the color palette) fit the narrative. It’s kind of a noir comedy and the dramatic and comedic elements are very much a mix. And it had an old fashioned feel to it that I wanted to capture.” As for what drew the director to this particular Shakespeare piece, the answer was two fold. “I love Much Ado. It’s hilarious and accessible. But it’s also very dark and has a lot to say about love, identity, jealousy and pain. The stuff he’s talking about is universal. I relate to it as much as anything I’ve ever seen or read.” The second reason? Whedon simply points to the actors on both sides of him: Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof.

“This play has the perfect blend of comedy and tragedy that Joss does that so well,” says Acker, who plays the lovable lush Beatrice. “That’s what makes being in his stuff so much fun as an actor. He’s not afraid to take it in different places that you don’t expect it to go.” Adds Denisof, whose confident Benedick provides some of the film’s best physical comedy. “The same way that Shakespeare was writing very much for his time, he was also unearthing observations that would last for generations beyond him. I hope I’m here to see that happen with Joss’ words. It’s true that he’s got his finger on the contemporary pulse of American youth, but it goes a lot deeper than that.”

Fans of Whedon’s filmography will recognize both Acker and Denisof from their doomed love affair on the hit show Angel. Another familiar face within and outside of the Whedonverse is Nathan Fillion (TV’s Castle). Despite being the second person the director called, Fillion was unsure whether to accept the role of dim-witted policeman Dogberry. “I was afraid to do this project for much the same reason I’m afraid to watch Shakespeare – that I will not understand,” admits the actor. “That was stopping me from literally learning my lines. I didn’t understand what I was saying, until I sat down and studied what was being said and what were the pictures that he was painting.” As for any similarities between his longtime friend’s prose and that of the legendary writer, Fillion has learned one important detail. “I think there’s a real poetry to Joss’ words and in the same way that you do not paraphrase Shakespeare, you do not paraphrase Joss Whedon.”

While sticking pretty much true to Shakespeare’s original language, sans a few insignificant characters, Much Ado About Nothing isn’t the summer blockbuster many will come to expect from a Joss Whedon directed-movie slated for a June release. Instead, Much Ado was a complete labor of love and an outlet to relax and spend time with good company. All of who quickly seemed to realize that their old friend was slowly becoming a larger part of the American pop culture conversation than they could’ve ever imagined.

“I don’t want to say that Joss Whedon is the Shakespeare of our generation. It’s true but I don’t want to say it,” jokes Fillion.

A sentiment clarified by his co-star Denisof, “I’ve been saying that Shakespeare is the Joss Whedon of his generation.”

Much Ado About Nothing is out in certain cities now. Click here to find a theater near you!