When it comes to nerd cred, actress Summer Glau checks many boxes.
She made her television debut in “Angel.” She starred in “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” She was River Tam in “Firefly” and “Serenity.” She was in the cast of “Dollhouse.” She played recurring characters in “Arrow,” “The 4400” and “Alphas.” She voiced Supergirl in an animated film.
Glau even guest-starred as herself in the geek-chic show “The Big Bang Theory.”
That begs this question: Is she a nerd girl?
She laughed and said, “From way back, in a more book-ish way.”
Glau, who was raised in San Antonio, said she experienced poor health and was “severely asthmatic” as a child. She and her siblings were homeschooled by her mother, an English teacher who didn’t short-change the family when it came to reading stories aloud.
“I think that was wonderful for the children because the stories, they are so immersive and larger than life,” Glau said. “I really feel like they helped shape my imagination and, as a very small person, they helped kind of shape how I saw the world and all the possibilities and really, I think, helped my ability to be an actor eventually.”
And maybe there’s another reason why she developed a vivid imagination.
Glau said she had a difficult time sleeping in her own bed when she was a child, so she would sneak into her parents’ bedroom. The “sneaking” usually occurred just about the time an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was starting.
“They let me watch it in bed,” she said. “Fast forward 20 years. I was at Dragon Con (a major pop culture convention in Atlanta). I was doing my photo op in the photo op section and was walking back to my table, and I passed the entire cast of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. I was shaking and lost track of time. It was amazing. It was fun to be on the other side of things, meeting actors that I watched on TV.”
So Glau had a geek-out moment?
“I totally did,” she said. “They took pictures with me, and they were wonderful. It was very special.”
Glau will be among celebrity guests at one of the region’s biggest pop culture conventions. Fan Expo Dallas (fanexpodallas.com), scheduled Friday-Sunday, May 3-5, at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Full disclosure: Glau was scheduled to be a guest at the 2018 Tulsa Pop Culture Expo and took part in a phone interview to promote the con but was forced to cancel her appearance before the story could see print. Maybe she’ll make it to Tulsa some other time. In the meanwhile, why let a completed interview go to waste?
Following are excerpts of the preserved interview:
In what way are you still a Texan?
I am very much a Texan. I live in Texas now, in the Hill Country a little bit north of San Antonio. I just felt like, when I was gone, I never really felt like anywhere else was home. It’s really great to be back. Some of the qualities that I think of when I think of Texans is their inherent pride in being Texans. There’s a sense of belonging. Sense of family. Sense of camaraderie. Friendliness. Open-ness. Open-hearted. I lived in California for many years, but after I had my daughter, I started trying to plot how to get back to Texas. And now we have two (daughters).
How busy is your convention schedule?
It depends. It changes from year to year. The thing that I love most about conventions is getting to meet face-to-face with the people who have made my career possible and getting to say ‘thank you’ and spending some time with them, but I also really love getting to see different parts of the world, even if it’s only for a few days. I have some of the most precious memories of my life from doing conventions. I actually got my passport to go to a convention. I had never really been anywhere when I started acting. I drove out to L.A. and became an actor out of the blue, miraculously, and I met Joss (Whedon) and, then from there, he tried to advise me what conventions were like. You really can’t describe what they are and then I got invited to (an overseas convention), and that is how I got my passport.
Isn’t there an urban legend about you sneaking into a call-back for “Angel” to get your first acting job?
When I first moved to L.A., I was still a dancer, but I was going to auditions and trying to be an actor. My first manager, she was an awesome, awesome lady, and she kept encouraging me not to talk about being a dancer because she wanted people to take me seriously as an actor.
I happened to be back here in Texas when this “Angel” audition came up, and I missed the dance audition. It’s very unusual that they would even have a dance audition for an acting role, but Joss really wanted a dancer for this role. He held a dance audition first. I missed it, and my agent somehow finagled a way to find out when the audition was and I kind of just showed up there. I didn’t know what Joss looked like. I didn’t know he was going to be there.
I also dressed in full dance costume, which is a big no-no when you are a serious actor. You are supposed to be able to embody the role without actually dressing like the role. You don’t go full-out like that. I didn’t know. So I was wearing my ballet tights and everything, and I went in and read for Joss himself not knowing, and after I was done with my read, he looked down at my resume and said, “Where have you been?” My resume was completely made up. I used dancing credits and kind of suggested that I was an actor.
Instead of saying you cheated, can we just say you were resourceful?
You’ve got to be.
Was there a project in your career that changed everything for you in regard to all of a sudden you had fan sites devoted to you and you were getting convention invites? Was it “Firefly” or something else?
The thing about “Firefly” was that was pretty much my first job. I did one episode of “Angel,” and I was still dancing full-time at that point. I got that job and then I got to “Firefly.” It wasn’t on very long before it got pulled. So I remember thinking, “Well, it was fun being an actor while it lasted. I’m going to have to figure out something else.”
But then I booked “Terminator.” And when I got “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” it was a much more commercially pushed series. It was on every billboard in town. I remember at that point when the show was on and the billboards were out, I would be driving to and from work and people would pull up next to me and they would recognize me through my car (window) and give me the thumbs-up or wave or kind of talk. That’s when I realized, “Oh my goodness, that person up there looks a lot like me.”
Then, over the years, “Firefly” ended up coming back with a vengeance because it had a cult following and people were passing it around to their friends. It became a cult classic over the years, but it took a while.
In addition to your many roles that appeal to lovers of pop culture, weren’t you also almost a Power Ranger?
True. When I first came to L.A., that was one of my very first auditions, other than commercial auditions. It came down between me and one other girl. I did not end up getting cast and ended up just dancing for another year before I was discovered.
Was it for the original Power Rangers show or a different version?
It was later. I wasn’t quite in L.A. for the first go-round, the original cast. I know some of the original cast. I met them through conventions, which is pretty cool.
You’re a big country music fan. Are you a cowgirl at heart?
I like to think so. I’m a cowgirl, I think, because I feel the most empowered when my feet are in the dirt.