Adam Baldwin, fandom's big damn hero

One beloved fan franchise is usually the most any actor can hope for. Within just a few years, Adam Baldwin got two.

Even though the cult classic series "Firefly" was canceled in 2002, the show and Baldwin's character, Jayne Cobb (who has his own theme song and a trademark hat that is everywhere at fan conventions), lived on. Fans bought the DVDs in large numbers, enough to justify a big-screen incarnation, "Serenity," in 2005.

Then in 2007, Baldwin took on the role of no-nonsense NSA Agent John Casey on "Chuck," and another cult hero was born – and this time fans successfully rallied to give the show five seasons.

"Fans of 'Firefly' followed me immediately to 'Chuck' and were able to enjoy the show from there," Baldwin told CNN's Geek Out. "Even though it's not really sci-fi, it's high-tech nerd, geekalicious spy comedy stuff. Zachary Levi, being a nerd and having created Nerd HQ, was welcomed into the community, as were the rest of us."

Baldwin also pointed out what has changed in the years between "Firefly" and "Chuck."

" 'Chuck' fans were particularly active. They went out and bought Subway sandwiches and supporting the sponsors, and that was another big key element. With the rise of social networking, it got back to the powers that be a lot more quickly than strictly e-mails to executives."

Even so, the short-lived status of "Firefly" stings to this day, and Baldwin feels the same way the fans do: " 'Chuck' has had a good long run of five years, so we're celebrating that, whereas 'Firefly' was killed in its infancy, before Joss Whedon had a chance to tell those stories. There's a lot of sadness there, so I think that's why you're finding so many people who know about the show want it back. Anyone who's seen it likes it, and they want it to return in any form possible."

Before "Firefly," Baldwin was not as familiar to sci-fi/fantasy genre fans, though he had done a few episodes of "The X-Files." But once the buzz built around Whedon's sci-fi Western and he hit the convention scene, Baldwin was an instant hit.

"At first it was very surprising. People said, 'oh, geeks, they're so weird,' and this and that. All these preconceived notions and judging people by their exteriors as opposed to the content of their character. I like to focus on that, and always give people time to say their piece," he said.

"I love hearing people's stories. I ran into a guy who, for all outward appearances, was just a nerd at a convention, but it turns out he works on geothermal imaging on offshore drilling platforms, and he told me all about a fire he was in and how dangerous the rigs are and the risk/reward factors. I love meeting people like that. Once they get past that initial 'oh, my God, I'm meeting Jayne Cobb,' I say, 'it's OK. Who are you? Where are you from? Tell me a story.' It's been a very loving and welcoming community for all of us. And I was very glad to be there from 'Firefly' all the way through 'Chuck.' It's been a great experience for me."

According to Baldwin, the two years he spent making and promoting "Serenity" were "some of the most beautiful years of my life."

"Shooting the movie (included) some of the best scenes I ever did. It was just heaven. We shot the funeral scene first out in the middle of nowhere. Everyone just had big smiles. 110 degrees. It was hot as hell. But it was great."

When asked which of the two fan favorite characters Baldwin identifies with most, he thought about it and replied, "I guess Casey does because he's more of a law-abiding citizen, whereas Jayne is more of a rogue and a mercenary. Although the opportunities for Jayne to chew the furniture in scenes were greater. I didn't have to shave. I could be dirty. I wore bells and whistles, guns, knives, goofy t-shirts. It'd be fun to get to play that guy again, but we'll see! I swore to Joss I would not be a 60-year-old Jayne, so he's got 10 years!"

With "Chuck" ending this month, Baldwin has a positive take on the whole experience (especially with it being on the verge of cancellation throughout its run): "My heart was completely broken when 'Firefly' ended. There was no way that 'Chuck' was going to be as devastating to me or my family as that was."

Whether "Firefly" or "Chuck" ever return, Baldwin says his attitude today can be summed up in something a great director, well-known to fans, once told him.

"I worked for Stanley Kubrick (in 'Full Metal Jacket') in '85. I was 23. It took a lot longer to produce that movie than we ever thought it would. At one point, Stanley said to me, 'Adam, you're just not patient.' And I think it's probably normal for a 23-year-old man not to be patient. If there's one thing I could say to him now, I would say, 'Hey, Stanley, I learned how to be patient.' "