Nathan Fillion's Varscona Theatre fundraiser tops $90K

A fundraiser by Edmonton’s own Hollywood star Nathan Fillion has now raised more than $90,000 to benefit the Varscona Theatre.

Castle star still makes frequent trips to Edmonton, appearing in theatre that gave him his start

Jeff Fillion joined Edmonton AM on Tuesday to talk about his brother Nathan Fillion's efforts to raise funds for the Varscona Theatre. 7:33

A fundraiser by Edmonton's own Hollywood star Nathan Fillion has now raised more than $90,000 to benefit a local theatre.

Over the course of his career, Fillion has accumulated a dedicated fan base due to his roles in Joss Whedon-helmed cult favourites like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and Serenity. These days, Fillion stars on ABC's Castle, in which he plays author-cum-detective Richard Castle.

He's so big in fact, he rarely gets to come back to his hometown, where his family still lives.

That's where Jeff comes in.

Jeff Fillion (right) visited CBC's Edmonton AM on Tuesday to give an update on his brother's fundraising efforts on behalf of the Varscona Theatre. (@NathanFillion/Twitter)
Nathan's older brother by two years, Jeff Fillion stayed in Edmonton and followed in his teacher parents' footsteps. Today, he's the principal of St. Elizabeth Seaton School in northeast Edmonton.

And occasionally, he fills in for Nathan on morning radio broadcasts.

"He has trouble getting away from his busy job, you know, being the lead actor on Castle, of course. And he finds it pretty cold here right about now," Jeff said with a laugh on Tuesday morning.

"He likes to come in the summer rather than the winter."

Hollywood star still makes appearances at Edmonton theatre

But once upon a time, Nathan was just a humble education student at the University of Alberta, appearing regularly in local theatre shows after hours. One of his most regular gigs was on Die-Nasty, an improvised soap opera performed live every week on stage at the Varscona Theatre.

Even then it was clear Nathan was going places, Jeff said Tuesday.

Then, three months short of graduation, Nathan was invited to New York to do a screen test for the role of Joey Buchanan on soap opera One Life to Live. The then-21-year-old beat out Neil Patrick Harris for the role.

A photo of Nathan Fillion taken during his early days in New York. (Reddit)
"Clearly, it was the right decision," said Jeff.

From that first role, it was a slow and steady climb to Hollywood for Nathan, he said.

"That first three years in New York was tough. I think everybody back home thought, 'Oh Nathan, you're an actor, you're rich now,' and that wasn't the case."

There were some perks to his brother's showbiz life though, Jeff said. On visits, the two would rollerblade around Central Park and sit in on tapings of the David Letterman Show.

"It's fantastic to have a brother who had a little place in New York with some connections," Jeff said with a laugh.

In the long run, Jeff credits his brother's journeyman approach for keeping him grounded.

"He wasn't thrown into something so quickly that he couldn't handle it at that age," Jeff said. "He was able to appreciate as he grew as an actor and a performer, and he was able to appreciate everything that came along."

So, when the chance came up to help out the Varscona, his theatrical training ground, Fillion jumped to the cause, posting a video promising a prize of a day on set in L.A. and lunch for the winning donor.

"He talks a lot about (the Varscona), and made a lot of amazing lifelong friends that he still has to this day — and when he comes back he still has an opportunity to sometimes play on Die-Nasty as whatever character comes to mind."

"Many places I can say I got my start, this was probably the first place I got my start," Nathan says in a video posted to his Prizeo crowdfund page.

This isn't the first time Nathan used his fame for a good cause, much to his fans' delight.

"He's done this before for a number of charities," Jeff said. "He typically has some people fly up and then they spend the day on the set and nice lunch, and if they really impress him, sometimes he even takes them for dinner."

The fundraiser ends on Sept. 28.