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Nathan Fillion's life and career in photos - see the star's incredible transformation over the years

The actor is revered for his iconic roles in Firefly, Castle and The Rookie

Nathan Fillion at the premiere of Ozark season four
Megan Bull
TV Writer
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Revered as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, Nathan Fillion is quite simply a national treasure. A self-confessed nerd with a penchant for all things sci-fi, the actor – who proudly collects lightsabers and memorabilia at his LA home – has established himself as an icon of the genre. 

Rising to fame in Firefly (2002), Buffy The Vampire Slayer (2003), and Justice League Unlimited (2005-2006), Nathan has continued to go from strength to strength in his career and was recently cast as Green Lantern Guy Gardner in James Gunn's Superman Legacy (2025).

Nathan Fillion wearing a blue suit at The Suicide Squad premiere. © Getty
Nathan Fillion is celebrating his 53rd birthday

Equipped with a sunny disposition and a flair for comedy, fans will also have seen Nathan in the hit comedy-drama, Castle (2009-2016), not to mention The Rookie, which is currently in the midst of its sixth season. 

In honour of Nathan's 53rd birthday, we're taking a trip down memory lane. From his early days as an aspiring actor in Edmonton, Canada, to his meteoric rise to fame, and 'dream' life in LA, see the star's incredible evolution in photos…

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Born on March 27, 1971, Nathan grew up in the City of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. The star has always shared a close bond with both of his parents and in a 2020 Instagram post noted: "I speak with them nearly every day, laugh with them always, and learn from them constantly." 

The youngest of two, Nathan's older brother, Jeff, has also served as a major influence. In honor of National Sibling Day in 2020, the actor wrote: "To say he has influenced me is an understatement. To say I admire him is an understatement. To say he has an unusual number of nicknames for me is an understatement. 

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"I cannot say enough about how proud I am of what he's accomplished. Thank you, Jeff. I endeavor to be more like you all the time." 

From a young age, Nathan knew that he wanted to be an actor, but as he recalled, In Edmonton, Alberta, that's not a success-oriented career. So I said, 'I'll get my (teaching) degree and then I'll see what happens.'" 

Nathan originally studied to be a teacher, but he couldn't shake the acting bug and in 1994, he moved to New York, where he landed his breakthrough role as Joey Buchanan in the hit soap opera, One Life to Live.

Nathan sported a completely different look on the daytime soap One Life to Live© Getty
In 1994, Nathan landed the role of Joey Buchanan in One Life to Live

"It was 1994 in New York City," Nathan recalled to Assignment X. "I was incredibly fortunate to be on a show, working beside people who had been doing the job for fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five years who, any time I turned to them and said, 'I have no idea what he just said, what it means, and what I'm supposed to do,' they took me under their wing and said, 'Let me walk you through this. This is the back story. This is the shortcut. This is how I do it. Come to it your own way.'"

Following his three-year stint on One Life to Live, Nathan went on to appear in Two Guys and a Girl (1998-2001), King of the Hill (2001) and Pasadena (2002), before landing one of his most iconic roles to date. 

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Cast as Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds in Joss Whedon's space Western drama series, Firefly only ran for one season, and a follow-up film, but it had an indelible impact on Nathan. "I had an amazing time on Firefly. It was the best job I'd ever had," he told Esquire

MORE: 5 surprising facts about Nathan Fillion you need to know

READ: Nathan Fillion's sensational LA home is so unexpected - see inside

"It was a lot of firsts for me, and it was the most incredible collection of people I'd ever had the pleasure to work with. And when it was torn away from me so abruptly, I was quite literally broken-hearted. But I had a chance to go back in the biggest way possible with [Serenity], a major motion picture. We all did. So we were able to have a nice kind of final goodbye. We had closure, which is more than a lot of people with cancelled shows can say." 

Nathan Fillion and the cast of Castle© Getty Images
Nathan appeared in Castle from 2009 to 2016

After starring in episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003), Justice League Unlimited (2005-2006) and Desperate Housewives (2007-2008), Nathan would go on to find his next big role as the titular Richard Castle in ABC's detective series. 

Asked about his character, in 2010 the A-lister told Collider: "He's on the forefront of murder investigations with actual homicide detectives and he's able to indulge this fantasy. He's living it, in real life. Every day, for him, is a field trip. He's so excited and happy. 

Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Michael Trucco on Castle© Getty Images
The TV star reportedly clashed with his co-star Stana Katic

"Castle isn't really affected emotionally by murder. He's thrilled about, 'Oh, my god, I wonder how this happened?' Much in the same way that, since I was a kid, I wanted to be on TV and in the movies. When I saw a montage of Hollywood with the Hollywood sign and the palm trees, I said that it would be great to be there. And now, I'm living in Los Angeles, I'm in films and I'm on television, and I'm working with actors and telling stories. I'm living the fantasy. My worst day is a great day."

Nathan appeared in Castle for the next seven years, during which he and co-star, Stana Katic reportedly clashed on set. The show's cancelation was announced in May 2016. In a rare comment about the show's ending, Nathan told the New York Post: "It wasn't the beautiful send-off that I think maybe you could hope for, but it's the entertainment industry, it's a business, I get it. 

"I don't take it personally when a show gets canceled — I can't take it personally, all my shows get canceled! Look at my resume, it's a long list of canceled TV shows. The fact is, I made a lot of great friends on a really great show. I'm really happy for everything that that show has done for me."

Nathan Fillion in The Rookie season 6© Disney/Raymond Liu
Nathan currently appears as John Nolan in The Rookie

After waving goodbye to Castle, Nathan went on to star in Big Mouth (2017) and A Series of Unfortunate Events (2018) before signing on as John Nolan in The Rookie

"What I knew was that I was getting into business with a person that I'd worked with before in Alexi Hawley. I know how he likes to tell stories. I know how he likes to run a show, which is incredibly important because that's my day-to-day, day in and day out," Nathan told The Hollywood Reporter in February 2024. 

JENNA DEWAN and NATHAN FILLION in The Rookie© Disney/Raymond Liu
The Rookie recently aired its 100th episode

"What I saw was that he had an interesting new 'in' to the police show. This concept of the restart for John Nolan, that was our pathway into this classic TV genre. And what I've noticed since is that it's the engine that will keep this thing moving." 

Hugely successful, The Rookie recently celebrated its 100th episode in February. To mark the milestone on Instagram, Nathan wrote: "I'm beyond proud of this show. To have it hit the 100-episode milestone is truly a dream, and now we get to share it with all of you." 

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An extremely private person, Nathan rarely shares details about his life away from the cameras, although it's known that he previously dated actresses Krista Allen, Vanessa Marcil and Perrey Reeves. As of 2024, the actor is thought to be single and lives in Los Angeles with his rescue cat – Bowie Buddy Von Scratchalot. We can't wait to see what he does next! 

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