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Creator / Summer Glau

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"I've done other things, but it always seems like my sci-fi projects have been what people respond to the most, because those fans are extraordinary, so passionate."

A native of San Antonio, Texas, Summer Lyn Glau (born July 24, 1981) is a classically trained ballerina who broke into acting in 2002 with a guest spot on Angel (playing a ballerina). Her career has primarily been composed of active women and damaged girls (usually combined) in science fiction and fantasy series.

Her first role (the aforementioned Angel guest spot) got a standing ovation from the cast and crew after recording her single scene of dialogue, and critical reviews for her performance as River Tam and Cameron Phillips have been overwhelmingly positive. However, she has yet to get much mainstream recognition as her roles have largely been reserved to TV shows and films that failed to perform on the business end.

In 2016, she took time out from acting to focus on raising her two daughters but returned in a recurring role in the 2019 series Wu Assassins.

Summer Glau appears in:

Tropes associated with her works:

  • Action Girl: As the below tropes should make clear, she's more than capable of kicking ass and frequently does so in her roles.
  • Badass Adorable: Par for the course playing a Dance Battler. Also see Waif-Fu below.
  • Brainy Brunette: Quite a few of Summer's characters have above-average intelligence, such as River, Bennett, Orwell, Skylar, and even Cameron.
  • The Cast Showoff: Expect her to do a few ballet steps in any show she is in.
  • Ceiling Cling: She did this at one point in Serenity without any special effects.
  • Dance Battler: Literally. She is a classically trained ballerina.
  • Dawson Casting: Summer has frequently been cast as characters who are either teenagers or supposed to be teenagers. She is in her forties, but can still pull off the teenage appearance with almost unnerving ease.
  • Dyeing for Your Art:
    I have a scar on my face from when I was shooting. I was at a shooting range and a shell flew back and burned my face, so [director] David Nutter let it show all through the pilot [of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles], and if you watch you can see it all through the episode. I thought that was great because she is supposed to be human[-like]. — from IF Magazine.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Summer, River, Cameron, Orwell, Paige, Bennett, Skylar.
  • Hospital Hottie: Portrayed one in a cameo role for Grey's Anatomy.
  • Method Acting: She has stated that one of the reasons she goes barefoot so often in her roles is because her having bare feet helps her focus more in becoming her characters.
  • Older Than They Look: She was born in 1981, but you'd be forgiven for believing she was at best in her early twenties.
  • Old Shame: Her first acting roles were in some commercials from the late 90s/early 00s. However, these commercials were for specific affiliates in Texas and California, promoting local businesses, thus it's very hard for anyone to find copies of these commercials. Summer has said herself, "This is a good thing."
  • Phrase Catcher: After an infamous incident of Summer screwing up her lines during the filming of Firefly, the other cast members — most notably Nathan Fillion — took to yelling her name as an expletive whenever anything went wrong. Nathan is rumored to have taken the tradition on to his succeeding shows including Drive (2007) and Castle.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: In her case, this is the sum of Badass Adorable + Waif-Fu.
  • Playing with Character Type: Her role as Skyler in Alphas. In her first episode, she's introduced in a way that implies that Skyler's a crazy super-powered teenager just like River or Cameron — and then once we get to know her, she's closer to Summer's real age, much more together, and has a kid.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: She has tendonitis in her heels and arthritis in her toes due to her background as a ballerina,note  so shoes are actually painful for her to wear. She has said that boots, specifically cowboy boots, are more comfortable for her.
    "I think the thing I like about River is that she gets to be barefoot so much of the time. I don’t like shoes very much."
    • Summer has admitted in more recent interviews that shoes don't really bother her that much anymore (and she's been seen wearing regular shoes at conventions lately), she just likes being able to feel the ground with her feet. She attributes this to being a common trait amongst dancers.
  • Typecasting: She tends to play Cloudcuckoolanders.
  • Unkempt Beauty: So much so that she appears multiple times on the page.
  • Waif-Fu: Her "River Tam beats up everyone" scenes from Serenity are almost as well-known as the movie itself. Despite her tiny frame, Summer Glau is pretty well-trained in multiple martial arts disciplines. When called on to convincingly beat up people several times her size (like in the aforementioned scene) she requires No Stunt Double.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Before she met Joss Whedon, she was almost a Power Ranger, saying she was the second choice for Power Rangers Wild Force.note 
    • She also tried out for the role of Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand. For her audition, she recited a scene Whedon wrote for Kitty during his run on Astonishing X-Men.