There are many reasons to see Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, not least of which is Summer Glau. Outside on the street in front of the ArcLight theater last Wednesday, I was waiting for the actress to appear on the red carpet for the television show's premiere and postparty. Perhaps you remember Glau from Joss Whedon's much-lauded, too-soon-ended series Firefly? She played the mysterious and brilliant but brain-addled, telepathic, superfighting teen fugitive River Tam. In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, she plays John and Sarah Connor's protector robot: mysterious and brilliant, not so much telepathic as sent back from the future (which, on second thought, does imply a kind of telepathy), and most definitely superfighting. But that bit of casting genius is beside the point. Summer, you had me at “Come with me if you want to live.”
The evening manifests all the traditional elements of the Hollywood premiere screening, postparty, red-carpet affair. The pretty PR girls, perfectly coifed and razor-thin in their black skirts and pointy black heels, their expensive black-leather tasseled bags tucked like lambs under their arms. The rabid fans trying to conceal their rabidity, ineffectually attempting to blend in. The producer types reading copies of Variety, looking bored and important at the same time. The beefy, suited security guards for hire muttering ominously into earpieces. The tabloid-talk-show hosts waiting for actors to give the same answers to the same questions they've been asked a million times. The annoying reporters (that's me) and photographers.
“This is your sidewalk,” Gladden, the on-duty fire marshal, tells one of the event organizers. “You paid for it this evening. You gotta let them know that. Watch out for those aggressive autograph seekers, you know, the ones who sell them on eBay. And also those irritating TMZ gnats. They are everywhere. You hold the line from here, and lock it up at the end of the block.”
“What is it with British chicks and wearing black all the time?” says Stewart, one of the photographers, as the U.K.'s Lena Headey (a.k.a. Sarah Connor) arrives. Her shoes are green and yellow, though.
“There's just too many of us now,” Stewart says, gazing at the assembled paparazzi, fenced off three rows deep. “We're all digital. Film is too slow. If you can get a shot of Britney with her pants down, then you're set for life — if you were the only one who took it.”
“So, how long have you been a… photojournalist?” I ask Stewart.
He snorts. He's from an image bank in London, but he's been standing on the carpet spot reserved for Getty Images. “Sure, if that's what you want to call it. Everyone with a cell phone is a photojournalist, now.”
Soon Summer Glau arrives. Strobe lights fire. Her arms are slender. Her hair flows around her shoulders in romantic curls. Her skin is tanned, flawless. Her gossamer chiffon dress makes her look like a Swan Lake ballerina. All of which is a delicious contrast to those posters of her around town, you know, the ones depicting her as a quadriplegic android, just a torso with the machine guts hanging out, the ones that die-hard Summer Glau devotees and/or bondage fetishists are stealing out of bus-stop window kiosks and ferreting away as we speak. Inside, at the actual screening, she bounds up from her seat to hug people and sign more autographs. Industry people at a premiere don't just sit in their seats grossly scarfing down popcorn like the rest of us. They are parodies of us, being simultaneously more animated — what with the twisting around, hugging and handshaking — and more inanimate (oh, another premiere, been there, done that). This is what I realize, sitting across the aisle from Brian Austin Green and his beautiful fiancee, Megan Fox, with the languid eyes.
At the postparty held on the rooftop of the ArcLight, waitresses gussied up in Terminator-chic outfits ply guests with cocktails (“Vial of Hope”: vodka, triple sec, Midori sour, pineapple juice, green plastic test tube). “Oh my god, it is so weird. It never gets old,” says Glau when I ask her if it's strange to see herself on the big screen. The ethereal, ass-kicking yet graceful heroine roles are a good fit for her right now, she says, but she'd also like to do other genres in the future: dramas, comedies, romantic comedies, suspense. In any case, I'm happy to report that her new sci-fi action show, the pilot at least, is every bit as exciting, pulse-pounding and compelling as you would hope a TV show based on the classic movie would be. It's a good gig, Glau's. She gets to bash bad guys into walls week after week, which will make it less and less necessary for her to say “Hi, I'm Summer” by way of introduction, as she did with me tonight, because people will already know that Summer's in the house. Because she will have been the robot that makes a million human hearts melt.