The 'verse just got a whole lot smaller. Legendary actor Ron Glass died at the age of 71 from respiratory failure, according to TheWrap. While Glass had a long career spanning decades, during which time he appeared in everything from Barney Miller to Friends, he will always be best known to a certain group of fans as Shepherd Book, the calming presence in the chaotic world of Joss Whedon's Firefly and Serenity. Glass brought a quiet authority to the role of the mysterious man of faith, who sought passage among thieves and runaways in the short-lived space drama. Most of Book's story remained untold, due to Firefly's abbreviated one season run, but Glass always had a talent for making a little go a long way.
Nowhere is his talent more apparent than in Glass' final scene as Book in Serenity. The Shepherd died in Captain Malcolm Reynolds arms after the oppressive Alliance catches up with them on a planet known as Haven. With his dying breath, Book asked Mal to do just one thing for him: to believe in something. "I don’t care what you believe," Book manages to say between ragged breaths. "Just believe it."
The message is not one about any particular faith, it is simply Book's way of trying, even in his final hour, to help Mal find his inner purpose. Glass is superb in the moment. You can watch the clip here. The scene is brief, but powerful. It propels Mal forward, but lingers in the back of the audience's mind because Glass gives the scene everything he had — a sense of peace, grace, and acceptance. Glass was an actor who could say three times as much with one line as most could with five. That sense of gravitas gave Serenity weight, even as Glass' appearance in the film was brief.
In his own life, Glass was a Buddhist. The wisdom his character offered in Firefly and Serenity is not unlike the wisdom he offered those he knew in real life. While he and Book did not share the same faith, they were both men of faith, and that informed how Glass played the character. "The character was just irresistible," Glass said of Book in a Showbiz Junkies interview. "Who doesn't want to play a guy that has all the passion this guy has?"
Book's farewell captured everything that made the character such a strong moral center for the series, and his last words are words befitting Glass as well. Both Book and Glass were men whose presence loomed large, and it is only fitting that when you remember Glass' work, you remember how much heart and passion he put into everything he did. There is one thing you can always believe in, Glass put his soul into every single role he played, and for that reason, he will never be forgotten.
Images: 20th Century Fox