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A native of San Antonio, Texas, Summer Glau 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 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 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.
Tropes commonly associated with Glau, or even applicable to her in Real Life:
- Adam Westing: She's played herself before, specifically on The Big Bang Theory.
- Badass Adorable: Her signature character type.
- 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.
- Cat Smile: Apparently.
- Ceiling Cling: Done without any special effects.
- Dance Battler: Literally. She is a classically trained ballerina.
- Dawson Casting: Has frequently been cast as characters who are either teenagers or supposed to be teenagers. She is currently thirty, but can pull off the teenage appearance with almost unnerving ease.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Summer has tendonitis in her heels, and arthritis in her toes, so shoes actually are painful on her feet. She has said that boots, or specifically cowboy boots are more comfortable for her.
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 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.
- Foot Focus: Her bare feet were often prominently shown on Firefly. Joss Whedon joked about them being characters on the show.
- Also in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Even one episode's promo prominently featured her sticking her bare foot out of a car window.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Despite playing killer robots, psychopaths, and other assorted crazy characters, she is frequently described as one of the nicest people in Hollywood.
- Older Than She Looks
- One of Us: Summer is a big fan of science fiction movies, and is also a DC Comics fan.
- 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 and Castle.
- Rule of Sean Connery: Just see this. (the Alt Text even points out: "Crank was better, but needs a bigger budget and more Summer Glau!")
- Unkempt Beauty: She certainly seems to have this trait, as she looks more attractive and beautiful without makeup. This is especially noticeable with her characters in The Sarah Connor Chronicles and is rather striking in Deadly Honeymoon, where there are scenes showing the characters without much makeup and later with it - and the difference is amazing. With the makeup, Summer looks like a doll, while without it, she looks very real and natural.
- Waif Fu: Her "River Tam beats up everyone" scenes from Serenity are almost as well-known as the movie itself.
Summer Glau appears in:
- "Waiting in the Wings," an episode of Angel where her one scene of dialogue got a standing ovation from the cast and crew.
- Firefly and Serenity, where she played River Tam. Skyrocketed her into popularity among geekdoms everywhere.
- Victim of the Week Paige Pratt in the Cold Case episode "Love Conquers All"
- CSI: "What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?"
- Xkcd: She beats up everyone and beats both Randall Munroe and Nathan Fillion in an electric skateboard race
- Sci Fi Channel original movie Mammoth, which featured a mammoth corpse reanimated by aliens that sucked the life force out of those it encountered.
- The Unit
- The 4400, where she plays Tess Doerner, another crazy psychic waif. She does get better, though.
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Notable also for making a Terminator into a sympathetic character while still going on violent, shotgun happy-rampages. She also played Allison Young, a not-very crazy, very-not-psychic resistance fighter who nonetheless proved to be as tough as Sarah Connor in terms of sheer Determinator-ability.
- That one episode of The Big Bang Theory where she played herself.
- Dollhouse, playing a genius-level Doll programmer named Bennett Halverson who has ... issues.
- Deadly Honeymoon, which is apparently Very Loosely Based on a True Story.
- In the upcoming Western Legend Of Hell's Gate she will play a girl named Maggie Moon. Preview pics have already shown her riding a horse and bathing in a lake.
- NBC's superhero drama The Cape in which she plays a cyber-sleuth blogger reporter known as Orwell, who apparently becomes the titular hero's sidekick and, like with River and Cameron, is more dangerous than her size implies.
- She's been cast for the appropriately-named upcoming horror/comedy movie Knights Of Badassdom. Presumably, they were working with a much less awesome title before Summer was cast. Only one promo pic of her has been released thus far, but it has her wielding a broadsword.
- The voice of Supergirl in the DC Universe Original Animated Movies installment Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.
- Had a bit part in Sleepover. She is credited as "Ticket girl".
- Chuck as one of the "Greta" agents, where she has some screentime with Adam Baldwin.
- A silver 1979 Pontiac Trans Am that she designed the interior of (oh internet, will you ever stop being so disturbing?).
- Appears as a guest star on Alphas as a Gadgeteer Genius named Skylar.
- Cameoed as a nurse on Grey's Anatomy.