Jewel Staite is a Canadian actress best known for her role as Kaylee Frye on the short-lived cult classic Fox series Firefly and subsequent film Serenity based on the show. Staite also acted in TV shows such as Space Cases and Flash Forward as a child actor, as well as roles on Stargate: Atlantis, The L.A. Complex, and The Killing more recently.
Background Info and Early Life
Staite was born on June 2, 1982 in White Rock, British Columbia, but spent the first three years of her life living in Maui, Hawaii. The youngest of seven children, Staite is of British, Irish, French Canadian, and Iroquois ancestry.
She attended the Vancouver Film School and worked at the Vancouver Youth Theater, kindling her interest in acting from a young age.
Staite began modeling and acting at the age of 6. One of her first ever appearances was in a television movie on CBC called Liar, Liar in 1993, and the film would air in the United States on CBS as well. Staite would appear on Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? once in 1994 and again in 1995, as well as on a 1995 episode of The X-Files.
In 1996, Staite landed a main cast role on the children’s space opera series Space Cases alongside Walter Jones and Kristian Ayre. She portrayed the spaceship’s engineer, Catalina, who appeared in 15 episodes between 1995 and 1996.
Immediately following Space Cases, Staite co-starred in a Disney Channel Original Series produced in Canada called Flash Forward. The show revolved around Staite’s character and her best friend played by Ben Foster as they navigated the eighth grade.
Of the show’s 26 episodes, Staite appeared in all of them.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show
Between 1997 and 1999, Staite was given a recurring role on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show. The series was similar to the 1989 film in the sense that main protagonist Wayne Szalinski, originally portrayed by Rick Moranis but recast with Peter Scolari for the show, is a wacky inventor whose experiments are constantly going awry.
Of the show’s 66 episodes, Staite appears in five.
In 2000, Staite landed a main cast role on Fox Family drama series Higher Ground alongside Hayden Christensen, A.J. Cook, Kandyse McClure, and more. Her character, Daisy Lipenowski, appeared on all 22 of the show’s episodes, as Higher Ground was canceled after one season.
Da Vinci’s Inquest
Between 1998 and 2001, Staite would appear occasionally on the CBC drama series Da Vinci’s Inquest. The show revolved around Domenic Da Vinci, a former undercover agent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police played by Nicholas Campbell, as he adjusted to life as a coroner while pursuing justice in the cases he investigates.
The show ran for 7 seasons and 91 episodes. Jewel Staite appeared as Da Vinci’s daughter Gabriella in 14 of the episodes.
In 2002, Joss Whedon created the cult classic American Western meets space opera series Firefly and it aired on the Fox Network. The show followed the exploits of Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, portrayed by Nathan Filion, as he hustled back and forth throughout the galaxy following a devastating defeat in a civil war. His devil-may-care attitude lands the crew in hot water when he permits passage to Dr. Simon Tam, played by Sean Maher, who smuggles his sister River, played by Summer Glau, aboard the spaceship, Serenity.
Unfortunately, River is an experiment that the evil Alliance had invested heavily in while attempting to weaponize her and her unique skills, including expert martial arts and psychic abilities. This makes Mal and the crew of the Serenity wanted by the Alliance, while also putting them at risk since River is unstable at best.
Similar to her role on Space Cases, Staite played the ship’s engineer, Kaylee Frye, and appeared on all 14 episodes of the show’s one season run.
She starred in the show alongside Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin, Gina Torres, Sean Maher and Christina Hendricks.
Her character is young, as Staite was at the young age of 20 when it was filmed, naive, and endlessly optimistic. She also has a crush on Maher’s character, the Doctor, but he finds a way to ruin the moment every time they interact in any near-romantic way.
Firefly did not make it out of its first season for a number of reasons. For one, the time slot was competitive, and the ratings suffered significantly as a result.
The premise was difficult for casual viewers to comprehend and the episodes originally aired non-sequentially to cause even more confusion.
Since the performance could not justify keeping it on the air, Fox canceled it 11 episodes into its 14 episode season. The remaining 3 episodes would not air for some time following the cancellation.
Despite the short run, Firefly became a strong cult classic with a massive fan base after the fact. For one, fans were enamored with Joss Whedon’s work, so his name attached to the project was a big draw.
Combined with a unique concept and excellent acting performances, Nathan Filion in particular but really the whole main cast was phenomenal, and it was not hard to understand why the show attracted such an audience even after it was off the air.
After Firefly was canceled, the showrunners, including Whedon, made many attempts to find it a new home and give it new life. After all, it was originally written to explore a 7-season arc, but barely made it out of the first season before the curtain closed.
In 2005, Whedon successfully sold his continuation of Firefly’s plot as a film, and it was named Serenity after the spaceship itself. The movie brought back all of the show’s beloved main cast, including Staite as Kaylee Frye, and set them at odds with an Alliance operative who would stop at nothing to recapture River.
Despite the high anticipation by Firefly’s fanbase, the movie was a box office failure, grossing $40.4 million in box office sales against a $39 million budget.
At this point, Staite was a shoe-in for the sci-fi genre. In 2005, she would appear as a guest actress on Stargate: Atlantis on a Season 2 episode called “Instinct.” Stargate: Atlantis was the follow-up to previous Stargate series Stargate SG-1 after the cast discovered the lost city of Atlantis in the finale of SG-1.
The showrunners enjoyed working with Staite during her guest appearance and were impressed with her previous acting credits, and so in 2007 Staite would join the cast as the head medical doctor Jennifer Keller. Of the show’s 100 episodes, Staite appeared in 33.
The L.A. Complex
In 2012, Canadian broadcast network CTV premiered a drama series called The L.A. Complex which follows lead character Abby Vargas, played by Cassie Steele, as she pursues her dream of becoming a famous actress. The show would migrate from CTV to Canadian network MuchMusic, while also receiving a home in the States on The CW.
During the show’s two season run, Staite appeared as Racquel Westbrook, a 30-year-old once successful actress who fears her career is now over. Staite appeared in all 19 of the show’s episodes, but was canceled following poor ratings.
In 2011, AMC premiered an American crime drama series called The Killing, which was canceled after Season 2, revived by AMC and Fox Television Studios, canceled again after Season 3, and revived again by Netflix for a fourth and final season in 2014.
In 2013 and 2014, Staite portrayed recurring character Caroline Swift, the DA girlfriend of main character Stephen Holder. Of the show’s 44 episodes, Staite appeared in 11.
How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town
In 2015, Staite starred in the Canadian sex comedy How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town as newspaper columnist Cassie Cranston.
Despite the raunchy title, the film presented more serious than sexy, and the jokes didn’t seem to land with a wide audience. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film 29% with a 35% audience score.
What is Jewel Staite doing now?
As of 2022, Staite remains an actress. Her most recent appearances include a recurring guest role on The Magicians in 2019, as well as a lead role on Canadian legal drama Family Law.
Family Law already aired its first season in Canada and Italy, and will air in the United States on The CW on October 2, 2022.
In our modern day, we have a myriad of small scale, craft, and artisan products available for purchase. Tea Runners is one such merchant, providing small scale batches of tea to tea aficionados everywhere in the world.
Founded by Jewel Staite and husband Charlie Ritchie in 2016, Tea Runners began shipping orders and offering subscriptions in 2017. Today, the business is thriving.
Staite blogs semi-regularly, with her most recent post being from January 2022. The blog’s title, “Happy Opu”, refers to a Hawaiian expression that someone is full from eating delicious food.
Fittingly, the blog is therefore about good food and wine in addition to Staite’s own personal ruminations and experiences.
As with many celebrities today, Jewel Staite is featured on Cameo, the site that allows you to purchase personalized messages from your favorite celebrities. Starting at $100, you can receive a birthday wish from Kaylee Frye herself. “Everything’s shiny, captain! Don’t fret!”
Staite appears regularly at conventions to engage with her fanbase. While many of the conventions she attends have multiple focus areas of interest, the most common conventions she attends are centered around Firefly and Stargate: Atlantis.
Relationships and Family Life
Between 2003 and 2011, Staite was married to fellow actor Matthew Kevin Anderson, but the two divorced eventually.
In 2015, Staite began dating Canadian actor Charlie Ritchie and the two became engaged in May that year. Staite announced that she was pregnant and gave birth to their son, Wilder Cathcart Ritchie, in December 2015.
Staite and Ritchie were finally wed in July 2016 and are still together today.