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Joss Whedon knows how to build an ensemble. Whether it’s a blockbuster franchise like “The Avengers” or any of his beloved television series, the writer-director specializes in matching his stable of great actors to the right material. So when he decided to tackle Shakespeare’s classic tale of sparring lovers, “Much Ado About Nothing,” he gave it a distinctly Whedonesque spin. Whedon shot the film in black and white in only 12 days at his Santa Monica home, using an ensemble of actors with whom he was already familiar. Many had performed the Bard’s words for Whedon as part of his legendary Shakespeare brunches, where he gathers actors at his home to read plays. His “Ado” film cast includes “Angel” stars Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, who play soul mates Beatrice and Benedick; “Dollhouse” genius Fran Kranz as young lover Claudio; “Avengers” agent Clark Gregg as Leonato; and “Firefly” captain Nathan Fillion as the comically inept constable Dogberry.

How did Joss first approach you about doing the movie?
Clark Gregg: I was at a barbecue at his house like a week after “The Avengers” had wrapped. I’d seen what he’d just been through for five months, and I was curious where he was going to go be comatose for a week before he had to start editing. He said, “Actually, I’m going to do a film of ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’ ” I felt like guys in white suits were going to come up behind him. Then I realized he was serious, and he asked me if I would be in it. I had just that day said yes to go do a play in New York. I was kind of heartbroken. Then they pushed the play two weeks, and you wouldn’t think that would be enough time to fit a feature film. But I was afraid if I called he’d say, “Ohhhh.” Then he called a couple days later to say someone couldn’t do it, and was I in? We’d start tomorrow.

Amy Acker: Mine is boring: I just got a call.

Alexis Denisof: I’ll tell you mine. The last time I’d seen Joss was halfway through the shoot of Clark’s little movie, “The Avengers,” in which I had a small role. He called, having just wrapped, and he said, “I just got back, and I need to talk to you. Are you around?” I put the phone down and said to my wife, “Bad news, honey, I’m pretty sure I’ve been cut from ‘The Avengers.’ ” She said, “Why don’t you relax first and then see what he has to say?” So he arrived and pulled the script out of his pocket and said, “I’m thinking of shooting this at my house in two or three weeks. I’ve got 12 days. What do you think?” I had already said yes before he finished the sentence. It sort of felt like how he’d say, “Let’s do a reading.”

Acker: Nobody really knew it was going to be a real movie.

Nathan Fillion: I thought he was going to film us sitting around reading. I thought, This will be low pressure!

Fran Kranz: I really believed that too. Then I saw a group email where he was stressing, “Know your lines,” and I saw all these names involved, and I thought, This is incredible. And the first A.D. emailed me asking for my social security, and I wrote back, “Are we getting paid for this?”

Denisof: I spent more on babysitters than whatever that check was. But I’d do it all again.

Gregg: You guys got paid?
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