The Firefly and Serenity Database
Hoban Washburne
Biographical information


Eye color


Hair color

Strawberry Blond





Ship(s) captained or crewed


"I am a leaf on the wind... Watch how I soar…"

Hoban "Wash" Washburne was the pilot of Serenity, a smuggling ship captained by Malcolm Reynolds. He was married to the ship's first mate, Zoë Alleyne Washburne.

Early life[]

Raised on a planet with pollution so thick the stars were not visible, Wash traveled with his father as a boy, visiting different places around the ‘verse. He became a pilot in part to see the sky beyond his home. Wash was second in his class.[1] Mr. Universe, Wash' friend in flight school, was top of the class, since he hacked the records. In order to buy Wash's silence (and save himself from a threat of bodily injury at the hands of Wash), Mr. Universe offered Wash his services whenever they were needed.

After the war[]

Wash then traveled widely, visiting odd worlds where, for example, juggling goslings was the principal form of recreation. His skills as a pilot grew, and by the time Wash met Malcolm Reynolds, his reputation had grown to the point where he was actively courted by multiple captains in search of a good pilot (Mal tells Zoë that Wash has a list of recommendations "as long as [his] leg" when Zoë expresses her dislike of Wash). Wash accepted Mal's offer, and in the course of time, fell in love with and eventually married Reynolds' second-in-command, Zoë. He and Zoe honeymooned on Windcrest, and Wash jokingly said they should open a bed and breakfast there and she could bury him under a big tree near the lake. Fittingly, the “Watch How I Soar” comic shows a tree growing out from his grave.

Theirs could be said to be an odd pairing, given that Zoë's first impression of Wash was one of immediate dislike and distrust.[2] The two had a passionate and strong relationship, despite Wash's occasional concern over Zoë's strong personality and her tendency to assume the more aggressive, traditionally male role in the marriage, a concern compounded by Zoë's fierce loyalty and devotion to Mal. However, he does prove his loyalty when Saffron, a young woman posing as Mal's wife in order to take over the ship, attempted to seduce him by telling him the myth of Earth-That-Was and how the stars joined it. He denied her, saying he had a "beautiful wife who can kill me with her pinky."[3]

At one point, another Captain attempted to recruit Wash. He refused to leave Serenity, though, despite the rival Captain offering him more money to join him. Wash is also known to have got caught up with the crew in an attempt by a group of Browncoats to rekindle the war. Zoe left Wash with the others, insisting it was her fight, but the Browncoats used Wash against Zoe, putting him in a cage to pressure her to join them. She freed him after Mal got the Alliance to stand down. Also, the Alliance tried to arrest him as well earlier in the conflict, but Wash and a few others convinced the soldiers that Jayne was Wash and he was hauled off instead.

A laid-back guy with a dry and occasionally laconic sense of humor, Wash tended to represent the pragmatic, cut-and-run opinion in any shipboard debate, and often served as the calming influence in heated arguments. His actions sometimes appeared cowardly (or at least less-than-heroic), but Wash had proven his resolve and willingness to both put himself in harm's way and do violence on behalf of his friends on many occasions. His loyalty to his fellow crew was unshakable, as is shown when he insisted on rescuing Mal from the clutches of the crime lord Adelai Niska, despite clashing with Mal over Zoë earlier and having been severely tortured by Niska to the point of barely being able to stand.[4]

As a pilot, Wash's flying style oscillated between near panic and a Zen-like calm. The attitude he conveyed seemed to be in inverse proportion to the degree of danger he believed he and the ship were in at any particular moment, acting the most calm when facing the greatest danger. His mantra, which he quietly recited during a highly stressful situation, was "I am a leaf on the wind; watch how I soar," although Wash apparently did not know what it meant.[5]



Wash kept a collection of toy dinosaurs in the ship's cockpit and played with them during lulls in the action. They were a gift from his father, Hoban Washburne Sr, who Wash traveled with as a boy. The elder Washburne gave him the toys after Wash was intrigued by a dinosaur exhibit on one of their stops. Wash also kept a dinosaur plushie in his and Zoe's room.

Wash died when a harpoon launched by a Reaver ship impaled him, killing him instantly. His shipmates erected a memorial to him on Mr. Universe's moon. River Tam took up his duties as pilot of Serenity (under the supervision of Reynolds); as a tribute to Wash the collection of toy dinosaurs remains on the pilot's station of the bridge.[5]

Behind the scenes[]

Wash is portrayed by Alan Tudyk in the television series Firefly and the motion picture Serenity.

In an interview for the literacy group 826NYC Joss Whedon revealed that if Firefly had not been canceled Wash would still be alive.[6] During the 10th anniversary reunion panel at San Diego Comic-Con in 2012, Whedon stated this again. Alan Tudyk, sitting near Whedon, was ecstatic after hearing this.[7]

On the commentary on "War Stories," Tudyk says that he believed Wash served in the Unification War. According to him, Wash served as a pilot during the war, although he did not specify which side. However, Tudyk jokes that his ship was shot down after a single flight and he was put in a POW camp, where he spent the remainder of the war entertaining the other prisoners with shadow puppets. Wash himself makes a reference to shadow puppets.[8]

Tudyk has described Wash as "the Space Xander", referring to the character's similarities with Xander Harris from Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer.[9]

Tudyk also voiced "Mickey" in Halo 3: ODST. Mickey is also a pilot. The game also features Nathan Fillion as "Buck" and Adam Baldwin as "Dutch".

Tudyk returned to the pilot's seat in another outer space adventure, as he played droid K2SO in Star Wars: Rogue One.

His mantra, which he quietly recited in the movie Serenity during a highly stressful situations — "I am a leaf on the wind; watch how I soar" — has become a favorite quotation among fans, although Wash apparently does not know what it means. On the DVD commentary for the episode The Message, Alan Tudyk described his piloting during the chase sequence as being similar to Jerry Lewis. In Browncoats Unite, he shared the story where he was at an autograph signing and wrote that phrase on the picture. The woman was so distraught since this came not long after Serenity was released that he quickly had to get a new picture to give her.


It is unknown as to why he prefers to be called Wash, rather than by his given name Hoban Washburne, even by his wife Zoë. The Serenity film novelization has Mal confront this point in his narrative. His reasoning is "Why would anyone call themselves Hoban?"

The way he is nicknamed Wash (the first four letters of his surname), is similar to how the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character Daniel Ozbourne was called Oz (the first two letters of his surname) by the majority of the characters, even by his then-girlfriend Willow Rosenberg.

Family history[]

Wash was revealed in Return to Earth-That-Was to have ancestors who ran an appliance manufacturing company on Earth. Zoe and the rest of the crew were led to their headquarters by the Wash bot, a robot designed with Wash’s personality and some memories.



Notes and references[]

  1. Serenity novelization
  2. Though it is hinted in Out of Gas this dislike may be due to his disturbing mustache, which he does not have later
  3. FireflyLogoMini Firefly – "Our Mrs. Reynolds"
  4. FireflyLogoMini Firefly – "War Stories"
  5. 5.0 5.1 Serenity
  6., An important message from Joss Whedon and Ira Glass, 09/21/2009
  7. Browncoats Unite
  8. FireflyLogoMini Firefly – "The Message"
  9. Tudyk, Firefly Companion, Vol 1, p60
  1. "More Than a Marriage of Convenience," Michelle Sagara West, Finding Serenity, ed. Jane Espensen, BenBella Press 2005, pp. 97-103, ISBN=[[1]].