I attended the Parsippany, NJ convention this past weekend, along with a friend I recently recruited into the Supernatural fandom. It was a great (but tiring) weekend. The panels were funny and entertaining, the guests all seemed to be in good moods, I talked to some great fans, I had the pleasure of meeting Alice and her lovely daughter (I admit, I kind of had a fan-girl moment when I did), and I also attended two private “meet and greets” with Mark Pellegrino/Mark Sheppard and Jared.
On Saturday night, the meet and greet with Mark Pellegrino and Mark Sheppard was supposed to start at 9:20 pm. I thought that was a bit late, but it was about to get a lot later. As 9:20 came and went, a volunteer came in our meeting room where 10 of us were seated around a table, and told us that both Marks were still signing autographs, and as the line was still of moderate size, we would probably be waiting a bit longer. So, the ten of us chatted about our convention experiences as the minutes ticked by. As 9:20 pm turned into 10:20 pm, we started to wonder if this meet and greet was even going to happen.
Finally at 10:30 pm Mark Sheppard arrived in a Black “Doctor Who” t-shirt and jeans, and a moment later, Mark Pellegrino arrived in a tan Edgar Allen Poe t-shirt and jeans. Both guys looked so very tired, and admitted to us that they were indeed exhausted, and had not even had dinner, so they requested something be brought up to them during our meet and greet.
Minutes later, Mark S. had a steaming plate of Pasta Bolognese in front of him, while Mark P. started to dig into some salmon and mashed potatoes. Watching them eat was kind of surreal; it reminded me of a set-up to one of those clichéd “so and so walk into a bar” jokes, only Supernatural-style: Lucifer and the Demon Crowley sit down to dinner together…
The panel was pleasant, but pretty subdued. Both Marks had been working on Friday (on different jobs), flew in for the con on Saturday, and both had to get back for early calls by Monday. Mark P. told us he didn’t sleep from Friday to Saturday at all, so he was particularly spent. He jokingly described the vibe of the set he is currently on as “Uncontrolled Chaos,” and when Mark S. found out the name of the director that Mark P. is working with, Mark S. knew him well. He explained to us that in their genre, the acting world can be small, and you often end up working with the same actors multiple times, or you get on a set and realize you know many of the people involved (directors, crew, etc…) from previous jobs.
The guys were enjoying their meals, and the discussion turned to food. Mark S and Mark P. talked about some of the great restaurants they had eaten at, and one person said it sounded like every meal they have is in a restaurant. Mark S. then spoke about how the life of an actor is really one of a nomad, always staying in hotels and eating out at restaurants (when working), so they have eaten out all over the world, and often find those special spots that make them want to return again. One such place was a Mexican restaurant Mark S. had frequented 25 years earlier, where two young brothers (hmmm…) in their 20s, along with their mother, had made him delicious food, and recently he had returned there and the same brothers, now men in their late 40s with families of their own, were still serving up the same great dishes. It was a nice story, and you could surmise that this place stuck out in his memory, for after many years of acting and traveling under his belt, he came full circle back to this familiar place.
Still on the topic of food, a girl mentioned she worked at Wendy’s, to which Mark S. bestowed the honor of having the second best French fries ever, with McDonalds coming in at number one. Mark P. told us he had never eaten at Wendy’s, and so Mark S. proceeded to educate him on what he should get (a Baconator and fries), and told him he must, must dip his French fries into his Frosty. Both guys mentioned other food loves, with both agreeing on Chicago Deep Dish pizza as one of them, and Mark S. talked of how he loved the massive amounts of cheese and the grease dripping off his hands, and that eating Chicago pizza was just such an experience.
Someone asked both guys if they could only have one food while stranded on a desert island what would it be, and coincidentally, both guys said Chinese food. Mark S. said it would have to be really fresh, authentic Chinese food, (the healthy kind), and then he could live off of it happily.
Mark P. related some tales of a food allergy (I won’t go into details; even though he said this in a public place, I want to respect his privacy). Even now, he has to be a bit careful, because small amounts of things can sometimes end up in dishes even if those ingredients aren’t listed on a menu, for example. (Note: in my opinion, though well-meaning, this is reason in and of itself not to give foods as gifts to any of these actors).
We got off of the topic of food when someone asked Mark S. how it was to be at Comic- Con, and he said it was amazing. He has been going for 15 years, and this year he took his family. He was able to walk the floor with his kids and snap some pictures of things, but he always had to make sure they weren’t standing still for too long or he would get recognized, and then “five people turns into 15, then turns into 40…” and it can get chaotic, so he keeps it moving. He was impressed at how big Supernatural has gotten, and told us that even though they filled H-Hall, many people still got turned away. He said it was an extremely well run and safe event, and everyone behaved themselves, with no fights breaking out among these 300,000 fans who came out to support their favorites (though one person did mention the tragic death of one Twilight fan this year who got hit by a car). He thinks the fans are awesome at Comic-Con and Dragon-Con as well, and told us that the costumes fans wear at Dragon-Con are amazing and creative.
At 11:30, we took our group picture (I’m the one farthest to the left), and Mark S. said “Thanks, you guys know we love coming here.” Each one of us got a good-bye hug from both Mark S. and Mark P., and then they were off, as exhausted as they were, to go spend time with fans at the cocktail party.
So this was our meet and greet. I imagine some (including myself) wanted to ask more questions, perhaps about Supernatural, or the guys’ other acting projects. However, both Marks were so worn out, that we somehow collectively held back so the guys could unwind. I still found the whole thing interesting, though. It ended up being a laid back, comfortable hour. We caught a glimpse into the simple parts of these actors’ lives (the parts we all have in common), talking about those everyday things like good food and cool conventions, all traces of them being “stars” gone- we were all just regular people shooting the breeze.
I don’t pretend to understand (even my own) motivations for paying for these meet and greets. I suppose a big part of it is access to these people who we admire so much. In the end, we probably just want to get to know more about them. In an unexpected way, this meet and greet fulfilled those requirements exceptionally well. The guys were totally themselves, and ultimately, that’s all fans really want to see.
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