Veteran convention goers say that each convention has its own personality. The convention is affected by the location, venue, stars appearing that year, the mood of the actors and the fans, the season that is airing on TV and a number of other, probably unidentifiable factors. As I think about this year’s Supernatural Chicago Convention (ChiCon) there were so many fabulous things that happened. I have to admit, though, that a few appearances absolutely stole the show. Rather than immediately jumping to the panels, let me first try to give you the highlights of the convention, i.e. share the energy, the uniqueness, the feeling of the convention.
 
 
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Of course, no one can ever upstage Jared and Jensen.  

Their chemistry, their trust of each other and the warmth of their friendship, fills the ballroom from the floor to the ceiling. Hearing them talk about their excitement for season 9, their enthusiasm for the roles they are playing this year, their love of fandom and acting and their families just makes your heart want to burst (but then looking at them hanging wallpaper, pumping gas or taking out the garbage would make your heart want to burst!). It is impossible to convey the overwhelming positive energy and joy that saturates the room when they are around. Both Jared and Jensen are in such good places in their lives right now and they sincerely want to share their happiness with fans. A few days after the convention a fan asked Jared what the best part of ChiCon was for him. His answer: “Same thing as always. Getting the chance to say THANK YOU to all y’all in person!”  They have said many times that conventions rejuvenate them; that interacting with fans recharges their souls. Believe me boys, you do the same and more for us, your fans. They are and always will be the soul of the convention.

Misha was outstanding this year.  He was confident and witty, happy and excited. I can’t put my finger on it, but he just glowed this year.

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One of the things that makes Misha unique is his irreverent “why not?” attitude.  He isn’t hindered by norms or social expectations. He always seems to think outside the box, with the courage to tackle the issues that intimidate everyone else. It took vision and daring to create a new charity dependent on fandom loyalty, and it took that same courage and faith in fandom to try to explain, empathize and soothe the recent upheaval felt over the “I’m No Angel” episode aftermath. His personal rapport with fans and his avant-garde outlook enabled him to acknowledge taboo subjects, address the hurt and confusion, and try to be the perfect ambassador of peace. His panel was serious, funny, spontaneous and thoughtfully considered. Such is the conundrum that is Misha. Thank you, buddy. Good Job.

ChiCon also had the honor of being the first Supernatural convention appearance for Alaina Huffman, and she was a huge surprise to me.

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Even though she had very little experience with the craziness that is the SPN family, she was confident, bright, relaxed, funny and sincere. She had a commanding presence on stage and I was stunned at her popularity with the fans!  She was resoundingly welcomed! She instantly took her place as a favorite guest and it was obvious that she will be in high demand for future conventions.

Richard Speight, Jr. was as wonderful as ever. He has become the de facto emcee at all Supernatural conventions. He has lightening fast wit and a confident and cheeky rapport with all the guests. He doesn’t stand still for more than a few seconds, walking from one end of the audience to the other, side to side, back to front, to ensure that every fan feels like they are an equal part of the show. He sets the energy level at HIGH from the moment he appears, stepping in whenever he is needed to support fellow cast members or to revive tired fans. If Jared and Jensen are the soul of the convention, Richard is its spirit.

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Matt Cohen joined Richard for a panel to kick off Saturday morning (the dreaded “morning after” Karaoke). To say they were simply brilliant this year would not adequately describe the comedic timing they delivered with their stories. I truly have not laughed that hard since I saw Bill Cosby do his “Dentist” routine in person 25 years ago (get your hands on a video of that routine if you can. It is a classic). Having travelled thousands of miles through hundreds of venues together, these two guys have also found a visible chemistry. When they were not feeding each other one-liners, they were interacting with fans. They read what the other was going to do from across the room, working together as a seamless pair. Their panel restarted the engine of the convention, making everyone laugh, clap, cheer and otherwise forget how tired they already were.

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(It is impossible to get these two to stop moving for the 5 seconds the shutter needs to snap a picture!)

I also loved Sebastian, Samantha and Mark Sheppard and there’s so much to tell you about Julie and Nicki and Mark Pellegrino.  The star of the weekend, though, the guy that won my heart, was Osric Chau!

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His panel was great, but that wasn’t what made his appearance at ChiCon so special. Osric decided that he wanted to experience the convention, the whole convention, as a fan! He had never seen the panels given by his fellow actors. He had never experienced Sebastian’s insanity, Mark Sheppard’s charisma or the electrified energy emitted from the crowd when Jared and Jensen take the stage. He had never met Alaina or attended a breakfast panel. He wanted to learn and relax and enjoy. So he stayed for the whole weekend. He showed up at almost all of the panels. He shopped in the vendor’s room for hours, chatting with fans, the authors of the book Fangasm, and the creators of jewelry, original art posters and an independent film. He photo bombed the J’s and Misha’s photo ops with fans. He went out to dinner with fans and walked the halls between panels. Instead of lurking back stage or in the green room with the celebrities, he sat in the convention hall seats with the rest of the fans to get a good view of the “stars”.

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Osric standing at the side of the convention hall waiting to watch a panel. I won’t even try to comment on this pose (and you’re welcome). I could have cropped out the one fan but I thought the long shot was interesting…..


He showed up at Karaoke in onesie pajamas since somehow he missed the memo that Karaoke was a Halloween party. He dressed in a trench coat and tried to enter the Castiel costume contest (picture later). Osric was everywhere, always taking the time to talk to fans! Best of all, though, he ran on stage at full speed at the end of Jared and Jensen’s panel and jumped into Jared’s arms.

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Photo used with permission from Lynn @FangasmSPN


Unabashed joy and youth and fun, embodying what every single fan in the rest of the theater was feeling. Osric, you can tell Jared that Nightsky said you gave him a good run for his money. Every fan fell in love with you, and even though I cringe at using this term for a 20-something young man who is a martial artist master and an accomplished actor, every person I talked to said the same thing…You were adorable and you gave ChiCon a unique feeling that stood out from all other cons. You were its heart. Thank you.

That was the feeling of ChiCon; its heart and soul and spirit.  Feel that atmosphere, imagine that energy, hold that image, and let me describe to you the individual panels that made up three exhausting, exhilarating days.

The Panels

I know that by now you can probably access all the panel videos on YouTube. We were told they are forbidden, but who doesn’t expect them to be posted within an hour of the panel’s conclusion?? Face it, we live for those videos! So I am not going to try to describe the many questions and answers that made up the panels. I will say that I thought there were several good questions this year, and happily, no embarrassing questions!

The convention kicked off at about noon on Friday. The cavernous room filled with neatly aligned chairs was largely empty at first. Two giant screens at the front of the room heralded a welcome and teased fans with the faces of the stars we came to see.

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After a few minutes, Richard Speight bounded onto stage and fired up the crowd with a rousing welcome. He then introduced the guest star that had the daunting honor of hosting the first panel, Osric Chau.

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Osric came onto stage in a bright, multi-colored, furry jacket that a friend made for him (he told an endearing story about the friend’s race to get the jacket made). He sat on the stage chair and looked for fan questions to get things rolling. Highlights? He said the crew is really protective of him, but Jared picks on him all the time. He is particularly proud of the one and only time he was able to get Jared back by blasting him with a water canon in the first episode of season 8. Osric then told the story of when he first joined the cast.  He filmed three episodes in a row, the first one being on the exact day that Jared’s wife went into labor for their first child (Thomas). Osric said that Jared was kind, considerate and sweet to him all day, apologizing for being distracted and having to leave mid-take. By the second episode, Jared was more relaxed so he started goofing around on set. By the third episode, Jared was completely back to normal, pulling pranks and teasing Osric. Hence, Osric has concluded that he “likes the boys better when they are having babies.”(He should have a couple of good weeks coming up soon as Jared’s second baby is due in December!). He said he absolutely loves working with Mark Sheppard, though, and told the story of when one of his punches came so close to Mark’s face that Osric could feel beard hairs on his knuckles (Mark, in a dead pan voice, simply said “Too close.”)!

I was really impressed that Osric considered every question very carefully, thinking long and hard about answers to even the most theoretical questions. He respected the fans and was doing his part to make sure everyone had fun. For example, while answering questions about who and what he would take with him into his own personal bunker, Osric considered why he would need a bunker (“has to be strong enough to withstand bombs”), what music he would play (Eminem), and what pets he would want with him (a bunny?). Osric spent probably five minutes thoughtfully considering whether to take two friends (would get a little boring), three friends (no, either two would always gang up on the third or one would always be left out) or four friends (that would be okay unless three ganged up on the fourth but that would probably take a long time to happen and we would be rescued from the bunker by then because the radiation in the world would have cleared…or no, wait, the radiation won’t clear that fast….but we would probably be saved by then anyway, so I will say four friends).  When asked what he would name the pet, we learned that Osric gets stumped when naming anything, including his avatars for games.  He said he takes things like that way too seriously, so fans helped him out by suggesting he name it Crowley! He liked that idea and said from now on he will name avatars after the people in the show!

I thought his most insightful answer came when a fan thanked him for defending fandom on line (in the week’s earlier wanks). He said at first he drew a line for himself between being a fan and being the object of fandom, but now he is totally comfortable crossing that line. He said it really blurs for him. He watches the Supernatural episodes he is not in as a fan and he very easily switches back and forth from fan to cast now. I believe that clarity of identity was what enabled the wonderfully unique interaction with fans that I described above. His comfort with fandom was obvious, as he joined Richard walking throughout the convention hall looking at fan’s art.

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Osric and Richard were literally standing next to me here.

I guess the thing that I found most endearing about Osric was that he shared his true self with us.  There was no public persona. It was all Osric - slightly naïve, humble, fun-loving Osric. For example, Osric shared an embarrassing story about trying to tour Chicago, alone, with no tour guide or prior planning. He ended up being challenged by some security guards when he tried to enter Millennium Park after it had closed. He had ignored their rather obvious presence because he thought they were just teens hanging out late at night (to which Richard retorted, “As opposed to YOU??”) [Osric, let me know the next time you are in town and I will happily volunteer to be your tour guide! I’m trustworthy, a native Chicagoan and I know all the sites! DM me on Twitter and we’ll make arrangements!] Osric also shared the story that after he made the huge splash at a con in his Princess Bubblegum attire, he continued his streak by showing up in a costume in London. Unfortunately, he was embarrassed to discover that he was the ONLY person who got dressed up in London, so he had decided to try to be “normal” at ChiCon. Of course, Chicago’s Karaoke had a Halloween theme so while on stage Richard informed Osric that he was now the only one without a costume! Osric looked genuinely abashed that he still hadn’t gotten it right! Richard then gave Osric some advice. Richard said he found that emceeing conventions is his “thing”. He learned that he is good at it so he is asked repeatedly to use that talent. He offered the observation that Osric’s “thing” is being comfortable enough to dress up when no one else is dressed up. Richard insisted that Osric never be “normal” and that he get himself a costume for Karaoke! So Osric responded in the same way any of us would respond – he asked his peers what they would be wearing so he could figure out how to best “fit in”. Sharing his vulnerability and embarrassment (and also just having fun with it), Osric stood in the question line for Julie McNiven, then feigning innocence, asked her what she would be wearing to the Halloween party. I love that the actors all watch out for Osric, and that he looks to them for guidance.

Julie McNiven was the next guest star to appear.

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Julie was quiet and sweet, and played the innocent partner to Richard’s bantering. It all started with Richard asking her about her sex scene in the car with Jensen. She described how much of a gentleman Jensen was, and how he kept asking her if she was okay with the direction they were being given. She said it is SO technical to film a sex scene.  She wasn’t undressing with just Jensen, (which she wouldn’t have minded); it was the 30 crew guys in her face that she had to think about. She said they “broke the car apart” (meaning took it apart to get close up shots). That, however, was an open invitation for Richard to ask if her boisterous activity with Jensen is what “broke” the car. She revealed that she was alone in the car when it was bouncing and fogging up (Jensen had already gone back to his trailer) and then she proceeded to show us how she had to bounce to make it look like there was something going on in the car. Well, you can imagine how that looked on stage! Somehow Richard started turning everything Julie said into a sexual connotation. Once it began, she just kept saying things that had obvious double meanings, even though it was clear she wasn’t trying to be coy. Richard then polled the audience about their code words for sex. It goes without saying that hilarity ensued. In the more sane moments, Julie answered a lot of questions about being an angel.  She was a great sport throughout the whole panel!

The last guest of the day was Samantha Smith.

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Wow, did she ever make an entrance! She was sultry and confident, with an incredible stage presence. She had an electric smile and was a great role model for how young women could exude class. Fans asked her dozens of questions about what would Mary Winchester do, think of, advise, etc. in some circumstance. She was a bit thrown by some of these questions because the show’s plot has gotten a lot more complex since she followed it closely. She tried to answer them, though, by drawing from her own experience as a mother (she has one young son). She shared a story about a serious scare she had recently when a strange man tried to get into her car at a stoplight (she called police then followed the man to keep an eye on him even after the emergency operator expressly told her to not follow him). She talked about her standards for the work she will agree to take and the commercials she will appear in (no commercials for meat or cigarettes for example).

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Keeping in the tradition of so many Supernatural conventions, Samantha brought family with her. She introduced her mother who was sitting in one of the front rows, saying her mother wanted to see what these conventions were all about. Samantha’s mother joined in the fun, later appearing on stage at Karaoke, singing out loud and proud with her daughter!

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Thank you Samantha for coming prepared to entertain fans during your panel. You lit up the room!

Karaoke

What can one say about the Karaoke party?  Expect wild, unrestrained craziness. Add costumes and Halloween to the mix and you have, well, let the pictures tell the story…

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Richard came as a gym teacher Zombie (who just wouldn’t stand still for a picture!!)…

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… Matt as a cheerleading zombie…

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… and Julie as a hungry Zombie (she gnawed on Richard’s arms quite frequently during the night).

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Sebastian came ready to cook (“chef”…notice Matt in the background)…

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…Osric came ready for bed (onesie PJs with a butt flap)…

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…and Samantha came ready to dance!

Put them all together…

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and you have a great party!

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The day finally wrapped at about 2:30 a.m. Everyone had lost their voice from screaming songs at Karaoke, but was smiling from the fabulous day. Dropping onto a pillow was the best feeling in the world…

More from Richard, Matt, Sebastian and Mark x3 in Part 2.  J2, Alaina and Nicki still to come!

All pictures were taken by me unless otherwise noted. I apologize that many of them are not as clear as we would all like. I was in row 13 and there were a lot of heads in my way! I really wanted to share these candid shots with you but cropping and enlarging has a way of showing a picture’s imperfection. I guess I need to add a more expensive camera to my wish list!




Comments  

Kelebek
# Kelebek 2013-11-03 14:55
Thanks, Nightsky, for the recap! The pics tells us everything, especially on karaoke night. I can attest to seeing Osric on Sunday walking around the hotel, talking to fans, just truly enjoying the experience. It was adorable and awesome!
ChiCon was my first con and I'm hooked! Can't wait for your Saturday and Sunday recaps.
BagginsDVM
# BagginsDVM 2013-11-03 18:42
This was a fantastic con & it was wonderful to meet you! I still have a big smile on my face remembering all the great moments, one of which you caught when Osric saw the Kevin "action figure" I made. I'm already looking forward to next year!
leah FFFC
# leah FFFC 2013-11-03 19:36
As I was saying to a friend here recently, I don't think there is a more charismatic, entertaining, group of actors out there doing cons! Or perhaps doing anything. Thank you nightsky for illustrating that in your great article. It is kind of magical. :-)
nightsky
# nightsky 2013-11-04 11:02
#2 BagginsDVM It was great meeting you too! I am so happy I was able to capture the moment when Osric looked at your Kevin "action figure". So rewarding for you and a wonderful memory!