I almost skipped Richard Speight Jr’s and Matt Cohen’s panel that opened the Supernatural Chicago convention (ChiCon) Saturday morning. I had nothing against them personally but the Friday night Karaoke left me a bit blurry eyed and more than a little sluggish.
Pictures courtesy of Alesia, a friend and great photographer I met at ChiCon
I decided I would leave it to fate – if I woke up early enough, I would go to their panel; if not, well, the sleep would do me good. To my complete surprise, I did wake up bright and early and I thanked the fickle sister named Fate all morning long because their panel was pure genius! Similar to Part 1 of my convention report, I will try to convey the character and feeling of the convention rather than transcribe the questions and answers of the panels. You can get those from several illicit videos, but there is something different about experiencing it live…
Angels and Demons (well, only one Demon technically)
Richard and Matt started out regaling fans with stories about Karaoke (picture above). Richard also attempted to describe something (Osric’s PJ flap? Sebastian? I don’t even remember) that involved a reference to his rear physique:
Matt and Richard eventually tried to take questions from fans. I emphasize the word tried because the two of them were walking, running and otherwise infiltrating the audience, hardly standing still long enough to catch their breath. At one point, Matt started climbing over fans’ heads by sprawling from one chair to the next mid-row (picture the way you might scale stadium benches in a gym or sports arena!). Everyone was spinning in their seats and craning their necks to try to see where these crazy characters were every minute of their talk!
For me, though, the highlight of their panel was an absolutely hilarious story that actually came at the expense of one of the fans sitting very close to me. This uninhibited fan had attended Karaoke in a full gorilla costume, dressed head to toe in black hair, with a molded face, hands, chest - well you get the idea. I had actually noticed the gorilla the night before at Karaoke, when I turned around to see a full size animal immediately behind me. Scared the daylights out of me! Well it seems this fan had a photo op with Richard and Matt (Karaoke photo ops are taken in full costume.) Matt, probably a little pumped up from the night’s activities, got all excited about taking a picture with a gorilla. For some reason he assumed the fan inside the costume was a guy and he proceed to greet the “gorilla” with a two-handed tweak of some manly man parts! To his horror, his hand-full immediately told him that he was, shall we say, inappropriately handling a very nice female fan! When Richard told this story, Matt actually blushed. He was deeply and truly stunned by his faux pas. Well, they asked if the gorilla was in the audience. When her friends ratted her out by pointing to her, Matt took her by the hand and brought her onto stage. He then sat her in the “celebrity” chair that is always center stage. Richard and Matt spent maybe 15 minutes recreating the horrific mistake from the night before and getting Matt to publicly apologize to the mortified girl. If there is a video of this panel on line, I highly suggest watching this interaction. It was side-splitting funny.
Matt standing within a few feet of me during his panel
Amid all the hilarious shenanigans, one fan asked Richard a very serious question about his role in Band of Brothers.
Photo courtesy of Alesia
I will talk later about his answer because it deserves some attention on its own, but for now suffice it to say that I was moved to tears. So from tearing up with laughter to tearing up from heart-felt emotion, this panel was well, well worth losing some sleep. As I said earlier, I think it was one of the best moments of the convention.
There was a two hour break after Richard and Matt’s panel, but as always, the time was filled with special presentations, private meet and greets, and more photo ops. This only built the suspense for the next appearance, Sebastian Roche! I had never experienced a Sebastian panel, but Richard had offered endless warnings about the “mature subject matter” likely to ensue. Even the schedule printed a special note that “Sebastian’s panel is not suited for younger attendees”. Oh boy. What were we in for?
Sebastian was funny, fast and entertaining…and I have no idea what he said! His eyes twinkled as he laughed right along with the fans. He confessed that he was trying his very, very best to answer fans’ questions, and he did get to a few, but each question led to at least ten minutes of antics. There was physical comedy (I remember that clearly but am too embarrassed to describe it!), witty remarks and irreverent bantering with fans. He also answered one question very seriously, and again, I am saving that story for later, but the rest of his panel was a blur of constant movement and laughter (literally, as seen in this photo. A picture is worth a thousand words...).
What I particularly liked about Sebastian’s panel was that he took to heart his time with his fans. He came prepared to entertain. He jumped onto stage with almost spastic energy, and gave us a one hour variety show of sorts. A few times Sebastian mentioned Robin Williams as a comparison for his stage presence and honestly, I have to agree with that analogy. Both Robin and Sebastian spew a type of stream of consciousness entertaining. They start speaking (I wouldn’t even call it talking) and never stop. The speed of their speech is matched only by the speed of their minds, building on each word, without having any idea where it is going. I can’t do it justice because I literally had no idea what was happening! Sorry, Sebastian! I’ll try to catch some notes next year! Let me make up for it with one more picture.
With only a few minutes to recover from that insanity, the next panel of Mark Pellegrino and Mark Sheppard began. Both of these gentlemen are quiet, controlled, reserved individuals. I can’t imagine a more shocking contrast to Sebastian. Maybe the convention organizers purposely asked these two to follow Sebastian to bring the audience back to planet Earth! After Sebastian’s overtly flaunting sex appeal, we were treated to the dreamy, hypnotic voices of Pellegrino and Sheppard. (My camera battery died right before this panel, so thank you to my two new convention friends who took all the following great pictures!)
Photo courtesy of BagginsDVM
Similar to Sebastian, this was my first time seeing either of these two actors in person. My first impression? I was utterly shocked that Sheppard’s voice had the same husky, accented, snarky quality I had heard so many times from the TV in my living room. That wasn’t the former FBI agent on Dr. Who, or the despicable forger on White Collar, or even Crowley King of Hell that I was hearing on my TV. That was actually Mark Sheppard’s voice! Was I ever embarrassed when I realized what I was thinking. Of course, that’s his voice! What else would he sound like?? I really don’t know what I expected, but it took several minutes for me to recover my wits and just soak up that wonderfully melodic voice.
Photo courtesy of BagginsDVM
Mark S. told a hilarious story about the time he was cast in Dr. Who. The story was quite involved and appropriately punctuated with a few expletives uttered in that heart-stopping British accent. Since I love Supernatural, Dr. Who and British accents (can you tell I am biased?), I was totally mesmerized. Mark explained that being offered a role on Dr. Who was a dream come true, since he grew up in the UK watching the show. Unfortunately, schedules between Supernatural and Dr. Who couldn’t be coordinated, so he we devastated when he had to turn it down. To his amazement, Dr. Who’s producers called back and offered to reschedule the shoot if he would agree to the part. Thrilled beyond words, Mark was on a plane before he realized that he hadn’t gotten permission from the Supernatural honchos to accept the role and he might actually be breaching his Supernatural contract! Phone calls, begging and several anxious hours followed until he was given the all clear!
Photo courtesy of Alesia
Although he began on stage, Mark S. was soon roaming the auditorium, answering questions from the side or the very back of the audience. He moved slowly and methodically, again, just as one would expect from what we have seen in his TV characters! It really was fascinating to both watch and listen to him. The actors and directors of Supernatural have commented that they often lose themselves in Mark’s performances; that without realizing it, they stop whatever they are supposed to be doing and just get absorbed watching Mark act. Now that I have seen him in person, I can absolutely understand how that happens. Every time he talked, I felt like I was being drawn in, hypnotized almost, by him. Such was the power of his presence.
Mark Pellegrino was equally fascinating. He was asked many questions about Lucifer, his new role in The Tomorrow People, Revolution, Being Human, Lost and generally about playing a bad guy. What struck me about Mark P. was that again, he was largely the same as you see him on TV. He had a very dry sense of humor. He gave off the “quiet, but dangerous” aura. Fans were treated to several trademark stares and sideways glances.
Photo courtesy of Alesia
I don’t think he moved off of the stage chair once although he did remove his coat revealing a T-shirt that betrayed more of his sense of humor.
Photo courtesy of BagginsDVM
The two Marks made a great combination since they are both nearly ubiquitous actors in science fiction genre shows. I know they appeared together because of their character’s shared connection to Hell, but the actors were an interesting balance for each other.
The Costume Contest was scheduled to follow M2 almost immediately. The non-Castiel costumes proceeded as scheduled, but when the second half of the contest was mysteriously delayed, we became suspicious that Misha was once again going to be a “guest judge” for the Castiel cosplayers. While fun, the costume competition usually acts as a bridge between one panel and the next. With Osric and Misha both part of this program, though, it turned into a main event. I have so many pictures of fans (including Osric) vying for the “Best Castiel”, I am going to hold that story until Part 3 of my report.
…and Our Favorite Angel…
It was time for the most popular angel of them all, Misha Collins.
Photo courtesy of Alesia
As I said in part 1 of my convention report, I thought Misha was in rare form this year. He reentered the stage after the costume contest and for the first few minutes of his panel just listened to the exuberant shouts from the audience. This by itself was funny. In a lucky moment of relative quiet, a guy yelled out “I love you Misha” loud enough that everyone heard it clearly, including Misha. Misha gave one of his knowing smiles then “zipped” his mouth as if to say “don’t tell anyone our secret”. A woman then yelled out “you are very attractive!” which was hugely funny because it was such a reserved understatement! Then he started out his panel with an extremely unusual (and telling) invitation: “Just for fun, one time only, you can ask whatever you want. I will reserve the right to say no. I probably won’t take my pants off…probably not…30% chance. ”
Photos courtesy of Alesia
I thought this statement set the tone for the whole panel because it was clear to me at this point that Misha was going to try to address the huge fallout that resulted from his sex scene in “I’m No Angel”, which had just aired a few days before the convention.
Misha then started taking questions from the long lines of fans waiting at both sides of the auditorium. I have to say I was impressed with the variation and quality of the questions. The entirety of Misha’s panel was him creating personal, detailed conversations with the audience out of the quick, straightforward questions posed from these few fans. He talked quite a bit about his charity activities, which I imagine is one of his favorite subjects. When asked if he thought Castiel was aware of Meg’s death, his long, sweet, sad response elicited an “Awwww” from fans. He tried to answer what had happened to Jimmy Novak. He fumbled with this a long time saying he couldn’t remember what he had let fans decide at an earlier convention. He then made up his own answer, clearly without any insider information (at least none he was going to share) saying “He’s gone because that is too many people in one body” but followed up with a long discussion on where he could have gone. Purgatory? Heaven? The dialogue with the audience that followed involved him trying to understand the show’s mythology about the afterlife. He kept getting tripped up on the accuracy of his theories, with the fans correcting his “memory”. When it was obvious that he did NOT have a good command of the show’s mythology, he proclaimed “Damn this Mythology!” but it didn’t end there! He tried inserting his own choices into his answer, which led to a discussion about Jeremy Carver’s changes, which led to something about the Angel Blade, which led to him telling a fan “I’m not going to get into an argument with you about the angel blade. Shame on you for tricking me into that conversation!”. It was all very hilarious.
He was asked about his favorite movie (“Matrix”), and if there were any movies he wanted to make. The first question led to a rather involved story in which he was basically poking fun at Keanu Reeves. Misha said that while he was attending the University of Chicago he saw Keanu filming something. His account of a conversation between a U of C professor and Keanu made Misha (and the audience) wonder about Keanu’s ability to participate in a simple conversation! So when Misha was asked what movies he wanted to make, his first quick response was “Matrix, as Neo!”. Misha then added a more serious answer. He said there actually are a few movies he would like to make, but after a few minutes struggling to describe the screenplay, he admitted that he really wanted to keep the details a secret for now.
Eventually a fan asked him to explain two tweets he wrote that weren’t very clear. The question seemed innocent enough, but this was the opening Misha had been waiting for. It seems the tweets were related to the uproar that fans were engaged in over the Destiel theories, the sex scene in the most recent episode, and comments made by an industry executive. Everyone in the audience knew this was a nuclear topic, just waiting for one wrong word or an outcry of some fan to set off a disastrous cascade of disagreement. Misha stood his ground though. I hugely respect that he took on this subject. At first he fumbled a little and listened to some shout outs from the audience. He then worked his way to trying to appease the hurt and find middle ground. He said he was trying to be a “voice of support” in his tweets. At one point, the audience was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. He asked if the audience was “upset”? To my surprise, the resounding answer was “NO!” He repeated the question a few times but the answer was always the same. As an aside, while at the convention I read a tweet (directed to Osric) that asked about the atmosphere there. A fan was worried that the week’s upheaval would weight heavy in the air with so many fans assembled in one place. I answered the tweet, saying that there was no undertone of hate, anger or frustration. There was only fun, joy and excitement. My view was validated when so many people in the audience yelled that they were not included in the group of fans that were scandalized by the controversy. I think that spontaneous poll of fandom bolstered Misha’s view of what was happening. He ultimately defended the inflammatory remarks innocently made by people he personally knew to be genuinely good, and said that the storyline is up to each fan’s interpretation. That is as it should be. There are a few videos on line that recorded this portion of the panel if you wish to study his answer in greater detail. Overall, this discussion did NOT in any way alter the mood or the momentum of his panel. He continued on with the next question about Castiel’s future, Misha’s view of heaven and various other hypothetical inquiries. Wow, only Misha could have handled that so well. I described who I thought were the heart, soul and spirit of the convention, but in my opinion, Misha personified the very best of the SPN family.
At one point Misha was asked about any memorable interactions with fans. That led to a poignant, personal story that again I am going to talk about a little later in my report. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Misha. His quirkiness, courage, intelligence and willingness to honestly engage with fans was nothing less than remarkable.
The rest of the evening consisted of autographs and photo ops with the day’s guest stars, a ticketed cocktail party with Misha, and an even later Gold ticket cocktail party with the cast. I had the thrill of getting a few seconds to talk with Sebastian and Mark Sheppard in the autograph lines. Both were utterly charming, personable, and a joy to “meet”. At the reasonably early hour of 10 p.m., I called it a day. Sunday was J2 day, and promised to hold a huge new experience for me….
Continue the convention experience with Misha, the costume contest, Abaddon and a surprise demon appearance, in Part 3!
All pictures were taken by me, unless otherwise noted. Please credit the photographers if you reuse the photos.