Jared and Jensen’s Gold Panel
This was the first time I attended Jared and Jensen’s morning panel, given exclusively for the gold ticketed fans. Since only a small fraction of the convention’s patrons can attend this panel, it has a slightly more intimate atmosphere. The boys know that most of the gold seats are held by long-time fans who have probably attended several (in some cases all) of the prior conventions, so there is a familiarity and relaxed tone in their conversation. The panel is only 30 minutes long but a lot can happen in that half hour!
They started with the typical small talk. Jared began (he usually does). He asked about newcomers and convention antics. Then he mentioned that he had been on a plane this summer and everyone snickered. I’m not sure if people were thinking of his public rant on Twitter about American Airlines (he was fuming!), or how being on a plane is not that unusual for him! Anyway, he wanted to tell us a story of how he needed help loading his bag into the overhead compartment because of his shoulder injury. He was also generally lamenting about how skinny and out of shape he had gotten because of the surgery! For several minutes, the topic was Jared’s shoulder:
Jared: “I got ninjafied!”
Jensen: “For the first time in 10 years, I have more muscle than he does.”
Jared: Pouty face.
Fan: “Show us!”
…and Jared obliged by showing us his “skinny” right arm!
Jared then asked for questions. There aren’t lines for questions during the gold panel. It is more of a “shout it out” forum. The first fan asked how Frank and the Impala were faring. Jensen then preceded to tell the story of how the Impala’s throttle had gotten stuck fully open while Frank (crew guy in charge of the cars) was driving (Jensen had just finished a scene with the car and Frank was moving it for transport to the next location). Frank managed to steer around pedestrians and other cars, but was finally stopped by some trees. Alice’s report has the full account of the incident, including a picture of the car in the trees. Frank had a compound fracture in his shoulder, but there was virtually no damage to the car. Jensen: “That car’s a tank. It took out a metal road sign. The car is indestructible. I love it!”
Jared commented that this was the second time crew members “copied” his injuries on set (it happened before when he broke his hand)! Someone then ask how much scripts had to change to accommodate Jared wearing a sling. Bob Singer (Executive Producer) wrote Sam in a sling into the first four episodes because he had experienced a similar injury and knew there was no way Jared could film 12 hours per day without the sling! He is actually still supposed to be wearing it around a)big crowds b)high activity and c) when he’s sleeping (“or any combination of the three”). Not like that describes his whole life or anything! He chose to ignore doctor’s orders because he was tired of the sling’s interference with Sam’s character and he didn’t want to wear it during the 200th episode. “Does Osric need to sleep with one eye open now?” a fan asked. This led to a long string of “Beware of Osric Chau” proverbs the boys made up! Then to another fan’s personal story, Jared and Jensen told the rather gruesome tale of Jared’s shoulder popping in and out after it was first broken. All rather cringe-worthy.
Someone then asked about Jensen’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. Jensen related how the Facebook people had set up an account FOR him. It already had 5 million likes and they just wanted Jensen to accept it so they could verify the account and debunk all the other fake accounts. So Jensen confirmed that he now HAS a Facebook account, but that he has no intention of doing anything with it. Then he circled back to Twitter.
“I have been resisting at all costs joining the social media phenomenon. Unfortunately, it has become such a tool not only for our industry…it’s also a very good connection to the fans, as you’ve seen through Jared’s Twitter and Misha’s Twitter. I’ve gotten to the point now, ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em'. So I’m going to join Twitter right now, with all of you.”“You’re going to break Twitter!” the fans shouted!
It probably sounds silly, but I felt truly honored that we were witnessing his breakthrough to social media! It was almost as if he trusted this group of fans enough to share the confusion, embarrassment and fear we all feel when we are typing that first tweet! “What should I say?” he asked us. Several suggestions were shouted out, but he had something in mind. Jared and the audience reminded him to use hash tags. “What now?” He heard someone say that he needed to use #VanCon but they couldn’t convince him to add #Porncouver (thank goodness!) or #Supernatural (Robbie Thompson needs to get after this boy!). Jared had to school him on which character was the hashtag!
Jensen explained that the network had set up his “handle” for him when he showed just the slightest interest in caving in.
Jared, laughing: “He said handle!”
Just to take advantage of Jensen’s adorable vulnerability, Jared piled on with
“Hey Jensen, what’s your avatar going to be?”
Jensen: “Now you lost me.”
Of course, he and Jared had pre-arranged the idea of taking a photo of the whole auditorium for Jensen’s first tweet. Who would ever have imagined that they would be in Jensen’s first tweet (I am in the picture in the first row!!)? What a thrill!!
Jensen looked genuinely befuddled and nervous about what he was doing. Meantime, every person in the audience had pulled out their phones to check Twitter! This was quite probably the only time in history when the audience’s attention was actually more on their phones than on Jared and Jensen in person on stage right in front of them! Everyone was frantically trying to connect to Twitter from a sub-basement in a huge convention building! “Follow him!” “We already are!” someone yelled, referring to the account that had previously been set up for Jensen by probably Jensen’s publicist.
The room was in hysterics! Jared was trying to give Jensen step-by-step guidance, but Jensen looked thoroughly baffled. He typed things over and over, at one point, banging his head against the microphone! It was so endearing!
Jensen: “Twitter: 1 Jensen: 0”Jensen, you are welcome in any part of our world every day of the week. Welcome to Twitter, my friend.
Jared: “Welcome to my world!”
Alaina Huffman and Mark Sheppard
The first general activity of the day was the King and Queen of Hell together on stage! Now that’s a match made in Heav…., wait, that's not right…
Alaina and Mark are convention veterans. Alaina joked that she used to call Mark her secret boyfriend because they appeared at so many genre conventions together. So, curious, I researched their histories. According to IMDB, Alaina had recurring roles on SGU Stargate Universe and Smallville,
…while Mark has had a role on virtually every one of my favorite shows for the past 20 years, such as Warehouse 13, White Collar, Doctor Who, Chuck, Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice, Medium, 24, Firefly and X-Files plus a few that I didn’t watch, like Leverage and Dollhouse. In addition he has appeared on most long running series as a guest star. I don’t however, see where their paths have crossed before.
Correct me if I’m wrong but I couldn’t find any show besides Supernatural where their careers intersected. I found a short clip on YouTube from a DragonCon where they were together on a panel (with Michael Shanks!) so I’m assuming they were referring to larger genre cons, like ComicCon and DragonCon. So I believe Supernatural can claim bragging rights of bringing them together!
Being from Vancouver, Alaina did say that when asked to be on the show, she was surprised that it was still on the air because she hadn’t yet had been approached for a guest role!
During questions, they were both asked if being parents helped them deal with Jared and Jensen on set! Alaina has 4 young children. Mark has 2 boys. After they stopped laughing, Alaina said that Jared acts like he is 4 years old. Jensen is the older brother, probably about 6. Mark added that Misha is their 12 year old sister!
A later question circled back to their roles as parents. Someone asked them if they allow their children to watch Supernatural. Alaina said no, they were all too small.
Mark, however, said yes. He said his boys have watched his TV shows their whole lives. They understand it is all fictional and they can separate the characters from the reality of their father. He told a cute story of when one of his sons called Sera Gamble on the phone. He wanted to know how they created the hell hounds. The boy was about six years old at the time. She started to explain green screens in a way that she thought would be understandable to a kindergarten/1st grade child. He impatiently replied that he knew all about green screens! He wanted to know how they worked technically and mechanically! A future director for sure!
Alaina and Mark are complete opposites in how they work their panel. Alaina sat in her chair the entire 45 minutes. I don’t think she even stood up once. She answered questions quickly and directly then moved onto the next question.
Mark, on the other hand, was rarely on stage. He started roaming the audience almost immediately. He was in constant motion. Even when he was talking to Alaina, he was off stage, talking “up” to her on stage.
He also had a very round-about way of handling questions. He turned them back on the fan. He poked fun at the questions or avoided them completely. Eventually, though, he gave some kind of answer.
For example, they were both asked several questions about their characters’ motivations and futures. Alaina shared several of her insights on Josie and Abaddon. In contrast, Mark speculated, stalled, hinted, teased and finally, after a very long time, shared maybe one small kernel of his thinking about Crowley. **Warning: Speculation ahead** The most important tidbit was that Mark has a theory on who Crowley really is! First, that means that Mark agrees with us that Crowley is not a simple demon!! Second, he teased his theories. He said that to him, the most important clue is that Crowley’s eyes never flash (turn black to use his powers or to reveal himself instead his possessed body). He happened to be walking immediately in front of me when he said this, so I added, almost to him personally rather than to the whole audience, “and his smoke is red!” He looked right at me and said, “That’s not important. Forget the smoke. The smoke means nothing. It’s the eyes that are important.” What?? Sorry, Mark, but I can’t believe that! I’m holding onto my theory until proven wrong! Mark wouldn’t share his theory with us, but he said he definitely believes there is more to Crowley’s story. *End Speculation*
A fan then asked if they would ever consider doing something different or studying psychology to help acting. Alaina advised that you have to have a life outside of acting. She said if you don’t, acting will drive you crazy. Your life also gives you experiences that will inform your characters so it is really necessary to have a normal life. She also joked that Mark already is a psychologist (I haven’t looked that up to see if it is true) to which Mark replied, “A psychopath, maybe”. Mark then talked a long time about acting. He said that acting is the art of studying then reproducing people’s emotions, so in a way it is practicing psychology. He talked about the “silliness gene” that you have to have to be a good actor. As I mentioned in my account of J2’s panel, Mark shared his belief that Jared and Jensen are such outstanding actors precisely because they are so childlike. I actually appreciated this insight, because it reconciled for me the immaturity that they both show on set (drawing naked anatomy pictures and constantly pulling practical jokes? Really? They are how old?) with their outstanding empathy, leadership and compassion that we see all the time.
Mark said something else that really stuck with me. When asked what he thought of Osric, given Osric’s obvious high regard for him, Mark said something like “Who wouldn’t love that kid?? He’s one little package of love.” With such insightful understanding of his fellow cast members, maybe Mark is indeed a psychologist.
With that, Alaina and Mark cleared the stage in anticipation of the main event, the J2 panel. I dedicated an entire report to them (because we all know we needed a lot of pictures!). There was a short break after their visit while photo ops and private meet & greet sessions started, then it was on to the next highlight…
Much to fans’ delight, Misha had a second panel at the Vancouver convention!
It was at 5:30 Sunday night. Now let’s face it: who would want to try to recapture the audience’s attention after the J2 panel? The entire weekend leads up to Jared and Jensen’s appearance so anything after that is rather anti-climactic. The adrenaline rush was ebbing. People were missing from the audience because they were doing last minute photo ops with the Js. Others were tweeting pictures or writing notes for the millions of anxious fans who were waiting for on-line posts of J2’s panel. It’s an awkward time, sandwiched between the Jared and Jensen’s panel and their autograph sessions. Yet the convention activities were far from over! There were still several photos and meet and greet sessions with Misha, Mark, Alaina and Richard, so someone had to be brave enough and popular enough to pull people back into the moment! This year (and often) that someone was Misha!
Frankly, I thought the atmosphere at this second panel reflected everyone’s mood. It was night and we had spent three days with the cast. Some fans had even taken a boat trip with Misha. Boundaries seemed to weaken as a greater sense of familiarity was assumed. Everyone was tired. The conversations got a little shadier, innuendoes got a little bolder, and questions got a little more forward and presumptuous. Bardicvoice tweeted “Every single Q for Misha turns into sexual innuendo - and Sebastian Roche isn't even in the house!” The first question was how Misha pampers himself. He misunderstood and thought the fan had asked how he handled himself! Misha: “I typically get several bikini clad under twenty females to do my nails” [as reported by @rnishacollins]. Oh, how do I *pamper* myself? The same way I handle myself!”
In answer to one question, Misha stuck his tongue out at the fan. When someone yelled out “do it again”, he responded with a rude gesture that involved his middle finger. Then some fans challenged him to eat dehydrated, cheddar-coated worms. Really? Is that the level we’ve sunk to?? Misha tried to understand what was happening, asking if they were “real” worms. He made the fans, who were now standing on the floor immediately in front of him on the stage, eat the worms first! He deftly side-stepped another question “If Dean and Cas were canon…” by saying “cannons? I’d make myself as aerodynamic as possible”. There were a few really uncomfortable minutes when some fans walked across the front of the audience (immediately in front of Misha) carrying their bags of fast-food take-out dinner. Misha and the fans exchanged some sarcastic jabs at each other, a few of which were apparently taken more seriously than meant. It was all very surreal.
There were some serious questions too, though. Misha told a long story about a very unique ring he was wearing that was given to him by his wife.
The third wedding ring given to Misha by his wife.
He also updated us on the story of Alex, the waiter who was featured in one of the GISHWHES challenges.
Misha then shared the evolution of his “French Mistake” character. He had asked the writers to make him as despicable as possible but the script didn’t go far enough in his opinion, so he took liberties and added things on set. Happily, he also said that despite all the joking and teasing, he enjoys going to work because the J’s are his friends.
For me, one of the most exciting aspects of a convention is the chance to have 30 seconds of one-on-one time with each cast member. This year, my ticket gave me opportunities to get autographs from Adam Rose, Osric, Tahmoh, Misha, Mark, Jared and Jensen. In addition, the production panel members of Russ Hamilton, Jim Michaels, Adam Glass and Kevin Parks also graciously agreed to sign autographs for free.
Virtually all of the fans I have encountered spend quite a bit of time considering what they want signed. Commemorative books, DVD covers, posters, mugs and promotional photos are all very common. The fans who have created something specific to Supernatural, such as art work, dolls, puppets, etc. usually bring those very personal items to be signed (Read FarawayEyes’ personal story of having her embroidered Devil’s Trap signed!). For me then, it should come as no surprise that I brought articles I had written about each of the actors. I was particularly looking forward to talking to Jared, because this would be the first time I had seen him since he tweeted me a message that he had read one of my articles (“Dear Jared”, May, 2013) last October.
When it was finally my turn to talk to him, I introduced myself with both my screen name and my real name, and explained who I was. His reply? “That was you?” We then had an unexpected but wonderful few minutes talking about his work and my writing. He was unbelievably gracious. It was all very special to me and truly the highlight of the whole weekend. I’m hoping he remembers me when I see him again at ChiCon!
Autographs are more than a parade of people passing memorabilia across a table. Each actor looks up, makes eye contact with the fan, and smiles at you, says hello, thanks you or answers the short, polite inquiry you might ask them, such as “How is your family?, “You have beautiful children”, “I loved your story about …” or whatever else you planned to say in the 10 seconds you have to talk to them. They seem to really appreciate meeting each fan and they make you feel special for those few moments. That is the essence of the SPN Family.
The end of a convention is always sad. Everyone knows that the fun is over and they will soon have to say goodbye to old and new friends. For some people, this may be the only convention they ever attend. For others, it will probably be at least a year before they can do this again. I don’t want to end this series of articles about the glorious week I had in Vancouver on a low note, so I’ve saved the pictures from Karaoke for last. Here are the few moments I captured from the Friday night party that started all the fun. Enjoy!
Richard as Princess Leia
Tahmoh serenades us
Jim Michaels belts it out (he is the lead singer in two bands)
Adam Rose sings a solo of "The Best is Yet to Come"
Osric joins the fun
Adam with Gil
Since it was “after hours” I think I can bend the rules and share two videos with you. The first is of Lauren Tom singing “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”
Next is Gil, amazing the crowd with his wonderful voice singing “Open Arms” (you can hear more of Gil and less of the crowd in the 2nd half of the video).
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pictures from the thousands I took at VanCon:
Here’s to all of you!
It’s been my pleasure to share this entire experience with you. Maybe I’ll see you at ChiCon, because yeah, I’m going there too!