Fan Expo 2013 – The Time I Met Oliver Queen, Anna Espinosa, Annie Walker + Sandy Cohen!

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So these happened at Fan Expo…

Last month, I fulfilled my dream of going to San Diego Comic Con for the first time ever. I know the true comic book fans are upset at the Hollywood-ization of SDCC, but it’s kinda one of the big reasons why I wanted to go. In comparison, Toronto’s Fan Expo, the third largest Con in North America, is much more comic-oriented but still has lots of room for the TV shows and celebrities.

I actually went to Fan Expo last year, not really knowing what to expect. This year, having survived the crazy awesomeness of SDCC, I decided that I would once again go to Fan Expo, though just for one day. I picked Sunday as my day to attend. Now, one of the biggest changes for Fan Expo this year was the inclusion of a Sports Fan Expo, which meant that the entire Metro Toronto Convention Centre was being used, not just the South building. I can’t tell you how great a decision that was. It might have been that I went on Sunday, so maybe it was less crowded than Saturday, but there was actually room to walk around the exhibit hall. There was no feeling like people were invading your personal space like at SDCC! Plus, the lines aren’t nearly as crazy as SDCC. I heard some people complaining about how long some of the lines were, and I thought to myself “This is nothing compared to Hall H & Ballroom 20!”

I’m not sure if this happens at other Cons that aren’t SDCC, but one of the cool things about Fan Expo is that because they have a limited number (but still a fair amount) of celebrities attending, the celebs have an area where they sign autographs while they are at the Expo. Between these autographs and photo-ops, it gives the fans a good opportunity to meet the stars they want to see. The downside to this is that, whereas at SDCC the stars are sponsored/brought in by the studios and networks, at Fan Expo the stars are essentially paid to take time out of their schedules and show up, so you have to pay for the autographs and photo-ops (which are taken by professionals).

Now I got to the Convention Centre pretty much as they opened, so after getting my wristband and heading in, I figured I’d check out the autograph area to see what times certain celebs were gonna be there signing. When I got there, Stephen Amell was already at his table! Awesome! I’m terrible at small talk, being the awkward introvert that I am, so I said a few quick words when it was my turn to see Stephen, got my autograph and was on my way. Of note, I paid $40 for his autograph, and for an extra $20 I could’ve gotten my picture taken with him, but I didn’t, and I kind of regretted it later (See, sometimes, the real Asian in me can cause me to be really cheap and not spend money. Idiot.) I figured since I’m there, let’s get in line to see Gina Torres! Gina does not usually do Cons so I HAD to make sure I went to see her. And sure, Gina is in town because Suits films in Toronto, but between me not actually living in Toronto, the bad luck I have at meeting celebs on set, and my general awkwardness, this was my only chance. What’s funny is that meeting Stephen, I was my usual awkward self, though he was really nice. With Gina, I was actually shaking a little bit, on top of being my awkward self. I might not have seen Firefly (a little blasphemous, I know) but I’ve admired this woman from her days on Alias (I will always remember her as Anna Espinosa), and of course now Suits. With getting these autographs, we can get the celebs to personalize them, and I’m already paying for it so why not? My name may be short but since kindergarten, everybody has had a hard time guessing how to pronounce my name until I tell them (it’s pronounced like the letter T). So I get very impressed by anyone who does it on the first try, which is what Gina Torres did. And man, did it feel nice to just get her acknowledgment like that. Yup, it’s the little things that can turn me into a dork.

Stephen Amell signing autographs

Stephen Amell signing autographs

We technically weren't supposed to take picture of Gina or Nathan Fillion (who was signing autographs beside her), but I sneaked one in

We technically weren’t supposed to take picture of Gina Torres or Nathan Fillion (who was signing autographs beside her), but I managed to sneak one in

I had intended on going to see Shawn and Aaron Ashmore’s panel, after getting my autographs, but in a case of not thinking straight, I had made my way to the South Building, instead of staying on the North side where the panel was. Needless to say, I missed it so I went roaming around the exhibit hall instead. I’m not one to buy a lot of things at Cons, unless something catches my eye, and honestly, I’m really all about the free swag. There actually wasn’t that much in swag but I ended up picking a couple posters from E1 and some Orphan Black (my newest obsession) buttons from the Space booth. Again, I know it’s terrible to go to these Cons and say I’m not really into comics, but I’m not. I made an exception though, picking up the early Fringe comic/graphic novel and one issue of Beyond the Fringe, the one that Joshua Jackson co-wrote.

Stephen Amell's panel

Stephen Amell’s panel

The first of two panels I ended up seeing was Stephen Amell’s panel. I know I saw him as part of the Arrow panel at SDCC and that I got to meet him earlier that day, but I couldn’t miss the chance to see him again and just hear him talk about stuff. Besides being ridiculously handsome, if you’ve seen him do interviews, he comes off as a genuinely nice and cool guy, and it’s probably partially due to the fact that he’s Canadian. During his panel, there was obviously talk about season 2 of Arrow, which for the most part I had heard already at SDCC, but he added in some on-set/off-screen stories, which I as a TV fan always appreciate, as well as personal anecdotes. One of the highlights of the panel was when Stephen was asked about Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman, the possibility of a Justice League movie, and if the TV and film worlds of the DC universe would intertwine like how Marvel now has S.H.I.E.L.D on TV. I’ll tell you this, I was a little taken aback by how honest and candid he was with his answers. With regards to Affleck as Batman, he just stated that DC (or even Marvel for that matter) and producers don’t just hand out iconic roles like that, so we simply just have to have faith in Affleck’s portrayal of the caped crusader. With regards to possibly taking his Green Arrow/Oliver Queen to the big screen if a JLA movie does happen, he says he wants to just take things as they come but revealed that casting decisions (once again) don’t just get handed out and have to go through many levels of approval by DC and goes up so far as Christopher Nolan. It was that tidbit of information that surprised me. I knew Nolan was one of the producers of the latest Superman film, Man of Steel, but I didn’t realize the clout that Nolan has on the DC/Warner Brothers superhero universe, in essence making him the equivalent to Joss Whedon’s role in the Marvel film universe.  The hour panel with Stephen went by quickly, and before we knew it, the moderators were saying that we needed to wrap it up and let Stephen go back to signing autographs. For proof of just how great a guy Stephen is, when asked if there was any final words he wanted to say to us fans, he said he wanted to answer 3 more questions and then he ended up answering 4. Like I said, cool guy.

Unlike at SDCC where you can camp out in a room all day, at Fan Expo they clear out after each panel. They also leave some time between panels so that if you happen to want to check out back-to-back panels in the same room, you can still get yourself in line for the next one. That’s exactly what ended up happening for me because after Stephen Amell was the Covert Affairs panel. Now funny story while I was waiting in line for Covert Affairs – Stephen Amell walked passed all of us in line. The girls in front of me who were talking and gushing about him, barely even noticed that he was walking past, and then there’s me who saw him and said “Hi” to him like it was no big deal. (I tell you, my awkwardness can act in a very weird ways.) Another thing that’s cool about Fan Expo is that for the shows that do get brought in from the networks (like Covert Affairs, in this case, being brought in by Showcase), there’s a lottery/raffle to get into the line for the free autograph session as you head into the panel. They put 2 different coloured raffle tickets into a bag, you pick one as you go inside, before the panel starts they tell you which colour gets the autograph. Simple, and no need to wait in an extra line.

Covert Affairs panel with Piper Perabo, Kari Matchett, and Peter Gallagher. Christopher Gorham & Hill Harper were unable to make it due to filming.

Covert Affairs panel with Piper Perabo, Kari Matchett, and Peter Gallagher. Christopher Gorham & Hill Harper were unable to make it due to filming.

I have to admit it was a little weird sitting in the panel hearing Piper Perabo, Kari Matchett, and Peter Gallagher talk about season 4 in a non-spoilery way because the new season hadn’t premiered in Canada yet, but I’ve been watching online so I know what’s been going on unless it’s later on in the season. As always, the real gems of all these panels are the behind-the-scenes stories. Hints/spoilers on what’s coming up are cool, anecdotes and random tangents are cooler (and funnier). Take for instance Piper recounting the time they were in Venice and they’re filming a scene where she’s in a foot chase because some guy stole from her. Now when they film on the street in Toronto, the area gets blocked off with security stopping people from entering a scene. When they’re filming abroad though, that doesn’t happen, so it’s sort of a free-for-all. So Piper’s filming this scene and these local guys don’t know/realize that there’s filming going on, so they would go after Piper and try to help her catch this thief; the crew kept on having to stop filming to let these locals know that it’s all fake and go back to whatever they were doing. Another fun moment was getting Peter Gallagher to sing, which for the record, didn’t take much work to convince him.

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About that autograph lottery earlier, I was not one of the lucky people to get the “winning” raffle ticket. I will tell you this though, sometimes (and by that I mean VERY RARELY) it pays to be a fan of a less popular show. Not enough people drew the winning colour so Showcase still had spots for the autograph signing. After the panel, I quickly made my way to the Showcase booth and tried to see if I could get one of those spots and all I had to do when I got there was answer the question they posted on Twitter. Needless to say, I got into the autograph signing! Surprisingly, when I came up to Peter, I managed to say that I was a big fan of Center Stage and The O.C., which is infinitely more than I was able to say to either Stephen or Gina earlier, and he mentioned how he just had dinner a couple weeks ago with Melinda Clarke (who’s obviously been in town filming Nikita). My day was made.

Covert Affairs autograph signing

Covert Affairs autograph signing

After the autograph signing, I made another run through of the exhibit hall and then called it a day. I had a lot more fun at Fan Expo this year than last, that’s for sure. I know I keep comparing FE & SDCC, but they are two different beasts. The general feeling at both events are similar but very different at the same time. Obviously in terms of meeting celebs, I was way more successful in my one day at FE than I was the entire 4 days at SDCC, but I was afforded a lot more opportunity to make those meets happen. Will I be back to FE next year? As long as they continue to bring celebs/shows that I’m a fan of, most definitely.

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A First-Timer’s Account of San Diego Comic Con 2013 – Day 3

For years, I have wanted to go to the infamous San Diego Comic Con. The ultimate nexus of all things pop culture. This year, thanks to my cousin agreeing to go with me, I made my way. This is the account of my 4-day experience at the center of all things nerd.

DAY 3

While Friday was all about Nikita for me, Saturday was all about How I Met Your Mother. I wanted badly to be in Hall H Saturday for all the movie panels, plus EW’s Women Who Kick Ass panel (which featured, among 4 others…Maggie Q! Duh, I would do almost anything for Maggie!), but decided against camping out starting at 3:00 in the afternoon Friday (I’m fairly certain I remember reading a tweet that people were already camped out at that time). I also decided against lining up for my chance at autographs again (on deck for today would have been Arrow, HIMYM). So like I said, Saturday = How I Met Your Mother. Now HIMYM might not seem like a typical show to be featured at SDCC, but we all knew well that regardless of that, the panel was going to be well attended. So making our way to the Indigo Ballroom, situated at the Hilton next to the convention center, my cousin and I waited in line at 7:30 A.M., and yes, there was already quite the line in front of us when we arrived.

By the time we got into the Indigo, we had to wait out two other panels before getting to our main event. The first was Machinima, a website/YouTube video network focused on the gaming community. This panel in particular, was focusing on fan films. Similar to my feelings about the World of Heroes panel, it was really cool to see and find out about all this original/creative content. There was only one name in the panel that I recognized and that would be Kevin Tancharoen, who was there for his Mortal Kombat: Legacy webseries. I, however, know him best as a former dancer/choreographer for Britney Spears, during the “In The Zone” era.

Machinima panel

Machinima panel

The second panel was for Geek and Sundry, Felicia Day’s video network. I had no idea what this was coming into SDCC, and when I have time, will now have to check out the shows she has on her YouTube network. It all just seemed really fun and cool. Felicia Day was obviously on the panel, as well as frequent Geek and Sundry contributor Wil Wheaton (all I hear in my head is Sheldon from Big Bang Theory yelling “WHHEEEAAAAATTTOONNNNN!!!”)

Geek and Sundry panel, with Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton

Geek and Sundry panel, with Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton

And then came How I Met Your Mother! Right before the panel began, there were some awesome fans who began to chant “Shrimp fried rice! Shrimp fried rice!”, which was obviously then followed by “CAN-A-DA! CAN-A-DA!” I had to represent and chant along to “CAN-A-DA!” before it quickly died off. The panel then started with a special video, that seemed like it was just the start of the first episode of the next season. Before I knew it, I started hearing censored expletives coming from Ted’s grown kids (aka Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie), cursing out their dad for spending eight years telling his story. It was SO FREAKIN’ HILARIOUS!! CBS has already made the video available online, so go watch it if you haven’t already. After the video finished, the cast and producers came out to massive applause, like the rockstars they were. Honestly, for a show that apparently had no right/reason to be at SDCC (said certain people on the internet after the announcement was made), you never would’ve guessed it by the reception they received. For me, it was just so much fun being in that room with the cast and all these fans. We got treated to more insight into the longest weekend ever (in case you haven’t heard, the final season will take place over the course of Barney & Robin’s wedding weekend). We still have the last slap to look forward to. Return of former guest stars? It is a wedding, so hopefully we will get to see Lucy Hale return as Robin’s sister (I almost forgot about her!) and John Lithgow as Barney’s father, but we at least know for certain that Wayne Brady is back as Barney’s brother James. Random tangents involving seeing how the interpreters sign everything they’re saying. Also, there were no less than three musical interludes: a “Let’s Go To The Mall” sing-a-long (Cobie was having trouble at the beginning, but Neil was more than happy to fill in the missing lyrics for her lol); Jason, by request, sang a bit of his Dracula musical; and everybody sang the “Bang Bang” song.

The cast of HIMYM coming in to a fury of applause and screams like the rockstars they are. (L-R): EP Carter Bays, EP Craig Thomas, Director Pamela Fryman, Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan

The cast of HIMYM coming in to a fury of applause and screams like the rockstars they are. (L-R): EP Carter Bays, EP Craig Thomas, Director Pamela Fryman, Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan

Unfortunately, the fun of the HIMYM panel had to end, much to everyone’s dismay. After that, my cousin and I didn’t really have any other panel that we immediately had to go to. So we headed on over to the exhibit hall, take everything in, and hopefully get to see some celebrities. I’ll tell you this, it gets crazy in there when there are autograph signings. You may try your best to get a shot of the celebs doing the signing, but the con has a strict “shoot and scoot” policy – take one picture and go. I understand the policy, but at the same time, you can’t guarantee that you’ll even get one good shot, especially with the tall guards blocking your way.

Ming Na during the SHIELD signing at the Marvel booth

Ming Na during the SHIELD signing at the Marvel booth

The cast of Once Upon A Time signing at the ABC booth (aka the Jolly Roger)

The cast of Once Upon A Time signing at the ABC booth (aka the Jolly Roger)

Managed to get a good shot of Kristin Bauer and Ryan Kwanten getting ready for their autograph signing at the WB Booth. Behind them on the other side, is Tom Cruise (and Emily Blunt) signing for their movie "Edge of Tomorrow"

Managed to get a good shot of Kristin Bauer and Ryan Kwanten getting ready for their autograph signing at the WB Booth. Behind them on the other side, is Tom Cruise (and Emily Blunt) signing for their movie “Edge of Tomorrow”

After a couple runs up and down the exhibit hall, trying to pick up swag and get pictures of celebs, I suggested we make our way to Ballroom 20. The Vampire Diaries panel was happening at the time, but I was much more interested in getting in for the Arrow panel. Well, turns out that there were still empty seats for the TVD panel (it had followed the always popular True Blood panel, which always gives out good swag apparently), so we were able to walk straight in.

The Vampire Diaries panel L-R: Kat Graham, Ian Somerhalder, EP Julie Plec, Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, EP Caroline Dries, Candice Accola

The Vampire Diaries panel
L-R: Kat Graham, Ian Somerhalder, EP Julie Plec, Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, EP Caroline Dries, Candice Accola

After about 5 minutes, the TVD panel was done and we shuffled our way up closer for the Arrow panel. Arrow quickly became one of my favourite new shows of last season, and after the fantastic season finale, I have been quite eager to see what they have in store for next season. The panel began with a preview clip for the season two premiere, and it was fantastic and thrilling to say the least. This panel was on Saturday, and they had only begun filming the new season on the Monday, so they apparently got A LOT of filming done and managed to package it together as a special clip for SDCC. Talk about movie magic and commitment to the fans. Days before, fans found out that we were getting introduced to Black Canary on the show, but it isn’t Laurel, so there was an interesting discussion during the panel of how the show likes to take what fans of the comic book know and flip it a bit. The first Green Arrow we meet, isn’t Oliver but is Yao Fei. When we first met Tommy Merlyn, we were led to believe that he becomes the Dark Archer of the comic books, but turns out it’s his father, Malcolm. So similar to those, this is just the beginning of the Black Canary storyline. Partway through, we got treated to a special appearance by John Barrowman, who joined the cast for the rest of the panel. All in all, some great insight into next season and what we can look forward to.

Arrow panel L-R: EP Marc Guggenheim, EP Andrew Kreisberg, Colton Haynes, Katie Cassidy, Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, EP Greg Berlanti

Arrow panel
L-R: EP Marc Guggenheim, EP Andrew Kreisberg, Colton Haynes, Katie Cassidy, Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, EP Greg Berlanti