This article is the first in a series of reports I will share with you to chronicle every minute of the non-stop fun that is VanCon. It not only lived up to its reputation, it was more than I could have hoped for. I met people who I only knew as names from Twitter. I met new acquaintances who I hope become life-long friends. The day before and after the convention, I went location hunting all over Vancouver with fellow Winchester Family Business writers and fans. I was present when Matt Cohen and Gil McKinney dunked themselves in frigid water for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I was lucky enough to attend the VFX panel Monday night, where I learned a great deal about that team and what they do to add to the magic of Supernatural. At that panel, I also unexpectedly got a chance to talk to Theo Devaney, the actor who played Crowley’s son, Gavin in 9.21 “King of the Damned”. Over the three days of the convention, I talked a few times with Jim Michaels, Executive Producer of the show, who remembered me from the “Bloodlines” filming in Chicago. The highlight of the weekend, though, was talking with Jared in the autograph line. We had a few extra moments of personal interaction that was a complete thrill for me.
I took notes all weekend, and snapped thousands of pictures (literally!), to try to capture the spirit of the convention to share with you. Here is that story.
FRIDAY – THE FUN BEGINS
The Masters of Ceremonies
A new and very welcome addition to Supernatural conventions is the constant presence of Rob Benedict and the Elastic Waste Band (who bear a striking resemblance to Louden Swain, the band’s non-convention identity). They rile the crowd before guests take the stage. They play background music to add to some improvisational bit an actor dreams up. They play fan favorites, like “The Boys Are Back in Town” to introduce Jared and Jensen, and hopefully to inspire Jensen to impromptu singing and dancing. This morning, though, they began the convention with a hilarious round of “Rules and Regulations”, with Richard Speight, Jr., the weekend’s emcee, who monologued at super-speed the required protocols that all attendees need to obey (wink, wink, as Richard puts it, because the most important regulation is no video-taping at any time during the weekend!).
Richard is a huge part of why these conventions are so much fun. For years now, he has been the master of ceremonies…and he doesn’t stand still for a second! He roams the auditorium, enthusiastically interacting with fans and doing a non-stop comedy routine that sounds off-the-cuff but probably took hours of preparation (well, minutes at least!). He did a bit about “Porncouver”, giving aliases to all the members of the band (some of whom cracked up because they had no idea what he was going to call them!), himself (Cuddles Saxton) and Rob (Bango). Richard is energetic, in-charge and hilarious. He is SO much like the Trickster, using Rob or Matt [Cohen] as the straight men for his one-liners. When he has the mike, you just stand back and let the lightning strike!
After quickly shedding his Elastic Waste Band costume, Rob took the stage for the first panel of the convention. He is just so sweet and unassuming. He sincerely commented that “he doesn’t ever want this to end because it just keeps getting better and better”.
He started with a few questions, which immediately led to us splitting our sides laughing…
A fan asked something about last year (couldn’t hear her clearly) and whether he wanted to update the description of his “Resting Bitchface” expression. Rob (deadpan) said he often gets asked about his face and his expressions. His go-to answer? “This is just my face! It’s just my face”. He then offered several alternate descriptions of his various facial expressions, ending up with the most accurate in his opinion being “Resting Perplexed Face” or RPF. Fans screamed, “NO, don’t use that abbreviation!” to which Rob again deadpanned, “Why, does that mean something else?”
Did he want to update his spirit animal, which last year was a jumbo shrimp? He considered Scrat from Ice Age, but decided on a were-squirrel, because he didn’t think anyone would believe that he could be a werewolf! He shared that as a child he frequently ran around the woods pretending to be a werewolf, but thought a squirrel more accurately described his adulthood. Really, Rob??
What would Chuck say to Metatron? “Go back to where you came from. I got this.”
When asked how he envisioned Chuck’s return, he said Chuck would wake up from being asleep [probably on the couch in his robe!] to simply say, “How long have I been out? Then Castiel would appear to him and say “Hello. I have a message for you” then something inane like, “Here’s your dry cleaning”!
The most hilarious question, though, came from a fan who didn’t realize how her question would sound once asked. She innocently said, “Once I finish something, I leave it behind and walk away. Why do you keep doing conventions?” Rob and the audience just gasped then laughed, but the poor girl had no idea what was so funny! Knowing she didn’t mean the question as an insinuation that he should have better things to do, Rob very nicely answered her that he keeps coming to the conventions because of the positive energy at them. He had previously said, but repeated several times throughout the weekend, that he adamantly believes the fans’ good wishes helped him get better after his stroke at the Toronto convention last year. Truly, watching Rob enthusiastically jump around while playing guitar and belting out the lead voice for the band’s songs all weekend, one would never know that he had a stroke less than a year ago!
Bardicvoice’s live tweets, included in Alice’s Friday convention article, recount so many more hilarious questions and answers. Probably the longest bit, which was repeated by Richard later, was a reference back to an Australian convention that Rob and Richard did together. For some reason, Richard teased that Rob hated Perth. It wasn’t true, and they were joking about other things at the time, but the gag took on a life of its own! Suddenly, everyone was teasing that Rob hated Perth! Richard said he knew it had become a “thing” when he was tweeting something and it autocompleted “Rob hates Perth”. Richard said when something gets that much energy, you gotta go with it. Rob vehemently denied it, but Richard just responded “You’re welcome”!
Rob is the quietest, seemingly shyest actor at these conventions. He is the object of jokes from Richard, Matt and Misha. He just smiles, stammers (as Chuck always did when flustered) and blushes. It is interesting that one can truly see the personality of these actors in their characters. There were a few times when I really thought I was listening to Chuck!
Osric Chau and Lauren Tom
What happened next at the convention caught everyone off guard (and that is saying a lot!). A cartoon starting playing on the jumbo screens at the front of the room. Fan videos often are played as segues between guests, so at first we all thought that this was just a unique video. I soon recognized it, though, as a knock-off on the martial arts action cartoon, Dragon Ball Z, with the head of Osric Chau overlaid on one of the heroes! The audience was stunned! It was all happening so fast that we couldn’t recognize, absorb and act fast enough to grab cameras. I managed to get the very last shot:
(if anyone caught a great pic of Osric’s head on Goku, please contact us here at WFB and I will add your pic to the story, giving you credit!)
The storyline (I think) was that a good guy got killed during a battle, and the hero, Goku, needed to avenge his death. There was the explosion shown above, then shock:
Out comes Osric in full costume, in character, running through an extremely impressive martial arts routine as Goku fighting evil! Osric got to finally show off his skills, including a jump-in-the-air-spin-back kick, a high kick that went above his head, and several other moves I couldn’t catch fast enough. Cameras were dramatically inadequate to record the action, so I’m hoping someone got it on video! I know I certainly wasn’t expecting to have something so outrageously fun happen after the predictable familiarity of Rob’s panel! These were my two least blurry pictures! Wow!
After the roar from the crowd died down, Osric introduced his “mom” Lauren Tom, and their panel began in earnest. She teased him about what had become of him (acting as if he was Kevin, her son). He was supposed to be an Advanced Placement student, but look how he was dressed! She demanded to know what was happening to him, as she mock hit his shoulder several times (Lauren, better be careful hitting Goku/Master Chau!!). All this build up led perfectly into the first question… “Osric, why did you break Jared??”
Osric laughed, and just said, “Put a bunch of guys into a small green room and they get bored. Jared asked if I wanted to wrestle, and I said sure. I felt really bad about it, but then when I heard that Jared had to film several weeks in a sling, I felt even worse!” Osric said that Jared is being very gracious and keeps trying to make Osric feel less guilty, but, yeah, nothing helps.
As an answer to one question about filming with the J’s, Lauren said that her husband is 6’5” tall (she is 5’), so she is used to tall men! She said she and her husband almost didn’t date because of the height difference, but then her husband said it wouldn’t make a difference when they were horizontal! Osric turned so red! It was adorable!
Lauren also said that the hardest scene for her to film was finding out that Kevin was dead because she had to imagine one of her boys (she has two sons, ages 10 and 13) being dead. She said she almost couldn’t do it, but Jared was so generously supportive as an actor in that scene that she got through it. She said her favorite scene was her first scene, when Jensen towered over her, restraining her, because that would have been the same position he would have had if he was going to kiss her! She wanted to keep redoing that scene all day long!
When asked about how Osric learned that Kevin was going to die, he said he first heard it from Jared. He said that Jared came up to him with an outline of future episodes in his hand and told him that Jared/Sam/Gadreel was going to kill Kevin. Osric absolutely did not believe him. He was sure that Jared was pranking him. Even when Jared kept insisting, Osric was thinking to himself, “I’m sure he just typed this up to get one over on me”. It took several tries for him to accept what Jared was saying. When actually filming the death scene, Osric said he became extremely emotional. Hidden behind prosthetic eyes, he couldn’t see anything for 3 hours, but he kept hearing Jensen/Dean saying “Kevin” over and over in that broken, tender voice. At the end of shooting, Osric was overcome with emotion, so he bolted for the makeup trailer and left the set without saying goodbye to anyone.
Osric talked a while about the stereotype of his Asian character. He conceded that stereotypes only exist because there is a kernel of truth in them. He said they only become offensive when they are taken to an extreme. He acknowledged that Kevin started out as a stereotypical Asian over-achiever, but he came back with additional layers and depth, so that worked out great. The whole time Osric was tackling this sensitive subject, Lauren was shaking her head in agreement.
Osric was also asked about how Misha always seems to find a way to create GISHWHES tasks that make Osric do uncomfortable things. There was such a look of mischievousness and “I’m going to get him back one day” behind Osric’s devilish grin when he talked about GISHWHES! He ended up talking about it more in his Saturday panel as well.
Way too soon, the hour had passed, and after a short lunch break, we were in for a treat of three Supernatural actors at once!
Adam Rose, Dan Payne and Chad Rook
Adam Rose needed no introduction. We all loved him playing a major new hunting character, Aaron Bass in 8.13 “Everbody Hates Hitler”. The other two actors, though…
Honestly, everyone in the audience turned to their neighbor and asked, “who are these guys??” We loved listening to them and they were cute as can be, but …when where they on Supernatural?” So to help you out, I’ve done some research so you have a bit more context than we did:
The good looking guy in the middle is Dan Payne, whose credits include Once Upon A Time, Smallville, Stargate, and Battlestar Galatica.
Dan was a guest star in 9.10 “Road Trip”:
He played Alexander Sarver in this scene with Alex’s daughter. Dan was also the angel Abner, Gadreel’s best friend.
Chad Rook, the attractive blond on the end, acts/acted in The Flash and Sanctuary, and was in two different seasons on Supernatural as:
Marshall Todd in 6.19 “Mommy Dearest”
…and the vampire Desmond, who had a long fight scene with Dean and was eventually killed by Benny in 8.09 “Citizen Fang”.
Remember them now? Both actors are native Canadians, so I imagine their close proximity to the convention was a factor in Vancouver being their first appearance at a Supernatural panel.
These three guys were a great trio! Adam was accepted and naturally took his place as a Supernatural guest, but Dan and Chad were also vivacious and completely comfortable on stage (even though not everyone instantly recognized them!). They played off each other like they had done dozens of panels before, yet this was their first Supernatural appearance for sure and maybe their first convention of any kind. They were honestly hilarious together! Dan told stories of being taller than Jared and how one crew member cracked a joke that it was odd for Jared to be the little guy. A fan yelled out that Dan could be Jared’s big brother. Dan got a devilish grin and said, yeah, he liked that. He said he often shows up for an audition only to have the casting directors look up at him and say “wow, you’re tall!” while Dan is thinking to himself, “Our height is on our info sheets. What did you expect?”
Our own Alice Jester asked Adam what he thought when he saw that his episode was written by the nutty Ben Edlund. Adam said he thought the episode was perfect for him, but when he saw the line “who doesn’t love bacon” he thought the role had been written with him in mind!
They all broke through their comedy routines to give serious advice on being an actor. Chad’s experience was that you should do something different in the audition, something that will distinguish you from the hundreds of other people who audition for the same role. Dan’s advice was that you have to like being told “No”. He said to remember that it isn’t about you. You make choices on how to portray a character and you have to stick to your convictions. It may or may not be what they are looking for, but it isn’t about you. For example, if the role involves a romantic scene and the love interest is 5 feet tall, it would be too awkward for him to be cast, so it is all about what they are looking for.
Dan then said something very interesting that I did not know. He shared that the number of people following an actor on Twitter can make the difference in whether a candidate gets a role or not. It is referred to as their social media clout (or something like that). If two or more actors have a fairly even shot at a role after auditions, the casting directors and producers look at how many people will follow that actor to the show. Adam agreed, and thanked us for following him. He said he is constantly humbled and amazed at the Supernatural family’s loyalty and its impact on his life.
Without a full transcript (Bardicvoice’s tweets come close), it is hard to convey the hilarity of this panel. Adam Rose repeated some German he had to recite once during a Holocaust play while Chad confessed he had tattoos to represent his German heritage. They talked about their theme songs (guess who said “Fiddler on the Roof”), who they thought they could replace in the Supernatural regular cast (guess who said Jensen!), pranks played on them on set and other roles they’ve had. A fan was able to catch Chad off guard too. She asked each of them about their “gay thing”. She said Adam’s gay thing was Dean, Dan’s gay thing was Gadreel, but whose was Chad’s? Chad sat up, suddenly paying much closer attention and said, “WHAT? My WHAT?" They were really fun to watch!
Immediately following this trio came the fabulous Gil McKinney. The first thing that struck me about Gil was how his whole face lit up when he smiled. He has beautiful eyes, which just twinkled in a way that was very hard to capture on film. I have seen dozens of pictures of him that have been shared in articles and on Twitter, but very few have been able to capture the charm he exudes in person. I do not think the Henry Winchester costume and persona does justice to this young man. He seemed so sincere and grounded – it was just a joy to watch him and listen to him talk! He was embarrassed at how much he mentioned his mom, saying “You’d think I’m a mama’s boy for how much I’ve talked about my mom!” (No, Gil, that just endears you to the moms in the audience even more!). He said his mom loves showing him off (doesn't every mom?). Gil is from Texas (what is it with these boys from Texas?!)
One of the first questions was a hilarious query about how he would rescue his OTHER grandson, Adam. Gil was like, “yes, sure, absolutely....what was his name again? I guess I would just storm Hell and throw him over my shoulder....wait, how old is he? Is he a big guy? He obviously didn't know anything about the character!” That was how he started his panel! [All the time the fan was asking about Adam, I wanted to find a way to tell her that Nate’s Big Bang fan fiction story is all about Sam and Dean rescuing Adam from Hell! I was practically jumping out of my seat with the “I know, I know” hand waving!]
Gil was also asked how guest starring on Supernatural compared to Once Upon A Time, where he was Prince Eric. His immediate, involuntary reaction – laughter!...which signaled to me that there was a huge difference between the two experiences. He loved doing Once Upon A Time but he said there are so many regular cast members on that set, plus so many that come and go, that people (cast, crew, etc.) don't really acknowledge guest stars or make an effort to welcome them. He emphasized how very, very unusual Supernatural is...He confessed that most shows don't go out of their way to make guest stars feel welcome. Okay, just another reason to love our show!
A great question was whether he felt pressure to "lead" the Winchester family. He said at first, no. He hadn’t followed Supernatural so he didn't realize how important it was to get cast on the show. Once he got on set, though, he realized how special the show was and how important it was to be Henry. Then he really, really didn't want to “screw it up”! He said that after he auditioned, he told his manager he was sure he would not get the part, adding that he has always been a terrible judge of whether or not he would get roles! One of the things that he remembered most vividly from his first appearance was that he was custom fitted for Henry’s blue suit. He said that was very special. Usually an actor doesn't get that kind of treatment from the wardrobe department.
Gil then told a story about Jensen driving the Impala on set, with Gil riding shotgun, and Jared in the back seat. Jensen did a donut (a 360 degree turn) at full speed! Gil wasn’t expecting that kind of driving from Jensen, so he went flying (he wasn’t wearing his seat belt). Jared then asked him if he needed a change of underwear! So much for his induction into the boys club!
Gil told us that he studied music in school (I think he said he was a voice major) but that the Karaoke party at the Washington D.C. Supernatural convention was the first time he had sung for an audience in years! He said that experience actually rekindled his interest in music. He reflected that that was kind of interesting, and maybe Supernatural would get him back to his music. Afterward, I wanted so much to tell him that Supernatural has awoken the latent creative talents in so many fans – why wouldn’t it do the same for its actors? Unfortunately, I never got the chance to say that to him, but I had heard so many stories about his singing from the DC Con that I was even more excited to hear him at Karaoke that night!
Soon the panels for the day were over, but the evening was still young as some lucky people scurried away to attend a dinner cruise with Misha, and at 10:00 p.m. the Karaoke party would begin! Since I have about a dozen photos of Karaoke to share with you, plus the three videos already posted and several stories to tell, I will hold that piece of the report for another article. One thing was clear: the fun was just getting started!
Bardicvoice live tweeted the entire convention. See Alice’s article, which includes Bardicvoice’s storified tweets, for more play-by-play fun of Friday!
Screencaps of Supernatural scenes courtesy of www.homeofthenutty.