Capturing the essence of a fan convention is not easy. There are multiple conventions taking place at any given moment, and rarely will two people have the same experience. There’s the con the fans attend and the con the celebrities attend, and then there’s that strange crossover con where the two meet.
There’s the newbie con —
“I’ve never been to a photo-op,” one fan fretted in the elevator. “What do I do?”
“Stand still and smile,” Kathy told her.
Strange advice from a woman who avoids photo-ops, indeed all cameras, as if they would snatch her soul. Then there are the seasoned con goers, some of whom seek to instruct (and perhaps chastise) those they deem less savvy than they are. (A list of Do’s and Don’ts posted in the elevator and restrooms? Really girls?)
There are the fans who have formed relationships with the actors and the ones who want no contact at all. The fans who attend the Q&A’s and call it a day, and those who party the night away, knocking back the purple nurples and belting out the karaoke.
And just like the fans who reunite with friends at the cons, the actors themselves often get rare moments to reconnect with colleagues in between the flashing of cameras and signing of autographs – many, many autographs.
Last weekend in Chicago, we got glimpses of all these cons from our strange, strange vantage point in the middle — back and forth between the green room and the packed theater, interlopers in both worlds.
We also got to reconnect with Richard Speight, Jr. (aka The Trickster, aka Gabriel). We first met Richard at last year’s Chicago Con and we’ve been stalking – umm, talking – with him ever since. His insights on being an actor, relating to fans, and keeping a level head have been helpful to us as we negotiate the unfamiliar waters of fame and fandom. So, we were thrilled when he was called in to replace Jake Abel at the last minute. (Not that we wouldn’t have been quite happy had Jake been there.) Richard opened his second pinch-hit Q&A (he filled in at the Supernatural convention in Vancouver over the summer as well) by joking, “Anytime a dude backs out, I’m in!”
The pumpkin underwear story, in which Richard is puzzled by the disturbing appearance in his trailer of a pair of “men’s pumpkin colored bikini briefs” of unknown provenance, is now fandom legend (it doesn’t take long).
Also legendary is his appearance at Misha Collins’ Q&A, during which he confronted Misha about his questionable taste in underwear, resulting in the trading of increasingly provocative insults. We may have had something to do with that happening, as Kathy just can’t resist a good dare. Neither can Richard, apparently.
Onstage, Richard also talked about his own fanboy moments – seeing Michael Stipe and Keith Richards – “Like meeting God, if God smoked too much.”
Backstage in the “green room” (they are never green) we talked to Richard about his relationship with his own fans – Trickster Chicks, Gabe Babes and everyone in between. He loved the fan video made about his character.
“I thought it was a real trip. It was like ‘I’ve arrived!’ I’ve crossed the threshold from fun guest star. . . I’m validated as part of the process (the mythology). . . it supercedes just being a fun character.”
In our position as middle-women (middle-fans??) we had sent him the link and then watched happily after the comment he made about the video on his Facebook page made its way back to the vidder who was thrilled that he had seen it. OMG may have been said. Multiple times.
“Do you know what else I thought was trippy?” Richard continued. “A fan made those little things, those icons – she did a bunch of those of the Trickster. I thought that was really neat.”
We also got the chance to ask him more about the latest episode he appeared on, “Changing Channels”.
“It was such a cool episode to read because I was going to get so much to do. Not screen time but choices and turns. There are very few jobs where I actually thought I was working for a living. That was one of them.”
Part of the fun for him was being able to dig in and develop his character.
“Because I sort of developed the guy two episodes earlier — and then I see where they’re taking him, and the veneer has to crack in those other, earlier scenes. In the sitcom scene where I throw Dean against the wall and say ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about!’ — that’s him manhandling the guys in a way he’s never done before. . . . This time it’s personal. . . . I really love that they didn’t go from jokey, jokey, jokey – to okay, I’m Gabe!”
Was he surprised? (We sure were!)
“I certainly didn’t see it coming. But it makes sense.”
Now with three guest appearances under his belt, and the likelihood of more to come (would the writers really leave things like that? We don’t think so!), Richard has an appreciation for the Supernatural cast and crew.
“It really is a team effort. TV is not always collaborative. Guest spots especially. This show is, at least with my part.
“I really like working on the show. Obviously any job I do, I want it to be well received, but there’s a handful of jobs in my life that I feel proud of. Proud of my work in it and sort of proud of the overall project. . . . That doesn’t happen very often. I always try to do my best work whatever I’m doing, obviously. . . . But I don’t ever think twice about it after it’s done. The part on Supernatural (and the other one would be Band of Brothers for me) I’m really attached to . . . and SPN – in a different way than Band because that was a real guy – with SPN I feel like I, along with the writers, was involved in creating who the character was. They gave me a lot of wiggle room, they gave me a lot of freedom and I felt like they’ve been happy with my choices and consequently they give me more to do. They go up and I go up.”
We also discussed his role in Showtime’s upcoming series Look, based on the 2007 film of the same name by Adam Rifkin. It’s told entirely from the point of view of surveillance cameras. “It’s very much a post 9-11 world – you’re being watched all the time. It’s really trippy.”
Trippy too, is the way Richard must have been feeling by 1:30 am, operating on almost no sleep. Having filmed in Detroit the night before (he plays a bad actor in the upcoming film Crave) until 4:00 am, he was on a plane at 7:00am, arriving just in time for his morning Q&A. That lack of sleep didn’t prevent him from stopping off at the hotel bar, many hours, photo-ops, and autographs later, to play a few games of pool with Aldis Hodge until we were all cleared out by the tired hotel staff at 3:00.
Jim Beaver picked up a cue himself after he finally wrapped his own dessert party appearance at 2:30 and then stayed up to chat with us over ham and cheese sandwiches until 4 am. But that’s for our next interview entry! Stay tuned…..