General Overview and Photos by Andrew Horan
Panel Review and Photos by Samantha Wu
The 2016 edition of Fan Expo was a bittersweet occasion as it marked the final Canadian appearance by legendary comic book creator Stan Lee.
Lee gave the capacity crowds at his two panels their money’s worth. Not being able to remember his assistant Max Anderson’s name was a bit of a running gag throughout the weekend as the two bantered comfortably.
He joked that the reason that critically panned 2015 Fantastic Four movie flopped was because he didn’t have a cameo and that Marvel movies did so well because people missed his cameos and went to see the movies again.
Lee endeared himself to the crowd when he said that Toronto was one of the best cities to visit and his final panel on Sunday had a truly touching moment when an audience member tearfully told him that the stories in comics helped her to deal with mental illness. The final panel had an amusing moment when Marvel head Joe Quesada gave the appearance of being a disgruntled fan and was nearly escorted out of the hall.
Before he left the stage to a standing ovation, Lee led the audience in a final, “Excelsior!”
Lee’s panel wasn’t the only final appearance of the weekend. The legendary dynamic duo of Burt Ward and Adam West also made their last showing at Fan Ex. The pair proved they still had great chemistry after 50 years. They shared an amusing anecdote about Ward being injured on the set of the 1966 Batman movie but having to delay getting treated so they could complete shooting as well as West sharing how he created the “Batusi” dance, shooting down the long-standing rumor about Clint Eastwood being cast as Two-Face in the 60’s Batman series and promoting the upcoming Batman 66 animated feature in which West and Ward reprise their roles.
The Delorean from Back to the Future was one of the featured exhibits and Christopher Lloyd, best known for his role as “Doc” Brown in the trilogy was a guest. Lloyd recounted stories from his career working in movies in TV, including BTF, Taxi, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He admitted that working with Taxi co-star Andy Kaufman could be “infuriating” and shared an anecdote about playing a prank on Kaufman. He also shared a fond memory of performing a stunt with Michael J. Fox on the top of a moving train for BTF III.
Jack Gleeson, best known for his role as Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones, joked that he couldn’t remember which con he was at. He said that his portrayal of Joffrey was based on every terrible character he had seen in movies, TV, and real life. Despite all the horrifying things that Joffrey did, Gleeson said it was easy to separate himself from the character since he was good friends with co-star Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark). He readily admitted that he was cheering for Daenerys Targaryen to take the Iron Throne.
Over the course of his rambling panel, William Shatner recounted his early days of an actor including his time spent in Toronto as well as the many causes he’s involved in. Due to this, he only answered two audience questions before he left the stage but he kept the crowd entertained with his stories of canoeing to New York City as well as an upcoming documentary he’s making that features an interview with Stephen Hawking, who is also a huge Star Trek fan.
Arrow star Katie Cassidy‘s favorite color, fittingly enough, is green. Even though she played a lawyer, she said that learning all the legal jargon associated with her character was a challenge, though having an associate who used to be an attorney helped. She also shared a story of how a prank by co-star John Barrowman, whose panel the day before was one of the event’s highlights, lightened a particularly stressful day of filming. She also teased that it wasn’t the end for her character Laurel Lance thanks to flashbacks and time travel. Her evil doppelganger from an alternate Earth, Black Siren would make another appearance.
Gotham star Ben McKenzie teased several plot lines for the show’s third season as well as recounting stories of his days on The OC. One audience member asked a question about the gravelly voice McKenzie adopts for Jim Gordon and if it has an effect on women that caused the affable actor to blush as well as flustering moderator Karli Woods.
After a heavy second season, Flash co-star Danielle Panabaker promised that that the series would return to a lighter tone for the third season. Panabaker admitted that memorizing scientific jargon can be a challenge, despite her character Dr. Caitlin Snow being a scientist. She said it was fun and a treat to play Caitlin’s evil Earth 2 doppelganger, the super villain Killer Frost and she sees a lot of herself in her character since they’re both smart, strong women.
After a number of young children asked about her role in the R-rated superhero movie Deadpool, Morena Baccarin asking about parents allowing their kids to see the flick became something of a running joke throughout her panel that touched on everything from her role on Gotham to going on rides at Universal Studios with her Firefly co-star Jewel Staite during downtime. Baccarin pointed out that despite being a prostitute, her character on Firefly, Inara, was the only one on the crew who made an honest living.
The true highlight of Fan Expo, as usual, were the cosplayers who took advantage of the cooler weather to wear a stunning variety of costumes, Rey from The Force Awakens and Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad being the two most popular choices.
As for more on the panels, writer Samantha Wu attended several and had this to say:
For the past few years, “Whovians” (loyal fans of the hit British sci-fi show Doctor Who) have had plenty to be excited for when it came to attending Fan Expo. This year was certainly no exception with Alex Kingston taking to the stage for a celebrity Q&A panel. Fans know and love Alex Kingston for her formidable Doctor Who character of River Song who has jumped around throughout the Doctor’s timeline leading her to her signature catchphrase “…spoilers”. Fans will also recognize Kingston from her stint on the hit medical drama ER from her role as Dr. Elizabeth Corday. During her panel, Kingston addressed her current role as River Song and her stint on ER stating that the biggest difference between being on American film sets versus British sets were the craft services: craft services in England consists mostly of a tea break where she ate like royalty throughout her days on ER. She coyly stood up and patted her rear end to emphasise her point. Kingston discussed how her debut episode on ER happened to be one of the few episodes that were filmed live. While the rest of the cast who were far more accustomed to the various takes and the down time in between those takes for the shots to be set up were starting to panic, Kingston with her theatrical stage background, took to the live taping with ease. A few other points Kingston discussed with fans during her hour-long panel included her favourite moments filming Doctor Who (strapped to a harness flying through the studio and through the doors of the TARDIS colliding with Matt Smith who played the Doctor at the time, accidentally kneeing him in the groin), her time playing Lady Macbeth on stage and the horrible wardrobe issues that ensued, and her preference for the character of the Doctor to stay male allowing for strong female characters to be written around him.
Another reason for Doctor Who fans to take notice and secure their place in line – Michelle Gomez who plays the ultimate villain on the show, Missy, a wonderfully gender bent version of the Master character from the original series. Most of Gomez’s panel focused on her role as Missy and how well she plays evil. “Psychotic really,” she corrected and gestured to her face as the reason why. In preparing for her role as Missy, Gomez mentioned that she approached the character on her own without referring to the actors who have taken the Master role previously. She also knew that she was in good hands to craft the Missy character as show runner Steven Moffatt wrote all of Missy’s episodes with her in mind. Gomez had been a fan of Doctor Who since childhood, age 8, she mentioned, and the classic episode “The Zygons are Coming”, so being chosen to play such an iconic character on the show was a dream come true for her. Fans noted that Missy’s wardrobe choice an “evil Mary Poppins” was a costuming choice deliberately chosen for her when she took on the role. When asked which one of Missy’s one liners is Gomez’s favourite, she said she loved when she ad-libbed “Hey Missy”, her version of the Toni Basil one hit wonder. Finally, when asked how Gomez feels about the possibility of a female doctor, she said she can’t wait for it to happen, considering her gender-bent Master made her the first female Time Lord anyway.
The great thing about fan conventions is how it shows that the impact of a great piece of media can be felt years after that piece of media has run its course and how fans of said media will always remember and return to their love of it. Case in point is Firefly, the cult sci-fi fan favourite directed by Joss Whedon starring a young and fresh-faced Nathan Fillian and an even younger and fresher faced Jewel Staite who took to the large theater for a packed celebrity panel. Staite played Kaylee Frye, the adorable, quirky and feminine mechanic who got the Serenity patched up and ready for flight after each adventure. Staite also played Dr. Jennifer Keller on Stargate Atlantis which has made her an inspiration for young women and girls for portraying strong characters who excel in science and mechanics but who is also feminine and fun. A very poetic question asked by a fan was what Kaylee would see looking into outer space. Staite responded with “love” showing how her character of Kaylee is unapologetically a dreamer. Staite discussed the movie Serenity, the follow-up movie that came after Firefly was cancelled after its first season. Her response was a heavy dose of skepticism at first until she arrived on set and was stunned at the sheer size of the set. She also let on that since the set was on Universal Studios, she was able to sneak off and partake in the rides while even in full costume! Staite spoke very fondly of Fillian and mentioned how great a joy it was to work with him and how much she was able to learn from him. She greatly admired his ability to learn the names of every single crew member and the names of their family and children; that was his ability to make the entire cast and crew feel like family.
One of the most highly anticipated panels this year was the Daredevil celebrity panel that featured stars Charlie Cox who plays Matt Murdoch/Daredevil and Elden Henson who plays Foggy Nelson, Murdoch’s best friend and law partner. The panel was moderated by Joe Quesada, writer and former Editor in Chief at Marvel comics, who was mostly there to make sure conversation stayed on track and that no spoilers for Season 3 were revealed. Right off the bat, the biggest disappointment of the panel was a distinct lack of the third star listed to appear in the program – Jon Bernthal who plays The Punisher, was a no-show for the day, which was definitely disappointing. The character of Matt Murdoch is blind and one of the first questions to come up involved the challenges Cox had to face in playing blind. He worked closely with mentors who were blind to study their everyday lives and mannerisms. The hardest part was to know where to direct his eyes when adjusting to heard sounds. Cox had special contact lenses made for him that looked like his iris and pupil on the outside but blocked out his vision on the inside. They were great for him to work with, not so much for everyone else, so he didn’t use them for long. Cox and Henson discussed working with co-star Deborah Ann Woll, a very kind and generous actress who apparently understands legalese far better than Henson does as he would often confer with her when working through his lines. Woll’s real life boyfriend is also legally blind which allowed Woll to offer real life advice on life living with someone visually impaired. During the panel, it was revealed that while Cox is an incredibly patient actor and withstood being chained on a rooftop throughout most of the night without complaint; Henson complained enough for both of them. Also, that Henson is a very lazy individual and often asked if his scenes could be performed with his character sitting down.