Posted by Camille Espiritu, Alex Suffolk, and Yasmin Kleinbart
On November 21 and 22, we went to the first ever Heroes and Villains Fanfest in San Jose, California. It was the first of its kind, planned out by “Arrow’s” himself, Stephen Amell. When you look at the word “fan fest”, it’s unclear what that really means. Is it laid out like a typical convention? Or is it merely just an opportunity to take pictures with a few stars? As their motto goes, “This isn’t your dad’s Comic Con,” and they couldn’t be anymore correct.
If you are planning to go to the one in New York, don’t stress too much about sifting through the schedules and scrambling to get to the panels, because the overall environment is really laid back. The majority of fans will get a seat with a decent view, with the option of being in the standing room. In a lot of ways, it can be considered a “baby’s first” of cons; the structure and overall essence are there, but it’s still a small enough affair that allows you to not have to deal with frenzied crowds every step of the way.
And as the title advertises, this was truly a “fest” for the fans. The panels were mainly for fans to be starstruck and ask whatever questions about the actors’ show, their character development, or whatever else they wanted (but some moderation would have been nice). Unlike Comic-Con and other bigger conventions, there wasn’t any new footage or much news to check out. The panels held throughout the weekend were set with 5% news and the moderators having a discussion with the actor/actresses, while 95% was a Q & A session with fans.
The convention started off with Danielle Panabaker and Robbie Amell heading the panel for The CW’s “The Flash.” They spoke about how they did not meet each other prior to filming and got a few hours to chat so they can build the chemistry. Also, some emphasis was put on how Robbie feels about dying for the umpteenth time. “I’ll be the ‘South Park’ Kenny of The Flash”, he joked to the crowd. Robbie was by far the highlight of Saturday morning, continuing to provide a series of fun quips. He answered the question, “Who else would you be on “The Flash?” with a shrug and “I’d be anyone that’s alive.” When asked if he watched the show himself, his response was an unflinching, “Yes. I’m a huge fan of myself.” But the panel was not filled with only jokes. Amell revealed that a cut scene from last season’s finale involved Firestorm turning a thermometer into a daffodil, hinting that the show could introduce the character’s matter manipulation powers at some point (if the character gets brought back to life somehow, of course).
The afternoon took a turn from “The Flash” to “Arrow”. Paul Blackthorne, Katy Cassidy, and Caity Lotz united as the Lance family. From Sara’s death to Laurel’s intensive training for Black Canary, there was plenty to discuss. Blackthorne, though joking about how asking actors to discuss their method is asking them to drone on for hours on end, nonetheless gave great insight into his craft. “With acting, you do your homework and come to work with an idea in mind,” Blackthrone said. “Then the best thing you can do is forget all of it. You gotta listen to the director, the other actors, and let it go.” Lotz then went into the female friendships on set and how lucky she was to work with fabulous women every day. However, the most surprising and the highlight of the panel happened halfway through. Arrow and Doctor Who star, John Barrowman surprised the audience (and panel) with a surprise dance on the stage. After dared by Blackthorne to jump on the trampoline in the back of the room, he happily obliged and was on it for about 10 minutes.
Karen Gillan’s bubbly personality lit up the stage during Saturday’s last major panel. She took a ride on the nostalgia train by recalling favorite Doctor Who scenes and inside jokes, and how she wished she could make a comeback on the show. She then talked about how her favorite parts about working on Guardians of the Galaxy such how it took five hours to get her makeup on and of course- she had to shave her head. She even mentioned that she read the sequel’s script, making the audience roar in cheer. The cutest part of the whole panel was when Gillan’s parents came onstage to accompany her. Her mother spoke about how proud she was of her daughter, especially because she was a huge Doctor Who fan herself. When asked what she was like as a child, her father jokingly said, “a demon”. It was quite an adorable moment during this panel.
We started off Sunday with the “Once Upon a Time” panel that featured Lana Parilla (Evil Queen) and Rebecca Mader (Wicked Witch of the West). Lana shared some stories on what it is like working on the set of “Once Upon a Time”, like how proud she is watching the growth of Jared Gilmore (Henry). She also touched on how it feels to play Regina – a character that always tows the line between hero and villain. While she loves getting to play the evil queen, she admits she’d get bored playing the same type of character all the time, and thus is grateful for Regina’s complexity. “Regina’s struggle is human, and we all go through it… We all have these struggles and inner demons, but we all want to be better… So Regina really represents hope.” Parilla was even gracious enough to give away some tidbits of what’s to come in future episodes. Next season we will see Lana’s parents making a comeback as well as Captain Hook having a huge presence in the 100th episode!
Rebecca Mader took the stage soon after Lana Parilla left. Despite being the most wicked of them all, she got quite the applause. She talked about getting this terrific and yet completely role after her run on Lost. When asked how she prepared to act like a villain everyday, she jokingly said, “Villains don’t think they’re villains. They think they’re amazing!” That witty and sarcastic banter continued for the rest of the panel, with questions ranging from her acting method to her opinion on her relationship between Zelena and Regina.
The last major panel that we went to see was the super cousin duo, Robbie Amell and Stephen Amell. Stephen started off the panel by telling us about the inspiration behind the festival and how there was a need to one that centered around the heroes and villains we see in the media. By some of the fans responses, it sounded like a lot of people thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Stephen and Robbie then shared family memories, like how Robbie used to use Stephen’s I.D to sneak into bars (seriously, for cousins, they can pass off as brothers!) But aside from their respective roles in their shows, they are currently working on a project together. More news will be revealed at the Heroes and Villains Fanfest in New York happening on January 23rd and 24th.
Overall, though there are some areas for improvement, the fan fest was relatively enjoyable. The panels allowed for plenty of time for fans to answer their questions (while some slyly professed their love for the actor/actress on stage). There were a ton of local artists and vendors who displayed their work and were lovely to talk as well. Also, the festival had a ton of photo and autograph opportunities, which pleased the huge superhero/villain fanbase.