Con Celebs

Let’s talk about the amazing celebrities that came to Salt Lake Comic Con.

I saw all of the following on panels:

  • Walter Koenig (Chekov on the original Star Trek series)
  • James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter films)
  • Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald in Doctor Who)
  • Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings Triology)
  • Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes in the Avengers franchise)
  • Dean O’Gorman (Fili in the Hobbit Trilogy)
  • Anthony Daniels (C3PO in the Star Wars Saga)
  • Chris Evans (Captain America in the Avengers franchise)
  • Anthony Mackie (Falcon from the Avengers franchise)
  • Hayley Atwell (Agent Peggy Carter from the Marvelverse)
  • John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who)

I just want to attempt to briefly talk about my personal highlights from my favorite panels.

Sean Astin:

He is possibly one of the most pleasant people in the world. He said that they were involved in the world of Middle Earth for so long and it was so absorbing that they really started to become their characters…and you can still see Samwise all over Sean’s life. He is running two charities: Run3rd and Sean Reads Aloud. Run3rd raises money to develop running and athletic programs for underprivileged kids – to help them develop goals and discipline. Sean Reads Aloud (which I am personally stoked about) is a collection of audio books Sean is making and the proceeds will all go to either obtaining license for more books to read aloud, or to a literacy program. I love this one because he is reading a lot of things that aren’t the easiest to get through by reading them, but having them read to you makes the material so much more accessible. And I’m always about Charles Dickens infiltrating more of the modern world, cause he’s brilliant.

My favorite story that Sean shared was about preparing for the scene in Return of the King where Sam picks up Frodo and carries him up the hill. When Sean received the script for that day, he looked over the words and went through them over and over with Elijah, even though Elijah didn’t have any words. Then when they started filming it, during the very first take, Peter Jackson was reduced to tears by Sean’s performance (and Peter is a very hard man, as both Sean and Dean O’Gorman testified) and said it was perfect, but he let Sean keep retaking for hours because Sean was so taken by the beauty and poetry of the words. I wish I had been there – I’ll just have to watch that scene a few times – but I adore that Sean loves and feels the power of words so strongly.

Also he’s competing in the Iron Man competition next week, so pretty much he’s incredible all the way around. He did simply walk into Mordor.

Sebastian Stan:

Hello, you gorgeous Romanian man. I didn’t know that he was Romanian before the panel, and I definitely wasn’t alone in that. A girl asked him a question in Romanian, and he answered in Romanian, and it was absolutely gorgeous. He could say anything he wanted to me in Romanian and I’d be totally, totally in his power. Haha

Sebastian was one of the most laid-back, genuinely kind people I’ve ever met (I did meet him very briefly for a photo op!). From the way he carried himself in his panel and the answers he gave, I can tell that in a normal life if we met, we would be friends. Hopefully close friends. Besties. Yeah, Seb and I should be besties.

My favorite thing that he said was how incredibly grateful and lucky he knows he is, not to be a huge star now playing an important character in the biggest current film franchise, but to have gotten out of communist Romania when he did and make it to America. And it’s keeping that real perspective that makes him such an extraordinary celebrity.

Anthony Daniels:

Anthony Daniels was a riot. You can’t tell from C3PO’s personality, but Anthony is extremely charismatic and totally knows how to capture the entire room and run with it.

He didn’t take any questions from the audience, he just pranced around the stage telling us stories from filming Star Wars. I think the best part was when he very first walked out on stage, everyone cheered obviously, but he told us that was not the correct way to greet a golden god. Then one man bowed and chanted like the Ewoks did when they saw C3PO, and Anthony told us we all needed to do that…and he went back out so he could come back in to all of us bowing to him. Welcome to the glorious Star Wars cult, everybody. It was awesome.

I wish I remembered more of the stories he told, but I was so swept away by his presence. He was a trained Shakespearean actor originally, and you can still see it in the way he presents himself. And his delightful British accent…mmm. He said when he first heard about the part, he didn’t want to audition, because he was a high brow, dignified actor, and he had no business with a low budget sci-fi film. But he had a feeling he should just go for it anyway, and the audition process was so long and arduous that by the end he practically begged George to give him the part because he was so invested. And obviously, he’s super grateful he did because seven films later, he is never going to struggle finding work again.

Chris Evans:

I have watched several interviews of Chris with Jimmy Fallon and the like, but I was definitely star struck to see him in person. There were huge portions of his panel that I was totally unable to process because I was just trying to process that I was in the same room as Chris Evans. Chris Evans. Chris Evans.

When it was announced that Chris would be coming to the con, a lot of people responded by saying how lucky we are and how courteous we need to be to him since he hates cons because he has social anxiety. In the panel, someone asked whether he enjoyed playing Johnny Storm or Steve Rogers better, and his answer was that playing Johnny, he was much more carefree because he was young and stupid. By the time Captain America came around, he had much higher expectations for himself and he was a “ball of worry.” From the way he described it, it was clear (to me) that he has general anxiety and not necessarily social anxiety. He actually invited ALL of us to give him hugs. That’s thousands of people he invited to touch him. And after con, dozens of people posted their photos with him on Facebook, and in tons of them they are hugging, in one he’s even kissing the girl on the cheek. So I’m definitely going to go with general anxiety on this one and not social anxiety. Sorry if I just ruined your life by telling you that Chris Evans is not afraid of people.

But I loved his response to his anxiety. He told us the best way for him to cope is to turn off his brain noise, which takes a lot of practice, but the best way he found to do it is simple gratitude. Remember all the things you have to be grateful for. Count your many blessings. It’s a true principle, and it works. Captain America said so. Before each panel, they show a little montage of clips from things the actor has done, and when Chris started talking about his gratitude, he talked about watching that montage and he got choked up and teary, saying that seeing this evidence of how well he’s been received by audiences just reminds him profoundly of how much he has to be grateful for every day.

James and Oliver Phelps:

I think I would be friends with Sebastian Stan, but I know I would be friends with James and Oliver. I practically am, between our photo op and getting their autographs. We have a mutual favorite band in Muse, so a strong bond has already formed, because being a Muse fan is a lifestyle.

I can’t do justice to the amazingness of these brothers. It didn’t really matter what they were talking about, they were just thoughtful and happy, and played off each other so well. As in many panels, most of the questions were asked by children, and with Harry Potter stars in particular, the kids like to share stories about how Harry Potter is entrenched in their lives. Those kids kept bringing up Fred Weasley’s death in the most awkward ways possible, but James (who played Fred) took it all very graciously. I mean, they are just very British: polite, patient, and kind. And they very much love football (real football). I just like them a lot. A whole lot. J

John Barrowman:

John started out his panel by telling us about a gassy plane incident for ten minutes. And it only got better from there.

John is one of the most energetic people I’ve ever seen. He was moving so much I had to take my pictures in sports mode on my camera. He danced, leapt, twirled, and floated. Really, this man is pretty incredible.

The only time he stood still was when he sang. He sang two full songs for us, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, dedicated to all the couples who’ve had to wait years to be able to express their love to each other – and the other was “I Am What I Am” by Gloria Gaynor. I was floored by his voice. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but really, we need to make another musical film and cast this man. Disney, where you at? Why did you not cast him in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast? Will you please cast him in The Jungle Book? Or in theAladdin prequel, Genies? Since we can’t have Robin Williams, I feel like John Barrowman is the next best thing. Or the Prince Charming background story…yes. Please. He might be a little too old to play Prince Charming himself, but he can definitely be King Charming – because he is the king of Charming. He made pretty much everyone who asked him a question blush, women or men, straight or gay. So…yep, King Charming.

However, it was John who delivered what I’m now going to label as the “Profound Comic Con Moment” (it was Matt Smith last time – there’s just something so wise about those men who travel through all of space and time). In talking about gay rights and how people of different communities have received him, being a man so far out of the closet that he’d need a TARDIS to get back to that closet, he said something that struck me deep. He said that he’s found the more he is true to himself, the less people can deny him, and not only that, but the more he is himself, the more people appreciate, respect, and accept him.

This is a lesson that I think a lot of people are told throughout their lives. I remember hearing this over and over growing up, but I also remember thinking things like “but I want to be this other person, because they are cooler than me, and that’s being true to myself because it’s what I want.” And it took me over 20 years to completely shake that mentality, which is why it struck me so strongly. People, the cliché is true! Be yourself, and be it fiercely!


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