Way back when we first heard there’d be two Doctors in the house for C2E2 2019, we warned you we thought that this might be the year that broke all the records. And while actual attendance numbers can be hard to assess from inside the crowd, today was a madhouse unlike any we’ve seen in the past five years we’ve spent covering the con. The guest list this year went well beyond Doctors Who to include Paul Rudd, the cast of Clueless, all the amazing voice talent from Overwatch and Animaniacs, Nolan North, Colin Donnell, Summer Glau, John Barrowman and far too many more amazing folks to even list. It didn’t matter when you hit the floor today; you were going to be in for some crowds.
Security lines were so long just to enter the con on Saturday morning that escalators at McCormick Place backed up with people who could physically not fit upstairs due to the huge queues, and just making it through to an 11 am panel proved difficult. Luckily we did end up prevailing, and heading out for a day full of panel fun.
We kicked this off with a dash to see the From Sulu to Rose Tico: Celebrating and Fighting for Asian-Americans in Geek Culture panel, which we loved. Representation, cultural pressures, and simple solidarity were subjects of discussion, and the room of attending congoers seemed interested, involved and ready to participate in what turned out to be an equally academic, entertaining and emotional discussion. Panelists discussed things like the first time they saw themselves represented in something they loved, the extra pressure from within the Asian community as well as outside of it, the tendency of Hollywood to tone down the presentation of actors of color so they come off as “less” Hispanic/Asian or African American, as well as encouraging the community as a whole to love who and what they are, and to create art and be the change they wanted to see in the world.
One of the biggest panels of the day, and one we’d anticipated being able to bring you some juicy tidbits from was the Clueless Cast Reunion spotlight with Donald Faison, Paul Rudd, Alicia Silverstone and Breckin Meyer. Unfortunately, we, along with a few other press outlets, were unable to access the panel, which was packed to capacity.
The packed panel rooms persisted all through Saturday, as did the crushing crowds, but we were still able to find some fantastic fun. One of our favorite stops of the day was the Twisted Toonz panel, which featured a veritable who’s who of voice acting– the entire cast of Animaniacs, on hand for tomorrow’s reunion spotlight, as well as Nolan North, EG Daily, and James Arnold Taylor. They read National Lampoon’s Vacation as everyone from some of their best known roles to a table full of Christopher Walkens. It was truly hysterical, on top of being incredibly impressive, as each of these voice actors showed immense range and talent.
Next up was another panel that it’d have been a shame to miss a moment of. John Barrowman, who we’d previously caught in Chicago at Wizard World, continues to be one of the most energetic, zany, sardonic, sassy and all around fantastic panel guests around. He’s commanding and electric on stage while being funny, personal and off the wall.
Barrowman sparkled in a shiny blue TARDIS suit fully bedazzled with Swarovski accents and a set of stilettos that can only be wielded responsibly by a small percentage of the population, and once on stage never stopped the fun. While taking questions, he was at once a playful joker and conscientious, grateful friend, bringing a local LGBTQ identifying fan up to be the Gayle to his Oprah after he’d mentioned the influence Barrowman’s Doctor Who and Torchwood character Captain Jack Harkness had on him as a young man trying to come out, and ended a rather touching talk about role models or the lack of them.
Barrowman, who very much loved his time on Doctor Who and Torchwood, had loads of praise to bestow on Russell T. Davies, who he worked with in his time on the show, saying that the writer/producer had been an incredibly positive influence in his life, in “making room for a character who was an openly gay man to be the hero.”
As expected, fans were eager to know if he’d be back in the Whoverse, and though he’s not (at time of press) been asked back yet, hasn’t seem to shut the door on it. In fact, in one of two reveals in the panel, the actor informed eager Whovians that he’d been working on things with Big Finish Productions, the British producer of Doctor Who audiobooks that continue the Doctor’s stories.
Barrowman spent a good deal of time addressing fans on the importance of confidence, and standing up for yourself, after a fan mentioned her trouble with being assertive and said that Barrowman’s confidence inspired her. He stressed the importance of not apologizing for who you are, especially in times like these, and the need to fight back against ignorance and hate.
He also brought up Arrow costar Colin Donnell for a bit, and convinced the actor to run the catwalk in heels while discussing their time on the show together.
After announcing a new album that he’d been recording, John Barrowman rounded out his time with the capacity crowd with a beautiful rendition of Thousand Years, which he said was inspired by his experience as a witness to an elderly gay couples marriage. The two had invited Barrowman and his husband, who’d been in line just before them to be married, to be their witnesses, as they had no one to stand for them, and told the men that even after all this time, there were people to stand with them– a whole community, in fact. The context and the emotion with which Barrowman sang made a madcap panel suddenly immensely poignant.
Once finished in the Main Stage, we spent the rest of the day on the floor, but there’s even more panel fun to catch up on with our Games & Tech team’s roundup of all the fun with Jackbox Games, the Mortal Kombat Krew, Geek and Sundry, and more, so don’t miss out and check out what happened in Games & Tech by clicking here.