C2E2 2021 looks a bit different and is definitely a little bit less hectic with a somewhat lighter schedule, but it didn’t keep us from rushing the panel rooms to learn, laugh and enjoy behind the scenes moments from our favorite franchises.
We started off our adventures in panel rooms with Sailor Moon. This cast Q&A featured Amanda C. Miller, who played Sailor Jupiter and who we’d recently seen at Wizard World in October, and Cristina Vee, who played Sailor Mars. The panel didn’t have a lot to do with Sailor Moon for a good long time, ranging in topics from Florence Pugh to Miller’s recent ADHD diagnosis, but with a little prod from the mod, we learned some really interesting things for any fan, including that both Vee and Miller were lifelong fans, and had deep knowledge of the show before they ever got on it. Miller actually first saw the show in German and had a hard time understanding some of the story points, but absolutely loved the German techno intros, one of which Cristina Vee happened to know and be able to sing for everyone. Both the stars talked about how wonderful and scary it was to get to be a part of something that was such a big part of their childhoods, and talked a little about the characters they played and how they did or didn’t relate to them, showing some extra appreciation for the fact that not only was the cast entirely made of girls, but the girls were complex and not stereotypical, and had room to be sports fans and want a super girlie wedding. Both Vee and Miller auditioned for all 5 of the main roles, but Jupiter connected with Miller right away, while Cristina Vee noted she felt more connected to Sailor Mercury at first, and thought Sailor Mars was mean (at first).
In the end, both think their characters ended up being perfect for them, and even though Miller initially threw some shade at the titular sailor for being clumsy and eating too much and not knowing what she was doing despite being the leader, she later said she thought it made her more relatable and that everyone struggles to adult and hold it together all the time, so it makes sense that that’d be true for her too.
Then it was all hands on deck for the Expanse panel with Steven Strait and Wes Chatham joining us to chat.
Fans of The Expanse got two early Christmas presents on Friday – the first episode of the show’s sixth and final season, and a panel with Steven Strait and Wes Chatham, who play James Holden and Amos Burley. The pair spent the afternoon panel looking back at the last six years of what’s arguably one of the best scifi shows of this era.
“It’s bittersweet obviously that it’s the last season, but we worked so hard to do this last season right,” said Strait, who said he came into the show as a fan of the novels, told the crowd. “We really wanted to stick the landing so to speak…I really think we made one of our best years. When you work so hard for so many years on something you want to make sure you honor the story correctly.
Chatham said he posted a photo to instagram of his first day on the show earlier Friday morning from when he was walking out of a makeup trailer. “I had no idea what I was walking into,” he said. “I remember looking at that fresh face of that punk kid and just being excited. But I didn’t realize what this show was going to become.”
Chatham recalled a dinner he and Strait had during season three where they talked about where the show might be headed. “We both said our whole ambition, the thing we wanted to accomplish, was to create something, to be a part of something that affected people the same way like the things that we loved affected us. Steven looked at me and said ‘you know, we finish this and keep the level of work I think The Expanse is gonna be that.’ I feel so grateful and humbled by this experience.”
“Six was the goal,” said Strait. “We were able to make a beginning, middle, and end and gave it everything we had. I’m really proud of what we’ve done.”
Chatham said he was in awe of much attention was paid to detail when he walked on set. “How specific, and the details, the radars, every ship that was listed. The amount of attention paid to detail and how specific every choice – when you go back and watch – every little mechanical thing that’s involved in the ship, they all have a purpose, they all have a reason,” said Chatham. “I thought ‘oh my God, this is really…people put a lot of thought and time in this,’ so that special feeling grew.”
Chatham said that when the show transitioned from the SyFy channel to Amazon after the third season, the show’s reach became much broader. “I remember being at the grocery store and people coming up to me saying ‘oh my God we love your new show’ and I’m like ‘new show, we’ve been doing this for four seasons!,’” he said. “All of a sudden it was like something turned on and everybody knew about it. That was only possible because of the strong foundation of loyal fans that took care of us through the whole thing.”
“We literally wouldn’t be here without you,” added Strait.
The pair also talked about how their characters evolved over the years.
“With James, I knew early on that I would be able to play with a really vast arc that’s very slow moving. It’s a unique thing,” said Strait. “Over the years you see him develop into the leader he needs to be. Often through his failures, often through his stumbles. Learning through humility, which is a very unique arc in this kind of work. It’s a very different kind of hero, one that brings people together. He’s always trying to make a consensus. It was a great opportunity for me to play a character, a hero arc that’s not typical.”
Chatham said it was an honor to play such a complicated and interesting character. “When we first meet him he’s really damaged. He’s very lost,” he said. “So much so that he’s completely unaware that he is. He relies on Naomi basically as a crutch to be a fully formed human being, because there’s a darkness that lives inside him. I think in the first season some people thought he might be a tough guy, but Amos doesn’t have an ego. He’s not aware in that way. The reality is he’s just trying to survive. Through the family structure and the love and support of the Roci, he’s found a place that’s his home. Through that, his healing is coming forth. But he’s unaware. He’s so unaware that he’s becoming the type of mentor that he needed in his life. It’s only until it’s been brought to to his attention that he is becoming that. And then he has a realization that he is now becoming the Naomi, the Holden. It’s just such a beautiful story and I have so much empathy for him because of the amount of trauma and what he suffered through in his life. With Amos there’s a true honesty and vulnerability and loyalty within him. Also the darkness and the bad side.”
Chatham added that he reads The Churn, a novella in The Expanse series that explores Burley’s early life on Earth before he meets the crew of the Rocinante. “It’s the foundation that I use to build him, but it’s also the foundation that he grew up in,” Chatham said. “I gave it to a psychologist and we had these long conversations about if someone went through this type of trauma, how that would physically manifest itself. Especially the early seasons, the scenes where they were having conversations, it was something that was emotional, Amos is really just watching closely trying to figure out ‘how do I react here, what does this mean. He’s always trying to read and to understand and to fit in in a lot of ways.”
Strait told the crowd that The Expanse is the most collaborative show he’s ever been a part of or even heard of. “More than 20 years in and I’ve never really seen the kind of group effort that goes on here,” said Strait. “We hook up together for every single episode on the weekends to rehearse voluntarily. We’d take Saturday, read through the script and have discussions and the next day we’d open up the set. We’ve devoted weekends for seven years because we love the process of the story so much. When that kind of collaboration happens there’s a sense of ownership to the work of everybody involved. Everyone wants to make sure that this thing can live up to its potential.”
Both Strait and Chatham passed on telling the crowd their favorite scenes in the show, because for the two of them, their favorite scenes take place in Season 6, which has only aired one episode so far. Chatham did say that he “loves the Avasarala/Amos dynamic.” “Her performance in season six is my favorite performance of any performance in Expanse history. I think she’s so good. So I have an enormous amount of respect for her (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and we have so much fun together so I really like all the Amos and Avasarala scenes.”
After that we made our way over to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers panel. Paul Schrier (Bulk) recalled his time playing a cartoonish bully on the show. “There are some wholly offensive things that are on screen in some Power Rangers episodes. Not the worst of it is the bullying,” he said. “I think you can see…the producers recognized that was not a tenable and long lasting solution for the characters because they certainly loved to have us as a counterpoint to the action. They needed something to go to because they didn’t have enough Japanese footage. But really the bullying thing, it was like oat milk, they tell you it was gonna last but that shit still goes bad. So over time we really reverted away from bullying and became more buffoonish antagonists and then truly transitioned into protagonists.”
“That movement (the anti bullying movement) is super important because bullying is BS and so were we,” added Schrier.
“I don’t think that when you watch Power Rangers and you saw you guys as bullies that that was something you wanted to be,” said Walter Jones (Zack Taylor). “I don’t think you guys represented bullies as something you aspire to be.”
Schrier said that Bulk and his counterpart Skull (Jason Narvy) were outsiders. “All kidding aside, they were outsiders,” he said. “What people like about these characters when they go back is that they’re people who are not accepted by the rest of their school, right? And if you’re in geekdom you might just be an outsider.”
Jones recalled the rigors of working on the show, as well as the fun the cast had while doing it. “It was a lot of work but it was a lot of fun,” he said. You can imagine what it’s like to be a newly acquired superhero on a set and looking at yourself on TV every day and being like ‘I’m a superhero’ that’s crazy. We were having – we would entertain ourselves quite often. We would have handstand competitions, we’d do flips and all kinds of stuff with the stunt guys. We would play jokes with these guys. It was a lot of fun. It was like a family environment where we’re all working really hard.”
“Everyone was about college age. Imagine a college experience but you do that 12 hours a day,” added Narvy.
Karan Ashley (Aisha Campbell) said working on the show was like being part of a family. “I always tell people they don’t realize it was long long hours. It was so much work,” she said. “The shows back then, it was like a show every day so to keep up with that kind of shooting schedule, we’d go in and it would be dark, you would go home and it would be dark. You’d literally – we worked crazy hours but the beautiful thing is that we were very close like a family. We just made fun, we had to have fun somewhere.”
Jones talked about how working on the show informed the path he took in life. “Being a role model on the show, we didn’t want to disappoint anybody,” he said. “In my life I found that I didn’t want to be not a role model outside of that. If I went out to a bar, I didn’t take pictures with alcohol, I didn’t take pictures of me doing anything. I didn’t want that to be an inspiration to anybody, to the kids. That’s lingered throughout my life. I’ve always wanted to be somebody that represented what we represented on the show.”
“It was the same thing. It wasn’t until after doing the show you realize, people would say all the time ‘it’s the biggest show in the world but you’re like ‘what does that mean,’” added Ashley. “But then we meet, we literally have gone all around the world and so many people know this show. For me it’s like wow, I can’t even believe that we were part of something that huge. It’s one of those things where we, I know all of us and the people who do cons, we want that moment, even if it’s a few minutes with you, to be as special as it can possibly be. We know for 27 years you’ve loved this show. There are so many shows that have come and gone and that fact that you guys still watch it, still love it, still wear the shirts, buy the action figures – it’s just mind blowing. When we meet you we want it to be as special as it can be.”
Once that wrapped, we headed up to talk a little more local, with the amazing folks on the Why Chicago is a Comics Town panel. Featured panelists included Tim Seeley, Caitlin Rosberg, Bill Reinhold and John Siuntres.
This panel was a breath of fresh air and celebration of all things great in Chicago comics, with everyone sharing their various origin stories and hitting all the greats when asked what their favorite comic stores were, with so many different answers coming up it was hard not to feel really lucky about where we live, if you’re a comics lover. Graham Crackers, First Aid, Challenger, Variety Comics, and even places like the News Depot in Skokie that were from a bygone era made the list.
In particular, Reinhold and Siuntres both had excellent stories to tell about the 80s and 90s heyday of comic book stores in Chicago, when there’d be empty pizza boxes on top of stacks and stacks of comics, but no lack of great finds.
Add to that a little commentary from Rosberg on Chicago’s infrastructure and the influence of the World’s Fair on Chicago’s mark on the world, and we were in local heaven, feeling pretty lucky to be here.
Both Seely and Rosberg, who were originally transplants, talked a great deal about why Chicago was such a great town for creatives, and has unmatched accessibility for the cost of living, and how no matter where everyone comes from, they can land here and find their tribe.
There was also a lot of discussion around the struggle to get comics seen as valid in the classroom and useful for education, something everyone felt strongly about, and actively worked towards doing, and a lot of discussion about bringing the infrastructure and support to young comics artists on the South Side, something that Rosberg especially felt strongly about, living there herself.
It’s hard to even sum up all the great things we talked about in this panel, so we encourage everyone to seek out all these amazing artists and writers for more.
That’s it for our first day of panel catchups but please stay tuned for more as C2E2 continues!