Feb 7, 2020
Star Trek’s Jeri Ryan has boobs! Tales from Dragon Con 2014
First, a quick apology to my mother, who let me know that she does not approve of “that word,” even when combined with and directed at Republicans. You know which word I’m talking about. Republicunt. Don’t say Republicunt. Just strike Republicunt from your vocabulary in entirely. This is a Republicunt free zone.
I’m glad we got this whole Republicunt business behind us.
Now, back to Dragon Con, a gathering of 62,000 sci-fi and fantasy fans in the middle of downtown Atlanta. Unlike the much more famous Comic Con in San Diego, studios and networks don’t come here to make major announcements about new projects. For the most part, TV stars aren’t here as part of a planned publicity tour; they come for their appearance fees and to charge $40 per autograph.
The biggest stars at this year’s event were Patrick Stewart and Karl Urban, and fans dutifully lined up for hours to make sure they got a spot in the auditorium to see them. Other featured guests were people you’d expect: Walter Koenig (Star Trek’s Chekov), Richard Hatch (both Battlestar Galacticas), various lesser dwarves from The Hobbit movies, etc. Oh, and Ralph Macchio for some reason.
Each of the stars appears in a panel discussion or two, which are entirely Q&A sessions with the fans. There are no prepared announcements or presentations; the actors simply sit behind a table and answer questions from the audience. What was your favorite scene to shoot? If you could have played a different character on your series, which one would you choose? Can I have your babies?
Looking for actor panels that seemed to be the most archetypical (i.e., cliché) for a sci-fi convention, I picked one for Firefly and one for Star Trek: Voyager.
The Voyager panel included Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine) and Garratt Wang (Harry Kim), and guess which one got all of the attention. “Apparently you don’t wear bras and panties in space,” revealed Ryan, who spent about half of the time talking about her skin-tight outfits.
I’m mostly familiar with Ryan for her inadvertent role in bringing Barack Obama to the White House. In 2004, it was her ex-husband Jack Ryan who was running against Obama in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois. When the newspapers successfully petitioned to unseal the court records in the custody case of their young son, Mr. Ryan’s fondness for S&M clubs and repeated begging for his wife to take part in the fun became public knowledge. He was forced to withdraw from the race, Alan Keyes was recruited as a placeholder/carpetbagger, and Obama won in a landslide.
The scandal never came up in the panel. Instead, Ryan talked about the difficulties of joining the cast in the middle of the fourth season. Apparently, some of the other actresses were less than thrilled, but Ryan didn’t name names. “It was not a smooth, not a pleasant transition for me,” she said. “Under the best of circumstances, that’s an awkward situation… It was harder on some [cast mates] than others.”
Wang told a funny story about accidently grabbing Ryan’s boob when trying to take her arm during one scene, because boob = interesting story and he knew who the audience was there to see. You gotta respect someone who knows how to give people what they want.
He also talked about how “just seeing George Takei playing a non-stereotypical Asian character” was very meaningful to him as a child and an important influence in his decision to become an actor.
In the Firefly panel, Adam Baldwin (Jayne) was front and center, and Ron Glass (Book) was along for the ride.
Having seen Baldwin consistently typecast the tough guy who gets laughs by being humorless, I was surprised by how giddy and goofy he is in real life. “I’m just a lovable little fuzzball at home,” he said. He also said he enjoys working in TV more than movies because the characters get to show more sides of their personalities and have a longer arc. “You want to make a character have layers. Like ogres.”
Baldwin was also quick to praise the voice actors he worked with while doing the voice of Superman in a straight-to-DVD animated movie: “[In voice acting] you’re working only with people who are very talented. In television, you’re working with people who are beautiful.”
Firefly didn’t actually come up that much. Towards the end of the panel, Glass praised Firefly creator Joss Whedon’s ability to create bonds between unlikely characters, capturing both the tension and the joy in their differences. Baldwin talked about how exciting it was when the funding came through for the Firefly movie Serenity: “I was most happy for Joss. It was devastating for all of us [when the show was cancelled], but especially for Joss… We were walking on air.”
Before and after panels, actors hang out in the “Walk of Fame,” a hotel ballroom where fans stand in line to get autographs and photos. It’s interesting but kind of sad to see which stars are sitting alone at their booth waiting for someone, anyone, to walk up (Buck Rogers’s Gil Gerard) while others are commanding all of the attention (Buck Rogers’s Erin Gray).
If you’re an autograph collector, you can easily go broke at Dragon Con. Fortunately, autographs aren’t really my thing. A quick glance at a semi-famous actor in person and I’m happy. I won’t pretend it’s not a thrill. You know I’m not that jaded and cool. After all, I’m a Dragon Con.