Welcome to more of my recollections about Eyecon! This part includes the Saturday Q&A sessions with the Ghostfacers, A.J. Buckley and Travis Wester; Fred Lehne; Nicki Aycox; and musician Jason Manns.
The other Saturday events were the banquet, the Platinum party, and the Steve Carlson concert. The concert was delightful, but there’s nothing to report from that other than that the music was good. I was on general admission, so I can’t report anything on the party. I had bought a ticket to the banquet, which turned out to be a colossal waste of money. Eyecon made the mistake of not limiting banquet sales to just having as many dinner tables as they had celebrity guests, and I wound up at one of the tables that was fans only. While some of the guests tried to circulate a little at the end of the dinner, a three-minute flying visit really didn’t match the chance to chat throughout the meal. If I ever do another con, I won’t bother with a banquet ticket. The folks at tables with the guests clearly had a good time, but the food alone definitely wasn’t worth the money.
But enough with the kvetching – on to the fun!
Saturday: Ghostfacers Q&A with A.J. Buckley and Travis Wester
If you’re like me, you have trouble remembering who’s who, so – A.J. is the curly-haired one who plays Ed Zeddmore, and Travis is the dark-haired one who plays Harry Spangler. The two of them played off each other like a walking comedy act, and I know I can’t capture that vibe, so I’m not going to try! Where I don’t attribute comments to one or the other, it’s because I couldn’t keep track as they kept tossing the conversational baton back and forth between them all the time. Generally, A.J. talked a bit more than Travis
Unsurprisingly, the first question they were asked was whether they could sing the Ghostfacers theme song, which they promptly did, as badly as ever!
A.J. was asked about his ongoing role in CSI: New York, and observed that it was cool to finally be in the opening credits. He recalled that he’d started as a recurring character in the second season of the show, with a grand total of five lines. He reported that at the end of season three, they signed him as a regular, but since they knew he wasn’t going to be in all the episodes of season four, they promised to put him in the opening credits for season five. By coincidence, his first appearance in CSI aired while he was shooting Hell House. He laughed that Ghostfacers was his favorite, though.
Asked about Jared and Jensen, Travis laughed that Jared is a giant, and that one day he scooped up A.J. and just casually carried him around for a while under one arm. “Felt like I was skydiving!” A.J. joked. Describing the difference between them, he laughed that Jared and Jensen “… have six-packs and jawlines, and we – don’t.” Travis added that both of the guys are really funny and picked up on the style of the episode – which he called “scripted improv” – really quickly. They agreed that the set was unique in their experience, given that it was a full 360-degree set with no camera guys or fixed camera positions or lighting guys around. They said that the director of photography would sometimes send in a camera guy, but often decided not to use the footage in favor of using what the actors had shot themselves, because the actors with the cameras had really gotten into the rhythm of shooting and captured things with a flair that the professionals didn’t have.
Asked about the plans for more things featuring the Ghostfacers, such as the webisodes hinted at by Eric Kripke in interviews given around Comic-Con, they said that they couldn’t talk about what’s being talked about, but that they had met with Kripke the week before Eyecon and that the sense was that given the way many fans had responded to the guys, it would be silly not to explore them.
Asked about the Ghostfacers confronting demons, they laughed that Harry and Ed wouldn’t know a demon if they saw one. Riffing off each other, they noted that Ed is like Captain Kirk, and would be lost without Harry’s Mr. Spock.
A fan mentioned issue 6 of the Supernatural: Rising Son comic that had come out on the Wednesday before the con, which includes a separate story at the back written by Kripke and featuring the Ghostfacers, and they both laughed, delightedly saying that it was awesome, that they’d seen the script about a month before the art and thought it was hysterical, and then they saw the art! “Having your likeness put in a comic is great!” Travis said, and A.J. instantly chimed in with, “And we’re so ripped! I’m like, the beach is that way – we’ve got muscles!” (Quick and funny aside: I learned from my friend Lynda, who was one of the winning bidders on the Sunday breakfast with Jared, that Jared and Jensen hadn’t known about the feature in the comic – she showed it to him at breakfast, and that was the first he’d seen of it. He said he couldn’t wait to call Jensen ...)
Asked whether they’d had any fanboy moments with celebrities, Travis mentioned meeting the full cast of Battlestar Galactica at the SciFi party at Comic-Con, and A.J. mentioned meeting Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Asked about his experience shooting on an episode of The X-Files, A.J. mentioned fondly that it was his very first acting gig, and said, “Kim Manners is the greatest guy on Earth.” He remembered that there were real roaches on set crawling over the actors, but it was worth it.
Asked about how the two of them had become a team and whether they’d known each other before getting the gig on Supernatural, they said that their experience had been the same as Jensen’s and Jared’s: they hadn’t known each other before, met upon being cast, and just clicked. A.J. said. “To randomly wind up with a guy and have this dynamic is great!” They said that they hang out together and are working on comedy as a team.
Asked which of their lines had been their favorites, Travis went with “Oh sweet Lord – of the Rings!” from Hell House while A.J. immediately picked his “Chisel-chest” comment to Dean in Ghostfacers. He added that the line wasn’t in the script, but was one of his improv contributions, and said that when he delivered it, Jared literally fell down laughing, then got up, walked off set, and just kept laughing, repeating “chisel-chest” to himself and going off again and again. “His whole body laughs,” A.J. said. “When he starts laughing, forget it! And Jensen just looks at him ...”
The guys said that Ben Edlund wrote a phenomenal script for the episode, but the network was afraid of the whole thing. A.J. said that when they realized that their foursome had such rapport, director Phil Sgriccia just let them run with it, let them keep talking, and that he’d throw unexpected things at them, like the rat, just to see how they’d spontaneously react.
The guys related a funny story from their shooting on Hell House, when they were sneaking up on the haunted house wearing the night vision goggles. Travis explained that they couldn’t see anything through the goggles, so they were going entirely off of the sounds around them, and they were distracted because it was cold and raining. A.J. picked up the story, saying that they were talking with each other, and then thought they’d heard the call “Action,” so they started crawling through the mud toward the house. As they went, though, they started wondering why they weren’t hearing anything, because there was supposed to be the sound of a car coming or a door slamming or something, so after a bit, they stopped crawling and lifted their goggles to discover the whole crew just standing around staring at them, wondering what the hell they were doing, because they weren’t actually shooting at the time. A.J. said they’d airily tried to pass it off: “Oh, we’re Method actors ...”
Asked if there were any real supposedly haunted locations they’d like to see the Ghostfacers take on, they said there were a lot of haunted places around L.A., and they’d love to do the Queen Mary. Observing that the Magic Castle conducts a seance every year at Halloween to try to contact Houdini, A.J. chuckled that if he showed up, he’d pee his pants!
Comparing the Ghostfacers with Sam, the guys dropped into character to observe that psychic powers make Sam “... almost as cool as us. But his execution needs work. We’re smooth.”
Asked about the freedom of knowing they’d be bleeped, they laughed that Jared and Jensen had really enjoyed cussing, because they usually had to be so careful! They said that the boys had really gotten into it, especially Jensen as Dean, and that director Phil Sgriccia literally had tears in his eyes because he was laughing at them all the time.
Asked how they’d become actors, A.J. said that he only ever wanted to act, ever since he was five years old and saw Snow White as a play in Dublin, and felt how the actors made people laugh. Travis was a bit less profound: “I just always lied all the time as a kid!”
About pranks on set, A.J. laughed that in the scene with the ghost train, Jensen, standing behind him, kept goosing him with his shotgun just before A.J. had to deliver his line, but was always very subtle in his movements and kept a perfectly straight face. Phil couldn’t see what Jensen was doing and after a few spoiled takes asked A.J., “Why are you always saying ‘oh!’?” and Jensen innocently chimed in, “Yeah, why do you keep saying ‘oh!’?” A.J. observed that he was in kind of an awkward position, and Travis said, “Yeah, you don’t want to be saying, ‘The star of the show keeps poking me in the butt with a shotgun!’”
A.J. discovered his own prank in the Q&A session when he bonked himself in the head with the mike, and then repeated the move to make heartbeat sounds through the PA system!
Asked what other shows they’d particularly like to be on, A.J. said he’d love to be on Dexter. Travis said that he’d gotten the chance to be on Entourage and that it was surreal, to love a show and then get the chance to be on it!
The last question I remember concerned how much of the Ghostfacers’ appearance at Comic-Con was scripted and how much was improv, and they said it was virtually all improv, that Jensen and Jared knew they would be there but not what they would say or do. Jensen did say in advance that he’d throw them off when it was time. A.J. said that it was the fan reaction to the Comic-Con stunt that really started the ‘Facer movement to have something more happen with Ed and Harry.
Saturday: Fred Lehne Q&A
Fred apologized for not opening this Q&A with a new song, or even with his existing retake on “Sympathy for the Devil,” but confessed that he was suffering from a cold and had no voice.
Asked about his upcoming work, he enthused about Last of the Ninth, a pilot by David Milch for an HBO cop show set in the early 1970’s that he’d just shot in New York. He said he hopes it will get picked up for a lot of reasons, not the least being that he lives in New York, so working on the show would mean that he gets to work where he lives.
Asked about his favorite scene with Jared and Jensen, he said the cemetery scene near the end of All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2, because it was the only scene he actually had with both of them. And before he would be asked, he said up front that he knew nothing about them, their house, or their sex lives, and even if he did ... well, he was sure it’s interesting!
Asked how it feels to play the main bad guy, he quipped “It’s better than playing bad guy number three!”
Asked if he’d ever had a fanboy moment with a celebrity, he said that he’d run into Bruce Springsteen at the YMCA once, and couldn’t think of what to say. He also said that after a stage show once, Elizabeth Taylor knocked on his dressing room door and said something nice about his performance, and he just went ... “Duh!” He exclaimed that her eyes really are violet, not blue; “You never see that, but they really are!”
Asked about the boys and his experience shooting on Supernatural, he said, “You hear this all the time, but it’s really true – Jared and Jensen are really good guys. They make their guest stars feel really at home. Like when I was a kid and my friends would knock on the back door and ask me to come out and play: doing Supernatural is like that.”
He said that the scene in AHBL, P2 where John wrestles with the demon was a real trick to shoot, because he and Jeffrey Dean Morgan couldn’t be there at the same time. Noting that he couldn’t see when he was wearing the yellow contacts, he observed that not being able to see was an interesting exercise for an actor because he got to listen more, smell more, and feel more. It was a useful exercise for an actor, but it got old fast. He said they used all sorts of tricks to help him out, but the hardest thing was having to walk around in the open on gravel and uneven ground. He said that he was holding someone’s hand when he had to walk around the campfire, and that in other scenes where he had to walk, he was going from light source to light source. He chuckled that that put a light on top of the camera so he’d know if he was being blocked and he wouldn’t hide behind Jared – “It’s easy to do, he’s very big – in a good way!”
Asked about his performance as Azazel as compared with JDM’s performance in Devil’s Trap, he noted that he’d played Azazel differently. Observing that the devil enjoys peoples’ pain, he said that the characters were in a different situation when he played Yellow Eyes than they were when the devil had possessed John and tormented the brothers using their father’s body. He said that the writers incorporated his personality into Azazel when it became clear that he’d be playing him for a while, and that his take was that the devil has fun watching people suffer. “I didn’t audition for the role as they evidently had me in mind,” he said, and smirked. “Guess I’m just naturally smarmy!”
Asked if he felt bad for the janitor Azazel had possessed, he laughed and mock-snarled, “Screw him! He served his purpose.”
Moving around a little to work out some kinks, he joked “All my rubber bands are dried up. I need to take castor oil on a daily basis.”
Asked what would be his dream role, he said that the HBO pilot might be it. He said his character, Riley, is kind of crazy, and he’s a New York guy in NY. “It’s HBO, so I can use the F-word. I like that. And I get to live where I work!” He said that Ray Winstone has the lead, and he enjoys working with him. He said that Richard III and Caliban are roles he’d like to play before he dies. In terms of things already done, he said that working on From the Earth to the Moon was an extraordinary experience because he got to meet some of the astronauts, and he was particularly happy that one of them told him that, of all the actors working on the production, he was the one who felt most like the real astronauts. He said that a lot of the astronauts are pretty abrasive: “They’ve done everything, and now they have to live with us.”
Asked about all the times he’s played characters who died, he chuckled that he’s died so many times that he’s afraid that when he does it for real, it’ll be a disappointment! He said he wants his final words to be, “Is this the end of Rico?” Asked about his favorite character death, his response was immediate: “Lost! They killed me more than once, in all different ways. It took eight or nine tries and took months – in Hawaii!”
Asked if he ever regretted being an actor, he said, “So many times. There are lean times, times you think you’re never going to work again. You want a normal life so you can beat the kids. But I’ve been lucky to work enough that the magic moments have been frequent enough to make me not regret anything.”
Asked what had been his most difficult role, he said it was in an Ibsen play that wasn’t much good in 1865 and hadn’t gotten any better with time, and that every night for four months he had to go out knowing that no matter what he did, no one was going to like it. “I was the worst thing in a bad show that everyone hated.” He said that John Mansfield had essayed the role at the age of 24 and failed miserably, and later said that it was unplayable. He said that he was glad to hear that, “... because I knew I wasn’t getting it and I was stinking up the joint!”
Asked if there was any actor he’d ever worked with who had made him go, “Wow!”, he said that he had that reaction to Karl Malden in Skag. He explained that he had been 19 at the time and played the kid who had impregnated the teenaged daughter of Malden’s character, and that it hit him in the scene when Malden came to confront him. He set the stage, describing Malden coming to his parents’ house, telling the parents what he had done, and then bursting into the bedroom where he was lying on the bed. Fred said that Malden sat on the bed to deliver his lines, and that there were moments he could feel Malden trembling and the bed was moving and he was getting scared. He said that Malden was living the moment and the power was palpable, and that’s when he learned that it could be that real.
Asked about his start in acting, he laughed that acting was his family’s hobby and that he had never even thought about what he was going to be or do. Asked about his most rewarding experience, he said that going to the theatre as a kid was just magic to him, and that it still happens; that shows can transport him, and he can feel it at the base of his spine when the magic happens.
Asked about bloopers that stand out, he laughed about one from Last of the Ninth, where he’d said “We’ll kiss their ass” instead of “We’ll kick their ass.” He also laughed that in his episode of The X-Files, he had to jump up and run down the aisle of a bus, and wanting to look really vital and active and cool, he grabbed the back of the seat to swing athletically around it – only to discover that the seat wasn’t anchored down. He said he went down fast, cracking his cheekbone right into a guy’s knee so hard that it swelled up and he felt really stupid, especially since they had to stop shooting.
I asked him – not using a mike and throwing my voice from halfway down the room – if there were any actors or directors whom he hadn’t worked with yet that he would really like to work with, and he flipped it back to me, asking whom I would like to work with, teasing that my projection and diction indicated I had some professional training! (Can you say, flustered?) He said that he’d been lucky in all the people he’s gotten to work with over the years, and that he didn’t want to set himself up for failure by saying he’d want to work with someone and then not get the opportunity.
Asked if his kids were interested in acting, he said, “Not at all – not even mine! They don’t even watch me any more.” He said that his son got teased a lot at school when he was on Lost: “I saw your Dad get beat up by that girl again!” He said that his daughter got to play his daughter once, in a scene where she didn’t have any lines, and that she really enjoyed it at first, what with the dressing up and the makeup – until she had to sit around for eight hours waiting to shoot and got really bored!
Asked which of his lines in Supernatural had been his favorite, he opted for the “chewy intestines” one: “You just don’t get to deliver a line like that often!” He noted that the “Boys shouldn’t play with Daddy’s guns” line seemed to be a fan favorite, given the number of times people have asked him to say it.
Saturday: Nicki Aycox Q&A
Nicki Aycox is amazingly tiny! I couldn’t get over how small she is.
The first question concerned what other new projects we can look forward to seeing her in, and she mentioned two movies: Joy Ride, a horror movie that just came out on DVD this week, and Christina, a film about a German woman in 1945 Berlin trying to save her child, that she recently finished shooting.
Asked about her episode of The X-Files, she recalled it being her first experience with Matrix-style special effects.
Asked what it was like to play Meg, the real Meg, after having played the demon, she said that when she first got killed off, she had talked with Eric Kripke and Kim Manners about coming back, and always knew that it was a possibility. She said that she wanted to bring something real into Meg and give her a real human quality, so the anger in her came from hurt, not from the demon, and that it felt very different to play.
Asked what it was like working with two guys so much bigger than her, she laughed and told a story about one of her first days on set, saying that Jared was off goofing around when it was time to shoot. She said that she called him to come and he came, and then she told him , “Turn around,” and he said, “Yes, ma’am!” and turned around, and the director told her, “You can come back anytime!” She laughed that they’re Texas boys and she’s an Oklahoma girl, and they feel like two big brothers.
Asked about pranks on set, she said that the boys didn’t play any pranks on her; that she was too smart! Asked if she pranked them, she grinned and said that it wouldn’t be a fair fight.
Asked if she’s had any fangirl moments with celebrities, she proclaimed that she loved David Duchovny and didn’t think there was a sexier man alive, and that during her X-Files stint she had to physically hold herself back! She said that Bruce Willis is another one, and that when she was told she had gotten the role in Perfect Stranger and had to hurry across town to meet him, she was really flustered. She said he put his arms out and said, “Nicki!” and that her first thought was, “I’m going to hug Bruce Willis!”
Asked, “Jensen or Jared?” she instantly responded, “Both!”
Asked which was her favorite line, she drawled, “Lackluster, men.” She laughed that she couldn’t quit saying it for a couple of months, and that when she first read the script, she hadn’t even known what “lackluster” meant. She’d never encountered the word before, but liked the sound of it, and liked it even better when she understood it.
Asked whether she’d seen Jared’s take on Meg possessing Sam in Born Under a Bad Sign, she admitted that she hadn’t seen the episode and was a little afraid to see it; “Is that what I acted like?” She laughed that we should ask Jared to do a bit of Meg during his Q&A on Sunday, and that it would be a fun prank to pull on him.
Talking about the intense exorcism scene in Devil’s Trap, she said that Jensen had major problems with the whole idea of slapping her, and that he was adamant that he did not want to slap her, not at all. She said that Jensen told Kim Manners he didn’t want to and that Dean wouldn’t do it. Nicki said that she’d had to talk him into it, that she’d said, “Look, Jensen, I’m talking about your mother and I’m a demon. You’re going to hit me.”
Asked about the atmosphere on set during that scene in Devil’s Trap, she laughed that the scene took two days to film and by the end, they were all slap-happy. She said that she was so hungry that in the scene where she was lying on the floor dying, she had a bowl of Doritos off-camera on Jared’s knees, and when they said “Cut!” she’d eat chips! She reported that the scene in Shadow where she had the boys tied up took a full 13-hour day to shoot, and laughed that the boys looked like hot prey tied to those poles. She said that they didn’t do a rehearsal because she wanted them to be shocked by the predatory, sexual way she was going to move, crawling between them. Asked how much of Meg as sexual predator was written into the script, she said that the dialogue was scripted, but that it was her idea to crawl between them, kick Jensen’s leg aside and straddle him, and swing around the pole; none of the action was written in the script.
Asked to pick her favorite scene, she chose her last full one in Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester, where she got to beat up Jensen. She laughed that when she did scenes with Jared, they always had to cheat by building ramps up to where Jared would be standing and that she had to glide up the ramps in order to get high enough for the cameraman and director to shoot both of them in the same frame.
Asked how her participation in the show had come about, she said that she had been approached by Kim Manners when he was directing an episode of Over There, and that she signed on to do four episodes. She laughed that the only thing that changed between her previous appearances on the show and her fourth season one is that it takes longer now for Jared and Jensen to come out of their trailers! She said that everyone on the show gets along, and that even when they butt heads, it’s so minor and over so fast that you have to ask, “Did they just fight?”
Asked about her worst experience while filming on any job, she said that in Joy Ride, she had a scene in which she had to step in front of the headlights of a truck and strip down to her underwear – in freezing weather. They started shooting at 10 pm and shot until 7 am, and she said she got pneumonia and was sick for three days.
Asked which has been her favorite role, she picked the East Berlin woman in Christine, the role she just finished. She said it was very Shakespearean, with long soliloquies, and that there was so much memorization to do that she went to bed at midnight and then got up at 4 am to keep memorizing.
Asked about the stunt scenes in Shadow, she laughed that for the scene where the daevas drag her away, she was lying on her stomach on a skateboard and someone pulled her across the floor. She said that the falling scene was a full day of blue screen work that she spent suspended in a wire harness. She said that she just stayed up there whenever they needed to reset the cameras because it would have been too much hassle to get down and get hooked back up again, so every time they asked her if she was okay, she’d just wave her hand and tell them she was fine.
Asked whether she preferred working on TV or movies, she said that they were different experiences. She said that TV was usually already set up for you, and that she was fortunate in being allowed to create as much of Meg as she did. She said that film allows more creative involvement, working really hard, while TV is less pressure.
I asked about her interest in doing live theatre, and she said that she loves doing live theatre and is actively working with the Flying Company Theatre in NY on a modernized adaptation of the Thin Man series, with classy NY people fighting crime. She was surprised at the number of people in the Supernatural audience who knew and appreciated the Thin Man series, and said that they’d be doing the new one as a play in L.A., and if it does well, that they’d take it to New York.
She said that it’s hard for her to watch movies or TV because what she sees is a set, and that knowing actors makes it hard for her to see them as other people. She said that she has known some actors who have made her forget that she knows them. Asked about actors she would particularly like to work with, she named Helena Bonham Carter and Nicole Kidman, but she observed that she’d seen so many, she’d learned that some she had the desire to work with turned out not to be that much fun, while others she hadn’t thought about turned out to be marvelous.
Saturday: Jason Manns Q&A
I didn’t take a lot of notes during Jason’s Q&A, but there were a few tidbits that really stuck. At the L.A. con in March, musician Jason had been sporting shaggy long hair and a beard because he’s been working on a film; at Eyecon, he said that he was also a producer on the comedy, which is called Rockslide. He said that Patrick Warburton played the lead and Andy Dick was the villain, and that the film is now off to make the round of film festivals. He said we should look for it maybe at the end of next year, but that since it's an independent film, distribution is aways uncertain.
Asked about the use of his song “Visions” in Lazarus Rising (it was the song playing on Sam’s iPod in the Impala, which Dean tossed into the back seat in disgust!), he laughed that he didn’t even know his song was used until someone on the East Coast saw the episode and called him. He said he’d filled out the paperwork long before, and just never heard that it had been accepted. He said that he called Jensen, and Jensen said, “Dude, I wanted to call you, I forgot. I saw a rough cut, and it’s hilarious!” Jason said he couldn’t tell from his voice whether Jensen was saying it because he really believed it was funny, or if he was really just hoping that Jason would think it was funny, and trying to encourage him to believe that! As far as describing how it came about, he said that, having met him with Jensen, Eric Kripke had asked for his CD and said he’d find a place for it, and that he’d said, “Well, okay, but – I don’t think this is something they’d listen to!”
He said that he’s applied to get his music in various shows, so we might hear more of it if he’s lucky.
Asked about Jensen doing more recording or pursuing a music career, Jason called Jensen a great singer and a good guitar player, but said that he plays and sings to relax and wouldn’t get the same joy and relaxation out of it if he was performing. Jason said that he feels that Jensen doesn’t have the confidence to perform in public because he hasn’t had the time to practice to achieve a confidence comfort level – that he’s confident in his talent, but not in its execution.
Asked how he and Jensen had met and eventually wound up recording “Crazy Love,” Jason said that they met five years ago, just after he had moved to L.A. and entered a local music contest. He said that a friend invited him to a party being held at another friend’s house, and it turned out that the party was at Jensen’s house. He was introduced to Jensen as a participant in the music contest, and Jensen immediately suggested that they jam, so they did. “Crazy Love” was the song Jason had performed for the contest, since all the participants had to do covers of established songs rather than any of their own compositions, so that was the song he started to sing, and he said Jensen just started harmonizing. Some time later, the two of them sang it together at a friend’s wedding, without realizing that one of the other attendees was filming them. The recording wound up on YouTube, and the rest is history. Every time they appear together, fans beg for the duet, and Jason finally decided to persuade Jensen to join him in the studio and record it for real.
Jason played and sang some of his things to fill in the time, so we got a little concert out of the Q&A. Later, Jason joined Steve Carlson for a duet during Steve’s concert, giving those of us who hadn’t been at the Platinum party a little taste of what they’d done together at the party.
My account of Sunday, with the Q&A sessions with Jared Padalecki, Chad Lindberg, and Steve Carlson, will get up eventually … but not until after my episode commentary on this week’s show!