Recap: Jibland Convention 2019 in Rome with Sebastian Stan, Tom Ellis and More!
“So, God, The Winter Soldier, Lucifer, Shadow Moon, The Archangel Gabriel, a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and a Dwarf walk into a room…” No, that’s not the start of a really bad nerd joke, it’s the line-up of Jibland, the multi-fandom convention preceding the famous Supernatural convention called Jus In Bello, which has been held annually in Rome, Italy for the past ten years. Jibland was first held four years ago, inviting guests from other fandoms and combining them with beloved Supernatural guests, giving fans the opportunity to meet their favourite actors and musicians in an intimate convention setting.
For years, Jibcon has been popular with fans and actors alike because of its location, the organization and of course the familiar atmosphere. Compared to other conventions, actors seem more relaxed and are clearly enjoying their time at the convention.
This year, the organizers were able to invite Sebastian Stan, most famous for his role as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At Jibland, roughly 600 people welcomed him to his first European convention. On top of that Jibland is also rather small compared to events he usually attends – comic cons with several tens of thousands of attendees.
Of course, people were also there and equally excited to meet the other guests: Ricky Whittle, who plays Shadow Moon on American Gods, of which the second season just aired and Tom Ellis, who plays Lucifer on the show with the same title, where season four just dropped on Netflix after it had been previously cancelled on FOX. There was also Brett Dalton, who among other things has worked on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Graham McTavish, who is most famous for his role as Dwalin in The Hobbit trilogy. Among the Supernatural (or Supernatural-related) guests were Jason Manns, Richard Speight, Jr. and Rob Benedict. However small the line-up may seem, it was truly a great group of people to bring together. Seeing them interact and get to know each other, off and on stage was a pleasure to witness.
At Jib, every guest gets at least one panel a day, sometimes in combination with other guests at the con.
The first solo panel we attended was that of Tom Ellis, who talked a lot about Lucifer and its new season. It was said that last year at Jibland, Tom had just received the news that the show had been cancelled, so he left the convention with a bittersweet feeling and not knowing if he’d be returning to the show or the con – he mentioned that he even asked the organizers if he was invited back at all with no TV series to show for. Tom also thanked the fans multiple times for rallying behind the cast and crew and working so hard to get the show saved and transferred to another network. When the show was picked up by Netflix, Tom said he was relieved and also excited for new opportunities the streaming service would bring for the show. He did however explain that they decided against adapting the show to other Netflix standards regarding explicit language, saying that they didn’t want to change the show’s appeal and standards too much in order to be consistent. Furthermore, Tom shared some stories about working with Richard Speight, Jr. as a director, expressing how excited he was to work with him after having previously met him at this convention. There were also questions about Tom’s recent change in physique, which are actually the results of a bet with his trainer – Tom mentioned that was the only reason he was initially relieved Lucifer was cancelled, because that meant he wouldn’t have to commit to this strict workout regimen.
In his other panel together with Richard Speight, Jr., Tom Ellis shared more stories and tidbits about Lucifer and his other work, including wanting to work on a few special episodes of Miranda, a British sitcom in which he starred. Richard and Tom both talked about their work on season four of Lucifer, and Richard shared a story about how heartbroken he was when Tom found out the show had been cancelled and then how happy he was when it got picked up. It was wonderful to witness a friendship that started at this convention grow much further and even giving them a possibility to work together. Richard talked about the difference between working on Supernatural and Lucifer, saying that Supernatural is like walking on a set of friends because he knows the crew and cast so well, so they were always supportive and wanted him to do well, whereas the Lucifer set was a set of strangers and it was more difficult to work there without disrupting the pace and atmosphere on that set.
Tom also talked about how he enjoys working on Lucifer because it gives him different opportunities and various ways to work, from action to comedy. He especially enjoyed working with Lauren, their emotional final scenes and dynamic. On a completely different note, Tom said he wants to record an official soundtrack for Lucifer and has been talking to Jason Manns about it.
Tom seemed to be very relaxed and comfortable at his panel, having fun interacting with the fans and the entire audience at times.
Ricky Whittle’s first solo panel was more like a stand-up comedy special – which he himself mentioned several times – there were less questions and more of Ricky sharing stories and making jokes on stage. Having met him at a convention before, I can definitely say that he was even more energetic and excited to be in Rome and that the audience was having a great time.
Ricky talked about working on American Gods, admitting to having read the book, but stopped when he realized he didn’t want to portray Shadow Moon like he was shown in the book, which was very flat and passive at times. When he talked to the directors about it they said that they wanted him to bring “a bit of Ricky” to the character. He also explained that it has been a backwards process for him, by which he meant that he knew where he wanted the character to go, but had to build up to it as the story progresses. This is why he says season two of American God shows fans a new side of Shadow, stirring more in the direction of where Ricky wants the character to go in the future. There was also an outlook on season three, Ricky mentioned that he wasn’t looking forward to working in the snow because he hates the cold, but there might be a love interest for Shadow on the horizon, about which Ricky is excited. He also shared some stories about working on The 100. He said that it’s not a secret why he left and he would have loved to have more opportunities to tell Lincoln’s story – especially about his background and personal history – but he stressed the fact that he enjoyed working on the show in its “honeymoon phase” and treasures the time spent with the cast and crew. Ricky also said that he’d love to do theatre, but doesn’t enjoy doing the same thing every night, which is why he prefers working on TV/film.
Sebastian Stan’s first panel at this con was definitely going to be interesting. Since bigger comic conventions usually have a host up on the stage, it was shaping up to be interesting to see Sebastian up on stage alone, interacting with fans and asking questions without a moderator to guide the conversation. In the beginning however, the audience had the honour of witnessing the duo we never thought we needed, which is Jason Manns interacting with Sebastian Stan. Jason as a big Marvel fan and it showed in the way he was asking Sebastian questions about the movies and his work, which also helped Sebastian become more comfortable with the rather intimate setting of Jibcon.
Of course, the most pressing topic of questions were the events of Avengers: Endgame, which Sebastian answered in a diplomatic way, saying that he recognizes that it was a hard ending, but that he thinks everyone is in the right place at the end of the movie and that he liked that Captain America got his happy ending. He also talked about his upcoming Marvel TV show for Disney+, which will revolve around The Winter Soldier and Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie. He stated that filming would start in October, but that they haven’t had a look at stories or scripts yet. Sebastian added that he is excited to work with Anthony Mackie, especially because of the fun he brings to set. Demonstrating their typical friendship dynamic, he also joked around about wanting to re-shoot the scene in Captain America: Civil War and have Sam/Anthony crammed in the backseat and Bucky driving the car. Moreover, Sebastian mentioned that he was excited to explore a different side to Bucky’s character and to give him his own identity in the TV show. Sebastian also talked about other projects, saying he enjoys working with actresses who portray strong characters, like Nicole Kidman in Destroyer and Margot Robbie in I, Tonya. He said that he picks projects based on a character and its way to tell a story.
At the end of the first day, fans were treated to a concert by Jason Manns, Laura (a singer/guitarist who also works as Jib staff) and with his first performance alone at a convention and in Rome, Billy Moran. All musicians had time to play their own songs, Billy Moran performed his renditions of “Green Rocky Road” and “American Beauty”, while Jason Manns played “Another Number”, “Soul” and Laura performed a couple of covers, including a rendition of “Shallow” together with Billy Moran. It was a special performance because it gave a platform to an unknown artist and one to someone who we as fans usually only get to see perform in a band setting.
During the morning panel on Thursday, Rob Benedict joined Jason and Richard on stage for some tunes and answering some questions. It was announced that Rob and Jason were currently working on new Station Breaks songs, but they haven’t had time to actually record anything due to both of their schedules being busy at the moment. They also added that the writing process for Station Breaks is different than writing for Louden Swain or Jason’s solo music respectively, saying it is a combination of every band member bringing their own work to be shared and worked on with the others. Jason mentioned that his favourite way for them to create music is to get everyone in a room and just write together, but it happens very rarely since they are fortunate enough to be very busy people. They also shared a story about dinner the night before, where Graham McTavish told them to keep quiet and keep calm during dinner a lot, like an embarrassed dad – and demonstrated that again when Graham joined them on stage for a while. Rob Benedict also talked about his love for podcasts, saying he especially enjoys story-driven or documentary podcasts like Serial. During Rob’s panel, Ricky Whittle made an appearance and they both shared the story of how they met, revealing that Rob was actually present when Ricky had his final “reading” for Shadow Moon, Rob being the actor who fed Ricky lines and Ricky said how supportive Rob was and that he felt safe in that audition situation. It was certainly moving to see that their paths had crossed before in such a fateful way and that they got to work together again at this convention. Jib is known for being a special experience not just for attendees, but also for the guests, and Rob and Ricky’s story is just one example of many.
In his panel on Thursday, Sebastian Stan talked about meeting Stan Lee, who kept telling him that “Bucky is one of the good ones” and that he felt encouraged by these words. He also talked about his new project, 355, which also stars Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o and Marion Cotillard and will be filming in France over the summer.
Sebastian seemed much more comfortable on Thursday, even though he still seemed to be missing another person on stage, which is probably why he kept inviting fans to join him on stage during his panel, too. He was very engaging, running up to a fan who said the “trigger words” for The Winter Soldier and possibly made more than one fan jump because of that. After a question about if Bucky and Steve had been on Vormir and trying to find the Soul Stone and one having to be sacrificed, Sebastian said that there would have been a fight, but that Bucky would want to take the dive and Steve would feel like he would have to do it.
Adding to the Marvel questions, a fan asked about Sebastian’s knowledge of the comics and he said that he enjoys Brubarker’s stories about Bucky the most and read a lot of those. He mentioned that he didn’t grow up with comic books, but that he developed an interest in them with the role. He also talked about his admiration for Taika Waititi and said he’d love to work with him in the future.
There were more stories and jokes about Anthony Mackie, Sebastian even mentioned that he hoped Mackie would be there with him when he comes back to Jibcon next year – that is something he kept saying not only during his panel, but also during the closing ceremony, which shows that he definitely enjoyed the time at the con, albeit having to get used to some new dynamics. He seemed very comfortable with the other guests, joking about Ricky Whittle and his obsession with Sebastian, both of them were clearly getting along well and having fun with each other.
On a more serious note, Sebastian talked about his absence from social media and explained that it used to be a great tool for him to communicate with fans, but that the internet is also a place of hate and a way that eats too much of his time. He said he’s recently found himself spending his time differently and staying away from social media probably isn’t going to change anytime soon.
To the disappointment of many, Sebastian hasn’t seen a single episode of Supernatural or knows anything about it, though he did know about the show before getting invited to Jibland. As far as watching TV goes, he only watches Game Of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale.
At the closing ceremony we got to witness the friendships that had formed between the actors who had previously not met and how well they seemed to get along. There was no awkwardness on stage, only a group of people who clearly enjoyed each others’ company and their time at the convention, which is definitely a nod to the organizers.
Of course no convention is perfect and some things will always have room for improvement, but Jibland was a wonderful and intimate con and provided a setting to meet actors on a different level without the rush or hours and hours of queuing of a big comic con. Everyone expressed the wish to come back next year, so we will just have to wait until the organizer announces if there is another Jibland and whether it will be back with this line-up. Or with Anthony Mackie added to the mix. Either way, we cannot wait to come back and have another magical couple of days in Rome with this group of people.