Wizard World hosted its tenth annual convention in Austin, Texas November 8-10, where fans from all over the world gathered to meet their favorite celebrities and hear some of them speak during panels. Every day was filled with events to delight guests, as well as an artist’s alley and vendor area featuring a variety of booths!
While Friday didn’t have any panels, that evening featured a fantastic Smallville based function — Smallville Cocktails. The brainchild of co-stars (and real life friends) Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum, Smallville Cocktails is a separately ticketed event that allows the fans a closer and more personal interaction with the actors. There are no photos or recording allowed, which permits the actors freedom to really bring their own personalities to the forefront and be themselves. Welling kept asking why we (all the participants) were there — the answer was that anytime there is a chance to see a different or more ‘real’ side of our favorite people, we are there for it! The event was held in a local bar close to the convention center and lasted for an hour. While we will keep what was discussed under wraps (you’ll have to attend the next one to experience it yourself), we will say that this was a thoroughly enjoyable way to get to know the men behind the characters that we all love so much.
Saturday was ‘panel day’ at Wizard World with talks from Cary Elwes, Charmed cast members, and two Smallville panels including Tom Welling, John Glover, and Michael Rosenbaum for one and Kristen Kreuk, Laura Vandervoort, and Erica Durance for the other.
Cary Elwes’ panel had the London born actor talking all things Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Saw, and Stranger Things. Of his time on Stranger Things, he shared that everything on set is designed to look like the 80s down to the clothes and shoes in closets that will never even be shown on screen. The level of authenticity of the sets, including the Starcourt Mall, was a highlight for Elwes during filming. He also couldn’t say enough about the young stars of the show, “Becoming a star at that age can get complicated quickly but they are surrounded by loving families and they are all genuine, great people.”
When the panel turned to fan questions, an unexpected tech problem had Elwes jumping to the rescue. He stood with his microphone in front of the stage and invited each fan up to ask their question. Though it was in error, this gave the panel a cozy, personal feel as he answered every question face to face with fans, shaking their hand and cheerily introducing himself. Elwes named his role in Saw as the most challenging of his career, “I think being chained to the wall 18 hours a day is it.” He shared that there was only one key to the chains, so leaving the set wasn’t really an option if the one guy who had the key wasn’t nearby. Of his favorite roles, he believes he will be most remembered for Westley in The Princess Bride. Of The Princess Bride he said there wasn’t a day without laughter on the set.
The first Smallville panel was titled “Archrivals” and consisted of Tom Welling, John Glover, and Michael Rosenbaum. The technical difficulties persisted from the Cary Elwes panel, leading Rosenbaum to leap off the stage and play the role of tech support hero for Wizard World; oh, the irony! This panel was one of our favorites of the weekend, partially because of the nonstop banter between the three men. Both Welling and Rosenbaum touched on how professional Glover always was on set and how great of an actor he is. At one point during the conversation, Welling told fans a story about the time he had been filming a scene with Glover when he took a longer pause in his dialogue that he [Welling] hadn’t anticipated, so he thought his scene partner had forgotten his line. He thought he was being helpful by saying Glover’s line, something he revealed Rosenbaum would occasionally do for him, but Glover looked at him and stated, “I know … I was acting.” The crowd spent 90% of the panel laughing at this and similar memories as the actors reminisced about their time on set and their scene partners.
The second Smallville panel of the day, “The Women of Smallville,” consisted of Kristen Kreuk, Laura Vandervoort, and Erica Durance. They each spent time filming several of their scenes using green screen, both on the show and throughout their careers, so they each touched on what that’s like. Kreuk stated that working with a green screen really sharpens your skills as an actor because you have so little to work with; a lot of times the only thing in front of you is a tennis ball and you’re expected to be able to cry over it. They also touched on another major difficulty in green screen work: overdoing it. They each talked about trying to find a happy medium of sorts in their acting, so as not to over or under act a scene. On the subject, Durance said, “You could be acting like you’re terrified of something and end up completely overdoing it for what gets added in post. You can look at it later and go ‘oh, that’s not really that scary, it’s actually kind of cute.’”
Saturday night brought with it two more specially ticketed events — Smallville Nights and Cards Against Humanity with the Charmed cast. We attended Smallville Nights, and it was a grand time. Again the duo of Welling and Rosenbaum led the show. Keeping to the no photos/recording rule allowed for a fun and relaxed atmosphere. This event was held at the convention center, and also lasted about an hour. The actors recreated scenes from the show and then picked audience members to read those same scenes, often with hilarious results. We were even lucky enough to have an additional special member of the cast crash the party! All in all, if you are a Smallville fan, this is a must-attend event.
Sunday’s events were more mellow than Saturday, with a handful of panels including “Of Myths, Monsters And Heroes: A Conversation With Kelly Hu And Jake Stormoen.” Both actors have played their fair share of roles that fall in the mythical or heroic categories and shared on-set memories of those roles.
Hu spoke about her time as the Sorceress in Scorpion King and shared that while the snake around her arm wasn’t real, many of those used for the film were. Actors were given a crash course by the on set snake handlers, but Hu recalls watching a snake lunge for someone’s leg. At the last second, a handler grabbed it’s tail, causing it to miss its target by mere inches.
Hu then spoke about her character Lady Deathstrike from X2: X-Men United, saying that her long nails were actually super glued to her real nails, which she grew out longer than usual for exactly that. “They took molds of my actual hands and then they built these light plastic nails,” she shared, “They did have them glued to the underside of my nails. They literally took dabs of crazy glue, and glued them under my nails.” She often had to hope at the end of the day that when she pulled them off, her real nails wouldn’t come with it. She did divulge that sometimes the skin under the nails came away (ouch!) with the fake nail. She also shared that Lady Deathstrike was her favorite death scene because she died so beautifully. When it comes to on-screen characters, Hu loves playing the bad guy when she can, “They are so much fun!”
Stormoen discussed his role as Captain Garret Spears on The Outpost, which has just been renewed for season 3 and will begin filming in Serbia soon. “He’s a young captain of the guard in this fantasy world. He’s this very upstanding, paradigm of good in the first season and in the second season things take a darker turn,” said Stormoen. We’ll definitely be checking out The Outpost! Stormoen also talked about his time on Mythica, which was his very first project. He shared that he actually dreamt that he was replaced a week into shooting and confided in Mythica director Anne Black, who very bluntly told him not to worry, they had already shot too much footage to recast his role. The whole panel was filled with laughter from fans as Hu and Stormoen shared these fun on-set stories.
Overall we had a great time at Wizard World Austin. Between the panels and amazing extra Smallville events, the weekend was a hit with Nerds staff and fans alike. Wizard World will return to Austin next year, though no official dates have been announced yet!