22.Jun.2009 Hosting Wizard World Philly’s “Battlestar Galactica” panel: The greatest nerd moment of my life.
This past Saturday at Wizard World Philadelphia, I hosted the “Battlestar Galactica” panel featuring Edward James Olmos (Admiral William Adama), Michael Hogan (Colonel Saul Tigh), Nicki Clyne (Crewman Specialist Cally Henderson) and Luciana Carro (Captain Louanne ‘Kat’ Katraine)—easily the highlight of my entire career at Wizard and the greatest nerd moment of my life.
I’ve been bubbling with excitement over all the little intricacies and amazing moments of the hour I sat on stage with the foursome of Galactica crew members, and figured I’d sit down and write my official documentation of this momentous story. I managed not to completely freak out in a fanboy fit while hosting, so I think I’ve earned the right to gush a little bit here—and gush I shall.
Also, there will be some “BSG” plot spoilers ahead, as we talked about the series finale and the upcoming DVD “The Plan,” so be forewarned.
Here follows my play-by-play account of my experience as host:
I made it to the panel room ahead of the guests and introduced myself to Olmos, Clyne and Carro, told them I’d be hosting the panel, that we’d do a brief Q&A session and then open up the floor to fan questions. The three of them were extremely friendly and gracious, Olmos particularly so as he thanked me warmly for taking time to host, and I was amazed by how enthused they seemed just to be there since some con guests aren’t always as thrilled to see fans as their fans are to see them.
As we were standing in the doorway of the panel room, I mentioned that we’d wait for the last panel to clear out and then I’d announce them. Olmos—or as I like to call him (though I didn’t ask to call him this), EJO—peeked up at the stage, saw it was empty and stated in true Admiral Adama fashion: “I think they’re ready to go.” (Note: This was not a direct quote, but this was the calm but commanding gist of the statement) I looked in and realized that those weren’t people leaving the last panel, but the entire venue was full with a standing room only crowd.
After walking to the stage and placing some water on the table for the guests, I introduced the trio and watched the room erupt in a standing ovation. When they got to the stage, Olmos grabbed the mic and boomed, “In five minutes, a cylon is gonna come walking through those doors…” Michael Hogan, it appears, had to make a quick bathroom run before the panel. I asked my first question about the series finale, Clyne and Carro fielded their answers and Olmos was in the midst of his when Hogan walked into the room. “See, I told you a cylon was gonna come in here.” The audience jumped to its feet again in raucous applause. Hogan took the stage, made a friendly joking jab at Olmos and then appeared to become Colonel Tigh as he took to mic and called out, “So say we all,” to which the audience, in unison, replied, “So say we all.”
At this point, I could spend hours upon hours going into how impressed I was with the insight this cast had into their show and mention numerous reasons why each facet of every answer was a tasty nerd nugget for massive fans of the show like myself. However, while the answers themselves had me in awe the entire time, it was the subtle nuances that people in the audience may not have picked up on and observations on the group’s dynamic that fascinated me far more. So, I’ll focus on those.
Michael Hogan’s Colonel Tigh was by far my favorite character on “Battlestar,” so I was particularly thrilled that I got to sit next to him during the panel. Whether being in front of so many fans led him to drop slightly into character, I don’t know, but as the other panelists would answer questions, Hogan would sit back and mutter his gruff assent to their responses in a way I’d heard countless times on “BSG,” keeping a smile plastered on my face the entire time. Hogan also was wearing some very comfy looking wool socks, but the other thing that really struck me was his obvious friendship with Olmos.
The relationship between Adama and Tigh was one of the consistent focal points of the show for all four seasons, so seeing that these two actors share a similar bond and rapport was fascinating to watch from a few feet away. When Luciana Carro told a story revealing that her roommate read the script of her final episode to her piecemeal over the phone, cluing Carro into the fact that Kat was dying, Olmos and Hogan both roared uproariously with the crowd but to the side laughed in agreement that finding out that way was horrible. It was Olmos and Hogan on stage, but it might as well have been Adama and Tigh themselves.
The other thing I noticed, and I am sure other nerds everywhere will appreciate, was the fact that these actors knew this show inside and out. Each and everyone of them knew all the proper terminology to talk about “Battlestar,” not to mention episode names and numbers. On the rare occasion they forgot the term they were looking for, it was a fellow cast member and not a panel attendee that supplied it (Olmos briefly misplaced the word “flight deck,” which Hogan—leaning back in his chair, arms crossed in a spitting image of Tigh—supplied). The two women of “BSG” on the panel also had to field the first two fan questions, which were not only directed specifically at them but were particularly in-depth and intellectual questions, and their answers proved that both women had done a lot of thinking about this show and their characters and could easily handle replying in relation to overarching themes like feminism.
I was also impressed with the respect the panelists showed the audience. As a nerd speaking about his people, we aren’t always the most graceful or wells-poken of groups. But all the cast members made it very clear that they deeply appreciated and respected each and every person who came to see them speak. When fan questions were a bit awkward or long, the panelists were patient and handled the situation with aplomb. One audience member who asked a question had a particularly raspy voice and had to catch his breath and clear his throat a few times during his lengthy interrogative, he was also wearing a t-shirt that displayed a picture of himself and Miss Carro. But Clyne, to whom the question was directed, was very understanding and answered what was a very good question with a good answer and it was clear Carro took the tee as the compliment it was meant as. Really, in all my con-going experiences, I’ve never seen such a level of mutual respect between the fans and the actors who portray the characters they so dearly love.
The above fact was even further demonstrated after the panel, but before that again when I had to do my hosting job and cut off the fan questions due to time constraints. After announcing that we’d only have time for one more question, there was a brief and disappointed “Aww,” but then each and every person standing in the question line—that was still ten to 15 people deep—calmly sat down to enjoy the final few minutes of the panel. Then, after the panel when the four cast members had to leave, I asked if they’d need an escort through the convention. Olmos matter-of-factly told me they would be fine and led them off with Hogan bringing up the rear. I followed to make sure they didn’t run into any trouble, but was amazed that no one in the audience played the greedy nerd and tried to hound them for pictures or autographs. As if the four where the commanding officers of this fleet of fans, the entire crowd in the panel room let them pass by with deference—occasionally uttering a “thank you” or putting a hand forth for a quick handshake—and the four did their best to return the thank yous and greetings of each person they could.
This, however, is where I saved “the fleet.”
The audience leaving the panel room was pointed toward one set of doors as they exited since a line for the next panel was forming behind the other exit to the room. With the desire to not get caught up in the crowd as the foursome had an engagement to take pictures with fans at a booth themed to that purpose in the Con, Olmos led the group to the set of doors unused for exiting. Amazingly, a haughty and presumptuous Con volunteer wouldn’t let them pass and insisted they use the other exit. I was following the foursome when I saw this, swooped in and used the superiority of my staff badge to overrule the volunteer and help the panelists beat a hasty path to the booth where fans were currently waiting—and had paid to—take photos with them.
My “saving the fleet” story aside, the true highlight of the entire panel—for me—came a few minutes earlier. I was waiting to see if I could do anything else for the group of “BSG” stars before they headed off stage, and after getting a chance to shake Hogan’s hand a receive a thank you from him (I got to shake Carro, Clyne and Olmos’ hands before the panel, so getting the full run of handshakes was nice), Olmos stood up out of his chair and turned towards me. I reached out my hand to thank him again, and he grabbed me hand and firmly shook as he looked up at me and said (again, not a direct quote, but close), “Thanks Jim. This was great.” Now, whether he remembered my name from before or read it quickly on my staff badge as he said thanks is kind of irrelevant as getting a direct thanks featuring my name was mind-numbingly awesome and made me have to fight back the overwhelming urge to say: “It was my pleasure, Admiral.” I played it cool and professional and asked if they wanted an escort, but my head wad exploding with glee at the biggest nerdgasm of my entire life.
And that’s all she (or me) wrote, folks! But, I’ll leave with my favorite video I’ve seen from the panel, and you can check out a few more here.
Also, and this is little and silly but made me think “Jim, you are the man.” At one point, I noticed Olmos had been talking a lot but had no water. He grabbed some water, but not wanting any “BSG” cast member to be without, I grabbed one of the extra bottles I brought, placed it in front of Olmos and he passed it to Carro who needed a fresh water. Very minor, but also a moment of note in my mind from the panel.
The visuals of this post wouldn’t have been possible without a few people—as I didn’t get any pictures myself—so, big thanks to Anne Schneider, Kevin Phillips, Chris Ferrell, David Hoffman, the good people at LucianaCarroFans.wordpress.com (who also linked me here after a plea for pictures from me on an earlier post of theirs) and YouTube’s Frotis420. Thanks so much, guys and gals!
If you have videos or pictures of the panel, please contact me at jimgibbons1[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Thanks!