Wizard World Comic Con 2011: Julie Benz Sounds Off About 'Dexter,' Billy Dee Williams Jams and Scott Thompson Forays Into Comics
by Aaron Broverman, posted Mar 23rd 2011 1:00PM
Last weekend was Wizard World Comic Con's sophomore effort in Toronto, and there was a definite increase in attendance this time around (compared to last year). Though attendees were sparse on Friday evening, by Saturday the turnout was much more respectable, thanks to high profile guests like 'Dexter' and 'No Ordinary Family's Julie Benz, 'Kids in the Hall's Scott Thompson and Lando Calrissian himself -- Billy Dee Williams.
After all, where else could you hear Williams get his "William Shatner on" as he recited spoken-word poetry to a smooth jazz accompaniment in an exclusive live performance? Or hear Julie Benz reveal that 'Desperate Housewives' co-star Dana Delany was the best kisser she's worked with, topping David Boreanaz, Michael C. Hall and Michael Chiklis? Or maybe you would have liked to shout 'Penis!' in order to get an autographed photo of Scott Thompson. Or you could watch Chewbacca and Boba Fett argue over which ship is faster -- Slave I or The Millennium Falcon. (For the record, the Falcon won out.)
All that and more happened at Wizard World this year and luckily for you, we were there to report back all the geek-tastic highlights.
Julie Benz: 'Just a Hired Gun'
The day started with Julie Benz in all her hotness; she was as radiant and engaging as fans would expect, despite not knowing whether 'No Ordinary Family' will be renewed next season. "We haven't heard anything official. The official word will be out in May," she confirmed. "But it's not a good sign when the network starts moving your show around."
With three episodes remaining this season, she's referring to the second-to-last episode, which will be moving to Saturday, March 26, at 10PM before the season finale the following Tuesday at the regular 8PM time slot. Never good news, but you could tell it was particularly hard on Benz, whose shocking departure from 'Dexter' is still fresh in her mind.
"I don't know one actor who'd want to be taken off a show like that. It was not my choice and they told me an hour before they put out the script. Thank god I didn't have too much time to think about it because I loved playing Rita. I loved working with Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, and I loved the producers and the writers. We were very much a family."
The hardest thing for her was keeping it a secret from that family in the final ten days of shooting. "It was hard just going to work. I would have moments where I would sit at home and confront the fact that I wasn't going to be playing Rita anymore. There were a lot of tears and a lot of alcohol. In the final scene, they told the crew an hour before we went to shoot it, so big burly grips started crying. I'd have scenes with Michael where I'd look at him and just start crying for no reason."
Still, she tried to have fun with it. Her boyfriend decorated her trailer like a morgue and she floated the Styrofoam tombstone he gave her in the bathtub during her final scene. "That's the nature of the business. I'm just a hired gun. Your job as an actor is to bring a storyline to life and do what the writers ask of you. They wanted a shocking ending and unfortunately, the only way you can change the game besides killing Dexter is to kill Rita."
She may face another game changer if 'No Ordinary Family' doesn't make it past the first season and lose what she considers another close-knit family and another character she loves to play. "Playing Stephanie Powell is the culmination of everything in my career. I get to do really great dramatic work, I get to do some fun comedy and I get to do some stunts. It's a dream role and it will be nice if it continues."
Billy Dee Can Do It All
The Billy Dee Williams panel promised a surprise treat for the fans -- we arrived to see a keyboard and guitar at the front of the room. Turns out, in addition to being an actor, painter, writer and singer, Billy Dee makes a mean spoken word artist. He treated those in attendance to an exclusive live performance of 'In The Night' -- a poem written by Toronto gallery owner Brian Liss and accompanied by a cool jazz ensemble for Liss's CD 'Lisseries Vol 1: Intensely Disturbed.' You will see from the video below that it doesn't take long for Williams to turn on the cool and get into the groove:
Scott Thompson Brings Back the Musk of Husk
In the final seminar, 'Kids in the Hall' alum Scott Thompson made sure he made an entrance -- conducting his Q&A like an embattled mayor at a town hall meeting.
He was actually there promoting his first graphic novel 'Husk: The Hollow Planet' starring his 'Kids in the Hall' character, the unflappable everyman Danny Husk. Husk is known for being average and unfazed in every way; but that changes when he's dropped in a world of fantasy and sorcery -- with, ahem -- S&M tendencies.
The Husk story started out as a screenplay, but Thompson realized that no studio would fund a comedic 'Lord of the Rings' with him as the lead. Soon it became apparent that visually it would work well as a graphic novel, which is why he suddenly finds himself signing autographs for adults in superhero costumes at conventions. The project also proved to be a great escape during his chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and helped restore his positive attitude.
"I haven't always been this positive," he said. "Comedy is pain disguised. Then, I had cancer and I beat it. So, since I got cured, I try very hard to remain positive because I am convinced that cancer loves bitterness and anger. These are things I'm not unfamiliar with. So, in order for me to keep cancer away, I have to remain optimistic. To me, that's more important than bad habits like eating fatty foods, smoking or drinking."
Although this is Thompson's first foray into comics, he promises it won't be his last. "There would be a Francesca Fiore and Bruno Puntz Jones graphic novel if Dave Foley would return my calls. Seriously though, we are currently in talks to possibly do a Francesca Fiore and Bruno Puntz Jones graphic novel."
Though he is new to the comic convention world, Thompson is not afraid to dole out observations and free advice to those entrenched in the scene. "People need some tips on dressing. There are a lot of socially awkward kids out there who think that dressing up like a storm trooper is going to get them chicks. Also, t-shirts with Marvel superheroes on them don't work with a paisley shirt. Paisley goes with DC."