To make my point I want to look a few months back to this year's Emerald City ComicCon, where a panel brought Gina Torres and Jewel Staite, Zoe and Kaylee, respectively, on Joss Whedon’s cult hits Firefly and Serenity. After a chat with the moderator, in which Staite’s bubbling personality and Torres’s sly-yet-happy tone had everyone in the large theater amped, the Q & A portion began. And things went downhill.
“With Wash killed in Serenity,” one con-goer began, “what would you do to bring back Alan Tudyk? Introduce his evil twin?”
Putting aside that fact that neither Torres nor Staite were writers on the show, this question (and many similar ones during the panel) frustrated me, and I have to believe it frustrated them too. These are successful actresses, not mega-stars, but working actresses, who, when compared to all the people in the world setting out to act for a living, have done damn well for themselves. Yet the crowd refused to ask them anything that wasn't about Firefly. Gina Torres specifically is not only a woman, but a woman of color in an industry that isn’t exactly known for always treating those two groups splendidly. She’s both a main cast member on the reasonably popular Suits, and has the odd credit of pretending to be married to her real-life husband Laurence Fishburne on NBC’s Hannibal. The lady’s gotta have some great anecdotes that aren’t over a decade old, or been told so many times she could recite them in her sleep, like she almost certainly can with her Firefly ones.
So what’s a geek to do? There’s probably not a silver bullet, but, like most things, a bit of empathy might go a long way here. If you’re at SDCC this week, and you’re about to ask a celebrity a question you yourself might, just might, feel was tiresome if you were in their position, don’t ask it. Beauty is, in this hypothetical scenario you’ve made it to the mic before panel’s end, and can ask them something else. Something cool, something original.
Just to be clear I’m not saying I wish nobody even mentioned Firefly back at Emerald City, the problem arises when it seems like all we care about is that one show. In fact, some of the cooler questions I heard at the panel involved Firefly also. One fan asked them to compare and contrast the experience on Firefly’s set with some of their current works. And another asked them if they ever get weirded out seeing people cosplay as their characters (a fantastic question). Staite was bubbly and basically said no it’s flattering, while Torres hesitated before laughing and saying it creeps her out a bit. Both those questions were great, they didn’t avoid Firefly, but allowed the actresses to talk about their current thoughts as well, which leads to a much more interesting panel than pure reminiscing.
So have a blast at SDCC fellow geeks, and if there’s one takeaway from this article, other than my occasional Sorkin-esque levels of self-righteousness, it’s that sometimes we treat our entertainers less like people and more like products for our consumption. Plenty of times they’ve been sold to us that way so we’re not solely to blame, but they are people too, and probably would really enjoy talking about one of their current projects. Even if it’s not as cool as Firefly, ‘cause really, few things are.