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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

Convention Venture

Primedia 1996 - Location: Toronto - Dates: October 31st through November 2nd, 1997 — Bonus: Convention Report: Babylon 5: (Originally presented in The Zocalo #129. (

Besides two autograph sessions (one Saturday, one Sunday), Richard was scheduled to speak twice and hold a private session (proceeds going to his charity). Lisa Howard (who played April on Days of Our Lives with him and who now stars in Earth: Final Conflict) was also scheduled to appear with him but she couldn't make it. I didn't go to the private session, but what follows are some items I remember from his panels:

First and foremost, let me state that he came off as being a great and approachable guy! Very warm, friendly, self-confident, and quite funny, too! During his first session, he started acting upset that the audience seemed to know everything he was sharing with us and even started ending his comments, "Oh but you probably already know this, don't you?!" :) I was hoping (or rather expecting) to see some clips or bloopers or something but there weren't any. Doesn't really matter as he kept us quite entertained!

Some other items of note:

He spoke of his charity and how life has been like living with being deaf in one ear and needing a hearing aid for his other. (ear infections at an early age compounded by his swimming in dirty Mexican rivers). He told us of how much joy it brings him to be able to help the charity out simply by selling pictures and signing his name! (Btw, we made over a thousand dollars in donations to the charity over the weekend!)

He gave his impression of Soap Fans and Sci-Fi Fans reacting to him (the Soap fan circling, and circling, getting more and more worked up with lots of screaming once they realized he was "Marcus" to Sci-Fi fans casually walking by him with a "nice job" comment) it was hysterical!

He spoke of the time that joke was played on JMS with the audience falling silent when he came on stage.

He spoke of how he'd like to be cast in a comedy and how he's trying out for that new Anne Rice television weekly (starring Dean Cain). He also mentioned how he'd like to be involved with a spin-off series ("I heard it's supposed to be about a virus and the Rangers try to stop it. Hey, I'm a doctor! I have to be there to help stop it! Yeah!"). He mentioned how he and Jerry sat back recently and reflected on their jobs. ("You know, we've got the best job in the world! They tell us what to say, they tell us where to stand, they tell us what to wear, they dress us_ why would I want to ever give this up!!") and Jason's reaction to his having died. ("You're DEAD, Jason! Deal with it!")

He explained how he got the part (not wanting anything to do with being ANOTHER doctor, but after reading his first script of how he saved the child who's parents then killed him he called up his agent and said "Get this!") and how very happy and impressed he was with what JMS had done in fleshing out this character who, upon first viewing, seemed to sure and cocky and who, after time passed and we got to learn more about him, found that he's really a flawed character. It made him 3-dimensional and a part of the action (involved with what's going on rather than simply "telling" other characters information). He explained how it wasn't that difficult for him to fight himself on Walkabout and how his challenge for those scenes was keeping the voices distinct (especially the angry one).

He also spent some time speaking about working with so many fine actors who were involved in phenomenal series prior to this one (Taxi, St. Elsewhere, etc. etc). He told us of how it was working with Stephen Furst as a director ("Day one, Stephen's over there waving his fingers at us going 'ok, come on! Come on!' and we ask, 'Oh, do you mean ACTION?' and then Day Six Stephen's yelling 'Ok, ACTION, work with me!' and we go 'Woah! Something's changed!'")

During Saturday's session, he left us laughing with a joke about the army and since I'd forgotten to tell him my B5 Pun (which I always use whenever I'm on a B5 panel), I decided to tell it to him during Sunday's Q&A session. I raised my hand, stood, and asked: "If the White Star commandeered a Shadow vessel, would they rename it to The White Shadow?" That got quite a snort/guffaw out of him and various groans and laughter from the audience :)

Of course, Claudia was brought up and he shared his feelings on what happened as well as admitting how he really missed her cause she always brought so much to a scene. He went on to tell us how blown away he was with her performance during her scene dealing with Marcus (Jason)'s death and how she was able to bring in so much energy and tears and emotion take after take.

During a discussion of back-stage antics, he mentioned the often-told story about the Banana, and about the time Jerry ran back into a scene riding a bicycle trying to convince the director that it could work in that scene. The funniest antic was this following one: "We were filming this really suspenseful scene, no speaking, just a very grim and determined Command group walking down a hallway. Suddenly, Claudia turns to me and in mock angers yells out 'What the hell is the DOCTOR doing here?!' And she was right! I was the only one who wasn't armed! What was I gonna do? Stop people from bleeding during the battle with just my hands?"

Sunday night, at the closing ceremonies, he stated how glad he was to have come and what a nice experience this convention was. "Normally there's such a barrier between me on stage and the audience that I can barely reach out to them!". This is quite true as PriMedia is usually a very relaxing and personal convention that anyone and everyone who wanted to spend a few minutes chatting with Richard had numerous opportunities to do so throughout the weekend.

By the way, Walter Bester/Chekov Koening has confirmed as next year's International Guest of Honor. The dates for that are November 6, 7, and 8th, 1998.

(Convention Venture (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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