Starbase Indy, Thanksgiving Weekend 2009

Marriott East, Indianapolis

First of all, a thank you for the incredible job the Starbase Indy team did with putting this together for another year. I am not affiliated with them, they won't know who I am, these are just my impressions of the event. My wife and I could only make it on Saturday so we didn't get to see everything. It was disappointing that "Arcade Room" was a no go due to illness, best laid plans and all that. However, there was plenty of other things to check out.

The bad news was the turn out. We have been going to Conventions for many years and it seems that each time there are less and less people attending. It is such a shame and one of the downsides of being so 'connected' in our daily lives. The dealer room was half its normal size because they can't compete with the likes of eBay and other online auction sites. And scifi fans get their fix every day on the Internet with so much information available to them. Personally, I like to meet the stars of these shows, hear them speak live on stage and maybe get an autograph or two. But I guess we are a dying breed. Selfishly though, it was nice to be able to hang around in the main room and chat with the guests without being hurried along due to a hundred people waiting behind you. For them it is probably nice to be less harried just signing one after another picture and taking the time to talk to fans, but it doesn't help their pocket books. Maybe it will just mean that the 'Stars' that come to these events do it because they want to stay in touch with their fans and not just because it is another revenue source.

A last minute addition to the line-up was Logan Huffman. He is another local character who lives "just up the road" and is making his name in the new scifi series "V" playing the rebel son Tyler. This was a very nice bonus for me as I am enjoying this remake of the series. I'm old enough to remember being glued to the original mini-series in the early 80's

Bumblebee

Sitting in the middle of the main room floor was 'Bumblebee', a new Chevy Camero, with a cute sign on him explaining that he was unable to transform in the hotel due to height restrictions.

2pm David Reddick and Deborah Downey-DeFazio

These two personalities are regulars at the Indy Conventions as they both live locally. David is an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. He is the creator of Star Trek-related comic strip The Trek Life, published on StarTrek.com. He also works on the Garfield comic strip, editorial cartoons and his own comic strip creations Balloonatiks and the comic fantasy Legend of Bill.

Deborah's main claim to fame was her part in Star Trek's original series episode "The Way to Eden" in which she played a musical number with Mr. Spock. She is a painter and singer.

Jeff has had a varied career, his Star Trek tie comes from this appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation (Allegiance) [1990] as Alien 2. You can click the link above to check out his other works listed on Wikipedia.

4pm William Morgan Sheppard

There are actors and there are actors, William Morgan Sheppard is one of the classic greats being a graduate of London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He has had an amazing career from 12 years as Associate Artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company to parts in Star Trek, Babylon 5, MacGyver, Transformers the list goes on. Check out his incredible 152 item bio on IMDB here.

The first question up, of course, was about the scene he played in the new Star Trek movie as a Vulcan Science Minister on the board of the Science Academy. He told us that the scene was shot in one day and an interesting point about the problem with camera angles. Because the podium was so high at the end of the large stage they had to use some really long lenses from the other end of the stage to get the individual close-ups.

He spoke about J. J. Abrams and the responsibility he had to the fans. After all if he had made a mess of it there would have been a very angry mob. The secrecy around the sets was incredible. Each actor only knowing his part to prevent the story ‘getting out’. But J.J. has made the franchise come alive again.

He talked about the fact he has been acting for over 50 years and his son, Mark, is in the business as well. Often they have played father and son rolls on film.

He spoke of the time he met a woman who was tortured during the war by the German Gestapo. He asked her how she got through the experience and she told him that every time they started to torture her she fainted, it really pissed them off. He thought, what a wonderful way to look at life.

Acting is a lot of hard work, always learning. When he left his training at the Royal Academy he was told, “Now go out and learn to be an actor.” He spent years learning how acting ‘works’. To be able to drop the baggage of, “how do I look”, “what are they thinking of me”, “isn’t that woman beautiful over there”. To be able to focus on the part and in that moment.

He talked about working with Cassandra Peterson in Elvira., whom he described as being the adlib queen. In the scene where she had bandages on her head and she was asked "How's your head?", she replied “I haven’t had any complaints so far.” A total ad-lib.

He has done a lot of different jobs to support his acting career including driving a cab, where he “learned a lot about women”

He mentioned Lee Marvin and working on the Dirty Dozen sequel The Next Mission; 52 setups in one day.

He spoke how very proud he was to have been a part of Gettysburg, playing Trimble. Apparently he got a role in this movie over Charlton Heston who wasn’t very happy about it. Charlton Heston was told “You’re 8 feet tall, have a nose out to here” and the part was for a union soldier. The audience would immediately have just shouted “Look, there’s Charton Heston!”. He dropped other names; Sam Elliot, Tom Berenger, Steven Lang, Richard Jordan and George Lazenby. When he got this part he immediately when home and surrounded himself with 6 books about that time to give background to the part. Which was a good thing because young men would stop him in the street and ask him specifics about the regiments to help them with their history papers.

Like his son, he “Knows how to tell a story”. And he believes Mark will make a terrific director one day because of this.

He talked about them both playing roles in the NCIS episode Broken Bird, where Mark played a younger version of his Mr. Pain. Mark was rehearsing the role of the torturer and came at the young prisoner with gusto. Shouting in his face, demanding answers, a very powerful performance. He asked the director if that was ok, it was. So when they went to shoot the scene Mark came at the prisoner and did a total switch, he spoke in a low, quiet but menacing voice. The young actor was terrified throughout the scene because he thought he was going to be shouted at. Brilliant.

In 1999 he had a heart attack on set, but worked through it. He spoke of his martial arts training and how it had enabled him to be able to “punch through the brick wall” and get through the pain.

Not everything is about the money, there is a lot of passion out there.

Paul Newman had once said he discounts all his early performances as a learning experience, even Hud.

He talked about his role in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country where he played the Prison Guard at Rura Pente. Instead of playing it as a tyrant he was told to take a total 180, so he played it having fun. The line “Welcome to Rura Penthe!” was done as if he enjoyed his position, after all, he was the guard and you’re all just Aliens!

An audience member asked him about his role as Qutai in the Voyager episode Bliss. He said that Micheal Redgrave, in 1958, had told him “Pay more attention to the shirt collar young man. It does all the work for you”. Making the point that it is all about the costume. It was Micheal Westmore who, when confronted with the question of the head of the alien, chose the ‘lion’ and set the scene for that part.

He was also asked if his deep, gravely voice was a tool he used in his acting. To which he replied, “No, just too much sex and cigarettes!”

He is a great admirer of Judy Dench and he talked about her incredible ability to interpret Shakespeare by just changing how it is spoken, not the actual words, just how they are said.

“Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art”

He is now known as a ‘Hollywood Actor”. When asked, by an Irish Director back home how it differs from the States. He said “For one thing you wouldn’t be talking to me like this on a set, for another, the lead actor wouldn’t be drinking Guinness!”

“You people”, meaning the audience, “carry memories of us. I have to be responsible.”