Fellow nerds unite! Fan Expo hits Toronto this Thursday for its biggest weekend yet, projecting over 140,000 attendees. This year’s convention will be host to some massive pop culture names, including Luke Skywalker himself Mark Hamill, and will also mark the final Canadian convention for comic book legend Stan Lee. For all you Earpers out there, our very own Bridget Liszewski will be moderating the Wynonna Earp panel on Saturday, Sept. 3, with guests including Wynonna herself Melanie Scrofano, Tim Rozon, Dominique Provost-Chalkley and showrunner Emily Andras.
Anyone who has been to Fan Expo in the last few years knows that the hosts of Space Channel’s InnerSpace, Ajay Fry, Morgan Hoffman and Teddy Wilson, are actual rock stars themselves at the convention. Attendees can see them moderating some of the biggest panels and luring large crowds at the Space booth looking to grab a photo and an autograph. We had the chance to speak with them about their favourite Fan Expo memories, embarrassing moments and what they’re looking forward to at this year’s massive event.
The TV Junkies: I’ve seen you guys at previous Fan Expos, running all over the place, moderating panels, meeting fans. How do you prepare for a big event like this?
Ajay Fry: You feed off the energy of the crowd, really. Everywhere we go we get people telling us that they watch the show and they like us moderating the panels. If you have that kind of loving enthusiasm throughout the event, then keep going. What about you guys? Do you prepare, do you do yoga beforehand?
Morgan Hoffman: I like to bring my notes, I like to do some research.
AF: Research, that’s a good idea!
MH: Research, Ajay! For three years I keep telling you about it. That always gives me a little bit more confidence going in, but once you get up on stage all that kind of goes out the window and you just have a conversation with people that you idolize from TV and movies. It becomes really fun, and then the audience gets involved and it’s pretty memorable.
Teddy Wilson: I think for all of us it’s our favourite weekend of the year, and we’re really lucky. We pinch ourselves frequently given that we have the jobs that we do because we’re first and foremost such fans of this content. Getting to be part of these panels and hosting them at these events is great because it’s the people, like Morgan said, whose content we love, so we get to bone up on their material and do some cramming and research, but for the most part they’re all parts of shows and franchises that we love already. That’s a real highlight, as is being at our fantastic Space booth, meeting the people who keep us employed. It’s a fantastic weekend.
TTVJ: What are some memorable moments from previous Fan Expos?
MH: For me last year I got to host the Hogwarts reunion panel. That was pretty amazing, I mean, the Phelps twins were there, Tom Felton, Rupert Grint. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan myself, especially the films, so I was definitely have a mini-nervous breakdown in front of them on stage, but I was just so excited. I went on stage, the room was packed and everybody came out. It was such a blast for me, and they were great! It was Rupert Grint’s first convention ever, so it was pretty special.
AF: I’ve got to say getting to interview Bruce Campbell was a highlight that just popped into my head. It’s funny because this will be our eighth Fan Expo with Space, so you can ask me this question tomorrow and I could give you an entirely different answer. So many highlights; introducing William Shatner a few times, interviewing Leonard Nimoy, actually interviewing Nichelle Nichols, who was of course Uhura on the original Star Trek, that interview was magical. I could go on and on.
TW: I think for me it would have to be a few years ago right toward the end of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. We hosted a big panel in the biggest panel room at Fan Expo with Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill. That one was really cool. I’ve also been really lucky to host Stan Lee’s panel a few times and one of those times it was actually a surprise. They had a host who I think had something happen and they couldn’t do it at the last minute, so one of the amazing convention organizers came up and said, ‘Can you host the Stan Lee panel?’ We literally ran over to the room and that was my first time hosting a panel with him. I’ve been lucky to do it a number of times since. That was super nerve-wracking because, of course, that’s the biggest panel at the con, because everyone loves Stan Lee and it’s amazing that he’s still doing conventions. That was both a nerve-wracking experience and one of my highlights. Obviously I love a lot of the content he’s produced, so I just kind of winged it, but it was fantastic, a real life highlight.
TTVJ: Were there any moments at a past panel, Fan Expo or otherwise, that went off the rails and got out of control?
MH: My very first time hosting a panel solo was at Fan Expo and it was David Hasselhoff. For me I was so excited, I memorized my whole introduction for him, I had all these questions, I did so much research.
TW: And he’s a character.
MH: He’s such a character, right? I knew this, so I knew it was going to be fun. I go up on stage, he’s supposed to come up from behind me, and I’m waiting for him to show up. Waiting, waiting, waiting, about 20 minutes go by and all of a sudden he comes in from the front doors, not the stage from behind, and he is just bigger than life. Everyone’s freaking out, he comes down the middle of the room and he honestly did the whole panel by himself in the room, not up on stage, and I was just awkwardly up on stage and had no idea what to do.
TW: And you’d been preparing for days.
MH: I’d honestly been preparing for days, and he finally made it up on stage about 45 minutes into the panel and said, ‘Who are you?’ Honestly, I didn’t ask him one question. There are some guests who love to just do it on their own and I had no idea that David Hasselhoff was one of those people. Of course, my very first panel.
TW: For me the most embarrassing screw up ever was introducing Marina Sirtis, who of course played Counselor Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation, as being from Stargate. The big introduction of our favourite half-betazoid Counselor and then I said, ‘From Stargate! Marina Sirtis.’ The first thing she did was call me on it, obviously, when she came out, because I heard the crowd being weird and I was like, ‘Uh oh.’ Obviously I know she’s from Star Trek, but I was nervous and it was just a fluff. That was my most embarrassing one, but there’s always a long list.
AF: You want me to tell the William Shatner story?
AF: I think it was maybe our second Fan Expo, where Teddy and I were asked to introduce and moderate a panel with William Shatner. Normally you say hello to the guests backstage, then you bring them up, they wave to the crowd, they sit down with you and you ask them a few questions before opening them up to the crowd. With William Shatner, we had just the briefest of introductions, so we run up on stage and said, ‘Okay, everyone, put your hands together for Mr. William Shatner!’ He came out on stage, grabbed the microphone from us, stepped in front of us and started talking to the crowd much like Morgan’s story with David Hasselhoff. We thought oh, maybe he’ll just do an anecdote for thirty seconds and sit down with us, but his anecdote turned into a 10 minute routine. At which point Teddy and I were still standing there—
TW: Like idiots!
AF: He says, ‘What are you two still doing there?’ and then we exited the stage.
TW: And the whole crowd laughed at us. It was just like high school all over again. Shatner needs no moderator.
TTVJ: What advice would you give to a first time moderator?
TW: I like to research. It makes me feel better, even if I don’t use a lot of the stuff. I always describe it as Dumbo and his feather. I’m Dumbo and the feather is the research. It makes me feel more confident. I would say to take it seriously and research a bunch of stuff, even if you don’t think you’re going to use it, because it helps put my mind at ease.
Another piece of advice: These conventions are about the fans, so it’s a pet peeve of mine when I go to a convention as a fan and I see a moderator take the whole hour asking questions. What I think the three of us do is ask a few questions off the top then open it up to the floor pretty quickly, because a lot of audience members have them and you can never get to all of them. The con is really about the fans.
MH: But have a couple of extra questions in your back pocket just in case you have a shy audience. I like to have a good 5-6 questions prepared off the top, maybe even 10, but that’s just me, I over prepare.
TTVJ: How do you think Fan Expo compares to some of the other well-known conventions out there?
TW: I think at this point it’s the third biggest attendance-wise in North America. I think that’s a real feather in our cap as Canadians and certainly for the organizers of Fan Expo. It’s such massive event and nexus of pop culture. The size of it is what sets is apart from the other Canadian cons, it’s by far the biggest. It’s bigger than most of the ones even in America, with the exception of San Diego and New York Comic-Con. It really has morphed into something for everyone as long as you’re a fan. I think so many fandoms are now represented at Fan Expo, it’s now become a one-stop-shop.
AF: I think Teddy really hit it on the head there. If there’s anything that you’re a fan of, as obscure as you can imagine, you will likely meet someone who’s as passionate about it as you are.
TW: For Canadians, it’s great if you can make it to SDCC or Dragon Con, but it’s amazing that we have this massive one that stacks up so well against the big American ones right in our backyard. I think it’s a point of pride.
TTVJ: What are you most looking forward to for this year’s convention?
MH: I’m a big Game of Thrones fan, and I get to host the Jack Gleeson panel. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also excited/nervous to interview Margaret Atwood. She has a new comic book coming out and I’ve read so many of her novels. The Handmaiden’s Tale changed my life.
AF: For Space enthusiasts, we’ve got a couple of Space-themed panels we’re looking forward to. We have our Killjoys live, where we’re doing an advanced screening of the big finale of the second season. We’re going to present it with a whole bunch of the cast including Aaron Ashmore and creator Michelle Lovretta.
We’re also excited to introduce Mark Hamill. If you told me as a little kid that one day I’d get to go in front of a crowd and say, ‘And now please welcome Luke Skywalker and the Joker!’ I would have said, ‘Get out of here!’
TW: I’m moderating a panel with Alex Kingston, River Song from Doctor Who, so I’m really looking forward to that and Gillian Anderson as well, who I’ve hosted a panel with before. We’re lucky, all three of us are getting to do a bunch of other really great panels on top of that one, so it should be a great weekend.
Will you be heading to Toronto for this year’s convention? Let us know what you’re most excited to see in the comments below.
For a full list of Space Channel events at Fan Expo, click here. For the entire program listing for Fan Expo 2016, click here.
As the resident superhero junkie, Kelly has a soft spot for the world of DC and Marvel. When she's not researching masked vigilantes, she can be found watching most of the shows on The CW and binging the occasional Netflix series. For all the feels about the latest pop culture you can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.