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  • Writer's pictureCulture Combine Staff

Fan Expo Chicago 2023 Friday Panel Catchup

Friday was the first full day of Fan Expo Chicago 2023 and with that comes lots and lots of celebrity guest appearances in panels. This year, things are a little bit different in the panel rooms, with the SAG-AFTRA strike preventing celebs on site from talking about or performing struck work, but it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to discuss. Past work can be a topic of conversation within the actor’s discretion, and there’s plenty of fun to be had talking about being behind the scenes on any set, or discovering the origin stories of these actors and actresses.

As doors opened on Friday a few cancellations were announced, too, with Brent Spiner, Chevy Chase and a few others bowing out due to illness, but the show must go on, and go on it did, beginning with Tara Strong’s panel on Friday morning.

Tara Strong at Fan Expo Chicago 2023. Photo: Aaron Cynic

Tara Strong took to the Fan Expo stage Friday morning to a joyfully packed crowd of die hard fans. Taras’ IMDB lists a lifetime of incredible work dating back to the Care Bears back in 1988 on through her performance of several voices in World of Warcraft. Fans recounted some of her more notable works, specifically Raven of Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go as well as Harley Quinn in the Batman Arkham video games. Strong regaled the crowd with stories of her times with the Teen Titans Go team, as a tight knit family.

She also told one particularly interesting story about how Kevin Conroy had once previously saved her life. Right when Twitter verification was introduced, Tara was talking to a “verified” Kevin Conroy in Twitter DM’s and had set a time to meet with the actor for lunch in the future.

Tara Strong at Fan Expo Chicago 2023. Photo: Aaron Cynic

A few days later she was working with Kevin for the first time in person and had mentioned that she loved talking to him on Twitter, to which he responded “I don’t have Twitter.”

As it turns out she had been talking to a complete stranger.

This harrowing tale, along with some voice work as Harley Quinn, were big hits with the crowd, and we’re glad to have seen Strong grace the Fan Expo stage.

Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow and Katee Sackhoff at Fan Expo Chicago 2023. Photo: Aaron Cynic

Next up on our list was the “Out of this World CONversation with Giancarlo Esposito, Katee Sackhoff and Emily Swallow.”

This was one of the most anticipated events for the con, and once again the strike loomed large at first as a shadow over fan expectations, but with the steady hand of a great moderator in Victor Dandridge, fans got a great experience anyway.

With the elephant in the room looming, Dandridge instead turned conversation into what inspired the actors and how they got started. Of the three, most had a passion for the stage early on, with Sackhoff saying that at only six years old it was her desire to “give people goosebumps” with her performances one day, and Swallow recalling her strong desire to get on Star Search.

Giancarlos’ story was a bit different, though he did grow up in a household of performers with a family full of musicians – it just took him a little longer to find what he wanted to do.

Giancarlo Esposito, Fan Expo Chicago 2023. Photo: Aaron Cynic

Esposito ended up stealing the show somewhat, as he often does with his performances, and spent some time talking about the importance of the SAG - AFTRA strike.

“When one boat rises all boats rise, that’s the idea” he said. And while he has no fear about his bills or financial situation, that’s not true for everyone. Esposito mentioned that he’d had a desire just before the strike to take a break and work on other projects. The strike is affording him that time, he said, but also time to support his fellow actors who can’t make rent.

Esposito also alluded to one of the union’s most salient points, AI avatar usage, saying “I don’t want you to get something that looks like me, I want you to get me.” before evolving the conversation into what turned out to also be an incredibly inspirational talk about being the most authentic version of you you can be.

“Think today for tomorrow,” he implored. “This is about dreams. You can build it and if you build it, they will come.” Giancarlo went on to talk about how we’re all energy, and we forget to be children who have fun without limitations.

Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow and Katee Sackhoff at Fan Expo Chicago 2023. Photo: Aaron Cynic

All three of the actors spoke on their strengths and the things that made them the most happy in life as well, with Katee Sackhoff talking about the joys of motherhood and leaving California to spend more time with her daughter and Swallow sharing her love for conventions and meeting the folks who make it all happen - the audience who loves what the actors do so much and the stories they tell.

A Dall-E created image of Peter Weller as Robocop in the style of Caravaggio

When we walked into Peter Weller’s panel, it was something else entirely.

The SAG-AFTRA strike is really taking its toll on the convention circuit. When we entered the Peter Weller panel, he was talking about the works of Caravaggio and how the artist best captured Christ and his disciples. This was unexpected, but it turns out the question was about who Weller would want to paint him.

Caravaggio is a great choice, but considering that the conversation could be in the realm of his earlier works–like his legendary role as RoboCop–an impassioned conversation about art history was not at all what I was expecting.

Weller did have some amusing stories about his 11 year old son though. Anytime either Weller or his wife swears he has to tally money which later goes to his son for what his son calls the “modern social version of allowance.” And based on Weller’s telling, that little kid is making bank.

Well, that’s all for us for Friday’s lineup, but stay tuned for even more from Fan Expo Chicago 2023, including our fantastic cosplay galleries.

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