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I cannot tell a lie, folks — the cool Sunday evening air of Seattle felt particularly good upon my return from San Diego Comic-Con.  Sure, the Con was fun. It always is.  But spending four days pretending to be the Millennium Falcon navigating an asteroid field can be draining — and this year’s swarm of slow-moving convention-goers seemed particular;y thick, leaving less room to maneuver.

Comic-Con 2014 was something of a paradox: it felt bigger while seeming to offer fewer of the charms that made past Comic-Cons special. The entertainment industry’s presence felt more pervasive, and panels for the biggest TV series were packed. To echo the observation made in a previous post by my colleague Michelle Nelson, after Thursday night, it became tougher to find extraordinary cosplayers on the floor that weren’t sponsored or professionals such as Yaya Han.

Granted, there were a few Con-goers whose costumes showed a level of ingenuity that blew my mind, like the “Supernatural” fan who constructed fully expandable angel wings that were to true to scale. (Thanks to TVLine West Coast Editor Vlada Gelman for sharing that photo on Twitter.) Or the guys dressed in functional Transformer costumes, including one whose Optimus Prime was taller than a pair of elevator doors.

Or the family attending the small child on a tricycle smoothly pedaling along while dressed as Jigsaw‘s puppet. Afterward a few of us debated whether that kid’s mother and dad were the greatest parents ever, or the worst. And, Powdered Toast Man? Whoever you are, thank you for being you.

San Diego Comic-Con has been dominated by the entertainment industry for years now, and considering that plenty of films and television series are based on comic book, video game, science fiction and fantasy franchises, I get it if there are fewer people choosing to go all out with their costumes. The Con ceased being merely a geek event eons ago. More everyday movie and TV fans are buying tickets for a chance to be in the same room with their favorite stars.

It’s also understandable if fewer devotees to the artistry inspired by these films and series bother to construct intricate costumes from scratch, dress up, and baste in their own sweat while fighting their way through the increasingly crowded corridors. Should this perceived trend continue, and the Con grows to be even less about celebrating the artists who create these works of popular art, something beautiful will be lost … to San Diego at least. Comic book conventions in other cities appear to be growing in popularity, including one right here in IMDb’s backyard, Emerald City Comic-Con. For geeks who want to keep plenty of comic books in their ‘cons, this is a welcome sign.

It must be said that San Diego Comic-Con’s tightening embrace of the entertainment industry isn’t entirely a terrible thing. I can’t think of any other large-scale environments where so many viewers who think deeply and critically about their favorite shows can speak directly to the people who make them, and have that dialogue witnessed live, without the anonymity and filter of the Internet. There’s value in that face-to-face interaction.

This leads me to recall one of my favorite moments of this year’s Comic-Con, when I happened to cross paths with “Hannibal” creator Bryan Fuller following his show’s well-attended panel. Where other showrunners were coy about sharing too much information with fans, Fuller wondered aloud whether he had given “Hannibal’s” Comic-Con panel attendees enough details about the upcoming season. They wait in line for hours, he said, and he was concerned about doing everything he could to honor that kind of devotion.

At that panel were plenty of cosplayers and many others who weren’t dressed up, but everybody seemed content to be there with hundred of fellow “Hannibal” fans. There was a sense of openness and belonging in that room, which is what Comic-Con should always be about at its heart.

For the past couple of years when I’ve recounted my favorite Comic-Con moments, the fans and cosplay are usually at the top of my list.  But this year felt different.  There didn’t seem to be as many people dressed up, and there were many times when I did see a cool costume, only to discover it was a paid actor promoting a film or TV show.  On more than one occasion I saw people taking photos of people dressed as a pack of gum or a mobile phone (both were promotions). There certainly was a blurred line between commercial promotion and the celebration of our favorite characters. Despite this noted difference, I had a lot of fun this year and was very impressed by the footage that was revealed.

Here are a few of my favorite moments:

If an hour can be a moment, the entire Hobbit panel tops my list.  I am still smiling.  A few highlights that stand out were hearing Andy Serkis use Gollum’s voice to answer a fan question, the outtakes reel, and when Stephen Colbert asked Cate Blanchett if she wore any of her original costumes from the Lord of the Rings in the new film. She misheard him and thought he asked if she wore any underwear beneath her costume.  Apparently she did not!

“The Walking Dead” is one of my favorite shows. I don’t care what the haters say, I loved the last season: “Claimed!” and “Just look at the flowers” now have regular use in my everyday conversation.   I always look forward to covering the “Walking Dead” events, not just because I’m a fan, but because the cast and crew seem so genuinely happy to be there.   At the “Walking Dead” BBQ, they were taking selfies and signing items for fans.  Norman Reedus and Greg Nicotero also judged a Comic-Con costume contest, and Nicotero gave tips on their costumes.  This makes me like the show even more.

I had assumed that The Boxtrolls was a CG-animated feature.  I found the panel so fascinating as they shared how they created this world in a hybrid of motion-capture and visual effects.  My favorite part of the panel was when Elle Fanning told the story about the first time she visited the animation studio with her sister, Dakota, when she was filming Coraline.  While there, she met the woman who knit the tiny little sweaters for the characters, and as she described watching her work, her eyes just lit up with delight.

In the Sin City: A Dame to Kill For panel, what stood out to me the most was the amount of respect Robert Rodriguez and the entire cast have for Frank Miller’s work.   It was expressed repeatedly that the primary goal in production is to stay true to his original vision.  Miller told a story about how he had drawn a storyboard for Jessica Alba’s character, putting her in an action pose that he knew wasn’t realistic, but that he drew in his usual style nevertheless.   One day on set, he was surprised to see Jessica in this impossible pose. He stopped her and said, “What are you doing?  How are you getting like that?” Jessica answered, “That’s what you drew.”

Every year Entertainment Weekly hosts a series of specialty panels, and this year I checked out the Women Who Kick Ass panel, with Katey Sagal, Sarah Paulson, Tatiana Maslany, Nicole Beharie, Maisie Williams, and Natalie Dormer.  I learned so many interesting facts from each of the panelists, but there were two standout moments: listening to Sarah Paulson describe her transformation into a 77-year old Lana Winters in “American Horror Story: Asylum,” and Tatiana explaining that she has different music playlists that help her get into each of her “Orphan Black” clone characters.

While waiting in a line for a panel, a little dog drove by in a Superman convertible with “Kryptonite” playing on his stereo.  There was so many people you couldn’t tell who was operating the remote control.  You can see the photo on our Instagram:


What with all the hoopla surrounding new and returning TV titles at Comic-Con, it helps to be reminded that more than a few series made a splash here just once, never to return. I could list a few of those titles as examples, but I honestly can’t recall any off the top of my head because their lifespans were short and unsung.

I bring this up because on Saturday and Sunday, the casts and producers of “True Blood” and “Sons of Anarchy” appeared before their faithful viewers at Comic-Con for a final time. Tears were shed during each panel, and heartfelt moments brought attendees to their feet to give the actors and producers standing ovations.  These long-running series appeared regularly at Comic-Con through their runs, and each of their casts poignantly thanked the fans by acknowledging that they owe their long lifespans to their passionate viewers.

Fan favorite Kristin Bauer van Straten cried frequently during “True Blood’s” panel. By her report, she was one of the biggest weepers on the set whenever she experienced the “last” of anything. But surprisingly enough, on the “Sons of Anarchy” panel, the person who lost it was none other than the show’s hard-boiled creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter,  moved to tears by a heartfelt expression of gratitude by the series’ go-to director Paris Barclay  and a standing ovation by the fans in Hall H.

Saturday and Sunday also brought panels for “The Vampire Diaries” and “Supernatural”, the latter of which is entering its 10th season and will air its 200th episode. Each show has a reputation for drawing particularly enthusiastic, devoted fans to its panels. “Supernatural” usually panels at the end of Con, so the people who show up are not only deep fans of the show but Comic-Con diehards, which created the air of a particularly joyous family reunion on Sunday morning.

Keep reading for highlights from these panels and details about what’s in store during the upcoming seasons and episodes of these shows.

True Blood airs the sixth of its final 10 episodes this week, and Saturday evening’s panel had a uniquely celebratory vibe to it. Even Rutina Wesley showed up although her character, Tara, is officially among the dearly departed. Or, we should say, she’s left Bon Temps … but according to showrunner Brian Buckner, we have yet to see footage from the very last scenes Wesley filmed on the show.

However, both Buckner and Anna Camp teased that what’s in store for Sarah Newlin, one of the main figures responsible for helping to create and spread the fatal Hep V virus to vampires, will be particularly awful/awesome. “I think I get what I deserve,” Camp told fans.

Buckner added that the day that they shot Sarah receiving her “punishment,” Camp’s boyfriend was on the set and he had to explain to the man, “She deserves this, she deserves this!”  Oh dear.

Saturday’s vampire weekend treat began earlier that afternoon with The Vampire Diaries panel, which kicked off with a funny spoof video that picked up from the finale’s fade-to-white cliffhanger by showing Kat Graham and Ian Somerhalder, both of whose characters were presumably zapped out of existence, turning up on an empty soundstage with no clue as to what happened to them. Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley and Candice Accola, meanwhile, acted as Graham were huge divas behind the scenes and they were glad to have them gone.

Naturally, Graham and Somerhalder then took the stage to eardrum shattering screams because, honestly, did you really think they’d kill off one of the Salvatores? Executive producer Julie Plec confirmed that the pair would be back but, of course, did not say how that would happen.

What Plec and the cast did reveal is that the time jump between the finale and the premiere is four months, and that in the coming season Matthew Davis, who plays Alaric Saltzman, will return as a teacher at the university.

Sunday’s Sons of Anarchy panel did not offer many details about the coming season – Sutter likes to play his cards close to the cut – but those assembled in Hall H did get a first look at the opening montage of the season which included the usual riveting moments of beauty, brutality, tragedy and as the cherry topper, a little bit of D.I.Y. dentistry. “I think we’re gonna break a lot of hearts this year,” said David Labrava, who plays Happy. “Get your handkerchiefs ready.”

The end of the series does not mean the end of its story, however. A novel titled Bratva comes out this fall, with the action taking place during the events of season four, in which the club tangles with a Russian gang. Sutter also updated fans on the status of a “Sons of Anarchy” prequel currently being developed. He said that it could be a miniseries or a regular series commitment, and will explore the club’s origins dating back to John Teller’s era and his relationship with Piney.

One of Sunday’s top TV destinations at Comic-Con, “Supernatural,” opened with series star Jensen Ackles introducing the season 10’s version of the signature “The Road So Far” recap reel before treating fans to a scene from an upcoming episode he directed. After co-stars Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard joined him onstage, Ackles and Padalecki told fans about the coming season’s central conflict between Sam and Dean… rather, Sam and Demon Dean.

Ackles explained that his demon version isn’t a meat suit, but a twisted, tortured version of his soul. In the clip, Dean taunts Sam with his past actions, asking Sam whether he is any less monstrous than his demon brother. Showrunner Jeremy Carver also said that in the first few episodes, Dean enjoys being a demon while Sam searches for a way to save him.

Season 10 also brings “Supernatural’s” 200th episode, which the panel teased would be the show’s version of a musical episode featuring “big hair bands.” In fact, Ackles said, we’ll discover that Dean enjoys karaoke.

Carry on, wayward sons.

The Marvel panel was the most anticipated panel of Comic-Con, and I realize now I was setting myself up for disappointment. They have been in the news so much the last two weeks, I was expecting to learn more about the five upcoming mystery films, or at the very least who would play Doctor Strange.  No such luck.  The first thing Kevin Feige said when he took the stage was that the panel would focus on 2015. I had to remind myself of that at the close of the panel as I stood confused thinking, that’s it?

That being said, there was still a lot excitement. For Ant-Man, they made no mention of the troubled production and revealed Evangeline Lilly is confirmed to play Hope Pym and Corey Stoll will play Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket.  Lilly and Stoll joined director Peyton Reed, Paul Rudd, and Michael Douglas.  When Paul Rudd shared this was his first time at Comic-Con and Lilly said, “Oh, you’re a Comic-Con virgin?”, prompting a woman to scream, “Let’s pop his cherry!”  This lead to a whole line of cherry popping jokes when finally Kevin Feige asked, “Can we please stop talking about popping cherries, this is a family event.” Hardwick laughed and replied, “But that’s how families are made!”  The film hasn’t started shooting yet—Lilly said she still hasn’t received a script—but they did show a short mostly CG clip with voiceover from Rudd and Douglas.

Next up was The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Joss Whedon wasn’t able to make it this year because he just had knee surgery and was told he couldn’t fly.   They showed a montage of all of the Iron Man and Captain America films and even then mixed in Guardians of the Galaxy at the end.  Robert Downey Jr made a grand entrance dancing out to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”, followed by Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Cobie Smulders, and Samuel L. Jackson, along with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, James Spader, and Elizabeth Olsen.   The highlight of the panel was when Hardwick asked Hemsworth if there was anything he’d like to do as Thor that he hasn’t done before.   Hemsworth stated, “Turn him into a woman. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think it could be my Oscar.”

The extensive trailer they screened opens with a funny clip of the Avengers sitting around drinking while each of them tries to pick up Thor’s hammer.  Then Ultron breaks up the party and all hell breaks loose.  The footage was phenomenal—this is the first time I have ever seen a trailer get a standing ovation.  The crowd was still cheering so loudly when they brought out Josh Brolin to announce he’s Thanos, I think most people missed it.

To close, they played a video clip with director James Gunn and Chris Pratt who announced the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy will be released July 28, 2017.   Mark your calendars!

I have been coming to Comic-Con for five years, and I have to say that the Warner Bros panel provided the most fun and excitement I’ve ever experienced in Hall H.  As they pulled back the curtains that ran the length of Hall H, revealing super-sized screens, moderator Chris Hardwick kicked off the event by saying, “You know Warner Bros. likes to do everything big!” Graphics for Batman appeared on the left, Superman on the right, with the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice logo on the main screen.  The room went nuts.

Zack Snyder took the stage and said they were still in production, but he did have some footage to share.   The very short teaser opens with Batman suited up in heavy armor on a Gotham rooftop, during a dark and stormy night.  He turns on the bat signal, revealing a pissed-off Superman hovering in the sky with his eyes glowing red.  And that was it.  After the teaser, Snyder brought out Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, and Gal Gadot, but said, “I’m not giving them a microphone because I don’t want you to ask them anything.” Just before they were whisked off the stage, Hardwick took a quick selfie.  It was short and sweet, but awesome.

Next, Channing Tatum took the stage by himself, representing The Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending.  They showed an extensive trailer but it felt very similar to the footage we’ve seen before.

If you’re worried that Mad Max: Fury Road  is just another remake, don’t be.  The panel began with a video retrospective celebrating the original Mad Max films. Then George Miller chatted with Chris Hardwick both about the original and upcoming release, which stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.   It’s clear that this was a way to show fans that this is not just a reboot, but more of an extension of those original films.

Last but not least came The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  True Tolkien fan Stephen Colbert took over as moderator, wearing his costume as the Laketown spy in The Desolution of Smaug. For the panel itself, Peter Jackson and Phillipa Boyens were joined by Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Graham McTavis, Elijah Wood, and Andy Serkis.  Fans were treated to lots of footage: a montage of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and first two Hobbit films; a hilarious outtakes reel compiled from scenes shot over the years; and of course, new footage from The Battle of the Five Armies.   Peter Jackson also announced a contest in which 75 fans (plus one guest per winner) will be flown to New Zealand for a screening of the new movie.  Two unsuspecting winners were chosen from the audience, but have no fear, they will pick 73 more.  The official contest opens on August 25th, and more information can be found at

- Michelle Nelson

Friday was busy for TV fans attending San Diego Comic-Con, with a schedule full of panels for “Orphan Black,” “Vikings,” “Outlander,” “Bates Motel,” “Arrow” and many more — far too many for one mere mortal to cover, largely due to the fact that the most popular ones happened to occur at the same time. It was a day of making all kinds of Sophie’s choices, if you will. In the end I focused my efforts on hanging with the folks who write for television’s favorite nerds; finding out a few details about what’s coming down the road for the citizens of Westeros and Banshee; and discovering whether our favorite gang of survivors will make it out of Terminus. Please bear in mind that this is a report from the heart of Nerd Central, so if you are SPOILER averse, please stop reading now.

Here are highlights from the panels for “The Walking Dead,“Game of Thrones,” “The Big Bang Theory”, and “Banshee“.

The Walking Dead’s cast and producers know that Comic-Con people are its biggest boosters, and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd took a moment to acknowledge that as they revealed season five’s premiere date – Sunday, October 12 at 9pm –  and unveiled the new preview trailer to the folks assembled in Hall H. If you haven’t seen it yet, ask yourself why you’ve decided to miss out on some of the finer things in life. Then have a look as soon as possible. It is perhaps the most spoiler-heavy trailer AMC and the show have released to date, but it’s also the most exciting one, featuring a newly invigorated, super bad-ass Rick Grimes.

“This is a very dangerous, very different group of people,” said creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman, explaining that now that the group has lost Hershel, all bets are pretty much off.

Among the things showrunner Scott Gimple teased are that we’ll see the story of how Terminus came to be, and the answer to the question of what happened to Beth Greene. Yes, Emily Kinney was present for the panel and assured us that Beth has gotten a lot fiercer. The time spent with Daryl (Norman Reedus, who is a Comic-Con deity at this point) helped her learn a new set of survival skills. “She’s taking a different kind of strength into season five,” Kinney said.

In casting news, Gimple joked that producers are committed to hiring as many of the actors who graced “The Wire” as possible (a nod to Chad L. Coleman, who plays Tyreese) before telling us that Seth Gilliam will appear in the upcoming season in the role of Father Gabriel.

“Game of Thrones” unveiled its lengthy list of cast additions, but mainly the panel served as an outlet for the actors to ham it up for the fans. (Behold the season four blooper reel.) The person who made the seating arrangements cheekily placed Rory McCann between Gwendoline Christie and Maisie Williams, also known as the woman who dealt the blow that would eventually end The Hound, and the girl who left him on a hillside to die. McCann playfully moaned about how brutally The Hound was beaten in his deathmatch with Brienne, to which Christie purred, “I thought he got off lightly.”

“Nasty b-tch,” McCann growled in reply, and without missing a beat, Williams asked, “Which one: Me, or her?”

Later, a questioner asked the panel to answer the eternal question of whether they’d choose direwolves and dragons. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jaime Lannister, answered “Direwolves.” An odd response, given the enmity between Houses Stark and Lannister. But then he added, “Easier to kill.”  But fan favorite Pedro Pascal, whose much-loved character Oberyn Martell met his demise last season, had the best answer when his time came: Asked to choose, he calmly answered, “Snakes.”

Every major panel includes a surprise guest star appearance or two; “The Walking Dead” brought out Chandler Riggs eating pudding from a giant can, while The Big Bang Theory‘s” writers and producers welcomed Wil Wheaton to the stage. But “Big Bang” provided an unscripted thrill for the fans attending its panel, though the larger shock was felt by moderator Craig Ferguson.  We’re not talking about the producers’ galaxy-shaking statement that when “Star Wars” icons James Earl Jones and Carrie Fisher met on the show, it was the first time they’d actually met in real life…although that fact is truly mind-blowing.

Instead, the moment came when a woman in the audience stepped up to ask the writers why they hated Aquaman so much. Mind you, “The Big Bang Theory” is not alone in maligning Aquaman; he’s been the butt of many a pop culture joke. Even Dave Chappelle knocked him in one of his earliest bits. So you can’t blame Ferguson for taking this opportunity to riff and running with it.

“BECAUSE HE’S NOT A REAL SUPERHERO! THAT’S WHY! THAT’S WHY THEY HATE HIM!” the comedian bellowed, making the audience erupt in laughter. The questioner was not pleased. Once the room died down a bit, Wheaton stepped in and asked the woman to reveal her identity. She calmly answered that she is the granddaughter of Aquaman’s creator, Paul Norris.

The audience lost it, and Ferguson looked appropriately horrified as he apologized profusely.

Later in the day, at the much more intimate panel for ”Banshee,” fans queued up to ask questions of the castmembers present, including the very sweet and kind Geno Segers, a tower of a man who joins the show in season three to play the fearsome, vicious gang leader Chayton Littlestone.  But one questioner wearing a red fez stopped the discussion in its tracks as he asked about whether the gang of white supremacists featured in season two would return in season three.

Antony Starr  demanded the questioner remove his hat, and it turned out to be Demetrius Grosse, a central member of the cast whose character Deputy Emmett Yawners met his end in the second season finale. Starr descended from the dais to give Grosse a hug. Later fans lined up to take selfies with the man who played the dearly departed Deputy Yawners before everyone disappeared into the throngs filling the streets on Friday evening.

Friday bonus: A “Vikings” Food Fight. Part of covering Comic-Con includes attending a series of press rooms, which can be a challenge as tens of reporters fight to ask questions of the few actors assembled for a limited amount of time. Noise levels drown out many of the answers. This was particularly true in the press room for “Vikings,” which cultivated a party atmosphere by serving reporters fruit, beer and wine, and handing out drinking horns. After that, Katheryn WinnickClive Standen, Alexander Ludwig and Travis Fimmel were brought to the roundtables to chat. In theory. Mid-interview, Ludwig, who had poured water over Fimmel’s head prior to sitting down with Winnick, got biffed by a projectile thrown by Fimmel, who would later sit down with us and surgically aim green grapes at some poor soul at the table behind me. One should expect nothing less from a gang of Northmen who know how to party.

This morning after I tweeted about my experience of watching The Hunger Games: Mockingjay teaser trailer, I was accused of shameless promotion.  But I didn’t include the tag because of an ad buy or promotion. I did so because of my own amazement of how I had just watched the trailer for the one of the most highly anticipated films of the year.  Not in Hall H on the large screen, not surrounded by screaming fans.  I was in a guarded room, wearing headphones, holding a tablet while eating Panem salt water taffy.  They say this is the future, that one day there won’t be anymore movie theaters and we’ll all watch films on our various mobile devices. I hope that’s not the case because as much as I enjoyed the new teaser trailer, I can’t wait to see it on the big screen, the way I believe films are meant to be seen.

I spent the majority of the rest of my day at the press conference and panels for Fox’s upcoming films.  First up was The Maze Runner, based on the young adult post-apocalyptic novel by James Dashner. The author was joined onstage by director Wes Ball and stars Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, and Kaya Scodelario. This is the debut film for Wes Ball, who got the attention of the studios with his sci-fi animated short Ruin.  If you’re thinking, “How someone can score such a high profile film with an animated short?” you can watch it here:

The biggest moment in the panel was when a fan asked Dylan what the most difficult scene was to film.   He answered with a huge spoiler that made the room gasp.  He may have been able to play it off but then he said, “Oh man, I’m going to get yelled at,“ and had his head in his hands for the rest of the panel.  We won’t reveal it but just know, the spoiler is out there.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Book of Life, the animated feature directed by Jorge Gutierrez, produced by Guillermo del Toro, featuring the voices of Channing Tatum, Christina Applegate, Ron Perlman, as well as Zoe Saldana, who wasn’t at the panel.  The animation is inspired by the Dia de Muertos (The Day of the Dead), a holiday celebrated in Mexico which is a day for friends and family to remember the ones they have lost.  This day has always been important to Gutierrez: he was married on this day because he wanted his best friend, who had died, to be his best man and this was the one day he could come back to do so.   Much like an animated Moulin Rouge, some of the dialogue from the film is from modern songs including Radiohead’s “Creep,”  Ice Cube’s “Today was a Good Day,” and Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.”  Biz Markie made a surprise appearance at the panel and sang his classic hip-hop song.

I ended the day at “The Walking Dead” BBQ, held in a makeshift Terminus.  There was a woman slicing a bloody hand next to the grill filled with “sausages”, and there were zombies wandering around.  The cast made an appearance on top of the Winnebago, and cheering fans threw up hats, toy guns, badges and t-shirts that the cast happily signed.  If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to check out new trailer for season five.

- Michelle Nelson

If you recall the events that transpired during season four of “Game of Thrones,” you probably may have guessed that the citizens of Dorne are a tad miffed at the Lannisters right now. Dorne intends to answer! As such, on Friday afternoon HBO announced a number of additions to the already-sizable “Game of Thrones” cast, many of them relative newcomers. After all, it’s not as if there aren’t spots coming open on a regular basis.

Among the better known actors joining the cast are Alexander Siddig, last seen guest starring on “Da Vinci’s Demons.“  Siddig will have a major story arc as Doran Martell, the ruling lord of Dorne and older brother to Prince Oberyn Martell.  (A moment of silence for The Viper, if you will…) Also joining the cast in season five is Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow. The press release describes the High Sparrow as a devout and pious man who came to King’s Landing to serve the poor, the downtrodden and the infirm, and has amassed a large following in the process. “His fellow believers have swarmed over the city, ministering to the lowest and decrying the corruption of the highest.” Look out, Cersei.

Season five also introduces Oberyn’s formidable daughters, known as the Sand Snakes. Rosabell Laurenti Sellers will play Tyene Sand, daughter to The Viper and his final paramour Ellaria. According to HBO’s press release, “Tyene is fiercer than she looks, especially with her twin daggers.” The role of fearsome warrior Obara Sand was won by Keisha Castle-Hughes, who earned critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination at a young age as the star of Whale Rider. Lastly, Jessica Henwick has been cast as Nymeria Sand, a.k.a. Nym. The press release describes her as the child of an Eastern noblewoman “who brought Nym up to be cultured, graceful and deadly with a whip.”

Additionally, Toby Sebastian will play Prince Doran’s son, Trystane Martell, who is betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon, the eldest daughter of Cersei Lannister and the late Robert Baratheon (wink, nudge), who will now be portrayed by Nell Tiger Free. Areo Hotah, recognizable to readers of George R.R. Martin ‘s novels as the captain of Doran Martell’s palace guard, will be played by DeObia Oparei. And Enzo Cilenti will fill the role of Yezzan, an extremely wealthy slave trader who may have issues with the changes Daenerys Targaryen has made.

The new season of “Game of Thrones” is scheduled to air in 2015.



As I watched the extensive of footage for The Giver at the Hall H panel, I must admit my first thought was “Wow, that really looks a lot like Divergent.” While it will be very easy to dismiss this film as just another copycat, Lois Lowry‘s 1993 novel was actually the inspiration for the current YA dystopian craze.  Jeff Bridges discovered the novel almost twenty years ago and optioned the book with the intention of directing the film with his father, Lloyd Bridges, in the role of The Giver.  Now years later, his dream project has finally made it to the screen.  We sat down with Jeff Bridges, the star and producer of the film, author Lois Lowry, and stars Brenton Thwaites, Odeya Rush, and Cameron Monaghan to learn more about the making of the film.

Jeff, you first optioned this novel almost 20 years ago with the intention to direct. What was it about this book that made you not give up on the project?

Jeff Bridges: I loved the story. And that kept me involved in wanting to see it made into a film. And also my partners, Neil Koenigsberg and Nikki Silver, who were along for the whole ride, we kept inspiring each other, saying come on, we can do it.

At what point did you decide to not direct the film?

Lois Lowry: When you got old enough to play The Giver?

Bridges: Yeah, when I got old enough…[laughing] Gee, I don’t know when that actually happened. I’m not really sure, I know when it got closer and closer to getting made and as we started to get into the story, I started to feel maybe this wasn’t the movie for a first-time guy. There’s a lot of stuff to do. For a while, we were trying to pitch it and get finance as a very big budget movie. But a lot of movies are ruined when they have too big of a budget. It’s kind of a shame, but the mid-budget movies aren’t really made anymore. You’ve got either low-budget movies or big 200 million dollar movies. So when it started getting down to this is going to be a low-budget film, I thought whoever is going to have to direct this is really needs to know his stuff.

Lowry: And he did.

Bridges: Philip Noyce is so creative and smart, but his work ethic—God, he could work us all under the table. I happily bowed out from that position and turned it over to him.

Lowry: Would you have directed yourself? Could you have directed it and played the role?

Bridges: That would have been tough I think. I don’t know how that would work. My brother’s done that before. I know what a director has to do and what that means, and that’s a lot of work.

Are you still interested in directing?

Bridges: Yeah, sort of. What really peaked my interest in this project was the material that I loved, but it was also working with my dad, I wanted to do something with my dad for my kids. I might but I’m not chomping at the bit like “I have to direct. I don’t have that kind of urgency and maybe that’s what you need as a director, because I know there’s so much work. It’s easily a year out of your life.

Brenton, your character is the receiver of memories and you were playing opposite Jeff Bridges who bestows this knowledge to you. As an actor, what did you learn from working with Jeff?

Thwaites: I learned so much. He has a great language and he uses these very collaborative, creative words to describe the work. Like, when we’re jamming on set with our dialogue and our acting, it’s like we’re jamming with music. He also taught me the importance of relaxing and playing around on set. He teaches you to go in with a certain attitude: lighten it up, have fun, and trust yourself.

The movie is part black and white, and part color, and you are one of the few people to see that color. What was your approach with these scenes knowing that your character was seeing something no one else could?

Thwaites: For my approach I used sense memory, and I learned it from a teacher of Eric Morris, who has a studio in Los Angeles. One of his students was my acting teacher, Charles Allen. He was very strict on sense memory because it’s a very hard thing to find. To smell something and focus on it for an hour is a hard thing to do. To ask yourself questions like, [taking a deep breath] “What am I smelling now in the room?” And you try and suggest things. Say you were working for the memory of a hat, “What was it like when I smelled my hat for the first time?”

With color it was a visual, so I would ask myself questions like, “What was it like to see New York for the first time?” “What was it like to jump out of a plane and see the world in a dome shape for the first time?” It’s insane, these feelings create emotions inside of you. I had a bunch of different choices that I would work for and try and recreate on set, connecting it to what I have experienced.

The Giver is being compared to other YA dystopian films, like The Hunger Games and Divergent. How is this film different?

Thwaites: Well, for starters, the main hero in this film hasn’t got an M16 or a knife-throwing skill, or any physical advantage over anyone. His main power is knowledge. And I think in our world, knowledge is so easily accessible. We have that at our fingertips, but how do we access that within ourselves? What choices do we make, and what do we study? My character learns a bunch of memories from The Giver. Those memories and experiences teach him to follow his heart and trust his instincts. And I feel like this film is a tool of the same sort.

Cameron Monaghan: This is one of the originators of this trend of YA sci-fi novels. It was the inspiration for Divergent and I’m sure you can say the other ones. What’s amazing about this story, while it still has action and excitement and all that stuff, at the end of the day it’s a really beautiful story about love and humanity. Not to diss the other ones, but they are a little more focused on the action side of it. I like people, and this story is about humanity.

Lois, how does it feel to finally see your book come to life? Did it take a new form or do you see it as the original story you wrote?

Lowry: It feels true to the original book, but I knew from the get-go that it would have to be different, because a book and a movie are different things. So I think if I had been a writer who wanted to cling to the book, I should have just stepped aside because it would have been difficult. But I was willing and eager to see it expand into what a film becomes. And to watch it take different forms and go in different directions. But it’s still very true to the intention of the book. I don’t think readers who loved the book will be disappointed at all in the film.

What was it like introduce the film here at Comic-Con to a huge audience of fans of the book?

Odeya Rush: It’s so exciting because when you look out into that crowd you see how many people share the same love for this film and this story as you do. It’s kind of exhilarating. Sometimes you do a movie and nobody knows about it so there’s a lot of anxiety. I mean, there’s anxiety about this one not knowing how people will react to it. But just seeing how excited people are about it just gives you a level of comfort.

Lowry: I’ve never been to this convention and I didn’t really know that much about it, but my grandchildren do and they told me how cool it was going to be. Sitting up there on the panel with an audience of I think they said, 6100 people, we couldn’t see them. With the lights it was like looking into darkness. So we didn’t get a sense of the magnitude of that audience but there was a good feeling from the room.

Bridges: I remember, I asked the question, how many of you guys out there read the book in school, and over half the audience raised their hands. Most of the questions were for Lois and they were fascinated fans of the book. It’s such a great asset of the film to have a book like that.

Lowry: And to be so passionate about the book as it was clear the audience was, it was good to assure them that they are going to love the movie just as much.

The Giver opens in theaters on August 15, 2014.

- Michelle Nelson



Here’s how we know NBC’s “Hannibal” is doing something right. During the most gruesome parts in the highlight reel shown in Ballroom 20 at Comic-Con, people emitted “oohs” and “aahs”. Some even whooped with delight. Psychopaths? Hardly.  When the time came for people to ask questions of executive producer Bryan Fuller and members of cast, the tenor of the conversation was quite cerebral. If Dr. Lecter were on the hunt for rude people to eat on Thursday afternoon, he would not have found them in that room.

A huge part of Comic-Con’s thrill is to sit among scores of fans that think deeply about challenging shows like this and Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful,” which paneled directly after “Hannibal”. Both fit in the horror genre although surprisingly, the ballroom seemed a bit emptier during “Penny.” More’s the pity for those who missed that conversation. As the panel’s Dreadful of a moderator Aisha Tyler put it, “So many feels!”

If the “Hannibal” panel felt like an intellectual exploration of a television show, “Penny” struck emotional chords. Creator John Logan spoke about the heartfelt connections he had with the plight of the classic literary monsters whose stories he played with during the show’s first season. I could hear the people around me murmuring in empathy with his observations. Even when fans put him on the spot about the show’s depictions of sexuality (which, in the case of Eva Green‘s character Vanessa Ives, came across as troubling at times) his answers were profoundly thoughtful.

Another major reason people show up at these panels, though, is to get scoop on what’s to come in future episodes. So if you haven’t watched these shows, you might want to stop reading now because details that follow include spoilers.

You have been warned.

“Penny Dreadful’s” panel allowed Tyler to indulge her (and our) deepest questions about the nature of the relationships at play in the show, including the crazy, carnal love scene between Josh Hartnett‘s Ethan Chandler and Reeve Carney‘s Dorian Gray. Logan was very frank in answering that as a gay man, he wanted to deal with all aspects of sexuality in this show. “Let’s face it, it’s 2014. We can have people be true in a sexual way,” Logan said.

Beyond that, the majority of the questions had to do with the finale revelation that Ethan Chandler is, in fact, a werewolf. Logan said that season two would begin to explore Ethan’s background, much in the way viewers got a view into Vanessa’s past in the first season. Indeed, Logan says that the main relationship he is spinning out in season three has to do with the bond between Ethan and Vanessa, and that next season would also reveal more about the theological underpinnings that drive Ethan and influence other stories on the show.

But the biggest reveal of “Penny Dreadful” panel was that Helen McCrory‘s Madame Kali will be season two’s main antagonist. Logan showed a scene that was cut from season one which featured McCrory brilliantly delivering a monologue that hinted at her having wicked designs on messing with Miss Ives. It let us know just how devilish the dark Madame can be, and I can’t wait to watch.

Meanwhile, the ”Hannibal” panel included Caroline Dhavernas, Scott Thompson, Aaron Abrams … and Raúl Esparza, whose character Dr. Chilton took a bullet to the face in season two. While it’s not uncommon for dearly departed co-stars to appear on Comic-Con panels to bid farewell to fans, in this case, Esparza was present because he’s returning in season three. We’ll also see Eddie Izzard, although he’ll be appearing in flashbacks because, well, there ain’t no coming back from what happened to his character.

Season three of “Hannibal” takes place a year after the events of the second season finale,  and will take its time letting us know the full extent of who lives and who died. We won’t get the full details of the fateful night’s outcome until episode four; Fuller explained that he wants to take time looking at Hannibal’s life on the run, and the development of his relationship with Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). Fuller further pointed out that the blood red suit he was wearing was Italian — which was a clue about one of the settings for the next season.

The executive producer also let slip that Gina Torres‘s character Bella Crawford is returning, for what that’s worth. The new season also will introduce a number of new characters from Thomas Harris‘s novels, including Francis Dolarhyde in episode eight (which kicks off the Red Dragon arc of the story), as well as Inspector Pazzi and in episode three, much-loved character Lady Murasaki.  Fuller did not have any casting announcements to share for these upcoming roles, but he did say, “I think Murasaki is going to kick all kinds of ass.”

Missing from the panel were “Hannibal’s” central stars Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, although both sent taped messages for the fans. Mikkelsen ended his with, “Hopefully next year I’ll see you for a quick lunch.”