C2E2: Ramsey, Staite & More Discuss Playing TV's Unsung Heroes

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From the left, left: Ramsey, Sbarge, a newly-engaged couple, Staite, Macken, Kramer.

Photo by Shaun Manning[/caption]

The first panel on the Chicago Comic & Entertainment [C2E2] main stage found some of genre television's best-loved supporting cast members talking about their roles, their characters, and what happens behind the scenes of our favorite shows. Moderated by Geeknation's Clare Kramer -- herself a veteran of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" -- the "Unmasking the Hero" panel featured Eoin Macken (Sir Gwaine, "Merlin"), Jewel Staite (Kaylee, "Firefly" and "Serenity"), Raphael Sbarge (Jiminy Cricket, "Once Upon a Time"), and David Ramsey (Diggle, "Arrow").

"They're not captains and they're not kings, but they are the heart of their shows," Kramer began before introducing the panelists.

Kramer's first question was about the appeal of each actor's most famous character. "I've never really played a hero; it's more a reluctant hero than anything else," Staite said. She said that felt people related to Kayley because of her honesty.

"Jiminy Cricket is a character that people love and have loved for a long time, because of the conscience thing," Sbarge said. He feels the show did something interesting by having him come to his position after a lot of suffering and "doing the wrong thing."

"Gwain was relatable because he didn't like nobility, he didn't like status," Macken said. "He was a man of the people."

Ramsey, the most upbeat of the crew, smiled and said, "Let's talk about Diggle. I think Diggle tells Oliver the way it is -- he's the most normal character on the show, and I think people relate to that. I think, for Diggle, he was ex-military, he had a sense of purpose, and he'd lost that." Ramsey believes Oliver helped him by "identifying his problem" and giving him a new purpose, thereby instilling an unshakable loyalty.

After Kramer pointed out that the character of Diggle does not come from the comics, Ramsey said, "We're still making up Diggle as we go along," adding that "something is coming next season."

Asked about preparing to play a knight, Macken said, "They put you on a horse, and that's pretty much it."

Staite joked, "I never get to ride a horse, I never get to put on a mask -- what kind of career is this?" Asked if there's any hero she'd like to play, she said, self-deprecatingly, "Yeah, any of them! I live in Vancouver, I haven't been on 'Arrow' yet! What the hell is up with that?" This exchange would begin a bit of a through-line for the panel, with Staite charming the crowd and Ramsey firing them up. There also emerged a pattern in the audience Q&A in which a fan would praise Staite but direct his or her question to Ramsey.

On similarities she has with Kaylee, Staite quipped, "Well, we do look alike." She said it's more fun to play someone totally different. Macken joked that being an actor allows a person "to do things you'd usually get told to fuck off [for]," with Staite adding, "And there's that table full of free food all the time."

Sbarge said playing "cannibals and killers" is a lot of fun. "It can be creepy if you're used to [seeing me as] Jiminy Cricket and then I'm a serial rapist on some show," he said. "It's wonderful to be able to play the range of that, to have that variety."

Kramer opened the floor to questions, and the first was whether Diggle's full name is "John Stewart Diggle." Ramsey responded, stating that although there is speculation about things like an "Arrow" version of Oracle and other developments based on the comics, "From my understanding, those things are probably not going to happen." However, he added, "with 'Arrow,' you never know."

Ramsey said his favorite part of working on "Arrow" is "working with Stephen Amell and John Barrowman -- we're such idiots it's amazing we get anything done... It's great to go into work and make fart and mama jokes."

Asked if Deadshot is truly dead, Ramsey said he didn't know, nor was he sure whether the character's departure from "Arrow" is related to the forthcoming "Suicide Squad" movie. While Ramsey said death is uncertain on "Arrow" if you "don't see a body," he noted that Canary will appear in the spinoff. "We actually saw a body! We saw you hit the ground, and everything, open!"

Staite said she gets asked about a second season of "Firefly" "more than anything else. I get asked at customs!" If it ever happened, she thinks all of the original actors would sign on. "The only thing that scares me is if they do a reboot and recast everybody, as our younger selves -- then I'll kill somebody."

Sbarge said relationships with writers can vary from show to show. "Some say, this is what we've written, don't change it," while other times they are more open to collaboration. "Writers say they write to the voice of the actor that's cast, as well," Sbarge said. "That's part of the art."

Asked for details on upcoming "Arrow" storylines, Ramsey avoided spoilers. "We go through such a transition with what Ra's al Ghul does to Team Arrow, specifically, that with Season Four… he changes everything."

Macken said playing a supporting character can be "liberating" because "you can play around a little more." "You can say, eh, I don't really have to remember these lines," he joked.

Staite said Adam Baldwin told her that, as a supporting character, "when you're in the background of a scene, always be doing something with your hands, because then the editor will have no choice but to cut to you to see what you're doing."

Macken spoke about the PSA he did with Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden for "Joining Forces," a charity supporting military veterans. "Michelle Obama is a goddess," he said, praising her as someone who has impressed him beyond people he'd normally think of as an idol. He joked that he was on a first-name basis with "Michelle and Jill" because of their time in the green room waiting to film the PSA. Because of security, "if you wanted to leave to go to the bathroom, that was a fifteen-minute ordeal," as he would be searched both leaving and returning.

After Ramsey spoke about some of his favorite "Arrow" scenes, Staite mock-whined, "Sounds like a good show." After a bit of mutual giggling, Ramsey asked for audience suggestions as to who Staite could play on the show.

Ramsey said that, while he and Amell were already "idiots" on set, Barrowman "took stupid to a whole new level." One day, Barrowman apparently said that his farts don't stink, so Amell told him, "Fart in my mouth and prove it." Later, filming a very serious scene, Ramsey said, "Barrowman farted -- and nobody heard it except for the four of us. It was one of those ffssssssssssssssh things. I don't know what he eats -- but his farts don't stink!"

Sbarge was asked about preparing for voice work for games like "Mass Effect." "The surprising thing, if you haven't done voice work, is you are alone in a room with a microphone. The other actors are not there, there are no visiuls," he said. "You are left alone with your imagination."

Asked about bloopers, Macken said, "Rupert would always ride a mare, which was a female horse, and for some reason it was always in heat." He said that once he got thrown from the horse and the horse "just wandered off, because all the other horses were following it."

Second to last question was not for the panelists, but was instead a marriage proposal from one audience member to another. She accepted.

Asked if she "collected her own merch" after some discussion about action figures she wasn't aware existed, Staite said, "Can you imagine… if I sat at home and just played with my own dolls?" She said that anything she got, she gave to her mom. "I didn't know you could just take stuff, but everybody else did."

"Nathan Fillion took it all."

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