Official Adrienne Wilkinson Fan Club Newsletter:
Report of Starfury Convention, Thistle Hotel, Heathrow, London, England
July 12-14 2002
I only heard that Adrienne would be going to the Starfury convention about six weeks before the event, but her late booking was more than worth it. Over the course of two and a half days, she proved that she is a beautiful, witty, intelligent, sweet, warm and all-around classy woman, and I consider myself privileged to be one of her fans. Every time I saw her interact with a fan, there was always a smile on her face, and she seemed to have been really enjoying the weekend.
Starfury conventions run over a weekend, with a private cocktail party for the guests and the first 176 (in this case, although the number varies) ticket-holders on the Friday evening before. I didn't get to go to the party, which was a pity, but I was more than happy with the two full days I did have. There is a photo shoot with the guests in the morning (it's the same schedule on both days), where you can pay to get your picture taken with any or all of the guests by a professional photographer, and it's developed and pre-signed by the guests by the end of the day. It's a great idea, and I have a beautiful picture with Adrienne from this year. After the photos (or during, depending how behind schedule the con is by now - it's very popular), the guest talks get underway in the main hall, and they run until around 5pm. After a break for everyone, the autograph session runs for two hours, although most of the guests are quite happy to stay until everyone has had their turn. The evening activity is a costume contest on Saturday and the closing ceremony on Sunday (mostly thank-yous). There was apparently an opening ceremony before the cocktail party on Friday, but we didn't arrive in time for it.
Adrienne gave guest talks on both Saturday and Sunday, sharing the stage on Saturday with surprise guest Paris Jefferson, who played Athena on Xena. She and Adrienne have only worked together on the episode MOTHERHOOD, but they seemed to get along well, chatting to each other as well as the audience. I'm going to combine what she said on both days here so it's a little bit less repetitive to read.
Adrienne talked about filming the movie Interceptor Force II in Bulgaria in November of last year. It's set in the near future and she plays a member of the 'Interceptor Force', a special forces team not unlike the Navy SEALs. She said it has a fairly typical sci-fi plot. Her character, Dawn Desilvia, is a scientist with all of the knowledge the rest of the team need, but she has none of their skill, so she is pretty much dragged along with them. She enjoyed working with her friend Elizabeth Gracen, of Highlander. She said that Bulgaria was freezing, but that it was fascinating. She found it sad that it's one of the oldest countries in Europe, but that the oldest building in the capital, Sofia, dates to around 1890, because it's all been bombed.
She talked about the final day of the shoot, which was one of the longest days she has ever worked. (I think she said it was the first 24-hour day she's ever done, but I'm not certain.) She said they started filming at 6.30am, which meant a call of an hour earlier (at least - I don't remember the exact time)... and they worked straight through to 6am the following day! Then, they had to go catch the 7.30am flight back to LA! Crazy. Apparently they just ran out of time though, so there wasn't a choice.
This led to a discussion between her and Paris about location shooting, which they agreed was both incredibly hard and absolutely amazing. The isolation is the main difficulty; you're not with any of the people you know, only the cast and crew of the movie (so you'd better hope you all get along!), in a strange place, where it can be difficult even to schedule a phone call home because of the time difference. You may not get a lot of time to travel around either, because the movie is the most important thing. On the flip side of this, you get to be fantastic friends with the other crew members because you're spending all of your time with them, but you may never see them again in your life, your careers may never intersect again. Interceptor Force II had a more diverse crew than is usual - they had to call 'CUT' in five languages, apparently. There were American actors, Russian crew members, Bulgarian extras and a couple of other people I can't remember, although I think she mentioned there were some Germans.
In Bulgaria they write in Cyrillic, which meant that Adrienne couldn't read a word the whole month she was there. She said that that was a very odd experience. She walked through Customs in Atlanta on the way home, and there was a Starbucks outside - she almost burst into tears on the spot because she could read it!
Someone asked Adrienne about As If, which is, as I think most people know, a show she starred in on the UPN network that was cancelled after just two episodes. As it's a remake of a British show of the same title, she didn't really have to tell us what it is, but she explained the situation with it at the moment. She doesn't seem to be holding out much hope for its resurrection - she said all of the cast and crew have moved on to different things (although, she has kept the red hair she had for the part of Nicki).
She talked a little bit about filming it and about how much they'd shot in a very short time. They filmed seven half-hour episodes in 24 days, which equated to about seven minutes shot per day (I think this is around twice what they usually managed on Xena, which is itself renowned for fast-paced filming). The only way they could do this so fast was filming different scenes set in the same places, and not filming the episodes in order, so, they filmed all the scenes set in the coffee shop together and that kind of thing. This meant that on any given day they would have four or five wardrobe changes to think about, and they had to remember where in the storyline they were, what their character did and didn't know... a heck of a lot of mental gymnastics.
Adrienne seemed like she'd really had a great time and it makes me even more curious to see an episode of the show. I've seen the odd episode of the original British version, which plays on a mainstream channel and is into its third season, and have been impressed. It took me a little while to get accustomed to the fast cuts and background music, but it's a very well-done show. The girl who plays Adrienne's character Nicki here, Jemima Rooper, does a good job, although I don't expect she compares to Adrienne. ;-) She said that they had a lot of the same crew as the British version, and they'd had chance to really streamline the plot - find out what worked and what didn't and work with it.
The system to ask a question at the convention wasn't to have a line near a microphone, but instead to raise your hand and have a mic given to you by one of two women running around the hall. They both had bunny ears on so you could see where they were, and there was a pair going spare that Adrienne was convinced into wearing during her talk.
I don't remember how the subject came up, but she gave us a great Hollywood story. At the end of last year, Adrienne was up for a part in a movie written by some bigshot scriptwriter. He'd seen some of her work and wanted to meet her and her agent to talk about the role, so they arranged to have a meal in Le Deux, a posh restaurant in LA. She made a point here of mentioning that the writer is a guy, her agent is a guy, and she is... not a guy. :-) So they're in this restaurant waiting for their food, and Adrienne glances up to see Britney Spears walk in and sit at the table next to them! The meeting suddenly stopped being about Adrienne, she said. Her agent and this writer are both staring at Britney, and Adrienne is thinking to herself how absurd this is, when Hugh Hefner and his six girlfriends walk in and sit at the table on the other side! She couldn't help but giggle to herself about it, until she saw Britney's bodyguard standing blocking her view of Britney with his arms folded; presumably he thought she was laughing at Britney. Where else in the world would that happen? Adrienne was laughing as she told us about it and she took it all in good humour, which shows what a classy woman she is.
Adrienne spoke about Kevin Smith for a while. She was clearly still emotional about his loss but glad that she had had chance to know him. She said that he was one of the nicest, friendliest people she has ever worked with. During her first week of filming Xena, she worked almost exclusively with him and he really put her at ease. The first day, she said, she was just completely overwhelmed with the new country, the sets, the costumes, everything. Her first scene ever called for a fight and a conversation with Ares that ended in a kiss (the teaser of LIVIA), and she had absolutely no idea what she was doing, but Kevin told her stories about his kids to make her laugh and to calm her down a little bit. She thought that he had been taken from us in the prime of his life and he would have gone on to do great things, and I don't know anyone who would have disagreed with that.
While she and Paris Jefferson were speaking, Paris mentioned Lucy's dedication to her job and her willingness to do pretty much anything to get a good scene, which Adrienne agreed with. Paris asked if Adrienne had ever seen the episode in which Lucy is in a pit with all the rats (LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN). She hadn't so Paris explained the scene, which Adrienne thought was absolutely insane. Not quite as insane as her having to actually pick one up in her mouth, though, even if it was only a dummy. As Adrienne said, what if she didn't know which one was the fake one? She said she wasn't sure if she could be THAT dedicated to her job, but... anything to get a good scene!
At the end of Adrienne's talk on the Sunday, they held an auction for Kevin Smith's fund, with some exclusive items donated by the guests. The prize pieces were Joxer's brother Jett's (played by Ted Raimi) prop sword, and some crew jackets and T-shirts donated (two shirts from Adrienne for Seasons 5 and 6, and a Season 5 jacket from Paris Jefferson), and Adrienne also gave a mosaic which, from a distance, just looked like a picture of Xena and Gabrielle, but close up, it was little pictures of all of the cast and crew. These were very rare items: they had literally only made one each for the cast and crew of the show, and Adrienne said she wasn't even sure if everyone had got one. There are 150 at absolute most in existence.
I can assure you that the mosaic was very pretty close up, because Adrienne actually got me up on stage to look at it! I was lucky enough to get to sit in the front row (as I'd offered to do some stewarding work - queue control, bag-handling, watching the doors during the guest talks and the like - and in return, when you aren't working you can sit in the front two rows, which are usually reserved) so Adrienne could see me from the stage. She explained what the mosaic was, but that it was probably very difficult to see it from a long way back - "so Jessica's going to come up here and look at it!" I imagine I made a fool of myself during my two minutes of fame, but I asked Adrienne to point herself out on it, and I saw a very nice picture of her in the Eve costume.
The mosaic ended up being sold for £600 (about $930), the S5 shirt for £220 (about $340) to a lady called Janet Clark, and the S6 shirt for £210 (almost $330). The auction raised £2,500 (almost $4,000) in total, which is a great amount of money for the Kevin Smith Fund.
During her first appearance at Starfury, in September 2000, Adrienne was asked if there were any roles she would particularly like to play one day, and she talked in some depth about Mata Hari, saying she would love to do a realistic biopic of her life. (This went down well with the crowd - so well that when Ted Raimi spoke after she finished and conducted some mock-auditions with fans, our movie ended up being titled "Mata Hari: She-Wolf: The Musical"! I can't even remember what kind of bizarre plot we came up with.) Someone asked Adrienne how this project was coming along, and she told us that at the cocktail party Friday night somebody had asked her the same thing, only they'd asked how her 'Kama Sutra' movie was doing! She said that would be a WHOLE different kind of film!
Adrienne replied to a question about who her idols were by saying that her sister, who was in the audience with us, was a great source of inspiration and comfort to her.
Somebody asked what Adrienne would say to her number one fan if they ever met, and Adrienne joked she already has a self-proclaimed #1 fan; the spot's taken. She talked for a minute or so about Annarose (AlannaTrebond424 on Adrienne's message board), mentioning her screensaver, "which is a cycle of just about every picture of me in existence. It runs for about ten minutes!" and saying she's a really sweet person.
As at the last Starfury convention, a fan asked if Adrienne would sing for us, which she did - in style. She sang part of "One Fine Day" by Natalie Merchant, which is a favourite of hers, I understand. She did an amazing job with it. I downloaded the original after the convention ended, and I actually preferred Adrienne's version. It was a lot more bluesy and it really showcased her vocal abilities, to the extent that I think she could go just as far in the music business as in acting. If she ever puts out a CD, I'll be first in line to buy it.
Right before she sang, someone asked if there was anyone Adrienne would like to sing a duet with. Someone called out "Britney!" and Adrienne was very adamant that she did not want to sing with her - "Her boobs have already conned me out of one job!" She eventually chose Etta James, who she says she respects a lot.
As some of you may have noticed, Adrienne often poses for pictures in a diamond belly-chain - which she was wearing during her talks. Some eagle-eyed person spotted it, and asked her if it was a belt or if her underwear was showing! Adrienne took a moment to decide how to answer that one, but she said it was her "signature piece" and that she was almost never photographed without it. She seemed thoroughly amused by the whole question, as did Paris Jefferson.
Most of the rest of the questions were asking about particular parts of the show, such as the spider in MOTHERHOOD, which has all been posted on www.adriennewilkinson.com before, as well as other sites, so I won't go into it again here. She was very entertaining though.
It's a tradition at Starfury events to hold a fancy dress parade on the Saturday evening of the con. The guests act as judges and they interact with the 'characters' in any way they choose. With Hudson Leick and Claire Stansfield around, it got pretty wild! There were around 30 entrants, dressed as a variety of the show's most famous characters. As well as the more usual outfits, we had a trio of Furies (their costumes appealed to Hudson so much she wore one for part of her talk the following day!), a Meg, a sea nymph and a wood nymph, among others.
The guests had the entrants parade around the hall area, before coming to their table and interacting with them in some way. It ranged from being told to re-enact their character's death scene, to exchanging lines with one of the guests, to anything the actors could think of!
Adrienne had fun with a Livia and an Eve, who were both great, I thought. Livia was only a little girl and Adrienne was very sweet with her. I can't actually remember what she wanted her to do, but the girl was too shy. Eve was older and she came out with someone dressed as Joxer, so Adrienne told her to chase him around the room and "show her true affection for him". She told her to "kill a little, then pray a little and don't forget to whine".
The contest was eventually won by an Ares, who had an amazing costume and quite a resemblance to Kevin Smith too, so they dedicated the contest to him. The guests made certain everyone got a prize though (and Adrienne brought out all of the kids that had entered separately first to tell them they'd done a great job) - by the end they were giving away fruit and pens, among other things! Adrienne said when I spoke to her the following day that this was her favourite part of the convention, and it showed.
My own favourite part of the con was entirely due to Adrienne. I spoke to her in the autograph line on Saturday, although all the guests signed both days, and I was building up courage to ask her if she could spare ten minutes before the end of the con to chat with me for the report. In fact, she beat me to it, which really made me realise how involved with the fan club and her fans she is. I was astounded that she even remembered my name! She was happy to do me a little interview, and after a few back-and-forths with Sean Harry, the convention director, I was sitting in the Green Room with Adrienne, with my little dictophone and a lot of nerves! She absolutely put me at ease though, and I can honestly say that she's one of the most charming people I have ever met.
After I'd asked all of the questions, we chatted about a few things for five minutes or so. I'd recently read a biography of Audrey Hepburn, and I thought that Adrienne would like it too, so I got her a copy. She seemed to be really pleased with it, so I hope she's enjoying it. We talked about her for a little while, and then Adrienne had to run.
Overall, the convention was completely fantastic, and something that I am always going to have great memories of, most of them thanks to Adrienne. If you haven't already been lucky enough to see her at a con, definitely try to. It will be worth every penny - it was for me. Sadly, this was the fourth and final Starfury Xena convention, so I don't expect I'll see Adrienne again, but I have wonderful memories of the three events I've been to, all of which Adrienne has attended. It was a wonderful run and I'm grateful to Sean Harry and everyone else who has a hand in organising them (not to mention Adrienne and the other guests!) for putting in such a huge effort on our behalf.
And now, my interview:
How are you enjoying the con so far?
I'm having a really, really lovely time. Séan [Harry, con director] throws one of the best conventions that I've ever been to. The fans and the guests get to interact so much. We really just have a good time. It's a lot more relaxed than a lot of other conventions are so it makes for a good time.
I've never been to any other conventions than Starfury's.
Well, you chose the best one to go to. It's really great.
The nearest one.
What's been your favourite part so far?
Um, gosh, my favourite part. You know what, my favourite part was the fancy dress parade. I love it. The first year I was here I was too sick to attend. I just desperately needed to sleep, so I didn't go, but last year was my first one and it was so much fun. But last night, of course you know they had the fancy dress again - and it was just great because the six of us just got to interact in any way that we wanted to. They put so much effort into their costumes, and it's beautiful, but it's more the fun aspect, getting to interact with the characters. That's probably my favourite part.
Do you get to chat to the other guests? Do you get to hang out?
Quite a bit. Most conventions, you make a one-day, or a couple of hour's appearance, pretty much, you know, in and out. Of course you see everyone and talk to everyone while you're there, but this is at least three days where you're all staying in the same hotel and doing the same event.
How are you coping with the jet lag? I figure you've only been here a couple of days?
Yeah. I always find jet lag to be the funniest thing. You think you feel fine - strangely, I always seem to get tired at two in the afternoon, but at three in the morning I'm wide-awake. And you get cravings - yesterday I woke up for breakfast and I ordered ice cream. (laughs) I have no idea where that came from.
How do you normally prepare to do an event like this? Do you prepare what you're going to say in your talks?
A little bit. I generally have things that I want to make sure I don't forget to mention, but I like to just address the fans. I like to have them say what it is they want to talk about - what it is they're interested in, stories that they've heard in the past and want to hear again, or experiences that I've been wanting to share with them or that they've heard rumours about. I always like to talk about upcoming projects. Anything, like, you know, at this convention it was really important, and I was so pleased that someone asked about Kevin, so I could share experiences of him. Also, last time I was here [late June, 2001], the finale hadn't aired yet [in England], so we were trying not to talk about it so we wouldn't spoil it for anyone else.
How long will you be staying in England?
I'll be here for four extra days, so I don't know if I'm going to see much outside of London, but I'm definitely planning to see as many points of interest as I can. There's certainly a lot there.
Go to the Tower of London - it's so interesting. I went there when I was about eight years old and loved it.
You know, I went last year and I adored it, but the Crown Jewels, there was a line. It was probably a three-hour wait, so I didn't get to see them.
You should definitely try and go.
Thanks again to Adrienne!