“So, is everyone here from Tulsa?”
With that question, Jewel Staite (Firefly, Stargate: Atlantis) proved that the highlight of our time at Tulsa’s Trek Expo was not just a mini-Q&A session; it was much more personal than that.
A new addition to Tulsa’s 24-year-strong Expo, the ‘Meet and Greet’ (M&G) event gives attendees the opportunity to go beyond the 60-second autograph conversation and the three-minute Q&A panel question with their favorite celebrities. For the cost of a limited-availability M&G ticket one can spend an hour with the guest (or guests) of their choice. While there were M&Gs available with Armin Shimerman and Max Grodénchik (Quark and Rom of DS9), the cast of Buck Rogers and select others, my wife’s and my love for Firefly made for an obvious choice.
As one who is new to cons, this was only my second—and most intimate—encounter with one of my favorite actors. I was quite nervous to say the least. Reminding myself that Jewel was a “normal person” offered no help. She’s Kaylee, for goodness sake! She’s beautiful! She’s friends with Nathan Fillion and Joss Whedon! She’s Hollywood!
All that nervousness (okay, most of it) bled away when she sat down right next to my wife (ENVY!) and asked us that first question. For the next hour, at least, the twelve of us were friends, normal people, just chatting it up. And we had a lot to talk about.
One of the first topics to come up, of course, was Firefly. Jewel noted that Nathan Fillion is probably the biggest Firefly fan she knows, then told us how Nathan Fillion’s half-serious idea to buy the rights to Firefly actually started the weekend before his press interview where it came out. What struck me was not that the idea began among friends but that often, many of the Firefly cast members still get together with other friends at Nathan’s house on the weekends! As a Browncoat I was thrilled to hear that the cast are still so close.
Jewel is certainly no small Firefly fan herself. Even she is quite eager to see how Joss Whedon’s take on The Avengers turns out. If it is successful Joss could find his name and directorial reputation known by more than those who have already discovered his talent. Then, as Jewel puts it, “he could do anything he wants.” The implication for more Firefly was inescapable, and it is nice to know that Jewel has her fingers crossed along with the rest of us!
When it came to Stargate: Atlantis Jewel told us how a single episode role as “Ellia” early in the series led to her being cast as “Dr. Jennifer Keller” later on. She said she loved the show and wanted to continue to be a part of it, but only if she did not have to return to a role that required three hours of prosthetics and make-up every day! Obviously the show’s producers came through and it sounded as though her experience on Atlantis went on to rival that of Firefly.
As to Jewel’s future in television and film, she is certainly not opposed to returning to sci-fi. While she does not fear becoming type-cast, she wants to avoid it as much as possible. She thrives on diverse roles that challenge and encourage her to branch out and try something new. She does hope to find some of those challenging roles in other genres; specifically, she wants to try her hand at romantic comedy.
Some shared their plans and side-projects with Jewel, which gave her the opportunity to share with us her plans for her blog, happyopu.net. A new endeavor for Jewel, the blog is, in her words, “an indulgent blog about indulgence.” Happy Opu chronicles the food, wine (especially wine!) and people she experiences on her travels. She excitedly shared with us the news that there may be the opportunity to develop her blog into a television series! If she had her way, she would have weekly guests from sci-fi shows new and old who would join her in her culinary adventures. Jewel appears to view Happy Opu as an exciting new direction for her career! The blog is well worth checking out.
Near the end of our time we were even introduced to her husband Matt, who had come to Tulsa with her, and heard the story of how the young film student and young actress first met in Vancouver. Of course, there were many “awws” from the ladies as we heard of Jewel’s initial blow-off, followed by Matt’s persistence, which led to them recently celebrating their eighth wedding anniversary.
A lot of what Jewel told us has probably been shared before during panels and press interviews at other cons throughout the years. However, something about being in this small group, huddled around a table as Jewel sat among us, gave each story, every exchange a more intimate and personal air. I was amazed at how informal it all felt, how comfortable everyone felt with Jewel and her with us.
And then, much too soon, our time was up. As Jewel returned to the exhibit hall to sign more autographs, I was finally able to realize that — despite her success on TV and film — she really is a normal person in the end. Though it may be an obvious realization to some and though to have thought otherwise was surely fallacy, for me it was both profound and comforting. I know that not all celebrities are like Jewel, but she seems to truly enjoy talking with her fans. From the autograph table, to the photo op that had to be retaken (sorry Jewel!), to the Meet and Greet, she never once appeared burdened by the time she spent with us.
Thanks for the chance to chat with you, Jewel. And thanks for making us feel normal, too!