In an effort to contribute to meta fandom discussions to this sub blog, I'm trying to find people involved in fandom from all sides to talk to about their involvement in it. One of the people I found was Colin Ferguson—Sheriff Jack Carter from Eureka, William in the most recent season of Haven, and now the Maytag Man. We chatted for about an hour, so this will be posted in mostly sensibly broken-up installments. Here's #1:
§erenada: So when did you first become aware of fandom as an entity?
Colin: It was probably—there are two potential timelines. One would be the year or two after Eureka began, or it was through you and [your fandom oriented site]. They may have happened around the same time, because you guys were online. So I would guess probably 6 or 7 years ago.
§erenada: When do estimate you actually got involved with fandom?
Colin: It took a long time to figure out what it was and I think it took fandom a long while for fandom to figure out what it was. The current form of fandom which is very well educated, very well versed and very polite is not what it was when it began. You heard stories of what people had done to David Boreanaz and people they were following and it made all the actors on set very nervous. You heard about these conventions and that would probably be where my involvement began—the convention circuits. Which was very lovely—you go and do these panels and you talk to people and you meet them and sign autographs and go home.
It's the only real way the circuit completes, because as a performer most of us started out with an audience, so there was a cause and effect that was established. You don't get that on a set – you perform in a vacuum, and it's only by meeting the fans that that circuit completes. We actually tailored the show based upon stuff we learnt at conventions. When people had a horrible reaction to the pizza guy dying in the episode House Rules—we thought it was funny when we shot it. But that was when we realized the world was real for people, and the town was real and the character was real and we were going to have to have more reverence and more respect. But that only came from fandom, by those interactions and enough people saying "Hey, that was awful when he died." and you go "Uh oh, did we ever miss the mark! Okay, noted!" And we course corrected.
§erenada: Do you remember when your first convention was?
Colin: My first convention was San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) which is not a convention. It's a trade show and that's a very different entity. It has all the trappings of a convention—the town is more convention-oriented than the actual Convention. And the difference is this: when you have the giant players, all the studios: Sony, Warner Brothers buying up and who will pay three times what space is worth on the convention floor you lose out all the small independent operators because they just can't afford to be there. So it becomes more about the big guns and what they're offering and less about an offering for the fans. And that would be the difference—you go to a lot of the other ones and it's very indie and you get all sorts of cool panels as opposed to 8,000 person panels which is fantastic to be a part of that environment, but…
§erenada: 8,000 people love you—that can't hurt!
Colin: And it's lovely—they all sang me Happy Birthday one year, and it was hilarious and really cool. [pause] Because it was my birthday that day. Otherwise it would have been really weird. But to do the other ones where it's a much more tailored, much smaller group, maybe even as small as 200, you [the fan] can actually ask a question and get an answer and a longer answer, and if they [the panelist] are anyone like me, they'll ask you a question, and it becomes a conversation, and that's a completely different experience from having your question vetted, approved, and then you can give it, and there's a quick pat answer. They are very different experiences. So my first one was SDCC…
§erenada: What season of Eureka was that?
Colin: Oh, it was the first! Well, I'm going to tell you all about this! This SDCC was before the SDCC was the SDCC. The massive which would follow in years to come was the Sy Fy/Entertainment Weekly party. It was always at the Hotel Solamar, huge line to get in, no one could get in...it's now moved to be tons of different parties, but for about five years that was the one to be at. That party, my first year, it was Grace Park, me, we were chatting with a couple other people from Galactica, a couple other people from Eureka, and that's it. No one came, no one was there, we were on the roof of the W Hotel, going "Well...this is cool...there's an open bar...that's not terrible…" [laughs]. We were promoting a show that no one had seen, so we gave our panel. I then went to Wondercon, like a month later, or even before (maybe Wondercon was my first one?) and there were seven people in the audience for the panel—three of which, when I asked them, were just saving seats for the next panel — "Yeah, we don't know what your show is, but the next panel is going to be really popular, so we're here early." That was great!
§erenada: For these few people that are in the audience, how many people are in the panel?
Colin: Oh, we could have beaten 'em. We could have beaten them up if it came to a rugby game, yeah, we would have beaten them. It was Andy [Andrew Cosby, creator] and I, and Jaime [Paglia, creator]...Jamie may have not been there, maybe it was just me and Andy but I think there was a third person—and that was Wondercon. It was pretty great. So my introduction to fandom was as an anonymous person.
§erenada: It was very gentle, it sounds like.
Colin: Mmmhmm. You know, really, selling our wares, being a barker, and trying to get interest and "Hey!" and trying to get people involved—and cut to five years later and there are 7000 people who've been lined up for seven hours to get into the panel.
§erenada: And some of them had been saving seats in the panel before so they could be in your panel.
§erenada: That's when you know you've made it.
Colin: Exactly. So that was my introduction and my conclusion of fandom at the conventions, I guess.
§erenada: So I shouldn't have told you any of the scary things about fandom?
Colin: No, you probably shouldn't have! No, but it was great. There are little things you end up doing, like developing a signature that people approve of—which is not your own, for security purposes. Because I did my own signature at one point, which looks nothing like my name, and people were so… "That's your signature?" like I'd done it to hurt their feelings, and I was "Uh, hmm, maybe?" So you have to figure out a signature that people will approve of.
It's weird, but when you go to the bathroom, you use the stalls—you don't use the urinals, as a man. Sounds weird, but the number of times guys come up to me in the urinal and put their hand on my shoulder and start talking to me about "I really like your show" and...I'm holding my junk! It's a weird moment! "Hey, I know this is a bad time…" "I don't think you do! I'm thinking if you did, maybe you wouldn't come and gently put your hand on my shoulder!"
So there's all sorts of stuff that you sort of learn, and also in this day and age it only takes two seconds for someone to take a picture of you...or parts of you. So you have to guard yourself. It's really weird.