Fans from around the universe descended on the beautiful Burbank Marriott Airport Hotel over the Feb. 15-17th, 2013 weekend for the 18th installment of Creation Entertainment's legendary Grand Slam: The Star Trek/Sci Fi Summit. This long-running event, hosted by Creation Entertainment CEOs Gary Berman and Adam Malin and Creation Talent Producer Stephanie Dizon, brought together an exceptional gathering of celebrities from Star Trek and TV and film science fiction. Saturday also promised a historic 25th Anniversary Reunion of the entire TNG cast.
Fans continued the frantic buyathon in the sprawling vendors’ complex, which wrapped around an entire Convention Center building at the hotel and into several ballrooms as well. On display and for sale were all kinds of genre items, including jewelry, signed collectibles, artwork, costumes, apparel, drinkware and more. Dozens of celebrities were also on hand signing autographs for attendees. People began filing into the huge theater, beautifully adorned in banners, theatrical velour and theatrical lighting, as the day's programming kicked in.
First up were the dynamic duo of Michael Dorn and LeVar Burton. Trading quips, the two gentlemen (both looking fantastic) regaled the audience with recollections of the filming of TNG and the films. LeVar reflected on the digital rollout of Reading Rainbow for iPad, and soon for Android. Michael did a great Worf impression: "I am not a married man!" Michael continues doing voiceover work for a number of animated TV shows. The audience clearly loves these two guys.
Looking beautiful and fit, Catherine Hicks joined the group to talk about her work on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She recounted visiting Leonard Nimoy's home before the first cast read-through of the script, where Leonard treated them to recordings of whale song to get them in the mood. She loved working with William Shatner, and had high praise for Leonard as director. She enjoyed shooting on location in Monterey at the Aquarium, although she actually did green screen work for most of that shoot. She spoke about her long-running tenure in Seventh Heaven (castmate Stephen Collins of course played Decker in Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Although Stephen had good words to say about director Robert Wise (Day the Earth Stood Still), Catherine said she was even more loyal to Leonard as a director.
On Chucky, Catherine said it's not about a killer doll, it's about a mother and a son! On seeing the creepy animatronic Chucky doll: it was horrifying but the guy who designed it, Kevin Yagher, was an attractive and available guy, and before she knew it, she and Kevin were hooked up (even though he was 11 years her junior). They've been married happily for 23 years! On filming TV vs. film: TV is intimate and she had an 11-year run on Seventh Heaven, which connected her to millions of fans, for which she is grateful. Movies are dream making, and she loves the fact that a complete script allows her as an actress to know the beginning, middle and end of a character 's arc. Fans were duly impressed by this lovely lady.
Next up, host Adam Malin conducted an in-depth interview with Jasika Nicole, "Astrid" of Fringe. Fringe, of course, was co-created by Star Trek movie writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, two members of the J.J. Abrams brain trust, and just wrapped up its fifth and final season with a mind-blowing full-season arc that resolved the mysterious "Observers" story line. Jasika looked beautiful and was clearly delighted to be amongst so many huge Fringe fans. Next up, co-host Gary Berman hosted a fun Yes-No Trivia Competition, bringing up large groups of the audience to answer some tough Star Trek trivia questions. Some fans walked away with hundreds of dollars in prize winnings.
Following was James Marsters, beloved genre actor particularly known for Buffy and Angel. One fan asked if he knew he was destined to play "evil" characters. James noted that with his background in Shakesperean theater, one doesn't think in terms of good vs evil, but rather what a character wants vs. what he is willing to do to get it. He also mentioned his tenure as Braniac on Smallville with Tom Welling. James sang the high female falsetto theme from Star Trek (much to audience delight). On the famous and beloved musical episode of Buffy, he recounted how Joss Whedon hired a team of music professionals to help the actors through the process of getting the singing (and music) right. The actors expected a train wreck, but it turned out to be a fan favorite, extremely well done. James also said he dressed as a Vulcan for a fan convention back in 1974, and that he has been a life-long Trek fan.
Next up, beloved Trek production couple Mike and Denise Okuda, accompanied by filmmakers Roger Lay, Robert Meyer Burnett and legendary digital animation/spfx/makeup master Doug Drexler (he designed Enterprise NX -01), presented footage in high-definition from the HD/Blu-ray release of the Enterprise and TNG TV series. The Enterprise footage looked luminous and gorgeous, and the re-release promises wonderful behind-the-scenes interviews, including a candid talk between Brannon Braga and Rick Berman, in which they talk about the misplaced fan impression that they helped contribute somehow to the downfall of Trek (true fans know Trek couldn't have survived without both of these seminal and incredibly talented show runners). Blu-ray has brought a new vibrancy to the TNG footage as well. Evidently they got Seth McFarlane to headline a discussion with several of the Trek writing/producing team. And the season 3 release includes a tribute to the late, great Michael Piller.
Next on the schedule was Creation's famous No Minimum Bid Auction. Some of the rare items that went on the chopping block included a framed Classic Cast photo signed by the entire cast, a series of collectors’ plates, beautiful banners of some of the convention guests, original Enterprise shooting scripts personally signed by Scott Bakula, and signed photo lots for several sci fi series including Stargate and Battlestar: Galactica. A photo signed by the entire cast of Voyager (value $800) went for the ridiculous price of $275.
Then it was time for the arrival of Sir Patrick Stewart, who was greeted with a standing ovation from the cheering audience. Looking fit and happy, Patrick acknowledged returning to the place he had lived and worked for 17years, and said he was now living in Brooklyn, NY. He had been to the pharmacy a few days ago, and the pharmacist said to him, "So what am I supposed to do now, curtsy?" in a rough New York accent, referring to the fact that Patrick is now practically British royalty. He is soon to appear in an independent Israeli film (Hunting Elephants) in which he is the only actor who doesn't speak Hebrew. He loved shooting the film, except for the 110-degree heat in Israel he experienced while on location. To much audience delight, Patrick announced he is about to begin filming the next X-Men film with Bryan Singer returning as director.
Patrick is reuniting with longtime friend Sir Ian McKellen to go back to Broadway with Harold Pinter's No Man Land and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. They will rotate the two performances, sometimes doing both plays on the same day. They open in October if all goes as planned. One fan asked what was the weirdest product he ever saw his image on. He said it was a duvet with his body and a pillow with his head! His favorite TNG film: First Contact, directed by Jonathan Frakes. He enjoys doing voiceover work on American Dad and Family Guy, and loves the idea of Seth McFarlane hosting the Oscars. He loves Stewie! Patrick closed by telling the audience how much he enjoyed being with them and looked forward to the evening get-together with the entire cast.
Then Creation brought out a trio of talented young actors from some of today's hottest genre shows: Steven R. McQueen (Jeremy on The Vampire Diaries), Tyler Posey (Scott on Teen Wolf) and Sam Witwer (Aidan in Being Human). When asked what superpower they would like to have, Tyler said he wanted to be able to control his facial hair. Sam was questioned about his music career and promised a new CD shortly. Tyler wants his character to go crazy and cut loose. Sam fondly recalls his stint flying Raptors on Battlestar:Galactica as Crashdown. He did a lot of improvising and loved the freedom of the role. Regarding special effects gags on their shows: Tyler liked having a giant werewolf on top of him which drooled K-Y jelly into his face. Steve enjoys choreographing fight scenes. In last week's episode he got beat up real bad, and loved it! Funny moments on set: Steve did a scene with David Anders and they pranked him with a Hershey's Kiss that looked nasty on his pants. Sam and his cast mates like to distract each other while they are on camera. Tyler mentioned that the crew of Teen Wolf played the crew of The Vampire Diaries in softball and trounced them. Steve noted that he wasn't playing at the time. The audience clearly enjoyed spending time with these three talented and promising young actors.
And with that, the day show closed so that Creation could prep the theater for the epic 25th Anniversary TNG Celebration event featuring the entire cast. A complete report on that event will accompany Day Three's report.
Click HERE to read the recap of day one.
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