Educating [Geeks] Goes to FanFest 2015 – Spotlight on Sean Maher

I had an amazing time at Phoenix Comicon this past May, but I was a bit hesitant to attend FanFest in December. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it last year (of course I did – I met David Ramsey!) but my schedule was so filled up that I wasn’t sure if I’d have the time. Then, lo and behold, they announced that Sean Maher from Firefly would be attending! That was my trigger. Because I already have pictures with Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau, I needed to meet the man who played Simon Tam. Firefly is one of my most beloved shows, after all.

The first thing I did when I entered Phoenix Stadium was head to the back where the photo ops would take place. 10:30 couldn’t come quick enough! As soon as I walked into the photo area, Sean complimented my “Shiny” shirt and Firefly leggings. I was in heaven! He was sweet and friendly.

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His spotlight panel began at noon. I didn’t get a front row seat like I had hoped, but I was in the second row to his left side. I was pretty satisfied with that.

Before Sean walked onto the platform, I caught him listening to the moderator as he was introduced. With his head peeking out of the double doors, I found myself thinking “what a cool and goofy guy!” After he got to his seat, he immediately began by saying, “No Firefly or Jewel Staite questions.” Imagine my disappointment! But I realized (after a little while) that he was kidding. Phew! I think others might have believed him, because the first question asked was what it was like to film Much Ado About Nothing.

According to Sean, Much Ado About Nothing kind of came out of nowhere. Joss had emailed him one day around 2 a.m., stating he needed a “sexy villain,” for his new film. Sean’s reaction was to ask, “So you think I’m sexy?” Joss told Sean to stop fishing for compliments because, “of course I think you’re sexy!” The way they filmed the movie was a bit challenging – the actors would only have about two chances to get the scenes right. According to Sean, Joss’ attitude while on set was, “don’t fuck it up!” This made the audience erupt with laughter and this was just the start of the panel! He said he was excited to film Much Ado, and that it was both a terrifying but exhilarating experience. [on a personal note: I really enjoyed this movie!]

One audience member asked if Sean had ever experienced any “strange” encounters. He said that luckily he has not had many. This prompted an audience member to shout “challenge accepted!” We all laughed at that, including Sean.

Another great bit was when Sean was asked to talk about his favorite “behind the scenes” moments. He said that during the filming of Firefly they got to goof around a lot on the set and it was always a good time. He said it was great when his mother came to visit him and everyone was so gracious to her.

Sean was also asked if he kept any props or souvenirs from any of his projects. He said that he kept Simon’s boots because they were actually his own boots which he bought at Banana Republic. He joked that he would lay in bed, hold them and cry. He no longer has them though because he donated them to charity.

When I got the chance to ask him a question, I wanted to know if he could go back and choose to be a different character, who would he be and why? He said that he’d want to be River because of her performance. He used the cargo bay scene in Objects in Space as an example of something he’d like to have done. But, he said that Summer played the role so well that the episode still makes him salivate.

One audience member asked him if he’s ever had an experience with an actor he is a fan of. Sean said that he got tongue-tied when he met Billy Boyd and was really nervous to meet Sean Astin because he is a huge Lord of the Rings fan. He also claimed that the one person who could turn him straight was Jennifer Connelly – they once shared a limo and a drink.

When I had an opportunity to ask him a second question I wanted to know his favorite episode from Firefly. He actually had quite a few:

  • Jaynestown – because it was filmed in the desert, there was drinking, there was the statue, the mud… it was a lot of fun to make.
  • Ariel – because he got to steer the ship and really loved the way the hospital looked.
  • SafeDrew Greenberg wrote this episode and it’s Sean’s favorite. He is a big fan of The Crucible, and noticed the similarities between the movie and this particular episode. The scene where River was on the stake still gives him chills.

Later on, an audience member asked if there were any parts that he didn’t get that he wished he had. Sean said he wished he’d been cast as the lead in Dexter, but he thought Michael C. Hall did an outstanding job of playing that role.

He talked about the different Chinese phrases in Firefly/Serenity and how some people struggled on set with them. He uses “mei mei” with his daughter, which means “little darling.” Cue the chorus of “awwww” from the audience.

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Sean also talked about how he had just started watching Orphan Black, which is exciting because I am a huge fan of the show as well. Naturally, my third question (which a lovely friend of mine asked on my behalf) was: Who is your favorite Orphan Black clone? Sean’s answer: Cosima.

Sean made some other statements during his panel that stuck with me:

  • He enjoyed the fact that Simon’s character got his “hands dirtier” in the movie Serenity, compared to his character in Firefly.
  • He likes characters who are flawed and make mistakes, but are still good people.
  • He would do a Marvel movie if given the chance.
  • And one strange story was that Sean stated that he was in Avengers: Age of Ultron; He was a stand-in for Mark Ruffalo for a short period. He said the whole thing was a bizarre experience (in a good way). [this has not been confirmed]

The funniest story he told during he panel was when he was asked what his life is like, expecially since he has kids and is a celebrity. Sean shared a story about when he picked up his daughter from school one day. She randomly asked him, “Did you know that you’re an actor?” He laughed and responded with an obvious, “Yesssss.” She then said, “Did you know you’re on Google?!” This was hilarious to all of us.

There was a very memorable part of the panel where an audience member asked Sean if he had any advice for members of the LGBT community who choose to remain closeted for personal reasons or because they do not have a lot of support. He said that all things unfold in the time that they are meant to and having a support system is important. Having one to two people is good, but if you have three people to talk to, that’s golden. Coming out is a big deal. He is happier now that he is out, and he feels more fulfilled, but he would never put pressure on others to do the same. Everything happens in its own time. I thought what he said was extremely genuine and thoughtful.

I had a wonderful and fun experience with“Simon Tam.” If you ever have a chance to meet him, you should definitely take it!

ALL SEAN MAHER PHOTOS BY: Devon Christopher Adams