Before beginning, I would like to once again thank my friend AmyinSydney for providing the images in this “BurCon” report. As previously mentioned in my first BurCon report, I had trouble with my camera over the weekend and she really helped bring sweet pictures for you to enjoy here. Please visit her at her cool blog sweetondean.blogspot.com. Thank you AmyinSydney!
I should start off by saying that when Fate created Misha Collins, the mold was immediately broken and the blueprints burned. The Powers That Be knew that Mr. Collins’ fans would someday dub him “The Overlord”. They knew that he would inspire people to raise insane amounts of money and travel halfway around the world to help the less fortunate, or spend ten days of their lives working around the clock to fulfill baffling items on a Guinness World Record-breaking scavenger hunt list.
They knew it all. So the mold was obliterated.
In the interests of journalistic integrity, I should state that I have a bit of a prejudice in Collins’ favor, having spent some time with him in 2011 as a member of Random Acts’ Hope2Haiti team. (Random Acts is the charitable organization that Collins founded in 2009; the Hope2Haiti project raised over $200,000 for the orphaned and underprivileged children of Jaqmel.)
I encountered him again in November during aforementioned scavenger hunt, which was entitled the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen – or “GISHWHES”, for short.
GISHWHES saw over 6,000 people participating all over the world (including me and my mother), trying to get photos or videos of things like someone crossing the road with a live chicken, or attaching helium balloons to a fully-decorated Christmas tree with the intention of making it hover – one of the high-flying tannenbaums escaped its handlers and drifted dangerously close to active airspace, putting the local airport on alert. Each item was assigned a particular point value, and the winning team will be flown to Rome for a weekend in April, all expenses paid. Each participant paid $10 to play, and whatever money was left over after expenses will be rolled into Hope2Haiti 2012.
Collins’ life on Twitter has also garnered a reputation for being somewhat whimsical and unpredictable – and by saying “somewhat”, I am making a gross understatement. For example, Collins never refers to “Supernatural” (that show that has made him famous) by name; he usually calls it something like “the reality series about two brothers who hunt elves” (quote taken from the official season six companion book for “Supernatural”).
The fact that Collins is, in real life, such a quirky, one-of-a-kind individual stands in sharp contrast to his character, the often-humorless, gravel-voiced, rebellious angel Castiel. But his fans (whom he dubbed “minions”, and who in turn dubbed Collins “the Overlord”) have lovingly embraced both Collins and his character. They also seem to enjoy asking him some of the most random questions they can formulate when it comes to his panels.
I was standing in the question line myself, as I had been rehearsing a query for over a week. So I got to witness Collins’ panel up close, rather than having to sit back in the general pass seats.
He started things off by coming out on stage and saying nothing for roughly forty-five seconds, looking around the room with a complacent smile on his face instead, just to see what kind of reaction he could get. “I was just thinking, Maybe I can do the whole thing without talking,” he finally said. “Wouldn’t that be an interesting challenge!”
After some salutations, he observed, “There’re a lot of you here today. Yes, good. Several of you seem to be awake – we’re off to a good start!”
Collins turned to the first fan, who was wearing a Castiel t-shirt. “I like your shirt, that’s ME on your shirt,” he said. The fan said she had made it, clarifying that she had drawn the design and then sent it in to a printing company. “Oh, you DIDN’T make it,” Collins corrected her. “I was picturing a work, a weft, and a loom…I actually make all of my clothes…I grow cotton in my backyard…that way I always know where my clothes come from.”
The fan then asked, Have you ever tried improv comedy, since you’re very quick-witted? I wanted to kiss her, since I believe that cast members are so fast on the draw that comedy sports (a la “Whose Line Is It Anyway”) should become a tradition at conventions, alongside Karaoke Night.
Collins revealed that he has done improv comedy, and then discussed some of the basic rules of the craft. “…Basically, you say something and then I make something up and I say it back to you.” (This is called the “Yes, And…” rule.) He elaborated on other mainstays. “One of them is, whatever someone says, you kind of have to embrace it and agree with it and go on. You’re building on some crazy, imaginary story. Another one is, you never ask someone a question, cuz it sort of just makes your mind go…’Uuuuuhhhh’. And the other thing is, you don’t hand somebody an imaginary piece of paper and say, ‘Read this letter to the audience’, cuz it’s just mean.”
But then he spoke about how his co-star, Richard Speight, Jr., would be terrible at improv, citing his behavior at the panel that had happened moments before. “I was noticing that Richard violates every one of those rules.” Collins then did an impression of Speight. “‘Noooo! And now, Robert – read this piece of paper!'” He admitted, “It’s fun to be mean like that sometimes…I know that for a fact…”
The second question fell into the “This Fan Might Have Been Smoking Pot” category. What are Castiel’s feelings about cheese, and what is his favorite kind? After a few seconds of slack-jawed puzzlement, Collins asked, “Okay, is this the direction things are going today?… First of all…I’ve laid these rules down before, but I’m gonna do it again… No more weird, hypothetical questions about cheese, period. Those’re off limits. Second…probably like a triple-cream gouda cheese…a nice hearty brie with a pungent smell… He doesn’t actually eat food, so for him it would be purely decorative. He would probably use it just as a body lotion.”
Is there a movie or a TV show that has made you cry? “…I’m taking stock of my inner emotional self right now, deciding whether to share this with you… I cried when Jim Beaver died – or, I should say, Bobby Singer. Jim Beaver is, as you know, still alive.” Collins’ reaction to the death of the Winchesters’ beloved father figure surprised even himself, considering her knew that it would happen and had read the script. (The episode IS devastating, to be fair. I watched it when it aired and have not been able to view it again.)
Collins also confessed that “emotional radio stories” get him choked up, when listening to NPR, for example. (I wanted to give him an NPR Fan Solidarity Fistbump.) In addition, scenes where a hero steps in front of a crowd and has an “O Captain, My Captain!” moment, as in “Dead Poets Society”, do the trick as well.
When Castiel sucked up the souls in Purgatory, did he find any ginger souls? Modern urban myth says that gingers (redheads) are soulless – and (as a ginger), I disagree, despite what my Twitter profile says. Collins was struck wordless for a bit again, but then declared, “…The souls that he sucked into his being were at about 58% redheads. High concentration of Irish in there, for some reason. The Irish tend of get stuck in Purgatory, I don’t know why.”
How did Collins handle moving between the characters of Castiel, his human vessel Jimmy Novak, and the briefly-seen-but-incredibly-creepy Leviathan-possessed Castiel (that has been dubbed “LeviaCas”)? “Castiel came along just because the directors and the producers gave me some notes, and I read the script, and I had some ideas of how that might evolve… And then Jimmy Novak was just sort of, uh…winging it…” (I wanted to add a drummer’s rim shot there, but no one else seemed to get the pun.) “And then the Leviathan thing…what I did was, I sucked a bunch of monsters into my body and then just let that play out naturally… That’s sort of cheating.”
The next fan’s question involved the GISHWHES event, so Collins asked any GISHWHES participants in the room to stand. (I was already standing, so I just raised my hand.) “Wow,” he said in response to the high number of people who rose. “A pretty high percentage of you wasted ten days.” (“Accurate,” I laughingly commented to the man standing next to me.)
The fan continued that she had not been able to make it to the now-infamous GISHWHES Pasadena event – infamous because Collins himself showed up – because it had been scheduled on her mother’s birthday. “There IS such a thing as priorities,” Collins admonished her. “Your mom’s birthday took precedent over something that made no sense? That sounds like a pretty co-dependant relationship.” He asked where she lived; when she replied she lived right by The Grove, he commented that he knew an excellent family therapist in the area.
She finally got around to her question : Will GISHWHES be happening again in 2012? “It was awesome, I have to say – I had so much fun coming up with the ideas and things for people to scavenge… For those of you who don’t know what it was, it was a scavenger hunt, and it was very epic. There were almost 40,000 items submitted [from over 600 teams], which was kinda crazy. And we got a Guinness World Record…
“One of my favorite items from that was the two-foot-tall seagull made from tampons and maxi-pads. These things were beautiful! The sculpture work people did was incredible, and because they’re all a uniform size, if you put them all together, you would make a very compelling-looking flock of seagulls. I wanna try to get them all in one place so they meet each other and maybe mate… I’m gonna get everybody to mail their…seagulls, and then I’m gonna decorate some trees [in public spaces] with this giant tampon, maxi-pad – it would be like Flight of the Tampons! And then it dawned on me, the minute it rains…I don’t believe tampons hold up that well under moisture, so that would be an interesting metamorphosis.”
Collins then went on to describe the Pasadena event; Item 21 instructed people in the Los Angeles area to show up on Indiana Avenue in South Pasadena on the day before Thanksgiving, dress in comfortable clothes, and bring work gloves. (Since I live about forty-five minutes from Pasadena, I got the day off and convinced my mom to make the trek with me.) “This was my friend’s idea, cuz my friend was like, ‘I got a s—tload of landscaping to do…they had a huge pile of rubble in their backyard, and I was like, ‘Great! We’ll just make that a scavenger hunt item and we’ll take care of that.’
“…We didn’t give the address…and everybody found this vacant lot on Indiana Avenue and were like, ‘This has got Misha written all over it.'” (I can vouch that this was EXACTLY what we were thinking at the moment, and I was surprised that the neighbors refrained from calling the police.) “…And then someone sort of figured out, some lone straggler figured out, ‘No, it’s down HERE.’ And I was hiding, watching everybody, and it was like a stampede… I told my friends, ‘You should probably be prepared for like, five or six people to show up, so make sure you have some bottles of water.’ And the whole road was full of people, it was pandemonium!
“So they spent all morning and into the early afternoon pouring concrete and digging trenches and doing all this stuff. And I was the only person there who had any construction experience whatsoever, I was the manager overseeing everything… And then it took my friends like three weeks with hiring a contractor to get stuff back to where it was so they could start over, cuz we just DESTROYED their backyard…but who cares? And we all had pizza, which is good.
“The people who came to that are now my best friends. We all get together every Tuesday night and have a knitting circle…”
Next Up : The Hilarity Continues in Part Two…
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