Actors from ‘Lightning Bug’ Visit Dragon Con

Sean Maher, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite, and "Tony Lately"
Photo by Curtis Barton

Well known by Dragon Con fans for their unforgettable roles in the shiny space western that never should have been cancelled, Gina Torres, Sean Maher, and Jewel Staite answered a variety of questions that were light years away from the standard topics at the 10AM Friday “Tony Lately” panel, led by moderator Tony Gowell, in Hyatt Centennial II–IV.

One of the earliest questions, for example, was tots or fries? Maher declared it a Sophie’s choice, but Staite chose tots because she doesn’t find French fries all that exciting. Torres turned to her in astonishment and declared that she didn’t even know Staite at all. Torres added, “I love a good French fry, but tots have their place.” When Gowell moved to the next question, Maher revealed his comedic side by answering the tots/FF debate by declaring with a grin, “Hash browns!”

From there, the conversation segued to their last Waffle House order. The audience was shocked that Maher had never been to one of Atlanta’s staple restaurants, but Torres soothed their ruffled feelings by revealing that she’d been there twice in the last two days. She likes their bowls the best and thinks they’ll give attendees enough energy for a full day of Dragon Con fun. Speaking of food, when asked to choose an eighth wonder of the world, Maher named Waffle House, Torres picked the cronut, and Staite smilingly said “Dragon Con!” When the audience cheered, Torres turned to her a jokingly murmured “Suck up,” and cheers promptly morphed into laughter.

When asked what superpower they’d like the most, Staite said she’d like the power to heal people, but she wouldn’t want to advertise her ability because of the inevitable line at her door. Torres would like to time travel. “I’m a bit of a history geek, and I’m nosy as [expletive deleted].” That wasn’t the first time the PG guideline was accidentally broken. Staite joked that there ought to be a curse jar on the table, with the proceeds to benefit this year’s Dragon Con charity cause, CURE Childhood Cancer.

Torres spoke about attending the recent royal wedding, calling the experience, “hectic—as hectic as Dragon Con.” She added, “Your feet hurt at the end of the day…there’s that guy you couldn’t get rid of,” etc. Maher said that Gina “looked so [expletive deleted] beautiful.” (That jar would have been filling up, thanks to Maher, who grinned abashedly whenever he noticed one of his slips.)

When asked what pets they prefer, surprisingly, Maher would like to have a pet pig. Torres would love to have a large property so she could have a bunch of useless but adorable miniature animals to cuddle. Staite has two Ragdoll kittens and is obsessed with them because there just so cute. She’d love to have more. She thinks she might “eventually become a crazy cat lady.”

The panelists also talked about mentors and people they admire. Maher doesn’t have a particular person in mind because he always leans on people for help whenever he needs it. Torres named the amazing Diahann Carroll. “She changed the game for black women,” Torres said. She had the good fortune to meet Carroll and become friends. Torres called her “my glam mom. She had the most wicked, naughtiest sense of humor,” she added. “Representation matters.” Staite said she’s more interested in chefs than actors, so she didn’t really have an acting mentor. As for a person she admires, loves, and respects… “Nathan [Fillion]’s not here,” but she’s learned a lot from him.

Apparently, Fillion had a hand in perpetuating one of the funniest mispronunciations of their names. After a commercial aired about a certain Lightning Bug space western of yore, the announcer pronounced Alan Tudyk’s last name as “too-dike.” Nathan immediately began to mispronounced their names in a voice like the announcer’s. He didn’t escape his own wit. He called himself Nathan Fie-lion, Torres became Tors, etc. Staite says their mistake was laughing the first time he did it. “You shouldn’t laugh around him,” she joked. He did it for years afterward.

They’ve also received some strange compliments. All three have heard the you-look-just-like comment, but that pales next to Staite’s experience on an elevator right here at a previous Dragon Con. “Has anyone told you that you look like Jewel Staite?” a man allegedly told her. When everyone in the packed elevator laughed, he said, misunderstanding their glee, “No, no, no! It’s a compliment!”

After a time-capsule question that elicited such items as and Ernie radio, a New Kids on the Block sleeping bag, and an Ewok village playset, the enjoyable hour came to an end. Remember, you never know who might share an elevator with you at Dragon Con, so keep your eyes open and your wits about you.

Author of the article

Debbie Yutko lives near Atlanta with her husband and two cats. When she isn’t gardening, rescuing homeless kittens, or cramming math formulas into teenagers’ brains, she can be found stringing words together at her computer and dreaming of adventures in far-off lands. She is a lifelong reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy and a veteran of Dragon Con, where she enjoys attending panels and working with the talented staff of the Daily Dragon.

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