Return of the Fab: Tony Lately!

Photo by Dave Nelson
Photo by Dave Nelson

If you don’t know Tony Gowell, get to know him. He’s Dragon Con’s very own institution—a moderator with flair and the gift of gab, a la Graham Norton, who brings guests with disparate backgrounds to the table and spins gold. This year, with the return of his feature “Tony Lately,” on Friday afternoon in the Hyatt Centennial II–III, he pulled a shark-hunting extraordinaire (Ian Ziering), everyone’s favorite Napoleon (Jon Heder), the planet’s funniest human (Nick Frost), and a sci-fi stalwart (Tamsen McDonough) on stage for what can only be described as a fireside chat. As first-timers themselves, the guests were in for a real treat.

Frost kicked off by introducing himself as “46-year-old Aries. Classical dancer’s body.” Heder, on the other hand, doesn’t care if you know he is, and Ziering, who still looks like he just walked the halls of West Beverly Hills High, gave a classic “blah, blah, blah” when going through his credentials. McDonough gave a shout-out to her homeland: Canada, where, as he pointed out, Gowell married his main squeeze.

When asked if he would consider a role in the James Bond franchise if it were directed by frequent collaborator Edgar Wright, Frost said, “Absolutely, yes… I’ve always wanted to be a Bond villain.” McDonough would gladly be a Bond girl, one aptly named Scarlett Fever or Helen Bed. Heder said it “would be rad to hold a gun” and be in an action film as Henchman Number Three, and Ziering mused that he’s perhaps aged out of the role.

Ziering, who has appeared in all six of the Sharknado franchise films, was thanked by a fan for helping her meet her now husband. Seeing that the film helped them find love, Ziering said, “Clearly you belong together.”

While the movies have been an incredible experience, Ziering made it clear they are just as messy and weird as you’d expect in production: cold shoots in Romania, dumb dialogue, and excessively long scripts with a try-everything-and-see-what-sticks feel. Once he was asked to say, “Let’s do the time warp again,” for which he couldn’t muster enthusiasm.

“It just didn’t make sense… even in that world,” Ziering said, before deadpanning, “I just didn’t have the depth as an actor to sell that.” He called the Sharknado franchise “schlocky” movies that are often struggles—like their subpar craft service tables or cheap special effects. Think leaf blowers to imitate wind storms. “Blow me down here, not in my face,” Ziering again joked (with fitting gestures), while also expressing love for the campy series.

When asked about Beverly Hills, 90210, Ziering admitted he stole a tabletop jukebox from set as a souvenir and that while he doesn’t see a market for a reunion show just yet, he thinks it’s coming. The full cast, which are still friends, is game, and, with the onslaught of remakes of beloved shows from yesteryear, he thinks it’s just a matter of time.

Frost talked about his love for the losing football team West Ham United and the fun of working with mates, including his good friend Simon Pegg, with whom he’s made three films (in order of most fun): Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Paul (which he’d love to make into a TV series). And, while he and Pegg may not see each other for months on end, they did start a production company last year and also pick up like no time has passed. “Friendships evolve,” he said, but the important bits always remain the same.

Heder interjected that directors “want the cast to get along” even if they act like a bunch of kids, which is “a good problem to have.” He said he’s a big homebody, but he has loved every cast and crew he’s worked with. Heder’s varied, and unexpected, acting career started with the cult hit Napoleon Dynamite, where he performed the now legendary dance sequence to Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat.” When asked about recreating it, he tells fans, “No, no, guys, the Napoleon dance is just from your heart.” It was freestyle and made up on the fly over multiple takes. Heder told the director, “Just play some cool music, and I’ll just dance.” He likened it to filming a love scene—done on a closed set—and said he’d love to revisit the characters in another 10 years “and maybe see the dark side of Napoleon’s sad life.”

Ziering would most want to revisit his animated character from Biker Mice from Mars, just to be able to work with “but-gusting” (unintended, but super funny, Freudian slip) comedians again, and reflected on how his life has changed from his time on 90210, which were his “fun” years. Now a married man and dad, he said, “I’ve traded that fun for joy.”

Frost, who currently appears in Into the Badlands, joked about training—which he says he skips because it’s unpaid work—and that dancing and fighting are alike when he does them. He also, “as a human man” of large stature, often keeps clothes from sets and once got a production to make him a grill (as in the kind for teeth), which he wanted on a personal level. He convinced the production his character needed it.

McDonough once had to teach Drew Barrymore how to walk a runaway, telling her she sucked at it. She also joked that she lives in an apartment building with all of Canada’s sci-fi actors in Vancouver and is already scoping the set of her current show, Killjoys, for potential souvenirs. Heder kept his Tron-like skating costume from Blades of Glory, which could have a part two only if focused on another, sometimes, ridiculous sport, like synchronized swimming—which would be unintentionally awesome, with everyone being wet and all.

Tony Lately. Always fab for Dragon Con.

Author of the article

Kelly McCorkendale is a dog-lover, avid quilter, and occasional creative writer who loves the color orange and boycotts cable (except Game of Thrones because, well, what if winter is coming!?). After college, she realized poets weren’t in demand, so she shipped off to Madagascar with Peace Corps. Since then, she’s found a niche working on health systems in Africa but has a long-list of life tasks yet to be fulfilled--such as perform blackmail, learn a trade, and become a competitive eater. She has an MA in International Education, believes rice is the elixir of life, and, in high school, won the best supporting actress honor for the state of Missouri. She may also recite poetry (her first love) when imbibing in alcohol.

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