Avalon 2006. November 24-26, 2006
Convention, Wells, England
Following each Question and Answer session, everyone was escorted downstairs to another large room in the Bishop's Palace. Here, amid columns and arches and magnificent stone fireplaces, tables had been set up as an elegant dining area. Those in the morning sessions enjoyed morning coffee with cakes while the afternoon sessions were served cakes with afternoon tea. Each round table seated nine people, with a vacant space for Richard and Amanda to join the group for more intimate conversation. The seating had been assigned, and at each place the guests found a little gift box containing a personalized charm. Each charm was matched to an interest of the individual fan, and no two charms were alike. Designed to be used on the stem of a wine glass to identify to whom it belonged, the charms were also intended to spark conversation as guests got to know each other.
Initially the plan had been for Richard and Amanda to circulate among the tables separately and to use the charms as a starting point for conversations with the fans. However, Richard and Amanda preferred to circulate together, and as they joined the fans at each table, the topics of conversation covered a broad spectrum beyond the charms themselves. Richard and Amanda seemed particularly interested in learning about where the many fans had come from, and they willingly answered any additional questions posed to them that had not been asked before.
Richard in particular seemed to enjoy trying his hand at speaking some of the many languages that were represented. With a smattering of foreign language phrases at his command, he delighted in surprising and impressing the fans with a few common expressions. Upon learning that several fans at one table spoke French, he proudly announced, "Je suis un Américain" (I am an American) and "S'il vous plait" (Please). At another table with several Spanish speaking fans, he tried out, "Hola" (Hello) and "Como esta?" (How are you?), and then surprised the fans by asking, "Viene a mi casa el Sábado?" (Want to come to my house on Saturday?) Amanda, too, had an opportunity to try some foreign phrases. When a Belgian family asked if she spoke French, she responded, "Un petit peu" (A little bit).
Richard and Amanda were especially intrigued to learn how many fans had come from great distances, and how many fans lived relatively close to each other but had only met through the internet and their mutual interest in the actors and their work. At one table, three women from Yorkshire discovered that they lived only miles from each other, but had only met for the first time that day, and Richard was delighted by the coincidence, declaring it, "so good!" He was fascinated by the countless stories of the "Stargate" series bringing together strangers who had now become friends, and he asked fans for details about where they were from. One of the Yorkshire women described her home as "Up north, where Yorkshire puddings come from," and Richard thought he remembered having had Yorkshire pudding before, recalling that it is not meant as a dessert and asking, "It isn't a sweet pudding, is it?"
As Richard and Amanda approached one of the first few tables during the Friday afternoon session, Amanda began a conversation with a young couple from Germany. Suddenly, the young man knelt on one knee and spoke to the young woman, with Amanda looking on. As the young woman responded with a startled but enthusiastic "yes," Amanda stood up to cheer and announced to the room that the couple had just become engaged. There were congratulations all around, with the young man accepting a hug from Amanda, and the young woman receiving a kiss from Richard. Everyone was delighted by the surprise, but as they moved on to the next table, Richard asked jokingly if any proposals were about to happen at this table as well.
Many of the questions brought up at the tables had to do with "Stargate." Richard was asked what he thought of the first "Stargate" episode that had aired without him. He admitted somewhat sheepishly that he hadn't seen it, but then clarified that he hadn't watched most of the episodes in which he had appeared either. He went on to say that it had been time for him to leave, and he knew that the show could go on without him or without any one of the main cast. He described how he had missed his daughter, and how she had often said to him and to her teachers that she didn't want him to leave. Their separation and his commute to be with her had even started to affect his health, and he had finally made the decision to put Wylie first.
Someone else asked Amanda if it was really true, as Richard claims, that he never knows what is happening on the set. She answered that it is indeed true, and Richard added that in his role as executive producer he would have a say in the writing and the editing, but that when it came to shooting, he did as he was directed and knew nothing about the bible of the series.
On Friday morning, Richard was asked if he would be appearing in the final "Stargate" episode, "Unending." Months earlier he had gone to Vancouver to shoot several scenes for season ten, but because he doesn't follow the series closely, he hadn't been sure if any of those scenes might appear in the finale. He turned instead to Amanda to ask, "Am I?" and when she shook her head, he answered, "No, I won't be." Asked if he had been approached about appearing in the upcoming "Stargate" movies, he answered that they had spoken to him as a producer because he owns rights to the franchise, but that so far no one had asked him to appear in the movies. Amanda said she would keep her fingers crossed that it would happen, and everyone at the table joined her in crossed fingers. Amanda also mentioned that she is the executive producer of a new project, although it was too soon to elaborate, and she hoped that Richard would be in it. Richard laughingly acknowledged that she hadn't formally approached him for that, either, but she assured him that she was only just now planting the seeds.
On Sunday, Amanda was asked to describe what it was like on the "Stargate" set on the final day of shooting. Richard was also curious to know the answer, and commented, "Good question." Amanda responded, "It was emotional. We were in denial. The last shot was of the team going through the stargate, and Chris refused to go up the ramp in rehearsal. He just wouldn't do it. He wouldn't go until the moment we actually shot the scene. Then we walked through and Chris started crying, then Michael and myself. Then the whole crew came over... Chris, Michael and I went up to the briefing room and looked through the window at the stargate. We'd started off like that ten years ago. We'd just stood there looking at it going 'Wow, it's big! And we get to go through it!' Now it's ten years later, and it's over. We just stood there with our arms linked, looking down, and no one said a word. It was very emotional. We're looking forward to doing the DVD movies and hope they go well. But there were a lot of tears… Also a lot of champagne." When Richard was asked what his final day of shooting had been like, he replied, "Nothing like that! They said, 'That's it for Rick!' And everyone clapped, and then it was 'Bye Rick!' That was about it!"
Asked about the future of "Stargate," Amanda confirmed that the series had not been picked up for an 11th season, but that there would definitely be two movies, probably for DVD. She had also been asked to do several episodes of "Stargate Atlantis," and she described how much fun she and David Hewlett have when playing opposite each other as Carter and McKay. As yet, the details for the upcoming movies were largely rumors, and no one knew for certain what was happening. Amanda offered optimistically, "We live in hope!" to which Richard added, "And I live in California!"
Another topic that came up frequently during the Meet the Guests sessions was Richard's work with the environment. One fan asked him whether his work for the environment had given him more or less faith in humanity. He gave the question serious thought and said it was difficult to answer. He admitted that he has seen some awful things, which can be depressing, but that he has also been inspired by the people who take action to make a difference, and he wants to do more to help.
Another question to Richard was, "You went to Tibet once. Are there any plans to go back?" Because of the volume of the other conversations in the room, it was difficult for him to hear the question, and he misunderstood at first, asking, "I wet the bed once?" Then he went on to answer that it had been an amazing trip but that there are no plans at the moment for a return visit.
Richard was also asked if his National Geographic films were likely to be released on DVD. He explained that the project wasn't time-constrained, so nothing had yet been put in place regarding release and distribution. He was pleased, and perhaps a bit surprised, by the notion that there was an anxious audience awaiting the completion of the project.
Several of the questions took a lighter tone. Amanda was asked if she still has her belly button ring after having given birth to her daughter Olivia. She answered, "Oh yes," she does still have the ring. She doesn't wear it all the time because it can sometimes get in the way or catch against her, but she does put it in every now and then to keep the piercing open. Richard, overhearing the conversation, simply asked Amanda, "She asked you about your belly button ring??"
Richard was asked if he still plays the guitar, and he answered that he had recently taken out his 6-string and then his 12-string to restring them, but he had given up playing them because it was too difficult. He had lost the calluses on his fingers, which makes it more difficult to play now. Amanda added that she plays the guitar as well, but admitted that Richard is much better.
Referring to Jack O'Neill's Minnesota cabin, Richard was also asked if he has a pond where he lives, but he answered that he has a whole ocean nearby.
In another conversation about Richard's series "Legend," Richard described how he had modeled the character of Ernest Pratt after his own grandfather. Asked whom of his three characters, MacGyver, Ernest Pratt, or Jack O'Neill, he would most love to meet for a drink, he answered immediately, "Ernest Pratt."
Richard also spoke about his daughter Wylie, who has taken an interest in pursuing acting. She has tried out for acting, singing, and dancing, and not only loves it but has been doing very well. Wylie was spending the Thanksgiving holiday this year with her mother, which made it much easier for Richard to get away during the holiday weekend to come to Avalon. He joked that he would otherwise have been spending Thanksgiving with his brothers, but "without Wylie, the rest of us don't really care about each other!" Then he added with a grin, "Thanksgiving is the one with the Pilgrims, right?"
Since the visit to England was brief, both were asked if they had enjoyed the trip, and if they had had many opportunities for sightseeing. They hadn't been able to do much touring, but Amanda described how windy it had been during her visit to Glastonbury Tor, and Richard said that he was hoping to see "The Henge." Both of them were very impressed by the place where they were staying. Amanda likened it to "something from a Merchant Ivory movie," but Richard kept talking about the two dogs that lived there. One was rather listless, which he described as "basically a rug," but the other one was 14 years old and had taken an instant liking to him. He said she would keep walking to the gate and then coming back for him to take her for a walk and to play with her. His bonding with the dogs was a highlight of his visit.
Since Richard has a reputation for avoiding most fan conventions, one of the most frequently asked questions during the coffee and tea sessions came from anxious fans wondering if he was enjoying himself or if he was nervous or frightened at his first official convention. He responded that he had heard the rumor about himself that he was afraid of conventions and that "people seem to think that." He explained that he isn't nervous, but he simply feels awkward in crowds of people. Comparing Avalon to larger events, he added, "I adore this more intimate gathering where one can talk to people individually. I love it! It's not anonymous like most fan events." Another fan who was also attending her first convention announced that she too was a convention virgin. Richard suggested that perhaps they should start a club, "Rick's Convention Virgins," but then they would no longer be virgins for future events. Both Richard and Amanda said that they were having a very good time, and they would love to do it again.
As Richard and Amanda worked their way around the room, each table got to enjoy about five minutes of their time for more intimate conversation. When all the tables had been visited, the fans were dismissed by table and directed back upstairs to the room that had been set up for photos. Each person posed between Richard and Amanda as their picture was taken. The pictures then appeared digitally on a computer screen so that each one could be checked for quality in case a retake was required. At first, Richard amused himself by leaving his position after each picture in order to peek at the computer monitor himself. There he made a face or a comment as he inspected and approved each image before moving on to the next one. Eventually he trusted the volunteer whose job it was to check each picture, and he remained in position with Amanda to greet and pose with each new guest. Both were tireless and endlessly patient as each of the 580 guests received their moment of personal time and their photographic keepsake.
Many thanks for the additional photos from:
Carmargue Ltd., Legends Memorabilia, UgzY, Trekkie, Astra, Raquel, Teresa, Beverley J Barrett, dove0709, DMD, Wendy & Kelly & Scott, Diana, Gator101, Marieta, and Gabriele Gerritsen
Transcript written by KateR. Avalon 2006 is a production of Carmargue Ltd. Wells, England. November 24-26, 2006.