Our primary reason for attending this year concerned two of the celebrity guests: Kevin McNally and Walton Goggins. Kevin played Jack Sparrow's best friend/ex-Royal Navy sailor Mr. Gibbs in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. He also appeared in Season 7 of Supernatural as conspiracy theorist, Leviathan-tracking computer whiz Frank Devereux. Walton Goggins is best known for his starring roles on 3 different FX series:
- Transsexual Venus Van Damme on Sons of Anarchy
- Southern-fried Detective Shane Vendrell on The Shield
- Raylan Givens' coal mining buddy and Gulf War vet-turned Harlan County crime kingpin Boyd Crowder on Justified
My cousins and I never missed an episode of Justified during its run. I binge-watched my way through The Shield in a matter of less than 3 months. I was apprehensive going into the con, as last year Ryan Hurst canceled at the last minute. Fortunately, Tommy Flanagan stepped in, so I was still able to meet one of the Redwood Originals.
Had you been with us the moment we first stepped onto the con floor, you would have heard my cousin Michelle and I cry out, "BABY!" A restored jet-black 1967 Impala was parked at the entrance, an old green cooler sitting by the back tire. Michelle, proudly sporting her Team Sam shirt, was overjoyed at getting to sit behind the wheel of the Winchesters' ride. As a Dean girl, so was I!
It was time for our scheduled photo op with Kevin McNally, so Michelle and I made our way to the photo op room. We got checked in and shown to the correct line. One of the con staffers actually had to go track Kevin down, because the guy had no idea anyone had scheduled a photo with him. Throughout our wait, we remained the only two in line. I was first. I nervously told him what a big Pirates fan I am. Kevin smiled and said, "Arrr! Let's do a pirate fist bump!"
Later, we went to his booth for autographs. I mentioned how we'd enjoyed his turn on Supernatural. He jokingly asked, "Did you wonder 'How did that guy get another job?'" He told Michelle and I we were lovely little dears and thanked us for watching his work. With a flourish, he signed both of our Pirates posters with the message "Keep to the code." Throughout the course of the convention, we'd occasionally spot Kevin roaming the floor and people-watching. He always gave us a smile and a friendly wave. Oddly, no one ever seemed to recognize him. Maybe it was due to the fact he shaved off his signature pirate beard.
The next afternoon was our meeting with Boyd Crowder himself. I donned my SOA bandanna and my new Farmington Strike Team shirt. There were a lot more people in line to meet Walton than Kevin. My cousin and I were standing there talking to the people in front of us when, out of nowhere, Walton popped out from around the corner of the photo set. "HOW ARE YOU DOIN', KENTUCKY?" he bellowed, scaring both of us out of our skins.
Walton's question was greeted by a round of screams and applause. There he was: the tall lanky country boy with cockatoo hair and skinny jeans, exactly how he looked on Justified. Though neither of us find Walton physically attractive, Michelle and I both became increasingly giggly and nervous as the line dwindled. Once again, I was first.
"Hey, baby, how are you?" Walton said, pulling me into a one-armed side hug. "And what is that on your shirt, darlin'?" He slowly read, "Farmington District Strike Team." He laughed and said something to the effect of "How 'bout that?" He thanked me when I mentioned that I loved his work as Boyd and Shane.
Later that afternoon, we went to his autograph booth. My dad told me that if I met Walton, I had to tell him about our adventure to Harlan. A few years back, we made a 3-hour drive to see an exhibit of Justified memorabilia that turned out to be the size of a small china cabinet. When I related this tale to Walton, his jaw dropped and I thought his eyes would pop out of his head. "Oh, darlin', I am so sorry!" he kept repeating. He wrote on my poster: "Hope this makes up for that LAME trip."
Michelle was next in line. Walton smiled and said, "I remember you!" She's very shy and turned bright red. Walton noticed I was standing next to her and asked if we were touring the convention together. I nodded, explaining that we were cousins and how I had arranged the Comic Con trip as a spring break/family vacation. "You are so sweet!" Walton said. Michelle managed to tell him how much she liked him on Justified. He signed her poster with Boyd's famous quote: "Fire in the hole!"
My cousins and I were lucky enough to get front-row-center seats at Walton's panel the next morning. It turned out this was his first comic convention, so he wasn't sure how the whole thing was supposed to work. Every time someone caught "the question cube", he'd remark, "Kentucky basketball!" I was lucky enough to grab the cube once. I asked if he had any favorite onset memories from his days on FX.
I expected to hear about some shenanigans involving Timothy Olyphant. What I got instead was one about his days as Venus Van Damme. His last day on that shoot, he basically dared the entire cast of SOA to feel up his fake boobs....and they did. In the panel, Walton came off as a very kind, articulate, funny guy. His takeaway message for us convention-goers was: "Love transcends everything. And that's not a song, folks, that's the fuckin' truth."