I have never been so frustrated to get stuck behind Reptar. At least this inflatable dinosaur had the decency to be holding its tail, so it wasn’t taking up so much room … but man do they waddle slowly.
My husband had managed to break through the crowd and was a yard ahead of me, dodging and weaving as I tried desperately to get out from behind a cartoon character. It seemed like every time I got around him, I ended up getting cut off by Eleven with her box of Eggos or a student from Hogwarts on weekend holiday. But, just as I was about to just shove my way past Belle, a fellow S.G.C. officer saw me fighting my way through the crowd and pulled a little maneuver to block traffic just long enough for me to get by.
This member of SG-1, as her uniform told me, knew exactly where I was going. She had just gotten back from there herself. She already had her mission objective. My mission was still underway …
Mission Objective 1: Rendezvous With Fellow S.G.C. Personnel
I needed to get through the crowd, so I could make it to the autograph area. I could already see him through the throngs of people. Sitting behind his table, head bent over a glossy 8×10 photo, was none other than Jack O’Neill — with “two Ls!” I’m about to meet Richard Dean Anderson.
I am absolutely giddy with excitement, and have been so since 0800 hours when my alarm went off this morning. Even my husband is feeling it. As a veteran of many a convention, this is the first time he’s cosplayed. We’re decked out in our S.G.C. uniforms: classic olive drab for him and desert camo for me. It felt too presumptuous to assign ourselves to SG-1, so we’re repping the S.G.C. with patches on our right shoulders.
For the most part today our costumes haven’t attracted much attention. Yesterday’s Louise Belcher got a lot of comments and some photo requests, but today we are nearly invisible. At least until we make it into the line for RDA. Amongst our people, we get knowing nods and compliments and the conversation flows easily.
“Is this the line for Richard Dean Anderson?” we ask the person we think is the last guy in line.
“Does this answer your question?” He holds up his Stargate Atlantis box set, already adorned with multiple cast signatures.
We Stargate fans are in the minority at Dallas Fan Expo (especially with the likes of Ben Affleck, Val Kilmer, and the Stranger Things kids here). But we are a loyal group. I’ve worn Stargate gear to Fan Expo before and I got the occasional nod from a vendor who apologizes for not having their Stargate stuff out this year. The only merch that’s ever really around is the uniform patches or ID badges. The only T-shirt I’ve ever found was a Stargate / Doctor Who crossover: “What do we want? Time travel! When do we want it? Irrelevant!”
We don’t get the embroidered pillows, the cute onesies for our babies, the pun-tastic T-shirts, or the action figures.
This year, though, there is a bit more representation on the convention floor. This year we get T-shirts that vendors pulled out of storage. The patches are still here but selling out quickly. There is one embroidered messenger bag for sale, and a pretty good selection of custom jewelry from one booth. It’s slim pickings, but we are part of the con scene again. And this year one of our own has come to be with us.
I am this far away from Richard Dean Anderson.
Mission Objective 2: Meet Our Commanding Officer
In line for RDA, we talk favorite episodes, quotes, and behind-the-scenes trivia. We talk about Stargate Origins and debate if it stayed true to canon or not. We discuss the merits of Jonas Quinn. We let the MacGyver fans in and just talked about how much we liked RDA’s general body of work and how cool he seemed to be up there at his table, signing pictures (no duct tape or knives will be signed) and talking to his fans.
He has a photo op coming up … and now we start to get worried if he’ll make it through the line before he has to go. It’s nearly 1100 hours and he won’t be back until 1400. I’ve made up my mind that I will sit my happy butt on the concrete floor for four hours to make sure I’m here in line when he gets back. I am not going to miss this opportunity.
As we round the final bend in the line my heart starts to beat a little harder. Sure, his hair has gone white and he’s a little pudgier — but he is the same man that’s been on the TV screen my entire life. His grin is genuine, and his eyes still light up when he’s being sarcastic with the people he is talking with. He’s relaxed and confident, not the slightest bit overwhelmed as he chats, signs, chats, signs, chats …
A young Stargate fan approaches in a homemade S.G.C. uniform and he takes special care to give the kid some attention, even though she was clearly in awe and wasn’t responding much. He was behaving exactly the way I had pictured he would.
I am now thiiis far away from Richard Dean Anderson.
The guest coordinator comes by and lets us know that he’s going to take his lunch break but we, my husband and I, will be the first people up as soon as he comes back. I’d made up my mind, I was staying, no matter what it took, so I was okay with waiting.
Then the money-taker calls us up. Confused, but not questioning it, we go up hand over our money and pick a picture: Jack in front of the gate. At this point, I’m mere feet away and he’s chatting with the woman two spots in line ahead of us. I hear him laugh at something she says, and I break into a huge grin. It’s about to happen!
The coordinator stops us and apologizes, saying that he’s got to take a break. Can we wait?
Sure. We take our picture and step back to the head of the line.
Then she calls us back up and says we’ll be the last people before the break.
As we stand there she’s talking with RDA’s manager. From what I can gather, while the manager wants him to take a break, he’s willing to take care of everyone currently in line. (They’d capped it an hour ago, so there were just a dozen or so people still waiting.) The guest coordinator was willing to handle it however they wanted, and they kept going around in circles.
The next thing I know, Richard Dean Anderson is looking at me patiently. I ignore the manager and coordinator and step up to him and smile.
“We’ll let you eat soon, I promise,” I say.
“What?” he asks as he takes the photo from my hands and grabs a pen.
“I know you’re supposed to be having lunch right now,” I tell him. “We’ll get out of your way soon.”
He just chuckles and shakes his head. “I need to lose weight anyway.”
He finishes signing, slides the picture to us and says, “Thanks for coming out.”
I start to walk away, and my husband reaches over to shake his hand. I wanted to run back to the table so I, too, could shake his hand, but I’m self-aware enough to stop myself. Besides, I’m still giddy. I just met Richard Dean Anderson!
The rest of the day at the convention didn’t really matter to me. I was in a happy daze of having met one of my favorite actors and looking forward to his panel the next day. As soon as they open his line Sunday, we’re there and waiting.
Mission Objective 3: Briefing With the General
We get in line for RDA’s panel behind a lady that has traveled from Michigan to see him. She almost went to London to see Amanda Tapping who’s appearing at a con there this weekend, but decided to stay in the states and come to Texas. There’s a young girl, maybe twelve or thirteen, dressed as Jack O’Neill –with her hair tucked up under a Minnesota Wild hat. There’s a man in full S.G.C. BDUs pacing in front of the doors, too anxious to get into line just yet.
We’re not lined up for the main stage. Our panel is in a conference room, and when the doors open we all file in to take our seats — filling the room to capacity within minutes. I think they underestimated the draw of Jack O’Neill! We could have filled the main stage easily. I hope there aren’t too many people turned away.
The host comes out, lets us know RDA is on his way up, and the reel starts. The theme to MacGyver blasts through the room and everyone starts cheering. But, when the reel switches to SG-1 the room goes nuts. They play the interrogation scene from “1969” and everyone laughs like it’s the first time they’ve heard the “Skywalker, Luke Skywalker” line.
Richard Dean Anderson comes out from behind a partition and the room leaps to their feet, screaming and clapping. He greets the crowd, gives us a bow, and discovers the sign language interpreter standing in the corner behind him. Throughout his Q&A he watches her to see how to say certain words, tries to come up with funny things to make her say, and just generally gets distracted by her. Halfway through his Q&A, the interpreter tags out and another takes over! They were both good sports, trying not to laugh when they noticed him trail off because he was fascinated watching them.
What follows was originally meant to be a precise transcript of the Q&A, but my phone ran out of storage mid-panel. So instead, it is a good faith paraphrasing based on my notes, with the occasional direct quote I was able to scribble down. (If anyone does have a full recording of the panel- send it my way and I’ll make a proper transcript.) The few things in quotation marks are the direct quotes I managed to scribble down.
The host tries to start off the conversation with a General Hospital question, but the conversation very quickly turns to MacGyver. RDA knows what his fans are interested in …
Q: Who are you most like in real life, MacGyver or Jack?
RDA: Bart Simpson. I think attitude wise I am more like Jack, but with more respect. At home, I’m like MacGyver, just without the adventure. I think overall, I’m most like my character in Legend [a couple of people clap] … eight people? I think I’m most like him, just without the drinking, drugs, and womanizing. I gave all that up years ago … [looks slyly at the audience].
Q: I know you’ve probably seen the MAD magazine spoof of MacGyver. How did you feel about being spoofed? Did it feel like you’d finally arrived?
RDA: I loved that. I have it framed hanging in my house. MAD magazine was my bible growing up, so I really liked getting to be part of it. It was like when I got the call to be on The Simpsons. “My life is complete!”
I’m still waiting on Seth MacFarlane to call. You can put that on the Internet.
Q: What was your favorite stunt?
RDA: My favorite stunt was “Pegasus” — the teaser. MacGyver is in one of those Arabic-speaking countries and he comes riding out on a horse and the bad guys are chasing him down the beach. I guess it was one of those coastal Arabic speaking countries … [he chuckles to himself] and we’re running down the beach and this helicopter comes flying up and they lower a hook down. And I grab the hook and hook it to the saddle which was made specifically for it — conveniently — and the helicopter lifts us up, so we can escape.
I loved doing that. I wanted to do the entire stunt, but they wouldn’t let me do the whole thing. The stunt guy went like 300 feet up. They only let me go about 30 feet up. The horse loved it. He was just hanging there. Real calm. It was great.
Q: It was left ambiguous in the series, but do you think Jack and Sam ever ended up together?RDA: [smiles] All the time off camera. [The crowd cheers] No, that was something that we had to be respectful of because of their relative ranks and being in the Air Force. There are rules that they couldn’t be together.
But, we did so many “other universe” stuff, and I always get confused with all those other universes and timelines and everything, but there was one when Jack and Sam got to be together. I was out of uniform and everything, so it was okay. And I got to make out with her all afternoon … I mean Jack and Sam got to.
Q: What was your favorite episode?
RDA: The Groundhog Day one [“Window of Opportunity”].
Q: I grew up watching MacGyver and that show, in part, helped me develop a love of math and science, which I’m going to school for now. How do you feel being part of a show that influenced so many people and their lives on a daily basis?
RDA: I am always pleasantly … baffled by these characters inspiring kids in real life. I talk to people who became scientists and engineers because of MacGyver. Today I had a Marine, and someone in the Air Force, and … Army? [looks into the crowd and sees a couple of hands raised] — Army, too. I feel great knowing it. Well, I feel guilty sometimes too.
Moderator: MacGyver was just a genuinely good person. He was not just a hero but a good guy.
RDA: ABC was really taking a chance on a non-violent hero. Someone who didn’t carry a gun. But that appealed to families. Especially fathers and daughters. Not to take anything away from mothers and sons, but I hear a lot of stories of fathers and daughters bonding watching MacGyver. He was the exact opposite of the A-Team.
Q: What was it like working with the late, great, Dom DeLuise?
RDA: [Laughs] It was good. Peter [DeLuise, director of “Urgo”] and I had a shared sense of humor, we had a rapport and got along really well. Dom was a “pain in the butt” and the “funniest man on two wheels” but he couldn’t stay on script. I remember Peter took him aside, behind a flat, and we all just heard “Goddamn it, Dad! You’re killing me!”
[He wipes sweat from his face] I really sweat. If you’re doing a photo op with me after this, I’m so, so sorry.
Q: I know you used to play guitar and sing. Do you still play? If so, what is your favorite song to play and sing?
RDA: Tchaikovsky in D Major. I really like Leo Kottke [pauses and looks around the room]. No one? Look him up, he’s great!
You know, I used to, when we were traveling around the world doing the MacGyver movies somewhere, in England, I decided to get a guitar at every major filming location I went to. I went around the world and would buy a guitar. You should really look up Leo Kottke.
Q: You mentioned “Window of Opportunity” …
RDA: I did?
Q: … the Groundhog Day …
RDA: Oh, the Groundhog Day episode!
Q: In that episode where there any jokes or gags that didn’t make it into the episode?
RDA: We used everything we did. At that point, we had everything so locked down and were sticking to the schedule that if we shot it, we were using it. I don’t think there’s any jokes that we didn’t use.
Q: What is your favorite part of acting?
RDA: “I hate packing.”
Q: No, acting.
RDA: Oh, acting! That would be a serious answer, which we’re not in the mood for here. Everyone has their process. I really lean on my training from acting school.
Q: How much did you get to ad lib on Stargate? Who was the biggest jokester? Did you guys ad lib a lot?
RDA: Biggest jokester? Teal’c.
Q: Did you ad lib a lot?
RDA: See, here’s the thing. It’s important to set a rapport with the crew and cast. Early on in read-through, I would ad lib lines and ideas. But it turns out that’s very disrespectful. Read-throughs are a luxury and they take a lot of time, and by screwing around I was wasting people’s time.
Brad Wright actually took me aside and told me “I was being selfish” by taking up too much time. He’s right. At a read-through you have to respect the writers and their work and the other actors and all the time that’s gone into it. So, I waited until I was in front of the cameras to ad lib.
Q: Who was your inspiration?
RDA: For what?
Q: For acting.
RDA: My dad, actually. My dad was a theater director in Minnesota. He would direct plays and I would go to his rehearsals. I remember thinking he had so much poise and power. The image just stuck.
I remember at one rehearsal they were rehearsing a birthday party scene. And of course, they weren’t going to use a cake at rehearsals, but it was a big birthday party. I remember them bringing out just this big plate of Twinkies. And I remember thinking, “If I can get a job that gives me free Twinkies, that’s what I want to do.”
And with that perfect final question the Q&A was over. Richard Dean Anderson ran off to do photo ops (apparently very sweaty ones), and my mission was complete. I was really happy to find out that he is just as cool in person as you’d expect him to be. There is a lot of Jack O’Neill in him — or, more accurately, a lot of RDA in Jack O’Neill.
If you ever get the chance to meet him, do it. It is worth the trip, like the lady who came to Texas from Michigan. And if you can, spring for the autograph and photo op. Just remember, he apparently sweats.
Also, someone get Seth MacFarlane on the phone.
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