Strike Restrictions Have Made Fan Conventions More ‘Meaningful,’ Actors Say

“Star Trek: Picard” actress Michelle Hurd tells TheWrap that “we feel like it’s more personable, we get more intimate”

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Though strike guidelines prevent actors who participate in conventions this summer from promoting most of their work, it turns out that hasn’t lessened the experience. In fact, several actors told us at FanExpo Chicago over the weekend, their interactions with fans at cons have become more “meaningful.”

“One of the biggest things that we wanted to make sure [of] in our negotiating committee, when we were talking about the cons, is we wanted to make sure that we didn’t chastise the actors, or chastise the fans, because of what the big business is doing,” Michelle Hurd, “Star Trek: Picard” actress and SAG’s Los Angeles VP explained to TheWrap. “So we wanted to maintain this relationship.”

But that relationship hasn’t just been maintained, Hurd said, it’s arguably improved — and she hasn’t been the only one who’s noticed.

“I have to say, I have had some of the most interesting panels because of that, because the fans have been asking us different kinds of questions,” Hurd explained. “I was talking to Sonequa [Martin-Green] about this, and Anthony Rapp last weekend, and we feel like it’s more personable, we get more intimate.”

That intimacy certainly held true for Mira Sorvino, who made her convention debut with FanExpo Chicago.

The actress told TheWrap that most of her first day was full of fans not only explaining how much her work meant to them, but how much the work of her late father, Paul Sorvino, meant to them.

She noted that she teared up multiple times on Saturday, as loving memories of her father were recounted to her.

When SAG joined the WGA on strike in July, San Diego Comic-Con was the first convention to be hit, resulting in undeniable weirdness for the event (though not to its detriment), and a concern for events like it for the foreseeable future.

Since then though, guidelines from the guilds have been released, laying out a path for actors to continue meeting their fans at conventions, even if they couldn’t talk about specific projects.

And now? “We are asking more questions rooted in our lives and livelihoods as opposed to just the shows. So, to me, it’s been great. I think it’s been a sort of a new awakening of these cons,” Hurd said.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” and “The Last of Us” star Gabriel Luna felt much the same way during his time in Chicago, especially alongside old friends and co-workers.

“I agree entirely,” Luna told TheWrap. “I think, specifically the panels, you get up there and we have more of a, you know, kind of a meaningful conversation about what’s important to us as people.”

He continued, “And you can help kind of lay a little bit of a groundwork of what kind of got you to the place where you’re sitting at that moment. You’re kind of talking around all the work stuff, but it’s just a lot of fun questions.”

Danny Trejo, a longtime convention veteran, was on his eighth straight weekend of convention appearances with FanExpo Chicago, but couldn’t have been more thrilled to still be able to do so.

“This the most fun I have,” he told TheWrap. “This is like a vacation for me, I get to see people, I get to meet people. On a film, you’re like, go, go, go, go, go. And here, it’s kind of a relaxed, neighborhood — Dora the Explorer is right there — so it’s kind of a, it’s just a huge family.”

(Indeed, Kathleen Herles, the original voice actress behind the children’s animated series walked past our conversation at that moment).

And though Trejo noted that he always talks about more personal things during his appearances, the one thing that he, and all the actors we spoke to at the event felt seemed to be distinct support and understanding from fans amid the strike.

“I feel like I could ask our Trekkie fans to — they were literally asking us, ‘What can we do? We are ready, we are galvanized, we are literally like, you know, hold us back. You just tell us where to go. And we’ll go,’” Hurd joked.

“And, I mean, I thought that was incredibly powerful and heartwarming. It wasn’t that they were mad at us, because we couldn’t do these things, they were more like, ‘We absolutely understand what you’re doing. You’re fighting for the right cause, you’re on the right side of history.’”

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” star Barry Bostwick, also a staple of fan conventions at this point, echoed that sentiment, and added that he particularly appreciated being able to be at the Chicago convention and not feel like he’s betraying the guild or the fans.

“I get a lot of sympathy for the fact that we are struggling as so many unions are,” Bostwick told TheWrap. “And I’m mostly talking about ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ which is not a Screen Actors Guild signatory. It was something we did through British Equity 48 years ago. So I don’t feel like I’m being a scab.”

Hurd added that many people that spoke to her had similar experiences in their own field, something Gabriel Luna noted as well.

“Everybody understands what it is to be in a situation where you’re not being taken care of as people who work very hard, and contribute so much of themselves, and their time, and time away from their families,” he said. “And it’s, regardless of what type of work we do, there’s an understanding always of them getting over the little guys. And that’s something we can all kind of identify with.”

For Luna, whose convention appearances really ramped up more in the last year or so, coming to events like this felt vital, particularly amid the strikes.

“I just felt that is still important,” he said. “There’s so much we can still do, be together, and experience this, and witness love for love’s sake. That’s kind of what it feels like when you’re at these things. Just for the sheer love of a character, or a show or a specific design element.”

For all of TheWrap’s WGA and SAG strike coverage, click here.