Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images
San Diego Comic Con is full of very talented actors who play strong, interesting heroes – as well as their villainous counterparts. With so many panels going on at once during the convention, it can often feel like you’re missing out on your favourite stars. Fortunately, each year Entertainment Weekly brings us a variety of these men from both film and television and hosts a panel where they share their experiences, opinions and often very embarrassing stories. That panel is called EW’s Brave Warriors and this year was the best one yet. Moderated by Lynette Rice, the 2019 panelists were William Zabka (Cobra Kai), Cameron Cuffe (Krypton), Cress Williams (Black Lightning), John Bradley (Game of Thrones), Aidan Gillen (Project Blue Book) and Michael Emerson (Evil).
Nostalgia seemed to be a theme for this panel and we were immediately taken back to the past when Rice asked the men to play a game of “Watch This/Yes, I Actually Appeared in That,” where they discussed previous roles in their career we may not know about. Cress Williams gleefully told the audience of his part as Silky the Pimp on an episode of NYPD Blue – “I’m very proud of my Silky work”. John Bradley lamented his ‘blink and you miss it’ uncredited role in Anna Karenina as a grumpy looking man on a train. His one line got cut but he wasn’t surprised – “You always know the size of the part if you don’t have a name”. Cameron Cuffe is still amused at having the starring role of the snowman present at the birth of Jesus at his school’s nativity play, and Aidan Gillen spoke about various public information films he did, as well as an episode of The Bill which used to be seemingly a right of passage for every British actor.
Going further back, first time acting headshots were discussed. William Zabka was only 10 years old when his were done. Michael Emerson was slightly older but recalled that his involved a lot of foliage. Cuffe, Bradley and Gillan all admitted to hating having their photo taken and that they believed their “faces were better in motion” with Cuffe’s agent advising him to have a few shots of vodka before getting headshots. And Williams rather sheepishly admitted that there was an embarrassing arm flexing pose picture that he taken in his younger days that he wished he could eradicate.
There were lots more embarrassing admissions for the panelists when Lynette Rice asked them to raise their hands if they had ever done any of the following things. Gillan admitted to trying to slide across a car hood in a badass way. Both Zabka and Williams confessed to some manscaping regrets. Williams and Gillan admitted to using their stardom to get things they wanted. Rice then questioned why Cuffe hadn’t raised his hand for any questions to which he nobly replied “I’m Superman’s bloody grandfather”. However, it was Cuffe who had the most embarrassing story of all. Reading some advice from a body building blog before a big love scene, he cut out carbs for 3 weeks then feasted on them the day before said scene. But the bodybuilding blog left out some crucial information. “When you flood your system with carbohydrates when your stomach isn’t used to it, you’re gonna look great, but you’re really gonna need to poop. Really, really badly. Really, really suddenly.” He tried to fart to release pressure but got more than he bargained for. Somehow he made it through the scene and raced to the bathroom but he learned his lesson to never again take advice from bodybuilding blogs.
Gillan suffered a slightly less but still embarrassing situation after a love scene where the crew left him handcuffed to the bed in a collar as a joke. Williams told of a project where is love scene partner got very drunk before filming – “I took it personally”. John Bradley boldly stated that he brings a bit of his own lovemaking into these types of scenes. When he was met with laughs and gasps from the audience, he claimed that everybody does. Gillan was quick to counter with “Literally no one else in the world does that”. From all of this Emerson was brought to the “sad realization that none of the characters that I play have romantic lives” before admitting that the only on screen kiss he’d had was with his real life wife and “I’m pretty sure we did it wrong”.
The embarrassing anecdotes continued when Rice asked them to discuss their favourite childhood toy. Cuffe proudly claimed “I had a Woody” which was met with laughs from both the audience and his fellow panelists. He quickly corrected himself to say that he’d had a Woody doll. Bradley admitted that he used to collect photos of the Spice Girls. Zabka told of a toy motorcycle that he melted when he discovered matches for the first time.
The conversation got slightly more serious when Rice asked what advice they’d give their younger selves. It was a question they all stopped to think about with Cuffe again mentioning not reading bodybuilding blogs. But it was perhaps Emerson who had the sweetest, simplest answer – “Don’t worry so much and have fun”.
And with that, Rice transported us to the present day to discuss the panelists current roles and what playing a hero was like. Zabka talked about the fact that his character used to be so hated and now he had a chance to change people’s perceptions and be the hero – “For the first time in my life people are saying they love my character which is a nice feeling”. Through the sacrifices his character makes, Cuffe had the realization that “Being a hero isn’t about you, it’s about everyone else”. Williams noted that he’s proud of the character he’s playing as a person – “He’s such a noble person without his powers”.
The final question for our warriors was linked to heroism – “What was the last brave thing you, not your characters, did?”. Bradley immediately remarked with a laugh “Given the vocal feedback for Game of Thrones season 8, being here at Comic Con. Zabka stated that his heroics were linked to his children who he would do anything for. Williams claimed that living in Atlanta despite his fear of bugs and dislike of heat felt pretty brave. Gillan recently saved a goldfish from a cat. Emerson admitted that he doesn’t live the type of life where opportunities of heroics occur. He added – “I’m more likely to challenge myself to be kinder” which really resonated with the audience perhaps due to it’s honesty and realism. Cuffe closed out the panel by telling of his rescue and rehabilitation of a dog who hid away for the first few months but now sleeps in his bed every night. He summed up why we as an audience resonate with these heroic characters, how anyone can be a hero and most importantly why bravery matters – “Do something small and it might make a difference, and then it’ll be worth it”.