Another year, another Supanova Pop Culture Expo!
Another year, another expo full of pop culture goodness as Supanova, Australia’s combination Comic-Con, Dragon-Con, Anime Expo and more, blasts into town! And of course, the Supa-Stars are a no-brainer when it comes to highlights.
Does it get much better than Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher from Star Wars? What about David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff? Perhaps Bradley James from Merlin or are the Weasley twins, James and Oliver, from Harry Potter more your style? And then there’s the dead sexy Karl Urban who’s still up on the big screen in Star Trek Into Darkness! Supanova’s also showing off anime voice-actors like Lauren Tom from Futurama, Superman comic book artist George Perez and fantasy-writing legend, Raymond E. Feist who penned Magician.
For many though, it’s simply about the colour, the vibe, the atmosphere of everyone having fun and revelling in a space full of fellow fans in costume. Punters can also pick up cool stuff at hundreds of stalls from exhibitors, watch the wrestling, hangout at the Nintendo booth or take part in stuff like the Anime Trivia comp. There are also competitions like the Madman National Cosplay Championships and the old school cool Australian Timezone Supanova Pinball Championship! – Daniel Zachariou, Supanova Organiser.
Eoin Macken is used to the adoration of fans. The Irish actor portrayed Sir Gwaine on long-running series Merlin, and is constantly quizzed about the program by devotees at pop culture expos and conventions. “The fans are just really nice,” Macken says. “Far from being intense, everyone’s actually really cool and really chilled. I think a lot of the interest is generated by the show, but then they stay interested in what I say because they’re able to see how much we enjoy what we do.”
Merlin debuted in 2008 on BBC One, as the project of writers Johnny Capps, Julian Jones, Jake Michie and Julian Murphy. The alliteratively-named quartet have since collaborated on the more contemporary series Demons, yet it is their fantastical exploration of the Arthurian legend that remains an enduring favourite: its five seasons have been broadcast in multiple languages throughout 183 countries.
Fans were in uproar when it was announced the fifth season was to be the last outing, with the final episode airing in Britain on Christmas Eve last year. Luckily Macken and other key members of the cast – including Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Tom Hopper (Sir Percival) – have made time in between acting commitments to sit down and discuss the intricacies of the program at culture conventions.
Adelaide and Brisbane were treated to visits by Hopper last November, and this June the Englishman is joined by his fellow Knights of the Roundtable in Macken and Rupert Young (Sir Leon). As a bonus to those fans who felt aggrieved by the cancellation of Young and Macken during last year’s visits, the once and future king Bradley James (Arthur Pendragon) will join his cohort.
“So far people have been really nice to me,” Macken says, referring to his participation at pop culture events in America and Britain. “I don’t think it’s a secret that I quite like talking and having a good yarn. When you’re at that kind of a gathering people want to ask lots of questions, and I’m very happy to talk about most anything and everything.”
Despite the show coming to an end, the family of actors associated with it are still close. “I still live with Bradley (James),” Macken says, “and I’m actually on the way to a screening of a film I made with Tom (Hopper).” The film in question is Cold, Macken’s directorial effort that has just concluded the final stages of post-production.
“We’re doing a small screening in London tonight with some friends and family,” Macken says. “We did one in Dublin for my friends and family over there recently, and they’ve all responded brilliantly.” Has he found his family to be his harshest critics? “Well my mum and my sister are quite cynical, and they both loved it: If you can make your mum happy, then you must be doing something right,” Macken laughs.
Macken has just returned from filming in the desert near Albuquerque, New Mexico. He’s working on a new series for NBC called The Night Shift, which sees him teaming up with Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror, Six Feet Under) to portray doctors who have returned from conflict in Afghanistan. He is aware that it seems a world away from Camelot.
“Everything I’ve done has been quite different,” the Irishman says. “I do a lot of writing for film, which is quite intellectually challenging. And then I get to enjoy myself interacting with people at conventions, and talk about some of my acting work. How could it not be enjoyable when people pay you loads of attention? How could anything be better?” he laughs.
BY BENJAMIN COOPER
Think of a major film franchise, from The Lord Of The Rings to the Bourne films, and it’s likely that Karl Urban is involved somewhere. The quietly-spoken New Zealander actor has established himself as a major star over the last decade. His favourite role, however, is as the gruff doctor Bones in JJ Abrams’ revitalised Star Trek series. “I felt I had a good handle on the character, just by virtue of the fact that I’d been a big fan of the original show. Bones is irascible, and he has a dry sense of humour, but he has a heart of gold and would do anything for his mates. That’s what makes him such a great character.”
Though the new Star Trek films are multi-million dollar action blockbusters, they retain a sense of fun and playfulness. There’s a great deal of money at stake, but Urban says that the environment on set is always relaxed and affable. “That is just part of working on a film with JJ,” he says. “It’s a very fluid experience. He’ll come up to you in the middle of a scene and say ‘why don’t you say this instead?’ Vice versa, you feel you can do the same to him. It’s a very freeing experience, because you’re not shackled to what’s on the page. JJ’s confident enough in his abilities and the abilities of the actors that he allows a bit of freedom. The results certainly show on screen.”
The nascent friendship between Urban’s Bones and Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk is one of the long-running threads of the films. Urban enjoys their sometimes prickly interactions, but says he feels that there is still a lot more of the friendship to explore. “I really enjoy working with Chris,” he says. “He’s a smart young guy, he’s very funny and he’s a generous actor. I definitely consider him to be a mate. We’ve made two of these movies now, but I think that we haven’t yet explored the extent of the Bones-Kirk friendship onscreen to the same extent that the show did historically. It’s definitely there, you can see it, and I look forward to being able to explore it more.”
Indeed, a lot of people are very excited to see a third instalment of the new Star Trek films. With JJ Abrams himself now splitting his time between this franchise and Disney’s new Star Wars films, there are no guarantees as to when or how it will happen, but Urban remains pretty confident that it will. “The only certainty in life is that there are no guarantees,” he laughs. That being said, the whole cast is signed on for a third film, and JJ is signed on to produce. Given the box office success of the second film, I have no doubt that a third will happen. I can’t predict the extent of JJ’s involvement – I don’t know if he’ll be producing or directing or what, but I certainly am looking forward to seeing his Star Wars, that’s for sure.”
As for Urban’s immediate future, he is working on a futuristic TV procedural called Human, also created by Abrams. I ask if there may be a small part for him in the Star Wars universe, but he seems fairly adamant that this won’t be the cast. “I don’t think so,” he says firmly. “I don’t necessarily see the two universes crossing like that, in terms of cast members from Star Trek being in Star Wars. Then again, that’s entirely up to JJ. For me personally, I’m too busy for the next couple of years to work on that, anyway.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN