When he walked out onto the stage at Comicpalooza for his Q&A panel, he greeted the crowd in an English accent. For those of us who have only heard him talk with an American accent in his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in three Marvel movies, it came as a surprise. Apparently that’s a common reaction he gets when attending events on this side of the pond.
The English actor was the marquee headliner at the 10th annual Comicpalooza, held Memorial Day weekend at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The line just to get into the Main Events room to see him was the longest I have stood in this side of Disney World.
He talked about his audition process and how all of his ballet and gymnastics classes finally paid off when he was cast as Spider-Man. He answered a lot of questions about what it was like to work with the casts in “Captain America: Civil War,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
The latter movie has been out long enough that he could talk openly about the fate of his character at the end. That wasn’t the case with another actor I’ll talk about later.
Despite Holland’s charm and humor, he was shown up by a little scene-stealer named Angel. Holland invited three audience members to join him on stage and the young cherub was not bashful. He plopped down in the same chair as Holland and made himself at home with the microphone. Holland deftly played along with it, even inviting Angel’s brother to join them on stage and later making a FaceTime call to their aunt on the brother’s cell phone.
Once Holland was done, the auditorium was cleared out and a much smaller group came back in to see the panel by Star Trek actors LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner and Jerry Ryan. Burton and Spiner are from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Ryan from “Star Trek: Voyager.” They’re all seasoned veterans of the convention circuit and entertained with aplomb.
Spiner is a Houston native and made several references to local places and even discussed his time working at Astroworld. Burton led the audience in the “Reading Rainbow” theme song. The three of them got plenty of laughs when they absconded with someone’s cell phone. They also had some fun at the expense of the person who was signing for the deaf.
The sign language interpreters had their work cut out for them, especially with the next guest I went to see. Before I talk about him, however, I need to give a huge spoiler alert. If you have not yet seen “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and plan to, please skip the next two paragraphs.
After the Star Trek panel I went across the hall where Ray Park was holding his Q&A panel. Park is best known for playing Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” He was also Snake-Eyes in the G.I. Joe movies and Toad in the X-Men movies. Although he never directly addressed the sign language interpreter, he did make a lot of noise affects and weird sounds that I’m sure there are no way to sign. That and he talks very fast with a heavy cockney accent.
Because his appearance fell on the opening weekend of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” he was not allowed to talk about his secret role in it. He makes a very brief appearance at the end as Darth Maul, who was supposedly killed off at the end of Phantom Menace. At the conclusion of his panel, he posed for a group photo with the audience. As we were leaving, he asked a few of us around him if we had seen “Solo” yet. A lady next to me gushed about it. I reached out and shook Park’s hand and said, “You’re the best surprise in the whole thing.” He smiled and thanked me, but then held his finger up to his lips in a hush motion and reminded me to keep it quiet.
OK, the spoiler alert is over.
I spent a good chunk of my day at Comicpalooza hanging around the booth of the 501st Legion. They are the Star Wars costumers that you can read about on the front page of this week’s paper. I can’t say enough about this amazing group of people and all the fun and excitement they bring into people’s lives. While I was there, none other than Peter Mayhew – the actor who played Chewbacca in several Star Wars movies – and his lovely wife Angie came by to make a major announcement.
They unveiled a coin that the Peter Mayhew Foundation is selling to raise money for impoverished children in Venezuela. Politics aside, the money raised by the sale of the coin goes directly to the relief of people who are suffering greatly. You can purchase the $10 coin at www.coin.petermayhewfoundation.org.
The Mayhews have a long and strong relationship with the 501st Legion and other Star Wars groups. They are all committed to raising money to help people in need. Locally, the 501st primarily raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They’re a wonderful group of people to be around and who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to join them.