The marathon continues! Our first six installments in this miniseries brought you all the photos my wife and I took of various costumes and cosplayers appearing at the first annual Indy PopCon last weekend in Indianapolis. Links are enclosed at the bottom of this entry for fun and clicking.
And now for something completely different: Part Seven chronicles one of the one-and-a-half events we attended at the Indy PopCon Main Stage: an hour-long Q&A with Sylvester McCoy, celebrated thespian and player of spoons. The following writeup is a rare guest contribution from my wife Anne, marking her fourth appearance in writing under the MCC masthead. Please note some questions are slightly paraphrased, but most of them weren’t complicated enough for us to misrepresent. Beyond some light editing, I turn the floor over to her. Geronimo!
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When they’re not at their booth or away eating lunch, some celebrity guests will participate in special Q&A sessions. In the hopes of getting good seats for the costume contest starting right after McCoy’s Q&A, and, because we thought he might be interesting, we found seats right behind the VIP section.
For Q&As, the celebrity generally sits on a stage while a line forms on one side of the room of those who want to ask a question. The celebrity will answer or deflect the question as needed. Conventions have their written rules, but they also have their unwritten ones. Q&A etiquette includes the following: no rude or overly personal questions (that means no religion, no politics, no guffawing about their nude scene in one of their earliest films), no monopolizing time by asking multiple questions or getting into long personal stories, no asking for favors (autographs, photos, kisses, giving of gifts, etc). In other words, taking up limited question time by holding others in the room hostage to your whims is not cool.McCoy started off the hour by demonstrating his ability to play the spoons. Then the emcee brought up two kids adorably dressed as the Doctor and Radagast who demonstrated their own spoon playing. A few moments of McCoy and the kids playing the spoons before they got hugs from him and departed the stage.
Then McCoy decided to shun the stage and run around the panel area to get questions himself from audience members who raised their hands. We’ve seen other celebrities do this before at other cons. This certainly made for an energetic and lively exchange. The following is a sampling of the questions McCoy was asked and his answers. This is not an exact transcription, nor is it every question he was asked. But he was thoroughly entertaining, kind and, in the case of one fan, enduringly patient.
Q: “Where did you learn to play the spoons?”
A: “In prison.”
McCoy elaborated that he was part of a local musical group and they didn’t have any instruments left, so he learned to use the spoons. “Then they sent me to prison”.
Q: “Where did you learn how to line dance?”
A: “In Indianapolis.”
Q: What was your most embarassing moment? (At this point, McCoy is in the middle of the room and quickly stops to put the microphone in front of a person coming in late to the panel, asks her name. She says it’s Michelle and he asks if he can call her Michelle. She says “yes” and he says, “You can call me Mr. McCoy.” Then he turns to the questioner and answers.)
A: “I don’t remember what my most embarrassing moment was. It was too embarrassing.”
Q: Someone raises their hand and asks for a Selfie.
Q: “What is Martin Freeman really like?” (This is one of our least favorite questions to hear a celebrity asked. Basically, it translates into, “Tell us about someone more famous than you!”)
A: McCoy gushes about how wonderful Freeman is and even offers that he himself was considered for the part of Bilbo in Lord of the Rings, but: “Someone else got it. I hate him! I hate him! I hate him!”
A: Yes, the entire costume and umbrella. He also felt the pullover with all the question marks on it was overstating it. The Who scarf was originally presented to him as a Tartan one, but they didn’t want him wearing a Scottish scarf, so they showed him a selection of scarves and he deliberately picked out another Scottish one.
One tongue-tied questioner is reassured, “I don’t bite, except on Saturdays. What day is it? Saturday?” Then pretends he’s going to bite the person.
Around this time, he notices someone following him around with a camera. He stops to make sure she knows he knows she’s following him. She asks for a photo with him. He says, “No, now’s the time for questions,” but does give her a hug. Unknown if this is the same person earlier who asked for a selfie. (McCoy was at his booth all afternoon signing autographs and taking photos with fans for a very reasonable price. The booth/table is where fans should get those things. The line wasn’t even long. As stated above, it’s not good convention etiquette to take up Q&A time to ask the celebrity guest for what basically amounts to freebies.)
We then watched this same person sit down and spend lots of time vainly trying to snap a photo of the quick-moving McCoy for the rest of the session.
Q: “What was it like doing the Five-Doctor Special?”
A: They did it over the course of a year, thinking that they were going to be a part of the 50th Anniversary Special. This turned out to be kind of an unofficial program when that didn’t pan out. At this point, McCoy stops to ask the deaf interpreter on stage if he’s talking too fast.
Q: Playing spoons in The Hobbit?
A: He actually put wooden spoons in his pocket and walked around in front of Peter Jackson, who actually thought it was a great idea and wanted to put more of that into the movie, but it just never found its way there. By accident, McCoy calls Middle Earth “Middle England”, then admits that they’re basically the same place.
[An aside from me: in the Extended Edition of An Unexpected Journey, Supplemental Disc B (which I sat through this evening) contains a ten-minute segment about McCoy just after the 2½-hour mark, confirming he was indeed desperate to turn Radagast into a spoons-playing virtuoso. Alas, Jackson had many nice things to say to McCoy, but not once do we hear him say, “Let the wizard play his precious spoons!” Call it a lack of spoilers for the third movie, I suppose. — R.]
Q: Favorite role?
A: “Ham roll.” Then elaborates that he just loves acting. He has certain favorite ones, including the Doctor, Radagast, and the Fool in King Lear, in which he once performed with Ian McKellen.
A: He loved Leela (Louise Jameson, companion to Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor) because she was so attractive.
A member of the audience raised his hand by holding a small guitar aloft. McCoy: “You’re not going to hit me with that banjo, are you?”
Q: “What do you think of Peter Capaldi’s casting?”
A: “Bleeping wonderful.” [That’s a direct quote, not us old prudes censoring. — R.] McCoy thinks that casting an older man as the Doctor is a good thing. In Britain (he doesn’t know about the US) older people are subject to a lot of disrespect. That’s why he keeps coming to America, so no one will put him in a nursing home. (…he jokes? Hopefully?) For young people to see an older man as a hero is a positive thing for him. Nothing against that “12-year old” Matt Smith.
Q: Who did he enjoy working with?
A: Sophie Aldred, who always laughed at his jokes; David Rappaport.
Getting a handshake from a fan that lasts a little too long, he quips, “Can I have my hand back?”
Q: First exposure to Doctor Who?
A: He watched episodes with Patrick Troughton in them after the football pools while he was living in a rooming house. Never saw a Hartnell episode.
The wandering fan who asked for a photo with him and got a hug asks if he can slow down his walking so she can take a photo of him.
“No, it’s not picture time,” and heads off to get another question.
Q: What was the scariest Doctor Who monster?
A: Weeping Angels or (to a Cleopatria cosplayer with an asp as a prop) “that thing on the top of your head”. The angels were so scary that, one time, when he was in a church with many dark hallways and corridors, he ended up in a pitch-black corner, a light was shined on it and he found himself face to face with a weeping angel. It freaked him out.
Q: Proudest acting moment?
A: Farting as soon as he was born.
Q: What was it like working with Benedict Cumberbatch?
A: He actually didn’t work with Cumberbatch on The Desolation of Smaug, but he’s known him for years, owing to Cumberbatch’s mother appearing in the first episode he ever did as the Doctor. He thinks BC has an interesting face. “Sometimes he’s ugly as sin; other times he’s handsome. Unlike me, I’m just handsome”.
Q: Who does he like better: the Doctor or Radagast?
A: They are two parts separated by 25 years. He loves both of them: “A wise time-traveling doctor and a wizard with poop on his face.”
Q: How did he end up being cast as the Doctor?
A: “It wasn’t for the money! Not at the BBC.” He explained that people kept telling him that he would be good for the part, but, when he looked into it after Peter Davison was preparing to depart, they’d already cast Colin Baker. It took a little more time before he was contacted at the end of Baker’s time.
Q: Favorite part of being the Doctor?
A: The conventions. Meeting the fans is something he enjoys.
Q: What does he think is the most heartbreaking regeneration of any Doctor?
A: Colin Baker didn’t come back for the regeneration into McCoy, so they stuck McCoy in Baker’s costume “and lost me for three days.”
Both of his hearts broke when he came back for the movie and he was replaced with that “ugly man from Liverpool.” But he wasn’t upset to only be in the regeneration scene.
Q: “Do you like rice pudding?”
A: “Yes.” (Assuming this is a reference we don’t get. Or a very curious rice pudding advocate.)
Q: How did the Doctor confuse Kate O’Mara (who played a villain) with Bonnie Langford (who played a companion)?
A: Regeneration confuses the Doctor for a few years.
[I don’t get that question at all. Little help? — R.]
Q: How would the Seventh Doctor have handled the Middle Earth problems?
A: “Badly.” But he wonders if, perhaps, Radagast is just the Doctor in disguise.
Q: What other career would he have had if not an actor?
A: “Pope.” McCoy explains that they would have career days at school where professionals would be brought in and give a presentation. At the end, the class would be asked who wanted to be that when they grew up. McCoy raised his hand every single time. Then they brought a priest in one day. When McCoy and another boy raised their hands at being asked if they wanted to be priests, they got the afternoon off to go to the priest’s office. The other boy got scared and took off, but McCoy stuck with it and spent three years studying in the seminary. He was exposed to a world of travel and culture, such as opera, that he did not get in his small town normally. He loved the life so much that he decided to be a monk.
He was 17 at the time, so he went home to prepare for the monastery where he found out he was too young. They wanted him to come back after a year of school. So he went to a public school to wait out the year…and discovered girls. The rest is history.
Q: How did he start the ferret-in-the-pants fad?
A: He was part of a circus show where they did all kinds of dangerous stunts and tried to teach ferrets to run up their trousers. It didn’t work out well, but it started a fad.
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…and then Indy PopCon took the mike away from McCoy and made the Q&A end. Boooooo.
To be concluded!
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Links to the other installments in this very special Midlife Crisis Crossover event are enclosed below. Thanks for visiting!
* Part One: The Costume Contest Winners
* Part Two: the Big-Budget Blockbuster Costumes
* Part Three: Costumes from Comics
* Part Four: the Costumes of the Doctor
* Part Five: Gaming and Anime Costumes!
* Part Six: Last Call for Costumes
* Part Eight: What We Did and Who We Met