Fan Expo Canada 2015: “Potter” Stars Visit Toronto
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of representing MuggleNet at Fan Expo Canada, an annual multi-genre convention in the heart of downtown Toronto, celebrating sci-fi, horror, comics, anime, and gaming. With 127,000 attendees last year, it is the third-largest fan convention in North America, and it continues to grow.
Although this was my first time representing MuggleNet at an event like this, I’ve been to Fan Expo a few times before, and it astounds me how much it has grown in just a few years. Fan Expo is a thriving community of geeks, nerds, artists, exhibitors, cosplayers, celebrity guests, and even professional cosplayer celebrity guests. It covers both the North and South Buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. On the busiest days of the con, it can be a struggle just to walk through the tightly packed mass of people that covers the convention halls, hallways, and escalators. But I don’t mind it too much – it’s all part of the experience!
This year, I was very excited for the strong Harry Potter presence that would be at the convention, although the guest list was quite a roller coaster in the weeks leading up to the event. Originally slated to appear from Potter were Tom Felton, Bonnie Wright, and the Phelps twins. But a couple of weeks before the event, it was announced that Bonnie Wright had canceled and Tom Felton would most likely be canceling as well due to his filming schedule. To say fans were disappointed would be an understatement. Luckily, a few days later we learned that Tom had rearranged his schedule and would be able to make it after all!
Finally, just a few days before the start of the con, it was announced that Rupert Grint would be attending in his first-ever convention appearance! That’s enough to make any Potter fan want to Apparate straight to Toronto.
The convention kicked off with a Quidditch match, which was attended by James Phelps. The competing teams were Ryerson Quidditch, a Toronto university Quidditch team, and Valhalla Quidditch, Toronto’s community Quidditch team. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it in time for the game, but Fan Expo posted a photo of the event on social media:
The Potter stars regrettably weren’t giving any interviews, but I did get to briefly meet Rupert, James, and Oliver when I got their autographs. (I previously got Tom’s autograph when he attended Fan Expo in 2011.) All of them were extremely sweet. They seemed really happy to talk with their fans and shook hands with everyone who came to their autograph tables.
Over the course of the weekend, there were three Q&A panels with the Potter actors: Tom Felton’s Q&A was on Friday morning, the Phelps twins’ Q&A was on Friday evening, and the Hogwarts Reunion panel with all four actors was on Saturday evening.
Tom Felton Q&A
I really enjoyed Tom Felton’s Q&A session. As an experienced convention guest, he seems to be very in touch with the fan base and really enjoys answering fans’ questions. It also sounded like he had gone out of his way to make sure he didn’t have to cancel his appearance and disappoint fans, and the audience was very appreciative of this.
One of the first things Tom was asked about was being Sorted into Gryffindor on Pottermore, and he seemed embarrassed to talk about it. He said that he tried to answer the questions in a mean-hearted way but nevertheless was placed in Gryffindor.
He was very complimentary toward the Canadian audience, recounting all his positive experiences in Canada, and said that he always found Canadian fans very friendly, passionate, and polite. (The “polite” comment elicited audience laughter at the stereotype.)
When asked if he’d seen A Very Potter Musical, Tom faked out the audience by saying “A Very what?” and then, “Of course I’ve seen it.” He said he’d decided to watch the musical after being asked about it at conventions for a couple of years, and he found it very amusing. He joked that Lauren Lopez should have played Malfoy in the movies.
My favorite thing that Tom said was in response to the last question, which was about the best piece of advice he’s gotten. He responded,
I don’t know who taught it to me, but I definitely learned it over the years: Everyone is the same. We’re all the same people. We all do different things, but [we shouldn’t] let barriers or countries or colors, creeds, ages, whatever, make any difference because ultimately we’re all from the same place. [We should] just love and respect everyone, and there’s not really much merit in hating.
I was incredibly happy that he said this because it’s exactly what the Harry Potter series and the Harry Potter fan community is about. Hearing it from him was one of the high notes of the con for me, and he got a hearty round of applause from the audience.
James & Oliver Phelps Q&A
I was very excited for James and Oliver’s Q&A because, despite the fact that they seem to attend a lot of events around the world, it was their first time at Fan Expo, and I had never actually seen them before. I wasn’t disappointed.
One fan asked how it was decided who would play Fred and who would play George. Oliver told an amusing story of how they didn’t know until they went to the first script read-through. They had to ask the casting director, who at first thought they were joking. When she realized she didn’t know the answer, she walked over to Chris Columbus, David Heyman, and J.K. Rowling. They had a brief conversation in which they kept looking up at James and Oliver and looking down again. Finally, she came back and said, “James, you’re Fred. Oliver, you’re George.”
When asked which Deathly Hallow they would choose, Oliver said he would have to choose the Elder Wand. James said he would choose the Invisibility Cloak, explaining that he was at a Toronto Blue Jays game a couple of days before but didn’t have very good seats, and he’d like to use the cloak to sit on the field.
Another fan asked how much the Weasley twins had influenced James and Oliver’s own personalities. They both agreed that Fred and George had indeed affected them. James explained that when they started filming, he was quite shy, but because he was playing a class clown, he decided to try being more upbeat in real life as well. It worked out well for him, and he concluded that “life’s too short to be serious all the time.”
The Hogwarts Reunion panel was one of the most anticipated events of the convention. Fans lined up for hours to see Rupert, Tom, James, and Oliver answer questions while exchanging friendly banter. They seemed to be really glad to be together for the first time in a while, and it was lots of fun to be in the audience.
Tom said that they’d been trying to convince Rupert to come to a convention for years, and Rupert replied, “It’s a real pleasure to lose my convention virginity.”
When asked if he still has his ice cream van, Rupert confirmed that he did and would never get rid of it. He later added that he also has a hovercraft and jokingly recommended that everyone should get one.
One fan asked what time they would travel to if they had a Time-Turner. Oliver said he’d like to relive the final film’s premiere at Leicester Square. Rupert amusingly said that he would probably rethink his hairstyle in the fourth film, and Tom responded that he had warned Rupert it would come back to haunt him.
One of my favorite moments was when they were asked what their favorite line that they spoke in the films was. They all gave perfect deliveries of classic Potter lines. Oliver said, “Moooorrning.” James followed with, “Well done, dragon!” Tom said, “Scared, Potter?” And Rupert concluded with, “She needs to sort out her priorities!”
As you can imagine, Harry Potter cosplayers were out in full force. Here is a sample of the Potter costumes seen around the convention, including me in my Ravenclaw robes.
All in all, this was definitely the best experience I’ve had attending Fan Expo Canada so far. Hopefully, there will be just as much Harry Potter action for Potterheads to get excited about next year.
And let’s also hope that Rupert has caught the convention bug, and we’ll be seeing him at more cons in the future!
Did you attend Fan Expo Canada this year? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
With photos by Heather Abela