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AngelMercedes McNab - Shore Leave-26 Convention - Q & A
Tuesday 20 July 2004, by Webmaster
For the weekend of July 9-11th, 2004, in Hunt Valley, Maryland, the SL-26’s convention committee of over 29 staff members and an additional 25 assistants put together a weekend of events which included an Art Show and Auction, Blood Drive, and extensive Dealer’s Floor, Gaming, Masquerade and Video presentations, Panels with Pros in the Industry (such as Authors Ann Crispin & Kevin Summers) and more; in addition, Autograph sessions and Q&A Panels with featured Guests: Nicole deBoer and Cirroc Lofton (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Teryl Rothery and Michael Welch (Stargate SG-1), Mercedes McNab and Brian Thompson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel), Greg Evigan, Thom Christopher, Manu Intiraymi (Icheb of Star Trek: Voyager), and Clint Howard who have all done Sc-fi stints. But VIP Guests are not the only draw, fan organizations and charity events are high on the list of attendees and one can spend just as much time exploring these venues as in the talk sessions! There was more then enough to fill an entire weekend but here are a few of the highlights.
ALL THINGS HARMONIOUS
Mercedes McNab joins the fans for a comfy Q&A
Mercedes McNab was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada until her family moved to Los Angeles when she was 9-years old. Having taken acting classes her whole life, she stated testing the stage waters by performing in plays and doing commercials until she landed her first SAG job at the age of 10 with the hit cult film, The Addams Family in 1991, based on the popular television series of the 60’s. Following that Mercedes reprised her role of Amanda Buckman in the Addams sequal before landing a starring role in the 1994 film Savage Land featuring Corbin Bernsen. But in 1997, Mercedes auditioned for a small but adventurous pilot about a teenage girl who fought vampires which would change the way she heard bumps-in-the-night for the next 8-years. Mercedes took on the role of Harmony Kendall in Buffy the Vampire Slayer for 4 years before also heading to L.A. and picking up with spin-off series, Angel. Mercedes continued to fight the good fight from the side of evil until the very last episode, an accomplishment only a handful of Buffy veterans can boast. Along the way, Mercedes appeared as guest star in the television hits, Boston Public and Dawson’s Creek where she had one of her most outstanding dramatic performances as Grace in the episode, "Downtown Crossing". But as she stepped onto the stage of a packed hall at Shore Leave-26 her fans welcomed Mercedes with a huge round of applause as she greeted them with as much enthusiasm, "Hello! Good afternoon everyone, how are you guys? I am very excited to be here so thank you very much for having me," she professed as she took her seat. "You guys pretty much know who I am and all that jazz so I’d like to dive into the questions. Why don’t we raise our hands and go from there - all the way in the back!"
(due to the audience not being mic’ed, questions have been paraphrased for content)
Audience Member: What are you working on right now?
Mercedes McNab: "Oh, I hate that question because I’m not doing anything right now. I’m kind of in vacation mode which is my excuse for not having a job (laugh) but it’s slow in the summertime with all the shows on hiatus; nothing is filming and the pilot season is over so after doing the show we finished right at the time when there is no work to really be getting. But soon, I promise!"
AM: Are you happy with the way Angel ended?
MM: "For my own character, at first, I was a little disappointed because I wanted her to end up good and I was worried what the fans would think, ’Oh no, everyone’s going to hate me,’ but then as I read it and saw the final episode and how it worked out I thought it was very cleaver. It just ended perfectly for my character, screwing everybody over and then asking for a recommendation (laugh) it definitely doesn’t get much more Harmony than that. I thought that was pretty perfect and you can’t hate her for that, that’s just who she is and that sums up her whole character in that little moment. I was happy with the way it ended and I liked that there wasn’t, as the episode as a whole, that there wasn’t an actual ending; you never know how the battle went but it was all up to the characters who get their glory going into battle. It didn’t really need to be ended on a definite point."
AM: How do you keep a common narrative thread on a character arc?
MM: "That’s the hard thing with television, in a play or movie you can see the character arc so you know where you are going and where you start and where you end. But with television you don’t have any idea; every episode you’re like, ’Wow, I’m doing this now? How do I make sense of that.’ It’s hard to make it continuous but the writers make it make sense, they don’t just take things and throw them at you out of left field. Or, which is the good thing about sci-fi, anything that they do they can make sense out of; you can turn into a demon one day and it doesn’t have to be based on this whole emotional reality. They don’t have to explain things very well in that genre, but it’s a challenge to make that make sense; you just have to take it script by script."
AM: Which was your favorite, working on Buffy or Angel?
MM: "I loved both of them but I would have to say Angel, just because I was there more frequently and you feel like a family being there everyday where as Buffy I was in-an-out. And it’s hard, you finally remember the whole crew’s names and then you’re not there for two months, then you come back, ’Damn it, I forget everybody again,’ (laugh) so that’s really frustrating. With the actors, they work with each other everyday, they’ve got all these inside jokes and you’re on the outside a little bit so with Angel it was really nice because I was there everyday and it became a family to me."
"[Joss’] thoughts are on such a level that I can’t even comprehend half the time."
AM: Did you know when you originally died that you’d be coming back?
MM: "I never knew the whole time I was on Buffy what the hell what was going on, (laugh) to be honest, I had no idea. They would call me up and say, ’Would you like to do an episode?’ and I would say, ’Sure, send me the script,’ and I’d skip straight to the end, see if I died (laugh), ’Alright, I’m available, I can do it.’ When the episode, Graduation Day, where I got bitten I just thought that was it. I could come back, but you never know, Joss has his own little ideas going on. But thankfully I got bitten, because that was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. (laugh) Who gets to say things like that?"
AM: What is Joss Whedon like to work for? Who’s your favorite and worst person to work with?
MM: "Joss is one of those people, he’s just a genius, and his thoughts are on such a level that I can’t even comprehend half the time because he’s so smart. Someone said they saw him at a restaurant eating at the bar talking with someone, typing a whole episode script, just having an entire conversation at the same time, that’s kind of the level of genius we’re dealing with here. He’s amazing; he’s always got so many ideas and he’s so inspiring to be around because he’s got his energy, and he’s so excited; he’s like a little kid on Christmas. So he’s really fun and awesome to work with. My favorite person to work with? That’s hard, because they all suck, (laugh) no it’s hard because they’re all great! I would say James [Marsters] because in the beginning when I became a more poignant part of the plotline in Buffy, and when he was my boyfriend, we were together in it consistently and I didn’t really work with the other characters that much. Then, until the last season of Angel, we were the ’news kids on the block’ together; that was really nice. I had my first love scene with him, so it’s kind of that bonding experience. And the worst? I’d have to say Angel as a puppet. (laugh) It wasn’t David by any means, there was a puppet with a guy in a blue suit (so they could wipe him out in post-production) with three other people around him; one doing the hands, one doing the mouth. The guy, he’s not an actor, for him it’s how many syllables you use to talk, that’s how you do the mouth. ’How am I supposed to look at this puppet and not laugh?’ and then hear this guy say David’s lines and not completely lose it hysterically. And then when James was rolling around, fighting him (laughing), at first James was taking it very seriously fighting this Angel puppet and then he just started laughing and he said, ’This is absolutely ridiculous, I have to laugh while I’ll fight with him otherwise it just looks really silly.’"
AM: How were you accepted when you first came to the Angel set?
MM: Open arms actually, I was really nervous coming onto a show where everyone’s been there for a while. I’d been on the show once before, I met everybody, except for Amy, so I kind of knew everybody. That was nice and James was there so I had some support, but you’re still nervous and you don’t want to screw up and you don’t want everyone to hate you. You’re freaking out like it’s the first day of school and thankfully David, the first thing he said to me was, ’We’re so glad you’re here this year,’ and Joss was there because he was directing that episode so after that I was like, ’Ah forget it, I can be my usual, nutty self."
The amusing thing about Q&A panels of any convention are the little unexpected surprises that can occur; inevitably another VIP guest will find their way into a talk session and sneak in a question of the unsuspecting guest on stage to the delight of the audience. About two-thirds into Mercedes’ panel, actor Brian Thompson snuck into the hall and took a seat in the second row. "Ah, oh! Troubles brewing! Brian Thompson just joined us," Mercedes announced. As the applause died down Brian stated, "I came here to learn something," to which Mercedes, with her quick wit, replied, "You came to the wrong room!" What you’ll see following in inserts was spontaneous banter between the two for the remainder of the talk session. Some of it was just too funny to omit and shows how much fun everyone was having over the weekend.
Brian: "Could I have a drink of your water?"
Mercedes: (she pours him a glass and takes it to his seat) "Just for you." (audience laughs as Mercedes returns to the stage) "What?" (to Brian) "What did you do?"
Mercedes: "Watch it! I invited you here. I said come help me.
Brian: "You’re mistake."
Mercedes: "Not ruin it."
Brian: "We’re here to question or perhaps harass Harmony."
Mercedes: "So close."
Brian: "I have another question for you."
Mercedes: "Ohh fabulous." (to the audience) "Anybody have any questions?"
AM: If you could play any other Sci-fi role, which would it be?
MM: "That’s hard, there’s so many where do you begin? Just on Angel, Amy’s [Acker] character, how she started off as Fred and then got to be Illyria, how cool is that? As an actor to be to be one person and then be the complete flipside of that person and still be in the same show. That never happens, ever. I didn’t know she had it in her, because she’s real quiet and shy in real life too and that’s kind of how her Fred character is and then watch her play Illyria, it’s like, ’Whoa! Back up, here she comes.’ I was really shocked and pleasantly surprised, her performance was great. I think that would be fun, to be given the opportunity to play two completely different characters in the same show."
CoA: Julie Benz often talks about Darla’s longevity on Buffy and Angel but Harmony can boast the same thing.
MM: "Yeah, I was in the pilot. I’ve been there from the beginning to the bitter end. From the pilot of Buffy to the very end episode of Angel so I’ve kind of been there throughout. It’s a pat myself on the back that I lasted that long, who knew?"
"We were laughing so hard, we just couldn’t keep it together."
AM: Why did Harmony stay with Spike when he treated her so horribly?
MM: "In real life you can ask the same question of your girlfriend who has a crappy boyfriend and why is she with that guy? I remember not taking it that seriously, not getting connected to it as a character, that sadistic relationship that they had. In the one scene where James throws me again the wall and tells me some awful thing I really started to cry at that moment in real life just thinking if that was really me and that was a boyfriend doing that to me, what would that feel like. That really helped give Harmony some depth, she kind of sees what’s going on but at the same time she’s still so insecure, so weak, and she doesn’t really know how to get out of that. But she made progress, she’s reading her books and learning how to kick ass. And eventually kicked his butt and told him to take a hike so she progressed."
AM: Did you know that the cancellation was coming or was it out of the blue?
MM: "We are all talking about [the renewal], we had just done the 100th episode so we’re thinking we’re totally great; all the producers came, the executive producers, the heads of Fox and they’re saying all these wonderful things about us. I had asked David [Boreanaz] what he thought, ’Of course we’re getting picked up next year,’ and I asked James the same thing and he said, ’Of course.’ Then I get a phone call from one of the PA’s because I wasn’t working that day that Joss had made the announcement saying that the show had been cancelled. So it came out of left field, it really was a complete surprise but Joss had said to the heads, ’We really want to know sooner rather than later if we’re going next year so can you do us that favor,’ and then we got a ’no’. Wait hold on, never mind, you want to rethink that answer?"
CoA: How was working on the set the week of "Life of the Party" and you being Carmon Miranda?
MM: Oh, the Carmon Miranda costume was horrifying, but it was fun. One of my favorite moments of Angel was that whole dance party scene. We had to listen to the worst 70’s song over and over and that’s the song I had to dance to. I’m feeling like a total goober because I’m dancing by myself on stage being filmed and I knew that the song they were playing wasn’t going to be the song that actually aired in the episode so no matter how good of dancer I could be at that moment it wasn’t going to match the song anyway. But for the party scene they were playing some head-banging song and Andy [Hallett] and I were dancing together, we had no clue what was going one, where the camera was. There were three cameras; one flying through the ceiling, one walking through the crowd and we started laughing, we were laying on the floor rolling around we were laughing so hard, we just couldn’t keep it together. I had taken Andy scarf and was swinging him around. But unfortunately, on the actual episode, you see about a second of that, so you don’t really get to see how much fun we were having. James, Sarah [Thompson] and I, at the end they’re all having this big fight scene and the three of us are just standing there just on the outskirts of the fight with nothing to do, ’Go team!’"
Brian: "Can you take a phone call?
Mercedes: "Who are you talking to?"
Brian: "My son. Jordan, you want to talk to Mercedes?" (takes the phone up on stage to Mercedes)
Mercedes: "Hello? Who’s this? Hi Jordan, are you Brian’s son? Oh you have a picture of me?"
Jordan: (on phone) "I have pictures of a lot of people."
Brian: "Jordan, the one that was on your bed this week?" (look of shock from Mercedes)
Jordan: "I have a question for Mercedes, is she the one who was fully dressed or half dressed?"
Brian: "Fully dressed."
Mercedes: "Well, yeah!"
Brian: "Say ’good-bye’ to the audience."
Brian Thompson with a special call for Mercedes
AM: How did you feel coming into the show with Charisma Carpenter leaving?
MM: "On a personal level I was a little bit worried because she had left, and I felt I’m kind of talking her place, I thought she would be upset with me but she’s not at all. So it was fine. And on the 100th episode she came back and it was the usual good ole times that we’ve always had, and we had that little moment of a scene together which I wish we had had some more but it was really nice to work with her again but there was no weird animosity."
AM: Did they ever tell you why they decided to kill off Wesley?
MM: "No, one of us had to go. (laugh) You’ve got to have some drama in the show; it’s the season finale. Originally it was Gunn, I don’t know what J. did to get into the favors of Joss again. (laugh) No, originally it was Gunn and then it switched to Wesley for whatever reason."
AM: What did you learn about yourself playing Harmony that surprised you?
MM: "Hmm, deep question. I think I learned the technique of being on a television show, the last season of Angel was important to me because I learned so much and that inspired me to want to get into directing, maybe. I saw with the "Harm’s Way" episode, how I read the script and then I did it and saw how it turned out, which was in my mind’s eye completely different. It turned out well but it was just different so that inspired me to want to control more of what goes on. And just seeing how a TV works on a regular basis with different directors coming in and out and different writers, you learn so much. I think I grew as an actor on the technical side of the show with the work."
AM: How much of your personality is in Harmony?
MM: "None what’s so ever, can’t you tell?" (laugh) On acting terms you use pieces of yourself and magnify them that relate to that characters, so I’ve had my blond moments, sometimes."
AM: Would you have become a regular had Angel gone to a 6th season?
MM: "Joss had said all along that that’s basically what it was, that it was just a contractual issue that I wasn’t in the credits and what not. He said, ’You know the reason we did that, we put you in the credits because we figured we were going to be going another year and then we would have done it, made you a regular but since we’re not it’s my present to you for being a part of it for so long.’ It was a definitely a surprise and totally unexpected, and a pleasant surprise at that."
Mercedes: "One more question, make it good. (to Brian) And no, you’re not asking it!"
Brian: "How come you didn’t return my phone call?"
Mercedes: "Because you were in the bar’s lounge, drunk." (laugh)
Brian: "Let me talk for the next hour and you can come visit me if you want to."
Mercedes: "No, not so much." (applause)
AM: If you could pick your next job, what would it be?
MM: "My next job would be my Oscar winning performance." (applause) Brian: "Opposite me!"
AM: With the ups and downs of acting what keeps you motivated?
MM: "Just those times when you are working and there are those moments of pure great acting, those moments make it worth it." Brian: "I like the moment when they call and say you got the job."
MM: "Right?! The yelling and screaming, that’s a good feeling, and then going to work everyday and knowing people and being able to do what you love. I think if you got to do it everyday, look at the Friends people, for ten years, you probably start to take it for granted so I guess not having to work can be a blessing in disguise. I hope that it keeps me grounded."
Certainly Mercedes has indeed kept herself grounded. She is a delightful, down to earth, beautiful young woman with a bubbling personality which is infectious for those around her whether you are a Harmony fan or not. But don’t let the gorgeous smile fool you, there is a depth and understanding to this talented actress who will surprise you at her insight of human nature around her and the reality of a cut-throat industry at the best of times. If she chooses to take a break from Hollywood you can rest assured that it won’t be long before someone casts her in an exciting new project or she decides to stand behind the camera. Mercedes chooses her destiny, it does not choose her, and yet it is a harmonious relationship.