• Panel Writeup: Contemplating Chaos: A Q&A with John de Lancie

    What you see here is pretty much an accurate representation of how JDL's morning panel went yesterday. The moment he took the stage, he opened the floor to questions -- I think I heard the thumping of bodies against the back wall lining up to ask him things.

    Before we begin our recap, however -- and I'm betting on at LEAST a couple of attendees reading this writeup before going to today's panel -- I'd like to stress one important thing. John hasn't had time to keep up with the show as of late due to some very important personal projects of his, which I shall disclose below. If you are planning on asking him a question at the panel, keep this in mind before you ask him about how Discord would corrupt some given background pony or something. Ask these questions, and he'll be honest with you.

    Nevertheless, this panel was full of delightful insights on his experiences with the show, the fandom, and his own life, and I encourage everyone to hit the break and see what our resident lord of chaos had to say about the show, the fandom, and the documentary.

    • What did he think about Discord and Fluttershy becoming friends? Turns out he hasn't gotten around to watching "Keep Calm and Flutter On." He turned it back on the questioner by calling us, the fandom, the experts on the subject, stating that we've had so much more time to analyze and internalize these stories than he has.
    • What were some differences between Q and Discord when he played both characters? Jayson Thiessen stated a while ago that Lauren had modeled Discord's character after Q, and some bold propositioning got de Lancie on board the show.
    • How does it feel to be loved by the grown men in this fandom? He's used to it -- Trekkies always suspected something was going on between himself as Q and Picard, anyway.
    • A nice little mythology gag revealed: Discord's paper-eating scene in "Keep Calm and Flutter On" echoes Q's questions to Worf about why he was eating books.
    • The next commenter's parents were apparently so attached to Star Trek: The Next Generation that they named their child after John's character from the show. John responded with how he'd originally wanted to name his child "Dashel", but balked at the diminutive "Dash" that would inevitably haunt his days if he turned out to be slow.
    • There's nothing funnier than being the naughtiest boy in town. John encouraged everyone in attendance to give it a shot.
    • Will we get a Discord song? Long pause, followed by "Just remember that you asked." Take that as you will.
    • It became clear after a while that John was busy with other things than to linger on Friendship is Magic after he finished reading for it. He likes the show. He likes the community. But he also likes to work, and his parts in the show are admittedly small enough that it demands less involvement from him overall.
    • If Q were to ever meet bronies, he'd call them a bunch of perverts. John, of course, has a different agenda.
    • Who's best pony? John points to himself. "Me."
    • When he was called back to record for Season 3, he was dragged "kicking and screaming" back into the studio. 
    • John appreciated how readily the fandom championed a character like Derpy Hooves.
    • By the way, don't call him Mr. de Lancie. "My liege" or equivalent terms of fealty will suffice.
    • Discord wasn't that difficult for John to read for. The fun for him was in fragmenting and changing the words he was saying, calling it an indulgence. He did say, however, that the audio guys sped his voice up a little in the episodes.
    Someone finally broached the topic of the brony documentary, asking why John was inspired to make it in the first place. This is what he remembered: the staff contacted him to read for Discord, he agreed, recorded his lines, went on to live in peace.

    Months pass. The Season 2 premiere airs without his realizing it, and he sits down at his computer and finds his inbox stuffed with three hundred emails congratulating/thanking him for his participation in the show. The ensuing conversation with his wife goes like this:

    "Honey...? What's My Little Pony?"
    "It's that show for little girls you voiced for."
    "... They're not little girls."

    Mystified, John found himself reluctant to pursue the documentary when he first spoke on the phone with its future producer, Michael Brockhoff. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation att he got to meet some actual bronies up in Canada. Don't worry, guys, they did us good: John came away impressed with how openly they embraced the show and applied its tenets to their lives. Then he mentioned seeing lots of sensational reporting on the fandom, leading him to the two questions that would guide him for the better part of a year:

    "Why do a group of grown men watch a show aimed at little girls? And why does society have a problem with that?"

    Cue the Kickstarter campaign along with Tara and Lauren. Obviously, the original plan of the documentary was a two-day, two-camera shoot at BronyCon on $60,000. That's 50 hours of tape, which is a lot, but it's doable for one editor. Never did John suspect the bronies would come to him en masse then, and he suddenly found himself sitting on something more like $322,000. He was shocked! And his favorite fandom moment comes from his first arrival at BronyCon, seeing the energy and the sense of being involved in something huge and new and fantastic -- it was a life-changing moment for him.

    This next part is something I think eluded lots of people, including me, though I'll warn you guys ahead of time that I don't completely understand the finances of the operation. Documentaries have production costs, obviously. Kickstarter takes its cut, and third of the original budget was to go to things like licensing fees so that BronyCon: the Documentary would've been more like a $35,000 production. Seeing the bronies so enthusiastic about a documentary that would answer those two questions above convinced John to take a risk and dump all of the raised money into producing the video, with him and a lot of other folks paying the ancillary costs out of pocket. 

    He acknowledged that this approach may not have worked out as well as he liked, but he wanted to give the bronies the best documentary they could possibly afford. And before the comment section jumps my jacks here, I'm going to stress this next: every time he's shown his documentary to other people, people who know nothing about bronies aside from the fact that they're weird for liking a little girl's cartoon, they changed their minds. We can debate whether or not bronies need to be defended or validated in the public eye, but for John, his production is working.

    It was hard work -- six weeks turned into eight months with the expanded budget, and though John was in charge of the tone of the documentary, making sure folks wouldn't say things they'd regret years down the line, the film is the sum of many other visions -- the director's, the writers', etc.

    I feel like I just pulled off a PSA, so let's have some more bullet points before I get some bullets pointed at me.
    • John hasn't been paying much attention to events in the show because he's had something else on his mind for the past two years: planning a sailing trip to the southern seas this spring. He plans to leave for three and a half months, and had apparently just come from a boatyard on Friday.
    • When he voiced Discord, he stuck to the script instead of ad-libbing. For a character like that to work, "you must be perfect." I think we can agree with that.
    • He spent a lot of his formative years with writing and music, having had no TV to date because he kept flunking out of school. He's enjoyed Rome and the first couple episodes of True Blood.
    • He and Leonard Nimoy teamed up to present classic sci-fi dramas over at Alien Voices.
    • If you want to get into the voice acting business, and you're not five years old -- really, if you want to go up and do anything: start today. Treat it as training for an athletic event: no one goes from couch to marathon in a weekend. Your tax is to act 365 days a year, which is different from acting out and whining. If you do have drama in your life, you need to put that drama into your working acts and involve yourself in every opportunity.
      • Remember, nobody needs you. You have to create your own stories, and work your way up.
    • Why does John keep coming back to the fandom, even if he doesn't have time to keep up with the show? He likes us, plain and simple. And he likes the show. He doesn't have the same involvement in it as he would for a play when he comes out and greets audience members after final curtain, but he still has that sense of being part of something bigger than all of us.
    • Last question -- no one's happy to leave, but they do so anyway, and John points out how polite everyone was about it. Of course, that meant the last question had to count. No pressure. It was a question about John's role as Desmond's father from the Assassin's Creed series, and how he prepared for it. As a father of two sons, he was able to hone in on the character using his own experiences until he found his place.
    I honestly don't know how to close off this writeup. John de Lancie is an incredible person to hear in the flesh. It's probably a bit like sharing prisons with Rorschasch: for one fleeting hour, he wasn't locked inside a room with us -- we were locked in a room with him.

    And it was some of the most fun I've ever had at a panel.

    Oh, and it turns out he was in the recording studio last week. What show was he reading for? He mouthed something that rhymes with "Guy Whittle Stony."