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EVENTS Talking with the stars of 'Heroes & Villains'
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Heroes & Villains Fan Fest battled its way back in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont on April 19-21. The Easter holiday weekend can be a tough one for planning a massive event such is this, but fans powered through for a chance to meet with the artists they adore and purchase rare collectables.

The past few years, Fan Fest Events has presented an opportunity for attendees to see performers. While many comic conventions are moving the autograph signings and photo opportunities farther away and placing them behind curtains, Fan Fest Events' gatherings are a bit more intimate. As with many festivals, there is an entrance fee and VIP options to arrive early to beat the horde. Guests can then pay for signatures and/or a picture with the actors in addition to that. There are also pre-sale autographs in case artists cut off the line because of demand during a busy day.

Costumes, also referred to a cosplay, are encouraged, although no fake guns are allowed in the building. There is an anti-harassment policy so everyone can feel safe and enjoy the festivities.

Panel discussions with many of the artists are held throughout each day of the weekend and fans can ask their own questions at the end of the discussion.

The focus was mainly on television and movie stars for celebrities in attendance in 2019. Originally the convention was called Walker Stalker Con to capitalize on AMC's The Walking Dead, but now the name "Heroes & Villains" allows a more expansive approach to artists that are booked. There was quite a variety of personalities this season with several of them taking a break from photo opps to speak to the media.

Tom Payne—playing Paul "Jesus" Monroe—came out as The Walking Dead's third gay male character during season seven. He told Windy City Times, "It was a great honor to represent a cool LGBTQ character. Honestly, I wish there had been a bit more of it in the show. The overall response I got from the community was that the character had been recognized and had value on the show."

The spinoff series Fear the Walking Dead was also represented at the festival. Garret Dillahunt plays John Dorie on "Fear." He's in midseason of the show currently and said it's not scary to be on the set: "We know how the sausage is made so we don't get scared. There is plenty of people working for continuity on how the walkers move, bleed and die so it doesn't seem too real."

Back in 2012, Dillahunt played Paul Fliger, a closeted attorney, for the film Any Day Now, with Alan Cumming. He reminisced, "Alan might be the only actor I know that works more than I do. He's even more of a workaholic than me. The dude is a consummate pro first of all, but also committed to the work. In one scene he couldn't get out of a door and is supposed to say "Yo" in a really thick Brooklyn accent but instead it came out "Yo" in a very soft English accent. He's funny and doesn't take himself too seriously. We had great chemistry together. I hope we work together again."

He mentioned finishing shooting a Netflix show called Sergio ( about the late Brazilian United Nations diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello ) with Wagner Moura and Ana de Armas while on break from the dramatic Dead show.

Actress Jenna Elfman, like Dillahunt, joined the cast of Fear the Walking Dead on season four. She said they are filming the show right now where she had a startling moment: "I was filming a walker kill and was holding back to stab him in the head. My hand went into his chest that was collapsing. When I pulled my hand away there was a huge chunk of walker goop on it. That was not written in the scene and was so disgusting. I don't usually get grossed out because I know it's special effects, but even I was disgusted."

When asked about her lesbian role on Showtime's Shameless she said, "John Wells, the creator of the show, was directing the episode. He gave me so much freedom to have these ideas. It was some of the most fun I have ever had filming. I felt free and liberated to be this character. Shameless had no boundaries on what I could do."

When asked about a favorite moment on the TV classic Dharma & Greg, Elfman said it was difficult to narrow down to one, with there being so many over the course of five seasons. She said, "I liked the scene where Dharma runs for office and tells each demographic what they want to hear. I was getting sicker each time I told any lies on that episode and got to do so much physical comedy. Her eyes swell shut, she got hunchback and her hair was falling out. She gets more ill—and it was very fun to play!"

Several of the cast members from the hit Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House also were on hand over the weekend to meet the modern horror tale's loyal following.

Henry Thomas—who many will remember as the child actor from the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial—played the father, Hugh Crain, on Hill House. When asked about any truly scary moments on set, he said, "Our set flooded during episode six so that was scary, but no supernatural scares!" He went on to speak about the cast and portrayal of diverse characters on the screen: "I can't say enough good things about the team that Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy had put together. It was a great crew."

Future plans for the experienced actor will be working on an independent movie set in New York called Dreamcatcher. Thomas is also doing a cameo in a friend's film called Barely Afloat before season two of Hill House. Thomas said Hill House will be an anthology series on Netflix when completed.

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