I was able to be with René for most of his Saturday visit at Grand Slam. It was wonderful!! I was there during the club room meeting and while he was autographing. There was very little room behind the autograph table, so I spent my time doing what I do best--talking. I talked to all the people in line a few minutes before they got to René and let them know that he was doing a hand-drawn “Odo’s Bucket” cartoon for charity. He said, after everything was over, that he has never sold so many cartoons and I told him that he has never had a big mouth in line telling everybody about what he was doing ahead of time. He laughed and drew one for me. What a guy!!
Grand Slam convention this year was particularly fun because René was one of the guests. I was happy to coordinate a room party with René for ORACLE, and Travis Timmons and friends were gracious enough to host said party. They had a nice big room there in the Sheraton with plenty of space for all to be comfortable. About a dozen fans gathered at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday of Grand Slam to meet with René and chat. René had already been to the Creation breakfast and walked over with us afterwards. We had just over an hour with him before he had to go and do his photo op pictures for Creation. Much of the chat centered around current happenings on Boston Legal, and René made a point to talk about how glad he was that he and William Shatner had been able to get to know one another and had become friends. He recounted that during DS9 he had actually met Shatner on several occasions but hadn’t really gotten to know him very well at that point.
After the room party, René, Kathy Wang, Lisa Wilcox and I headed over to the convention, where René had to do photographs with fans who had paid for that, and then we sat back stage and waited for his Q and A. For some reason that no one could fathom, René was on with Connor Trinneer of Enterprise. Connor is a very gracious and friendly man whom I’d had the privilege of meeting on a few other occasions. My experience had been that he is a bit shy on stage during Q and As and, if you put him up there with other actors, it is easy for him to recede into the background and not say much. Dominic Keating and Anthony Montgomery, in particular, easily overwhelm Connor when they are on stage together.
So I was very impressed to see Connor blossom on stage while appearing with René. René has a way of getting other actors to express themselves on stage and he has a natural way of encouraging them to comment on questions (I remember being impressed by the same thing when René appeared with Aron Eisenberg at the last Voyager charity Galaxy Ball). The first thing René did was walk onto the stage with Connor--just as they were to go on, René threw his arm around Connor’s shoulder so that they walked out together with their arms around each other’s shoulders. One got the impression that they were old buddies and that it was the most natural thing in the world for them to appear together. The first words René said when he got on stage were, “And we’ve worked together, too!” (I think in answer to the unspoken question: “Why these two together?” that we had all been asking ourselves). René had guested on Enterprise during season one in an episode that featured Connor so they had, indeed, worked together quite a bit on that episode.
The Q and A that followed flowed naturally with neither man dominating the talk (which can sometimes happen for whatever reason, particularly when one of the people is shy as Connor is). I remember that if René answered a question, he always ended his remarks by turning to Connor for a reaction, even if the question hadn’t been his. What can I say: As always, René was a class act!
One of the questions asked at the con Q&A was if René was tired of playing the straight man on Boston Legal. René thought it was an interesting question because he believes he’s playing against type. He considers himself to be one of the most eccentric actors on the show, playing one of the only sane characters. René also related that show business often typecasts actors. You can be capable of playing many different roles (as he is, being such a versatile character actor), but if the studios see you as an apple, even though you believe you can play a pineapple, you’re going to wind up with problems because they can’t see past the apple they think you are.
René said he got the Boston Legal part not only because of his work on several Kelley shows, but because he did the movie The Feud for Bill D’Elia, who directed the first Boston Legal episode and wanted René for the role. This was Bill D’Elia’s way to thank René for coming to bat for him when he directed and produced the movie. Bill D’Elia told René that this was his way of returning the favor, even though it took sixteen years. René noted that not too many people in the “business” ever pay a person back. If you have a chance to see The Feud, I’d highly recommend it. Besides René, it also features several other fine character actors, including Stanley Tucci and David Staithern. To me, however, René’s portrayal of a paranoid railroad dick is the highlight of the movie.
René said he’d like to see Benson on DVD, adding that he recently threw away his Benson scripts and was thinking about throwing away the Benson videotapes he has in his garage. Nobody was thrilled with his revelation of throwing away the scripts. They could have probably brought a few dollars for Doctors Without Borders. It shows René’s humility in not believing that anyone would want the scripts. He related that Lewis J. Stadlen had been on the show in the first season of Benson and that the producers didn’t want Stadlen to continue, so they hired him to take the place of the governor’s assistant. René said that there wasn’t any preparation for his appearance on the show. One day Clayton just came through a door like he had been there the whole time. He still keeps up with Inga Swenson and often keeps in touch by e-mail with Ethan Phillips.
Overall, I really enjoyed my weekend, and my first time to see René in front of an audience for Q&A at a con. I had many more questions I would have liked to ask him, which I hope to get to in the future. He is really such a fascinating person!
The Q and A was followed by the typical Grand Slam zillion-mile-long autograph line. René drew his “Odo in a Bucket” cartoons for charity and raised just over $1,000 for Doctors Without Borders. Lisa and Kathy worked hard to facilitate the line and everything went very smoothly. Even with the extra drawing, René kept up with the line just fine for the three-plus hours that they (he, Connor, and also Chase Masterson) signed. Another great convention--more good money for charity--a wonderful visit with René--all in all a very satisfying day!