Celebrities connect with fans at Orlando MegaCon
Cosplayers dressed to the nines at MegaCon, emulating the famed heroes and heroines who they’ve idolized since their childhoods, while fans got the opportunity to strike poses, laugh and converse with their role models.
Young Charlie Anderson from Orlando was overjoyed and exuberant when meeting his idol Jason David Frank, who played the green Power Ranger, Tommy Oliver, in the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers television series from the 90s.
Anderson said he had been planning for the MegaCon event for a week and that his primary reason for coming was to meet the lead ranger.
“I’ve watched almost every series there has been, and he ranks at the very top,” Anderson said. “I [shook] his hand [and] said ‘hi.’ I’m about to bounce off the walls right now.”
Many cosplayers and fans were looking forward to meeting Frank, and he was looking forward to encouraging them, accepting that he's become a role model for different age groups.
“Man, I tell you what: It’s not just kids. If you saw my fan base out there, it’s like a lot of people out there that are grown up now,” Frank explained. “I’ve heard so much about changing lives. I actually had this one kid who came up to me and said, ‘You changed my life and got me out of depression.’ I hear stories like that every day. That’s what drives me to do this stuff — nothing else.”
Frank believes in making that one or two minutes with fans really count. He tries to take that moment to empower them to be whatever they want to be.
“You don’t even see any of this on TV, the stories you hear and the things that I share with people that might not know about me,” he said. “I might have some people come up that are dealing with depression or other issues, and I’ll share my stories with them that people don’t know, and I’ll tell them that’s between us, which are legitimate stories — and they respect that because I’m an everyday person.
“I’m trying to teach them to be passionate about what you do, follow your dreams, and I always say, ‘I can and never say I can’t.’ I can, I will — don’t say I can’t, I won’t.”
Some cosplayers, such as Craig Lombard from Cocoa Beach, took off work months in advance and traveled across the state just to meet their heroes. Lombard is a Walgreens attendant by day and Trunks from Dragon Ball Z by night.
Rocking the famous Capsule Corp. shirt that Trunks wore in Dragon Ball Z, Lombard explained that he took off from work in January for one reason: to meet the voice of Trunks, Eric Vale.
“I requested the time off back in January when I bought my ticket,” Lombard said. “This is my first time, and I was excited to come. I already got Eric Vale’s autograph.”
Fans at MegaCon traded cards, bought games, dressed up and enjoyed each other’s company as heroes and villains. But like Lombard, it seemed that the No. 1 thing fans were chomping at the bit to do all weekend was to spend time with their role models.
Actress Vivica A. Fox resembled a role model to fans at MegaCon, smiling and taking photos with tons of fans who raced to talk with the Independence Day co-star. She used the opportunity to empower them.
“I do a lot of motivational speaking where I’m involved with women’s empowerment, where I always talk to Generation Next,” Fox said. “I tell Generation Next to make good choices, because the choices that you make today affect tomorrow and your future. It warms my heart when someone comes up and tells me — whether it’s been my movies, my speeches or just who I am in general as a person — that I’ve had an effect on their life.”
Fox had men and women running up to her, asking her questions ranging from, “Can we take a selfie,” to, “Are you interested in being the leading actress in my independent film?”
But it was one particular person that caught Fox’s attention.
“There was a beautiful woman here [and] she says, ‘Vivica, I run Team Vivica Team Fox on Instagram and Twitter,’ and it was nice to meet her in person … she works with women who are dealing with domestic violence, and I was very grateful that I touched her life [and] that I got to give her a hug,” Fox said. “She was very supportive, and I’m going to try and stay in touch with her.”
The theme of impacting the fans on a more personal level was something that was a consistent presence in the fan-to-celebrity interaction at MegaCon. Actor Daniel Logan, who played young Boba Fett in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, was seen laughing with fans, and he even sat with one of his fans to have lunch in between sessions.
Logan believes that paying it forward is something he’s obligated to do — because if it wasn’t for the fans, he wouldn’t have a seat at MegaCon.
“I grew up very poor, and when you grow up in that kind of lifestyle, anything that you get given is grateful thing,” Logan said. “For me, I realized that I wouldn’t be who I am sitting behind this table if it wasn’t for the fandom and fanbases that Star Wars created for me. I was just blessed enough to be able to walk into an opportunity that opened the gates of heaven to me. Me being able to come out and do conventions, it’s really a give and take.”
Logan has done conventions for five-plus years, and he feels that, at the end of the day, MegaCon should always be about the celebrities giving the fans 100 percent of who they are.
“If I had my nieces or nephews … I’d like for the person they meet to have the same kind of attitude and positivity as I give,” Logan said. “There’s a old saying, ‘You don’t ever want to meet your favorite actor because they could either make you or break you sometimes.’ And I personally had an experience like that. Every day I come to a convention I bring 100 percent of Daniel and the positivity and the happy side of me, always.”
Christopher Davis is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter @ChristopherDTV or email him at ChristopherD@CentralFloridaFuture.com.