Dutch Comic Con 2019: meeting Marie Avgeropoulos
As I wrote some time ago in an entry for this blog I purchased tickets for the Dutch Comic Con, in particular tickets for a meet & greet and photo booth session with Marie Avgeropoulos. Marie is best known for her role as Octavia Blake in the sci-fi series The 100 and it’s by watching these series how I actually discovered her. People may also remember I wrote in that same blog entry about a book I am currently working on, and that I selected Marie as the role model for one of the characters in the book.
Because of this I was really excited to discover earlier this year that Marie would be at this year’s Dutch Comic Con, which among other things would allow me to check if the idea I have about Marie as a person is actually accurate, and if the character in the book she is a role model for is as close as possible to the real deal. After all I am what you could call a realistic writer and as a result I always want characters to be as real as possible. At the same time however the book is also a humble attempt from my end to honour Marie for being such an inspiration to me and a perfect fit for the character, and at the same time show her how much I appreciate her as a fan. As such the book is all about being a fan gift, which I plan to give to all who inspired me to write it. And Marie is one of those people. So is Emily Blunt btw and some others, but I will write about that some other time. All people have to know at this point is that my trip to Comic Con obviously wasn’t just about research for the book.
No, I really wanted to meet Marie. Even if I wasn’t working on this particular book. From the first moment I saw her on TV and every moment forward, whether it was in The 100 or one of her movies, she fed my curiosity. And with every moment of watching her that curiosity grew. And at a certain point I just knew I had to go see her when the opportunity presented itself. And on Saturday 23 November 2019 that opportunity did present itself.
I have to admit I was very nervous. Among other things because it was my first ever Comic Con I attended and I didn’t know what to expect. Another reason was that I didn’t want to be late and out of all days there was a rather long line of people wanting to get in. Once we got in though more stress entered my system. Where did we need to go? I and the person I was with were totally lost. There were hardly any signs to determine where we had to go, and it was packed with people, so we had to ask several members of the Comic Con crew where the meet & greet was supposed to be happening. And while at it the clock kept ticking. This had one advantage though. I did not have any time to worry about anything else but getting there. No time to repeat the questions I had over and over. No time to wonder how it would go. Nothing. And that was good really.
After some help we finally found our way to the rather unnoticeable area where I would be picked up for the meet & greet and then the wait started. I however was already glad we FOUND the place so I wasn’t too bothered with waiting. And for some reason I felt totally relaxed. To my amazement however we seemed to be the only ones there. And for a few minutes I actually thought I’d be speaking to Marie all by myself at the meet & greet. That would have been the most amazing 30 minutes of my life of course but alas, after some time more people attending the meet & greet started to appear. One of them was dressed as Marie’s character in The 100, Blodreina. And boy, did she look the part! I also noticed that all people attending the meet & greet were younger than I am but at least I wasn’t the only guy there who wasn’t dressed up – which was one of my biggest fears 🙂
The big moment then came. We were called in. After showing our tickets we were guided to a cosy tiny place behind a set of curtains and were told to take a seat. And really, Marie’s chair was so close to our seats I was getting really excited. Man, she would be sitting so close to us! After everyone had nervously found a seat we were given a short but very clear explanation about what we could expect. We were told that Marie was ours for the next 30 minutes without any interruption and that we were allowed to ask her anything, as long as it wasn’t too personal. We were also told that in order to ask Marie a question all we had to do was raise our hand. I thought that was a nice way of doing things, although I had sort of prepared myself for a microphone being passed around to everyone. Not to worry though, as in the end the way they went about it worked pretty well.
A few seconds after the explanation the curtain suddenly opens. And everyone gasps and curiously checks who it is. Nope, not Marie. Phew! *Everybody sighs in relief* But hey, here I am. Still totally relaxed. No beating heart in my throat. No shaky hands. No panic. Which to me just feels weird because during the week leading up to the event just the thought alone of being there already made me nervous. The curtains then open again, and in she comes. And man, she looks amazing. She even appears taller than she actually is but I soon learn that’s because she’s wearing shoes that make her appear taller. Nevertheless I enjoy seeing her for the first time because for some odd reason I sort of expected her to be this way. And if I may add, she’s also very pretty. And she’s not even wearing that much make up.
Marie is clearly looking forward to the whole thing. She shows no signs of nervousness, says hello to everybody like she’s known all of us for years and then sits down. And then, after briefly scanning the room, she goes: “So, what do you guys wanna talk about? Life, love, movies? (And plenty of other things I can’t remember.) Who wants to go first?” She then scans the room again and I catch myself wishing she won’t pick me. I even notice I am looking another way on purpose. I just don’t want to be the first person to ask her anything. Marie points at a girl in front of her. “Why don’t you start?” she says. And it’s only then I dare to look her way. In fact I just stare at her, completely impressed by how she interacts with us so shortly after she has entered the room. It makes everyone clearly feel at ease. Wow, just wow. After just a minute or two I already know this is going to be amazing. So, while I’m sitting there I tell myself I have nothing to worry about, decide to just hang tight for a bit and when the time is right ask my questions.
At a certain point Marie’s attention shifts to a British girl who is sitting almost next to me. This girl is clearly a huge fan and shortly after the microphone is handed to her she gets emotional and can’t hold back her tears. Marie almost immediately tells her it’s ok, asks her to come over and actually hugs and comforts her. The girl is then told to sit on her lap, which ends up being quite a funny sight, and after she’s calmed down gets to ask Marie her question. And Marie, as with all replies she gives during the meet & greet, answers in quite some detail and adds a lot of extra info to it. Something I think everyone really appreciates because there’s so much she tells about herself that it makes me, and I’m sure everyone else, feel as if we’re hanging out with a long-time friend. As such many many kudos to Marie for being so open to her fans. Many kudos to her for being so sweet and kind, relatable and most of all approachable. I for one feel now like I know certain things about her that you normally don’t read about anywhere else. And I am very honoured I got to experience that. Therefore I can’t wait to do this type of thing all over again in the future.
As the meet & greet progresses I notice all but one of my questions are asked and answered. And to make things worse, Marie answers the last one herself – without being asked. Now that was a bummer. I however am so grasped by her and the way she interacts with us, and I’m enjoying the meet & greet so much, that I actually don’t mind. After all so far the whole experience totally meets my expectations. I however do decide to listen closely to what is being said and if possible follow up on something with another question. This opportunity only occurs once or twice and before I can actually act someone else is already asking a question and the moment passes. But believe it or not, I am fine with it.
Plain and simple because at that moment I realise I am in a position a lot of other people would love to be in. I have a complete unblocked view on Marie Avgeropoulos, from about 2,5 metres away, and get to see how she responds and reacts to us. Yes, us. And although I am not actively speaking to her or get to ask her anything, just being there and seeing her from this close is enough for me at this point. Right now I still have to process it really. It still hasn’t kicked in yet I actually met her. I still can’t believe I stood next to her. But most of all I still can’t believe I got to spend 30 minutes with someone who traveled from the other side of the world just to meet us and talk to us. I’m still in shock. A positive one that is. And to be honest it still feels like I’m in some sort of daze because I’m repeating everything over and over in my head. To me it’s just mind boggling someone would travel so many miles just to see her fans. I am still so overwhelmed by the whole experience and meeting her that I just can’t stop talking and thinking about it. Nor can I stop grinning like an idiot. Because really, she’s impressed me so much I like her even more than I already did.
Some of the best moments of the meet & greet for me were the moments where Marie actually noticed me. And it did not just happen once. While I was watching things unfold, and basically just looking at her, our eyes met several times. It was totally unexpected every time, but nevertheless it gave me goosebumps every time. I’m therefore quite sure she noticed my excitement and the huge smile on my face every time it happened. Because I just couldn’t stop smiling while looking at her. I even dare to admit I got slightly giddy. And I am not ashamed of that, as I think everyone would feel that way when they get to experience this type of thing.
In short the meet & greet was an amazing experience. I can definitely recommend it to everyone, as it allows you to really interact with your favourite celebrity. I also learned that I came totally unprepared, and I won’t make that mistake again. But the most important lesson I have learned is that next time I should not hesitate to go for it. Both at the meet & greet and the photo booth session. Marie is just so easy to talk to I now wonder why on Earth I didn’t even try to ask her anything. I however know there will be another opportunity for that in the future, and when the opportunity presents itself I will be there.
Once the meet & greet session came to a close we were all asked to gather around Marie for a group picture. I ended up on the left side of the group and I think I actually managed to make the photographer snap at least one more picture of us because out of all people I was the only one looking at HER instead of the camera. Yeah, that really happened. And I’m pretty proud of it. I’m obviously not sure it was because of me several other pictures were taken afterwards but hearing the photographer say everyone should look at the camera still makes me grin.
All fans gathered around Marie for the group picture. Click for the bigger version.
Fast forward to the photo booth session now, which went totally different than I anticipated. In fact I still have nightmares about how I went about asking Marie for a hug but I will get into that later. Let’s just say for now that to make the experience that little bit more special for me I still wanted to talk to Marie for a little bit and decided to use the fact I didn’t get to ask her any questions at the meet & greet to my advantage. After doing some thinking I thought it would be a funny gesture to jokingly tell her before the picture would be taken that I felt “sad” because I wasn’t able to ask her anything at the meet & greet and therefore needed a hug. The guy with me agreed it was a nice idea, provided I brought it tongue-in-cheek of course. After all I come from a background where we don’t just hug people without gently guiding them into it.
Now trust me, that idea totally did not go as planned. In fact I still feel embarrassed about how it actually went. While I was waiting in line for my picture with Marie to be taken I kept repeating to myself what I was going to say. It wouldn’t be too long and in fact it sounded very plausible. In fact I’m sure she would have laughed. So, no problem you would think. Just walk up to her, say hi, tell her what you want to say, make her laugh and then take the picture. Well no. Just, no. That is totally NOT how it went.
The first thing I noticed once I could actually see her at the photo booth was that nobody was having a chat with her before the picture was taken. Things happened so quickly there just didn’t seem to be time for it. I however just wanted to make the experience a bit more special by having a short chat with her and if possible ask for a friendly hug. So, to me at that point it was really important I got to say a few things to her before taking that picture.
Damn. I didn’t see that coming! I just stood there thinking what to do next. In fact I was forced to think on the fly, and if there’s something I am absolutely not able of it’s that type of thing! Especially not in situations like this one. And then, for the first time that day the nerves kicked in. And they kicked in HARD. My heart rate raised, my heart started pounding and I was actually shaking. And when I noticed the line of waiting people got shorter and shorter I actually started to panic. What do I do? What do I say? What can I say in those few seconds that won’t make me look like a fool? Will she recognize me? My mind was a total mess by the time it was my turn. And then, Marie stood there waiting for me and she looked straight at me.
*GAAAASSSSPPPPP* I totally locked up right then and there. And all I can remember now is that I walked up to her without even looking at her and smiling at her. I didn’t even say hi. All I did was ask her if I could have a go (?) and stupidly raised my arms to hug her. I can remember her saying “sure” and actually hugging me but man, never ever have I felt so awkward and embarrassed. Not because of Marie of course because she was amazing, but I just think I acted so stupid. Our pose together afterwards also suffers from what I call the face of a guy who is pinched in the butt while chewing on a very sour grape. I do vaguely remember though that the photographer snapped the picture rather quickly, so maybe that’s why I in particular appear to be so out of place.
You also have to take in mind that to me it is rather important someone gets a good impression of me. As such I feel I didn’t do enough to gently guide Marie into that hug. To me it just feels I sort of forced her into it, and I hate feeling like that. Now I don’t know of course what Marie thought at that particular moment in time, and maybe I am just driving myself crazy, but the first time I looked at the picture to me it looked like even she didn’t know what to think. Later on though, after several friends had seen the picture and said it didn’t really look that bad, I had another look at it and figured that they could actually be right when they said it appears that Marie was still busy leaning towards me and I was still preparing to smile when the photographer took the picture. A very good friend of mine even said, “it clearly shows both of you were still preparing for the picture”.
I therefore vowed to myself that next time I will do better. In fact I decided to next time I see her to show her that picture and tell her the whole story, and tell her that this time around I’ll do my best to make it less embarrassing. Because in the end I just want to explain myself and just act more relaxed. And I’m sure Marie probably won’t give me too much of a hard time for it.
So no, the photo booth session clearly wasn’t my finest hour. I still feel I screwed up that part of the day because in my opinion I marched at her like a stormtrooper. I also happen to think the picture shows what happens when I want things to be perfect and have no clue what to expect. But now I actually do know what to expect I know things will go a lot smoother the next time around. For instance, I now know how Marie reacts to fans. She’s lovely with fans, and not to mention so patient. So why worry? The way she made several fans feel at ease that day now makes me think I should just go for it the next time I go see her. And honestly, I can’t wait for that to happen. Because really, she is so worth it.
Despite of my actions at the photo booth session something great still happened there. Marie actually recognized me. Yes, she absolutely did and knowing that still makes me smile. As soon as I walked away I saw this look of wonder and recognition on her face. She probably only noticed it was me because it was the first time I actually dared to look at her and when I noticed I actually wanted to walk back to her and explain myself but the next person was already there so I had to go. So yeah, I think I really need to go see Marie again. Just because I still want to really talk to her, show her the picture and obviously share the stormtrooper story with her. So Marie, if you ever get to read this report, may we meet again.
All in all I had an amazing day at the Dutch Comic Con. And Marie obviously was the highlight of the day. Boy, did she meet my expectations! She is just amazing. In fact I am so glad I discovered her, as it allowed me to experience one of the best days of my life so far, and spend time with someone I never expected to be spending time with in the first place. So Marie, it was an honour to meet you! And all I can do now at this point is thank you for such a great and amazing experience.