1. This is the cast of the CW show Arrow, and I traveled as part of their entourage this past weekend at Comic-Con.
Most people who go to Comic-Con are on the opposite side of the curtain; waiting in lines for hours, battling through the crowds to get geek paraphernalia, and hoping to catch a glimpse of some of their favorite actors.
But for actors attending the convention — such as Arrow’s Stephen Amell, Colton Haynes, Katie Cassidy, Emily Bett Rickards, and David Ramsey — their experience is very different from what the fans observe. That’s something I learned after Warner Bros. Television agreed to let me travel around the convention center with the stars of the CW drama.
I was with them from 4 p.m., while they were in the midst of press junkets, to just a little after 7 p.m., when their autograph signing ended. I took photos, listened in on conversations, and asked questions about their experience.
2. For the badass heroes of Starling City, Saturday started off with going down the line in the press rooms.
It feels a bit like a cattle call. Reporters stand in a single file line, while the actors shuffle their way down to the very end.
3. The press room was at the Hilton Bayfront, which is next to the convention center, and the rooms are guarded by these Secret Service-esque bosses.
4. And while you’re hopping from room to room, sometimes brave fans come up just to say how much they love you.
It’s a little intimidating, especially when someone like Amell is flanked by security guards that can be roughly twice your size.
5. Here, Amell had exactly two minutes to finish an apple, and listen as his manager and agent read out his schedule.
6. Once you’re done doing press and taking cell phone pics, everyone piles into a freight elevator.
When you’re in the elevator, you talk about Topher Grace:
Amell: “The only thing that Emily has ever told me to do, is give me explicit instructions not to introduce her to Topher Grace.”
Rickards: “And then he did, and I looked like an idiot.”
Haynes: “I went to Disneyland with Topher.”
Haynes wins this round.
7. Which is actually a bit like a giant cage.
8. That eventually opens up to the street.
9. Where an enormous crowd of eager Arrow fans are waiting to catch a glimpse.
10. This poor guy lost his hearing that day.
11. Then the actors, their agents, managers, and various other handlers pile in to a plush bus with leather seats: Off to the Con!
12. … To basically get dropped off in an enormous warehouse.
13. Where you walk through the underbelly of the convention center…
14. And pass by boxes, fork lifts, enormous trash bins, and members of the Con crew, like this cool photobomber.
15. Sometimes, if you’re like Haynes, you take a moment to have a little fun along the way.
This is Colton Haynes’ fourth year at the Con. He previously came for Teen Wolf, and said of this year, “We have to wear a lot of green, and be prepared to take your shirt off at all times.”
16. Eventually, you make it to this little holding area/green room.
17. And if you’re John Barrowman, you take photos of your sister with Diggle.
That’s Barrowman, who plays Malcolm Merlyn, holding a camera phone as his sister, Carole Barrowman, poses with David Ramsey.
Hey, even family members of famous people have celeb crushes, right?
18. Score some snacks from the craft services table.
19. And meet the littlest Arrow fans…
“Last year in one sentence was, ‘We really hope your show doesn’t suck, we want to like it,’” Amell said of Comic-Con 2012.
20. So magical moments like this photo can happen.
21. Essentially, you’re in that green room to wait for the cast of The Vampire Diaries to wrap up their panel.
Comic-Con is a very well oiled machine. And once one panel ends, the other quickly shuffles in to start the next one.
22. So that the cast and handlers can all crowd in through the industrial-sized doors …
23. And into the backstage area of Ballroom 20.
24. This is what’s waiting for them, just outside the curtain, and it’s what they see when they’re onstage.
Ballroom 20 can hold up to 5,000 people, and the room was packed.
25. And these Arrow cosplayers were front row and center.
Pretty spot-on, right?
26. But before they go onstage, they wait. And wait. Until someone, in this case Warner Bros. Television publicist Ben Brown, announces that the show is about to begin.
27. Then the cast watches this monitor so they can see the exclusive clip that the audience is watching.
28. Once that’s over, the moderator announces your name and you swag-run onstage.
29. Unless you’re a surprise guest, like Barrowman, in which case, you wait some more…
30. For the chance to come onstage, jump on a chair, and wear your Arrow shirt with pride.
The crowd was ecstatic to see Mr. Merlyn appear, needless to say.
31. After the moderator asks some questions, it’s the fans’ turn to step up to the mic.
32. For some fans, like Jonah from the Make a Wish foundation, being able to ask the cast a question is one of the best moments of their life.
Jonah asked how Oliver was going to evolve into the Green Arrow.
“That journey begins with wanting to honor Tommy and wanting to be a different man than he thought I was, when he died,” Amell responded.
33. A little over a half hour later, the panel ends, the cast takes a publicity photo, and exits the stage.
See the live blogging of the panel here.
34. Now it’s time to meet the fans one-on-one at an autograph signing.
35. This is what you see when you walk down to the autograph signing.
36. Sometimes, you take selfies while walking, because you’re at Comic-Con, so why not?
37. You swag-walk past vending machines.
38. And these bros.
39. Right before hopping on another freight elevator, crowded with the cast and handlers.
40. When you make it to the convention floor for the signing, this is what you see.
41. And security does their very best to keep fans from swarming you.
42. You pass the cast of The Vampire Diaries … AGAIN.
There’s that one show out, another comes in, thing again.
43. And take your seat, as you watch a sizzle reel from the show.
44. These are all of the people who are waiting to see you.
45. Fans like this guy.
46. And this guy.
47. Sometimes their costume is so awesome, that you kind of freak out a little.
48. Other times, the fans look like their minds are exploding with happiness, just because they get to talk with you.
49. And as a reward, you sign their head.
50. Or their back.
51. Or their poster.
Really, it’s a lot of writing your own name for a good half hour.