We Are Fandom: An Interview with Orlando Jones at SDCC
Walking through the halls of the San Diego Convention Center, Orlando Jones photobombed pretty much every picture being taken as he walked past. This is unsurprising from the consummate fangirl and actor. “I just had to!” he said after jumping in on a Mad Max family cosplay and having the youngest girl pretend to chop his head off with a chainsaw.
He’s here this weekend wearing many hats; the first involved presenting at the MTV Fandom awards, a perfect fit for him. “I gave the award to Olicity for “Ship of the Year” while I was wearing the Supernatural t-shirt [the one from the Rogue Events convention in the UK earlier this year]. I got to represent all my people.” Orlando is well known for his love of fandom and social media. “I’m a Tumblr fan. I guess I’m supposed to be weird but I think I’m normal. I think everybody else is weird. I’m like ‘come on yo!’ when it comes to getting worked up about things. I mean seriously? So, yeah I enjoy Tumblr.”
It’s refreshing to see that someone within the realm of celebrity embraces fandom so vocally and proudly without trying to push themselves or agendas on to their fans. Though Orlando does things a little differently even on top of that. “We are not all created equal. You have that right while I have this right. And I don’t get to press your right and you don’t get to press mine. And you can dance around it all you want but I’mma keep saying things that piss you off. I already know that. I’m a troll, that’s my whole point.”
Speaking of trolls, Orlando participated in Misha Collins’ Gishwhes last year as a member of Team Babysharks. One of the tasks from that year was to create a fake Orlando Jones account and accumulate several hundred followers. “You can’t blame me for that one. It’s Misha.”
Earlier this week, Misha mass tweeted a number of well-known people asking for task help with this year’s Giswhes. “Yeah I know. He hit me up and he was like will you do this and I was like ‘seriously dude’? I thought about [participating], but I don’t think I am because it wouldn’t be fair. And that’s what’s important and so I’m out. And the moment I sent him that message that’s the moment I was out. I had such a good time last year, it’s such an incredible cause. And despite everything Misha is a friend. You know what I mean? And we became friends through fandom along with Jared and Jensen, and really the better part of the entire cast, especially after I went to the (Rogue Events) A14 Convention. And Jared, Jensen and I have engaged with each other back and forth over the years. Jensen’s manager was my manager when he first got started. I saw them in the early stages and we’d go out and do stuff. I knew them when their show was in pilot. It was Jensen’s first big break. At the time he was just a kid. That was over ten years ago, before this fandom existed.
“So we’ve reconnected, despite whatever it is that these fandom factions think is going on. It’s weird that I connected with Misha through fandom and remembered Supernatural. I start watching again and getting back into it. Binge watched through season 6 or 7 fairly quickly. I had to get caught up and do all the fan stuff. I came through it the way a normal fan would come through; wanting to catch up. And that’s what Comic Con is often like for me… I’ve been a part of these fandoms for so long because a lot of these things came from really close friends of mine. From the early days of our careers. So, it’s one of the most exciting things for me because I’m a true fangirl and nobody will ever be able to change that. And I’ve really always felt that I was part of this decent group that wasn’t about being black, it was about our interests and things we got excited about. It was still a community that I was a part of. So, it’s really bizarre to somehow be recognized for things I’ve been doing forever because of social media.”
Speaking of other things that he’s recognized for, Jones has had a long list of roles which have spanned decades and show various levels of both his comedic and acting talent. Clifford Franklin from the film The Replacements (who referred to himself in the 3rd person) is one of them. Jones explained what his inspired his creative decision to have the character communicate in that way. “It is a great story. There’s this kid that I met in high school in Orangeburg, South Carolina. He talked about himself in the third person. He was a high school athlete. Karl Malone talked about himself in third person, it’s been done. But a high school athlete! And he would say his name so fast because it wasn’t important what his name was. He knew how important the stats were. That was just his general rap. And that was a regular conversation in high school.”
In addition to other roles, our conversation turned to another famous actor, Donal Logue, with whom Orlando is friends. “We almost did this movie called Shiny New Enemies that came out as Chain of Fools. It was the craziest cast. So, a couple of Swedish directors did the movie and he and I did the table read and he was supposed to play the role that Steve Zahn wound up with and I thought he was better for the role. I thought he was amazing at the table read, he killed it. And I ended up doing the movie and he didn’t […] I became a fan of his at the table read. I followed his career from that table read on.
When I first joined Twitter he was the one I looked up. I hit him up and said ‘Hey, man I’ve always been such a fan of your work’ […] And he hit me back and then I started doing Sleepy Hollow and he said congrats and he was on Gotham and I said congrats. We started seeing each other more often. That’s how we met twenty years ago and I became a fan of his. In the movie it ended up being Salma Hayek, Steve Zahn, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, me, Claudia Schiffer, Michael Rapaport […] Oh my God! Mr. Show […] I can’t remember.” He proceeded to pull out his phone and search through the rest of the cast list. “Salma Hayek, Elijah Wood, Steve Zahn, Jeff Goldblum, Lara Flynn Boyle, David Cross , Tom Wilkinson, There’s me, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Rapaport, Kevin Corrigan, John Cassini… It didn’t make any sense to get us all, but we all became friends.”
The conversation eventually turned to Sleepy Hollow, which recently saw the departure of Captain Irving at the end of the second season. “I can only say three words: Not my choice. I’m a fan first, so I have high hopes still because I have friends there. It’s a really special group of people. So, irrespective of what’s gonna happen with that and we’ll all feel the way we feel about it, I’m still a huge Sleepy Hollow fan. But for me, the parts that I love most were no longer there anymore and my business part, my artist, the guy that I have to take care of […] I don’t think they felt like they knew where they wanted to take that story and I think it really comes down to that. Do I wish it could’ve been figured out? Yes. Was I willing to figure it out? Absolutely. But I can totally understand that when you’re rebooting a show after a problematic season, you not focused on that and that’s not an uncommon decision a corporate entity will make. Right?
“I’m not engaged in it. I’m just an employee and so artistically I really felt like I don’t want to begrudge you for any of the choices you’ll make but it sucks to lose something that I enjoyed. On the other side of it, I can now do something with Bob (Sleepy Hollow co-creator and Executive Producer Roberto Orci, Jr.) and I’m writing and producing it. I can protect it more and I don’t have to play by those corporate rules. I can promote fan art and fan fiction and I can hire fan writers if I want to and I can really embrace fandom as a fan. And the ability to do that in a company was more exciting for me than Sleepy Hollow. The ability to really fangirl and build worlds with fans as part of the conversation as opposed to them being perceived as an annoyance in the conversation. I really felt like it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. And to have Bob support me in that was kind of massive. He was like yeah I’ll come and do something with you because we’re just a Legion of Creatives. We don’t care where the creator comes from. It can be from the fandom. It can be someone as big as Bob Orci. Or it can be Greg Nicotero. It can be anybody. I really like the idea of doing a United Artists type company. For that reason I’m really happy it played out the way it did. But there’s always a part of me that’s sad about Sleepy Hollow and the incredible characters and cast. And I promise Lyndie and I will be seen together again. We’re talking about it. But I think it’ll be interesting for the fandom we’re all a part of. One of the next things we do I really want to make a part of the Sleepy Hollow fandom conversation and I want to do it with my cast members. We’ll get to play different characters but really get to talk about things fandom is excited about.”
Orlando goes on to explain his new project with Bob Orci called High School 51. So, I was doing Sleepy Hollow and became friends with my boss, Bob Orci, and he was part of the Star Trek madness […] We had this idea;, actually it came from other friends who brought it to us and we liked it and said let’s work on this together. It was the idea that there’s a high school inside Area 51. What would it be like if the first human went there, and what would it be like if the alien high school was like every other high school? Because some aliens want to be here and some aliens don’t want to be here. Some like us and some want to murder us. And some want to give us technology, something that’s dangerous to the future. There’s a mixed bag of people with different opinions. So, it’s the story of the first human that goes there and all of the madness that ensues when he’s going there. And we’re going to launch it on Machinima. We are looking at launching it next June because we have to write now, production issues, and all that. I will have more details soon. Because I’m also trying to figure out where I’m gonna put it in my schedule.”
With all the acting, producing, and other things going on, Orlando is a very busy man. “I’m doing a bunch of cons that I’m really excited about. It’s sort of like my third con I’m going to where we get to meet people and hang out, do a bunch of panels. So, I’m going to do a couple in the U.K. and a couple of them here. And then I’m shooting my special where I take a piss out of history. I guess that’s the best way to describe it. We’re doing it now and literally I have to sign paperwork and I can’t talk about anything, but right after that I will. It’s crazy, it’s a lot of fun. I’m doing crazy stuff and we shoot that special in August. Then I have a few more stand-up dates and there’s another movie I’ll jump into. My company is also producing a short film project for Pepsi that will hopefully premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Usher’s doing an original theme song for it. It’s a bit of a crazy schedule. In addition to writing and producing High School 51 with Bob I’ll also have a role in it although I won’t be there all the time. And then the Tainted Love movie (based on Jones’ award winning digital series of the same name), I’ll be doing that obviously. And we’ll see what else comes my way.
“It’s hard work, but it’s fun. It’s really good. There’s a lot of interesting stuff. I recently bought the rights to the Ted Patrick story. He lives in San-Diego and he was the father of cult deprogramming. He deprogrammed over two thousand people in ten years. God willing we’ll be able to roll principal photography late part of this year or the beginning of next year. I’m super excited about that because it’s such a fascinating story. I’m doing a lot of crazy stuff and every now and then I’ll do a Radio Shack thing. When I’m working with brands in particular the campaigns are always something crazy. For Radio Shack we took a bunch of fans and put together a flash mob, wrote and original song, brought in some dancer and went crazy. So we made it all dramatic and silly and had a great laugh.”
As always, going back to Orlando’s fandom doors, I mentioned the ever present SuperSleepy. “We’ve talked about it. We’ve all talked about it. The real thing is figuring out the logistics and what time we’ll do it. It will happen and we’ll all be in different roles. I know what the property is. And I’m really excited about it. We’ve just got to figure out a bunch of things to get it done. And it will include other shows and other fandoms. Hopefully people who represent some of my favorite ships. I’m an Olicity shipper. I ship a lot of ships.”
A relatively recent Buzzfeed article has Orlando holding signs of his favorite ships (both het and slash). “Yeah all my ships. I’m Ichabbie. I’m WestAllen. There’s just a bunch of fandoms and ships I enjoy being a part of and I’m more vocal about some than others. I think that’s really what fandom is. We all get to get enthusiastic about what we love. I don’t adhere to the stereotype of what that’s supposed to mean… this is what it means to be a fanboy and this is what it means to be a fangirl. I just don’t believe in any of that. I don’t want my five-year-old girl growing up in a world like that to be honest. I’m a fangirl in a way I want her to be able to be. She’s the most awesome thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m shopping for her this con to bring her stuff […] She’s been cosplaying Princess Tiana since three and she’s got the full blown dress. I didn’t have to introduce her at all. She started cosplaying on her own without me and without any instruction from me. Not having a clue what daddy was into and totally on her own. I was like ‘Woah!’. So, not a surprise because it’s a very kid thing to do. Then I would cosplay with her. I went as DJ Lance from Yo Gabba Gabba. In full DJ Lance outfit with the boom box. And she was Strawberry, another princess, and that’s how we went out for Halloween together.
“She sees me doing it at work. I’m coming home as Irving because we’re right down the street. My daughter will see me with all this on and be like ‘what is that about? What are you doing?’ and I’m like ‘I’m fighting the bad guys in Sleepy Hollow’. So, we still have conversations to this day about characters. My daughter is still in a conversation with Irving and she totally knows it’s a character I play. And so I become Irving for her and I’m totally humorless and she thinks it’s so funny that I’m not me. So, he’s alive with her all the time and it’s really weird. I don’t think I’ve told anybody that. That’s where Irving came from, the guy that I would hate but done for my daughter because she would laugh. He’s such a humorless guy. He’s got a very soldier, very military approach to things. And funny but completely flat. Never for your benefit at all.
Through various streams of consciousness and rambling on both our parts, the topic of Asylum 14 comes up. It is the Rogue Event in the UK that is solely for Supernatural where Orlando happened to be a guest. They invited me. Somebody said “do you want to go to a Supernatural Con. We really want you to come and do it and sign autographs. And since I’m a fan of Supernatural they were like ‘Yeah, dude, come. That’ll be awesome’. To fly to London and do a con for three days, it’ll be great. You do your stuff and I’ll fangirl. So, I went over and we did the event. What happened was there was already some skirmish in the fandom about the mere fact that I was there as there always is. There were already a bunch of people who were mad and I’m silly and so I did the shirt. That what I wore at the Fandom Awards. And here’s the funny thing, I’m launching a fandom clothing line.”
“It’s called ‘We are Fandom’ and Flourish (Klink) and I were just talking the other night about her work with the Harry Potter Alliance and I wanted to give a portion of the proceeds to support their efforts as well as helping to fund AO3 (the open source archive for fan fiction managed by the Organization for Transformative Works). I want to basically see if I can take ‘We are Fandom’ and underwrite AO3 so we can get their platform to work in the way it was intended with all the resources they need. That’s something I’ll be doing, which is going to be silly fun. The Supernatural thing is weird. I get it. I really do. That’s just fandom. But at the same time, you don’t get to tell me I can’t be a fan in the way I want to be”.
I spent a good portion of the rest of the day with Orlando, chatting about random things, saw his interactions with fans, and promoting his t-shirt line. He even gave me the Albert Einstein/KISS t-shirt from his line, which I wore the rest of the day. At one point I stepped away and ran into Curtis Armstrong, who I interviewed at NYCC and saw the previous night at the SuperWiki Party. I told him Orlando was just around the corner. He walked over, took off his shoe, and threw it at the guy. I’m sure it’s a joke I’m missing, but it was all hugs in the end. Shortly thereafter, Robbie Thompson (another NYCC interview) wandered over as well.
San Diego Comic Con is a great place to be a fan, regardless of who you are. Everyone is allowed to geek out and fangirl over something, and Orlando Jones was no exception as he seemed to revel in it more than most. Heck, he’s even helping to create the next generation of fans! Therefore, all I have to say to Mr. Jones is:
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