Television’s newest heroes — some of them Reborn — assembled in the gargantuan Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con for EW’s Brave New Warriors panel, moderated by EW senior writer Lynette Rice.
This year, the panel featured Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead), Zachary Levi (Heroes Reborn), Sam Heughan (Outlander), Jordan Gavaris (Orphan Black), Kevin Durand (The Strain) and Rob Kazinsky (The Frankenstein Code).
The six actors discussed their lives as leading men, shared their fondest (and most bad-ass) memories from their set, and recalled their sensitive childhoods — before they became TV’s toughest warriors. Here were some of the highlights:
—Sam Heughan’s accent. “Can you just keep talking for a while?” cooed Cudlitz.
—Once the guys took the stage, they all (with the exception of Gavaris) quickly deduced that the most bad-ass thing each one did this season on their respective shows involved some sort of murder. Cudlitz cited The Walking Dead’s “Abe-sh*t” scene in the construction site from last season; Durand admired Vasiliy’s bare-hands approach to killing vampires on The Strain; and Heughan said that an upcoming battle on Outlander hasn’t yet been shot, but will likely take top spot for him, as it’s “pretty much the biggest battle in Scotland at the time.”
And what of the bad-assery we haven’t seen yet? Levi revealed that his character in Heroes Reborn has already “killed some people that may or may not deserve it.” Kazinsky, who stars as an orc in the forthcoming Warcraft movie, promised that his character Orgrim has some heavy weapon use to look forward to. “I got to wield this very, very mythical, mysterious, very famous hammer called the Doomhammer. It’s a hammer that makes doom,” he joked. “I got to seriously kill some serious people with that thing.”
—The exception to the aforementioned murder was Jordan Gavaris, the youngest on the panel at just 25. “I gave someone a makeover,” he laughed. Cracking wise that he shared the panel with “the would-be Hollywood Linebackers,” Gavaris recalled his youth as a thoughtful underdog — and a troublemaker — who often played “a lot of thinking heroes. People who use their intellect to try and outwit the enemy.” Up on the panel, Gavaris joked: “This feels like high school. Who did you kill?”
—Surprising or not, sensitivity was rampant through our panel of fierce men as they remembered their childhoods as wimpy kids. Kazinsky confessed that he ugly cries to The Green Mile and The Lion King, though Gavaris countered, “I think that’s part of being a warrior — empathy.” Cudlitz was once a singing soprano — not tenor — in a school choir; Durand played Pinocchio and Aladdin in a storybook show in Toronto; and Heughan, after playing a Scottish game of “Kiss, Cuddle, Torture” with a childhood admirer, found himself never being chased again after a clumsy romantic accident. Levi, to no one’s surprise, spent his childhood opting for video games and counter-culture choices: “I would pretend to be Gambit, when all of my other friends wanted to be Wolverine.”
—Embarrasing projects from the past were discussed, but none more entertaining than Cudlitz’s experiences researching a role as a gay porn star in Live Virgin and Levi apologizing for his role in the 2008 film Wieners. So embarrassing was it, in fact, that as Levi recalled the horror of a four-and-a-half hour body wax, Kazinsky pulled up a picture on his phone to show the crowd exactly what it looked like.
Kazinsky also received his share of grief after publicly apologizing for his Australian accent in Pacific Rim. “I swear to God, I can do an Australian accent. I just didn’t do it in that film.” Thus, the rest of the panelists then used the accent as jibing ammunition no less than five times throughout the rest of the hour (for instance, to explain the motives of the Comic-Con exhibitor who charged Kazinsky full price for some Pacific Rim toys).
—The panel took a serious turn when the question of sexism in Hollywood was brought up. Moderator Lynette Rice asked whether any of the guys had experienced sexism in the workplace, and Kazinsky took the opportunity to share a story about being taken advantage of when he was first starting out in Hollywood: “It went on for a long time, and it was complete harassment. I understand the fear that people have about coming forward about something like that, because especially as a man you feel like you should be able to handle a situation like that, but when you’re a young kid in this industry, you often can’t. It was terrifying to see how easily it happened…And men aren’t the only perpetrators of this crime. It’s power that is the perpetrator of this crime and those of us who have dreams find those dreams exploited by people who can grant them, and that’s scary.”
—Kazinsky’s emotional story was echoed by Durand, who shared his own similar experience; Heughan, who cited his Outlander co-star Graham McTavish’s encounter with a fan looking up his kilt; and Gavaris, whose speech calling for an end to the “mythology of the man” was a major highlight of the panel. “If you were to make a list of all the qualities men and women have, no person would completely conform to one side. But there’s a pressure to be a certain way, look a certain way, and act a certain way, and that’s just silly,” said the Orphan Black star to huge applause. “It’s not just men. Non-binary gender. It’s not about being a cisgendered man, it’s about being a fully, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional man. I’m looking to explore more of that, not just the other.”
—Each warrior shared his dream role after an audience question. For Kazinsky, it’s Barry Allen or Wally West; Heughan dreams of being in Aliens or The Walking Dead; and Gavaris opts for “a country music star,” theoretically happy to play any one of them — except, he says, Kenny Chesney.
—Gavaris said one criticism he received from an Orphan Black fan was that “she really didn’t believe I knew anything about art.” In turn, he hopes his artist character Felix can rectify that criticism in season four.
—Another emotional turn came when Cudlitz and Levi shared stories of fans who told them how much their shows changed their lives. “It’s very important for us to connect with fans and hear it, because that’s the feedback we need to have,” said Levi. “When I was doing Chuck, somebody told me that their father had passed away a year before and they hadn’t seen their mom smile in a year, and they started watching Chuck and started seeing their mom smile again. That’s what gives us, as entertainers, that’s what gives you purpose. Those moments are the sweet moments.”
Click here for more of Entertainment Weekly‘s Comic-Con coverage