I really didn’t expect to love Eliza Dushku’s panel so much. And it took a few days for me to realize just how much I loved her panel. I’ve never been a huge fan of hers and to be quite honest, I don’t think she has any iconic roles to justify the $50 autograph fee she was charging. Yet, her panel was great. She was thoughtful, on time, and ALWAYS graceful in her answers. The conversations felt extremely intimate and personal. There was a stunning amount of candor from Eliza and a real connection with her to her fans. All in all, it was a really special panel and because I had never been a huge fan of hers, I was surprised by how captivated by it I was.
The real success of Eliza’s panel was the attention and time she took with every fan question asked. There were some really off the wall questions, and Eliza took all of them in stride. One handicapped woman rudely interrupted the panel to ask why Tru Calling was cancelled and instead of gruffly responding (like I would have), Eliza still gave her an extremely thoughtful response. In case you were wondering, it’s because the television industry is a business. “While the show was amazing and I’m really proud of it,” she said. “The TV industry is a business at the end of the day. Networks get scared if your show doesn’t pull in the numbers. They then start to think, ‘We could be putting all of this money into something else because we’re LOSING money’ so they pull it.”
There were many candid moments like this throughout the panel, and I really appreciated them. When an older male fan asked why one of her first films, released 20 years ago, has not gotten a Blu-Ray release from Fox yet, she laughed and said, “Here I am defending Fox again, but I know they will be releasing it soon. I think they are planning to by the end of this year because I shot an interview for it last year. I have no idea what’s happening with it though.” Eliza seemed very self-aware of her position in the industry and understanding of why some of her best work didn’t work out as planned.
If you’ve followed her career trajectory, you’ll know two of her best series only last a season. Tru Calling and Dollhouse were both pulled by Fox despite the rave reviews and cult following that developed after they were finished. Dollhouse, according to fans, is arguably one of the best science fiction shows of the past decade. Add on that Joss Whedon is the creator and you have an instant fanbase. “Yet no one watched it,” she said matter-of-factly. “But I am really grateful to Joss.” She was asked whether she would like to work with Joss again and she laughed. “Yeah, I would,” she stated. “But you know after Dollhouse, I realized maybe I should share him. He had put me on Buffy and then I took him out to lunch to basically tell him to give me my own show….and he did! So I’m going to let other people have a crack at working with him.”
It was clear that many of the fans in the audience had stayed with Eliza since Buffy. And like the Charmed panel, they were very observant of her career. Often times, for me, they were almost too knowledgable of her career. But Eliza never tried to make them feel crazy or like she didn’t care to hear about what they had to say. The question I liked most was from a young girl who asked if Eliza had ever considered working with feminist activist groups because of her character. Eliza’s answer was this: “You know, my mother was a women’s studies professor and has always been a feminist. So I’ve grown up with a huge history of feminism. And while I definitely think my characters have been strong feminist roles, I’m not very good with public speaking. But there are so many women who are, and I’ve done work with charities in the past… But I can’t see myself giving speeches when there are others who do it so much better than me.”
Most interesting was Eliza saying she is in school and learning sociology. “It’s been really interesting for me, as an actress, to learn about trends and cultural studies,” she commented. “I’m really enjoying it.” It was nice to hear of an actress in her thirties going back to school just for the joy of learning. It showed in how intelligent she was.
I had to leave the panel a few minutes before it was over, but overall, it stayed with me the most. I think what made it so great was that Eliza had a candor which made the questions and answers feel like real conversations. She felt like a real person talking to her friend in a coffee shop; not an actress giving pre-planned answers.
“You guys say it’s crazy meeting me,” she offered near the end. “Well let me tell you, last night I went out to a bar with Brenda Walsh. Yep, me and Shannen Doherty plus Hollie Marie Combs went out and got drunk. I never thought that would happen.” And it was in moments like these, Eliza seemed at her most fun and most relatable. Cheers to her for having the best panel I attended.