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How do you cram a half-dozen of the best of this year’s genre shows into a single hour at Comic-Con International? Fans found out Friday during the “TV Guide Magazine: The 2010 Hot List” panel, which featured: Elizabeth Mitchell (“V”), Morris Chestnut (“V”), Morena Baccarin (“V”), Chi McBride (“Human Target”), Zachary Levi (“Chuck”), Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries”), Julie Benz (“No Ordinary Family”), Summer Glau (“The Cape”), Keith David (“The Cape”) and David Lyons (“The Cape”).
Moderator Craig Tomashoff, executive editor of TV Guide Magazine, took on the daunting task of presenting clips from each of the series and posing questions to the panelists. But first, he presented a long clip titled “What’s Worth Watching”, featuring older scenes and interviews from “The Vampire Diaries,” “Nikita,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “No Ordinary Family,” “Fringe,” “V,” “Falling Skies,” “True Blood” and “Chuck.”
Since the theme was genre shows, Tomashoff asked, “Is there an advantage, something different, about being in a genre show?”
Benz, fresh off her stint on the Showtime hit “Dexter,” and now starring in “No Ordinary Family,” responded: “Having been in genre shows for my entire career, something great about that is the fans … you don’t have that passion in some other shows.”
Levi agreed, adding, “I only have a job because of you guys. … I love you guys, I can’t even take it.”
Tomashoff introduced a brief clip from “The Vampire Diaries,” and asked executive producer Kevin Williamson about the show’s second season.
“The second chapter…we’re going to blow the lid off of Mystic Falls,” Williamson said. “If you read the books, you know that … the werewolf shows up. And we also have Katherine now.”
Turning to “Chuck,” Tomashoff asked Levi, “Did you guys know that when you filmed the finale [last season], that when you come back it was set up with Mom and everything?”
“‘When you say did you know you were coming back?'” Levi said. “That’s alien talk to us. No, we did not… Mom was an excellent little piece of parsley put in there, to kind of sauce the whole thing up … not that parsley is a saucy herb — kind of bland, in fact — but you know what I mean. …
“I think this year, especially now that we are implementing a lot of vampires, it’s going to be great!” Levi joked, smiling toward Williamson at the other end of the panel. “I look great with these incisors
Tomashoff, focusing on the tendency for the Chuck to wear disguises and prosthetics, asked, “Will you get to wear the disguise with the mustache, nose, and all that?”
“I love to do those disguises,” Levi replied. “I hope we get to do more of that, but it’s expensive and time-consuming, and we don’t have a lot of either of those.”
Focusing on developments near the end of last season, Tomashoff asked, “Did you guys know going in that everyone is going to find out Chuck’s secret?”
“I don’t know,” Levi responded, “I think every show needs to change and evolve or else it becomes stale. … I can’t lie to my sister and family forever. … So, yeah, I think it was due, to bring everyone into the fold to that extent.”
Tomashoff presented a brief clip from “Chuck,” with Chuck revealing his secret kung-fu spy abilities to best friend Morgan.
“How much ass kicking do you get to do this year?” Tomashoff asked Levi.
“It was a lot of fun to finally get into the action and fighting and all that,” the actor said. “And that episode I actually got to direct, which was great. This season I hope I get to do a lot more fighting, so yeah, lot of fun.”
Audience members then demanded that Levi demonstrate kung-fu moves, but with the the limited space at the dais, all he was able to pull off was a slight wiggle.
Turning to ABC’s “V,” Tomashoff focused on the upcoming season’s departure from the structure of the previous incarnation of the show, which aired in the 1980s.
“We are happy that the fans gave us a chance, and we are looking forward to step up to it with a second season,” said Mitchell, who stars as FBI agent and resistance member Eric Evans.
Chestnut. who plays Fifth Column member Ryan Nichols, interjected with a smile, “Let me just say I work with two of the most beautiful women on television. … Working with Morena, I watch the show when it comes on and I am like, ‘Woah, she’s scary’.”
Baccarin (Visitor High Commander Anna) smiled and said, “We did this scene with Morris where he is about to choke me, and I was like, ‘Woah, not only is Morris a very attractive man, but he’s about to choke me,’ and he’s a big guy, and it was kind of intimidating!”
Tomashoff introduced a clip from “V” that focused on Baccarin’s intimidating character, and asked, “When you walk around town, do people look at you with fear?”
“Ha. That’s why I dyed my hair,” Baccarin replied. “I live in New York, and I’d be on the train, and usually it’s really cramped, but people would leave this space around me. … It was kind of nice!”
Presenting a second “V” clip, Tomashoff asked Chestnut, “Is there an actual baby?”
“Yeah, I believe people will see a baby on the show this season,” he said.
Turner to Mitchell, who played Juliet on “Lost,” Tomashoff said: “‘Lost’ had an explosion, there was a ‘V’ explosion. You just spend your life dodging explosions?”
“Yeah, it’s great all the way around,” Mitchell said. “Great-looking men all around me, and explosions.”
Switching to “Human Target,” Tomashoff asked McBride (Winston), “Do you get tired of being the guy who doesn’t do the physical stuff on the show?”
“When I worked at the phone company, what I did for them was as little as possible, and that carried into show business,” McBride said. “My motto is, ‘Don’t stand if you can sit, and don’t sit if you can lay down.’ I mean Mark [Valley], the guy is a Marine. He does all the heavy lifting physically.”
“But there are some changes coming to the show,” he continued. “Beautiful, talented actress Indira Varma is coming on to the show. She was on the HBO show ‘Rome.’ …It’s going to be pretty awesome. I do love doing the physical stuff. … This is an opportunity to do some action, shoot some guns, punch out some people … it’s just great to have those opportunities. I think we are going to see a lot from Winston this year, in terms of getting back into the field, which he doesn’t want to do, but he has to.”
Tomashoff showed a clip from “Human Target,” before asking, “The chemistry between the three of you guys — was that instantaneous for you?”
“We do like each other,” McBride responded. “We enjoy hanging out together, and hopefully that comes across on screen. But we are really good friends off camera.”
Turning to the new series represented on the panel, Tomashoff asked Benz about “No Ordinary Family.”
“The premise of it is, we’re just your regular, ordinary family, and end up developing super abilitie,” she said. “It’s a cross between ‘Incredibles’ meets ‘Heroes,’ with some ‘Brothers & Sisters’ mixed in with it.”
After showing a clip from the show, Tomashoff asked Benz to describe the significance of that scene. “We are in the Amazon, my character is a scientist, we decide to take an hour tour over the Amazon, and the plane is going down, and that’s when things change,” Benz said.
Asked about their powers, Benz said, “Each character develops a power that fills a gap in their lives … the ability I develop is super-speed, so now I can be the perfect woman, and perfect wife, and have my career. I think every woman could use super-speed.”
Regarding the family aspect of the series, Benz said, “The only way to make it real is to really bind to the family drama. We are a fractured family in the beginning. … These powers bring us together, but in other ways they also come between us”.
Tomashoff asked what made her want to follow “Dexter” with “No Ordinary Family.”
“Um, I got the role!” she said. “They asked me!” After a pause, she continued, “No, really, I did want to play something different from Rita. She had strength, but was a bit passive in some respects. … I did have to audition for this, they didn’t just call me up and say, ‘Hey!’ So I wanted this role. Rita was … needy and dependent, and Stephanie is the exact opposite. She is very intelligent, powerful, and actually has trouble with the mother side of it, the softer side of it.”
Moving on to the last of the new series, Tomashoff asked of “The Cape” star David Lyons to describe the premise of the superhero drama. “It’s the genesis of a superhero,” he offered. “A guy is torn away from his family, his son, and he’s forced to sort of play the role of a comic-book hero to try and win back the trust of his son.”
After showing a brief clip from the show, Tomashoff wondered about each hero’s powers, and asked Glau, “What made this something you wanted to do, Summer?”
“My character’s abilities — there’s nothing really supernatural about it,” she said. “It’s real, you have to learn everything that you’re able to do. I liked that about it. But mostly what I liked about Orwell is it’s another opportunity to play a strong character. But also she’s rebellious, and she’s about not giving up.”
Asked about his character’s abilities, Keith David said, “All of his powers are acquired skills that he has to learn how to do right. … He wants to be the man to make a difference, I think when [my character] started out being a magician, I wanted to entertain people, and I didn’t quite get what I wanted to get … and so I get to rob banks, and I am OK with that. But now I am asked,
‘Can you do what you do but for good?’, and I am caught between a rock and a hard place. I’ve got to pay my bills, but also I want to do good.”