When the Sydney Opera House invited The A.V. Club to participate in its inaugural BingeFest—a 24-hour celebration of pop culture held this past December—I reached into my dusty improviser’s toolbox and took a general “Yes, and?” approach to the entire endeavor. Because when was I ever going to get any of these opportunities again?
Take a trip to Australia in the middle of December, which is traditionally the busiest time of year for The A.V. Club and way too close to the Christmas holiday? Yes, and I’ll add to that typically massive workload by preparing part of a presentation called, no joke, “All The TV You Should’ve Watched By Now.” Assemble a night-long Buffy The Vampire Slayer marathon with The A.V. Club’s two biggest Buffy fans, a subject sure to breed as much conflict and hurt feelings as much as it would generate joy? Yes, and I’m going to fight tooth and nail to get “The Zeppo” on there. Help heighten the experience of watching “Hush” in a 350-capacity theater at 1 in the morning by dressing like one of The Gentlemen and creeping into the theater at the end of the episode? Yes, and I’ve pretty much been waiting my entire life to be Michael Dorn in this behind-the-scenes footage from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
I knew I’d be spending the first half of the marathon in the makeup chair, having a prosthetic and a bald cap delicately applied to my face and head, then sprinkled with all manner of powder and touchup. I knew I’d be sacrificing my beard. (See the chronological procession from the photo above to the photos below.) I knew I’d have to fight through jet lag to wake up the morning before the marathon in order to rent a suit.
But it was totally worth it. I can see how actors who have to get into heavy makeup multiple times over the course of a shoot might come to dread the process, but I’m a TV critic in the streaming age, so I’m accustomed to sitting still for hours on end. I never felt like I lost myself anywhere during the process, but I definitely felt different gliding (as best I could, using a heel-toe rolling step that came from another shameful part of my performing-arts past: marching band) through the crowd in full Gentleman regalia. I’m sure the cosplayers could nitpick our mime and our mannerisms, but I had a great time feeding off the stately, wraithlike energy of my co-Gentleman, Hudson—and the enthusiasm we got from the audience went a long way toward keeping me awake at such odd hours. Every reaction—fright, amusement, mixtures of both—carried a little charge with it. The high of it all carried over well after I’d peeled the furrowed brow, crumpled skin, and rictus grin from my face.
We made a part of Buffy come to life for the audience—and in a way, I felt like I lived through my own Buffy allegory. All those episodes about anonymous jerks intoxicated with even the slightest amount of power? I understood them just a little bit more as Hudson and I snaked our way around the Opera House. So thanks, BingeFest, for showing my what it’s like to be a monster for a night. And yes, I’d do it all over again if I could.