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Syfy Press Tour 2014 - Highlights and Scoop

On October 19 and 20, I had the pleasure of attending the 8th Annual Syfy Press Tour in Orlando, Florida. My ears are still messed up as I had to take three flights there and three flights back so I'm finding it a little hard to hear out of my left ear, but anyway, attending the press tour was so worth any hearing loss I now have. I got the chance to meet and talk to some of my most favourite actors from other shows that I can't wait to see what they're like in their upcoming Syfy shows. All details of Syfy's new shows and when they will air will be further down in the Panels section so stay tuned for that. Unfortunately, I was coming down with a cold and my throat ended up getting sore right before the events so my voice sounded a little hard to understand (add that in with my thick Geordie accent) so I commend the actors for actually understanding anything I said during the tour. Kudos!

On the Sunday, the night started at 6.30PM with a Cocktail Hour which, if anybody knows me well enough, I love free cocktails. Cocktails are my favourite so this was a great start. The location was Antojitos at the Universal CityWalk where we also had a great Mexican dinner. The dinner acted as a Welcome for the press that showed up and I was pleasantly surprised at the sheer number of people present. We were welcomed by the President of Syfy (Dave Howe) and the EVP of Original Content (Bill McGoldrick) and other people involved in Syfy behind-the-scenes were also mingling with the press there. I also received a great little name badge with my affiliation, SpoilerTV, on it which was so awesome, it made me feel special. In fact, it made me feel so special that I ended up keeping it on for my flights home so people would think I was important. That, and a flash drive they gave me at the panels on Monday that hung around my neck with Haven's logo covering it. Definitely made me feel important.

After the dinner and cocktail hour, we took bus transportation to Cabana Bay where we had bowling, drinks and desert at Galaxy Bowl. We were quickly joined by the cast of Ascension which was so amazing. The cast were actually scarily good at bowling which made me think they must have practiced before going to the event. While I was pretty good myself at times (because my head needs to be bigger), I could have been better, especially when actor Brian Van Holt from Cougar Town, Black Hawk Down and House of Wax, joined the teams in the booth I was in and won basically every round. Man, could he get a strike. He was phenomenal. I also managed to talk to Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica and one of my favourite episodes of Supernatural (Season 2's Roadkill) but I was so star-struck I ended up just praising the ground she walked on and complimented her and she was so sweet. I also got a couple of hugs out of her which she was very happy to do, bless her. I managed to catch Andrea Roth who I just absolutely adore from Ringer and she is also best known from Rescue Me and Blue Bloods but I ended up talking to her about Ringer and she looked back at it with fond memories and couldn't understand why it got cancelled. Neither could I. I loved Andrea, she was so amazing and we hugged before she had to set off as her team were waiting for her to bowl. Later, Z Nation's Keith Allan entered the room and I am a big fan of Z Nation so I managed to steal him for a photo and tell him how much I love him in it. He told me about the hardships he had to endure to try and get to where he is today which was pretty remarkable. Things haven't been easy for him but look at where he's standing now!

Gavin Hetherington & Brian Van Holt

Tricia Helfer & Gavin Hetherington

Gavin Hetherington & Andrea Roth

Keith Allan & Gavin Hetherington

Syfy Show Panels

The following day, it was an early morning wake-up call for breakfast which I had to get down as early as I could so I could score a good enough seat at the panels. Just look at the beauty of where I sat - the second row in basically right in the middle for a great view of the cast and crew members when they came on. The room was gorgeous and there were screens either side of the stage where they played previews of the shows for us to see. I live-tweeted the event which was a little hard to do as sometimes my phone is rubbish to type on and I didn't want to miss anything important but I think I managed to pull it off. The panels began at 9AM, the first of which were with Dave Howe, the President of Syfy, and Bill McGoldrick, EVP of Original Content for Syfy. They apologised for the Sharknado panel being cancelled which would have had Ian Ziering (of Beverly Hills 90210), Anthony C. Ferrante (Director) and Thunder Levin (Writer). They revealed that the third film of the Sharknado trilogy will be called "Sharknado Takes On the Feast Coast" and will take on Washington, D.C. before heading to Orlando. How super awesome and fun does that sound? Could be the best film yet! Dave and Bill began discussing the network, with Dave commenting how excited he is with how Bill is doing in his first year on the network. Bill absolutely loves the fact that fans of Syfy shows are passionate about their shows and are willing to argue to defend them. He also respects that there will be no early cancellations for shows as the network honours their fans.

Aaron Sagers, Dave Howe & Bill McGoldrick

The president said they will be taking on more provocative Syfy shows so we can expect bigger and better shows from the network, ones that will really make you think. Shows will be more serialised and thought-provoking, claiming there's "no such thing as too much sci-fi as long as it's good sci-fi." If you're worried about a show being cancelled, take a look at its ratings. Dave said that "consistency is good", so if a show is consistant with ratings and/or quality, then they shouldn't be too worried about a show which proved to be interesting audience research. Also, expect to see more Helix-type premieres, with a double-episode premiere followed by the third episode being available on certain VOD services such as iTunes and Hulu. This worked with Helix so the network seems to be going in that direction for future shows.

Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull & Travis Fickett

Up next was the panel for upcoming show, 12 Monkeys. The show will premiere on January 16, 2015. Present at the panel were stars Aaron Stanford (of Nikita, X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand) and Amanda Schull (of One Tree Hill, Suits and Pretty Little Liars), and the co-executive producer, Travis Fickett. First things were first, they showed us a really exciting preview of the show and revealed the show will be a serialised time-travel show. The stars and the producer confirmed that fans will be pleased with what they have expanded and changed from the movie, keeping true to it while also paving the path for its own show. As of October 20, they were finishing filming episode nine in Toronto and were about to start episode ten. I managed to ask Amanda Schull a question, where I told her I am a big fan of hers and asked her how different it was working on a sci-fi show to the teen dramas she is used to working. She was so great, and told me it was very different. While shows like One Tree Hill and Pretty Little Liars do get a little unrealistic with supernatural elements that aren't supposed to be there, she loves that she can do so much and get put through a lot for 12 Monkeys. Plus, she gets to time travel so that's awesome. I had a true fangirl moment and I actually called for first dibs of a photo with her and she obliged and we talked and she was super awesome. Proud moment. Then, they told us that the show will tell "a lot of story" and the characters will get put through a lot so action will be quite constant. It was also incredible to meet Aaron Stanford too as I am a huge Nikita and X-Men fan.

Gavin Hetherington & Amanda Schull

Gavin Hetherington & Aaron Stanford

Kyra Zagorsky & Steven Maeda

Following 12 Monkeys was the Helix panel, consisting of star Kyra Zagorsky and executive producer Steven Maeda. Helix's second season will premiere on January 16, 2015 and will be moving from its season one location at the base to an island! The focus in Helix has now shifted - new location, new disease, new villain. Kyra tells us she is excited with each script as she finds them creative, bizarre, dark and tense. She confirms she gets put through the ringer. Steven tells us season two will pick up fifteen months later where they are going to have fun with the structure and storytelling - fans will see snippets of the base, flashing back and flashing forward while going to different places. The main title music will change for season two to reflect the theme and will do so for following seasons should the show get renewed. The end of season one? They will get into what happened with Julia - did she betray them? Well, Kyra says Julia is a survivor and will do what it takes to survive. There will be a new CDC character played by Matt Long (Jack & Bobby, Private Practice) as well as a new character played by Steven Weber (Wings, Chasing Life, everything).

Selfie with Kyra Zagorsky

Michelle Lovretta, Aaron Ashmore & Emily Andras

After a break, we began the Killjoys panel. In the panel was actor Aaron Ashmore (of Smallville and Warehouse 13), Michelle Lovretta (Show Creator and Executive Producer) and Emily Andras (Consulting Producer). No concrete release date is given but it will come 2015 and the trailer they showed us looked fantastic! Aaron revealed his character in Killjoys will be so different to his character in Warehouse 13. Michelle confirmed there will be no clones or aliens in Killjoys. When asked about working with Syfy, Aaron is so happy to be back with the network. He loves Syfy just as much as we do. Aaron was drawn to the pedigree of talent on the show and auditioned without a script. The biggest challenge the show had was finding the cast for the show - Aaron said plenty of talented, amazing women auditioned for the role of Dutch but they could never find the right one until Hannah John-Kamen (Dark Souls video games). Aaron also said that Luke Macfarlane (Brothers & Sisters) was THE right person for D'Avin even from the waiting room he knew. The cast clicks and has great chemistry, which I could tell from the preview they showed us. The spaceship is Aaron's favourite bit of tech on the show, and they named her Lucy. Killjoys will also be tonally similar to Firefly. Michelle was hesitant to use the comparison but they think fans of Firefly will enjoy Killjoys. It was confirmed there will be no love triangle between the main characters (phew) but a relationship between the three (non-sexual) will be important to the show.

Emily Andras, Aaron Ashmore, Gavin Hetherington & Michelle Lovretta

Tina Teeter, John Ware, Bryan Boylen & Glenda Hersh

The Town of the Living Dead panel began with panelists Tina Teeter (Producer), John Ware (Director), Bryan Boylen (Actor) and Glenda Hersh (Executive Producer). They showed us a trailer of the episodes that air on Tuesdays at 10/9c and it looks like such a funny documentary series. The film also looks like it is shaping up to be an awesome zombie-flick. When asked what Zombie-Universe that Town of the Living Dead will live in, the answer was a Romero Universe which is awesome. They have had budget issues since Day 1 but now they're getting so close to completing the movie, even though they have about three films worth of footage from the five years they've taken to complete the project. Bryan Boylen was so glad to have a role and actually be able to speak, which made the room laugh. Also, the crew got in trouble a lot by the police, as Tina put it "you can't just put dead bodies in the street". They had to make their own blood, their own effects, absolutely everything they had to do from scratch which makes it feel like an old-school bad-ass film, you know how they used to do it before the whole digital effects and CGI took over everything. Director John Ware had a stroke at one point and they were so close to quitting several times, everything was really hard for them. They soon met a turning point when people started to become interested, they lost someone important and realised they HAD to keep moving forward. It was really emotional and inspiring. Distrubing was hard but Syfy saw something special in this project so I am really excited for the finished product. Honestly guys, this is going to be absolutely awesome.

Glenda Hersh, Bryan Boylen, Gavin Hetherington, John Ware & Tina Teeter

Face Off didn't have a panel. Instead, we went for lunch where host McKenzie Westmore mingled from table to table to share exciting and imporant information about the future of the show. It was so amazing when she sat at the table I was on - she sat directly in front of me! Last night's season seven finale was one of Mckenzie's most favourite finales on the show where King Kong and Godzilla had nothing on the contestants! Then she confirmed that Season 8 will begin January 13, 2015. They're changing the format and are re-introducing past winners to help mentor in season eight, these include Rayce Bird of season two, Anthony Kosar of season four and Laura Tyler of season five. They will coach the contestants, giving them the opportunity to use their advice although they may choose not to. Speaking to McKenzie was pretty inspiring, she shared with us that when fans tweet to her with their designs and she sees something special, she'll retweet which will hopefully give them new eyes to their work to hopefully encourage them to continue persuing their dreams. To see McKenzie so invested in her fans and the fans of the show was really inspiring. She really took the time to be involved with us and you could see how enthusiastic and excited she was about the show. Even eight seasons in now, she is not bored of being on the show. She loves it now more than ever and with the show only getting stronger, it will be no surprise to see her involved with Face Off for more years to come.

Gavin Hetherington & McKenzie Westmore

Brandon P. Bell, Tricia Helfer, Brian Van Holt, Andrea Roth & Al Sapienza

Ascension had the biggest talent panel. It was so cool to see them again after bowling with them the night before and it's the show that a lot of people were most excited about. On the panel were Brandon P. Bell (Hollywood Heights, Switched at Birth), Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural), Brian Van Holt (Cougar Town, Black Hawk Down, House of Wax), Andrea Roth (Ringer, Rescue Me) and Al Sapienza (The Sopranos, House of Cards). The show will premiere with 2 episodes on December 15 with another 2 premiering on another night, and the final two on another night. I'm not sure if they'll be consecutive nights or spread out but either way, it sounds fantastic as the trailer was brilliant. The show is supposed to be a limited series, but hopefully it will get picked up for more episodes.

In Ascension, they won't know things that happened the past fifty years as the main characters boarded the ship as children so they've grown up there and were the first generation to live on the ship. This includes not knowing about the JFK assassination and the civil rights movement, so you can expect things to be intense and different aboard the ship as they seem to be living with minds set in the 60's. The actors studied the 60's for research, though Al said they just had to "forget what they knew" about the past fifty years. By summing up the show, they said it was Mad Men meets Star Trek meets Lost. You will get a backstory on the show. Quite importantly too which sounds so intense is that the population has to be maintained on the ship - people have to die for people to live.
That sounds really cool and dramatic, and drama will ensue. When asked about social media debates, they expect fans will want to argue on social media and they will have a lot of opinions. There will be different angles to the show which will excite fans.

Al Sapienza, Andrea Roth, Brandon P. Bell, Gavin Hetherington, Tricia Helfer & Brian Van Holt

Michael Welch, Karl Schaefer & Keith Allan

The last panel of the day was popular show, Z Nation. Before even introducing the panelists, Chris Regina (Senior Vice President who I spoke to at the Face Off dinner where I demanded a second season which he must have listened because voila) revealed the show has been renewed for a second season. I was on that so fast I might have been the first person to tweet out that information. Welcomed to the panel were actors Michael Welch (Twilight series) and Keith Allan with executive producer Karl Schaefer. As a recap, they reminded us that we have lost people and that coming into episode seven, the group will be at a low point. Addy and Mack are going their separate ways from the group with the hopes of reaching California. When asked about their favourite moments on the show, they revealed the baby in the first episode where they had a midget filling in for the role that was funny.

Z Nation seems to be a zombie show that dares go where The Walking Dead fears to go, for instance, they show us different sides of zombies that can be pretty comedic, like the stoned zombie a couple of episodes back, even a zombie tornado. Karl Schaefer said the show is "putting the fun back into zombies". I got to ask a question too, where I asked Michael and Keith if balancing the comedy of the show was hard to execute the more intense parts. They said it wasn't particularly hard as Michael thought Mack was very head-strong and thinks logically about getting things done so he's always moving forwards. They also confirmed that the zombies on the show get put through so much so kudos to them. Z Nation is proud to be different from The Walking Dead and I'm excited for the final episodes of the season AND season two!

Karl Schaefer, Michael Welch, Gavin Hetherington & Keith Allan

And that was a wrap for the panels. I had the most amazing experience live tweeting the event - I had over 150 retweets and 300 favourites, as well as fantastic interactions with some of the stars from Syfy and the executives. The tweets are still popular too as I'm finding more people are favouriting and retweeting them sporadically. The panels were so insightful and the energy was amazing.

A huge thank you to the whole team behind Syfy that made this press tour possible. They did a fantastic job at making a truly great tour. While I would have personally loved to see more returning Syfy shows such as Haven and Defiance (I'm a huge fan of both), it was fantastic to get insight into the new and upcoming shows of Syfy that will most likely define the future of the network. This was just a fantastic experience for me and I will always look back at it with fond memories. I still can't quite believe I had the opportunity to be part of something incredible.

Be sure to check out the new shows when they premiere guys, seriously I think Syfy have a truly special line-up. Just to refresh your memory with airdates, here they are:

Z Nation - October 24 (Next episode premiere)
Town of the Living Dead - October 28 (Next episode premiere)
Ascension - December 15 (Series Premiere)
Face Off - January 13 (Season 8 Premiere)
12 Monkeys - January 16 (Series Premiere)
Helix - January 16 (Season 2 Premiere)
Killjoys - 2015 (Series Premiere)

Any questions about the event, shows or anything related feel free to ask in the comments below or shoot me an email - gavin at spoilertv dot com. 

About the Author - Gavin Hetherington
Award-winning author of 'Abyssal Sanctuary: Remnants of the Damned'. Gavin joined SpoilerTV on August 9, 2014 and will be reviewing 2 Broke Girls, Mistresses, Orange is the New Black and Salem in the 2014-15 season. Gavin's favourite shows include Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Scandal and much more. You can contact Gavin at
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