I may be a diehard Browncoat, but it wasn’t the former “Firefly” cast-member I was looking forward to seeing: It was this guy. As Rob put it, Wil Wheaton would fit right in at a barbeque with our friends: He’s a down-to-earth guy who loves games as much as we do, and also happens to have some acting experience (not unknown in our circle: Nothing better than having a trained actor for GM!). ln fact, you may have seen him in the classic movie “Stand by Me”, or in a little show called “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, where he played the teenage Westley Crusher. What makes Wil unique however, is not only the way he handled the experiences of being a child actor – some of which were particularly negative for him – but also his willingness to share them and help others through that honesty. Oh and he’s also become a successful writer/blogger/producer/online media personality/game show host. He spoke candidly about his struggles with anxiety and depression, and how playing board games with friends and family got him though several life challenges. His wildly successful YouTube show, “Tabletop”, comes from a willingness to share his love of board games with the world. In fact, he let a few new tantalizing details slip about the highly anticipated spinoff debuting next month (more on that later).
This was not Wil Wheaton’s first appearance at Ottawa Comic Con, and he has spent enough time in this country to know his audience well. It being playoff season, there was no line that could make this crowd happier than: “I really REALLY love hockey” . A longtime “rabid” LA kings fan and general hockey buff, he joked: “I love to come to Canada and watch hockey in the original Canadian” and that until recently “I didn’t realize how over Don Cherry I am” . When the roars of approving laughter and applause died down, he referred the audience to a hilarious Don Cherry magical keyboard video that exists somewhere on YouTube.
One of the most talked-about features of this year’s Ottawa ComicCon was the beer that Wil collaborated on with Clocktower Brew Pub, the HefeWheaton. The punny name is derived from the style of wheat beer – the Bavarian Hefeweizen – and of course his family name. While the beer was absolutely delicious, with light fruity notes, he absolutely refused to take any credit:
“I didn’t make it. I gave them the recipe […] and then their brewmaster made it better than I ever would have […] Patrick and the brewers at Clocktower deserve all the credit for how good this is. I love it! I wish that I could basically sit around and drink it all day”
While Wil was in college when he first got into craft beers, it wasn’t until his son came home from college one summer and suggested it as a father-son activity that he really got into making homebrew:
“It hit something. The experience of brewing beer combined engineering and math and chemistry and food, and put those things all together and at the end I have beer!”
He has since collaborated with several breweries on a number of recipes, and as with his many other projects, he has blogged about his experiences. There is even an official homebrew kit available for you to make your very own version of one of his collaborations “W00tstout”.
Wil wasn’t quite done showing this Canadian audience how well he understood us. Having worked for several years on “Eureka” in Vancouver, he learned a thing or two about our national cuisine. “I was kinda under the impression that poutine was a thing that happened when you’re drunk” , he explained, imagining finding the infamous Quebecois dish at some sketchy cart (a feat that would have been impossible in Montreal until recently). “I didn’t think it was a thing that you ate in the middle of the day in polite company.”A friend set him straight, explaining that we have it all the time. Now, he indulges at lunchtime while in the county. When he recently mentioned this on Twitter, along with his love of hockey and how much he enjoys the Clocktower beer, someone responded:
” ‘Lemme get this straight: You love hockey, you’re having poutine during the day, you like Ottawa craft beers; Basically all you need to do is go find a random person and apologize to them […] to be an honourable Canadian!’ “
Wil more than accepted the challenge, repeating someone else’s terrible joke about Canada, then sincerely apologizing. Judging by the crowd’s response, they were more than happy to accept him as one of their own!
Wil has been spending some time up here lately. He was, until recently, in Toronto working on an exciting new project. For more on that and on the new Tabletop spinoff, continue on to Part Two.