Entertainment Weekly’s Brave New Warriors panel at Comic-Con brought together a roster of the most popular — and handsome, according to moderator Lynette Rice of EW — leading men on television. David Harbour (Stranger Things), Christopher Meloni (Happy!), Colin O’Donoghue (Once Upon a Time), Richard Rankin (Outlander), Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld), and Ricky Whittle (American Gods) took the stage in San Diego to talk about their roles on today’s most acclaimed shows as well as the good — and bad — of their journey in Hollywood.
Rice wasted no time in digging into the careers of the charismatic sextet of actors, first asking them what they loved about their current roles as well as parts in their past that they regret or are ashamed of.
“I have to think about this one,” said Harbour. “Start with someone else.”
Whittle, who said he is extremely grateful for his Shadow Moon on American Gods, chimed in, remembering his modeling career. “Remember that episode of Friends when Joey did that ad about sexually transmitted disease? Well, I did one similar,” he admits. “Don’t ever do those disease commercials — you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”
Meloni went off of that, saying, “I’ll one-up you on that — I was turned down for a hemorrhoid commercial.” Even so, the Law & Order alum went on to talk about his new role in the upcoming Syfy series Happy! Based on the graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, the series follows Meloni’s Nick Sax, an intoxicated, corrupt ex-cop-turned-hitman. After a job goes wrong, he hits rock bottom, but things change when a relentlessly positive, imaginary, blue winged horse named Happy enters his life.
“I love seeing and playing characters who are on a journey of redemption,” said Meloni. “It’s a rich journey to travel.”
Known as Hook on Once Upon a Time, O’Donoghue admits to enjoying the eyeliner and leather pants he gets to wear and loves the fandom surrounding the ABC fantasy series. But when it comes to past roles, he has a very awkward story about performing in a stage play where he had to show a little skin.
“I had to take my clothes off in a play — I don’t even like taking my clothes off at home,” he recalls. “I strip down to my tighty whities at one point in the play and I had to crouch down in front of an audience member and their face is in my junk. One night I looked up during that part — and it was my mum.”
After some careful thought, Harbour, who plays Chief of Police Jim Hopper on Stranger Things, recalls with embarrassment his time on the soap opera As the World Turns as Officer Shanks, a guard at the Oakdale Prison who is manipulated to release the gorgeous inmates.
As for his role in the popular Netflix series, Harbour talked about his love for Hopper, saying he’s such a jerk in the beginning of the series but as the story progresses eventually receives love from the audience. “You can play with the audiences’ emotions,” he points out. “I don’t know if he’s going to be the hero he wants to be.”
The panel turned into confession time for the men as they talked about embarrassing tattoos and piercing, both of which Meloni has — but wouldn’t share where on his body. Rice also grilled them about whether they have practiced an awards acceptance speech (all of them have) and if they did push-ups before a shirtless scene (all of them but Meloni and Harbour have). When it comes to embarrassing encounters with fans, Whittle and Santoro shares their very awkward experiences that happened, of all places, in the men’s restroom.
“I ran into one guy who wanted to shake my hand, without washing first,” said Santoro, who plays Host Hector Escaton on HBO’s Westworld said. “Which isn’t appropriate.”
Recalled Whittle: “I once had a guy using the urinal next to me and he was he just looked at me and said, ‘You’re him, right?” “He wanted to take a picture — I said, ‘Let’s do it outside.'”
When asked if they get confused for another actor, Whittle said he gets mixed up with Shemar Moore, while Harbour gets mistaken for Michael C. Hall. As for Outlander star Rankin, he is the doppelganger for a very high-profile A-lister.
“I get confused with Brad Pitt,” said Rankin, who plays Roger Wakefield on the popular Starz drama. He waits a beat and then said, “Also, Ricky Whittle.”
When Rice asked the panel, more than of half of which have accents, about the most insulting thing a director has said to them, the Scottish actor said he once was asked to make his accent less Scottish, and Santoro was asked to make a love scene “less Latino.” For Harbour, his story was more funny than insulting.
“I was the third gay cowboy in a tw0-gay-cowboy movie titled Brokeback Mountain,” said Harbour. “After three takes of one scene, Ang Lee — who I love — directed me to do it ‘more handsome.'”
The actors also discussed a parade of secret talents. Harbour did a tongue trick, Meloni offered up a monkey face, Rankin demonstrated his weirdly flexible hands and fingers, and Santoro showcased his whistling talent. O’Donoghue, who is used to doing things one-handed as Hook on OUAT, showed off his one-handed shuffling abilities, but Whittle had some difficulty when he tried to follow suit. Defeated, he simply said, “I can eat a lot of pie.”