Rachel Shelley at the Ultim’Art Planet Babylon Convention in Paris

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Rachel Shelley, Laurel Holloman and Randy Harrison at the Ultim’Art PLanet BabyLon Convention.

The Planet Babylon convention took place from October 30 to November 1, 2010, in Boulogne-Billancourt, located in the south-western suburbs of Paris, France. Scheduled to be an event for fans of both The L Word and Queer as Folk, the guests were Randy Harrison, Laurel Holloman and one Rachel Shelley, which meant that everything had to be done to get this Rachel Shelley admirer’s derrière to Paris on these dates. I’m happy to report that everything was done – and here are some impressions of the venue to get you in the mood:

The convention schedule included Q&As with the actors, photo and autograph sessions, auctions, discussions about The L Word, Queer as Folk and related projects, a dinner with the actors for seven lucky (and loaded ; )) people who had won the auctions of specific weekend passes as well as some of the staff members, performances by the Ultim’Art team, something very cool called “fil rouge” that I’ll explain below, a party and much more. As this event took place in France, the language spoken at the convention was French, but a lot of the scheduled events were translated into English.

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Exemplary Planet Babylon schedule from Monday, Nov. 01.

Here’s some of the above in more detail (and…um…slightly “Rachel-Shelley-centric” as the headline suggests), accompanied by more pictures for your viewing pleasure:

1. The Q&As:

There were three Q&A sessions with Rachel Shelley over the weekend, one on the Saturday were she was asked questions by the hosts of the convention, which tended to be a little broader in scope because, yes, apparently there are some people out there who are not Rachel Shelley fans (which is, of course, an absolute enigma to me ; )). In the two other Q&As, one on the Sunday partnered up with Laurel Holloman and one on Monday with Randy Harrison, the convention goers were able to ask questions and were encouraged to make those fun and a little playful. The actors had three “get-out-of-jail-free-cards” that they could use when they chose not to answer a question, but everyone was pretty game and the card was only used once over the entire weekend if I remember correctly.

Since @AliceSonia and @anca1268 have already done one heck of a job recapping (not only) the Q&As over at L-word.com (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3) and suite101.com (Day1, Day2, Day3), respectively, I will mainly report on the things Rachel said that she – as far as I know – has seldom talked about or were completely new to me:

Q&A DAY 1 (Rachel Shelley):

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  • She doesn’t think that the Helena character was meant to be a replacement for Marina because the producers almost cast an American actress to play the part (Rachel and the American actress where the last two competing for it) and feels that Helena was very different from Marina and became even more so as the seasons progressed.
  • She considers Holland Taylor’s character Peggy Peabody to be crucial to understanding Helena’s behavior.
  • Asked if she had gotten any backlash when she started playing Helena, she said that that there might sometimes be “confusion where the actress stops and the character is” *cough, cough* and that none of the fanmail sent to the production office during the filming of The L Word ever reached any of the actors, so they really didn’t have any idea how their character was perceived unless they went on the internet…
  • Helena was at one point scheduled to become Bette’s boss, but they didn’t pursue that storyline idea for reasons she isn’t privy to.
  • She didn’t know that Dylan would betray Helena when they started filming their storyline in season 3 [she used “we didn’t know” at one point which made me think back to my little rant…] but doesn’t say at what point they were told and thinks that it’s “good sometimes that [the writers/producers] hold back information”. [emphasis in the quotes added by the author…]
  • The “Dylena” storyline is her favorite one. [Yay!]
  • She thinks that Dana’s breast cancer storyline should have ended on a more positive note considering the statistics for a woman of Dana’s age and fitness level and says that many people involved in the series were very upset with the tone of the end of season 3.
  • Lots of the minor character storylines weren’t finished because there were just sooooooo many characters in the show. They sometimes had to leave because of “logistical reasons” like getting other jobs etc., but there was also only so much time in one episode to wrap everything up. She adds that “some shows do this better than others”…
  • When asked to imagine how Helena would have killed Jenny, she says one way might have been cold-blooded and calm season 2 Helena [the pushing motion she makes here and nonchalant look at her fingernails afterwards get a lot of laughs] and the other might have entailed frantically holding her down in the water [she pretends to wring an imaginary neck at this point], which she thinks might be possible because “Helena was unraveling a bit” in season 6.
  • Doctors without Borders” still is the foundation she chooses to support.
  • She would have loved to see the The L Word spin off with Alice [that was set in a prison and did not get picked up by Showtime].

Q&A DAY 2 (Rachel Shelley and Laurel Holloman):

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  • Rachel says that she does find it difficult to be both an actor and a mother and has only done “some work” on Matt LeBlanc’s new show Episodes since her daughter was born but might move to LA this winter to audition during pilot season.
  • She still considers herself a Luddite and is glad to have figured out how to do her email – Facebook, Twitter, etc., aren’t her thing.
  • Asked whom she, Rachel, would date from The L Word, she answers that she would date Tina because she is such a well adjusted, beautiful and lovely woman. Laurel says that she would date Helena and goes on to ponder her fabulous life with her beautiful girlfriend, when Rachel jokes that she takes back her answer as Laurel obviously only wants to date Helena because she is beautiful. On this note, Laurel explains that they changed some dialogue during the swimming pool scene in season 2 to make Helena come across as a little more sensitive, so Tina would have a less shallow reason to date her than “Helena = beautiful” – they wanted the lines to convey that Tina dates Helena because she makes Tina feel beautiful again. Laurel and Rachel then conclude that they would both date Helena for the money. : )
  • When they are asked to “rekindle their flame” aka kiss on stage because Rachel had “kissed” Alexandra Hedison on stage at Dinah Shore previously, Rachel replies, “What happens at Dinah Shore, stays at Dinah Shore,” and Laurel says that she cannot compete with Dylan because she is Helena’s true love. Rachel adds that Bette, obviously, is Tina’s true love. [Aww…]

Q&A DAY 3 (Rachel Shelley and Randy Harrison):

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  • Rachel thinks of herself as a mix of Tina [Kennard, the character] and Erin [Daniels, the actress].
  • Other than Helena, she would have liked to play Bette most but wouldn’t want the responsibility of an entire show on her shoulders.
  • She wouldn’t have liked to play Shane because it would have been very challenging to play someone that is so different from her and then there’s all the sex – it also must be weird to have so many lookalikes.
  • When she was asked, “Pyjamas, nighties, or nothing at all?” she replied, “Pas du tout” and smiled… [Google translate is our friend, hehe…]
  • She says that when you kiss someone on screen you don’t get “lost in the moment” because it is such an unnatural setting, you think so much about the process of the shot, ponder if you are already at the point where you “have to unbutton her bra”, etc.
  • Asked what she enjoys most about the writing and acting process, she replied that she had always enjoyed writing and likes that you can start from scratch and get lost in the process of creating something that is completely yours; many things have to go well and lots of people are involved in making an acting experience great, but when all this comes together, acting can be very fulfilling.
  • She doesn’t see the other The L Word actors often because she lives in London, but has been in contact with Jennifer Beals and Laurel Holloman (e.g. for her interviews with them for DIVA Magazine), Mia Kirshner, Rose Rollins, Alexandra Hedison, and Pam Grier.
  • Rachel would have liked to play Brenda from Six Feet Under or Shirley [?] from Are You Being Served?.
  • Randy talks about his audition for Queer as Folk and mentions that he had to walk to it from the hotel Showtime had put him in [walking being obviously very uncommon in LA], when Rachel chimes in that she had walked to her audition for Showtime as well and probably stayed in the same hotel he did.
  • A headline about her life at the moment would read: “Mom takes baby to park.”
  • Her upcoming projects are: 1. Continue to take baby to park. : ) 2. Go to LA in the new year to audition during pilot season which probably won’t be an entirely fun experience because the competition is so tough.

2. Photo and autograph sessions:

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The autographs and photo sessions took place on all three days outside the main hall in the upper corridors of the venue, which was heaven for the attendees because the actors were constantly passing everyone in the corridors as they were walking to their autograph tables and/or the photo booths. Rachel was very sweet and quite talkative once you were able to muster up the courage to ask a question…

3. Discussions, performances, etc.

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Can’t say much about the discussions as they were held in French – my knowledge of the language is *ahem* limited to put it mildly – but judging from what I’ve heard from others and what can be extrapolated about them from the excellent questions Laurel was asked in her Q&A on Monday, they must have been very interesting and I have to really brush up on my French for the next Ultim’Art convention.

The performances by the hosts and the team that took place in the morning and all throughout the day at different times were fun and impressively well choreographed. As this was my first Ultim’Art con, I don’t think I got all the references that were made during the performances and also with the performance itself sometimes, so I guess I must come back to investigate this further. : )

I really enjoyed the showing of Thinking, a short film feat. Randy Harrison, followed by a Q&A with writer/director/actor Marci Adilman, and believe that a convention is a great forum to get the word out about projects like these.

4. Fil Rouge

Another point on the convention schedule was the elusive “fil rouge”. It turned out to be a truly elaborate dance routine that everyone who wanted to participate would practice at certain times during the weekend and which would then be performed during the closing ceremony to surprise the actors. I unfortunately had to leave before the actual performance, but here is some of what went down:

Big thanks to @anca1268 and @secretgirlin04 for the footage.

All I can say is, “Awesomeness!” and, “I don’t care if I miss my plane, next time I’ll stay!”

A huge thank you to everyone involved in organizing this convention – and special props to Yaëlle, one of the hosts, for a great translation job from French to English and vice versa (or so I heard…), I bow to her truly impressive memory skills. Also to the actors, who were fun, laid-back and very friendly, even though they must have been quite busy with everything that was going on. I really had a great time meeting them (and it must come as a huge surprise to you if I now reveal that I especially enjoyed meeting one actress in particular ; )) as well as the other lovely people I spent time with at the con that I would have probably never gotten to know if it wasn’t for a little show called The L Word and everything that has been set into motion because of it.

For additional information, pictures, and videos from the event check out the Ultim’Art message board, the “Planet meets Babylon” Facebook group, secretgirlin2004’s and tina4ever68’s YT channels, #PlanetBabylon on Twitter as well as the reports mentioned above.

*is off to work on her time machine to be able to go back…*


This post was last updated on 11/22/10.

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