Actors Who Get FandomS

The best part of falling for a show is discovering that the actors in it are just as shamelessly fannish as you are. Lo and behold, there are a lot more actor geeks than you think!

It's difficult to separate an actor from her character, especially when the acting is of high caliber. Of course, actors deserve to have private lives just like all other creative professionals, and if some of them don't read the Lord of the Rings trilogy every year (like Dominic Monaghan), well, that's just who they are. But it's a special gift from actor to fandom when the people who play beloved heroes turn out to be more than a little like the heroes themselves. They might not fight caped evil in their daily lives, but these eight actors possess that crucial bit of understanding that keeps them from phoning in their roles - and convinces their admirers that they're worth every jaw-drop and swoon.

Kristen Bell
After three years as teenaged noir super-sleuth Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell had to move on to something different - and she chose Heroes. Having watched the show since day one, Bell told the minds behind the show that she was a huge fan; the rest, as you know, is history. She's living proof that part of being a great actress is having a deep personal investment in the story you're being paid to tell. Audiences appreciate the hell out of that. And in a fantastic interview with the A.V. Club, Bell further showed her respect for her fans:

The bottom line is, everyone's a loser in their own right. Here's why I like geek culture: People like what they like because they like it. They're not trying to fit into any mainstream likes or dislikes. You want to dress up like a Star Wars character and go to Comic-Con? Do it, if that's what makes you happy. People might look at you as super-weird, but if that's your obsession, go for it.

Damn straight, Kristen! And I expect to see you in our next cosplay round-up.

Wil Wheaton
The man you know as Wesley Crusher just might be the poster boy for actors-in-fandom. Whether or not you like his Star Trek character, you have to admit that his subsequent work as a blogger has made the lives of many geeks, nerds, and fans very happy. He's written extensively and thoughtfully on his experiences in the world of Star Trek and in real life, producing three books: Dancing Barefoot, Just a Geek, and The Happiest Days of Our Lives. He currently blogs at Wil Wheaton dot Net in Exile.

David Tennant
Nobody had to explain Gallifreyan customs to David Tennant when he took the role of the Tenth Doctor on BBC's Doctor Who. He'd already been watching the program for years. In fact, he is a self-described "Doctor Who junkie" and once cherished a Tom Baker action figure. Now an action figure himself, Tennant took us through the production history of the show in a memorable episode of Doctor Who Confidential entitled "Do You Remember the First Time?" - and by the way, it turns out that pretty much everyone on the team these days was a childhood fan.

Felicia Day
You may know her as Dr. Horrible's lost love Penny or a Potential Slayer from Sunnydale, but it turns out that Felicia Day's geekiest - and awesomest - work yet is the creation of the online web series The Guild. Her tribute to gamers is adorable, hilarious, and subtitled in Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, and German. Yeah, she's one of us.

Nathan Fillion
One of the hallmarks of devoted sci-fi fandom is allowing a fantastic story to become your reality. So Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly, endeared himself to me forever when he started making posts to internet fan forums and signing them "The Cap'n." The Serenity star is my kind of man: He devoured comics as a child, holds frequent Halo tournaments as an adult, and has this to say about his experience as the leading man of a sci-fi western (from Firefly: The Official Companion):

I put on my costume in my trailer and took one last look in the mirror. They called me to the set and I remember coming right from my trailer to inside the door of the set. When you walked into the studio, the ship was just to your left with the big open cargo bay door looking at ya. I remember walking up the cargo bay door for the first time in costume. I believe it was David Boyd, our director of photography, who turned and saw me walking up and turned back around to the crew and said, "Captain on deck." Some people clapped and it was kind of neat. It was a reception I will remember always.

David Duchovny
Nothing says commitment like writing two episodes of the show you star in, directing three others, and contributing to the story of five more. He may have left The X-Files a bit too early for some of our tastes, but Duchovny and creator Chris Carter were very much in cahoots as far as this celebration of unexplained phenomena is concerned - and that demands some respect. As Duchovny told the Los Angeles Times, it's an honor to be part of sci-fi culture:

The X-Files was said to be the first Internet show. We had chat rooms and fan sites and all that. Look, I'm usually five or six years behind whatever is hip. So it was around 2000 that I started doing e-mail and finally started understanding what all that was about. ... My initial response - and I still hold this to be true - is that it takes the place of some of the functions of a church in a small town: A place where people come together, ostensibly to worship something. But really what's happening is you're forming a community. It's less about what you're worshiping and more about, "We have these interests in common." Someone has a sick aunt and suddenly it's about that, raising money to help her or sharing resources to make her life easier. That's what it was about with The X-Files on the Internet.

Ben Browder
Ben Browder's starred in the much-loved Australian-American series Farscape and American-Canadian series Stargate SG-1. Other actors in his position might bitch about being pegged as a sci-fi actor, but not Browder; he was heavily invested in both series, and seemed to have as much fun making them as people did watching them. He snagged a story credit for SG-1 and wrote two episodes of Farscape. As you can tell from the panel recording below, Browder learned his stuff while doing it: he says, "when people tell you that some long arc show which is five years in making is planned in every detail from the beginning, they are full of it!"

Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg will be Scotty in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek film, and is one of the creators and stars of the tongue-in-cheek sitcom Spaced - he plays a sci-fi enthusiast and aspiring comic book writer. He certainly brings a lot of talent to both sides of the screen, and when he guest-starred in Doctor Who, Pegg told the BBC:

Doctor Who was a big part of my childhood ... I'd got into Doctor Who just before Jon Pertwee regenerated into Tom Baker, and as a kid I never remember the special effects being as primitive as they were. It scared the hell out of me but I loved it. I particularly recall monsters like the Sontarans, who had very strange heads; the giant insects in "The Ark in Space" and in one episode, Julian Glover tearing his face off to become this one-eyed creature.

He's speaking, of course, of alien menace Scaroth, who manipulated human history for his own ends in the serial "City of Death." If that brilliantly campy special effect impressed Pegg, he had to have been totally immersed in the story, and that is true sci-fi cred any day.

Salutes all around for these glorious nerdy thespians! Now - who'd I miss?

Thanks to tipsters Heather, Sarah, Ellen, and Lily!

Image from Adventures in Time and Space.