On Friday at 2PM, the cast of the Birds of Prey TV series took the stage in the Hyatt Centennial II–III ballroom. Panelists included Dina Meyer, who played Oracle, Ashley Scott, who played Huntress, and Rachel Skarsten, who portrayed Black Canary. The actors were delayed, so moderator Tony Gowell kept the crowd entertained with funny questions and dry, humorous commentary.
The actors came onstage filming with their cellphones, and Meyer announced that they were streaming on social media, or were trying to. The panel opened with Skarsten announcing that she had exactly doubled her age since the shooting of the series. She was then 16 and is now 32. Scott then announced that she had just celebrated her 40th birthday, and Meyer, smiling, said, “Welcome to the club.”
A fan told Meyer he was “a huge Oracle fan” and asked whether she was familiar with the character before being cast. Meyer said she only knew that Oracle used to be Batgirl. She asked, “Do I get to wear that awesome costume?” and was first told yes, then no. She added that she enjoys physical roles and likes to do her own stunts, which she couldn’t in Birds of Prey. The aspect of the role she found most challenging was hitting her designated mark—and light—in her wheelchair. She liked Oracle’s manual wheelchair in the comic because it would make her strong and her escrima sticks for fighting, which Meyer got to use only once. Then she said that she imagined Batgirl had also been very physical before the Joker shot her. In Meyer’s opinion, Oracle became a stronger character than Batgirl had been.
Another fan wanted to know how intensive the physical training for the show had been. Scott replied that she started tae kwon do and boxing about six weeks before the show, getting in shape, and spent about eight hours a day to get the fight sequences down.
Skarsten quipped, “I spent many hours in front of a mirror, staring,” and Scott added, “Now she can move things with her mind.”
Gowell asked whether there were any issues with the wardrobe. Scott said her costume was changed, with a less constricting corset. She admitted that when she jumped out a window in the pilot, a scene she shared with actor Shemar Moore, she literally couldn’t breathe. The new corset was more functional.
A fan asked whether Meyer had any favorite memories to share from her work with Keanu Reeves on Johnny Mnemonic. “I was starstruck with Keanu,” she said, “and had a fight scene with Dolph Lundgren” in her first movie after the TV series 90210. Her main memory was of shooting at night during the winter in Toronto, running with Keanu Reeves down dark alleys. The temperature was below freezing, the ground was slick, and the chain mail was really cold. She described that part as challenging.
Another fan announced that he and his wife had loved the show but she wasn’t there because she was on duty as a nurse. The cast shouted a greeting to her while he filmed and then had the audience also call out to her.
In response to a question about working with James Caan on Poodle Springs, Meyer described the experience as “amazing,” and added that she particularly enjoyed the film because she’d played a succession of strong women in Starship Troopers and other films and was glad to have a chance to do a more girly character.
Gowell asked whether the actors knew in advance that Birds of Prey had been cancelled. Skarsten said they knew about five episodes in advance. Scott said that was heartbreaking but worked out well because they got to create an ending, to shoot what the production team really wanted, and the last episode was strong in character and tone.
A fan reported having grown up with a lot of strong women on TV and asked whether the actors wanted to play a particular character. Skarsten opted for Batman, stating that he was her favorite. Scott said she would love to choose Wonder Woman, whom she loves, “but how do you follow that [movie]?” Meyer told her she could do it, so Scott settled for Wonder Woman. Meyer then went on to choose Deadpool as her ideal character.
All three actors said they would do Birds of Prey again if the opportunity arose.
A question from the audience spurred a discussion of cutting-edge female superheroes. The questioner noted that Birds of Prey may have been ahead of its time and noted that there were many strong female characters on TV now. Skarsten said they were before their time and that if the show had started in the current era, it would still be running. Scott added that Arrow has a similar vibe to Birds of Prey.
Skarsten noted that Smallville was on at the same time as Birds of Prey, indicating that she thought there were reasons that Smallville hit and Birds of Prey didn’t. “A lot of it is luck of the draw,” she observed, noting that television now is less dependent on ratings. With so many outlets, shows are no longer given three episodes to hit big and then cancelled if they don’t.
An audience member asked Skarsten whether she enjoyed the physicality of her role as Tamsin on Lost Girl. “It was funny,” she replied, “because I was a Valkyrie on that show, and I looked at people and they died.” As everyone laughed, she added that Tamsin was cool, and physical not just in fighting but with humor.
Another fan question led to a discussion of the camaraderie among the actors during the shooting of Birds of Prey. Skarsten said that she was a minor and that Scott and Meyer watched out for her, Scott even going so far as to buy Skarsten a pair of pants like ones of Scott’s she had admired.
Everyone agreed that Shemar Moore was “dreamy,” and Scott said they rehearsed their kisses.
The actors were also asked about their next projects. Meyer is playing the Stone Queen on season three of The Magicians .Scott has a Lifetime movie airing this Saturday, and Skarsten has a Hallmark Christmas movie coming out at Christmas, to the great delight of her mother. She is also in a small film for the festival circuit, Molly’s Game, which was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin.