Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Revisiting NYCC 2014: An Interview with The Hound and Arya Stark

It's be been how long since New York Comic Con?

It was a long, crazy weekend and in some ways we’re still processing all that we saw and did! Cosplaying as Arya and Brienne was one of our most ambitious endeavors to date and participating in the Game of Thrones cosplay meet-up was a highlight of the convention.

Among the amazing cosplayers we met, we were especially impressed with the Hound and Arya Stark cosplayed by David Baxter and Cecilia Ewing. We had heard about their costumes well before we saw them. Their incredible costumes had people buzzing, both on the show floor and after the Con. They’ve since been featured in a number of “Best of NYCC” galleries and videos, and David’s costume has even been given a nod of approval by George RR Martin! 

They kindly agreed to chat with us about their cosplay and convention experiences.

Can you tell us a little about your cosplay background? 
DB: I’ve been doing cosplay long before the term existed.  I’ve been making handmade (or friend/mom made) costumes since I was probably ten.  My first major costume was Cornelius from Planet of the Apes.  I really started cosplaying in earnest in the early 1990’s when someone remarked at a costume party where I dressed up as Darth Vader that I was slightly taller than the actor who portrayed him (David Prowse) and that they knew how to get a screen-accurate costume.  That put me on the road to where I am now.  I mostly dressed as Vader and was the first So Cal Vader in the 501st.  We went to LA Children’s Hospital and City of Hope a lot and had a great time.  The pinnacle of that cosplay was being the official Vader for the premiere of Attack of the Clones at the Chinese Theater in LA. 

Besides Vader I’ve done Hellboy, Frankenstein, and Gandalf the Grey.  I was actually Gandalf in the Denny’s Hobbit Menu commercial.  You can still find it on YouTube.  The recurring theme was always playing larger than life pop culture icons.  I guess the character of the Hound was just a nice fit.  He seemed more complex than trying to play his brother The Mountain.

CE: Arya was my first cosplay ever. My mom is an amazing seamstress so I have always had really elaborate Halloween costumes, but I haven't had the opportunity to really do more with it until the last couple of years. The more stuff I started to get into (shows, movies, etc.), the more I was wanting to go to conventions and cosplay, but it wasn't until this summer that I finally did.

What prompted you to dress as your character? 
CE: I started watching Game of Thrones at the very beginning of this year because of my roommate, and I got hooked. Then over the summer I was hanging out with friends and one of them (who is very tall) joked that I should dress as Arya. And so, my mom and I started working on the costume... 

DB: I like the complexity of his character.  He’s a realist in a harsh world.  Not evil, necessarily.  He has a code he follows.

How did your cosplay collaboration happen? Were you friends already? 
CE: No!  We had never met before. I was volunteering at FantasyCon in Utah this summer and ran into him. I was just finishing my volunteering for the day and ran into him and my friends told me I just had to get a picture with him, even though I wasn't in my costume. When I went up to him the first thing he asked was "Why aren't you dressed as Arya?!" To which I said I would be that Saturday. He immediately told me we should compete together in the FantasyCon cosplay competition. And we - along with Michael Coleman as our amazing Little Finger - won best fantasy entry. It was awesome. 

DB: We hit it off immediately.

Do you find yourselves behaving differently or having a different dynamic when you're in costume, as opposed to when you're being yourself? 
DB: Absolutely.  I am much coarser and swear as The Hound. In everyday life I’m more laid back.  I find that whatever character I portray I take on some of their characteristics. 

CE: I definitely think we take on more of the characters when we are taking pictures, though. David totally gets into it, which is a lot of fun. And I like the opportunity to play it tough, because I don't think I'm like that in real life at all.


How did your costumes come together? 
DB: The costume was put together by myself and lots of people who either worked on it for free, or I paid them.  The latest incarnation had my leather armor made by and the gorget, chainmail and knee bracers were all done by the amazing David Powell.  It took over a year to get it to where it is today.  The reason I did the costume originally was for a Game of Thrones birthday party for my 50th last year at Wondercon.  I met so many wonderful GoT cosplayers that I decided to keep improving on the costume. 

CE: My mom makes incredible costumes, so she did a lot of it. Most of it, really. I was just along for the ride. I've done a bit of everything. But she created the whole pattern for the vest/jerkin part of the costume. I found just a ton of reference photos and she found all the materials. We bought an absurd amount of belting and measured it all out. We punched every hole in the vest and tied it all together. 

The whole thing took a little over two weeks, but that was under pressure. I didn't know I was going to FantasyCon until around then, which is when we really started working on it. I had originally been planning on just wearing it to NYCC. But we worked really hard and stayed up very late for a couple of weeks and got it all done. We were up at 10pm the night before dyeing it and wearing it out. Worth it!

What was your NYCC experience like?  
Photo courtesy of Cecilia Ewing
DB: NYCC was fantastic!  I got to see Cecilia again and we had a blast and won the Geico Cosplay contest.  The most memorable moment was the group picture with all the GoT cosplayers.  So much fun.  I’ve been to Wondercon, SDCC, FantasyCon, NYCC, and Comikaze with my Hound.  May need to change it up for the next one. 

CE: It was amazing! This was my first NYCC, and my first big convention in general. FantasyCon was really small, so this was a totally different feel. I was planning on going to NYCC with a friend anyway, so it was
awesome when David said he was going to be there. I think the most memorable thing was just the sheer crowds of people who would gather around us to take pictures when we stopped. It was not like anything that I have ever experienced before. There were just so many of them, and so many camera snapping. It was insane. There was also the awesome experience of the Game of Thrones cosplay photo shoot. It was so great to see all of the other amazing Game of Thrones cosplayers. Plus it was great to pose with all of them and just be the character.

What was the most common reaction to your costume? Did people request any specific interactions?  
CE: Oh, man, I loved the reaction I got second-hand. See, David is this really imposing figure. You can see him coming from very far away. And you would hear these people yell, "Oh, look! There's The Hound!" And they would all get really excited and then I would come out from behind him and people would go "And Arya!" It was just so funny. It happened all day. 

DB: People seemed blown away by my presence in the costume. At 6’8” I’m just right for making a big impression! 

CE: The most common request I got for posing was people would ask for me to point Needle at them. Which I loved. They would go "can you just pretend to stab me?" And how can I possibly say no to that?? Of course I can pretend to stab you! That's only a dream for me to live out! 


David, did you expect the chicken to be as popular as it was? 
DB: Everyone seems to love my Colonel “Sandor” bucket and chicken.  I thought it would get the reaction that it did.    

Did anything surprise you about cosplaying your characters? What was the most fun part? Least? 
DB: Least fun is the heat.  It’s very hot to wear that much armor and it’s quite heavy.  The most fun is just people’s reactions when they see me. 

CE: I think I have more confidence when I am cosplaying Arya, which I didn't expect. Especially when I got to go onstage the first time. I have terrible stage fright, but when I walked out I just felt in control. It was amazing! I totally love the confidence cosplaying Arya gives me. Least fun? Probably how exhausted I get, haha. There is a lot of walking around. And I get very hot. But I love it too much to let getting tired
bother me.

My other favorite was that I got to meet some really cool people. I got to meet Riddle (@Ridd1e) at FantasyCon (she was one of the cosplay judges) which was so exciting. Also, I got to talk to the totally amazing Doug Jones a few times that day. I am such a huge fan of his and he came backstage at FantasyCon to tell me he just loved me and then he gave me a hug. One of the coolest experiences ever.

Do you have any other characters you'd like to cosplay or fandoms you’re interested in? 
DB: I’d like to do a cosplay with my six year old son.  Maybe Hodor and Bran from Game of Thrones or Hagrid and Harry Potter.  I’d like to do Sauron or the Witch King from Lord of the Rings at some point but these would be very expensive. 

CE: David has a really great Gandalf cosplay, so I am planning on creating a Frodo costume with my mom next time I'm home from school. I'm really excited about that one because I love Lord of the Rings. One on my own I would really like to do is Olive Snook from Pushing Daisies. That is one I absolutely have to do at some point. Also Cecil from Welcome to Night Vale. Other fandoms... So many. Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, Harry Potter, Hannibal... there are more. I'm currently watching Buffy, which I adore.

What were your Halloween plans this year? Did you dress up?
CE: Ah, Halloween. So, I had planned to go as Arya, but I ended up... not doing that. I went to the Halloween parade in the Village and I wanted to bundle up. So I threw on a long blue sweater, braided some of my (now blue) hair, and claimed I was modern Elsa. Yeah, not my best, but it didn't really matter when the sweater was under a coat, and the hair was under a Ravenclaw hat. Maybe next year! 

DB: I was the Hound at ComiKaze! 

It was so much fun joining in on the cosplay fun at NYCC. Kitty “punched” the Hound (and managed not to break David’s nose), while Kae got to stab Joffrey with the “pointy end.”   


Best of all, we've got two new awesome cosplay friends! 
Thanks, David and Cecilia!