Denise Crosby recently appeared in Tampa, Florida at the Away Mission convention and spoke to a gathered group of enthralled fans primarily about her recent work on the hit AMC show, The Walking Dead, as well as on Star Trek and even her work on Dexter. While Denise Crosby was born into a very memorable name in Hollywood history, she has gone on to make an important name for herself within pop culture and specifically within the Science Fiction and Horror genres, with an impressive body of work in films such as Pet Sematary, 48 Hrs, and Deep Impact among many others.
Ms. Crosby’s memorable portrayal of security officer Tasha Yar alone on Star Trek the Next Generation has cemented her into science fiction history, but most recently Denise Crosby has gone on to appear on one of the most critically acclaimed horror shows in cable history; The Walking Dead, as Mary from Terminus. While the season 5 premier of the show saw Ms. Crosby’s character killed off, fans of both the Next Generation and The Walking Dead were happy to see her grace the screen on the world’s number one horror show. Likewise it was Crosby’s Mary who explained the reason for Terminus’ underlying evil as she faced off against the heroic Carol.
Science fiction and horror fans alike were rabid to sit in on Ms. Crosby’s first convention appearance panel, since she won the role of Terminus resident and bbq chef, Mary, on the hit zombie apocalypse show. Thanks to a friend and well-known celebrity handler, Torie Varket, I was able to even say hello and briefly interview her about her experience at Tampa’s Away mission.
“It’s been fun and the people have been amazing and I’ve had a great time. It’s not the biggest convention but there were a lot of fans and it was cozy.”
This Away Mission was well attended and a good step forward for the central Florida convention venue, with Denise Crosby’s panel being a well-attended fan favorite part of the show.
Ms. Crosby spoke of how well both the convention and specifically her celebrity handler, Steve Holms, had treated her. I made it a point to ask her about Steve as I have always thought of the celebrity handler as one of the unsung heroes of the convention circuit.
Ms. Crosby said, “He was very professional and sweet. He took great care of me and he was a real pleasure to have with me. They don’t come much better!”
I told the very gracious Ms. Cosby that I planned on making it a point to talk about her celebrity handler Steve and she seemed authentically agreeable with the idea. She was quite appreciative of the important yet subtle influence a celebrity handler has on not only a fans experience with the celebrity they are tasked with caring for, but also with the celebrity’s experience while at the show or convention they are a guest of.
Being a celebrity handler is perhaps one of the most important roles of anyone working the cons we all go to and for that we are all grateful to them all, but this weekend; especially to our good friend Steve Holms. Well done sir! Live long and Propser Steve, but I would have been careful of eating any bbq Ms. Crosby might have offered you while you were both sitting at her table.
And at that point I asked Ms. Crosby about her panel at Away Mission, which was also hosted by well-known convention personality and event MC, Mr. Marc Lee; needless to say Ms. Crosby spoke highly of the panel indicating that she enjoyed it immensely.
“I really enjoyed the panel and the folks at the panel were great. After Marc introduced me I took over from there and we had a great time! I really enjoyed the crowd and we had an amazing conversation.”
Having met the very approachable and fan friendly Ms. Crosby in the past I could tell that she meant what she was saying about the panel. I really did get the sense that she enjoyed it and I think that also says something about why Denise Crosby has such a big fan base and great reputation both within her industry and with the fans.
While I did not attend the panel, my dear friend Jan Schroeder, was able to provide me with a recording of the panel and what was great about Ms. Crosby’s panel itself, was that it was her first convention appearance since appearing on the last two episodes of the Walking Dead’s fourth season as Terminus’s resident barbeque short order cook, Mary.
While introducing her, Marc Lee said she was the loveliest most gorgeous cannibal he had ever seen in his life. With that, a smiling and very flattered Denise Crosby seemed to feign insult and as if asking simply said, “Cannibal . . . ?” as she calmly and innocently looked around the crowd.
Almost as if Ms. Crosby actually had her Walking Dead character’s wig on and much like her apocalyptic character, she continued in an almost eerie tone to say, “She’s Mary, from Terminus. All are welcome . . .” With that there was an uneasy laughter from the crowd which seemed quite telling to me.
Convention panels are funny and uniquely interactive events where the fans and celebrity are in a room for an hour or more and they can sometimes share a bond. Ms. Crosby is just one of those celebrities who not only understands the fans, but is accepting of them as well. So when you are in a panel like that, with an open and giving actor, along with a receptive audience, there’s a link; and with Denise Crosby at Away Mission, these very few words from her seemed to speak volumes about how she sees and feels towards her alter ego, Mary on the Walking Dead.
While this is total conjecture on my part, it seemed to me that when Ms. Crosby said “She’s Mary, from Terminus. All are welcome . . .” it was indeed Mary from The Walking Dead saying those words to the collected fans in the audience. The words seemed more like a warning rather than an invitation and much more apocalyptically telling than anything else. What I thought I heard was a veiled recognition and affirmation that Mary would have been barbequing one of the fans listening had they chosen to accept her tempting invitation and visit her in Terminus.
Crosby went on to say that she was very excited as that Away Mission convention was actually her first convention since taking on The Walking Dead role and continued to say how hard a secret it was to keep from the time she actually got and filmed the role until the episodes she appeared in actually aired.
“Shooting that back in November and for all that time until it actually aired I couldn’t tell a soul. So I realize how hard it is to keep a secret, but I did it and there were no leaks. And I am scheduled to come back next month as they start shooting again.” This was enough excitement it seemed to entice quite a few excited whistles, cheers and applause from the audience as the actress to continued, “And it is a terrific, terrific bunch of people to work with and I can’t say enough about them.”
With that the much revered veteran actress opened the floor to the audience for question and the very first question asked was of course a Walking Dead question about the audition process for the AMC show.
Ms. Crosby began to answer with, “That’s a really good question,” before the fan interrupts and in a fun way asks if the actress also had to fast at all in preparation for the part, to which Crosby responds, “Fasting?” and with a smile she continues, “Did I have to fast?” in a somewhat surprised tone she responds as the crowd laughs around her before she continues to say with a devilish grin, “I had to eat a lot of meat!” to which the crowd responds with a roar of approval and a sea of confirmatory gasps before the actress begins to repeat over the crowds delighted exasperation, “La la la la la la la . . . yeah, I pulled out my barbeque.” to more laughter as she then begins to answer the fan’s question while also refocusing the crowd’s attention in a masterful way, “I’m glad you asked that question. The audition process for the Walking Dead was unlike any other I have encountered.” With this one line, it was obvious that she had captured the ravenous audience’s attention right back where she wanted it.
“Because of their need to retain some secrecy, privacy and control of the show, I was called in to read for a part that I knew nothing about. They wouldn’t tell me anything. They gave me the scene and the scene was specifically written for the audition. So it wasn’t a scene from the Walking Dead, it wasn’t a scene from anything we’ll ever see.” Looking around the audience Crosby continued to describe the audition process to an entirely captivated audience hungry for every single scrap of inside Walking Dead knowledge they would be able to get from this very fan trusted and loved genre celebrity.
“As a matter of fact, it was a weird scene about a woman who went to buy a car from a friend of hers who was running a dealership and she had a husband who was not well. And when she went to buy the car, her friend said that he could give her the car for like $10,000.00 and she says ‘Joe come on, I know you can do better than that.’ And her friend says, ‘Listen Sally that’s as low as I can go and I’m giving you the dealer’s price.’ And she goes, ‘Really Joe, that’s your best price?’ And he says, ‘Sally I wish I could help, I know times are tough for you and I wish I could help.’”
The actress pauses for a moment looking across the audience knowing that they are hooked before continuing to say, “Well then I guess I’m just going to have to tell your wife that I saw you with Susie last Thursday and see how that goes.” And just as I am sure Ms. Crosby had known, the crowd begins laughing as Crosby continues again to say as if perfectly on cue, “Then he goes, ‘I’ll be right back.’” To which the crowd laughter erupts with even more fervor and applause as Ms. Crosby ties up the fan’s question about the audition process.
“So that was the scene.” says the actress with a big smile on her face as she looks at the audience, “It had nothing to do with the Walking Dead and it had nothing to do with Terminus, and I later asked them, ‘What was that about?,” and after a brief pause Ms. Crosby goes on to say, “. . . and they said, ‘We were just looking for a certain quality.’
With a quizzical look in her eye and a shrug of her shoulders the actress simply smiled and said, “Ok, just glad to be here folks.” As she looked around at those gathered fans who were chuckling and very much enjoying Ms. Crosby’s behind the scenes insights before she continued talking about the Walking Dead’s casting process, “And it took about a month before I heard from them and I thought well I didn’t get that one. And all of a sudden they called and said hey you’re going to do the Walking Dead. And then of course my son thought I was really cool.” as the crowd again responds to this with heartfelt laughter.
“The space stuff doesn’t really get him, but y’know,” as the actress winks to the enthusiastic and approving crowd as she continues, “Walking Dead Mom!? Your street credit just shot up!” she says as the crowd continues clapping and laughing. “I’m like the cool Mom now. And the other da;, my son is a freshman in high school and he plays baseball on the j.v. team, and the varsity game was following right after his game ended, so I was there and a bunch of these varsity players came up to me and said ‘Oh Ms. Crosby you’re so cool on the Walking Dead!’” as the crowd again laughs along with Ms. Crosby, “and I said ‘Hey all right, I’m down . . .”
The audience responded quite well and then Crosby began answering a question about the possibility of a Trekkies 3 coming out. Crosby very positively said that herself and the director of the first two Trek fan related films are very much interested and on board to make a third installment and are just waiting for the right time to approach Paramount with respect to hopefully beginning production to try and reach a new generation of Trekkies.
The perspective inevitably however turns back to The Walking Dead with a question about the relationship between the comic book and the molding of the characters on the tv series and whether her character Mary has been already established or is evolving, to which Crosby responds, “No, no, I’m molding her as we speak, and I . . . um . . .” and it is clear that Ms. Crosby is being careful in choosing her words so as not to give anything crucial away before continuing, “. . . y’know they give you enough and then they kind of want you to take it and go with it. On that show, so much comes with the atmosphere, the environment, the clothing. They gave me that wig and it begins to tell me who that person is y’know!? But they don’t give you much, I mean literally the day I started shooting, I made Scott Gimple, the executive producer, sit down with me, while make-up was being put on me and I said ‘What is this thing I’m doing? Who is this character?’”
At this point as Crosby is going deep into the makings of America’s favorite zombie drama and everyone’s attention is entirely focused on her as the actress continues, “He gave me the quick speed wrap of OK, this is what we’re doing, duh de da de de du de de dum, Terminus, Terminus, Terminus, Terminus . . . ” as she indicates Gimple taking her through aspects of the story line the audience is obviously not allowed to know just yet. “And then I went OK . . . there was a lot to take in but we just kind of went with it and I’m telling you, it’s unlike anything and I sort of approached it like, OK this is different, this is unusual.”
And in essence Crosby is talking about the script and television show making process, “I mean usually you get a script and you start doing research and you start coming up with characters and analyze the scenes and with this you’re just flying by the seat of your pants. But it works!”
The Walking Dead actress was then asked if she would be appearing on The Talking Dead talk show hosted by Chris Hartwick on AMC immediately after The Walking Dead’s new episodes premier on Sunday nights. To which Crosby responds, “I hope so, that would be fun!” So please be aware Chris Hartwick, Denise Crosby wants to be on The Talking Dead sir!
Ms. Crosby was then asked about her departure from Star Trek the Next Generation and if the decision to leave the show was due to any kind of conflict and whether or not she left the show on good terms, to which she replied, “Absolutely I left under good conditions and the reason for leaving wasn’t out of anger or because something critical happened, it really was a process of feeling as if I was going to be really trapped and really limited if I stayed on the show for what looked like at least six years.”
“Too many episodes were simply going by where I was simply standing in the background and spending fifteen hour days doing that by the way and not really engaging in story lines. It was a series of conversations I had with the writers, producers and the other actors. You know, where is this going, what are we going to do here, are there going to be multiple story lines . . . back then this was 1986, 1987 and television was going through a change where there were large ensemble casts, there were multiple storylines going on, which were being interwoven into an hour long series and that’s what I assumed it would be.”
While the crowd was indeed quite excited about Denise Crosby’s new role as Mary on The Walking Dead, it doesn’t take a mind reading Betazoid to understand that a science fiction audience wants to hear from the source, as to why Tasha Yar chose to leave the bridge of the Enterprise as Ms. Crosby continues, “There would always be the Captain and visiting whatever planet they were on an encountering whatever dilemma they would incur, But then the other characters would have other storylines going on so again, it was early in the writing and I think they addressed some of that later on as people came on to the show. Michael Pillar changed it up a bit, but by that point I was really very concerned that I was going to be trapped for six years saying ‘Aye aye Captain’ and that was going to be the extent of my acting career.”
Listening to Ms. Crosby relate to this time in her life you could really get the sense of just how important such a decision was for her at the time, “It was a creative decision I had to make and it was an easy one for me. I didn’t do it rashly and I wasn’t impulsive about it, but I knew that for me as an artist and an actor, at that age, I needed more.” As Ms. Crosby paused for a moment it seemed as if she were perhaps recollecting or even weighing the decision again as if in some internal dialogue before continuing, “And it turned out really well because ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ brought me back and it became I think one of the better written episodes of the series. So what a weird turn of events and you have stick to what you believe.”
Ms. Crosby was then asked if she liked Tasha Yar or Sela better to which she replied, “You know they are two very different parts of me and Tasha I certainly played longer and I realize the impact she had on a lot of young women and she’ll always be pretty special in my heart. The unfortunate thing with Sela is that we really didn’t get to finish her out and I had a whole idea for this character that she would really have this progression where she would start out one way and actually even be a bridge to peace with the Romulans and she had a lot of challenging growth to go through. But they kind of dropped the ball and we never saw her again.”
Next Ms. Crosby was asked how she felt about Tasha’s death in the TNG episode ‘Skin of Evil’ to which she replied, “Well that was kind of weird.” as she and the crowd share a laugh as she continues, “But I get it. The intention was that it would be such an unprovoked death that it would be even more shattering. Although I think that it had more of a petering out effect you know!? I think that most people thought that if Tasha Yar’s gonna die she’s got to have this warrior’s fighter death. But I understand what Gene Roddenberry was attempting. It was an unusual episode that’s for sure. That whole rig for Armis was something; I think you’d get arrested if you tried something like that now because it was really pretty jury rigged and kind of dangerous but hey, those were the days!” to which the crowd reacted with a hearty laugh along with the actress.
The crowd then asks Denise if she enjoyed playing an evil person on the Dexter to which she replied in a coy tone, “Well now my character was helping people and was a little bit of an angel of mercy.” The crowd responded with an approving soft chuckle as she continued, “Dexter was an awesome show and of course I got to be his first kill so that’s kind of an honor I guess and it was a really good show to be a part of and creepy though, I must say. I was literally wrapped in saran wrap on my dining room table and seeing Michael C Hall stab me repeatedly to within an inch of my life was not hard to play and look terrified. And he and I actually did all the fighting in it and wrestled each other, I could have taken him, but I kind of had to let him win.” as the crowd reacted with a fun laugh.
A fan then talked about her reaction to recognizing Denise as Mary on The Walking Dead saying, “I know her, I know her.” as the crowd seemed to agree with the fans reaction with Ms. Crosby jumping in with an enthusiastic response. “I know, it’s so funny that when I popped up on The Walking Dead, Twitter was like ‘Tasha Yar on The Walking Dead!’” at which point the crowd reacts as the actress laughs along with them.
“I think the writers were sharp to that because The Walking Dead people all love Star Trek as they all grew up watching Star Trek so I don’t think it was lost on them. Actually it’s so funny, the last convention I was at up in Canada along with one of the original artists on The Walking Dead (Tony Moore), did the poster art just for that Con and this was before the episode I was in came out and at the bottom of the poster is Tasha Yar zombified, so I saw this and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god he has no idea.’” at which point the crowd responds with a low laugh as Denise continues, “It was like a premonition and I later spoke to him at the very end of the con and I said listen, no one’s supposed to know this but I have to tell you that I’m coming on to The Walking Dead and he said ‘Oh my god.’ And I said, ‘You zombified Tasha, this is really cool! It’s like you knew or something.’”
The crowd really seemed to enjoy this story as another fan then asked her what kind of death she envisioned for her character at the hands of either Darryl or Rick as Denise then mockingly looked quite taken back and said, “Excuse me!?” in an indignant and clearly fun loving manner as the audience erupted with a roar of laughter.
“You meant to say what kind of death did I envision for Darryl?” as the crowd just keeps on laughing. “No actually I think that we’re going to bond as it is going to come out that I’m actually Darryl’s mother.” with the crowd’s laughter spiking once again before Ms. Crosby then comes back to the realm of Walking Dead confidentiality and says, “I don’t know, we’ll just have to cross that zombie bridge when we get there.”
Interestingly, there was no way for the fans to have foreseen Denise’s death in the season five premier, nor that it would neither be at the hands of Rick or Darryl, but rather another death by Walker, albeit with Carol’s help.
Stay tuned to Sci Fi Pulse for the second part to Denise Crosby’s Away Mission panel in the very near future.
Written by: Tye Bourdony
Tye Bourdony is a Sci Fi cartoonist and creator of ‘The Lighter Side of Sci-Fi’, as well as a science fiction reporter and the U.S. based content editor for Sci Fi Pulse. Tye is a graduate of the Barry University School of Law, SUNY Purchase and H.S. of Music & Art, and he currently works in Florida’s 9th Circuit as the Staff Family Mediator. Tye also serves on the Board of the Legal Aid Society of Osceola County and also has a regular self-published column in Sci Fi Magazine and you can visit Tye on Facebook as well as at www.thelightersideofscifi.com. You can also send him your thoughts and story/article ideas to [email protected].