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HIGHLANDER Reunion Convention Report Part Two

Swordfighting lessons, dealers rooms, and actresses Elizabeth Gracen and Nadia Cameron-Blakey take the stage

By Abbie Bernstein     October 28, 2001

Immortal beauty Elizabeth Gracen
© 2001 Tracy L. Carroll
The HIGHLANDER Reunion Convention was held Aug. 24-26 at the LAX Westin Hotel in Los Angeles, marking the 15th year of the existence of HIGHLANDER. Both onscreen and behind-the-scenes talent from the various HIGHLANDER shows and movies attended this year, including series stars Adrian Paul and Elizabeth Gracen. Today we offer the second part of our continuing coverage of the event.

On offer over the Reunion weekend are classes in a variety of stage combat techniques. First up Friday morning is actor/swordmaster Anthony de Longis' two-hour course in basic sword work. De Longis was the guest villain Kurlow in the third-season episode "Blackmail." Although Duncan kills Kurlow, star Adrian Paul was so pleased with the other performer's blade technique that he urged the producers to bring de Longis back. This led to the fifth-season episode "Duende," in which de Longis guest-stars as aristocratic Spanish Immortal Consone, who engages in one of the series' most talked-about swordfights.

But at Reunion, De Longis isn't trying to get his approximately 20 students to perform complicated moves just yet; instead, he's showing them how to hold the sticks that are standing in for swords. "The bone in your forearm does the work," he explains, correcting his pupils' stance, balance and posture. "Keep your elbow between you and what's coming at you. You only need to be strong at the moment of contact and you're strong because you have structure."

Meanwhile, registration is doing

Immortal beauty Elizabeth Gracen

brisk business. F. Braun McAsh has contributed some sturdy plastic bags bearing both the HIGHLANDER-esque Reunion logo and the URL for McAsh's website ( Davis-Panzer Productions have donated red-and-black BEST OF HIGHLANDER vinyl tote bags for each attendee, and there's a program adorned with full-color glossy photos (including an appropriate shot of Duncan, Joe, Amanda and Methos raising their glasses in a toast), with biographies of all the scheduled guests, plus a smaller printed schedule and "pocket program" illustrated with Leah Rosenthal cartoons.

In the dealers' rooms upstairs, there is a near-infinite variety of HIGHLANDER-related memorabilia. There's also a production in progress. Robert Chapin, an actor/swordmaster who has served as a sparring partner for McAsh and de Longis at many HIGHLANDER conventions, is shooting an episode of his vampires-with-swords Internet series THE HUNTED (which can be found at This segment, scripted by Andrew Helm (Abramowitz's assistant on QUEEN OF SWORDS) is set where else? at a HIGHLANDER convention. Maureen Russell helps out by playing a dealers' room vendor, advising the HUNTED team on merchandising.

On the main stage, Elizabeth Gracen and actress Nadia Cameron-Blakey, who played Amanda's mentor Rebecca in two episodes, are providing live commentary on the second season episode LEGACY, in which Amanda sets out to avenge her teacher's death. Despite her limited number of appearances, Rebecca's ladylike but steely character is a fan favorite Abramowitz is famously quoted as saying that killing her off is the biggest HIGHLANDER mistake he ever made.

This is Cameron-Blakey's first convention. She seems to be having a great time, though she's still getting accustomed to certain aspects of fan culture, such as the attention to "canon" (facts gleaned from aired episodes). She starts to discuss her original thoughts on Rebecca's background. "As far as I was concerned, she became Immortal when she was twenty-five. She had children..."

"No," Gracen interjects.

Anthony de Longis and tools of his trade

She explains what most devoted HIGHLANDER fans know Immortals are unable to bear or beget offspring.

Cameron-Blakey good-humoredly suggests that perhaps Rebecca had children before she became Immortal. Over a ripple of affectionate amusement from the crowd, Gracen elaborates that it's been established that Immortals are infertile even before their Immortality is triggered. As this information is doled out in episodes that don't involve Gracen's Amanda, the audience seems particularly pleased that the actress is so conversant with the series' mythology.

This development doesn't contradict Cameron-Blakey's ultimate view of Rebecca: she views her students as her children and has a mother's protectiveness toward them, especially female students like Amanda from millennia past. "I liked the idea," Cameron-Blakey says, "that when women were treated as chattel, [Rebecca] said, 'No, no, no, you don't touch them.'"

Moderator John Bierly has a question: "How would Rebecca like Methos?"

Gracen likes the notion: "They'd be great together."

Cameron-Blakey, although she appears in an episode with the ancient character, had no scenes with him. "I never thought of that." The episode, "Methuselah's Gift," was directed by Paul. Gracen teases Cameron-Blakey with the recollection that the guest actress wasn't clear on the star/director's name. Wanting clarification on some point of performance while doing a scene on castle battlements, Cameron-Blakey borrowed a walkie-talkie and spoke into it: "Andre? Andre?"

Gracen finally realized who her co-performer was attempting to contact. "You mean Adrian?"

Cameron-Blakey notes that Paul took

Bottom row: Roberta Brown and Elizabeth Gracen with Rainbow Tai Chi Fan students

no offense at her mistake, just as he'd been good-humored when they met in the makeup department on the actress's first day of filming. Cameron-Blakey asked what Paul did on the show. "'I'm the Highlander,'"

Gracen and Cameron-Blakey had never met before they worked together on LEGACY, but quickly formed a bond, opening up to each other in the makeup chairs even before they worked on their scenes. "You have to get the barriers down very quickly," Cameron-Blakey observes of playing opposite real-life strangers who are one's onscreen comrades. "That's how actors get a reputation for being 'luvvies.'" The two women have since become good friends.

Cameron-Blakey has recently completed an English film, FALLING THROUGH, and does TV commercials. With her husband John, she also operates an award-winning site on web design: "It's something to [work on] between shots on a film set."

Although she may not know chapter and verse of HIGHLANDER lore, Cameron-Blakey says of the cast and crew, "I got the idea that people thought they were working on something pretty special."

Elsewhere, de Longis is teaching an intermediate class. These students are armed with actual foils. "The two partners are telling a story together," he instructs. He warns against becoming too caught up in the choreographed conflict: "Don't let artificial tension come into this remember, it's an illusion."

Check back later this week for CINESCAPE's continuing coverage of the HIGHLANDER Reunion Convention.


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