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GRRLTalk: Janet Varney and Mayim Bialik
It's GRRLTalk, where we sit down with some favorite ladies to learn all about their relationship to fandom. Today, let's get to know two upcoming participants on The Great Debate: Mayim Bialik (Blossom, The Big Bang Theory) and Janet Varney (Legend of Korra, You're the Worst)!
Mayim Bialik, Actor/Writer/Neuroscientist/Mom
Janet Varney, Actor/Writer/Producer
What are you currently FANGRRLing over? Why do you love it?
Mayim: The Last Kingdom — I think that counts? And I'm always perpetually watching The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Over. And over.
Janet: I'm currently re-watching Season Two of Dark on Netflix in anticipation of the third and final season. I think I watched the first season three times, just to try and keep everything straight — and because I loved it. It's so smart and weird and it works so hard to really nail the time travel thing, which is so hard to do well in sci-fi since there are so many paradoxes. They lean right into those paradoxes in such a great way.
What was your first fandom?
Mayim: Star Wars, of course. I was born in 1975, so ... yeah. In love with Luke.
Janet: Definitely the 1982 movie Tron. I would watch it over and over and over once we had it on tape at home. I wasn't even a gamer — in fact I didn't like video games probably because of Tron, because seeing that at such a young age made me go, "Well why would I play a game if I can't be INSIDE the game grid?" So you can imagine the allure VR still holds for me!
When you were a kid, what was your most prized geek possession? Do you still have it?
Mayim: We had the Star Wars figurines from that era of the 1970s. I loved Hammerhead and C-3PO best.
Janet: Hmm … that's a toss-up between my "1st Prize" blue ribbon from my 6th grade science fair and my tattered copy of Ray Bradbury's Golden Apples of the Sun. It's a copy my dad gave to me from the English department library of the high school where he taught, and I was super young — maybe seven? — and the fact that he thought I was old enough to read a high school level book made me feel like the luckiest kid in the world.
Who was most instrumental in getting you into geek culture?
Mayim: My brother! He was four years older and he played D&D and he had all the coolest toys.
Janet: For sure my dad. He falls more on the comedy side of things (so it's no surprise I mostly work in comedy now), but he was such an awesome nerd about even kids' stuff like Sesame Street and The Muppet Show — he would watch all of that stuff with me and would try and do all the voices. He has a similar range to Jim Henson, so he can still hit Kermit and Ernie out of the park! And he's the one who took me to see The Princess Bride and introduced me to a bunch of other cool stuff.
What are you geek-curious about?
Mayim: Great question! Um, definitely want more sci-fi in my life. Battlestar Galactica — I watched the original but not the newer one.
Janet: I have barely dipped a toe in the GINORMOUS world of anime and am always looking for new recommendations.
Do you collect nerdy stuff? If so, what?
Mayim: YES. Anything brain-related. Love Star Wars clothing, not gonna lie. And Star Wars jewelry. And any jewelry surrounding the brain/neurons or math.
Janet: I have some special collector's-edition Tron "kubrick" toys from the early 2000s that are, if I may say so, f***ing awesome.
Do you cosplay?
Janet: I don't! When I go to conventions it's as a guest for either comedy or Korra stuff or both, and it never feels like it makes sense to cosplay as someone else, though I love seeing all the amazing cosplay there.
Would you cosplay, and what would you dress as?
Mayim: I mean, I'm super crushing hard on all things Steampunk, so something in that realm I think.
Janet: I love Drag King stuff, so probably some cool male characters. I did my final project in my Makeup class for my Theatre major by making myself look like The Man in Black/Westley from The Princess Bride, complete with a specially crafted mustache and I was so proud.
What's something geeky that you will always spend money on?
Janet: Korra fan art. Could not be more blown away by the amazing and varied ways these brilliant illustrators interpret the Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra universe!
If you could do a TED Talk on anything fandom-related, what would it be and why?
Mayim: The significance of RPGs for those of us with social anxiety.
Janet: Oh great question! Maybe something about how comedy empowers girls in a really cool and special way, to learn to be totally confident through failure, and how to be quick on your feet and not be afraid to make your voice heard.
What's one moment in nerd history you'll never get over (good or bad)?
Mayim: Oh wow. Taking my kids to see Star Wars after literally seeing the previous movies when I was pregnant with them!
Janet: Well, I was really mad about the third X-Men movie for a really, really, really long time until its entire plot was basically dismantled by future sequels, and then I (and millions of other fans) felt vindicated.
If a studio/company came to you and said they would make anything you want, what would it be and why?
Janet: Whooooaaaa! GREAT question!
Mayim: So hard to answer!! I mean I would want to work with Art Spiegelman on anything he was doing!
Janet: I think my current gut response on this would be to keep building VR worlds that allow us to really live inside our favorite sci-fi/fantasy/superhero etc. worlds with really smart gameplay, puzzles, character interaction, etc. We have the technology now to really do it right!