Afternoon Chat with Jason Marsden, Vanessa Shaw and Omri Katz

interview conducted Fri. September 1, 2023

by Jen “Lil’ Bit” Schleusner

(notice: interview has been edited for clarity. Out of respect for the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike and in accordance with Dragon Con policies, no conversations were held or questions asked involving any participants’ struck work.)

Those of us scheduled to interview Jason Marsden were pleasantly surprised to see Vinessa Shaw and Omri Katz join him in the media room. The conversations quickly moved through con talk, collecting, coin collecting and more. 

Why does Jason like Dragon Con?

Jason: “Man, it’s like a big party, a big family community. I was telling Omri, because we both have been to Burning Man, and we appreciate that organization, the principles, the community that happens there. 

“When I first came here in 2016, that’s how it felt to me. Everyone could be their authentic selves, the costuming. There was no menace. Everyone was getting along – the gifting aspects, a lot of similar aspects, and I was especially excited to have you guys [Vinessa and Omri] come. They haven’t been here yet – to put them in the mix. I knew that they would dig it so hard”

Vinessa: “Yeah, it’s been so fun. I really love people feeling free to be creative and be themselves and be a character and really, really embody the character. Yeah, I’m impressed being an actor and seeing people who are not in this profession, really take it on and have fun with it.”

The conversation quickly turns to collecting. Jason used to have a Batman room before moving into a smaller place and now has a Batman hallway.

Jason: “There’s much more in my attic when I find a bigger place and it’s so hard when you come to these things to not buy more things because I don’t have a place to put it. I’ve been very good at restricting my purchases.”

Omri: “To annoy Jay, I’m just going to send him a truckload of Batman memorabilia to his door.”

Jason: “Annoy me? I’d be like, sweet, where do I put this?

photo by J. Schleusner

Do the others also have things they collect:

Omri: “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more of a minimalist and I’ve just kind of shed most of my collection stuff. So I live very minimally. If there’s anything I have a collection of, it’s like grow equipment that’s obsolete and I need to throw that stuff away”

Jason: “Were you a comic book guy? What did you collect as a kid?”

Omri: “I don’t know if I collected stuff, but obviously I had toys out the wazoo. He-man, GI Joe. I wish I still had Star Wars. I still have my sports card collection from when I was young. But that’s about one of the only things I have left. I’m one that just lets go and moves on. I guess that’s just my personality.”

Vinessa: “Okay, so this is inadvertent. I have a husband who just put all his change into a bucket. I found this bucket and I was like, some of this could be valuable. Then I went into it and went into a world. I researched all the pennies and quarters and nickels. I basically have this underworld of YouTube things I’ve researched about which coins are valuable. It’s insane. 

“So I am lost in this world and I literally had to put it away because I was like, I got to focus on getting my son to school, doing other things and getting ready for this or whatever, and I’m like, this is insane. This world you can get into. But I’m like, how am I aligned with this world? But I’m certainly nerding out. This is my personality. I could easily get addicted to things. I’m like, I can’t be any near any video games or anything like Guitar Hero. I was like, nobody get me this ever because I literally will be there trying to perfect it. So I have to watch myself and just drop something if I want to become too obsessed.”

Jason then proceeds to ask who has change for Vinessa to look at, Omri pulls a few coins out and she goes through them looking for particular stamps and dates.

Vinessa: “This is a 1980 [penny]. So 1980, they changed the pennies. So it’s no longer copper, but it was like copper plated. So if you drop [this] penny on a surface…[as she walks over to a countertop and drops it to demonstrate – the penny just has a flat tinny sound]..see is doesn’t have a ring to it. Older pennies have a ring to them. I’m obsessed now”

“But that’s what made me go crazy is I was like, oh yeah, everything is not valuable. It’s just whatever it is. And then I found a 1948 one, which isn’t as valuable as a 1943 one, which is literally like $20,000. It’s crazy.”

And we finished out the interview discussing the strike – with a very poignant response from Vinessa:

Vinessa: “Yeah, I am. For me, obviously it’s been tough. I’ve gone to the picket lines and really supported during the writer’s strike, the beginning of that and then went to obviously really support the actors as well. This is, I really feel proud that screen actors guild has taken this step because I feel like we’re on the forefront of society in a way. Everyone’s trying to fight big business and prove their value and commit to having everyone equally be paid and fairly. And also everyone’s concerned about AI and how that’s going to affect things as well. And so I feel proud as an artist, but artists in general are at the forefront of what most people feel like they want a voice for their own, basically own business. 

“And I’ve been very lucky specifically and personally with it all because I’m about to do a movie that it has the interim agreement. It’s a low budget movie, it’s under a million and it’s a beautiful film and I’m very excited about it and I just think that’s the proper way to go about things in terms of standing up for what is right. And yes, I mean we’ve been all in a way, victimized year by year and slowly but surely our rights have been taken away. Last year I lost my health insurance because of streaming. 30 years I’ve been in this business and I was like, that was a big shock and blow to me. And I was like, what? This is possible every year I’m going to have to fight and work harder and work four to five jobs a year. That’s insane. That’s just not the way our business works. It ebbs and flows. It’s feast or famine. It’s like good years and bad years. It’s just how do we protect ourselves throughout and the way we used to was through residuals.”

“And so now, what’s wonderful because of him [Jason], we have these cons are our act as our residuals and we have so much fun doing them. So it’s literally like thank goodness for these cons and really fun cons, like Dragon Con, where we can just see people literally emulate movies that we all love and use the characters that impacted them as an extension of themselves. It’s pretty beautiful. So in a way I’m proud of it. I’m not proud of how some people are suffering and struggling because of, because not everyone has a major movie they’ve done in their history or part of a franchise or whatnot, or done movies that are recognizable where they could come and be even a part of this to survive during this time or the below the line people, the people who are background players or crew. It’s such a dark time, but I’m really proud that people are standing strong so we can get what we deserve again, together as a collective artistic community and really bring it back to art.”

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