Samwise in Cincinnati

Sean Astin makes a stop at the Convention Center for this weekend’s star-packed Cincinnati Comic Expo

Sean Astin made his cinematic debut 30 years ago in The Goonies, a never-say-die adventure comedy starring several other young actors who also went on to make notable careers in the film industry (Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Martha Plimpton). Astin has remained prominently in the spotlight, going on to star in Encino Man, Rudy, Bulworth and, of course, The Lord of the Rings films, for which he won multiple awards for his performance as the hobbit Samwise Gamgee.

Astin is one of many celebrity actors who will be making an appearance at the Cincinnati Comic Expo this weekend, where fans can meet him, have memorabilia autographed and get their picture taken with the actor. Other actors include Adam West (Batman), Ian Ziering (90210, Sharknado), Eve Myles (Torchwood), Steve Guttenberg (Cocoon, Short Circuit) and more, plus special effects artists like Robert Kurtzman, an array of comic book artists including Neal Adams, Mike Zeck and Lee Weeks, and professional cosplayers.

“I think it might be my first time (in Cincinnati), unless I was there on a press tour,” Astin says. “I’m searching my memory to see if I’ve ever been to Cincinnati and the only thing I can see is the Cincinnati Reds logo, but I guess that’s not the whole city. I’m looking forward to it. It’s fun because I get to go around and tour these states I’ve heard about my entire life, great American cities everyone should go to, and thousands of people come out to greet you.”

As an A-list celebrity, Astin is asked to make many public appearances, but comic conventions such as the Cincinnati Comic Expo are the bread and butter of his fan interactions.

“The convention scene has grown exponentially in the last 10 years,” Astin says. “I really joined in that activity after Lord of the Rings. It’s a great experience. One of my favorite parts is the Q&A event. People’s questions change over time.”

The Goonies has been in recent news with the announcement of a Goonies off-Broadway “immersive stage show,” further teasing fans of the 1985 film who have been waiting three decades for a sequel.

“Everybody got really excited about it, but for it to continue it takes Steven (Spielberg) and Richard (Donner),” Astin says. “I know they want to do it; they just want to make sure that it’s made the right way. It’s hard to capture the magic of that time and that movie. I’m endlessly surprised that it continues to be so popular. Of all the movies I’ve done in the last 30 years, it’s amazing how that one’s held up.”

Nowadays, Astin is still starring in films and television shows, both onscreen and as a voiceover actor. One of his main gigs for the past four years has been voicing Raphael in Nickelodeon’s animated revamp of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“A lot of the time when I’m doing Raphael for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we have the other ‘turtles’ there and it’s a party,” Astin says. “With voiceover acting, I get to work with a guy like Seth (Green) who has so much knowledge and experience, he’s a legit expert... a connoisseur who knows every nuance of all the different genres.”

“When I see the turtle with a red bandana on it, that’s me. I identify with Raphael,” Astin says. “I’ve been recording Raphael for four years, and anytime I see a turtle with a red bandana on, I feel like I’m looking at myself.”

Discussing the turtles’ iconic color scheme, Astin responds to speculation about how each turtle’s headband color corresponds with his personality.

“It’s most noticeable with red. I mean, blue is sanguine. I identify with the emotion,” Astin says. “When I read the character, he was frustrated, he had anger and is quick to fight. Man, that’s cool. A lot of times I play a nice guy, a wholesome guy, the guy next door, a family guy. With Raphael I get to play the badass for once.”

Voiceover acting has been an adventure for Astin, who is exploring popular franchises. He voices Shazam for the new Justice League animated films, most recently Justice League: Throne of Atlantis. Shazam is a comic book character owned by DC Comics who was created in 1939. With such an established character, there have been many other actors who have portrayed Shazam, leading Astin to research what’s been done before him.

“A lot of the time with a new iteration of shows, you want to be respectful of those earlier iterations. But with respect, you’ve got to come in with your own take on it,” he says. “There was a cartoon from when I was a kid, in fact I’m too young to remember it, but my older brother-in-law was a huge fan and he told me what he loved about Shazam.”

“I’ll turn on some cartoon I’ve worked on and watch it and just get so excited, thinking ‘That’s my voice! I’m in there!,’” he says. “I’m only doing one small part of the operation. There are people spending a year or two or three making this. I’m just a dollop of frosting on top.”


The CINCINNATI COMIC EXPO runs Friday-Sunday at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Sean Astin will appear Saturday and Sunday only. More info/tickets: cincinnaticomicexpo.com.


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