11:12am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Dawson's Creek': Mae Whitman Leads an All-Star Cast at Hilarious ATX Festival Live Script Reading
The final day of the ATX Television Festival's fourth edition closed out Sunday with one of the most creative panels of the annual event: a live reading of the Dawson's Creek pilot with an all-star cast.
The event — held at the jam-packed State Theater — featured a fun gender reversal, starting with Parenthood alum and fan favorite Mae Whitman as Dawson; Suits' Patrick J. Adams as Joey; Rectify's Abigail Spencer as Pacey; Dawson's Creek co-star Kerr Smith — who played Jack — stepping into the role of his former character's best friend, Jen; Friday Night Lights alum Louanne Stephens as Grams; Derek Phillips as Mitch Leery and Stacey Oristano as Gail Leery; as well as Gilmore Girls' Arielle Kebbel as Tamara; Orphan Black's Kristian Bruun as Bessie and Nellie and Revenge's Nick Wechsler as Bodie and Mr. Gold. Series creator Kevin Williamson served as the narrator.
Given the nature of the pilot — which opens with an exchange between Joey and Dawson discussing their evolution into young adults who no longer spend the night together as friends — the gender swap played to roaring laughter. Friday Night Lights superfan Whitman — who brought out a framed photo of Tim Riggins — played into Dawson's earnestness.
Smith, meanwhile, seemed to really relish the opportunity to have a hand in the pilot as he wasn't part of the cast at the show's start. During Jen's first arrival, Smith went so far to faux flip his hair in an homage of sorts to his former co-star Michelle Williams, who originated the role. The actor — who as Jack delivered TV's first ever gay kiss — broke into song at one point after Stephens struggled with the pages, with the entire theater sharing a healthy roar when she accidentally read Jen's role during a key scene about attending church.
The script reading followed Saturday's Dawson's Creek writers room reunion, where Williamson — who also was on hand to set up Sunday's script reading — revealed he originally planned to have Joey (Katie Holmes) end up with Dawson (James Van Der Beek) before he ultimately changed his mind.
Dawson's Creek ran for six seasons on The WB from 1998 to 2003. The teen angst drama made stars of Van Der Beek, Holmes, Josh Jackson (Pacey) and Williams. The drama helped put the then-WB Network on the map and establish a tone for the eventual CW.
Whitman was particularly animated during Dawson's massive homage to Steven Spielberg — the scene in which he shows Jen his room and chronological order of movie posters.
Stephens — who played Matt Saracen's grandmother on FNL — was an inspired choice to read for Grams (Mary Beth Peil), with her first "Jennnnnnnifer!" drawing roars from the full house. As the reading continued, Stephens was such an easy fit into the role that non-fans could have easily believed she originated the role.
Orphan Black's Bruun brought with him a natural sass into the role of Jen's wannabe friend Nellie (Nicole Nieth) in the pilot — and equal parts bossiness for the role of Joey's older sister, Bessie (Nina Repeta).
Spencer and Kebbel's rendition of Pacey and love interest/English teacher Mrs. Jacobs provided yet another fun spin on the pilot, with both actresses clearly engaging in the flirtation of the storyline.
As for Whitman, she was incredibly on-point with Dawson's film snobbery — "Mr. Gold, I am the class!" — going so far as to give Wechsler an evil eye stare after the film teacher denied entrance into his course.
Adams, meanwhile, perfectly captured Joey's innocence, wit and sarcasm, going as far as to include Joey's famed bitch-smirk at the Dawson/Jen romance. Adams and Smith particularly relished the heated/jealous exchange between Joey and Jen, with both actors having a blast, while Whitman again perfectly encapsulated Dawson's rage of embarrassment in the scene.
Spencer drew a huge round of screams after Pacey's monologue — "I'm the best sex you'll never have!" — with Kebbel pausing the reading to give her a full acknowledgement.
During the final scene of the pilot when Dawson and Joey have their intense heart to heart, Whitman and Adams delivered the perfect tone and, at the end, when Dawson reveals just how often he "walks the dog," sealed the scene with a great high-five.