How Two TV Nerds Found Love at Comic-Con (Guest Column)

'The Exorcist' showrunner Jeremy Slater and actress Melissa Russell offer a he-said-she-said account of why it pays to be friendly to people in line at the massive fan convention.
Courtesy of Jeremy Slater
Jeremy Slater and Melissa Russell with 'The Exorcist' stars Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels

Meeting people at Comic-Con is simple. Whether wandering through crowds, attending afterparties or waiting in endless lines, it's hard to not be constantly surrounded by fellow genre geeks, freaks and superfans. But what about meeting that special someone? What about actually falling in love? That's a little harder to pull off … but it's not impossible. Here, The Exorcist creator Jeremy Slater and actress Melissa Russell (Feud: Bette and Joan, The Exorcist) share their story in a humorous and touching guest column. 

HE SAID: San Diego, 2012. I spent the day waiting in line with friends to get into Hall H. We just missed the Django Unchained panel, but a friend in the press managed to smuggle us in just in time for Pacific Rim and The Hobbit. This was the reason I’d taken off work and made the trip down to San Diego, the chance to catch a first glimpse of Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth. I waited in line for 10 hours to watch 10 minutes of footage, and it was worth every second. I figured that would be the best thing that happened to me all trip. I was wrong.

SHE SAID: Really? You spent 10 hours waiting to see Hobbit footage while I spent the day hanging out with Gollum? To explain: none of my usual Comic-Con buddies were able to attend that year, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. I drove down solo and spent the weekend hanging out with my cousin. Since he works with Andy Serkis, that meant I also spent the weekend hanging out with Andy, watching him get mobbed by adoring fans. But I kinda had an ulterior motive for the trip: I’d been flirting with a guy on Twitter, and I knew he was in town.

HE SAID: For the last few months we had been tweeting back and forth. I don’t remember about what. 

SHE SAID: I got this. (I remember every conversation.) We talked about the old NES DuckTales game, and how they filmed both Star Trek and The Flintstones up at Vasquez Rocks, and whether we were actually hate-watching Ghost Adventures or kinda secretly into it. Instant connection.

HE SAID: I was probably super charming.

SHE SAID: Totally. We had mutual friends in town, so I dropped a few hints on Twitter about being alone at SDCC, and next thing we knew we were being set up on a blind date.

HE SAID: When Saturday night rolls around, it’s nearly impossible to find a spot where you can actually hold a conversation. The good restaurants all have lines out the door, the best parties are invite only, and every hotel lobby becomes a beehive of noise and chaos and sloppy drunken Stormtroopers bumping helmets. Since we had nowhere else to go, we talked our way into a club party being held by a couple of blogger sites. It was … loud.

SHE SAID: We grabbed a booth in the back and talked for hours. Compared favorite movies (Back to the Future versus Jaws), our love for Disney animation cels, Community, Universal Studios, panels we’d attended that weekend, cool things we’d seen on the convention floor … you know, super deep stuff. It was one of those perfect nights.

HE SAID: I never told her that I’m partially deaf in one ear — my little brother stabbed me in the ear with a knitting needle when I was a kid, don’t ask, long story — so I mostly spent the night nodding and wishing I knew how to read lips.

SHE SAID: He was sharing a hotel room with a few other people, so we all went back to their place for drinks. Once we were sitting on the bed, he went in for the kill by whipping out … his phone. And then we spent the next two hours playing bootleg copies of DuckTales and Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers. It was pretty hot.

HE SAID: Like a modern-day Casanova.

SHE SAID: You have no idea. Anyway, Comic-Con ended and we returned to reality. But we kept texting and flirting on Twitter. One thing led to another.

HE SAID: This Friday at SDCC will be the five-year anniversary of our first date.

SHE SAID: At this point we have the Con down to a science. We know the best paths in and out of the convention center, the hidden-gem coffee shops and restaurants that are just off the beaten path, the best hotels for avoiding crowds. Still haven’t figured out how to get one of those coveted spots in the Funko merchandise lottery, though. One day … one day …

HE SAID: We’re once again spending our anniversary in San Diego. But this time I’m there to promote The Exorcist, the show I helped create, and Melissa is attending as one of the co-stars. Instead of spending our days waiting in lines, I’m signing autographs on the show floor and we’re being whisked through the crazy labyrinth of tunnels that run beneath the convention center. It’s thrilling and exhausting and absolutely terrifying. But even in the middle of all the chaos, we still find time to slip away for a few hours each day to scour the floor for discoveries or take a walk along the waterfront.

SHE SAID: After five years together, I was half-expecting him to propose in San Diego. Why break the streak? But he jumped the gun and proposed this April, on a secluded beach in St. Lucia, beneath the shadow of the Piton Mountains. Which was still kind of romantic, I guess … but it’s no Hall H.

HE SAID: We haven’t picked a wedding date yet, but we’re thinking next July. Right around Comic-Con.  

SHE SAID: So the next time you’re waiting in line for a panel or a signing or that slice of mystery pizza that’s going to get you through the day, take a chance and talk to the person standing next to you. Trust me, it’s worth it. Who else gets to celebrate their anniversary surrounded by 650,000 friends? 

Catch The Exorcist's Comic-Con panel Thursday from 6-7 p.m. in Room 6BCF. 

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