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Celebrities gear up for Comic Con FanX, encourage fans to join them

Published: Sunday, April 13 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Billy Dee Williams (left), shown as Lando Calrissian, will appear at Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience from April 17-19.

Lucasfilm

Some of pop culture’s biggest stars will be in town this month when Salt Lake Comic Con kicks off its FanXperience convention. Over 100 celebrity guests will be at FanX, which will take at the Salt Palace Convention Center on April 17–19. The guests include action heroes and science fiction icons, along with well-known musicians and best-selling authors.

In separate interviews, FanX guests Kelly Hu, Cassandra Peterson and Billy Dee Williams told the Deseret News they are anxious to meet their fans in Salt Lake City.

Hu, known for her role as Lady Deathstrike in “X-Men 2” and for her work as China White on the CW’s “Arrow,” didn’t always plan on being an actress. In fact, as a 16-year-old, she had dreams of becoming a model. After being crowned Miss Teen USA in 1985, the Hawaii native said she was given an opportunity to head down a different career path.

“It opened a lot of doors for me,” Hu said. In 1987, she got her first acting job in a two-part episode of “Growing Pains” and purchsed a full-page ad in Variety magazine, announcing that she was available for West Coast representation. She would later go on to become a regular on TV shows, including “Sunset Beach” (1997), “Nash Bridges” (1997-98) and “Martial Law” (1998-2000).

Hu recalled resenting having to attend ballet classes as a young girl while her brother took up kung fu. She described her childhood as being “very traditional,” but added, “I always wanted to do all the things that my brother did.”

Years later, after moving in with a like-minded roommate, Hu was presented with an opportunity to fulfill that dream by enrolling in karate classes.

“I didn’t take up martial arts to become, you know, an ‘action girl,’” the actress said. “It just so happened that I got a black belt because my roommate was getting her black belt and it got me interested.”

Hu’s résumé also includes work with martial artists such as Scott Adkins and Jet Li. She has also had fight scenes with Hugh Jackman in "X-Men 2," as well as a role alongside former professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who she worked with in “The Scorpion King.”

“I love days when I don’t have to learn dialogue and all I have to do is beat up on guys,” Hu said. “It’s a fun day. And I’ve been fortunate to be able to do a lot of that.”

FanX guest Cassandra Peterson burst onto the pop culture scene in 1981 with her role as Elvira, the comedic host of the campy “Movie Macabre” TV show. Nearly three decades later, her iconic character has to some people become practically synonymous with Halloween.

“Up until that time, horror hosts were generally a local phenomenon. Everybody in their own little town had their own horror host,” said Peterson, who became the first nationally syndicated horror host on television. “For the first time, I was able to syndicate my show all over the country, so the awareness grew much bigger than if I would have been local.”

Peterson described landing the role as Elvira as “very much an accident,” saying that, as a comedienne trying to break into acting, she had been interviewing for “everything.” When she applied for an opening as a horror host, she got the big break she had been hoping for.

“They liked the fact that I was kind of the goofy, valley-girl type of a character,” Peterson said. “They wanted me to keep that character and then dress spooky. I was really very skeptical about how that would work out, but apparently it worked out OK because, 35 years later, I’m still doing it.”

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