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Comic Con FanX welcomes guests from many demographics

Published: Wednesday, April 16 2014 6:05 p.m. MDT

Rob Prior, an ambidextrous artist, paints at Wizard World Louisville. Prior will appear as a guest at Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience this weekend. (via Rob Prior Twitter (@prior2art)) Rob Prior, an ambidextrous artist, paints at Wizard World Louisville. Prior will appear as a guest at Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience this weekend. (via Rob Prior Twitter (@prior2art))

From “The Walking Dead” stars Chandler Riggs and Jon Bernthal to the Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz to the Power Rangers and the recently announced appearance of the 1966 Batmobile, the Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience will attempt to appeal to fans from many demographics.

FanX, which kicks off at the Salt Palace Convention Center on Thursday and runs through Saturday, boasts a lineup of more than 100 Hollywood stars, authors, artists and other guests. In preparation for this weekend, two celebrity guests — actress Drea de Matteo and artist Rob Prior — spoke with the Deseret News about their careers, their personal lives and their excitement for the convention.

Drea de Matteo

Drea de Matteo spent most of her childhood in the theater. Her mother is a playwright, which gave the New York native plenty of exposure to acting as a child. But it was directing, not acting, that sparked de Matteo’s interest.

Rob Prior artwork based on DC superhero Batman. Prior will appear as a guest at Salt Lake Comic Con FanX this weekend. (via Rob Prior Twitter (@prior2art)) Rob Prior artwork based on DC superhero Batman. Prior will appear as a guest at Salt Lake Comic Con FanX this weekend. (via Rob Prior Twitter (@prior2art))

“I wanted to make films because my mom was a playwright and because I had to be around so many actors all the time,” de Matteo said. “I was a child and wanted to just go play in the backyard — play house. Instead, I had to watch all these adults play house.”

With hopes of becoming a big-time director, she enrolled in film school for college. It was there that de Matteo said her acting career began, almost by accident.

“I partied too much in college and didn’t take my schooling as seriously as some might,” she said. “I ended up having to act in my films last-minute, and that’s how I started acting.”

Soon thereafter, she landed a role in the pilot episode for HBO’s mafia drama “The Sopranos.” However, her first role on the show was not a consistent one and she appeared sporadically.

Randy Gragg dances on West Temple St. in front of Utah's first Comic Con at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Randy Gragg dances on West Temple St. in front of Utah's first Comic Con at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

“They didn’t think I was Italian enough to play the part,” she recalled. “The part … was just three lines for one day. I just found one of my checks, actually. It was $400 for the episode.”

After a second audition, de Matteo said “the creator of the show started to fall in love with the character” and she was eventually promoted to being a series regular, landing the part of Adriana La Cerva.

De Matteo, who currently appears as Wendy Teller on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” is also known for her work on “Desperate Housewives” and NBC’s 2004 “Friends” spin-off, “Joey.”

Though her appearances on the small screen have occupied a large portion of her life so far, de Matteo said her family is her highest priority.

Rob Prior artwork based on Rob Prior artwork based on "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Prior will appear as a guest at Salt Lake Comic Con FanX this weekend. (via Rob Prior Twitter (@prior2art))

“It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said de Matteo, a single mother of two. “I thought parenthood was going to be hard. I didn’t realize that I was going to be doing it on my own and how hard it really, really is with two little kids.”

At the end of the day, de Matteo hopes she will be remembered for her most important role — a good parent. “People ask me what I do for a living. I would never want to say, ‘I’m an actor,’” she said. “I’d much rather say that I’m a mom — and that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”

Rob Prior

“What if I lose my right hand? What am I going to do?” That was a question that really bothered artist Rob Prior as a child.

That fear prompted Prior to completely stop using his dominant hand for two years. During that time, he taught himself how to do everything with his left hand, including writing and painting.

His self-taught ambidexterity has helped distinguish Prior from other artists and he has been able to use that talent on some high-profile platforms. One of Prior’s first major projects as an artist was working on artwork for the popular 1980s board game “Dungeons and Dragons.”

“To be a part of that is great because it’s something that will live on long after I’m gone,” he said. “Any time that I can do something for fans that makes people go, ‘Cool!’, that’s really what I think it’s all about. For me, at least, I like seeing when people really like something and really get into it. If I can be a part of that in any way, shape or form, that’s cool. I like it.”

Among his many projects, Prior has also done notable work for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Heavy Metal Magazine and a comics series called “Spawn: The Impaler.” He also occasionally enjoys painting on stage in collaboration with one of his good friends, rapper Tech N9ne.

Prior said he loves going to conventions because it gives him an opportunity to meet his fans, introduce his art to new people and mingle with other artists.

“I love hearing everybody's stories and I like having artists come up to me and ask me for advice or for help or just meeting fans who have collected my work through everything,” he said. “It’s a give and take because, as much as I want to help the fans or talk to the fans or just be there for them, they do the same for me. I leave a show with a crazy elation.”

This weekend marks Prior’s first visit to Utah. “I hear it’s absolutely beautiful and so far all of the people I have dealt with have been just amazing and cool. I’ve really just had a great time dealing with everybody,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the people, the fans and just having a good time.”

Prior also added that he is looking forward to his stay in Salt Lake City for a chance to meet one particular actor who he recently finished painting. That actor is FanX guest Karl Urban, who portrays Leonard “Bones” McCoy in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot.

Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience runs April 17-19 at the Salt Palace. For more information, visit saltlakecomiccon.com.

Email: achristensen@deseretnews.com, Twitter: atownmania

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