Rachel Skarsten, an actress featured in “Reign” and “Lost Girl,” is set to visit Wizard World Con at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison this weekend.
The convention will feature a number of guest stars from television and film, panel discussions and professional photo ops and will run from Friday, Sep. 22 through Sunday, Sep. 24.
“I’m actually really excited to do Wizard World. This is my first Wizard World,” Skarsten said. “But I think the thing that has always been my experience in cons, no matter who’s hosting or what city it’s in, is that there’s this incredible place of inclusiveness and you’re free to sort of be who you want to be.”
Skarsten will have her own table at the convention, where fans can come get autographs, take pictures or even just say hello. She will also hold a panel discussion, for her Canadian drama television series “Lost Girl.”
As a self-proclaimed Trekkie and comic con enthusiast, Skarsten expressed that conventions build community and unite very different people, with perhaps similar experiences, in the same space.
“Television and movies are entertainment, but also I can’t tell you how many times a show has spoken to me in a certain moment in my life or been there for me when I’ve been lonely and things like that, and I think that it’s really awesome to meet other people who have also had these experiences,” Skarsten said.
“Lost Girl” revolved around numerous LGBT+ relationships and themes, making it a breakthrough in terms of queer representation in media.
The character of Tasmin, played by Skarsten in the show, develops a relationship over time with protagonist Bo, after accompanying her through her journey.
“You do a show, and you love it for your own reasons, but you don’t really think as you’re doing it — like, when I was making out with Anna, I wasn’t thinking like ‘wow, this is really going to affect someone in Ohio and this is a good thing,’” Skarsten said. “And it’s been so humbling for me and so wonderful.”
Skarsten has appeared in a number of genres—from sci-fi to period pieces to indie films—and credits this frequent role changing to her longing to always be doing something different, or never wanting to be typecast.
“And I’ve noticed even when I have played one character for a while, like doing a show for three seasons and then you go and do another character — like when I went from “Lost Girl” to “Reign” — I’d be rolling my eyes left, right and center and they’d be like ‘you’re playing Queen Elizabeth,’” Skarsten said.
Underlying all of Skarsten’s characters, however, is complexity and strength. Skarsten admits she has been lucky to have had the opportunity to play the strong female characters she has.
“My mom always jokes that I play the ‘redeemable bitch.’ And I think that’s my favorite character to play, because that’s so true to humanity,” Skarsten said. “All of us have our moments of greatness, but they’re peppered with incredible insecurity, or adversity. And I think that’s where heroes are born in my mind.”
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Due to this genre switching, Skarsten plays a broad range of complex characters, stemming from her roots as a child actor.
The television and film actress first got into acting at age 11, after being seen by a talent agent while singing on a television memorial program honoring her father, who had passed away two years prior.
Skarsten landed the first audition she set out for — an audition for a television commercial — and continued on to star in other films and programs, including “Virginia’s Run.”
Skarsten credits her mother for keeping her grounded and allowing her to make her own choices throughout her childhood acting career, and for being the “antithesis of a stage mom.”
“It probably wasn’t until I was like an adult that I really took it seriously. After some time off, I realized that it was something I actually love doing and wanted to do with my life,” Skarsten said. “Acting was kind of like that boy you grew up with and you didn’t realize until later that you should probably marry him.”
At the age of 17, Skarsten quit acting to pursue education and travel — after starring on the WB’s television series “Birds of Prey.”
“That’s the first time that I realized ‘oh, this isn’t just a fun extracurricular activity, this is actually a job and a business—and that’s not what I signed up for,’” Skarsten said. “I didn’t want to be a commodity, I just wanted to have fun, and play pretend… and so I became quite disillusioned with it all and I left acting.”
To this day, Skarsten is satisfied with her decision to briefly leave acting, as it gave her time to be young and make mistakes out of the public eye.
Skarsten soon returned to L.A. after traveling, and realized the acting world she knew had changed. Although she had assumed everyone would be highly anticipating her return, she was met with adversity trying to break back into the scene.
“And I think it was in that time that I realized that, wow, if I still want to do this and I’m legitimately living in my car right now, I must really love it,” Skarsten said. “And so I think I kind of just came at it at that point from a completely different perspective, as an adult.”
Moving forward, Skarsten is passionate about the roles she has played, including Tasmin from “Lost Girl.” She credits the show for building a community of an otherwise marginalized or underrepresented population.
Skarsten understands that her role as an actor gives her a platform, which is why she chooses to be attentive to fans of the show and attend conventions like Wizard World Con.
“I’m always grateful to go to comic cons, because you hear stories from people who say how this show affected [them]. You know, ‘having this show, I came out to my parents, and now I can be who I am and they love me for who I am.’ Or you also hear, ‘they didn’t support me, but I had ‘Lost Girl’ and a community because of ‘Lost Girl,’” Skarsten said. “And that just blows me away. I already love my job, but it makes me deeply appreciate the opportunity and the platform that I get to have as an actor and it makes me very grateful. I love comic cons.”
Through the sense of community that “Lost Girl” curated, paired with the inclusive nature of Wizard World Con, Skarsten encourages fans to come out and interact with each other, and even make new friends.
“I think it’s also just important because it’s a really fun, safe, wonderful environment,” Skarsten said. “And it’s great if you come with your partner, if you come with your kids, if you come with your parents or come by yourself and make friends. I just think anything that gets people together and builds community is always a good idea.”