Friday, January 23, 2015

The Fangirl Experience: Meeting James Nesbitt

The Fangirl Experience is a new, monthly column suggested by Jaime Heller, featuring contributions from both our staff and our readers. Everybody has those moments when being a fangirl feels like the world has become perfectly balanced. It's those moments when you feel a stir in your heart that maybe you've made the right decision in falling down the fandom vortex. When, in the words of my good "friend" Zachary Levi, your "unbridled passion for something, or things, defines  who they are as a person without fear of other people's judgment." It's that moment you want to share with the whole world, scream to the rooftops, about what happened. Maybe it's a small moment, maybe it's a big one. But every fangirl has one--or will have one--and we would like to share ours with you. Because our Initiative would be nothing without the Experience. 

By Paige Kelly

The Lord of the Rings has always been near and dear to my heart, and thus, always a dream of mine to work on the movies in some way. My chance for being an extra in Middle-earth came and went, but I got to meet someone very involved with The Hobbit while studying abroad--and I wasn’t even anywhere near NZ!

I studied for an academic year at the University of Ulster, Magee, in Northern Ireland. During my first week there, we were given a schedule with orientation events, things such as field trips to scenic and historical sites, lectures, city tours. At the end of the week, a special meet and greet in Belfast (about 2.5 hours away from where I lived in Derry/Londonderry) was on the schedule, and from what I can remember, I think it was only a day or two before that we only found out who the mysterious celebrity was--only known as the “Chancellor” of the university. I had met my best friend a few days previously, and when we discovered that it was, in fact, James Nesbitt, we had a major bonding session over discovering we were both Tolkien fanatics. Nesbitt is a Northern Irish actor from the Coleraine area, where he still lives, and played “Bofur” in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy. Not only was I ecstatic about meeting someone who’d worked on these movies and met everyone involved, I had also been a fan of him earlier on in his career when he played “Leo” on the Irish television show, Ballykissangel, which I grew up watching. Meeting an actor who was involved in two of my favourite fandoms on earth?! I was thrilled and was trying to think of questions to ask all week.

Before Nesbitt, I’d never really met anyone who was a major celebrity, so I always thought that people getting starstruck was quite stupid. I mean, they’re normal people, really, as normal as me, right? So normal that they live in tiny places like Coleraine, which is not on anyone’s radar unless you’ve been in Northern Ireland a decent amount of time. But my friend and I, we just plain got excited. We couldn’t sit still the entire bus ride, and she’d stayed up the whole night before inking a drawing of Bofur for him to sign (oh how I wish I’d thought of doing that! I just hastily grabbed my closest Tolkien book and went with it). I think it could safely be said that we were the most excited out of our entire group.

At the campus in Belfast, they had a nice area set up with tables and tea and biscuits, which we were too excited to eat properly, and the room was absolutely packed out with other internationals--basically wall to wall crowds. All my friend and I’s photos are blurry and jumpy both from excitement and bouncing on our toes to see him up front at the podium. Nesbitt gave a nice short little speech, in a Northern Irish accent (I mean, duh, but most things you see him in they change it to a lighter or more English or southern Irish one), about how proud the university was to welcome new international students and what it means to them, although I know my friend and I were both thinking, That’s nice!! Now, describe, IN GREAT DETAIL, what it was like working on the set of The Hobbit. And all the people you met there.

Afterwards, he walked around taking photos and shaking hands, and my friend and I were the nerds walking around the crowd, trying to follow him, not wanting to be pushy and rude but determined not to leave without a photo. When we finally got to him, he turned around and greeted us, asked where we were from. I did most of the talking and told him how I was from North Carolina, and that I was studying in Derry at Magee. He was just as nice and pleasant as could be, very easygoing and smiling the whole time (much like Bofur, I suppose!), and told me how he was just in Derry the previous day and what a wonderful city it was (I believe he commented something along similar lines about North Carolina, but I can’t remember that part). He was very busy with lots of other photographs, but I think--and can’t remember details clearly--I told him how excited I was about The Hobbit, as he was signing my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring (I know, I know, not the same book, but like I said, it was the first thing I grabbed), and how I had loved Ballykissangel. He took a photo with us as well, and then he was off, greeting other students.

All in all, it was a fabulous day. I think my friend and I both walked off a little starstruck, giddy with the fact that we got a picture and autographs and I shook the hand that shook the hands of Peter Jackson, Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Richard Armitage, Aiden Turner, Dean O’Gorman, and the list goes on and on… you know how that six degrees of separation theory thing goes? Yeah, I guess I could only say I’m 1 degree away from all those people now.

The funny thing was the local reaction to all this. My friend and I shared it with our church and new friends as a huge highlight, which I’m sure they respected, but their reactions were great--just like “Oh, Jimmy? Aye yeah, he’s just up near Coleraine.” Being such a local, his celebrity status doesn’t really affect them, regardless of the level of celebrity. I think we provided them with quite a bit of amusement and a good laugh over our fangirling. One of my friends who worked at the university there would periodically send me text messages after that notifying me whenever “Jimmy” had just poked his head in the office. It’s nice, common thing that the Irish don’t get too starstruck by celebrities and really just see them as some of their own--I guess when it’s such a small place with relatively few famous people, that’s the way it goes. Whether it was getting excited over meeting actors or bands like Rend Collective Experiment, you’d just get a shrug out of a local with a “that’s all? Sure everyone knows them, like.” They can teach you a good lesson in not getting a big head!

All in all, regardless of whether any more Lord of the Rings related films get made and I get to help out with them, I’m just glad I met one member of the cast who was just as fantastic in real life and one I’m proud to have as the chancellor of my university there. Even if I suddenly forgot every single question I wanted to ask him about filming The Hobbit. But, I remind myself, there’s always next time.  

Of course, the Fangirl Initiative wouldn't be complete without the help of you, our readers. We want to hear and feature your stories and tales. If you have a fangirl experience you'd like to share in this column, let us know


  1. Wow! That is so exciting! I'd really love to meet one of the hobbit cast some day. (-: It must be awesome being in a country were you get the chance to meet your favorite actor(s) from the British Isles. (-:

    1. I really hope you get the chance to someday, Elizabeth!!! Just remember to ask them questions about actually being in the Hobbit ;) (Which I wish I did!). It was fantastic--I was sad that the one I didn't meet whilst there was Aiden Turner who's also Northern Irish!! That's for when I go back though, heh.