Yvette Nicole Brown Explains How to Moderate a Comic-Con Panel (and Why She's So Good at It)

Michael Schneider
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 26: Moderator Yvette Nicole Brown attends ABC's "Once Upon A Time" panel during Comic-Con International 2014 at San Diego Convention Center on July 26, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Odd Couple star (and former Community cast member) Yvette Nicole Brown has a busy Saturday morning lined up at San Diego Comic-Con.

At 10 a.m. in Ballroom 20, Brown is back to moderate the Once Upon a Time panel for a second year in a row. She's got her work cut out for her: It's a huge panel, with stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Emile de Ravin, Colin O'Donoghue, Rebecca Mader and Sean Maguire, in addition to executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis.

Then at 11 a.m., Brown will shift from the podium to the dais, as she joins TV Guide Magazine's annual Fan Favorites panel, moderated by Damian Holbrook. This year's panel features Brown, David Anders (iZombie), Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs), Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Eliza Taylor (The 100), Ming-Na Wen (Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones).

Brown is an unabashed pop culture fan, if her Twitter feed (@YNB) is any indication. She also is a frequent guest on AMC's Talking Dead, where she gives her reaction to The Walking Dead. We asked Brown to give us her TV panel tips–as both a moderator and as a panelist.

This is the second year in a row you’ll be moderating the Once Upon A Time panel. How did this gig happen?
First I should say, my degree is in journalism. I thought I would be a television reporter or something in journalism as a kid, but that is not my field, so hats off to all of you that do it. It is not easy formulating the questions and doing the research and all that it takes to give the fans a great hour of content. I respect those that do this as a profession and I’m honored that I get to do it for an hour once a year.

It came to be because I’m such a fan girl of Once Upon a Time. I’ve been live-tweeting the show since the beginning. I’ve become friends with some of the creators of the show and some of the writers through the years. They’ve been kind enough to let me be Goldilocks in one of the DVD extras and I was the voice of Ursula the Goddess statue one season. I think their original moderator maybe fell out last year and they were like, “Yvette loves the show, maybe she’d love to come and be the ring leader.” I’m just overjoyed they asked me back again this year.

What was your moderator experience like last year?
I was terrified, but then it clicked in my mind that I’m a fan of the show. All you need to be initially to be a good moderator, besides research and formulating questions, is a love of the show. If you love the show you’re going to ask questions that other fans would want to know the answer, so it makes choosing your questions a little bit easier. I would never agree to moderate a show that I was not completely rabid about.

What kind of research did you do?
My research for Comic-Con is the same as my research for any time I talk about a show. When I do the Talking Dead I go back and watch the entire season of The Walking Dead. If I have time I’ll go back and watch the season before too. With Once I went back and re-watched all of Season 4. I didn’t have to go back further because I had just re-watched the entire series last year. I still have my notes from last year. I just watch and I take notes and I ask fans on Twitter what they want to hear. Then I curate and cultivate all of my questions. I had a conference call with some people from ABC and the creators of the show in order to formulate the panel.

Being an actor gives you an interesting perspective on now interviewing actors. Does that give you a bit of additional insight that you bring to moderating a panel?
I think so. I understand how it feels when you don’t get asked a question. I don’t want anyone on the panel to feel that way. I make sure I write specific questions for each actor and I try to jump to the people that may not get the most love quicker, so that they don’t have that feeling of sitting there, waiting for someone to care about their process or care about what the season did to them. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they’re a second class citizen or they’ve been forgotten.

There’s a cottage industry of TV show panels these days. Emmy panels, PaleyFest, and of course, Comic-Con. As an actor what do you make of that? It’s part of your job now, showing up and doing all these events.
I see it as offering back to the fans. I’m a fan of everything. A lot of times we forget there is a craft to what actors do. I myself am a hack, so there’s not much craft to what I do, but a lot of others are trained and they’re really thespians. Because they’re so good at whatever they do, be it comedy or drama, it makes it look like it’s an easy profession But there are reasons why people are doing certain things and reasons why they’re making certain choices. We’re actors making characters, but we do have our own emotions that color why we say something the way we say something or why a story arc may have touched us in a certain way. It’s always cool as a fan of entertainment to find out the behind-the-scenes stuff.

It’s also great to see your favorites in person. For them to come out of the TV screen and sit right in front of you, and there’s a mic that you can go up and ask a question and a moderator asking them the exact thing you want to know, it’s just magical.

Are there any questions from this season of Once Upon a Time you’re itching to ask the producers and stars?
I’ve got a couple of gems but I want to save them for the panel. Once Upon a Time is a show about true loves and soul mates and consequences to bad behavior and what does it mean to be hero. What does it mean to be a villain? And if you’re originally a villain, can you rehabilitate yourself? There are so many life lessons in this show. Things that pertain to the heart. I want to get to the marrow of the bone and find out what certain things mean.

You’re joining us on this year’s TV Guide Magazine Fan Favorites panel. Is there anything you’re dying to know from any of your fellow panelists?
I am dying to know how close they will sit me next to Norman Reedus. Ming-Na Wen and Norman and Maisie Williams and everyone on this panel except for me and Wendy McLendon-Covey, they do such physical things on their shows. So I want to know how they prepare for action sequences and the fight sequences. I want to know from Maisie: how do you get into the mindset? Arya has been through so much. How as a young person do you get your mind in that place it needs to be in order to convey all of those emotions? Those are the questions I would ask a fan and may ask backstage before we go out. I’ll get my answers.

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