Discussing Convention Safety with Voice Actor Gregg Berger

In the last few months, there’s been significant discussion about fan safety at conventions, largely driven by revelations that a high-profile individual on the convention circuit may have behaved inappropriately with fans for a number of years. While that story continues to develop, we here at GeekDad wanted to reassure people that conventions are quite safe, both for fans, and for the talent visiting them.

To discuss the issue of fan and guest safety, we spoke to veteran voice actor Gregg Berger at the recent SacAnime convention in Sacramento, CA.

Sean
So just to begin, could you introduce yourself and tell us a couple of roles that we might recognize you from?

Gregg
I’m Gregg Berger, and happily I’m no stranger to the convention circuit. I have literally been around the world by invitation, I’ve seen big conventions, small conventions, conventions of all sizes.

My best-known role for conventions is normally Grimlock from Transformers, the original generation one, which has an awful lot of followers. I’ve met fans, their children, and sometimes their grandchildren.

I’m Odie, Orson, Squeak the Mouse, Harry the Alley Cat, Herman the Mailman on Garfield, so that is another long-lasting franchise.

In games I’m known for Spyro the Dragon where I’m Ripto, Final Fantasy I’m Sir Jecht, on Nickelodeon, I was The Gromble on Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, I’m one of the Eeyores for Disney, I was in Kingdom Hearts 2 and a number of projects. On Duckman I was Duckman’s right-hand pig Cornfed Pig, on Men in Black, the animated Men in Black, I was Agent K, so I have a number of things, and the original G.I. Joe as Spirit, Firefly, and several other characters.

So it’s just the kind of iconic roles that, thankfully, I’ve been attached to on camera, and off, that continue to get me special guest invitations to conventions all over the world, and I love meeting fans one-on-one. I love that they come to say thank you. I love that we get to say thank you, and I have watched how organizational conventions have become over the years, how protective of their guests, and how well-run, and I’m going to say I have never had a negative experience in many years of convention going, attending, guesting, and being a fan of.

Sean
That actually segues perfectly for me, because as we begin to talk about fan safety and talk about potential bad experiences, you mentioned that conventions have evolved, and there have been changes. What are some policy changes you’ve seen, or things you’ve seen evolve over the last couple of years to better protect fans and better protect guests?

Gregg
My knowledge is peripheral, but I’m the beneficiary of a much closer relationship with a handler at a given convention. Promoters and guest-relations people are very conscientious and aware of introducing themselves, making sure that in the hierarchy of things, there are always go-to people. I’m trusting by nature, but I appreciate the efforts that are made to look out for us when we’re at their convention. I find it impressive, in fact, organizationally.

Sean
Could you just explain, for some people who might not be familiar with the term, what a handler is?

Gregg
A handler is an assistant, essentially. Conventions tend to be anywhere from two to five days, normally there’s a relationship with that person who serves as an assistant. It’s not just going for things, it’s acting as a go-between as long lines form, it’s an awareness of keeping things in motion so that no one overstays their welcome, not that they’re not welcome, but ideally, you should have a sense of how many people are behind you in that line, and be respectful of it, and it all comes down to the simple things like courtesy and respect.

Anyway, that person is there to sort of handle the motion of the line, and attention to detail so that people who have things that they want to get out, to have signed, kind of anticipate getting to the front of the line, so there are functions, but it’s also a go-between, should you need a go-between.

Sean
Perfect, and again, talking on the topic of safety and talking about managing those crowds, given the recent discussion about fan safety, I want to bring up when I was actually a volunteer at Scout Camp, they gave us this manual of, “This is how you handle children,” and a lot of that was emergency procedures, but a lot of it was how to make sure that you are protected as a camp counselor. Like you should never be with a child alone that’s not your own, there should be all these procedures on how many adults to how many kids, and ratios—

Gregg
Life has rules. And circumstances and situations have rules, and it’s easy to live within them, and as a rule, when you live within them everything goes smoothly.

Sean
So in light of the recent discussions, have you found, either yourself or your peers, changing how they have to interact with fans to make sure that you’re protected, or the fans are protected? For example, if a fan asks for a hug, are you more hesitant, or do most things seem like they’re operating normally?

Gregg
I think that’s an individual question, and I think some people are defensive by nature. I’m not one of them, I feel like the more authentic I make myself, and the more available I make myself in a convention table situation, not following it to the lobby of the hotel, not following it into the elevator of the hotel, you know?

Those things are important, but within the confines of the way that you’re invited to be in attendance and to be available, everything works smoothly. As well it should.

Sean
I’m happy to hear that you personally had all these great, positive experiences. If I might speak more broadly, I did want to discuss incidents at conventions you’ve attended. Have you witnessed things at conventions that have made you uncomfortable or you’ve thought, “Oh this is something that is a problem,” or has it mostly been smooth sailing for you or?

Gregg
Not personally. Not in my space, but I have been on convention floors where just like a riptide coming in at the beach, things get funny because you know that security has been called, someone is misbehaving somewhere, I don’t even need to know the specifics of it to be affected by it, but everyone’s sensors go up, obviously, of course, and logically, but I’ve never seen anything not be normalized in very short order.

But in any public event, that’s any gathering of public, and as well all know, this convention generation has become a phenomenon. It is a gathering place for people who have similar passions, and so 99.99999% of people come to have a good time, not disturb anything, and that’s exactly how it goes, but you know, it’s a big wide world and occasionally someone will come with intentions that are not that pure and that … I’ve seen it addressed very quickly, and very well.

Sean
So you think convention policies and protocols are doing their job and are working well?

Gregg
From my standpoint, from my vantage point, absolutely.

Sean
Cool, and I know we’re short on time, and I don’t want to keep you too long, do you have any closing thoughts on this or anything else you want to add?

Gregg
Only that I have met so many worthwhile people in the convention setting. I’ve met so many people to whom the things that I’ve done have been unbelievably important to their lives, or a period of recuperation, or a period of just development and growth, and I’m moved every time by the stories that people have come to share with me, and I look forward to doing this for as … I only go where I’m invited, but I look forward to being invited far into the distant future.

The thing about a lot of this animated universe, and the interactive universe, and even the on-camera universe when it’s fantasy-based, I came on in Clone Wars and returned in Star Wars Rebels, and these are all universes that are virtual. They’re not, as a rule, topical and tied to a timeframe, so there’s always a new generation that’s discovering these things for the first time, and I have the great good fortune of meeting them as well, as well as people who come because it’s nostalgic and it represents a time in their life.

But these products tend to continue and go on, and I’ve also had the great good fortune of being invited back, and back, and back, and back into franchises that are cornerstones of not only American but international pop-culture. So I’m never not grateful for these opportunities and I only look forward to them continuing.

Sean
Thank you so much for your time.

Gregg
My pleasure.

The cover image of this article is a picture of a Grimlock toy on display in the Natural History Museum in London, England.

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This post was last modified on June 19, 2019 3:04 am

Sean Z: @https://twitter.com/Sean_Z_Writes Sean Z writes about fandom, media, and queerness for GeekDad. When he’s not researching fandom, he enjoys listening to video game music, playing boardgames, and writing code.