The celebrity appearance roster for this year's Texas Frightmare Weekend reads like a list of patron saints for the Church of Horror Fan Worship. However, three notable names have excommunicated themselves from the list.
Three of the child actors from Netflix's runaway horror series hit Stranger Things, including Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb
Matarazzo, who plays Dustin on Stranger Things, and McLaughlin, a Broadway actor who made the jump to TV as Lucas, dropped out sometime in April.
Brown, who plays the MKUltra test subject known as 11, dropped out earlier this year. Actor Mark Steger, the show's hideous Demogorgon from the Upside Down, will still appear at Frightmare, which is scheduled to start on Friday.
The reason for the cancellations? Season two.
Loyd Cryer, a film producer who founded the horror festival 12 years ago, said by email that the Stranger Things stars canceled their appearances because "they are filming the weekend of our event and can no longer make it."
Conventions are often worried about satisfying fan demand for more current celebrities, but booking them can come with the risk of sudden cancellations due to schedule conflicts, says local convention organizer and Dallas Comic Show promoter Mark Walters, who's been organizing celebrity appearances for cons since the mid-'90s.
"Fans have become more and more interested in current, hot-name guests and people on hit TV shows and in hit movies," Walters says. "The celebrity autograph scene is changing because it used to be when you would do one of these shows, you'd get celebrities who were not working much and were known for things from many, many years ago. Now we're seeing a surge of celebrities who are working on hot properties. The catch-22 is every time you book somebody like this, there's a danger of them having to back out at the last second."
Walters says actors and actresses working on popular shows and movies can be called up at a moment's notice. So fans should keep that in mind when they read that someone they planned on meeting at a con has to cancel their appearance.
"This is secondary for them," he says. "What the fans need to think about is the reason these people are famous and the reason they want to meet them is because of their acting in their favorite shows. Well, acting in their favorite shows is always going to take precedent over a convention."
In Brown's case, it may have been more than just a scheduling conflict. According to New York Magazine, Brown posted a video on her Instagram account back in March, in which she apologized to attendees of another convention for having to cancel a separate appearance.
New York reports that in the video, since taken down, Brown said she was exhausted between filming the second season of Stranger Things and traveling to cons, and just needed some time to rest.
Walters, who watched it, called Brown's video "one of the more honest admissions I've seen."
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"It's entirely possible when these guys are going from show to show, they just wear themselves out," he says. "Everybody's got a breaking point."
Keeping celebrities on the schedule for cons can be quite a challenge, but fans can make it easier by understanding the inherent risks of booking busy celebrities who already have full schedules.
"I feel bad for people like Loyd," Walters says. "It sucks to be put in that position, but it all comes back to the same thing that if fans want to see these types of celebrities at these types of shows, that's a risk they have to take."
Texas Frightmare Weekend runs Friday, May 5, to Sunday, May 7, at the Hyatt Regency at DFW Airport, 2334 N. International Parkway. Tickets are $30 to $83.95 at texasfrightmareweekend.com.