When Gabriel Luna walked onto the main theater stage for his panel at FAN EXPO Chicago, he was, unsurprisingly, met with cheers and applause from the crowd who had shown up to see him. He was also accompanied by music of his own, playing from the portable speaker clipped to a belt loop of his black jeans. He stopped at the couch where he was to be seated for the event, taking a moment to nod his head along to the tune. It was as though he was a professional wrestler heading to the ring for his next match, the entrance music blasting to signify his upcoming fight — his next chance at victory.
One of the first things he shared during the panel is that Tupac Shakur’s “Ambitionz az a Ridah” would be his entrance music — if such a concept existed for panels. He proceeded to play the song on his phone and instructed any kids in the crowd to cover their ears, protecting them from upcoming profanities. But the song played only momentarily, just enough for a verse. The Gabriel Luna Music Hour, as named by panel moderator Claire Lim, ended without a single song played in its entirety.
Interestingly enough, Luna would go on to wear an AEW CM Punk ringer tee the following day. Considering the wrestler is from Chicago, it was a fitting choice of attire that doubled as an homage to the area the actor was visiting. But, unlike a wrestler, Luna had no opponent or potential for loss at the convention. Only wins were ahead, coming in the form of people who chose to use their time to hear from him and decided to spend their hard-earned money on photo ops and autographs.
Finding out that Luna has music playing throughout his time at his autograph table on the show floor was no surprise, and neither was the fact he promptly started the music back up once our interview concluded. After all, he’s a singer/musician himself. But the decision to pause the tunes that composed his autograph signing soundtrack to do an interview was greatly appreciated and telling of his demeanor.
One of the standout statements Luna made during his Friday afternoon panel was “It’s love for love’s sake,” referencing his favorite thing about doing conventions. The question prompted him to recall his love for collecting Lego minifigures — something he said he’s been doing since his youth. He explained how, because of events like FAN EXPO Chicago, he once found an artist who created custom figurines, allowing him to expand his collection with specific characters.
“People make these things just out of sheer love, painting with their tiny little paintbrush, I imagine,” Luna said during the panel. “Things that you love, you can find it here.”
Known from science fiction shows among other titles, the actor was at the convention as a celebrity guest, and was one of the big names used to draw fans to the four-day long event. But he spoke of his time at conventions as though he was just another fan, saying that comic cons have “the kind of stuff that we’re into.”
Luna may be the actor with film and television credits to his name and that people paid to see, but he made it clear that this event was not about the separation between those who create art and those who consume it, and instead it was an event about a community that gathered over shared interests; a community that Luna is a part of.
Gabriel Luna the Superhero Fan
As the interview was set to start, Luna asked if I’d prefer to sit behind his autograph table. He had been standing at the front of his table to do autographs, creating a more personal experience for the fans; it’s where he remained throughout the weekend for autograph sessions. But sitting behind the table allows for a more intimate environment that feels separate from the comic con chaos, and what was expected to be a brief casual interview suddenly felt like more of a personal conversation.
Due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, Luna wasn’t allowed to speak about his onscreen work. However, there was still plenty to talk about, including his interests as a fellow geek.
I asked what character he would cosplay as if he were to ever attend a convention as a fan, and he gave himself a second to ponder the possibilities before mentioning that he “would love to be Wolverine.” But not just any Wolverine. Weapon X Wolverine.
“I’d be in here shirtless, looking crazy,” Luna admitted. “And I’d have to paint on hair, because I’m not a very hairy person. I have a lot of native blood, so I’d have to either use interesting crepe paper techniques or something. But I’d have to get hairy on my forearms, my chest.”
We talked about the most overrated and underrated superpowers, which Luna said were super strength and telekinesis respectively. “It seems like it all cancels out. A lot of people have super strength.” Luna said, his tone shifting from contemplative to playful confidence. “I have it, but I’m like an omega-level hero.”
Telekinesis on the other hand, Luna would use for both superheroic and practical purposes. First saying that he would lift 18-wheelers and hold up falling buildings to save everyone underneath in the process, he admitted that “I would get my snacks from across the room without having to get up. That’s probably really all I’d use it for.”
Gabriel Luna the Basketball Fan
Beyond superheroes, Luna, a former basketball player himself, is also a lifelong fan of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. His basketball jersey number? 44, an homage to NBA and Spurs legend George Gervin. The 40-year-old actor is too young to have seen the now 71-year-old Gervin’s career with the Spurs – which stems back to 1974 when the team was a part of the now defunct American Basketball Association – but that doesn’t stop Luna from loving the Gervin’s game. Luna’s favorite basketball player, however, is former Spurs center David Robinson.
Those two are just the start, as the Spurs superfan went on to list an array of Spurs players that he loved, from the Spurs of the ‘90s, like Sean Elliott and Terry Cummings, to the franchise’s iconic trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
A small forward during his playing days, Luna listed name after name, almost crafting his own all-time roster of Spurs, including recent first overall pick Victor Wembanyama.
When I asked about his excitement about having the French phenom on his favorite team, Luna wasted no time in expressing his elation, saying he is “absolutely over-the-moon excited.”
As Luna continued to speak about the 19-year-old star, he proved that his fandom and knowledge of the game are serious, offering in-depth analysis about the player’s upcoming impact.
“[Wembanyama’s] radius of influence, just by being there, every single player on the court on the opposition has to be aware of him and is moving with him in mind,” Luna said of Wembanyama’s impact. “Even if he’s not directly guarding him, so that’s going to change everything. It’s going to be unbelievable. All we really need is a good rim protector. Now we have one.”
He concluded his Spurs spiel with “Yeah, I love the San Antonio Spurs.”
Gabriel Luna the Artist
Although his career is based in acting, Luna’s history with and love for art stems from many mediums. During his panel, he recollected how, despite loving to participate in various art forms, he wouldn’t take such courses in college to fulfill his fine arts credit.
“I loved to dance, but didn’t want to dance in front of anybody. I loved to draw, but didn’t want anybody telling me what to draw. I loved to sing, but didn’t want anybody to hear me do that,” Luna said.
Remembering this statement from the panel, I asked if his interest in comic books and his love for drawing ever intersected. To answer the question, Luna thought back to his youth, remembering how he and his friend Gigi, while zoning out, would pass the time in church by drawing.
“I drew a comic book called ‘The Karate Cats,’ because I loved the [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtles. This was my version,” Luna said. “I shit you not … maybe one or two years later, we were watching cartoons, and it might have been Ninja Turtles, but there was a whole squad of karate cats — almost like little ninja cats — the same way I drew them.”
Although he’s far removed from those “drawing while zoning out” moments in church, Luna maintained that he still loves to draw, and carries a sketchbook with him during his travels.
“I’ve gotten a lot better since the Karate Cat days,” Luna said.
Gabriel Luna the Person
At FAN EXPO Chicago, Luna had the luxury of taking more time with fans who were there to see him. Not every guest can or does. But for the fans who wanted to see Luna, he properly greeted them and engaged in conversations with them; some were even met with hugs from the actor.
Events like FAN EXPO Chicago offer a chance for fans to interact with the individuals who bring their favorite stories to life. Luna truly embraced the opportunity, taking the time to make it meaningful for those who stopped by to see him.
Throughout three days of interactions and observations, one panel and a one-on-one interview, it was evident that Luna is a caring and affable person — an individual who is happy to be gracious with his time. He is a passionate person who will speak his mind, but with thought and consideration. He is an artist who not only seems at ease with his platform, but content and confident with the life he leads and whatever is to come.
“They told me in school that the universe is infinite,” Luna recalled at his panel. “And if that’s true, then there’s a whole Earth for every decision I make, and there’s an Earth where everything I want to make happen for myself and my family happens. So then, why not this one?”
Ashley Wijangco is a Filipina American writer who loves basketball, Marvel, and musicals. She wants to help make “Rogers: The Musical” a reality.