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Eliza Dushku On Strong Female Roles, Comic Conventions And Her Charity Work

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ELIZA DUSHKU WATERTOWN
Eliza Dushku. | Shutterstock

Eliza Dushku loves people, especially her fans.

This is why the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Bring It On" star is already back in the city so soon after her appearance at Toronto's Fan Expo convention in August. This time she's here for the Toronto Comicon, which is this weekend (March 7 - 9, 2014) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

She'll be appearing Saturday and Sunday to connect with fans and thank those among them who raised over $100,000 via Twitter for her ThriveGulu non-profit organization in Uganda over the holiday season. We caught up with her the morning after the Oscars to talk about her charity work, and her strategy for meeting people at conventions, among other things.

HuffPost Canada TV: When you come to conventions what do the fans ask you about most? Are most questions about "Buffy," or do they ask more about "Bring it On" and other stuff?
Eliza Dushku: I usually get the gamut. I mean, I've had 22 years in this business. I've worked with Joss [Whedon] and his world in that genre three different times. I also did another show that's sort of in a similar fan genre with "Tru Calling," so it's usually pretty spanned. "Buffy" and my role as Faith was certainly a big one, but there are a lot of "Dollhouse" fans. I think there's always a lot of curiosity about what i'm doing currently. I really admire the way the fans have joined me in social justice endeavours and the charitable work that I've been involved in. We've raised over $100,000 on Twitter for our non-profit in Uganda. People really get involved and show up for all the things that have been under my umbrella over the last 22 years.

What do you think it really is that draws people to you? Do you have a personal philosophy or way of carrying yourself that people identify with and makes them want to contribute to your causes?
I think people hear and feel the genuine nature of my passion for the causes. Specifically with the non-profit in Uganda, my mother is the president and she was an African politics professor for almost 50 years, so I think people know that I align myself with people who know what they're talking about. I think people see that I'm not just -- I mean, not that there are bad actresses who pretend that they're involved in a non-profit -- but I think people know that I'm not an actress involved in an African organization that I phone in. We've been really there from the inception, we've returned and we really carefully follow what's going on. I'm on the board of this organization, so people see the authenticity. They've been extraordinary and really so generous and I love to thank them in-person.

I know fans can go all-out at these conventions when it comes to showing their devotion to their favourite celebrity, so what are some of the craziest things you have received from your biggest fans?
I receive really powerful personal letters. I think that always takes the cake. It blows me away ... some of the comments. Someone will come and I sense their whole tone and energy when they're handing me this letter. I read things from people that talk about how different characters I've played make them feel empowered as women or as men, or helped overcome a challenge in their lives. There are a lot of LGBTQ youth and people that say, "When I was young and feeling really different your character made me feel strong and empowered." Those are always most memorable and powerful. The costumes and the people dressed as different characters is entertaining and fun and I get a kick out of it, but I also really love the really personal and emotional people that come up.

I guess those sort of reactions really let you know that you're making an impact.
They're one of the reasons I kept doing what I was doing. After I graduated high school and came out to do "Buffy," I was enrolled at my mom's university and I was going to go get a real job. I never thought of acting and never really wanted to be an actor. I sort of tripped and fell into it, but I always anticipated that I'd follow in the footsteps of my mother and travel the world and help people by being involved in social, perhaps even political, causes. Then, it was after I played Faith on "Buffy" and I started having that kind of response from people that I realized that I was doing something, not equally powerful, but powerful enough that I was making a difference in the world.

And you don't seem to mind that Faith seems to be the type of role that you may be defined by for the rest of your life.
It's the gift that keeps on giving, man.

Do you still get a lot of offers to take on those strong, female superhero-type characters?
I have and I do. It's an easier thing for people to think they can conceive and do properly than they can actually execute. If you read the character on the page, you'll see a lot of examples where they're trying to make a strong, empowered female character, but look closer and you'll start to see the cracks and inconsistencies. To me it's really important, as I've had experiences where I've trusted that someone wanted to make a certain kind of character and you get there and it's like, "Well..." I don't know, there's an inconsistency. It's so frustrating. I've tried to be discerning and I'd rather pause and do other things with my time and my life than just take a job to take a job.

When you attend these conventions and participate in panels and Q&As, I'm sure you hear the same questions over and over again, so how do you connect in an authentic way and keep it fresh?
I just talk to people. Sometimes you get a question you've answered before, but I think the fans follow along and they get a chuckle out of hearing someone ask a question that they've already heard me answer before. It just depends on the day, who asked the question and what the tone is, but it usually doesn't bother me because it's just talking to people. I don't see it as a performance, or trying to come up with a cool answer because I'm just talking to my people that are there to support me and have a -- well, it's not a one-on-one necessarily, but when someone steps up to the mic it is one-on-one, except there are 100 people sitting around. I try to see from each person what they're really asking and be there for them a little bit.

Meet Eliza Dushku this weekend, March 8 and 9, 2014 at the Toronto Comicon in The Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Tickets can be purchased at www.comicontoronto.com or at the on-site box office during the show.

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