Sean Astin 'Rings' in a busy year with a visit to Wizard Con Philly

Sean Astin played the loyal Samwise Gamgee in "Rings."
Sean Astin played the loyal Samwise Gamgee in "Rings."
Posted: June 18, 2014

THE LATIN PHRASE "vox populi" translates to "voice of the people."

It's also the name of Sean Astin's political radio show, which urges bipartisan civil discourse.

Astin, who's most recognized for his roles as the loyal Samwise Gamgee in Peter Jackson's epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and Rudy, from the 1993 gridiron drama of the same name, considers himself an "active, engaged citizen" off the screen.

The 43-year-old actor was a volunteer civilian aide in John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, and worked on Hillary Clinton's primary campaign in 2008.

"I'm sure everybody feels some sense of relationship to the news they watch," Astin said. The American democratic model, he added, would be more effective if talking politics wasn't considered taboo among the masses.

Astin is open to challenging discussions, a common characteristic in Hollywood. Performers, Astin observed, are generally unafraid of opinionated expression.

The urge to talk politics - and politics' ever-polarizing kin, religion - didn't come until later in Astin's life, as he became a pensive adult and father.

Even while bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's notoriously spiritual "Lord of the Rings" books to life on set in New Zealand, Astin said he wasn't thinking much about the religious undertones in Frodo and Sam's quest. He was focused on portraying his character with authenticity.

The self-realizations and grandiose thoughts about the character as a conduit for some greater message came later, he said.

"I'm one of those people that believes that everything you do shapes who you are," Astin said. "Who we are is some form of all our experiences."

Astin has covered a lot of ground since he starred in the 1986 childhood staple, "The Goonies." Now, he's as active as ever.

Five projects, including the radio show, have "converged simultaneously" for Astin, who's set to appear Saturday and Sunday at Wizard World Philadelphia.

He voices Raphael in Nickelodeon's iteration of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series. He starred in the comedy "Mom's Night Out," released in May. And debuting in July on FX, Astin plays Jim Kent in Guillermo Del Toro's vampire series, "The Strain."

But the project Astin seemed most excited about was "Sultana," a documentary he produced and narrated about the 1865 explosion of the SS Sultana on the Mississippi River, in which roughly 1,800 died - the deadliest maritime disaster in U.S. history.

"No one knows it happened," Astin said. "More people died on it than died on the Titanic."

Both "Sultana" and "Vox Populi" were funded by Kickstarter campaigns. As such, Astin can see the monetary support for his work. When he comes to comic cons and Wizard World conventions, he can see those supporters in person.

"Lord of the Rings" has had such an enormous impact on science fiction and fans of the trilogy especially have warmly received Astin wherever they see him. He said he's thankful for the opportunity to "touch people" who enjoy his work as much as he does.

"You sign an autograph, you give a little piece of yourself," he said. "It's just a warm thing."

For info and tickets to Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con (June 19 to 22 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St.), go to Look for the Daily News' special Wizard Con supplement tomorrow.

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