In a time before out queer characters on mainstream media, or rather on the cusp of such TV representation, was Bering & Wells – the bisexual couple that almost was. I remember the moment Jaime Murray’s character, Helena G. Wells, said within earshot of Joanne Kelly’s character, Agent Bering, the indelible line “Many of my lovers were men” and the coy smirk that earned from Agent Bering. Those few seconds of air time was the most confirmation my then lesbian college heart had ever received I was not alone. Attending a religious college in the Bible Belt of Texas as an out lesbian had me constantly questioning who I was and whether there was a place in this world for me. So, I attached to this ship for dear life. It is arguable that my love of Bering & Wells is the only reason I survived that experience. I buried myself in the Warehouse 13 franchise, obsessing over the characters and plots. I participated in Bering & Wells online gift exchanges over the holidays through Tumblr. I built a full size and functional Warehouse 13 with all the interactive artifacts I could include on IMVU. I wrote fanfiction in the mediums of short stories and poetry. (Stay tuned for the next ClexaCon x Sapphire Publishing Fan Fiction Anthology to feature my very un-loosely based Bering & Wells fanfiction.)
I even spent weeks creating a screen accurate cosplay of my Victorian heroine. And then H.G. Wells came to life in my desolate Texas world. Jaime Murray guested at Dallas Comic Expo 2014. I drove three hours to Dallas so I could meet and take a photo with her in my H.G. Wells cosplay, featuring a vest my partner made and a book locket I made.
It was my first experience at a convention and such a positive one that it spurred a lifelong love of conventions. I even wrote about the experience for my college paper.
I never got to meet Joanne Kelly, though, and her character’s impact on my life was equally compelling. Myka Bering’s ovarian cancer journey occurred onscreen during the time my godmother was dying of the illness. To see one of my favorite TV characters and her friends undergoing the same trauma that my family and I were experiencing helped me through one of the most difficult losses of my life.
Now, nearly a decade later this out trans-man’s heart stopped when I stumbled on the post reading that my college heroine would be guesting at my favorite convention. I followed Jaime Murray’s Twitter threads of conversations with Joanne Kelly and petitioned ClexaCon by boosting the post on social media to get Bering & Wells back together.
ClexaCon is a convention notorious for giving the queer fandom what they want. The entire premise of their first convention in 2017 was to right a wrong that was done to queer fans of The 100 and combat queer baiting through honest, informative dialogue between fans and creators. In that mission, I would say they continue to succeed by reuniting my favorite ship and securing Joanne Kelly to guest alongside Jaime Murray at this out queer convention.
ClexaCon Virtual Day 2 – Bering & Wells Reunion Recap
WARNING: 2 Spoilers incoming!
The brilliant Dana Piccoli (look at that awesome ally with her pronouns in her name) lit up my screen first. She is the crowning moderator of ClexaCon and brought Bering & Wells to life in a way I never saw before. Watching their last reunion ‘circa 2014 at DragonCon—an event I would have done anything to be in attendance of, but could just not make happen—did not hold a candle to this. Even though it was a virtual panel, it felt somehow even more intimate than an in-person event. (Or maybe it is all those Zoom/Microsoft Teams meetings getting to me.) As press at ClexaCon, I am fortunate to be able to sit within the first two rows so I can grab some good pictures, usually off to the left or right. For ClexaCon Virtual, the panelists were staring right at me, speaking to each other within arms reach. It humanized Jaime Murray and Joanne Kelly even more than the already magnanimous actresses present in-person. The panel immediately kicked off with seamless dialogue, laughter and catching up between those onscreen. Joanne exclaimed, “I miss that hairflip,” after Jaime did a particularly accented one. It was less fan service than the breath of fresh air that we’d all been holding since 2014.
Feminism became a hot topic on this panel. We got a peek into the weeds of what female actresses experience on set and at conventions. Joanne Kelly, who turned to writing because she got so frustrated at storylines centered around the man in the room, expressed that “seeing ourselves in stories is how we interact with the world and it’s so important.” She elaborated to incorporate queer stories in that narrative and her surprise at learning, through the queer fandom that came to follow Warehouse 13, that what she and Jaime were doing on screen was not more common in film or tv. Jaime went further to explain how female characters are not fleshed out. “You always had to put a bow on a woman to make her acceptable,” she said.
This is why the characters of Myka and H.G. are such a breath of fresh air for audiences as well as their actresses. It is why Warehouse 13 continues to move people with its storytelling to this day with many ClexaCon attendees in the chat saying that, after listening to this panel they were going to watch the show for the first time. In this light, Jaime approached her interactions with Joanne as H.G. thinking that her character would have been fascinated with Myka, seeing this modern woman who embodied everything H.G. had ever wanted to be. She jokingly added that Pete was stupid like her brother in the show, the mustache behind which she published her inventions. They both expressed confoundment to this end at the devolution of Jaime’s character *spoiler 1 of 2,* openly mocking her suburban life in a heterosexual relationship, specifically the modern house she ended up in. Joanne went so far as to want to take a bat to the place. #noponytails
Conversation quickly turned to addressing injustices on set. The actresses shared how much of the power balance in their profession lies in the hands of men behind the camera. In order to truly act out the characters as themselves, they would often wait for Jack to leave the room and that is when Bering & Wells truly came to life. But I’m getting ahead of myself. When Jaime Murray walked on set, she set her eyes on Joanne Kelly as the actress behind a book whenever she wasn’t on camera, much like the onscreen heroine she portrayed. Jaime’s nature as the astrological sign ‘Cancer’ compelled her to make the most inaccessible person on set fall in love with her no matter the cost. As their comfort level off-screen grew, their chemistry on-screen took on a whole new life. During a particularly difficult time in filming for Joanne, who injured herself doing a stunt and was on increased pain killers so as not to stop filming, the tides of Bering & Wells turned.
On a blustery day in Toronto, the weather forced relocation for filming the grappler scene in ‘For the Team’ (Season 2, Episode 7) to a somewhat more temperate set. Joanne’s back was hurting where she’d injured her spine. Her hair was covering her face when Jaime, in her nature as a caretaker, reached to tenderly brush aside her curls and tuck them behind her ear. Pink light, glitter and unicorns appeared behind Jaime as Joanne tells it (completely unrelated to the painkillers). This unexpected wave of emotion was the spark that lit the first queer flagship on television delivered straight to my dorm room.
ClexaCon made many allusions on social media in their guest announcements to Helena’s iconic line “I smell apples” in ‘Stand’ (Season 3, Episode 12). Helena says this right before she sacrifices herself for Myka and the Warehouse *spoiler 2 of 2.* Jaime shared that the line was impactful because it was Helena’s first time accepting herself. Apples equated to true love and overcoming the darkness her character struggled with throughout her multiple seasons on the show. Joanne compared this moment in their romance to Romeo and Juliet energy (the bookworm also made an allusion to The Tempest during the interview). This immediately devolved into reminiscing about the Joanne proclaimed “heaving bosom scene,” where Joanne inches closer to Helena after she plunges the trident into the volcanic earth beneath their feet, desperately trying to talk her down from ending the world. They ultimately end within arms reach when Myka grabs Helena’s arm forcing a gun into her hand pointed at her head. They spend the rest of the scene locked in this toxic embrace, which is perhaps their most palatable chemistry onscreen if the chess scene did not also exist in juxtaposition. Needless to say, they looked forward to days on set without the rest of their costars because, and I quote Joanne, “we just serviced each other.”
Dana asked them a question I sent in; “I’ve always wondered how Myka’s experience with ovarian cancer affected Joanne Kelly, what awareness of a disease that kills so many women each year, my godmother included, influenced her acting choices?” Joanne’s answer was thoughtful and brimming with empathy. She wished only to do justice to such a heavy storyline and worried that it did not come off as genuine as she meant it and perhaps even got lost in a story packed with details and somewhat rushed around the announcement. I can honestly say, as a fan who has been personally impacted by ovarian cancer, the storyline did not go unnoticed and her interpretation was certainly cathartic.
Allusion to the hope for a spinoff series and conversation around what may exist of the pitch was discussed (ATTN: anyone who gave dear Dana grief about not touching on a spinoff series in her panel before). Jaime immediately shared how she felt plagiarized and cheated out of a role when she found out about The Nevers on HBO, claiming it was practically a continuation of H.G.’s story!
Joanne will not be turning to social media any time soon (which is totally valid given the magnitude of the human experience right now), though she may be releasing a newsletter to promote for her upcoming work. So, keep a lookout for that, I am sure her dear friend and onscreen love interest Jaime Murray will uplift that media when it becomes available on her twitter @MsJaimeMurray.
Again we bid adieu to the beloved Bering & Wells until the next reunion (ClexaCon 2022? *hint hint*wink wink*)