The Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation case captured national attention with substantial media coverage over the past few months before coming to a close this past week. Crowds of fans flocked to the Fairfax courthouse trial hoping to meet the celebrities and potentially earn a firsthand spot inside the courtroom. Human and animal fans alike formed lines in support of Depp, making for an unorthodox meet-and-greet. Alexus Chua, a college student local to Fairfax, provides an inside perspective on meeting a celebrity in such exclusive and distinctive circumstances.
“My friends and I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and arrived at the courthouse around 4:15 a.m., and there were already about 150 people in line ahead of us. It was crazy because the person who was all the way in the front got there at 7:00 a.m. the previous day. People were discussing who they sided with on the trial [and] of course all of them were Depp fans. [It didn’t] start until about 9, but I heard Johnny came in around 8:30 from the back entrance/exit, where a lot of people were greeting him but my friend and I didn’t want to lose our spot so we stayed put,” Chua explained.
“My friends and I did multiple counts of how many people were in front of us because 100 people were allowed in the main courtroom to see Johnny, while the next 50 had to go into the overflow room which is basically another courtroom where you would watch the case on the TV. We ended up being able to watch the first half of the trial in the overflow room. There were a good amount of people who were turned away, probably over 100. Also, there were multiple camera crews outside filming our line.”
Once ushered into the courthouse building, there were a few precautions and regulations in place to monitor the visitors.
“We were allowed to bring a small bag; they had security but we were not allowed to film. We were able to have our phones on us as long as they were off. Also, we were allowed to use the bathroom when we needed to. I feel like in the main courtroom it would’ve been a lot stricter. And when we got our wristbands, we just wrote our names for attendance. There was a lot of room in the overflow courtroom so I was surprised they were limited to 50 people, but I suppose that is because of COVID. We all sat in rows and there was a TV in the center of the room where we watched the trial go on. There were security guards at the door making sure people had wristbands to enter. There was this one lady who tried to sneak in without a wristband, but she got caught,” said Chua.
After a long day of waiting and taking in the developments of the trial, Chua found a deeper understanding of the unfolding events.
“I feel like being so close to the case made me pay more attention to what was being said rather than having it played on the TV in the background. There are also a lot of biased channels on television that will crop certain things out, so I found going in person kind of gave me a broader picture,” Chua elaborated.
While Chua had the distinct experience of entering the courthouse, others remained outside the building. Among the chaos of waiting fans, one spectator brought their beloved pet alpacas to lift the spirits of those in line. Stories of the alpacas’ presence at the courthouse have flooded news coverage on the case. An article by Entertainment Weekly explains the origins of the inside joke that sparked the plan into motion.
Johnny Depp is known to have stated that due to The Walt Disney Co.’s lack of support, he would never sign onto another “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, not even for “a million alpacas.” Thankfully for Depp, devoted fan Andrea Diaz Peirano had the alpacas covered. Peirano, owner of the company My Pet Alpaca, books her furry pets for various events. She highlighted her motivations for bringing her alpacas to the courthouse in support of Depp, even dressing them as pirates for the occasion.
“I brought them because I thought it might cheer him up. My job is to bring them to people’s houses, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was very improvised. The costumes came afterward because I ordered them online and had to hand sew parts of it. They wouldn’t fit the animals otherwise,” Peirano described.
Although the alpacas were a direct nod to Depp, they surprised fans waiting in line and brought an unexpected pick-me-up to the courthouse.
“The trial is definitely the best experience I’ve ever had! It was surreal. The best responses were from kids that dragged their parents over and over again during the hours we were there. Also, people that didn’t notice them until the last second and were completely stunned to see a pirate alpaca standing next to them,” Peirano said of the experience.
While Peirano put effort into “Justice for Johnny” signs and alpaca pirate costumes, the process of bringing the animals was surprisingly easy.
“I just called the courthouse and asked if pets were allowed outside of the building, they said yes, so I just went and hoped for the best. They didn’t say no alpacas were allowed, so …” Peirano explained.
Peirano remained outside with her alpacas during the trial, sending the actor well wishes despite having limited contact with him.
“I’m so glad he finally got to show everyone what really happened. He deserves that peace of mind, and we hope to meet him someday. He doesn’t need Disney’s alpacas, we got him,” Peirano added.
As two fans among the many who came to support Depp, both Chua and Peirano provided a personal perspective on how being in line at the Fairfax, Virginia, courthouse shaped their view of the Depp v. Heard trial.