Behind the Scenes of ‘Supernatural’ with War of the Worlds Farrah Aviva

One of the things I’m really enjoying this season is highlighting the amazing women of Supernatural – that means being over the moon excited about the Wayward Sisters episode and possible pilot coming up, and also celebrating the many talented guest actors we’re privileged to have on the show.

I sat down with director Richard Speight Jr. last weekend to talk about the making of ‘War of the Worlds’ so look for his fascinating behind the scenes insights soon. I also wanted to chat with guest star Farrah Aviva, who played the witch Daniela. Even in the short amount of time we had with her, Farrah managed to make the character memorable. She was clearly a strong woman, with the smarts to ask the Winchesters for help and the courage to sit there cool as a cucumber to trap Ketch.

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Lynn: How was the character described to you and did you create any additional ‘backstory’ for her to help with those scenes?

Farrah: The character was originally described to me as: 30s, please submit all ethnicities. This exotically attractive woman is a witch whose life is in grave danger.  She nervously approaches Sam and Dean for help in her predicament…GUEST STAR.

I was working on a movie in a different city when I was asked to audition for Daniela so I had to put it on tape which can sometimes be challenging because you don’t get the opportunity to ask casting or the director if you’ve interpreted it properly.  I originally prepared her a bit more vulnerable.  In a way that showed I was risking everything by approaching the Winchesters.  To prep, I imagined it was the middle of a war, and I had to ask the enemy for help.  Almost as if Anne Frank escaped the attic one day to approach a couple of Nazi soldiers to ask for help.  I know that can seem a bit dramatic, but I love working off of ‘what if’s.’  What if I had to risk everything in order to save others and myself? And that’s exactly what Daniela had to do.  In order to save herself and the other witches, she had to approach the boys and bring them to one of the witches’ safe houses.  Not only did that put her in the middle of nowhere with the Winchesters, I also don’t think the other witches would have forgiven her for it.

Lynn: That makes sense, it really was a big risk for her. And witches don’t seem very forgiving.

Farrah: Richard helped me make Daniela a bit stronger than I originally had.  I met with him the day before we started shooting and he told he told me to get Daniela in my spine a bit more, that the situation alone made me vulnerable enough and so we decided I should fight against that.  He played with the idea that when I first approached the boys I had something in my purse that would dispel them if they tried to do anything to me. And so from that line of thought, Daniela developed into a ‘ Listen I know you don’t like me, and I don’t like you, but let’s get that out of the way and deal with something much bigger…’

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Lynn:  I love knowing those little bits of backstory – that it makes a difference to how the character reacts, organically, when she knows she can protect herself at least a bit.  Supernatural was criticized for not having enough strong women in its earlier seasons, but recently the show has been kicking ass in that department, especially with the Wayward Sisters episode coming up. Was the character of Daniela appealing to you because of that strength that she manages to find? 

Farrah: Definitely.  I was excited to play a character that risks everything. That strength always fascinates and inspires me.  I find it even helps me grow as a person when I have to tap into a strong character like that.  The process of finding the connection between their thought process and mine usually makes me realize that I could be as strong in my real life situations.

Lynn: I think we all learn from the fictional characters we relate to, whether we play them or watch them onscreen and get to ‘know’ them. You posted some fun behind the scenes little vid clips of a birthday party for a crew member and some filming – what were some of the highlights of your time filming Supernatural?

Farrah: The happy birthday song was fun to be a part of.  It instantly showed me how tight everyone is on set.  One of the girls doing hair on the show made batches of cupcakes and personalized them for everyone.  If I remember correctly she made the boys Maple Bacon cupcakes!  And needless to say, working with Jensen and Jared was a highlight.  They have a fantastic reputation amongst the acting community.  They’re known for treating you like family and for being very supportive.  I can be quite shy on set.  Especially when I’m just doing one episode on a show because generally speaking it carries a cast and crew who have been together long before you and will be around long after you so I never want to impose on anyone by having a big personality or by infringing on their established camaraderie. But from the instant I arrived on set, everyone welcomed me with open arms.  It’s a crew like none I’ve ever worked with before.

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Lynn: I have heard that from literally every single person I’ve interviewed about working on Supernatural – and at this point, that is A LOT of people! Any anecdotes from working with Jared and Jensen? I’ve been on set and watched them goof off until seconds before a take, and then snap into character like magic. Were they in serious mode or did you get to witness some messing around too?

Farrah: I don’t think they were ever serious before takes.  You said it perfectly; they goof off until the second action is called.  I kept getting scared I was going to mess up my take if I didn’t stay in the zone, but even if I was goofing around with them, once action is called they’re so connected and give it their all that I immediately snapped into the scene.  That being said, I remember on one of the first takes of Daniela letting them into the Safe House we were talking about workout routines because I had recently sprained my ankle by being a klutz.  When they yelled action, I wasn’t ready at all, so I tried to fake it.  I opened the door to let them in and then tripped over a bean bag that almost sent me flying. On another take I opened the door for them, but I didn’t know that they had moved the beanbag and basically opened the door, hit the bean bag with the door and had the door come right back towards me almost hitting me in the head. For the rest of the day they made jokes about my ‘grace.’

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Photos: @FarrahAviva

Lynn: (laughing) You were clearly one of the family. David Haydn-Jones also seems like a lot of fun. How much did you two get to work together?

Farrah: We actually barely saw each other!  All the scenes that took place in that terrifying house were shot on one 15-hour day.  At 11:00 pm I recorded a video from my chair outside while David was firing his gun inside the house.  I saw that happen before I actually got to meet him.  When he finished that scene, we finally met and took the photo we have together.  He’s extremely outgoing and funny.  I see why they keep bringing him back.

Lynn: Had you watched Supernatural before being cast? If so, what were your thoughts on the show and its 13 seasons?

Farrah: Yes of course!  I’ve watched a lot of it.  A lot of my friends have played parts on it, and so we sometimes gather together and have viewing parties to support one another.  I was actually in episode 7.19.  A morsel of a part.  Basically, I played a psycho ghost that yells into the camera. But there’s a rule with shows that have a long running time.  After 5 years they’re allowed to recycle the actors.  I was so excited when they hit season 12, and I got word it was going into season 13 because I knew I’d get the chance to audition again.

Lynn: Fans actually love it when someone comes back – it’s like a fun game to figure out when we’ve seen that actor before! I imagine the makeup for those knife marks wasn’t fun – how long did that take to put on and what was it actually made of?

Farrah: It was really fast.  They had scheduled an hour for us, but the special effects artist was so talented she managed to do it in 30 minutes.  And contrary to what I expected it was really relaxing.  I had to try my best to keep a conversation going so I wouldn’t fall asleep in her chair.  It just kept giving me those spa-like tingles.  Taking it off was less fun…

Lynn: I can imagine. Richard Speight Jr. has been an actor on the show and now has directed several episodes, all of which I really enjoyed. How was Richard to work with as a director? Is there any benefit (or down side) to having a director who also understands things from an actor standpoint?

Farrah: I thoroughly enjoyed working with Richard.  He’s such an actor’s director, which is rare.  Rather than just say, be emotional,  be angry, be strong.  He works with you to justify why you would be those things.  He used the expression that I get to make the meal with Daniela and he’ll just add the salt and pepper.  Those are the best words to hear as an actor.  It means you’re being trusted enough to do whatever you’d like and that someone with a trained eye will make sure it’s the best it can be.  Richard also put a lot of thought into his direction.  Each take we’d add in something more.  We never just did a take to do another take.  If the camera was rolling he let me use that opportunity to go a bit deeper or to try something new.  It’s always interesting to see what gets kept.  We did a few versions where when the canister drops from the chimney I start screaming hysterically as a way to signal the boys.  As though that was a plan Daniela made with the Winchesters beforehand.  It worked really well but obviously didn’t make it into the final cut.

Lynn: Editing is always a bit of a mystery to me, but the final cut certainly worked. Jared and Jensen did a fair amount of teasing Richard when he directed the first couple of times. Was that still a dynamic this time?

Farrah: Ha!  I didn’t actually witness any of it, but I was aware it was a thing.  A few days after my episode aired I bumped into Jensen, and he told me he watched the episode on Thanksgiving with his family and that some of the crew was saying so far it was their favourite of the season.  I made sure to send Richard a text to let him know …just in case the boys teased him otherwise.

Lynn: I love that you did that! It really was a great episode. I understand that you’re also a talented photographer – I love your shoot with Briana Buckmaster! Can you talk about how that came about and what you enjoy about photography?

Farrah: Oh thank you.  I bumped into Briana at a film event last year and we finally officially met.  I knew who she was because she had done a movie with my husband Robin Dunne the year prior and she also worked with my friend Brendan Taylor on Supernatural.  When we finally met, we hit it off like old friends.   She contacted me a few weeks later to do a photoshoot.  It was a lot of fun, and we brainstormed some cool ideas beforehand such as the McDonalds feast by the pool and the Ice Cream Rock Star look.  She’s a powerful and inspirational woman who doesn’t just talk the talk.  I have a lot of respect for her and what she stands for.

Lynn: Me too. She wrote a chapter for my most recent book; Family Don’t End With Blood, that is so powerful. Fans have suggested you might do some additional photos of Briana for her upcoming CD – any chance of that?

Farrah: We’ve definitely talked about it.  She’s just waiting until everything is ready so that we can create the right look.  If I’m in town when she needs it done we plan to do it together!

Lynn: I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that! Anything else you’d like to share either about being on Supernatural or anything else you’re excited about right now?

Farrah: I’ve been working on a passion project for the past year called the BangBang Series which has recently grown and developed into Point and Shoot. (I’ll be changing the name on social media soon) but in the meantime, you can see it on my personal page @farrahaviva or under the hashtag #bangbangseries.  Basically what I’m doing is using my camera as a tool to shed light on important issues going on in the world. Past and present.  Each photo has a tongue-in-cheek quality to it, but essentially it’s Editorial Photojournalism.  I have my first art show coming up this April!

Lynn: Congrats!

Farrah: I’m also excited to say that I’m teaming up with SHETHORITY which is created by Caity Lotz from Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow.  Basically, she brought together a number of actors from The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl to create a positive space for all things female. They speak about their own vulnerabilities and growing pains.  @SHETHORITY strives to teach people that it’s okay to set up boundaries, and about how important it is to find your self-worth and to love yourself.  They talk about how they’ve all felt ‘different’ and how if you accept that it can be an amazing strength.  Another thing they talk about is how important it is to build one another up.  To support other women.  We’re all in this together and they’ve created a great page to spread that message.

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@shethority on Twitter

Lynn: I will definitely check that out – it’s right in line with the #Wayward message of this season on Supernatural and in the Supernatural fandom.

Fingers crossed that Daniela (and Farrah) make another appearance on the show – after all, she is alive at the end! And for another kickass photo shoot with Briana Buckmaster too.

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