Death dances. No really, he does – I saw the proof with my own eyes at the Supernatural convention in August, 2016. Julian Richings, our wonderful, stoic but fun-loving Death, is probably one of the most iconic characters in Supernatural. Even though Death is such a depressing idea, much less a character, Julian always brings a lightness to the character that makes him very likable.
What has been your most memorable fan encounter so far?
My most memorable encounter occurred at a hotel in Dallas where a Con was taking place. I was in an elevator going down to the Convention floor. It stopped on a guest floor, and a couple of fans got on, chatting to each other drinking coffee. One caught sight of me and smiled. Her friend turned around, saw me, screamed, and ran out before the door closed. I guess she didn’t want to ride on an elevator with Death.
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What was your favorite episode/scene to film, and your most difficult?
It’s hard to name a favourite scene, since they’ve all been fun to play, and they’ve all had moments of dramatic tension and fun. But I guess the two first scenes I shot (on my first day on a Supernatural set) are the most memorable.
The montage sequence introducing Death was beautifully constructed but had to be executed with great precision. So every move had to be just right. I remember sitting behind the wheel of the enormous white car and wondering how I could drive it and hit my mark without taking out the camera and half the crew. It felt like steering an ocean liner into a tiny dock.
The second scene we shot that day, in the pizza parlour, was a treat to act — lots of great interaction with Jensen, but what made it difficult was that I made the mistake of eating too much pizza in the first take. The scene was covered from many angles, and I had to keep eating the pizza with exactly the same enthusiasm each time. Several hours of filming later, I didn’t know if I could even look at pizza, let alone put it in my mouth.
Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories to share?
I don’t really have any surprising or salacious behind the scenes stories. The scenes Death appears intend to be quite demanding — lots of discussions, complex ideas, messy food props and special effects. So everyone behind and in front of the camera has to be on their game. The mood is always relaxed but focused. No high jinx, and certainly no pranking.
What do you have in common with Death?
I like junk food! I love pizza, hot dogs, pickle chips- you name it! I grew up in England where my favourite treat was a ‘chip butty’ — two slices of WonderBread filled with greasy French fries dripping with grease, salt and malt vinegar.
And I share Death’s bemused enjoyment of being around Dean and Sam.
You seem to have quite the buoyant personality (proof in the fact that Death dances, at conventions at least); is it ever difficult for you to play such a stoic, serious character? How do you prepare, before going on set?
I’m an actor! That’s what I do. I enjoy the challenge of creating a persona, whether near or far removed from my own personality. And although Death is certainly serious and not to be messed with, he has a twinkle in his eye and an appreciation of Life. He ensures the natural order of things. His function is not to do harm and be ‘bad,’ it is to maintain balance in Nature and allow Life to flourish in different ways. He may be stubborn and a little stoic, but he’s not a malevolent force. So I try to find the human qualities in him, rather than play him as a threat. This all makes it very easy — and fun — to prepare.
What can you tell us about your upcoming recurring role on Supernatural, if anything?
I can’t tell you as I don’t know — we all assume Death really is dead. But in the world of Supernatural, who knows? Anything is possible.
What do you enjoy most about working on Supernatural?
I feel like I’m working on something that’s more than a show. It’s a cultural phenomenon. Now we’re in Season 12 a lot of fans span 2 or sometimes 3 generations. It’s really cool to meet a lot of moms and daughters who watch the show together and treat Cons as a way to meet extended family. It really does feel like an inclusive Family, not just a traditional fan base. And there are enough different elements in the show to attract a wide range of people, and they’re all passionate, opinionated and supportive.
You’ve been involved in a lot of productions over the years; what makes Supernatural stand out?
Same answer as above, but add to it an amazing cast. Everyone is talented and confident enough to create an easy-going but highly productive environment. The boys have a relaxed familiarity with each other, and it spreads to the cast and crew. And on top of that they’re good actors, so they don’t rest on their laurels or simply project attitude; instead, they work hard with every guest and make each new situation come alive and resonate. Every episode has a freshness to it.
What can you tell us about Death that may be a surprise to most?
He likes music too! (And dancing — as Con goers know.) I’d like to see him take the boys out to a hoe-down.
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Do you have any current projects that you are working on that you’d like to share?
I’ve been working on a new series ‘Patriot’ that will be coming out on Amazon Prime in the new year. I think it’s a really great show. A very black comedy that has elements of ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Office.’ But really, it’s hard to describe as it has its own unique style. It gave me the opportunity to work with another excellent cast of actors who were also extremely pleasant to work with. Check it out!