It’s been a while since I had a chance to sit down and chat with Gil McKinney and Osric Chau, two of my favorite guest stars on Supernatural (as Henry Winchester and Kevin Tran) so I was happy to catch up with them at the Supernatural convention in Chicago this summer.
It’s been a busy year for Gil – he has a new baby, wrote a chapter in a new book on Supernatural and the SPNFamily, and just released his first EP, produced by fellow SPN Family member and talented singer, Jason Manns. After a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, the EP was released this summer to rave reviews. The book, Family Don’t End With Blood, was released this summer as well, to five stars on Amazon and a lot of fan enthusiasm.
It’s been a busy year for Osric as well, who also wrote an inspiring and personal chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood. And of course, because he’s a regular on the smash hit Dirk Gently, on BBC America. As we sat down to chat in Chicago, filming was just beginning on Season 2, which starts airing next month, and Dirk Gently was about to conquer Comic-Con in the gigantic Hall H!
Gil and Osric did a panel together at this convention, something they haven’t done in a while. I was there for their first joint panel, several years ago, when they haltingly started to get to know each other after being thrown together somewhat randomly, and I watched as they developed a genuine fondness and a lot of chemistry. It was a joy to see them onstage together again.
A fan asked about the book they both wrote chapters in.
Fan: I had debated coming to the con today, just because of money and everything, but then I read your chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood and it just really kind of sealed the deal. I wanted to know what kind of feedback you’ve gotten about your chapters, because I was very touched by you sharing your stories.
Gil: Well thank you, it’s been a really cool thing. I love it when you guys bring the book to my table to sign; I’m very proud of being a part of it and to be able to put “author” next to my name
Osric: Do you do that?
Gil: (laughing) No. But we wrote chapters in a best-selling book, right? So that’s pretty cool.
Osric: Yeah, it is.
Gil: I wrote that chapter a couple of years ago, but everything in there still rings true today. I actually read the entire book myself, and I was really touched by a lot of the stories in it. Not only from my fellow actor friends, but from the fans who contributed their stories too. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly.
Osric: I just got mine.
Gil: You haven’t read it yet??
Osric: I just got it!
Gil: Sure, sure. You gotta read it.
Osric: I’ll read your chapter first.
Gil: Yeah, it was great to be a part of, and it was really nice to read everyone else’s chapters. I learned things about Osric that I didn’t know – actually I learned things about everybody that I didn’t know.
Osric: The writing experience was really nice for me, I’ve never written anything knowing that it was actually going to get published. Was that daunting for you, Gil?
Gil: Yeah, no, I’d never written anything either, and I didn’t know how popular or successful it was going to be at the time, because I was still somewhat new to this whole scene, but it was really nice to feel that I was a part of something and that somebody was interested in how this whole world has changed my life. So it was kinda nice to sit down at my computer and let the thoughts flow to the page – and yeah, I’m proud of it.
Osric: Yeah, I remember it being a really nice feeling of just being able to have an outlet to put all the feelings that you have about being in the fandom. I remember not having enough time to write everything that I wanted to write. I told Lynn, like give me a month and I’m gonna finish the chapter. And then she got back to me, and I still didn’t have time, and finally, I was like, there it is! But I remember it being a really good experience and I’m really looking forward to reading everyone else’s chapters. Who has read the book, by the way?
Audience: me me me me me…
Osric: Okay, if you haven’t read it, Lynn has the book down the…place…
Gil: The vendor room.
Osric: Right, the vendor room. You really need to check it out. How many of us wrote chapters? Jared wrote a chapter; Rob wrote a chapter, you…
Gil: Briana wrote a chapter, and Ruth, and Kim. Jensen, Sheppard, Misha…
Osric: Almost all of us wrote chapters. Basically, we’re all authors now. (beams)
Gil: Hyphen Author!
Osric: We’re all hyphen authors! If you get a chance, check it out, it’s pretty cool. I think for most of us, it was our very first time writing something.
Gil: And thank you for coming, this is something special. It took me a while to realize there’s really something special going on here, when I first started doing these conventions. We’re so touched, and we appreciate you guys so much.
After the panel, I caught up with Gil first, with my priorities straight as far as the first question.
Lynn: I just have to say, your daughter is so freaking cute.
Gil: (grinning) She’s pretty cute.
L: And she has her own hashtag, #ViviMcKinney! So perfect.
L: I love every time you tweet about her. So you wrote a very personal chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood about your experience being on the show and interacting with the fans, and how that changed you in some significant ways. Can you talk a little about your experience writing your chapter? What was most challenging about it? Was it writing, because you’re not a writer, or was it telling such a personal story?
Gil: I think it was more about revealing personal fears and things like that, that I don’t normally share with people who aren’t really close to me. The writing wasn’t that difficult in itself, I’ve always felt like I’m a good writer.
L: You are, clearly!
Gil: It had been a while since I’d written anything, probably since college. But I’ve always prided myself on being a good writer and having good grammar and all that stuff. So I think it was more about the personal aspect of it, things I don’t normally share. But that was also one of the really great things about writing it, being able to open up and share and let people know that they’re not alone. And then me finding out that I’m not alone too, that there are other people that share the same fears and worries.
L: How does it feel when people tell you that your chapter resonated with them, and that reading it made a difference?
Gil: It feels really good. I’ve had people come up to me this weekend at the con and say that my chapter touched them and that they really appreciated it. Yeah, it feels great. And I’m proud too, to have people bring the book to my autograph table and ask me to sign it. It’s pretty cool. I mean, we sign all kinds of unique memorabilia and photos and things, but to be able to sign a real book where I have a real chapter that I wrote, it’s very cool.
L: It’s more personal in a way, for you, than signing a photo or something. Those things are personal to the fan bringing them through, but this is something that you made, that you created. It’s signing something that’s personal to YOU.
Gil: Yes. And you know, I was signing my chapter, and I heard somebody walk by the table and go oh, he wrote something in the book? He’s in that book? Like they got excited about it.
L: I’ve gotten a lot of emails talking about the chapters that meant something to them, and a lot of people related to yours. They’ve felt similar fears or faced a similar challenge.
Gil: And I wrote that a couple of years ago but I still haven’t – I do feel like I’m growing as a singer and a performer – but whether Broadway is in the cards for me or not, I don’t know. I hope it is down the road, but I’ve actually decided to find a new manager and agent, to really get it done as far as the musicals.
L: I would imagine it’s a different sort of thing.
Gil: it’s just different, people who care about that sort of thing, you know? There are agents and managers who care about theater, but in Los Angeles, I would say the majority of them don’t really. There’s not a lot of money in it.
L: New York is different, I’d guess.
Gil: Yeah, New York is different. I’d like to find someone who cares about that who’s in Los Angeles and sees the potential for me and wants to pursue that with me, so that’s my mission right now.
L: So yes, you did write this almost two years ago. If you were to write more now, is there anything you’d add or does the story stand on its own? Because a lot has happened in the last two years – you’ve become a dad!
Gil: I don’t know what I would add except this has been one of most amazing gifts of my life that just keeps on giving in so many ways. Fandom has been so good to me. And I became a father in the last year, and I released an EP that was amazingly funded by Supernatural fans.
L: Including me! And it is AMAZING.
Gil: Thank you. The fact that we were able to raise as much money as we did in such a short period of time, I mean, that wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for the fandom. So I’d probably talk a little more about that, and how my life has changed because of that. And I’d also talk about the amazing friends I’ve made – I’ve said this before, I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t book this part on Supernatural.
L: Your life would have a different path, for sure.
Gil: There’s no knowing, I mean I hope that I would be just as happy and fulfilled, but this has just been such an amazing thing. It really does fill me up; I love traveling and seeing my friends and being able to perform. It just feels really good to be a part of something special like this.
L: I think that’s the point of Family Don’t End With Blood – it really does show how special this is. People ask me, wait, the ACTORS wrote something in the book? Are they like writing as their characters or something? And I’m like, no, they’re writing their own personal stories about how being on this show and in this fandom impacted them. What actors do that??
Gil: This show.
L: Exactly. This show. Was there any fear, when the book came out, that you’d put yourself out there too much – been too candid or personal?
Gil: I don’t think so, by the time the book came out, I was excited to be a part of it. I was excited to see the reaction from the fans, but I don’t think that I felt any fear about it. I realized that for the most part, there’s just so much love and respect, so I felt safe.
L: (nods) Switching gears to this con, I have to mention, at karaoke last night you ended up with a banana shoved down your pants, which was pretty hysterical. I was like Woah, you’ve come a long way, Gil!
Gil: There’s this side of me that people don’t get to see and I was like okay, I rarely dress up for karaoke…
L: Very true.
Gil: And it’s not because I don’t like to dress up, I just don’t pack a costume, it’s not something that’s at the top of my list. But last night everyone was having so much fun, so I was like, I’m gonna go to the green room and find something to put on, and Matt had worn that costume and it seemed like it was clean, so I put it on and there was a banana sitting on the table and I was like, this is probably a terrible decision but…
L: (cracking up)
Gil: And then I woke up this morning and I saw something on twitter about it, and I’m like Oh God. It’s like no one is gonna remember what I said, but everyone is gonna remember the banana…
L: I thought it was hysterical. I’m so excited about the new EP too! And I don’t know if I’ve seen you, but I lost my dad last year too, so that song I’m sure will need a dozen tissues.
Gil: I didn’t know that, did you tell me that?
L: I don’t know, maybe not, I haven’t seen you. I know you were very close to your dad too.
Gil: Yeah, that song is emotional. And I didn’t mind sharing a little bit about it in the panel earlier, about writing it for my dad, but I kinda want people not to know too much about it and to just listen to it. They might hear something different that they relate to more.
L: So you want it to be a little open-ended.
Gil: Yeah, the words are personal, but artistically I’d like for people to not know too much going into it. But I’m really proud of it. I listen to it every now and then and think I can’t believe I wrote that. I played it for my mom and my sister last week, and it was hard – she’s still grieving very heavily. This is year two, and they say the second year is harder than the first, so she’s in a lot of pain and it’s hard. So I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play that for her because I didn’t want to upset her, but obviously she wanted to hear it.
L: It can be cathartic though. Grieving is painful, but there’s no other way through it. That’s why I love the song so much; it’s cathartic for me too.
Gil: Yeah, and she loved it. She cried and my sister cried, but I think she’s really proud of it.
L: You’ve been super creative recently – you wrote a book chapter, you wrote songs, you put out an EP, you had a baby…
Gil: It’s all you guys, I can’t take credit…
L: You can take credit for the baby!
Gil: (laughing) Well, for that. But I’m thankful for all the gifts I’ve gotten from being on Supernatural.
L: Sure. But it’s also about your talent and your gifts and your creativity that you share with all of us.
We hugged goodbye after taking a few photos, and my EP came a few days later. And just as I suspected, I cried an entire box of tissues listening to the hauntingly beautiful ‘How Was I To Know’ – and I’ve cried every time Gil has performed it live at the Saturday Night Special since. I stopped Gil at the last con to tell him how much the song means to me, and we hugged each other in empathy for our shared loss. It’s still raw, but that song really helps.
I’m not the only one who loves the EP either – shortly after its release, it charted on the jazz charts (right next to Patti LaBelle!) Now Gil can add ‘chart-topping singer’ to his list of accomplishments. If you haven’t given it a listen yet, what are you waiting for? And he really can add ‘published author’ too – if you haven’t read his chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, check it out. It’s full of heart, just like Gil. You can find both Gil’s EP and Family Don’t End With Blood on Amazon.
Now cross your fingers that we get him back on Supernatural soon, because he’s definitely up for that!
Osric arrived as I was finishing up my chat with Gil. I was so excited to have him back at a Supernatural con — he was a fixture at the US cons for years, but has been so busy recently that he hasn’t been able to attend many of them. And we miss him!
Lynn: (after a big hug) How are you?
Osric: Good! It’s been a while.
(Gil was standing nearby, and Osric couldn’t resist teasing him. it’s that chemistry thing).
Osric: And I hadn’t seen Gil in a while either. I’d forgotten how much I like looking at Gil.
L: Everyone has been enjoying looking at both of you. Not to objectify you or anything.
Osric: (attempting to get a reaction out of Gil) I mean, if any of us were an object, it would be Gil. He’s such a fine object.
L: He’s totally ignoring us.
Osric: If I had to make one of those super-realistic dolls…
L: Gil, we’re really going down a path here…
Gil: (finally) I hear you!
Osric: Those are really expensive anyway.
Gil: (eye roll)
It’s apparently impossible to get a rise out of Gil. We abandoned the effort and went back to more serious topics.
L: So thanks to what you said about writing your chapters in the book onstage, we sold out of every single copy of Family Don’t End With Blood. People were like wait; there’s a book that the Supernatural actors wrote chapters in?
Osric: You’re welcome.
L: So when I asked you to write a chapter – I know you do write, but two years ago you hadn’t done a whole lot of writing – what was your fear or worry?
Osric: Well, first of all, I was like, write? Write things? What does that mean?
Osric: (laughing) Just the concept of writing was still kind of alien to me back then, especially in a book format. For a script, it’s sort of more organized in my mind as to what the layout and format would be, but for a book, I just had no idea. It seemed like there were so many endless possibilities to writing a book, so I really didn’t know what to do. And then I started going back to like English 310, and my favorite English teacher explaining how to write an essay, and thinking how that never sunk in, and then I was like ohhhh, that’s how you do it!
L: And you did it, because like I told you, I really didn’t need to edit it very much.
Osric: Well honestly, when I handed it in, especially like the last portion, there were at least a couple more pages that I wanted to write and I just didn’t have time and you were asking for it and I’m like okay I’ll just finish it for now as like a placeholder and then I’ll get back to it, and by the time I got back to it, I had forgotten everything I wanted to add!
L: But it’s not like it was just left hanging, it has a great ending.
Osric: Thank you, I appreciate that.
L: It’s also been two years, but if you remember what you wrote…
Osric: I don’t!
L: And I just gave you your copy of the book, so you haven’t even had a chance to read it yet. But thinking back just over the past two years of your life, what might you have wanted to add?
Osric: Hard to know because I don’t know what I wrote! I think most of the sentiments are pretty similar. I mean, I’m a little more removed from the fandom now, but all those feelings and emotions that I’ve taken away from the fandom are the same. Supernatural still is that warm place in my heart.
L: So I’m guessing people will come up to you today at the con and ask you to sign the book – I know people have emailed and tweeted me to say that your chapter inspired them and they related to it. How does that feel? Because it’s not fans being inspired by a character that you play, this is you personally.
Os: Yeah, it hasn’t happened too much because I haven’t been at conventions for a while, so I haven’t gotten that much feedback. I guess we’ll see. I’m looking forward to reading it and to everyone else reading it.
L: I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on other people’s chapters too. So let’s talk about what you’re up to now.
Os: I’m on a new show Dirk Gently that I love a lot.
L: Me too! I can’t wait for Season 2!
Os: But it’s always gonna be one of those things, Supernatural. When I’m hanging out with the Dirk Gently people, guess what I’m talking about? Supernatural! Like guys, this is what we should aspire to.
L; Have any of them started watching it yet?
Os: No, but they definitely know more about it than they ever intended to.
L: (laughing) Or wanted to?
Os: But I think they can appreciate what Dirk Gently could be, and I talk to them a lot about that sense of community and all the great things that come from the Supernatural fandom and what we as artists can do to foster that instead of running the other way.
L: Not just making the show and then going home – things like writing a book for the fans and sharing your personal experience of being on the show and in the SPNFamily. That sets Supernatural apart.
Os; Yeah. It’s mostly just talking to the guys about – like here, here are some of the things that you might run across, here are the some of the ways you might react to it, here are some things that might not be wrong but might not be so great, so just random things.
L: It’s like you’ve gotten a sociologist education about fandom, and now you know it, from the inside out.
Os: Yeah, and a lot of it just comes down to compassion and empathy. Being able to see as many different sides as possible.
L: And not judge.
Os: No one’s perfect, we’re all gonna make mistakes, and it’s learning how to move forward from it, learn our lessons and not make the same mistake again. We’re a community, and we all have to find our own place in it and act in a way that’s acceptable in this community. For Dirk Gently, we’re just now starting to shape that. A lot of the cast, how we are, we make the rules.
L: It’s like with the Supernatural fandom and family, everyone says it starts at the top, and I think that’s really true.
Os: Yeah. So I think, thankfully it was already happening. Everyone has been really cool and just super grateful to be involved with the show. And there’s so many of us too, it’s a group effort, and I really like that.
L: I was hoping that you’d do the Dirk Gently comic con panel.
Os: There are just a lot of us, but I’m gonna be there anyway, and I’ll definitely try to crash the panel. But they have like ten main characters and then writer and exec producer, so how many people before it’s too much?
L: But honestly a lot of Supernatural fans watch it, and they want you there. And a lot of them will be at comic con! Is there a press room?
Os: I’m assuming yes, the panel is in Hall H, but I have no idea.
L: Pretty big deal to be in Hall H! Congrats! So what are you most excited about with Dirk Gently?
Os: I get so excited to read the scripts! We just read 7 and 8, we did a table read. 9 and 10 should be around by the time I get back to Vancouver. And I just wanna know how it ends!
L: Because you never know with that show!
Os: You never know, and working on the show, just hearing the talk between actors in Vancouver and LA, it’s one of those shows that everyone wants to be a part of.
L: Because it’s so different.
Os: I know, and it’s so crazy, as an actor it’s so much fun to play these characters. And so it’s kinda nice to be the talk of the town.
L: For sure.
Os: To be that show that everyone’s like, oh, you’re working on that? Yep!
L: It’s so innovative. It took Supernatural five years to get to Hall H, by the way.
Os: I know!! I was amazed at how fast that happened. I mean, last year there were like 2000 people there, and it hadn’t even aired yet. And I’m setting up projects for after; I’m writing more than I have in my entire life.
L: Yay! Because the chapter you wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood is really good, so keep writing.
Os: I want to get an indie project up off the ground.
L: You’ve wanted to do that for a while.
Os: Because I like the other side of the camera too, I learn a lot, and there’s a couple of scripts I have that I think we could do, so I’m hoping I can either find a good group of people who want to do it, get financing, find a city to shoot in, really experience the entire process beginning to end. It will probably drive me insane but…
L: But it’s a good kind of insane, like this book, I was like OMG this is so much trying to pull this together…
Os: And then it’s like, I wanna do this again!
L: Exactly! I keep saying I’m not gonna write another book on Supernatural…
Os: (laughing at me) How many books did you bring this time?
L: I brought 200, and they’re already gone
Os: Well you need more obviously!
L: I know, I know.
Os: Can you do orders, and you can ship them? Like a website where people can buy them? If you do the preorders here.
L: Okay, okay. I’ll do that. (Osric is always helping me out, it’s a pattern in our chats…) And thank you again for writing your chapter, I love it so much.
We then took a few photos, and Osric was off to his next appointment. He’s a busy man, and it’s all exciting stuff. If you haven’t watched Dirk Gently yet, now’s the time to catch up on Season 1 before Season 2 starts airing on October 14 on BBC America. You won’t regret it!
And be sure to check out the book the Supernatural actors wrote, Family Don’t End With Blood and Gil McKinney’s awesome EP, How Was I To Know!