Gil McKinney is one of those “guest stars” on Supernatural that has truly become part of the fabric of the show. Although he’s only been in two episodes, his convention appearances and overall “aw, shucks” demeanor has made us fans fall in love with Henry the character, and Gil the actor. (Although as you will read below, Gil has another side.) Gil is also known as Prince Eric in Once Upon a Time, and as rumor has it, this is a role he will be reprising this season.
How did you get started as an actor?
Hmm. Well, I started as a kid, just doing community theater, that kind of thing – I grew up in a small town south of Houston, Texas, called Angleton, and I grew up doing community theater and performing and doing that type of thing. Professionally, though, I didn’t really start until after college. I went to USC, which is here in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, and I got a music degree – I sing, as well – I got a music degree, but I always wanted to act, it was something I just always loved doing.
So I stayed in Los Angeles after college and just decided I was going to go for it, and start pounding the pavement, so to speak, and try to get an agent and try to get into the union. Those are two of the hardest things to do when you’re first starting out, y’know, just getting someone to represent you and get you auditions, and then also becoming a member of the Screen Actors Guild. So I spent the first year probably doing that, and then once I got into the union and had a nice agent and a manager come on board – I started getting into some rooms and auditioning, and slowly but surely I started booking little jobs here and there – and then it started happening for me.
But it’s definitely, it’s been an interesting ride, and a lot of ups, and a lot of downs – not easy, but challenging, rewarding – a lot of fun when you actually do get the job. The auditioning is like the work part; it’s not really always that fun to audition. But every now and again, y’know, you get lucky and everything lines up, you get the part, that’s kind of the reward. For me, it’s so fun – I love working in L.A., I don’t mind traveling for work and getting to fly up to places like Vancouver to work is something I really enjoy.
What do you remember best from your time on Supernatural?
I actually only got to do two episodes – I’m hoping at some point they’ll bring Henry back – of the two, the first episode was definitely more memorable, only because I had a larger role in it – I worked pretty much every day. I had a lot to do, and it was just a lot of fun – it was really challenging, there was just a lot for me to do every day at work. I think working with Jared and Jensen is very memorable; they made it fun, they made me feel very welcome, which is great. Sometimes when you go do a guest star on a TV show, it’s not always like the warmest place to be, especially if you’re doing just one episode. Only because, a lot of times the guest stars come and go, and so, sometimes it feels a little cold, and it feels more like work. With Supernatural, it couldn’t have been anything further from that. The guys made me feel very welcome from day one, the crew made me feel very welcome, it’s a special show like that. A lot of the cast and crew have been there since the beginning. It feels very much like a family, and even though I only did a couple of episodes, they made me feel like I was a part of it. I got to play a Winchester, so I think that helped.
How has appearing on Supernatural – and being part of the #spnfamily – affected you?
Honestly, it’s changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly. It really has changed my life. I’ve made so many friends through Supernatural, I’ve gotten to travel to places that I’ve never been to before, in the U.S. and abroad, getting to do the conventions, it has really changed my life. It’s helped me build a fan base, which I never had before, or at least I didn’t know if I had one, you know what I mean. The Supernatural fans are just so wonderful. So it helped me tap into that and build a fan base, and have a connection with the fans, which I never had an opportunity to have anything like that before. It’s been wonderful, I mean there really has been nothing bad to say about it. I had no idea that going in and auditioning for a guest star on Supernatural and its – at that time, in its eighth season, would literally change my life in so many amazing ways. It really has. Definitely all the friends, meeting the fans, and the travel. Awesome.
Will you be appearing at any Supernatural conventions this year?
Yes, I will actually. We’re kind of hashing out the details, but everything’s looking good. I think I’m going to be doing as many as 10. I know for sure, they haven’t announced all of them yet, I know 100% for sure New Orleans and Hawaii I’m doing, which are new, which are going to be a lot of fun. They are awesome places to visit … so I’ll be doing those. I know I’m doing San Francisco at the end of the year; it looks like I’m probably going to be getting to do another seven on top of that as well.
And in addition to that, I think I’m doing all of the Once Upon a Time shows. I think maybe there’s six or seven of those as well, so. It’s going to be a busy year.
You recently appeared (twice) on Kings of Con – what are Rob and Rich like to work with? Was it a different atmosphere than Supernatural?
They’re wonderful. I mean I never actually worked with them on Supernatural, but I feel like I have because I spent so much time with them at the conventions. They’re both wonderful, so funny, and such great actors. They’re just so sweet and giving of their time. I mean they’re just always available. Richard, to me – I mean, I haven’t told him this – I kind of look at Richard as a little bit of a mentor or somebody that I can call if I ever have a question about anything. He’s just an awesome guy and I look up to him. Rob is such a good person, and just always takes the time, and is very helpful. So to get to work on the show with them is really cool, I felt really lucky to be there, and I think it’s so funny. When they sent me the scripts, and initially they sent me the first three or four and I read them I was just so – I hadn’t laughed that hard reading anything in a while. I think that’s a credit to them as writers. But I also knew they were going to deliver the performance as well as they have, so it’s been really fun. I hope we get to do more of them. Because Chip is a really fun character for me to get to play. He’s kind of like how Rob and Rich I think, when they first met me, maybe not quite as extreme as Chip, they thought I was kind of like this very squeaky clean, supernice guy – I definitely have that side to me, but they’ve gotten to know me better over the years so. But that’s kind of what they based that character on.
Who do you get recognized most as?
Gosh you know, it’s weird, I get recognized sometimes as Henry, but honestly I don’t get recognized that much. I feel like people look at me sometimes like they think I look familiar, but they can’t quite place me, y’know. In my day to day life I don’t really look like Henry. I’m not always – sometimes I’ll be clean shaven, with my hair parted, but I’m more often than not have a beard and a little scruffier.
From Jason Manns’s CD and con videos, it’s obvious you have a beautiful voice – will you be singing for film any time soon?
I wish! I would love that. I’m always trying to tell my agent/manager y’know, I always have to remind them that I sing and I do that sort of thing. I hope that that can happen at some point. I wish Once Upon a Time would have Eric come back and sing, a little bit, but I’m not even sure if they know I sing to be honest with you. But yeah, that would be great, I would love that at some point, hopefully, that can happen for me.
In the meantime, I get to sing at the conventions, which is great, and Jason [Manns] and I are going to start putting together a little EP, hopefully, that we can have available late spring. It’s going to be my deal; he’s going to help me and produce it with me. We’re going to like get a little EP of maybe five or six songs to start, and hopefully, we’ll have it recorded and available late spring.
If you were able to reappear on Supernatural as any character – hunter, demon, angel or other monster, who would you be, and why?
Hmm. That is an interesting one … I think that I would like to be a hunter. I just think it would be fun to take on more of that hunter-type role, instead of the Men of Letters. Be a little more rough and tumble, and grow a beard, and have some cool weapons and ride around in the Impala with the boys. I think that would be fun.
What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to you at an audition?
Oh gosh. Let me think … I had a booger fly out of my nose one time at an audition. True story. I still to this day don’t know – I don’t think – this is so long ago, I can’t believe I just remembered that – I don’t think the casting director saw it happen, but it was on tape. I always thought for sure, later on they watched it – and they were like, wait – did something just fly out of his nose? It was really embarrassing. Other than that, probably any time I like forgot my lines or whatever, that’s always a little embarrassing, but it happens.
What’s the funniest thing to ever happen during filming?
Well, when I was on Supernatural, I’ve shared this story at many conventions – when I was on Supernatural Jared liked to play a prank on me where Sam is like looking at his computer, his laptop, he’s looking at something and then turns the laptop around to show Henry what he’s looking at, and during the middle of the take he’d turn it around and there’s a really awful, awful picture on the screen, of a naked man sitting on a bed … It was impossible to keep it together when that happened.
Other than that, I’ve had some interesting guest stars. I played a naked ghost on the Ghost Whisperer. My character was literally a naked ghost. I had scenes with Jennifer Love and I’d have to go to set with a robe on, and like wearing a jock strap, basically, and then disrobe and act out scenes basically in the nude with Jennifer Love Hewitt, which was definitely an interesting experience.
What’s the strangest thing a fan has ever asked you?
At a convention, during my Q&A, I think it was Dallas a couple of years ago, a fan asked me if I was a bikini, what kind of bikini would I be? I thought it was a strange one, I really didn’t know how to answer that question. It was one of my first conventions, so I felt like I needed to answer it because you want to be nice. If someone asked me that today, I’d be like, don’t be ridiculous. Ask me something else.
Do you have any upcoming or current projects that you’d like to share?
There is a chance that I might be making an appearance on Once Upon a Time this season. All I can really say – because I’m always scared I’m going to get into trouble. So that’s exciting. I was on Once Upon a Time in Season 3, and now they’re on Season 6 now, so. Now I really just want Supernatural to call me and tell me that they want me to come back and do a 10-episode arc. That would make me really happy. Or just one episode, honestly, I’m not even being greedy. I think Henry deserves another episode.