Dr. Hess, played by Gillian Barber, appeared in four episodes of Supernatural in Season 12. Her character seemed to be very much like Professor Umbridge in the Harry Potter films, and she was definitely a character that fans loved to hate. Gillian herself has appeared in multiple TV shows, films and other productions over the years; highlights include The Man in The High Castle (which also features Supernatural alumni DJ Qualls, Rick Worthy, and Sebastian Roche); Stargate SG-1; X-Files and the Romeo Section.
You were previously on Supernatural over 10 years ago, in the episode Faith. What was it like being on the show after so long, and in a reoccurring role?
I was thrilled to be back on the show. This particular series was a wonderful experience – from day one (on Faith), Jared and Jensen set the tone for a fun, polite and respectful workplace. They made everyone feel welcome and special. So, coming back, I was looking forward to feeling at home again. Although I didn’t have much screen time with them this time, the set was the same – and coming back week after week was a joy.
What are your thoughts on your character, Dr. Hess?
Dr. Hess was a dark soul. Some unpleasant background events set her on a path where emotions and empathy didn’t develop – only the job at hand was important, and it didn’t matter who was lost in the process. Although the BOM were out to rid the world of evil, unfortunately, it’s like most passionate believers – Dr. Hess lost sight of her humanity.
Aside from the analysis of her character, she was an absolute blast to play. It’s a thrill to set aside your own creed and delve into someone with such a murky character. I loved her!!
Does Dr. Hess have absolutely no compassion at all (like the wonderful Mr. Ketch) and does she truly believe she is doing the right thing?
Yes to both. She lost sight of compassion in order to do what she felt was best.
There are rumours that Sam and Dean will be “bringing the fight” to the British Men of Letters next season; how do you think the BMOL will react?
It will be a huge fight – in the best possible way. Look for lots of action scenes and dark forces getting involved!!
What do you have in common with Dr. Hess?
I have a strong urge to do “good”, so I can understand the idea of sacrifice in order for things to be right. I have a British upbringing, so there was a certain amount of “stiff upper lip” in my background. But I’m a mushy Canadian now, so I’ve fixed that!
I understand that you have martial arts experience; how has that affected you as an actor?
I have a black belt in Taekwondo. My son was studying the martial arts, and I thought it looked like dance on steroids, so I got involved. It’s a bit of a hidden talent, as when you look at me, you wouldn’t assume that type of skill. But it’s come in handy in other work, too. In Stargate, I had a fight scene, and just being generally fit has helped me have stamina.
What was your favourite scene to act in for Supernatural?
It’s hard to pick a favourite, but David Haydn-Jones and I hit it off on the first day of filming – so every time we worked together, it was a laugh fest. If I had to pick a favourite, the day at the school was delicious. I did feel like I was in a Harry Potter movie – and leaving those two charming boys in the room full of plastic was kind of awesome. I also got to work with a former student, Darren Adams, that day – which made my heart full.
What was the funniest thing to happen on set?
The day we did the flashback, I had such fun in the makeup trailer – I went from old to young to old all in one day. John Showalter, the director, made us all giggle with comments about how well my “daughter” did in her scenes that day. He was a joy to work with.
Do you have any upcoming roles you’d like to share?
I can’t really talk about it just yet, but there will be another fun one in my near future. I’m also directing The Drowsy Chaperone at Theatre Under the Stars for the summer. That project has been such fun – I love the show (it’s Canadian), and the cast is an absolute delight. We open on July 12th at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Please send everyone to see it!!