Interviews

Rob Benedict talks playing God on ‘Supernatural’ and himself (sorta) on ‘Kings of Con’

Rob Benedict talks playing God on ‘Supernatural’ and himself (sorta) on ‘Kings of Con’

Rob Benedict talks playing God on 'Supernatural' and himself (sorta) on 'Kings of Con' 2016 images

Next week Rob Benedict and Richard Speight Jr. premiere their new web series, Kings of Con, on ComicConHQ! Both Rob and Rich play fictionalized versions of themselves, and if the trailer is any indication, it’s going to be hilarious.  I can’t wait for that, but in the meantime, I had some questions for Rob about his amazing work on last season’s Supernatural. His return to the show as Chuck/God made a lot of fans very happy, including me. And he really had a chance to show off his acting chops in some of those pivotal episodes!

Lyn: Toward the end of last season, the episodes you were in were just so powerful. I talked to Curtis Armstrong (who played Metatron) about some of those scenes and to Jensen [Ackles] as well, so I’m eager to hear your thoughts. Curtis said that he got unexpectedly emotional in the scene where God is telling Metatron that he was just the angel closest to the door and Metatron replies that he doesn’t care, it still meant something to him. To his great surprise, Curtis started to cry in rehearsal and then teared up again when filming the scene. What was your reaction to his emotion? Were you surprised?

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Rob: I wouldn’t say I was surprised by it – working with Curtis was just amazing. I’ve always been a fan of his work, and he was everything you think he would be – passionate, such a professional — and it made that entire episode one of the best acting experiences I’ve ever had. Like a one-act play. So when it came to that scene, I knew he was capable of that emotion, and I knew that was how he was approaching it. We were all emotional; there were a lot of very emotional scenes within that. Culminating with [singing] Fare Thee well, which is very emotional.

[I’ll say. It’s become a highlight of the Supernatural conventions when Rob gets out his acoustic guitar and sings it just like he did on the show]

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Rob performs ‘Fare Thee Well’ at the Supernatural convention in Rome

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Rob: So I wasn’t exactly surprised by it. It was more like working with a professional athlete, and you go wow, we’re in the big leagues right now, you know what I mean?

Lynn: Definitely the big leagues.

Rob: It was more that sensation than anything else.

Lynn: And it’s funny because Curtis said the same thing about working with you – it let him take everything to a higher level, like the way acting is supposed to be, but you don’t get to do that very often. And he hadn’t gotten to work with you so he didn’t know that would happen so it caught him off guard. That and the combination of Robbie Thompson’s incredible writing, which also made those scenes very powerful.

Rob: Yeah, yeah, so true, all of that. Curtis and I hadn’t worked together before and Robbie, I knew he’d write this special thing, but you don’t really know until you get in there and do it. And Curtis and I worked off each other pretty well. We both act that way, and I look up to him so much and the work that he’s done, so it was such a special experience all the way around.

Lynn: Interestingly, Jensen said sort of the same thing happened to him in the scene where Dean and Sam were confronting Chuck.

Rob: That’s right!

Lynn: And Jensen got surprisingly emotional – I’m beginning to think it’s something about you, Rob!

[we both crack up]

Rob: Everyone is crying around me…

Lynn: And it even continued off camera, Jensen said.

Rob: Yeah, he amazed me in that scene, I thought of that as soon as you mentioned coming to tears, and it is a similar thing. You feel like you’re talking to your dad, and it’s about your relationship with your father. For me, the hard thing about that scene with Jensen was that I don’t have a relationship with my dad, so I feel how he feels.

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Lynn: I thought of that. That must have just made it so much more emotional.

Rob: Yeah, so it was hard for me to be the dad in that situation when someone is saying that stuff to you. So it was emotional dialogue, but also emotional in that we’re all such good friends. With Jensen, we love each other; we’re like brothers, so I think that also plays into it. Even with Curtis, by the time we got to filming that scene, we’d gotten to know each other so well — we’d done some conventions even – so way more comfortable than you usually are as a guest star.

Lynn: That would make a difference.

Rob: The thing about Jensen is, I was so blown away by him in that episode because he’s been on this show a long time and he could very well have phoned it in, but he’s the kind of actor who’s all in even when he’s not on camera, and again, it was inspiring.

Lynn: I’ve heard a lot of people say that about Jared and Jensen, that they don’t have to be as present as they are all the time, even when it’s not their coverage. I was thrilled to be on set for some of the filming of those last episodes. And I was so pleasantly surprised when you popped out of the car when I got there – I didn’t know you were going to be there!

Rob: (laughing)

Lynn: I loved watching you film that scene of Dean confronting God/Chuck on the bench. Though the mosquitos were not fun that day.

Rob: Hahaha yeah, we needed a lot of bug spray that day!

[I also watched Jensen slap a mosquito right out of the air with his hands. Boom! It was a very Dean Winchester thing to do]

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Lynn:  I watched Tom Wright, who was directing,  give you guys notes that day. Jensen has said that he really likes working with Tom, that he gives great notes and sometimes you know what he wants even in just a few words. Do you remember what notes he was giving you and why they were helpful?

Rob: I don’t remember the specific notes that day, but he’s just a great director, he knows how to talk to actors. He’s been doing this forever, and his direction is very much, you know, ‘you don’t even have to act this, it’s there in the situation already.’ Like you don’t over act, you know? He has a vision of what a scene should be, he storyboards everything beforehand, and he just put me at ease. Working with some of the classic directors, from Bob Singer to him, he’d say something like, ‘you don’t even need to go there; it’s already in you.’ So it was a pleasure working with him – I missed it when it was over.

Lynn: He certainly got amazing performances out of everyone! He just seemed so good at what he does, the way he’d pop in and out and you guys would pick up on what he was wanting instantly and then there would be a subtle change. I really enjoyed watching that.

Rob: Absolutely

Lynn: What was the scene between you and Misha, as God and Lucifer, like?

Rob: Great — again, emotional. And what I remember about that scene is that John Badham directed that episode and he wanted to divide the scene in half so that when I sent the boys away, he wanted a break, and then we’d do the rest of the scene the next day. And all the actors were thinking the same thing like I’d rather not do that. Then Jensen said I think you should let Rob do the whole thing right now if Rob’s prepared. And John said, are you prepared to do that? And I said yeah, I’d love to do that. Just keep the emotion all right there. So that’s what we did, he let me go through the whole scene. That scene was very special in many ways, partly because I love Misha and I hadn’t really worked with him since season 5.

Lynn: I think that sense of specialness came through too. Also, you mentioned the father and son thing, which is something you can relate to, and something that Misha can probably relate to also. These episodes were so much about father and son and problematic fathers. No wonder you were all able to tap into so much emotion.

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Rob: Yeah, oh yeah, it was very emotional, and I think too because we love each other and know each other, it’s even more emotional to work with people that you know. Even though Misha was playing Lucifer inside Castiel, and I’m playing Chuck/God, here’s this guy that I know so well, so emotion comes easier.

Lynn: That makes perfect sense. Switching to less serious things, now that I’ve seen the gag reel with the pancake scene, what was happening there?

Rob: (laughing) Well the thing is, he had me make real pancakes, right? So I had a real griddle and real batter, and I’m actually making pancakes!

Lynn: (laughing too)

Rob: And there were A LOT of takes like that. I think that was the best one, but we just kept the camera going, and we all just kept improvising, and so it’s a silly little scene where I’m like being their dad fixing up some pancakes, you know?

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Lynn: It worked. I also really liked – and everyone really liked – the scene with you and Curtis when you, as Chuck, sort of matter of factly announce that Chuck/God is bisexual. The way you said it, with no apologies, it was so validating. And then the way Curtis responded so matter of factly too, which he told me was kind of an ad lib on his part. The combination of what you and he did made it so validating for so many people.

Rob: Yeah, absolutely. And again, it’s a testament to Robbie, who is so in touch with the fans, so he writes in a way and a language that we all are comfortable with and that we all understand, not just the fans but all of us.

Lynn: Yes. God yes. (attempts to not start sobbing about the loss of Robbie…)

Rob: And l loved it, I loved it from the moment I read it, and Curtis again is a like-minded actor, we’re both just so passionate and so liberal, so pro about people should be who they are and who they want to be. And I, in particular, I don’t know, but I’m sure Curtis did too, but that’s a subject that I’m very passionate about, letting people be who they want to be. So I loved it. And I loved Curtis’ response like (imitates Metatron perfectly) ‘Oh, well!’

Lynn: (laughing) Exactly. It could not have been more perfect. And I loved that he said no, that was just me reacting, that’s how I would react as Curtis too.

Rob: That’s right, yeah.

Lynn: I also really loved that you as Rob the musician got to say as Chuck that music is mankind’s greatest creation. How wonderful is that?

Rob: It was awesome, I mean Robbie did that, I got to talk about music. He read me some of the lines and said he wanted me to be able to talk about music, and I was like, man, that’s beautiful. And then I got to sing at the end of the episode. It was a gift, a true gift.

Lynn: And he wanted it to be a gift to you. I talked to Robbie a bit about this too. He wanted to give a gift to you and Curtis and Jensen.

Rob: Yeah. Absolutely. And it wasn’t overlooked or underestimated. It was a powerful gift.

Lynn: Excuse me, I need to grab some tissues….

[composes self, because ROBBIE]

Lynn: Ahem. So were you surprised by the non-violent resolution between God and Amara?

Rob: Yeah, I remember when I first read it, I was like oh, that’s awesome. I think the penultimate episode was the one where they fought, where they addressed that, the fight that she won. And I think at the very very end of it all, there’s no other place to go other than to reconcile. And I think that made sense. I think that the fight we were all looking for was in that second to last episode. So it did make sense, and I hope they come down again at some point and fight that battle a little more.

Lynn: I totally think that will happen. They left it so completely and purposely up in the air.

Rob: Yeah I agree, I think the thing about this show and the character, is that definitely, he’ll be around so they can bring him back.

Lynn: And Amara and God seemed to be intended as a mirror of Sam and Dean’s relationship too, their conflict and the need for them to be on the same page so that the world is okay, so from that standpoint, I’d think they’d be back too.

Rob: Oh yeah, for sure. And we all had such a fun time; I can’t imagine that that’s it.

Lynn: Well, we’re in season 12, they can do things they couldn’t in the early seasons. Including bringing back fan favorites! And they’re such good writers; they can do it in an organic way.

Rob: And it’s great that we live in an age where fans can say who they love and like and bring them back.

Lynn: Well, it works because you’re all good actors anyway. Okay, a few more questions that aren’t really Supernatural related. It’s always evident, but especially in Toronto recently – you really are the heart and soul of the SPN cons at this point. I’m sure you can feel that, at the Saturday Night Special, but fans talk about it, and the actors feel it too. I think partly because of what happened with the stroke you had at the Toronto con a few years ago, and partly because of the way you play music, with so much emotion and vulnerability. What’s that like, standing up there and seeing 2000 red hearts lit up as you sing ‘She Waits’?

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Rob: (maybe blushing a little) It’s nice of you to say that, and it’s not something I take lightly. It’s unreal, really. It’s unbelievable, the way the fans did that, and I do feel it at the end of Saturday night, it’s just amazing and life changing and the connections that I have with the actors from the show and the closeness we all have – it’s just something else. I can hardly put it into words – my wife will say, how was the show? And like I have no words for it, it’s hard to describe.

Lynn: It’s true, I can’t really put it into words either.

Rob: I’m so touched and feel so blessed to have that. It’s like being in a place where everyone gets you, everyone understands you, and has the same energy. It’s a remarkable thing – to be understood on that level, and appreciated; I feel honored. And even that the other actors give me the spotlight, it’s a real gift, and I’m so grateful for it all. Every time I’m just blown away.

Lynn: There’s a meme in fandom of kissing Rob Benedict, because you’re the one that they all kiss – it’s a thing.

Rob: (laughing and blushing) No, I never put that together! That’s funny.

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Lynn: Well, it’s true. There are tons of little gifs and pictures of people kissing you. It’s really kinda lovely.

Rob: That’s so funny, that’s awesome. I definitely feel a lot of love at those things, and that’s probably why I’m always so anxious to go back. On one hand, I’m exhausted, but I’m also like when’s the next one?

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My last question I’ll keep under my hat for now. It was about the release of our new book, Family Don’t End With Blood: How Supernatural Has Changed Lives. Rob’s chapter is one of the pivotal chapters in the book, and I’m so excited for everyone to finally read it.

But first – Kings of Con! November 15! Be sure to tune in on ComicConHQ and be sure to let Rob know how much you love it.

Fingers crossed we’ll see him back on Supernatural again too!

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Interviews
@FangasmSPN

Lynn Zubernis PhD is a psychologist, a university professor, and a passionate Supernatural fan. She's the co-author of 'Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls' and her new book 'Family Don't End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Changed Lives' comes out next May. Her site is: fangasmthebook.wordpress.com

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