Recently I had the pleasure of being able to chat with Sam Smith, who plays Mary Winchester on Supernatural. I tell you, this woman is not only a fabulous actress, she’s an utter joy to chat with! She was the first real “guest star” on the show – and has popped in for a visit in a flashback or some such event over the past 12 seasons. It has been an absolute blast getting to know the Mary Winchester behind the canon “mom” these past few episodes …
You’ve been on Supernatural many times over the past 10 or so years, but mostly as a guest star; how are you finding filming now that Mary Winchester is “alive?” What’s different, and what’s been the same?
Mary being back this season, it’s been an interesting mix of feelings for me… First, to be clear, I’ve always felt included, welcome, and a part of the story. Whenever I’ve popped back on the show, it’s always been a surprise (even to me) how they intend to weave Mary into whatever’s going on. It’s always been done very creatively, and her appearances have served very specific singular purposes. But now, it’s a whole new paradigm. Mary is a whole person: complicated, conflicted, complete, with feelings and wants and needs. And live, grown children. It’s practically a new character. And to have storylines so interwoven with Dean’s and Sam’s, storylines with beginnings, middles and ends– it’s really a completely different experience. Jensen and Jared both have mentioned this before, and I agree– me (Sam) being on the show so much right now in many ways parallels Mary being back in Dean’s & Sam’s lives. There’s a long, sporadic history but suddenly I’m basically omnipresent. It’s an adjustment!
It’s been noted throughout social media that Mary’s walk is very much like Dean’s; was this on purpose?
It has?! That’s hilarious. It’s not on purpose. But there have been other ways in which I’ve tried to imitate some of what Jensen does, trying to sort of “reverse inherit” some genetic qualities and mannerisms.
You must be having an absolute blast on set; do you have any behind-the-scenes stories that you’d like to share?
I AM having a blast. The entire cast and crew is like a giant family, and they have always been very welcoming. Jensen and Jared keep everything light with jokes and teasing, and the tone pervades the whole set. But god forbid you drop your lines or an entrance– you will pay. (Once I flubbed a line a few times, and Jared very sweetly played sound effects of car crashes for me. Loudly and repeatedly.)
In the season premiere, Dean explains to Mary that he believes he and Sam are making the world a beNer place by “saving people, hunting things”; it’s obvious that Mary wishes for a different life for the boys … what are your thoughts?
No mom wants her kids to put themselves in danger. ANY danger, never mind life-threatening danger. And yet, I think she has to be proud of them. How could she not?
In Season 6, Samuel Campbell (Mary’s dad) betrays Sam and Dean to Crowley for the chance to bring Mary back to life; if Mary was able to speak to Samuel, what do you think she’d say?
Ah, poor Mary, every situation is rife with conflict and two very clear cut perspectives. He betrayed her children but did so for his OWN child. But, ultimately, I don’t think she would be very forgiving; mama bear and all that.
What has been your favourite episode/scene to film, and what has been the most difficult?
Up until this season, I would have to say playing Mary as Eve was the most fun. But now, there have been so many moments in season 12 that have been both challenging and amazing. Mary’s return in the opening scene of episode 1— reconciling her new reality… that was a lot. Saying goodbye—even temporarily— to both boys in episode 3— for me, the actress, that was pretty loud in my head. Thank God for Jensen & Jared, and how talented they are. They are so present and so facile; those kinds of scenes are challenging for me but filming them with those two does make it easier.
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened on set?
There are daily gigglefests. It’s always something. Especially if Misha is also on set. The three of them together is just plain trouble.
What are your thoughts so far on this season?
This season is going deep and still. Not to say there’s not a lot happening, but the scope of the story has been reduced from Heaven and Hell and World Destruction to the smaller drama of family and its inner dynamics. Emotions are big; stories are small. It’s close and intimate and, I think (and I hope everyone thinks!), interesting.
How much is Sam Smith like Mary Winchester and how much are you different?
Ah! Good question! Well, let’s see. We are both fiercely protective, affectionate mothers, but foster independence and self-reliance— and manners!— in our boys. I think we both might have a slightly exaggerated view of our own capabilities and can get ourselves into trouble because we won’t ask for help.
Also, we both like to drive fast.
Sam is less (a lot less!) tortured and troubled than Mary. Also, I’m unarmed. Mary spends less time at the hairdresser and definitely has fewer pairs of shoes.
What was it like to finally work with Kim Rhodes? (I saw the tweets from the set, looked like you guys had a ball!)
Kim and I have been friends for over a decade, before the show; this is the first time we’ve ever gotten to work together, and we’ve been anticipating it greatly. When the producers told me I was working with her, I wasn’t allowed to tell her at first, because the scripts are a secret. But then as soon as she knew I called her, and we went all giggly over the fact that we actually had scenes together … and that Mary and Jody finally meet, because that was a long time coming. She was sort of a surrogate mom to the boys while Mary was gone, and then Mary comes back, and she gave some guidance to Mary about who the boys are now, even though Mary knows it. Sort of a passing of the torch if you will. But with Kim, we hung out every day, we went shopping, we went out to eat; we were always in the other person’s trailer, it just was a ball. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to do that again. She is one of the all-time greats.
What are your thoughts on Mary not giving up hunting after Dean was born?
Seems kind of sneaky. But I think that hunters don’t hunt because they’ve got nothing else to do; they do it because they know it’s necessary, and it’s noble, in a way. To know there are still creatures out there that go bump in the night that will harm people and kill people, and she has the power to stop it, it’s something really, really difficult to turn your back on. And yet, she has two tiny children … had, two tiny children … who needed her to be alive. Like she said, hunters always end up the same way, and it’s not alive and well. It was really a conflicted time for her. But it makes sense to me that she went back to it as quickly as she did.
My favorite scene in the last episode was when each of the hunters banded together to exorcise the demon – was it difficult learning the Latin? (Sounded like you were an old pro at it!)
Oh really? I just walked around saying my little piece over and over and over … and then I asked Jensen and Jared … do I say it really loudly, do I say it like Rowena says hers, do I just have to say it quickly, do you say it under your breath … because they’ve said it 397 times, I wanted to do it like they do it. Because of the nature of the scene, the director wanted my piece to be a little more enunciated and enthusiastic, I should say. So we bumped it up a little bit. We did it a few different ways, but yeah, the learning of the Latin was challenging, but they send us little recordings of it, so we know what it sounds like, pronunciation-wise.
Well, that’s good.
Yeah, thank goodness. But I learned – little-known fact – that Jared studied Latin in college. So, he has a leg up on all of us.
Can you tell us anything about what Mary is up to when she’s on her own?
She’s using John Winchester’s journal, and she’s busy and active.
Can you tell us – will we eventually find out what she’s up to?
We will see her in the future; you will definitely see her and see what’s she’s been up to.
Side note – I went to see filming in Vancouver earlier this year (April, to be exact) … I saw your trailer, but I didn’t see you.
I wasn’t really allowed out much because it was raining. It wrecks your hair, wrecks your outfit … it was freezing, so I said hi to everyone real fast and then I was in my trailer and then in a truck the whole time. I’m sure they were also trying to hide me, but it was really mostly weather related.
They’re pretty serious about making sure that everything is kept as quiet as possible. Although it’s kind of titillating to have spoilers and sneaks … there actually was on Twitter a lot of speculation that Mary would be back for the season finale but people didn’t really bite, it didn’t catch on and go wild. I think that most people were surprised … because I didn’t show up until the very, very end, even people who were expecting it, I think had probably forgotten about it.
Twists are thrilling … and no one wants to have them spoiled, if possible. I understand why they’re so secretive. It’s all part of the allure of the show … you don’t know – ever – what’s coming.
What have you been up to when you’re not filming Supernatural?
I have done some guest stars and little movies here and there … I haven’t been as focused on my acting … I have been pretty deeply immersed in trying to produce a screen play from a book I obtained the rights to. I’m working with my husband, writing … I’m not much of a writer, more of an editor/producer type. So we’ve been working on that for the last year, and we’re getting pretty close. It’s pretty exciting. I can’t really give details yet because it’s not final. I would like to be able to diversify into not just being a hired gun.
This has been taking most of my time lately. Being away, in Canada, and the episodes I’m in have me in so much … I’m there all day every day. Which is fantastic; I’m having an absolute ball. Mary – alive Mary, I should say, is rather a dream character. She has everything. All the bad-assery that you would want, the driving fast, the weapons, the fighting, all that stuff but she’s also a mom and cares about her kids and that sensitivity, conflict and drama within … it’s just so much and I’m kind of blown away they’ve given me so much.
Well, you’ve done an awesome job of being Mary; it’s been so much watching her grow from being almost like a two-dimensional character to actually having like thoughts, feeling and another life outside of just being a mom.
That’s exactly it, thank you. She went from being the canonized mom, the perfect, angelic mother – literally – or fulfilling a need in the story like when she was Eve, or a flashback or whatever that it was, she was very specific and this is sort of like y’know, warts and all, good, bad, selfish … right choices, wrong choices, feelings, it’s all messy, real and complicated, which has been really fun.
In a previous answer, you mentioned that you had purposely adopted some of Jensen’s mannerisms … can you give us any examples?
Well, I’m trying, I don’t know how good a job I am doing … I thought it would be interesting to try.
Well, what have you tried? Because you definitely have the walk down pat.
Well, what’s funny is that’s one thing I didn’t try! I think it was subconscious; I don’t know. But you know, the way he stands, or crosses his arms, or facial expression, or a turn of a phrase that he likes to use, things like that. Little things that I notice in my son in real life, that he gets from me or my husband. Some times they’re behavioral, but some times I think those things are genetic. So it was just interesting to have them interspersed throughout without being over the top.
I read in a previous interview that you are a Supernatural fan yourself – what was your favorite episode from Season 11?
Baby, for sure. Although I’d have to say Blush was pretty good as well. And Just My Imagination! There was a lot of good ones last season.