Steven Williams, who plays Rufus Turner, first appeared on Supernatural as the hunter that essentially showed Bobby (Jim Beaver) the ropes of being a hunter; appearing in many episodes over eight seasons, he has definitely become one of the best – and most iconic – characters on this show. As you will read in the interview, he loves his job – and he was a ball to chat with.
How were you cast as Rufus?
Y’know, this is really funny. To this day, I have one version of why I was cast as Rufus; and I’ve got a friend who has another version. Now, here it is in a nutshell real quickly. I went to a party — a good friend James. At the party was Jim Michaels – Michaels is one of the producers – and we get introduced, and we have a great time at the party. He learned who I am, etc. etc., and he’s got this show going called Supernatural that I hadn’t heard about. I tell him if there’s ever a role there, let me know, I’m available, y’know, social thing. I get this call, from Supernatural, that they want to cast me in this role. Then I learned that Kim Manners is producing on Supernatural and I got the call from Kim Manners’s office. Kim Manners, if you’ve been following Supernatural then you know, was my first director on 21 Jump Street. So me and Kim go all the way back to 21 Jump Street in 1986. Jump Street is cancelled and now Kim is the producer on Supernatural. So I’m thinking that Kim, he literally called me up and gave me this role. He knew they wanted this character, this Rufus character, and Kim said hey, I’ve got just the guy for you – Steven Williams – and bingo. But my friend James tells me that it was Jim Michaels — that I met at his party – who was responsible for the role. Now, of course, Kim has passed on. So I don’t know! The bottom line is, I don’t really know. I’m totally convinced that it was Kim Manners who brought me aboard; and James, my friend, he said no, it was Jim was the one responsible for bringing you aboard. So I would say that it’s a combination of the two. Between Kim Manners and Jim Michaels – and me being Steven Williams – was what got me this role because I worked with Kim forever. He was my first director on Jump Street. My final director on Supernatural. So we have one hell of a history.
Definitely they cast the right person. I love you as Rufus.
Well, thank you so much. I loved playing that role. It was so much fun. Y’know, the boys, the gang, the whole cast and crew, the production office. Everybody’s terrific. And working with Jim Beaver – who I work with mostly as Rufus – Bobby – is just a delight. He is a delight. Wonderful actor, delightful person. With this dry – you know, you see him on the show – he’s got the same kind of dry humor in real life. You never know when the guy is kidding and when he’s putting you on, or when he’s serious. He’s a joy. Y’know, we’re two grumpy old men. Except he does grumpy old men so much better than I do, that I made Rufus a little bit lighter. Y’know it was supposed to be Walter Matthau and Lemon kind of grumpy old men thing, but he does grumpy old men so well that I decided I’m not going to compete with this guy as a grumpy old man. I’m going to make Rufus an irritation to him more than anything else. And of course, I’m his mentor, he’s my mentor, we’ve been both mentees to each other, and we were partners in the past. A long time, that’s a lot of history that I didn’t know about this character before I started and as we went on with the show and the writers came up with something I learned a lot of history that Bobby and I were partners in the past. We were “the boys” at one time. We were Sam and Dean so to speak, in our era.
What was your favorite episode/scene to film?
Probably Weekend at Bobby’s. Actually, the episode that was the favorite to film – in an actor’s life – the first episode. You got a job, baby, you got a job, and the cheque’s cleared – that was the favorite. Writing, and in the terms of substance, Weekend at Bobby’s. Because that was pretty much about me and Jim. So Weekend at Bobby’s. If I had to rank them, Weekend at Bobby’s would probably rank at the top.
Which one of the scenes was the most difficult to film?
There’s never been a difficult day in my life. In my acting life, there’s never been a difficult day in anything. I’ve had eight TV series in which I’ve been a series regular or two of them the title character; and three of them one of the favorite reoccurring; I just don’t find any difficulty at all in the job that I do. There’s been a lot of bumps and bruises. But I don’t find any difficulty in any job in this business. I’m a happy camper. I haven’t worked a day in my life since I started acting. Really, that’s how I look at it. I didn’t want to be an actor; I didn’t not want to be an actor, but acting was laid in my lap. It was not something that I reached for. It was just something that just happened to me, starting way back with Cooley High and Blues Brothers. Y’know, I started as a model in this business. All of a sudden someone asked me to do a play, and someone asked me to be in a film, it’s been snowballing ever since. There’s been no difficult job, particularly in Supernatural – nothing difficult that I have experienced in that show. It’s the town, too, where we shoot the show. It’s part of this whole equation. And that I shot 21 Jump Street there for five years. I lived there, and then the X-Files for three or four seasons – and now, Supernatural. The location is one thing – the location is like home for me, in a sense. And again, the actors when I got involved with that show I have found to be wonderful people. So there is no difficulty is the short answer.
You’ve played Rufus over a span of eight years; what has stayed the same during filming and what has not?
What has stayed the same is the energy on that set; the professionalism, friendship, the creativity, these are some of the most wonderful characters on a show, some of the most wonderful writing that I have experienced. Just the whole idea. Sometimes I wonder where writers get their ideas from; and how they put them together. The whole apocalyptic thing and the interpretation of heaven and hell – that has been consistent. It’s growing exponentially each time they do a show. The creativity continues to grow. What has changed, is well, I’m not there. That’s the big thing that’s changed is that I hate that they killed Rufus off – and Bobby – but everybody dies in Supernatural, and a lot of us come back versus Jim. I’ve been back twice since my death – in flashbacks. But that would be the thing that I hate. But the thing that stayed the same is that creativity, that energy that’s going forward. The thing that’s changed the most that I dislike is the fact that Bobby and Rufus are no longer a part of the ongoing regular, everyday shooting of that program. I’d like to see us both of us come back; I’d like to see both of us brought back to life; our bones have not been burned, they have not been salted and burned. We still have that opportunity.
If – and when – they bring back Rufus in Supernatural (perhaps again in a flashback) what would you like to see happen?
Two things I’d like to see happen. First of all, I’d like to see that physical – a physical change. Y’know actors get into stuff we want to do, fun we want to have. There would be a physical change. Of course, I’ve gotten older and lost hair, so, of course, there’s going to be a physical change. But I’ve got this great idea for this physical change for Rufus when he comes back. His hair– everything would be white. Mustache, eyebrows, the hair on his head – he becomes this strange-looking character; this character that looks like he’s been to hell and back or been to heaven and back, wherever he’s gone … I’d like to see that happen. Also, there was an episode we did where – with Mitch Pileggi, Mitch from X-Files – he plays Grandfather Campbell – who I absolutely love because we were in X-Files together. This was the episode where we were all killed – It was called Then There Were None. In that episode, Bobby and Rufus mention some incident that happened in Omaha. I was awfully mad at him for something that happened in Omaha – I would like to see the story told. I think it was pitched once and rejected, what I heard, just rumor. I tried to get the fans to like – the whole social media thing? At some of these conventions I said, guys, just go on social media – I don’t do social media myself, personally, Steven Williams – and just ask the question – “What the hell happened in Omaha?” I was trying to get the campaign going, trying to get the statement to go viral. “What the hell happened in Omaha.” So I’d like to have that story told. What went down between these two men that got Rufus so angry at Bobby that we just left it at that. And I’d like to see the story where he comes back and have this great fun on why the hell he stabbed me. Y’know, the monster was in his ear [khan worm] – he stabbed me, so Bobby killed Rufus. I think there’s great potential and a really fun story. Rufus comes back mad as hell that Bobby stabbed him.
How are you similar to Rufus, and how are you especially different?
I think my similarity is that at my age now, with my experience in life, there’s a cynicism that we both have; Steven and Rufus – there is a hardness that both Steven Williams and Rufus has. This reality of life, of what life really is, of what this is all about. We put so much importance into so many things that don’t matter in life, in my opinion. This whole money thing, this whole get ahead thing, this whole reaching for the brass ring thing. Life is a real simple proposition, for me, it’s about procreation, it’s about get up and do no harm. That’s all we have to do in life – if everybody got up and did no harm. But right now, there’s people plotting to harm somebody; in the end, what is it all about. I think we know nothing – Steven Williams thinks we know nothing. I think that’s a similarity with Rufus; with all the stuff that happens in the Supernatural world, we’re learning how much we don’t know about anything. Those are some of the similarities and the differences if I’ve explained them with any kind of coherency.
What do you enjoy most about filming Supernatural?
I enjoy – I don’t know if there’s a most – I enjoy the trip to Vancouver. It starts with me getting the word hey Steven Williams, we’d like to bring you in another episode. And the enjoyment starts from there, and it doesn’t stop until I get back home. I enjoy the trip up, I enjoy my stay there, I enjoy the people I get to visit, and of course, I enjoy working with those actors that are on that set every day, whoever I am working with, I enjoy. It’s been one of the most eclectic and enjoyable group of characters – and creative people, the writers, the directors, the producers – just a great creative group of people. I enjoy – like I said, I haven’t worked a day in my life since I started in this business – I enjoy the creative process, the collaboration. No movie is made, no TV program is made in isolation, it’s a team. Everybody’s got a piece of it. From the guy that drives you to work to the producer, to the editor, everybody gets a piece of it. I enjoy that whole creative process of everybody coming together to put something on that screen at the end of the week that the audience at home can enjoy.
What’s been your most embarrassing moment during filming?
I don’t know – it’s very hard to embarrass me. I’ve been around a long time; I can say I’m a little bit jaded, so it’s very hard to embarrass me. I think the thing that as a man, as a macho dude, doing some of my own stunts; I did some of my own stunts in LA Heat. There was a few little small stunts like throwing yourself around and in Supernatural. You get embarrassed, almost as a guy, not as the character but damn, I can’t run as hard as I used to be able to run – climb this fence, ooh, I’ve hurt myself just throwing myself down on the ground. So those kinds of things, kind of macho things. I did do something once – Mitch and I had a fight, we had a fight scene on Supernatural – in the episode And Then There Were None, where we all get killed. I threw a punch at him and I was too close to a pole – and we go all out, and have a great time. I throw this punch at him and there’s a big beam in the middle of the set, right behind him. I wasn’t watching, threw the punch too hard and hit the beam, with force that almost cracked the knuckle. That was a little embarrassing. And it hurt. Other than that, it’s been great. If you’re really rocking and rolling, you really don’t get embarrassed very much. You realize it’s part of what we do. You make a faux pas, you laugh about it and you move on.
Like having your FBI badge upside down. [In reference to the one scene in the Season 11 gag reel.]
They do a lot of stuff – like I didn’t know, but I’ve done so many shows and like I said, I’m not a social media person, there’s a lot of things I don’t watch – I didn’t know that these names y’know, Crosby and Stills, whenever the guys introduce themselves as FBI agents they come up with these names Crosby and Nash, or Stills and Nash, or Ashford and Simpson. I didn’t know this – I didn’t know that they did this constantly. I didn’t know, I wasn’t paying attention so there’s one scene where I think of it – it’s already been thought of, and I think of it – I think that I’m doing something unique. It was a Lethal Weapon thing – he says I’m Murtaugh and he’s Riggs – as we walk away I say, You do know that she watches movies, as if he gave these names and they were so phony that she was going to pick up on that. He said, yeah, I know, we do that all the time. That’s what they told me at the time. So I didn’t realize that that was a running gag that they had been doing ever since the show was incepted. And I didn’t know that and thought I was adding an adlib that was clever. But it turned out not to be that clever, because everybody knows that they do that. I was coming on a joke, five or nine seasons too late. Thinking I created my own thing but, no, we’ve been doing this for seasons now, Steven.
Do you still keep up with the show? Have you watched Season 11?
Actually, what I’m doing is right now, at this moment that you’re talking to me, I’m in bed, it’s 1 o’clock in the afternoon in California, and there’s a block of reruns that come on and every morning, I think from about 9 until 12, there’s a block of reruns – three Supernaturals in a row. So if I’m home, I don’t have to get up to go and do something, audition or go to work – I literally lay in bed in the morning and watch reruns of Supernatural. I have not seen any of the current stuff yet; I just moved into my home about a year ago and I’ve been travelling, I didn’t have any TV set for the first six months that I was here. And of course I was settling in so I hadn’t been spending a lot of time watching the current stuff. But I watch the reruns almost every single day. Every day that I’m home, I watch the reruns. I’m really just looking for my episodes.
Everyone knows that the filming of Supernatural usually has some behind the scenes stories; what’s your favorite story to tell, and do you have one that not very many people know about?
As a guest star, most of the behind-the-scenes stories come from the regulars. As a guest star, I really don’t have any great behind-the-scenes stories. I hear the boys are like practical jokers par excellence; everybody has a great time. I’m always hearing about these great times and all these pranks that they have. But I’ve never really been a part of it. There are two things that I’ve found fascinating about these guys. They play video games all over the world – the both of them are really into these video games, playing with people all over the world, like these competition games. They get really hung up in that. It’s kind of enjoyable to watch them. And Jensen – I watched Jensen do something on set one day, it was absolutely fascinating. I watched throw from regulation distance – I watched him throw three bull’s eyes at a dartboard blindfolded. Like with his eyes totally closed, with his head turned. I thought that was fascinating. These boys are in great shape – great physical abilities – from the small to the big. It was a lot of fun. I have never been privy to any of the pranks or stuff.
I do have one person I’d like to thank – Kim Rhodes. There was a period in time when I didn’t have representation. I was married to Ann Geddes – an agent, out of Chicago – but when we divorced we also lost our business relationship. I roamed around a long time without the representation that I used to. Kim Rhodes, who plays a sheriff [Sheriff Jody Mills], she introduced me to her manager. Now I’m with him. She has made me a very happy camper. A shout out to Kim for that introduction to Richard Kerner, who manages me. So that’s one of the great things that has come out of that show for me. My introduction to my management team from Kim Rhodes.
She is, she is an awesome lady. Y’know, where you really find out about a lot of these guys sometimes, being reoccurring and not being around at all, is we’ve done a few conventions together. That’s when we get to be a bit more outrageous – everybody’s real, everybody’s so real with the fans. We get to be ourselves for those of us that are real people, not totally playing that politically correct game. We get to be real with the fans. I love some of these guys – Mark Sheppard and Kim Rhodes, and Sebastian [Roche] – we just have some great times getting into their real personalities. Like who these people are off screen. It’s a fascinating and fun thing for me to have experienced.
Do you have any current projects you’d like to share?
There are two films out there that are coming around, real small, real tiny roles. I think one I’m in one scene in but a vampire film called Stakelander, that was shot in Regina, Saskatchewan; that’ll be out soon. And Steven King’s novel It is being turned into a movie. I do a scene in that one. I’ve just finished an episode of Training Day, they turned Training Day into a TV series. I’ve just finished an episode of that as a guest star, and they’re talking about perhaps bringing this guy back. So I could end up as a reoccurring in Training Day. I’ve got a good friend of mine, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, he’s a wonderful director and a wonderful writer – he has created a project with him, myself and Glynn Turman, starring the three of us, and maybe one other old-timer. He’s created a show for four of us – we’re all ex-New York cops who turn into vigilantes. Sort of Leverage meets the Equalizer; it’s an action/adventure show for us older guys, with that whole vengeance and justice kind of thing. We’re working on that, trying to get some scripts together and trying to see if we can find some producers and some showrunners, and a network that might be interested. But other than that girlfriend, it’s getting up every day and breathing.