In 2007, it was the prospect of seeing Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki in person that made me throw caution (and possibly good judgment) to the wind and fly all the way across the country with almost no notice just to hopefully sit at the feet of the two actors who brought to life the characters that had entirely captured my heart. My friend Kathy and I slept on the sidewalk to get in early and raced through the hallways to the room where the Supernatural panel was, breathless but triumphant. This was long before SPN had proven itself able to fill the gigantic Hall H, so they were relegated to the much smaller Room 6CDE. Little did Comic Con know, Supernatural was already a fan favorite, with the line of SPN fans wrapped around and around the building and many disappointed fans unable to get into the room. Jared wasn’t able to come that year, but Kathy and I made it in and sat there beaming at Jensen Ackles and Eric Kripke sitting right in front of us. I managed to snag an autograph ticket through all sorts of machinations, and thus had my first actual conversation with Mr. Ackles, after which I found Kathy and immediately burst into tears. Fangirl problems, what can I say?
I’ve been back to Comic Con almost every year since, in the audience for the Supernatural panel as others began to notice the show’s passionate fan base and move the panels into ever larger rooms, until finally, we were in Hall H itself. If you’ve never experienced Hall H, it’s something to behold. The first time I walked in, my jaw dropped – the sheer size of it is overwhelming. I felt a swell of pride the first time Supernatural was deemed worthy of Hall H, and that feeling has never gone away. This year was no exception.
The lead up to Hall H is an event in itself. Thousands of fans camp out overnight (or possibly multiple nights) to get a good place in line. Back in the day, fans were on their own – we sat on the sidewalk that first year, wrapped in blankets and grateful when someone came by with some coffee and donuts. Then fans camped on the grassy areas on the side of the convention center, a few with sleeping bags. Now everyone knows that for Hall H, if you want to be sure you’ll get in and get a decent seat, you camp out. Comic Con has moved the line, first to the walkways along the marina, and then to the line tents constructed for just that purpose. My more intrepid friends slept relatively comfortably in inflatable beds that looked like giant orange kayaks or lounged in deck chairs. Many fans had pop up tents. On Saturday night, it was like a giant Supernatural slumber party, and fans woke up to Misha Collins bringing them donuts in the morning.
A few years ago, I spent Saturday night with Misha and Osric Chau delivering pizza to the Supernatural fans waiting in the Hall H line, Misha merrily pedaling along in a pedicab festooned with multicolored lights and fans’ jaws dropping when they saw who was thoughtful enough to bring them dinner. But that’s how unique this SPNFamily is – the fans care, the cast cares. And Misha, frankly, is awesome.
This year, the Supernatural panel was the first of the day in Hall H, and anticipation was running extra high. Many of us had heard that they had something “special” planned, but no one knew exactly what it was. There was a keyboard and drums on the stage, so fans were guessing that we might be treated to a Louden Swain performance – I’d chatted with Richard Speight Jr. and Rob Benedict on Friday night, so I knew they were there to probably host the panel, but maybe the rest of the band was too? There were other theories, but no one knew for sure. Anticipation was running so high, in fact, that they let everyone into Hall H extra early, the gigantic hall filling up as fans flooded in and grabbed seats. I caught up with lots of fellow fans, with hugs and excited exclamations all around, then finally it was time for the panel to start. WB publicist Holly took the stage and again told us we were in for a treat, and then the lights went down, and the show began. And OMG what a show it was! Hall H is surrounded by 3 gigantic screens that travel the length of the entire hall, which means they are MASSIVE.
As we all watched in awe, Sam and Dean appeared in Baby, of course, traveling – where else? – to Comic Con. Seeing and hearing Baby roar around Hall H with her boys was absolutely awe inspiring, the Impala’s familiar rumble shaking the entire hall and thrilling us to the core. Then we heard the familiar chords of Supernatural’s unofficial theme song, Carry On Wayward Son, booming into the hall.
Suddenly the lights went up and there on the stage was the band who made that song famous, Kansas! OMG, I have no words. The screaming was deafening, and then everyone – the tens of thousands of people packed into Hall H – started singing along. Kansas belted it out like the rockstars they are, and the emotion in the room was probably enough to fuel a small city for a very long time.
I’m getting emotional again just thinking about it. Jared, Jensen, and Misha snuck out into Hall H and stood in the back watching along with the rest of us. Jensen later put it best in a tweet: Mind blown. I’ll say.
After that unbelievable beginning, Rob and Rich took the stage. It’s an unusual thing to have the Comic Con panel moderators be actors who are actually ON the show, but Supernatural is the very definition of an unusual thing. Anyone who has ever witnessed Richard Speight Jr and Rob Benedict hosting a Supernatural convention knows how ridiculously talented they are and just how quick on their feet. They are not only naturally hilarious, but they KNOW this show inside and out. They know this cast. They’re part of the family. Which all means they are the most fantastic panel moderators anyone could ask for.
Showrunners Bob Singer and Andrew Dabb, along with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, took the stage next. Jared and Jensen shared their customary fist bump that starts and ends most of their panels, and Jared pulled off his often present beanie to show off that glorious mane of hair that Richard had just joked would qualify for its own spinoff. Jared and Jensen had apparently tried on masks to go out into the crowd to watch Kansas, but couldn’t find any that worked.
Richard: Can’t hide the hair and the bowlegs.
He’s right. Talk about iconic…
Misha Collins was conspicuously absent for a few minutes. That gave the others plenty of time to mock lament Castiel’s untimely demise.
Bob Singer: We have to go where the story takes us…and I think the guys will agree that frankly, Misha had become a bit of a prima donna…
(Jensen making a face)
At that point they were joined by Misha Collins, who ambled onto the stage carrying his own tiny chair.
Misha: No one told me to come out, but I heard my name, so…
Rob: This is awkward…
It was a hysterical bit, and Misha made the most of it, looking unexpectedly adorable in his tiny chair.
Andrew Dabb joked that they made way too many good things happen in Season 12, so Season 13 will basically be death and sadness (but then again, what season of Supernatural hasn’t been that??)
Conversation turned to Lucifer’s son Jack curled up naked in the corner at the end of Season 12, which led Jared to ask if a character died (cough Cas cough), would he come back naked?
Andrew: I’m not sure we could afford the blur effects.
Misha: Oh, because it would take up so much of the screen?
Richard: Well, we all know that Jared has been very… accurate… on his twitter feed…
In other words, the panel devolved into a discussion of penis size. As you do.
Misha eventually reminded Jared that last year at Comic Con, Jared grabbed his phone and tweeted for Misha.
Misha: Yeah, and apparently I tweeted I hate fans. Which is a great thing to post at Comic Con!
They did manage to talk about the coming season too. A major theme of the early episodes is apparently that Dean and Sam disagree on how to deal with Jack, with Dean wanting to take him out and Sam being more optimistic. In other words, Supernatural tackles the nature versus nurture argument. Andrew pointed out that Sam can put himself in Jack’s shoes, as someone who was once believed to be ‘destined’ to do something bad.
Andrew: And Jack himself will continue to struggle with that in our version of “Hell’s My 2 Dads”.
Which really sounds more like fanfiction than canon, gotta say.
The brothers also differ in how they view Mary’s future. Dean is pretty sure it’s curtains for Mom, and is ready to accept that even though he’s bereft. Sam is holding onto the hope that she could still be alive, which causes some problems between the brothers in deciding what they do next.
Bob Singer: Spoiler alert, Mom is not dead.
Jared (channeling Sam): I told you!
There was lots of discussion about what the AU world beyond the rift could offer as far as Season 13, including the possibility of bringing back other characters, like they did Bobby.
Rob: So could that open up the possibility for other characters to reappear in the same way?
Bob Singer: You have anybody specific in mind?
Rob: Am I coming back??
Bob Singer: Well you are God…
Singer then joked that Gabriel wouldn’t be back, much to Richard’s dismay. He then went on to say that they love to tease Richard, but that they think his directing on Supernatural has been just fantastic, and they’re so happy with him. There were lots of cheers at that from the audience, because YES.
Richard, in turn, complimented Jared and Jensen on keeping the show fresh and high quality with their performances for all these years.
We learned that there will be some characters returning, including Missouri Mosely and of course Jody and Donna.
Andrew: And some of the people who are dead in our world are very not dead but very different in the Apocalyptic world.
The possibilities are endless!
Jared gave a shout out to the fandom, saying that it was a lot harder when they began the show because they didn’t have “this badass family” to support them.
Jared, Jensen, and Misha also talked about the eventual end of the show (something that I don’t want to think about, btw…) – Jensen had a very powerful dream about the end of the show and Sam’s death, and the three of them were talking about it recently, and all got choked up. Their characters are so much a part of them that they feel real, and the thought of Jensen as Dean losing Sam is now heartbreaking to Misha. Which is pretty amazing.
Bob Singer told a story that he feels crystallizes the relationships they have all developed. One day Jared and Jensen came to him at the eleventh hour and said that they felt that Dean and Sam’s lines on that episode should be switched. When they rehearsed it, they were tripping over the dialogue and realized that it worked better with the parts reversed – and it worked.
Bob: And I heard it and said yeah, that’s right. But the idea that they feel comfortable enough to want to make this honest change, and we’re comfortable enough with the actors to know this is not about ego, it’s about making the show better. Those relationships are why I’m still here.
Jared: As much as we tease the short guy at the end [i.e., Misha], we all enjoy each other as people. We have a legitimate friendship outside of working together. And we have a lot of trust in each other.
Richard: The show is about family, but it has become family. And the other members of the family? The fans.
(Which is why the book I just published is called Family Don’t End With Blood, and why both all the actors and many of the fans wrote chapters about how this extraordinary show has changed their lives).
One of my favorite answers was when a fan asked about favorite props. Someone in the audience yelled out “Baby!”
Jensen (indignant): Baby is not a prop. Baby is a part of me.
Misha (smirking): My favorite prop is Dean.
Jensen (deadpans): And that’s why he’s no longer with us.
A fan asked what their biggest fears were, and Misha joked that it was sitting on stage in front of a large group of people while his friends made fun of him (i.e. exactly what was happening).
Bob Singer promptly got up and took Misha by the hand and put him over in his chair, and took the tiny one himself, which was all kinds of sweet and prompted Jensen to give Misha a big hug.
Richard: Misha, you are so fired for accepting that kind gesture…
Jensen shared what he wrote about in his chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood – that 13 years ago, being in front of all these people would have terrified him.
Jensen: It’s daunting, to get up in front of all these people and not trip over your words – or just not trip!
There was a shout out to the Wayward Sisters spinoff, and then Richard asked if anyone had any parting words.
Jared: Yes. Thank y’all. We wouldn’t exist like this if you didn’t exist like that, so this is 50/50 here. Thank you all for giving us a chance to play these characters and tell this story.
If that’s not a classy way to end a panel, I don’t know what is.
I had the chance to ask a few questions of Jared, Jensen, Misha, Andrew, and Bob later that afternoon in the press room. Both the cast and anyone who had been at the panel were still sort of blown away by the fact that Kansas had played for us, so spirits were high all around. I had done press rooms years ago, but it had been a few years, so I was busy worrying about my brand spanking new tripod being able to hold up my phone without tipping over when suddenly Jensen Ackles appeared at our table. That caused some minor panic and equipment fumbling on my part before I regained my composure, but that’s not exactly a rare occurrence for me and Mr. Ackles. However, I got a nice wink of acknowledgment so maybe he didn’t notice the fumbling. I’m going with that.
Jensen started out still talking about Kansas. How adorable is Jensen fanboying over the band?
Jensen: They were like, we’ve wanted to do this for years! And I was like, you mean they didn’t somehow con you into this?? You didn’t lose a bet? And then the lead singer said would you like to come up and join us onstage, and I think I had to change my pants.
Jensen had a lot to say about the new season. He’s clearly excited about the Scooby Doo episode, joking that at some point Dean may try to put the moves on Daphne. Most of that episode takes place in “Scoobyland, self serving” and I can’t wait!
It was interesting to hear Jensen say that he thinks that Dean always perhaps recognized that there was a bit of good in Crowley, so that even though his eventual sacrifice self-serving, it was also on behalf of the Winchesters in the end. God, I’m gonna miss Crowley!
It sounds like Dean starts the season feeling overwhelmed, with too much to process, so Dean just wants to fall back on doing what he knows best and blowing something away. Sam jumps in to stop him, and Jensen acknowledged that there’s a bit of a struggle there.
My question will surprise absolutely no one – I wanted to know how different it felt with the brothers not exactly being on the same page, since last season they mostly were.
Jensen: It does feel different, but it’s certainly not going back to like seasons where they were completely at odds.
Me: That’s good!
Jensen: It’s more let’s figure out how to handle this situation. Sam wants to deal with it one way; Dean wants to deal with it another. They’re not gonna argue about it; they’re gonna eventually get to the same place, it’s just how they get there is a little different.
Have to say, I loved what Jensen had to say about the brothers – and I loved what Jared had to say up next too. Jensen ended his chat with our table by saying that this crazy wild ride on Supernatural is not even a dream come true, because he could have never dreamed this.
Me neither, Jensen!
I had a few minutes to try to reposition my camera a bit closer so it would pick up less of the room noise and more of just the person talking, and then Jared took a seat at our table. Someone jumped right in and asked a rather deep question about whether or not Sam realizes how much Dean had to be a parent to Sam as well as his brother.
Jared: Sam does know. Sam and Dean love each other as much as two human beings can love each other, truly.
Me: (silently from directly across the table) OMG my heart!
Jared: That also means they’re going to hate each other and piss each other off sometimes. But it’s forgiven, between Sam and Dean. And Sam has been what Dean needed too…. They are there for each other, and Sam realizes it, and Dean realizes it. I don’t think either Sam or Dean doubt that the other loves them.
Seriously, my heart. This show, damn it.
Jared said there’s a bit of a role reversal this season in that Sam is overwhelmed by the situation with Jack – Sam sees a lot of himself in Jack, someone who was destined to be “bad.” He even wonders sometimes if Dean feels that way about him. (Nawwww, Sammy…)
I asked Jared if it felt good to be playing Sam as the optimist this season.
Jared: Yes, it does, but I think we both know he’s probably hiding some things in his optimism as well. He’s not really dealing with some things.
Me: A little bit of a defense?
Jared: I think so. And if there weren’t things to deal with, he’d be a weirdo, because he’s dealt with a lot in 13 years.
Me: That’s true!
Someone at the table asked about the eventual end of the show (which I didn’t want to think about right then, thankyouverymuch!). Jared got a little choked up imagining the very last time there will be a Supernatural panel at Comic Con, and I got a little choked up right along with him.
He also talked about the day Jensen came to set after having that powerful dream about the show ending. I’ve also talked to Jensen about that dream, which had a big impact on him and was full of evocative images about something that clearly will be a very emotional time in his life.
Jared: I remember the day he came to set and he kind of seemed shook up, and I thought maybe it’s something with the kids. I left him alone for a second and then finally when we had time to talk about it I was like dude, you all right? And he told me the dream, and he was like shaking it off, it really affected him. It’s gonna be really difficult; I love these guys. I love these characters, and I love this family. Luckily in this Supernatural universe that we’ve created together, it won’t be over.
Misha was next at our table and immediately made us all laugh. Someone asked what they’d given him to prep for these interviews.
Misha: Jack shit! We usually get this paper, single spaced…
(Interrupts himself to say hi to me, since he wasn’t expecting to see me in the press room, which kinda made my day)
Misha: … that delineates the DNRs – the do not reveals, not the do not resuscitates –
Everyone: cracks up
Misha: And then there are bullet points of what we should talk about for the coming season… And for this year for Castiel it’s just ‘well, no one stays dead forever on Supernatural’ and I’m like thanks a lot for throwing me to the wolves! So I’ll just tell you everything that happens in the first eight episodes to spite them.
Never change, Misha.
He said that the most relevant aspect of Cas’ death is actually how the boys process his death. Sam and Dean go through a grieving process and have to deal with the loss of their friend. When Cas does come back, he’s in a realm that we’ve talked about before on Supernatural but have never seen. The Empty maybe??
Misha: And he’s in there alone with only one other being, played by… a great actor…
Me: I totally thought you were about to tell us the name!
Misha: (grinning slyly) Sorry.
He clearly wasn’t, but that smile is so adorable it didn’t really matter.
Misha also talked about how unusual it is to play the same character over the course of a decade in a vastly changing set of circumstances and the gradual evolution of their characters over time too. It’s surprising to him how organic the process is because they know these characters so well that it just happens.
In typical Misha fashion, he asked the last question of himself, which was about the very last GISHWHES. He’s very proud of it and encouraged everyone to sign up – which I’m happy to say I already did. This will be my third time, and every time has been amazingly fun and frenzied and utterly ridiculous. Hope you’re all joining me!
Executive producer and showrunner Bob Singer joined us next, talked about how this season is about a family dealing with being torn apart. Ouch. He reiterated that Dean just wants to “shoot it in the face” while Sam wants to see if Jack can be of help to them, specifically in maybe opening up the rift again so they can rescue Mary, which causes some head butting between the guys.
This season will be smaller in scope, more personal and more emotional, Bob said, which makes me all kinds of excited. He also teased that we’ll see some familiar characters return, but in the AU so they’ll be not exactly the same – which is also very exciting.
Singer also talked about the Wayward Sisters spinoff, which still makes me all squeeful whenever it’s confirmed as reality – I think a part of me still doesn’t believe it! The spinoff set up will begin in episode 3 with the introduction of new character Patience, be picked up in 9 and then continue in 10, which will be the pilot episode.
Bob has gleaned a better understanding of how we roll over the seasons.
Singer: We’re spreading it out a bit because as much as everyone wants to see Jody Mills, when you tune into Supernatural you want to see Sam and Dean, so we hope by spreading it out a bit, we’ll keep everyone happy.
He paused and then smiled.
Bob: Which hasn’t happened on 12 seasons of Supernatural, so I don’t know why I said that…
I had to laugh, not gonna lie.
Andrew Dabb was last to visit our table. He talked a lot about the AU, a world which has never had Winchesters, and the potential for some interesting situations as the universes mix, which I have to admit, has me intrigued. He also talked about characters returning, but cautioned against overdoing it.
Andrew: You don’t want to be like here’s character X and here’s character Y, but now they’ve got an eye patch, so they’re totally different…
More laughter. These guys are all funny, which has got to be part of the reason this show has survived for 13 years!
Dabb went on to say that even though Supernatural has a lot of history, they don’t want to just rely on nostalgia, like a character comes back just to be like hey and wave and walk away.
Dabb: If we’re bringing someone back, they’re coming back for a reason.
Apparently, a character named Michael will be back, but it may not be the Michael we know and love. Which makes me long for Matt Cohen…
Everyone at the table was excited to hear that the show has not forgotten about the witch twins, who I think intrigued all of us. They deserve their own story, Dabb said. Yes!
Someone asked if there will be any meta episodes this season, and Andrew said they don’t like to do them too often, and they want to be sure to do them in a way that’s respectful to the fans. That was a pretty nice way to end a press room.
I ended the day with frozen pina coladas at the Harbor House restaurant overlooking the marina with my friend Laurena, our aching feet up on chairs while we reminisced about the past five crazy days. I always say I’m not going to do Comic Con again – it’s too exhausting, too hectic, whatever – but by the time I’m going through my photos and writing up my adventures, I’m already planning for next year. As long as Supernatural is there, count me in!