It’s no secret to anyone who has ever read one of my fan psychology or Supernatural books that I love Comic-Con – my first year there was 2007, when you could still drive your rental car right up to the convention center, park in the underground garage and stroll up to get in the (very small) line to get in. It was Supernatural that brought me to Comic-Con back then, and it’s still Supernatural that brings me back now, and every year in between. The Show has gone from Room 6BCF to the larger Ballroom 20 and finally for the past few years, the gigantic Hall H. Like many loyal fans, I’ve followed along and celebrated the Show’s success as it defied the odds and refused to be cancelled. Last year saw a triumphant celebration of that tenacity, with Kansas appearing to play the Show’s unofficial theme song, Carry On Wayward Son, live on the Hall H stage.
Nobody expected Warner Brothers to top that amazing feat this year, and yet anticipation was high for our first glimpse of Season 14 – and Supernatural (as always) did not disappoint.
My Supernatural-centric Comic-Con began on Thursday night with the Wayward Cocktails party in the Gaslamp district’s Analog Bar. Jules Wilkinson (better known as admin of the SuperWiki) and friends throw this party most years, and it’s a great place to meet up with all your fellow Supernatural fans. It’s also a charity event, so I brought along some copies of Family Don’t End With Blood to donate, benefiting Random Acts along with Public Counsel legal services advocates. All the television screens in the bar were playing episodes of Supernatural; there were Supernatural themed drinks, plenty of food, and of course pie for dessert. Ruth Connell joined us at our table for a while, and I had a chance to chat with Scoobynatural writers Jeremy Adams and Jim Krieg, who would love nothing more than to reprise that amazing episode.
I also got to hug some of the people who keep the Show awesome, like the always adorable post coordinator Mary Manchin and showrunner’s assistant Meghan – and to talk Season 14 a bit with writer Davy Perez. He’s excited about the upcoming episode written by Meredith Glynn, and that makes ME even more excited! More on that later, because SQUEE!
Friday stayed Supernatural-focused with the Warner Bros. party at Float, the rooftop bar of the Hard Rock Hotel. My friend M. Night Shyamalan was also at Comic-Con, premiering the trailer for his new film Glass (more about that coming up!) so I invited him to come by the WB party – because it’s always a fabulous party! He stayed long enough to chat for a little while, and then ran into Jensen Ackles as he was leaving, so they got to reconnect too. That’s what makes Comic-Con so awesome!
Along with my good friends Laurena and Alice, I chatted Season 14 of Supernatural at the party with producer Jim Michaels while we sampled the delicious food and drinks, including the pros and cons of a reduced season of 20 episodes instead of 23. I was thrilled to hear that Jim’s optimism about the Show continuing for a while matches my own. We also were happy to run into showrunner and director Bob Singer and his wife, writer and executive producer Eugenie Ross-Leming. Both are excited about the new season, even if Bob did try to retire a few years ago – but we all know how that turned out!
Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and Alex Calvert joined the party a short while in and stayed until they literally turned the lights on to try to convince those of us who were having way too good a time to finally leave – sorry, Float employees! My chats with Jensen were about his singing prowess and whether he’d run into Night before Night had to leave (he had), with Jared about his recent birthday, and with Misha about politics – and whether I need a new phone (I do).
My chats with Alex were a bit more substantial – I can’t say enough about what a lovely person Alex is and how thoughtful about this unique situation he finds himself in. Needless to say, he was nervous about being onstage at Hall H in front of 8000 people on Sunday, but as I told him that night – the rest of the cast have his back. And so does the fandom.
(And yes, he kicked ass at the panel on Sunday!)
Ruth Connell and Rob Benedict were also at the party, and it was heartwarming to watch the cast greet each other with so much genuine affection. I chatted with Ruth about her panels at Comic-Con, including one all about witches which she found very empowering.
Ruth: I’ve never been so proud to portray a witch!
Former Supernatural writer Adam Glass was also there, and it was wonderful to re-connect with him and be able to thank him for all the Supernatural actors he’s cast in the shows he’s moved on to.
At times, the Supernatural gang was a tight knit circle – a group of people who are clearly always happy to see each other. I think, honestly, that makes all the difference. They got to mingle with actors from the other Warner Bros. shows who were there, but they also just enjoyed each other’s company – and they were in no hurry to leave. In fact, I’m fairly sure our cast closed the place down!
Saturday I kept the Supernatural connection going with panels and press room interviews for season 2 of Midnight Texas (with former Supernatural writers and now showrunners Nicole Snyder and Eric Charmelo) and season 4 of The Magicians (with former Supernatural showrunner and writer Sera Gamble and of course Felicia Day). Much more on both of those soon! Saturday also left me a little bit of time to hang out with friends, which is as much what Comic-Con is about as going to panels or waiting in line for the Pop Funko exclusives you reallllly want. I also found time to reconnect with Supernatural alum Robbie Thompson, who I will forever miss as a writer on the Show but am thrilled to call a friend whose career success I can keep celebrating. Stay tuned for more of our chat with Robbie coming up!
So yes, I love Comic-Con. Not that there aren’t downsides to being in a place with over 100,000 other people and only three Starbucks. My friend Laurena and I waited 45 minutes for our lattes one day – and that was AFTER we’d waited in line to order them! The wear and tear on your feet and your back is also significant – one day I clocked over 5 miles just walking between hotels and convention center, and while my backpack was a lifesaver, it got heavier and heavier as each day went on. But oh, so worth it!
Sunday is Supernatural day, so I always wake up with butterflies in my stomach and an extra bit of exhilaration as I make the long trek up to Hall H. The press area is in the middle a dozen or so rows back, so I had a pretty good view of the stage as we waited for the panel to start. Writer Steve Yockey was seated nearby, so we chatted a bit – once again, he had all sorts of good things to say about some of the episodes coming up, including the one penned by Meredith Glynn. AAAAHHHHHH is it October yet???
Finally, it was time! Richard Speight Jr. and Rob Benedict took the stage, once again our panel moderators. I always feel so lucky that instead of someone who may or may not really know a show and the panelists, we get to have two actors who are an integral part of the show and very good friends with the cast on the panel too. Not to mention Rob and Rich are just plain hilarious, especially when they’re together – like a Kings of Con reunion onstage at Comic-Con! Rich and Rob even gave us a little acapella version of Dust In The Wind to make up for the lack of actual Kansas this year. And I feel like, you know, they just GET us…
Rob when Jensen took the stage: Isn’t he dreamy?
Rich: OMG he’s so hot!
I had a chance to chat with Rob after the panel and asked him how much of their hilarious panel banter was scripted and how much was improv?
Rob: All of it!
Why am I not surprised? That’s the thing about Rob and Rich and about this cast they know so well – they can all do the off-the-cuff thing brilliantly because they do it constantly onstage at Supernatural conventions, so they’re like a well oiled comedy machine. And we get to reap the benefits!
The Comic-Con 2018 Supernatural panel was showrunners Andrew Dabb and Bob Singer, Exec Producers and writers Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner, and cast Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Alex Calvert. The panel kicked off with a sneak peek at Season 14 – and Michael!Dean. OHMYGOD. I can’t say enough about how mesmerized the entire room was by that scene and Jensen Ackles’ performance as Michael. All 8,000 people were so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. Michael was so unlike Dean that it was striking – and in turn both terrifying and disturbingly attractive, radiating a calm that you just know is covering up power that could turn deadly in a heartbeat. If I was excited about Season 14 before, I’m way more excited now!
Jared, who had just seen the clip for the first time as well, interjected to compliment Jensen on his incredible work.
Jared: I hadn’t seen that scene yet, that was my first time to see it, and I kinda got chills. Way to go, Ackles.
Jensen: It’s also just really cold backstage…
Ackles has said he was nervous about playing a different character, especially on a familiar set with familiar other characters, but he knocked it out of the park. Before last season ended, he asked Christian Keyes, who played Michael in S13, for any tips on how to play him. As Jensen acted out onstage, Christian just flipped his long coat back with a flourish.
Jensen: (deadpans) I’ve been nailing that move ever since.
It’s always interesting to watch the actors listen intently to what the showrunners and executive producers are saying about the show and the characters they play; I get the feeling that sometimes they’re as eager as we are to figure out what the people who write the show are planning for them!
Andrew Dabb: So Dean isn’t returning to the show…
Jensen Ackles: (silently) What now?
Richard to Andrew: Does any of Dean ever seep out while he’s Michael?
Jensen: (looks at Andrew expectantly)
The first time Rob asked Jared a question, someone in the audience yelled out “I love you, Jared” and Padalecki immediately responded with an “I love you back.”
Rob: So much!
Again, I feel like Rich and Rob are just speaking for us…
Jared: Thanks, Mom.
One of the biggest reveals to come out of Comic-Con for Supernatural this year was that Sam won’t be clean shaven – or even just a bit scruffy.
Jared: Sam is sort of distracted, because his brother isn’t around, so he hasn’t shaved in a little bit…
Misha: (reaches over to stroke Jared’s beard, grinning)
Rich: So freaking hot!
Rich: So, Misha…how is this for Cas, is he in more of a hunter role?
Fans start to scream at that, Misha looks thoughtful, which I guess Richard thought looked alarmingly like a frown.
Rich: Don’t get mad at them, they’re supporting you!
Misha: I think this is sort of a roll up his trenchcoat sleeves moment for Cas.
Jared and Jensen: (shake their heads in a fervent no)
Misha had a question of his own.
Misha: You cast Alex on the show, and Alex looks exactly like me. Are we gonna find out eventually that Cas is the dad?
Bob Singer: (deadpans) I don’t think they look anything alike.
Alex: Wait til I start wearing a trenchcoat…
All four actors were in a great mood, teasing each other and laughing frequently just as they do when they’re at a Supernatural convention together. Again, I feel like we’re the luckiest fandom in the universe – our cast have an even deeper friendship than most, since they’re not only together on set but they travel the world together on weekends doing conventions too. It shows in how they amuse each other, and in the level of comfort they have with each other. And it makes for a great panel!
Jared: What’s harder, Jack having no powers or Alex having to worry about getting kicked in the crotchal area?
Alex: Jack is going through a lot, so it really helps knowing that I might be kicked in the balls at any time by my coworkers.
Jared: You’re welcome.
Jensen didn’t miss the chance to rib Rob either.
Jensen: Generally on the show, we get rid of those omnipotent characters, and they don’t really come back…
Jared immediately jumped on the bandwagon, both of them teasing Rob. Rob’s voice went higher and higher as he tried to move on from that, which made Jared and Jensen start cracking up for real – when does THAT happen between a cast and a moderator? The love on that stage is palpable, and it makes all the difference.
Jared insisted that Jensen had an idea for the 300th episode (to which Jensen looked somewhat worried…) – that it should be based on The 300, and they all wear togas.
Bob Singer is pretty good at the teasing too. Rich asked if Jensen had any input into Michael’s wardrobe, and Bob expanded on that answer.
Bob: Any time Jensen has to dress up as anything, the cowboy, whatever, this is his input – “this is what I wanna wear.”
Jensen: (nonplussed) One of them was the dodgeball gym coach. So, you’re welcome.
Misha: Jensen was legitimately more excited about the cowboy outfit than Dean.
Misha paused in the panel for a few minutes to ask for volunteers to hand out voter registration cards, which made me love him even more than I already do – which is a helluva lot.
Andrew also let us know that some of the Wayward women will be back this season, along with Rowena (that came with a shout out to Ruth Connell, who got a huge ovation from the crowd).
What has made Supernatural successful for 14 years?
Alex: It’s brotherhood, it’s family.
Jensen: The show pivots around one central character…. The car.
Jared: Number one to why we’re still going? Y’all. (gesturing to the fans) And I care about the people I work with, there’s a legitimate sense of family.
Misha: This is rare, but I’m gonna echo what he said. This fandom, there are some unique ingredients that go into this. One is that the show has been on for so long. People have grown up with this show. We have all grown up with this show, and the bonds that you form, with the cast and with the characters, it coalesces around the word family. We’ve spent a lot of time together and forged real emotional bonds, and the audience can feel that.
Andrew, for his part, gave the actors a ton of credit – whatever you throw at them, you know they’re gonna make it better.
And I’ll just say Misha Collins had the last word of the panel – and it brought the house down.
We were, as is the Comic-Con tradition, treated to the gag reel for Season 13 near the end of the panel. I could seriously watch about 80 hours of Supernatural gag reel – not even exaggerating! I can’t wait for the DVD set to come out so I can rewatch it again and again, because there are inevitably priceless moments. I was particularly excited that one of the amusing moments I got to see filmed made it to the gag reel, when Jensen suddenly broke into dance while waiting for a retake.
And then it was time for the cast to say goodbye. Jared tossed his name card into the audience; Jensen surreptitiously (not) slipped his into his pocket.
After the panel, we had an hour to rush to the press area and download some photos and eat a hot dog, then it was off to the Hilton Bayfront for the Supernatural press room. This is my second year in the press room, so I wasn’t quite as nervous about my technology failing me (though it did…) and more able to just enjoy the chance to chat with everyone. We had a great table of press, some of whom I already knew, and everyone had great questions. Press rooms can be stressful things, since there’s a very limited amount of time and no guarantee that every cast member will get to your table – which means I actually did get anxious anyway. But big kudos to Warner Brothers’ Holly Ollis and Nikki Calderon, who managed to make sure that every single table got some time with every single one of the cast and producers. Phew!
Executive producer and showrunner Bob Singer was the first to come to our table – which is why I was so nervous I didn’t even manage to take a picture of him!
Our table asked what he could tease about Season 14?
Bob: Oh nothing, we have strict instructions…
We laughed, but he relented.
Bob: I think Season 14 is gonna be a little less broad in scope and a little more emotional, with more personal stories about the guys. We’ll look at what Jack’s going through with losing his powers, and if and when Dean comes back from Michael, what it will be like with his relationship with Sam. We also have a lot of fan favorites who will be back – Bobby, Charlie. I think it will be a little more low key, but it will still be Supernatural, just more personal and emotional.
(That literally had me bouncing with happiness because yay for more personal and emotional! Okay, maybe not literally)
One of the questions for Mr. Singer from our table was, ‘What does Bob Singer have planned for Bob Singer?’
Bob: (laughing) I’ve actually had friends from New York be like, really? You named a character after yourself? You’ve gone that Hollywood? I didn’t do that, Eric Kripke did that! That character was supposed to be a one-off, one episode and done, but we love Jim and Bobby Singer so it’s my misfortune to have to deal with that. All I can say is that he and Mary start an interesting relationship…
Then it was my turn to ask a question.
Me: How weird is it directing Jensen Ackles as a totally different character?
Bob: Jensen is so good, he can inhabit pretty much any character he wants to play.
Me: Well that’s true!
Bob: Jensen always come through with his performance. He’s always prepared and he knows in his own head what he wants to do. That said, if you give him shadings or you say ‘I don’t think that’s quite what we’re going for, how about trying this?’ he’s generally quite open to that, he doesn’t fixate on what he wants to do so much that he’s not open to suggestions. Actually every actor in our cast is easy to work with from a directorial point of view. The most you’ll have is a spirited discussion (laughing). Over 13 years with these guys, there’s a trust built up on both sides so it’s really a fun show to direct. It’s something special – it feels like family.
Next up, we had the man himself, Jensen Ackles. This is probably my favorite press room interview ever, simply because of Jensen’s reaction to our table. He sat down looking a bit weary after a marathon three days of constant interviews and photo sessions, and then he caught my eye and realized he was at a table with someone he knew – and then realized that I wasn’t the only one he knew there! His face lit up and he exclaimed “Hey! Familiar faces!” I confirmed that he was indeed at a friendly table, and he grinned and promptly put his head down on the table for a nap. Poor tired bean!
We were a lucky table indeed, because we not only got relaxed and happy Jensen, but we got finger guns Jensen too!
Our table also got the major spoiler that Jensen had just filmed some scenes as Michael – with his wife! So apparently Danneel Ackles and her character Anael will be back early on in Season 14 and she and Michael will have some sort of interaction. That got an audible gasp from the table, needless to say. [And a big thank you from our table to publicist Holly, who gave the okay for him to spill]
Jensen also asked what we thought about the sneak peek scene of him as Michael, and how nervous he was about playing a different character – and having to speak Arabic and wanting very badly to get it right!
Jensen: I couldn’t get any of it wrong, because it was a Holy verse. So that was very nervewracking.
Me: That was fascinatingly NOT Dean, in that clip we just watched.
Jensen: (hopefully) Yeah?
Me: I was sitting there the whole time trying to figure out WHY it was so not Dean, and I don’t know if it was the lack of emotionality, or the lack of humor, or he has a slower way of speaking…
Jensen: (nodding) Yeah
Me: It was strikingly different. Was that hard?
Jensen: Yes. Yes. I was constantly having to go through checklists in my brain while I was performing. I was kinda trying to keep my eyes bigger and not blinking as much, slowing down the pace of the speech, not making it as colorful, a little more monotone, and then constantly telling myself ‘you are omnipotent, you are omniscient, you can do anything you want. You are the biggest, baddest Archangel there is.’
Me: [is about to melt under the table due to Mr. Ackles saying that right to me, with all those big badass words NGL]
Check out the entire almost 8-minute interview here, with lots of insights about the challenges and rewards of playing Michael on Supernatural!
I spent some of the press room catastrophizing that we wouldn’t get to chat with Jared Padalecki, but I should have trusted the way they run the Supernatural press room, because sure enough, Jared made his way to our table. We were last to get to speak to him, but we ended up with our full allotted time because that’s just the kind of guy Jared is. Our table was again lucky, since we got a Padalecki wink and some great discussion of Season 14 and Sam Winchester.
We already knew that Sam will be taking on more of a leadership role, but one of the things we asked Jared was whether we’d also get to see the emotional side of where Sam is as a result of the trauma of losing his brother.
Jared: Yes, and his leadership role is also very different than when he led hunters against the British Men of Letters. That was I’ve gotta buck up and hold down the fort, this is him forced into it, but his plate is so full. Jack, who he’s always taken a liking to and tried to look out for, is now a broken kid. Last year he was a being we didn’t know what he could do – Sam legitimately cared about him, but there was also fear. This year there’s none of that. Sam also has 30 hunters from another planet living in the bunker, so you’ve gotta tell them how to hack a computer or where to buy toilet paper down the road. Those hunters and Sam have a similar desire and motivation but it’s also ever so slightly different. Sam wants to save Dean; the hunters want to kill Michael.
Jared went on to say that Sam is hoping to get to Michael first, because while Michael might be difficult to kill, his vessel is not!
Jared also talked about how much he loved that we got to deal with Sam’s trauma in Season 13. Dean, in contrast, is not one to open up and talk about his trauma. Sam is uniquely qualified to say Dean, let’s talk about this, Jared said – and Cas is too.
Jared: It’s like, we’ve been there, let’s talk about this.
Now that I cannot wait to see!!!!
Check out our full interview with Jared here, including more about Sam’s relationship with Jack coming up in Season 14!