(Photo courtesy of Blisfulievil)
I was lucky enough to win a ticket to the Jared Padalecki Private Q&A for Chicago Con 2012. I had done one in New Jersey 2011, so I wanted to do so again.
Jared arrived in great spirits, greeting us with a warm "Hi, y'all" and a smile. He proceeded to turn the chair placed for him backwards. Before he straddled it, he asked us if that was okay to which we all nodded yes. Once he was seated, we were underway.
(Minor Spoiler Alert. He does talk about upcoming episodes)
I am a huge fan of the Brian Buckley Band, especially after seeing them play in New Jersey the year prior, so I wore my HystericalBlindness t-shirt for Sunday. Jared took notice right away, complimenting me on the shirt. I'll admit, I wore it on purpose. I really wanted to hear more about the music video for "I Am Human," so I asked him what it was like to film that---especially since he has absolutely no spoken lines.
Jared talked about how he had been friends with Brian for years and that at a party a few years ago Brian had taken out a guitar and started to sing. He said he asked why Brian hadn't done it professionally as of yet, and nudged his good friend to go after it. Jared then talked about how the video came about. They had talked idly about making a video, and Jared said, "You've got an actor for a friend." He said that Gen was also extremely interested in being in it as well. Jared jokingly said, "Come on, I'll shave for you!" He went on to say that made Gen happy, too. Apparently Gen is not a fan of the beard. He said that originally the end of the video had the door opening only with a glimpse at Jared's character in it, leaving the viewer to wonder just who he had gone to visit. It wasn't until later that they decided to include Gen that they determined the door should open and the camera pan to her. The story in the video called for a suit, and Jared said that he didn't have one, but he did have his wedding tux. That worked for Brian. He talked about the smoking moment in the video and said that it left him feeling nauseous. He said that he's absolutely not a smoker and that he had to lay down for a half an hour or so after in order to recover. He thought filming at home was nice because he had the opportunity to go into his own bedroom and lay down where as on a set he only has his trailer. While he recovered, Jared told us the crew set up the next shots outside where we see him walking. The camera crew was a small one and they had work around the logistics of Jared's actual house to capture some of the footage.
This segued into Jared talking about their actual house. Apparently during Gen's pregnancy, she smelled mold, but Jared didn't. He had it checked out and they did discover mold. To fix the problem, they spent over six months renovating the house so it would be safe for Gen and eventually Thomas. Another person at the Q&A told Jared that he was smart to have had it taken care of. She said that after Nashville had flooded, the hotel Nash Con was held in didn't quite get all of the mold handled and she had fallen ill---so much so that she had ended up in a wheelchair. Jared said that he was very sorry for that.
Jared talked about traveling with Thomas now. He said prior to his son's birth he was an efficient traveler, and easily sped through security. He said that he largely had everything packed into one duffel that he could carry on and off flights any time. He told us a story about how during a screening the woman from the TSA refused to let him pick up his bag after it had been screened. She kept telling him that it was procedure and that passengers were not allowed to do that. Jared told us that the bag was about 60 lbs and that on him as a carry on it didn't look quite that heavy. The TSA woman then tried to lift it and barely got it off the table before turning towards him and telling him, "You get it." Jared said on Gen that his bag would look like one that needed to be checked. He also said that it made him list to one side and its momentum would pull him along---which in turn made him walk much faster than Gen. He said that she would complain about him walking too far ahead and then said he blamed the bag for it. For traveling with Thomas, Jared said that it's a lot different and that there's way more things he needs to bring. He said that the TSA told him he'd have to have the baby food sampled if they didn't open it for inspections. Jared explained that baby food is only good for a very limited window, so he wanted to avoid that. Apparently, Thomas really loves the mashed peas and carrots lately. Jared deadpanned, "Sounds gross, right?" He mentioned that strollers and diaper bags were also a new experience for traveling that really slowed things down compared to how he used to travel.
Periodically, Jared's phone would bing. He jokingly said, "I'm R2D2ing myself" in reference to a moment that had happened earlier in the Gold Breakfast when someone's phone had made that distinctive noise. He told us that Gen was texting him and that's why his phone was making so much noise.
A question came up about season 8 Sam after that, asking about Sam's detachment around Dean and his behavior while hunting. Jared said that at the end of season 7, when Dean goes into Purgatory after killing Dick Roman, Sam did NOT know where his brother had ended up. We, the viewer, knew that Dean had due to seeing it on screen, but Sam had simply seen his brother vanish without any leads. He had no starting point, and no one that might have an idea to start with left to call. Bobby was gone. Rufus was gone. All the hunters he knew were gone, so Sam really had no clue as to what had happened to Dean. He also said, due to Sam's analytical tendencies, that Sam also decided not to really look because every time one of them is brought back there are horrible consequences---usually on a global scale. Jared said that the breaking of the 66 seals and the Apocalypse had happened after Dean returned from Hell for example. He also said that the experiences in "Mystery Spot" were still haunting Sam when it concerns Dean. He didn't think that Sam had ever quite gotten over that. He seemed to think Sam might never let that go. I mentioned that I had noticed in "Heartache" that it seemed that Sam was behaving this way because he had seen his brother die or disappear too many times and he just couldn't do it again. Jared nodded and said that he felt Sam was feeling that, too.
Someone asked about Dean's treatment of Sam so far, and Jared told us that Dean's "older brother" card isn't working anymore. Someone mentioned that they thought Dean was treating Sam like a father would and Jared agreed. He said that Dean has taken a bit to acting like John did with Dean, trying to bring Sam back in line. I mentioned that when John had done that with Sam in the first place that it had failed. Jared nodded his head and laughed a little. He thinks that Sam is rejecting that outright and said that Sam is thinking, "I've got my own past year and life to deal with, pal," when it comes to Dean pressuring Sam to return full on into the hunt.
Someone asked about Amelia and Sam's relationship, and how it's being referenced to as being normal, nice, and wonderful. They wanted to know if it played into Sam's mental state about hunting here. Jared replied yes. He said that later in the season that the time spent with Amelia won't be quite like "lollipops and candy canes" as it's being sold in the birthday cake scene for instance. He said that it was a lot rockier and will show more about Sam's difficulty with being alone. Essentially, in the year that takes place between season 7 and 8, Sam is literally alone, trying to figure out what to do with himself and what path to take. Jared said that Sam hadn't coped with that aspect very well, and the Amelia relationship will become a bit darker for that reason.
Jared went on to discuss how Sam and Dean will have to avoid falling into old habits. He said that often a lot of people that end up breaking up and getting back together end up with the same result that caused the initial break up. In Sam and Dean's case, he said that the brothers would fall into some old patterns out of habit and not realize that they're doing it, but that they will have to avoid that pitfall, too. He also said that Benny will become a wedge between the brothers, changing the dynamic in a different way that will either bring them closer together in the end or not. He also said that their separate experiences in the past year will really come into play as the season continues, showing how both brother had changed through them.
A question was asked about, after now 8 seasons, how easy it was for him to get into character as Sam. He said that it was like any habit or learned skill, such as basketball shooting, to which he demonstrated. He explained that it was hard in season 1 because he was coming from Gilmore Girls and being "Dean" there and had to remember his character's name was Sam and where to stand and such. He said with a new character, as an actor, he spends a lot of time trying to figure out their motivations and remembering what they're supposed to be feeling, and that was the case for him with Sam in the first season. Now, he said it's just like shooting a basketball. He said that he felt he knew Sam extremely well at this stage and that it wasn't hard to get into character.
For filming, Jared went on to explain that the learned habit also applied to shots seen often on the show. He used the typical Impala chat scene as an example, stating that due to the camera angle and the way it shoots he has to lean forward in his seat and a bit towards Jensen to fit into the shot right. He said that it was a bit awkward at first but that now it is second nature to do so in Impala scenes. Jared turned his chair sideways to show us how he usually sits and how he leans towards Jensen, gesturing to where the camera would sit and aim for them each. He went on to say that in a future episode of the season we see Sam and Dean enter a factory where Dean signals to Sam to follow and the director, Bob Singer, told Jared that he had to show his face to the camera because they were only getting the back of his head. Singer told Jared to look around as if Sam was looking for anyone that might have followed the brothers, mainly so the camera could pick up his face for that purpose. He said that Singer often will say that to get the shot right. Jared said that Singer called it the "Busey face."
(Photo by Alice Jester)
Someone asked about Gen's movie Hated. Jared said that she had filmed that back in 2009. I asked him where to get a hold of it. He shook his head and said that he wasn't sure. Since it was an independent film it only had so many screenings and he wasn't certain who or how it was being distributed. It seemed that it was only available in the independent film circuit. He said it had had a small budget to work with as well, which might have hindered some of its distribution. Someone had said that Jensen's movie Ten Inch Hero had been put out by Blockbuster, but with that company now being broken up and tossed to the winds it was hard to say how a film like Hated would be available beyond the film festivals. Someone explained that Blockbuster had undergone a massive dismantle in Canada, which fascinated Jared. He really thought the logistics of that were interesting, especially in regards to how independent films such as both Hated and Ten Inch Hero might make it to the public in this day and age.
Along with this discussion, the question was raised if Gen would ever appear on stage as a guest at one of the conventions. Jared enthusiastically replied that she was very interested in doing so, but was busy with being a mom at the moment. He said that she really loves spending a lot of time with Thomas and that she's really proud to be a mother. He told us that they were here with him because her childhood nanny lives in Chicago and they were here to visit them as well. Someone asked him how fatherhood has changed him now that Thomas is 7 months old. Jared said that it had changed a lot of how he views the world. He said that it made things more "real." He also said that he was talking to Jensen about a week or so prior and that he couldn't wait to have a son, to which Jensen replied "Is there something I should know?" Jared explained that while Thomas is here and he's thrilled with him, he can't wait for Thomas to be old enough to play catch with or teach to ride bike. He said that Thomas has been giggling a lot lately. I asked him what makes Thomas giggle the most, and apparently he's a chip off the old block. Thomas seems to be really proud of himself when he's got a very dirty diaper. Apparently Gen said "PU" once about it and Thomas giggled like crazy, so now they say it often to him just to get the reaction.
After last year's tweeted photo with Jared and Gen dressed as Mario and Luigi, someone wanted to know what Thomas would be dressed as for his first Halloween. Jared smiled wide and said that they had a Yoda costume ready for him. He said playfully, "Maybe I'll be Jabba the Hut," to which he gestured like he was really fat and large like the famous character from the movies. Jared then shrugged and said, "I don't know what Gen and I will be just yet." He did tell us that he'd be tweeting the photo of Thomas in his Yoda outfit for sure.
When I had started to look into getting the Private Q&A ticket this time, I nearly balked. I wasn't sure I could afford, boy am I ever glad that I put the money down. Having a chance to spend a half an hour in an intimate conversation with Jared is worth the price. It's not simply because of the close proximity or the little tidbits about the show or otherwise that you might hear---it's the simple pleasure of having a genuine conversation with him and the other people in the room. There's a relaxed quality to this event at the convention that just isn't quite there in the general panels or the Gold breakfasts. Oddly, for as short of a time as it is, it doesn't feel rushed at all, either. It also allows you to see just how attentive Jared truly is to the fans---not simply because they are his fans and paid money to be there---but because he truly wants to hear what we want to ask and say. What I also loved about Jared's interaction here was while we were asking questions, he asked questions back just as readily. He wanted to know MORE about what we were talking about.
(Photo by Alice Jester)
What really struck me about this particular Q&A was just how at ease he seemed right from the start. There was never a moment where I felt like Jared was checking the time or punching a clock. He seemed just as surprised and disappointed when the woman in charge of timekeeping told him that it was officially over and that it was time for him to leave. Jared didn't want the good conversation to end anymore than we did---and he didn't really know any of us at all. Jared is really gracious in these. In this fandom we often hear the term "Supernatural Family" dropped, but I felt that Jared felt like he was connecting with us on that level in the brief half an hour we had. There didn't seem to be anyone gushing or fangirling over him here. It was a simple, honest, and friendly conversation about various topics from the show to behind the scenes on filming/acting, to Thomas and Gen, to more. Jared was more than willing to share what was on his mind and answer our questions as thoroughly as possible. It left me feeling warm and appreciated as a fan. Most of all, it is Jared's humility that remains with me. I could tell that he was honored to have intelligent fans that wanted to have a good conversation with him.
On the way out, a fan gave him a Tupperware of chocolate chip cookies and a big fat smile spread across his face as he took them. He said enthusiastically, "I'll eat these right away."
After that, sadly, Jared was ushered out the door and we were left to go on with the rest of the day.