2011 Supernatural PaleyFest Panel, Part Three
Okay: here’s the third, longest, and final part of my summary of the Paley panel. On to questions Mo Ryan got from fans and conveyed to the panel!
Her first one went to Jim, noting that the show seemed to be killing off all of Bobby’s friends, the latest being Rufus. As the audience reacted with an “Awww” of shared sympathy, Jim proceeded to give the most pouty sorrowful look possible, earning encouraging pats on the knee from Misha. You really have to see this on the DVD someday, I’m not kidding! He proceeded to observe that for all the complaints he’s heard about Supernatural killing off all the women, the truth was, the show killed off everybody. To general laughter, he said that was down to the writers, and he thought the writers were the only people who hadn’t been killed yet. Eric protested that comment, pointing out his death in The French Mistake, and the hilarity continued as Jensen in his chair proceeded to mock-act Eric’s death scene, hit three times by shotgun blasts. Eric laughed that the scene hadn’t been written in the script that way – there hadn’t been direction in the script about him taking multiple blasts before falling – and mimed typing as he said he’d emailed Charles Beeson, the director, to say good job, but started it off with “First of all, thank you so much for letting me die in such an amazing way! None of that urinating and begging and crying there would have been in reality. I never looked tougher!”
The next question concerned all the changes there had been in the characters over time, and asked whether there were certain changes or twists they’d simply never seen coming. Jared shifted that one over to Eric and Sera, and Sera said it probably was when Bob Singer pitched Sam coming back from Hell without his soul. She said that happened early on in the planning, when it was just she, Bob, and Eric in the room, and the next thought had been about Dean actually having stayed with a woman and child for a year – something that on the surface you wouldn’t have thought he would do, but once you started thinking about it, made a lot of sense. She said it was a totally weird, uncomfortable place to put both of them to start with, and when you do that to a character, it was like pulling a rubber band way back, giving a lot of slingshot out of it. Mo tossed the question to the actors, and Jared simply gestured at Sera and said he agreed, to which Jensen’s only comment was, “Well put!” Eric added that the actors were being careful because there were a few more curveballs coming.
Mo asked Ben if there were any things he’d pitched that had been deemed to go too far, and after Eric’s obligatory comment about the wishing fish, Ben teased about comments he’d evidently made on the press line, suggesting a live broadcast episode like the recent one on 30 Rock, laughing about having three cameras set up in Bobby’s house to catch the action. Questioning his sanity, Jensen asked if he’d seen that episode, and everyone laughed. Ruminating on all the crazy, creative things they were able to do in the show, Ben pointed to the meta episode, saying the core of that hadn’t even come from him, but when he saw the idea floating across the room he hitchhiked aboard it. Eric added that Ben’s particular gift was to pitch insane things that somehow managed to work, citing as an example Ben pitching the idea of fairies. Sera laughed that he’d walked in that day and said simply, “Leprechauns!” She mimed herself and Eric looking at each other, shrugging, and saying, “Okay!” Eric agreed there’s a lot of trust because Ben delivers every time – up until the time he won’t!
Mo then asked, given the extremes to which the show has already gone in terms of being not just funny, but also heart-wrenching, what was going too far in the world of Supernatural – was there a line they wouldn’t cross where something would be too funny, too dark, or too out there. Jensen offered that he didn’t think there was a line, saying he may have thought so once, but that ended when he found himself in ski boots on a Japanese game show, and then he realized there was no line!
Mo asked next about the monsters the writers were coming up with, and how the monster situation reflected the brother’s lives, and Eric said he loved the job because of the surreal conversations they had in this group of very intelligent, funny people in the writer’s room, with an amazing hilarious mix of high culture and low, where in the same breath they’ll talk about the true meaning of the soul and then segue to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then pornography, philosophy, and all the way around to some scene in My Bodyguard. He said they really did start out with a certain amount of philosophical aspiration, something they wanted to say about the soul or religion. He admitted they were pretty often a lot on the nose, but said they really set out to say something, but at the same time, would reference Blues Brothers or Animal House. He chuckled that they were all reasonably well-read people, but that at the same time, nothing was really cooler than Evil Dead 2.
Mo asked if the word was right, that Eric was writing the season finale, and he agreed, saying he’d just turned in the script to Sera and Bob on Thursday or Friday, and they’d gone through the notes process. He added Bob sent his love, but was still up in Vancouver because he was prepping to direct the episode, which would start shooting late this coming week or early next week.
The next question from Mo came from fans disappointed to have seen so little of Castiel this season, who wondered if there would be a lot more scenes with the angel in the next few episodes. Misha deadpanned that there would have to be some major reshoots for that to happen, but added the heavenly civil war storyline was getting tied up and played out. Some hilarity followed with comments about Castiel and any romantic developments, but that calmed down a little as Sera explained we would be meeting Rachel, a female angel who is Castiel’s trusted lieutenant, and we would find out what’s been going on whenever he’d give them that look about needing to be somewhere else.
Mo asked Jim about Bobby’s scene kissing Crowley, and Jim, shaking his head in amused resignation, observed that he’d been 42 years in this business, and on his tombstone it would say, “He kissed Crowley.” Mo asked laughingly how that went, and Jim said, “I’ve had better!”
With Sam now having gotten his soul back, Mo asked Jared if he was sad or relieved, and if he missed soulless Sam. Jared said he was both, jesting that he missed “the little guy,” saying he really enjoyed playing soulless Sam. He said he’d never been shy about wanting to play dark and disturbed – jesting that it wasn’t as if Sam wasn’t disturbed enough! – but he really enjoyed playing with what the writers had been playing with, the question of what is a soul, what is its effect on your personality and decisions. He said he was happy to be back, but he did have a good time.
The next question was the mirror-image one for Jensen, and this one, Mo read verbatim because she couldn’t resist the phrasing: “Jensen, do you think Dean is finally getting back to be true to himself now that Sam is all soulful Care Bear again?” While the audience howled and Jared patted Jensen’s knee, Jensen shook his head and switched voices to whine, “I miss Care Bear!” and then said he agreed. He added it had been really hard for him to play Dean with soulless Sam, because after building a relationship not just with the actor but with the character for five years, it was difficult to have that relationship severed, but still be working with the same person while the character was so totally different. He said it was a testament to what Jared was doing in playing soulless Sam because he was great in the role, but at the same time, he wasn’t playing the character Jensen was used to working with. He admitted having struggled with it, even calling down to Sera and the writers and producers to say he was working way out of his comfort zone and didn’t know what was going on, that he didn’t have the tools any more that he was used to having for the past five years. He said he was very relieved when he read the script where Sam was getting his soul back, because it meant he could go back to playing Dean the way he was used to playing Dean. He said it was difficult, but it was a good storyline.
The next question was what was up with Dean’s amulet, and that one brought the house down! Jensen immediately passed the question to Eric, who said there currently weren’t any plans to bring it back. When the audience reacted with loud disappointment, Eric riffed that contract negotiations with the amulet hadn’t gone well, and dismay turned to laughter. Saying the amulet was a diva, he joked it was doing a guest shot on One Tree Hill.
The next question Mo asked, I’m very happy to say, was one of mine! She asked of the panel if there was anything that, given the chance, they would want to take back and do over. Eric put dibs on starting that one, saying all he ever saw when he watched the show were the things he wanted to do over. He said it was very rare that he could watch a complete episode – there were only a handful of them – and say, “Wow – we really nailed it!” He said there were things in almost every episode he wished to redo, and joked that people who’ve followed his interviews could probably list off the episodes he actually hates – Red Sky At Morning, Bugs, Route 666. He laughed that just the previous week, he was talking with Bob Singer, who mentioned that the pilot had been on TNT, and Eric immediately groaned about the scene where they walked to the Impala, not because of the way the guys played the scene, which he said was great, but because of the writing. He lamented not having had enough time to do things in a better way, lamenting how the characters, in order to deliver all the exposition about the past, talked about things no real human beings would talk about – “the way Dad raised us to be warriors” – when any normal person on the other end of the conversation would have been saying, “Yeah, I know all of that, I lived through it with you, what are you telling me this stuff for? I KNOW all this information!” Eric laughed that, as passionately as he still reacted to it six years later, you could tell he still wasn’t over it. Jensen chimed in to say he was glad to hear those exposition scenes were so hard to write, because they were equally hard to act, and he applauded the writers for having started giving the exposition lines to guest stars. Eric laughed that another writer once said whenever he had to do that kind of a scene, he always wrote they should put camels humping in the background, because that way, at least the audience would have something to look at. Jared was taking a swig from his water bottle at just that moment, and how he resisted doing a spit-take as his laughter crossed with his swallowing, I really don’t know! There’s another one you have to see to appreciate.
Mo asked if anyone else had a do-over they wanted to share, and Misha volunteered his consummate guest-star decision, in the very first episode where Castiel appeared, to use a deep, powerful, gravelly, kick-ass, window-breaking speaking voice, since Castiel’s first attempts to speak to Dean while still in angel form had exploded television sets and broken windows. He joked now that he may be running into medical problems, and added it would be nice to do an episode where Castiel had a tank of helium with him so Cass could speak the way Misha did normally! Jensen added he remembered the first time he was working with Misha and he went into this – voice – and said after the first take, he turned to the camera department and said, “What is he doing? Did he audition?” The whole panel lost it right along with the audience! Jensen said he’d already told Misha the story, so he knew it, but it was still too funny. Jared chimed in to say that, since he didn’t have scenes with Misha in that episode, he’d encountered Jensen later and asked him what the new guy was like, and Jensen’s response, which they both immediately acted out, was, “Really nice – but what the hell is he doing?” Jared continued pretending to be Jensen, saying “He’s really strange, you know, it’s – he’s really strange.” Then they walked past him, and Jared said Jensen elbowed him in the arm and said, “I think he’s in character. Look!” He laughed that Misha was eating something at the time, yogurt or granola, and had this very pensive look on his face, and after they’d passed and gone into one of their trailers, Jared asked if he was acting, and Jensen had said “Yeah, yeah he looked like he was thinking or something,” to which Jensen immediately added, “And/or on the toilet.” Jensen began to add a praising comment about Misha’s consistency in playing the Castiel character, which Jared promptly derailed by interjecting his consistency was “his saving grace.”
Mo then asked if there were any times when viewers had taken away from an episode a totally unexpected message quite different from what the writers had intended, as evidenced by online commentary and reaction to the episodes. The panel members were generally at a loss until Ben noted the strange thing that happened after Jensen as Dean delivered the line “Fight the fairies!” in Clap Your Hands If You Believe, when “fight the fairies” began trending on Twitter, with the unanticipated reaction from the legitimate gay community thinking it was some kind of attack on gays.
At this point, Mo opened the questions to the theater audience. The first one came from a woman asking, since they knew before the scripts were actually written that the finale would air in a two-hour block, whether that had affected how it was written. Eric said that he and Sera were writing the final two episodes, and there had been some discussion early on that, as they both very animatedly put it, “It should be a MOVIE!” He said that as they were thinking about it, though, stories take on a life of their own, and it became clear there were so many balls in the air, so many plot threads they needed to tie up, that it ended up feeling very episodic. So in 21 some of the mythologies tie up, while in 22 other aspects of the mythology come together. He said they had a hard time writing them at the same time precisely because they wouldn’t come together seamlessly, and they were a little worried about how they would air back to back. He and Sera joked that while they were working on putting the pieces together, they joked it would be awesome in rewrites.
Another fan asked if we would see more development of good and bad demons, complimenting the writers on how they’d faked people out with Ruby appearing to possibly be good and wondering if we’d ever meet a good demon. She also asked about the possibility of any recurring character emerging to be a positive female force on the show as a character who would live. Sera responded that demons are pretty bad and they’d probably played out the “potential good” card with Ruby, so she didn’t expect we’d ever see another possibly good demon. As for a surviving female character, Sera observed that they weren’t gender-specific in terms of whom they killed: they pretty much killed everyone!
Another fan got a huge laugh by asking about the brothers getting bungee cords for their weapons, and Eric practically howled with laughter, promptly reenacting the German fan dressed as the Hookman in The Real Ghostbusters to repeat the question. He laughed that, along the way, they’d actually discussed the idea, since the brothers kept getting tossed around and losing their weapons all the time, but they’d realized there would then be no suspense, since the brothers could just yank on the cord and have a weapon back in hand. Rather than try to figure out a different way for the monsters to menace them, they ditched the bungee cords. Besides, he added the brothers wouldn’t have looked as tough!
Jared laughed that was the same reason they always got soaked in the frequent Vancouver rain: umbrellas wouldn’t be macho or look tough enough. Eric reminisced about giving emphatic notes to Kim Manners after seeing dailies where Kim had given the guys umbrellas because they were getting plastered by a downpour, telling Kim, “These guys fight monsters and slit throats! They’re not going to hide from a sprinkle!” He said he’d forbidden them from ever having umbrellas. Jensen explained that rain just doesn’t read on camera, so even when they were getting so wet that they had to dry their clothes out between every take, the falling rain didn’t show on camera even when it was pouring down. Jared added that the one thing they were allowed to change was Sam’s footgear, pointing out that in the early episodes, Sam was always wearing tennies, but after he had to stand inches deep in water more often than not, they finally had him switch to boots.
Responding to a question about when we’d get to see more of Castiel, Ben and Misha between them said the episode Ben had just directed is very much from Castiel’s point of view, getting into not only the civil war in Heaven, but all the relationships between and among the characters. Misha quipped, “We hear moments from Castiel’s childhood.” I’m pretty sure that part was a joke!
Another fan asked if we’d ever hear the brothers doing more genuine cursing, even if they had to be bleeped out. Eric laughed that they still had to deal with network standards and practices, but that the rules of word usage were really arcane. He said, for example, that you could use the word “dick” as long as you weren’t talking about an actual dick, and similarly you could use “crap” and “balls” so long as you weren’t talking about taking a dump or referring to a specific piece of anatomy.
Another fan asked about the possibility of the character of Missouri Moseley returning in season seven, if we get a season seven, and that prompted one of the best answers of the entire night. Saying that he’d love to bring Missouri back if circumstances allow, Eric revealed that in the original version of Devil’s Trap, the brothers, looking for help in rescuing John, were going to go to Missouri, and she was going to be the one to teach them about devil’s traps and seals of Solomon. Unfortunately, however, actress Loretta Devine had a scheduling conflict, so they weren’t able to get her for Missouri. Eric decided to figure out what a male old friend of John’s would look like instead, and reported that Bob Singer said, “I have just the guy for you,” talking about Jim Beaver, with whom he’d worked before (I remember them both from the Mark Harmon, Marlee Matlin series Reasonable Doubt, among other things!). Eric called it one of the great blessings of the show. Listening to the story, after first showing surprise, Jim mimed passing out in his chair with relief. Eric went on to say that they conceived the character as being avuncular and paternal and crusty, something of a mentor to the boys, and because Bob Singer and Kim Manners were Eric’s mentors, he originally named the character “Bobby Manners” in honor of both of them. Unfortunately, the legal department reviewing the script found a real Bobby Manners in South Dakota, so the name had to be changed. Eric was the one who made it Singer, taking advantage of Bob Singer being out of the writers’ room at the time.
As a little aside here, I ran into Jim Beaver in LAX on Monday, since I had to walk past his departure gate to reach mine. We chatted for a few minutes, and he confirmed he had never before heard the story of Bobby coming about only because Loretta Devine hadn’t been available, nor that Bobby had originally been named for both Bob Singer and Kim Manners. He marveled at both stories, saying he’d never remotely guessed things had happened that way, and he was really happy to know it now.
Another fan got applause and recognition from both Jared and Jensen when she asked why they, unlike certain other series stars, didn’t have executive producer status on their show. Both of them stood up to applaud her, point her out, and then look significantly at Eric and Sera. Eric raised his hands and said that was something that had to be taken up with the studio, because it was a Warner Brothers decision. The whole hall applauded and whistled enthusiastically in support of the guys!
The last question was another delicious one. A male fan asked how they could eventually end the show as well as they would have, if the end had come as originally conceived at the close of season five. He noted that the way Swan Song wrapped things up was very satisfying. Eric first shrugged and said they’d figure it out, but then he dropped an amazing nickel: he said, “There’s a very specific coda I’ve always had in mind, for where all the characters would end up: we didn’t go near that.” He went on to say that when the time comes, they’ll use it.
And that concluded the panel! The Paley Center has been making DVDs of all of the panels lately; it’s pretty clear there will be a Supernatural one. Whether it will be for sale directly from the Paley, or be incorporated into one of the season six DVD packages, I don’t know, but I do know this: it will be worth the price!
I hope you enjoyed the experience as conveyed in words! Thanks for reading.