“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – working on “Supernatural” has been one of the highlights of my professional career. I am truly indebted to each and every one of you who have embraced my character and enabled me to come back to the show repeatedly to play – without question – the most fun character I’ve ever had the good fortune to play.” – Richard Speight Jr.
That is part of a message Richard posted on his Facebook page after the demise of his Trickster/Gabriel character. How many guest stars are classy enough to post such a sweet message to us all? Only one that I know of, and he was just as classy to give us a bit of his time for our summer hiatus interview series.
While Richard is definitely a fan of the wise-cracking, candy-loving, demi-god Trickster and the seriously powerful archangel Gabriel, he has had other genuine high spots in his career, as well. One is his starring role in the award-winning dramatic miniseries “Band of Brothers,” filmed on location in London where he had the good fortune to meet his wife.
He has also played popular characters on CBS dramas “Jericho” and “The Agency” and has appeared in numerous other films and TV shows, such as “Thank You For Smoking,” “Into the West,” “Independence Day,” “CSI: Miami,” and just recently on the highly acclaimed FX series “Justified.” He also co-wrote and starred in “Adrift: Open Water 2,” as well as directing and starring in the feature film “North Beach,” described by critics as “a little gem” of a comedy, which, BTW, they liked very much.
Whether you’re a devoted fan or a casual viewer, you will not want to miss Richard’s portrayal of the Trickster, a character best described “as a cross between the Norse god Loki and the Greek god Pan” with a little demonic twist thrown in for good measure. The character presents an extraordinary balance between the comedic and the dramatic, the light and the dark, which Richard can play to delicious perfection.
He appeared in four episodes of “Supernatural,” and each was a gem of the series. We first met the troublesome Trickster in “Tall Tales,” where he was animating the improbable stories found in tabloids, such as alien abductions and alligators in sewers; and the second time, two years later, in “Mystery Spot,” where he plagued the Winchesters by trapping them in a time-loop very reminiscent of the movie “Groundhog Day.” In the very pivotal episode “Changing Channels,” he revealed his Trickster facade was a trick in and of itself: he was actually the archangel Gabriel and destined to play a pivotal role in Dean and Sam’s own fate, which he did in “Hammer of the Gods,” an epic episode with its own version of a “Clash of the Titans” where forces to be reckoned with came to light. In other words, lots of choice items for an interview.
We thank Richard for taking the time to talk about the many faces of his duel personalities in the series, his career, the “Supernatural” fandom, and his future ventures. Here’s hoping one future venture is his timely return to “Supernatural.” We can always use a little Trickster pandemonium to spice up our lives.
You started your show-business career in Nashville at age 5 by taking tap-dancing lessons with your two older sisters, which is adorable. How did you advance from dancing to acting and when did you realize you wanted to pursue acting full-time? Were your parents supportive of your decision?
Tap dancing was really fun for me. But let me clarify – I didn’t start taking dance because I had a burning desire to express my emotions through body movement – I basically did it to stave off boredom. As the youngest and the only boy, I got dragged to a lot of dance classes where I had to sit in the waiting room with my mom and wait. And wait. Eventually, I figured I might as well join in. Ballet, modernâ€¦ those styles of dance didn’t interest me. But tap looked fun. I really enjoyed my years of dancing. It gave me my first experiences on stage, but more importantly, it introduced me to the camaraderie that is unique to the world of theater, the bond that is formed – and formed quickly – between performers putting together a show. I found that bond addictive.
I always loved movies, so when I got my first speaking role in a film (one that was shooting in my hometown of Nashville, TN), that was it – I was done. I knew instantly that was what I wanted to do for a living. For me, that didn’t mean drop out of high school and move to California, it meant pick a college in or around Los Angeles and major in theater. I broke that news to my parents when I was 15. I told my Dad first and assumed he would be less than thrilled, but he was great. Both he and my Mom were very supportive right out of the gate. My sisters were, too. I’m very fortunate in that regard. The career is so up and down, a consistent support system is invaluable.
You attended USC to study theater. Regarding the college, you stated: “I came from this smallish conservative town, playing sports and doing the acting on the sideâ€¦. And other people were showing up to college and sitting around playing acoustic guitar naked while smoking pot. But I sort of came to embrace the madness that was playing guitar naked and smoking pot, but from afar…When I showed up people usually put their clothes back on.” USC needs you to write up their recruitment brochure because I’m sure enrollment would skyrocket after that description. As you graduated cum laude, clearly it wasn’t all pot-fueled naked guitar-playing, but do you feel that expanding your horizons and opening yourself to these new experiences helped you greatly in your acting studies? Coming from a small, conservative town, did you find it difficult to focus on said studies and not go overboard with your new-found independence in such a rich environment?
No, I really didn’t. I’m not much of a free spirit. I’m not a drug guy. Never have been. I guess that’s why parties usually ended when I showed up. I was at USC for one reason – to get an education. Not just a college education, but an acting education. Sure, I met a lot of different people, went to a lot of football games, downed a beer or two, and made an ass of myself one or twice (or thrice), but I think a lot of kids away from home for the first time do the same. But I didn’t have a hard time staying focused. It was focus that brought me to LA in the first place.
While acting is clearly a passion for you, there are other various aspects to your profession, including writing, directing, and producing. In the comedy “North Beach” you used your musical gifts, as well. Do you have any plans to continue developing your behind-the-camera talents? If you pursue directing, would you like to direct a “Supernatural” episode in the future?
When I’m not acting, I’m writing. That’s my other passion. I do love directing and will do that again, and yes, I would love to direct a Supernatural, but at this point, I’d probably only get that shot if I were much more involved with the show as an actor. And odds are I’m not going to be because I’m dead.
Speaking of “Supernatural,” for us, the highlight of your career was landing the part of the Trickster. How did you get the role? Were you asked to play the part or did you audition?
The part was offered to me through casting by Bob Singer. He produced and directed a pilot I was in several years ago called “Sam’s Circus.” In that show, I played a Southern, alcoholic World War II medic.
Seeing you at “Supernatural” conventions and in your Pepsi commercials, there seems to be a lot of the fun-loving trickster in you naturally. Could you identify easily with the role and do you find yourself more drawn to roles where you are able to let your personality become part of the character?
Any character you play innately has some of ‘you’ in it. Some more than others. I think of myself as a fun-loving guy, and that energy does lend itself to the Pepsi Max spots and to The Trickster/Gabriel. But the ‘me’ that seeps into the other roles I play, even if the material is more on the serious side, is just honest as the ‘me’ that infiltrates the funnier stuff. It just may not be as obvious to the casual observer.
“Tall Tales” was a really fun episode and the first time you were on the “Supernatural” set. What was that experience like for you? Did you find it a fun and challenging place to work? Most importantly, did they let you keep the jumpsuit?
No, they kept the jumpsuit. Too bad, too. It’s the perfect attire for so many events.
It was a great place to work from day one. The crew is second to none. Damn, those Canadians are nice. It was challenging in the way that any workplace is challenging when you are new to the people and the place, but they have created a very friendly, supportive work environment up there. And Vancouver is one of the greatest, most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited. I loved it.
Your character developed from “just” a troublesome Trickster to a powerful archangel and brother of Lucifer in the mythology arc. You were even given a romantic interest in “Hammer of the Gods.” When you began the role, did you ever expect your character to grow in personality as it did?
I didn’t expect it to grow at all. I assumed I’d do my one episode and that would be that.
Everything else they gave me was a surprise – and a pleasant one at that. I love the way they moved my character from a one-off Trickster to an Archangel embedded in the central story line. It was seamless and shocking to everyone – even me.
Before we knew the Trickster was actually an archangel, he caused serious heartache for the boys in “Mystery Spot” and in the end felt remorse for his actions, which is not a trait of either character. How do you feel this episode relates the Trickster to Gabriel and the episode to the myth arc overall?
I have to disagree with you. I don’t think he felt remorse at all in “Mystery Spot.” He was out to prove a point – that brothers can’t be counted on, that they will leave you when you need them most. Obviously that is how Gabriel views brotherhood given his experiences with his brothers (we didn’t know that then, of course). If he can convince Sam of the same thing, then he would feel justified in having bailed on his own family. But he can’t. Sam won’t give in, he just goes postal. It really chaps the Trickster’s hide. He is annoyed and frustrated, but not remorseful.
The big reveal that your character was actually Gabriel and not just a Trickster was clever, but it does beg the question about why an archangel-in-hiding would take such a risk of exposure with Tricksterism. Why do you think Gabriel re-invented himself in such a fashion? Was he merely bored or was it some sort of backhanded cry for attention?
It was the ultimate disguise that enabled him to engage in some serious anti-angel behavior. Murdering jerks, banging hotties, gorging on sweetsâ€¦ not a bad way to kill a century or two.
“Changing Channels” was not only one of the iconic episodes of the series but a very pivotal one in the mythology arc. When did you find out the Trickster was being remade into an archangel and why do you suppose Gabriel decided to side with his family against the brothers after mistrusting his family so much, he ran away and hid on earth? Regardless of the tense scenes the episode had, it seems everyone was having a good time with it. Was it a fun episode for everyone to film?
I found out about my archangel status about a week before filming began. I think he sided with his family for the obvious reason – they were his family. Remember his history – Gabriel took off when it got sticky at home. He didn’t stay and try and solve the problems his brothers were causing. I think the fact that he ducked responsibility for so long pushed his sense of familial responsibility. But that didn’t last long. When Lucifer clearly cared only about his own apocalyptic agenda, Gabriel stepped up. Sadly, to no avail.
And yes it was fun to film. But to be honest, every episode of Supernatural was fun to film. It’s a great group of people making compelling TV. What isn’t fun about that?
In “Hammer of the Gods,” you had a very intense scene with Lucifer. Gabriel seemed to be genuinely grieving the loss of the relationship with his own brothers and Lucifer seemed to regret having to kill Gabriel. Do you feel Gabriel’s grief at the loss of his own brothers was the reason he decided in favor of Dean and Sam? Do you feel Gabriel did reach some part of Lucifer in the end?
No, I don’t think Gabriel’s grief at the loss of his own brothers was the reason he decided in favor of Dean and Sam, I think Gabriel sided with them because he could see that Lucifer was out of control and that the boys, who were fighting for all the right reasons, were in over their heads. An intervention wasn’t going to cut it. He had to be stopped. Gabriel spent his life trying to avoid conflict, but in the end, a confrontation was unavoidable. It’s hard to say if Gabriel had an effect on Lucifer or not. If I had to answer ‘yes or no,’ I’d have to go with ‘no.’ Gabriel gave it the old college try, but Lucifer’s a tough nut to crack.
Once the Trickster became the archangel Gabriel, you had a more pivotal role in the series, tying your character to the myth arc. However, once the myth arc ended, so ended the need for the Trickster/Gabriel character, much to the fans’ dismay. That said would you have preferred the Trickster not be part of the mythology and just popped in from time to time to harass Dean and Sam? How do you feel about your character’s sendoff?
It isn’t my story to tell, it is the writers’. I am honored to have been handed such a plum role in such a cool series. If the Trickster had never become Gabriel, then I never would have gotten to play the duality of both characters in a single episode, the most fun, layered episode of TV I’ve ever been a part of. Do I wish the Trickster/Gabriel was in every episode of the series? Yes. It is the greatest, most unique character I’ve ever gotten to play on TV. But that wasn’t my load to bear in this show. They [wrote] my character(s) in when they needed him (them). I’m fortunate to have had four shots at it.
In Amsterdam, Jared inadvertently used an emergency system to stop a train in an attempt to retrieve his wife’s suitcase mistakenly left on the station platform, not realizing the process would stop ALL trains in the city to avoid any train colliding with the stopped one. You were with him at the time. Mark Sheppard’s comment once he heard about the incident was, “”YOU BLOODY IDIOT!” â€¦but only because he had always wanted to do that himself. So we have to know, would you ever ride a train with Jared again? And aside from the train episode, what was the best memory of your extensive “Supernatural” convention-inspired European travels?
Hell yeah, I’d take a train with Jared again. He paid for my ticket! The conventions have been stupendous bonuses to the wonderful experience of actually shooting the show. Because of the conventions, I am now friends with Jared, Jensen, Misha, Mark Shepherd, Rob Benedict, Chad “The Kid” Lindberg, Matt Cohen, “Skin Tight” Sebastian Roche… I never acted with most of these guys but have bonded with them on the convention circuit. The places I’ve gotten to visit because of this show – Italy, England, Germany, New Jersey – blow my mind. I have had some GREAT experiences abroad with these guys. At the last convention in Rome, I went sightseeing with Rob, Sebastian, and Chad, and am still laughing about some things that were done and said that day. In America, spending a day with those guys would be akin to watching paint dry. But take ’em to Europe and suddenly they’re a delight! Seriously, all the actors are super bright and friendly – and most of them are pretty damn funny, too.
Then there are the fans! Holy cow, what a great group of fans! It’s mind-boggling! When I started this Supernatural experience, I think 37 people knew who I was, most of whom shared my same last name. Now there seems to be a healthy chunk of folks out there who care to hear about what I’m up to and want to watch everything I work on. That is amazing. I value that support beyond words.
You have a very ardent fan base within the “Supernatural” fandom, and they came out en masse for your Pepsi commercials. Rumor has it that your appearance resulted in more online response for you than for Snoop Dogg. How well was that received by the Pepsi management and Snoop Dogg? Will you be doing more commercials for them?
I believe I will be doing more Pepsi Max spots. And yes, the online response to my Pepsi Max stuff from the Supernatural fans has blown everyone away, even the Dogg Father himself. I didn’t get more attention than Snoop, but for a short white guy in a Pepsi uniform standing next to a hip-hop icon, I didn’t do too badly. Honestly, Snoop’s team was really surprised by how much attention I get on line. That’s all thanks to the Supernatural fandom. It was at a Snoop shoot that I finally gave in and joined Twitter. Super glad I did, too. I love reading fan comments, seeing their art, and communicating with them when I can. A Facebook Fanpage is great for that, but Twitter is even better. It is so instant. I love it. Thanks for getting me hooked, Team Snoop & Pepsi Max – I owe you! (If you’re not following me yet, hop on the Speight Tweet Train at @dicksp8jr!)
What does the future have in store for you? You have two movies in post-production: a comedy, “Three Blind Saints,” and a thriller, “Crave,” also due to be released this year. What can you tell us about them? Do you have any other projects lined up?
My part in “Crave” is more of a cameo. That film is written and directed by my long time friend Charles de Lauzirika. It is going to be great. I was happy to be able to help him out, and I encourage everyone to go see it when it hits a theater near you.
I’m the lead in the family friendly romantic comedy “Three Blind Saints” that should be out this fall. It falls into the “Faith Based” genre, but don’t let that turn you off – it is a fun ride (with a little heart) that has some solid laughs in it. I’m a big fan of this film and the people behind it. I hope everyone will check it out and enjoy. [You can follow “Three Blind Saints” at @3blindsaints.]
As other projects that pop up, I always discuss them on my Facebook Fanpage
(www.facebook.com/pages/Richard-Speight-Jr/82564029662?ref=ts) and on Twitter
Thank you for your time and attention.
And thank you, Richard, for the wonderful, cunning, and crafty way you have warmed our hearts on “Supernatural.” The mayhem-causing Trickster/Gabriel is easily one of the most fun and most-favored guest characters on the series. “All I know is that playing the Trickster has been one of the high points of my career,” Speight remarks. “To have the character so well received is icing on the cake.”
Whether you are a Trickster’s chick, a Gabe’s babe, or one of the 26,000+ faithful Twicksters on Twitter, we all agree that Richard Speight Jr. has left an indelible mark on “Supernatural” the series and its fandom for all time. And he continues to impress the fans at conventions worldwide. Hopefully, he will attend them for all time, too.
As no one stays dead on “Supernatural,” let’s all hope for a quick return of our tricky prankster angel in season seven. “Supernatural” will never completely devoid itself of the mythology arc, and Richard’s fans will never devoid themselves of the demi-god/ archangel character they love so well. To TPTB, heed our warning; WE WANT GABE BACK!
Myself and all here at The Winchester Family Business wish to send a special thank you to Richard Speight Jr. for participating in our interview series. You can read the entire message Richard posted on his Face book account by clicking here.