Do you know the story of “Brigadoon”? It is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a love story that takes place in a mysterious Scottish village that only materializes one day every hundred years. It’s a magical place, sheltered from the realities of the outside world. The villagers are very close to each other, united by the secret that only they know. They are all under a spell, living in their perfect world that no one else can see, awakening for one day, then disappearing into the mist until it is time once again for their world to be reunited with their beloved Highlands. The story is set to music, with one of the most memorable songs being “It’s Almost Like Being In Love”.
Entering the magical world of a Supernatural convention is a lot like the supernatural world of Brigadoon.
A large extended family comes together once a year for only a few short days. Our community appears out of thin air, brought together by love for the world we cherish and protect. While we are in the confines of the convention, we are all shielded from the outside world, suspending reality and living out our dreams. We are united by a secret that only our small community knows – that Supernatural is a story about the love of family; and that the fans, cast, crew, producers and writers share a bond that makes us family. This little show that largely goes unnoticed is a rare gem that brings out the best in all of us, so we do what we can to preserve and celebrate its uniqueness. Each year when we assemble, our world comes to life. We talk, learn, grow, laugh and grieve together while the outside world spins around us, unaware of our existence. The emotions we experience while in our dream world are “a lot like being in love”, because we truly love the cast who dedicate their time and talent to us and Supernatural. Our dream world lasts for only 3 days, then it dissipates into the mist, its people anxiously awaiting to be reunited again at the same time, in the same place, next year.
The Supernatural Chicago convention is my Brigadoon. Every year I am mysteriously transported to a secret world of happiness and care-free joy for 3 full days.When my magical village appears, the Supernatural family embraces unexpected confessions of tender vulnerability, gratitude and love expressed by people we only see during this magical time.
We are given moments of wisdom and insight,
tucked between improvisational, spontaneous laughter.
Our hearts burst with pride and love when we are invited to join the lives of people who light up the world with their smile, their friendship, their genuine caring, their talent, their charisma and their sincere love for their Supernatural kin.
Our time together is always too brief, though, and we are soon scattered to the wind, until we are called together again in a year. Before the music of my Brigadoon fades into the mist, let me share my very special memories of ChiCon15…
Jared Meet and Greet
Every year I try to participate in this intimate gathering between a wonderful man named Jared and a handful of his fans. For 30 minutes we gather in a small room and talk about things that we couldn’t or wouldn’t ask in front of the entire convention, and Jared is able to share answers that are more personal and befitting the smaller setting.
Mine was one of the first questions, and it partially stumped him. I wondered what he and Jensen had learned from each other after spending thousands of hours acting side by side, portraying the story of the Winchester boys. After thinking a while, he said he learned how to deliver exposition from Jensen. Jared said that when he first joined the show, he wasn’t comfortable delivering these long, explanatory monologues. He felt they didn’t offer any opportunities for interpretation, instead being dry, necessary strings of boring sentences. In fact, his first scene filming Supernatural’s pilot was the scene at a computer, where he had to recite research and background for their case. After watching Jensen deliver exposition in the following several episodes, though, Jared saw how to insert inflection, importance and relevance into these scenes, so he felt he learned the art of exposition from Jensen. Then, with a smile, he said, “and I taught Jensen how to cry”. Somehow his answer made perfect sense to me. Yeah, those are our boys.
In response to other questions, Jared told us several stories about his 2 beautiful sons, Shepherd and Tom. He said Shep is a little… imp (well his word was slightly different. I bet you can guess what it was). The first story was about a time while he was jogging, giving a ride to his boys in their 2 seat stroller. After noticing people laughing and giving him funny looks, Jared removed his ear phones and heard Tom crying “Daddy, he’s pinching me!” It turns out Shep was mischievously taking on his older brother when he knew Daddy wouldn’t see or hear him! Jared also told us about the time he heard “thump, thump, thump” and ran frantically to find that Shep had fallen down a few steps into the basement. Shep just laid prone at the bottom of the steps grinning, with both arms and legs extended, obviously contemplating what had just happened. He decided that had been fun and raced up the stairs to do it again. Daddy had to scramble to intervene just in time. Another time when they were at a friend’s house, Shep snagged their child’s phone then ran around the house with her chasing him to get the phone back. He thought it was so much fun to tease her and outsmart the adults! Jared thinks Tom will be the typical eldest child, whereas Shep will be the younger sibling, challenging rules and seeing how far he can push his luck.
He said he doesn’t really know how much the boys understand yet about television and acting. He retold the story about Tom clicking a side bar Supernatural video clip on an iPad when Gen thought he was watching a children’s show. Tom saw Daddy and wanted to “talk” to him. Instead he saw a scene where Sam got beat up. Tom got very upset and starting crying, “Someone is hurting Daddy!” Gen immediately called the set and left Jared a dozen frantic messages to call home as soon as possible (which scared the heck out of Jared!). After shooting was over, Jared Facetimed with Tom and tried to console him saying Daddy was okay and that it was all pretend. Jared said Sam was all bloody and bruised again when the whole family was just on set with him on Friday in Vancouver. They had to warn Tom that it was all fake and had him touch Daddy’s face to feel the makeup.
Someone asked why Sam got beat up so much in seasons 9 and 10. Jared said because he was Gadreel in 9 and Dean was either a demon or had the Mark of Cain in season 10, the brothers weren’t working together. A theme of the show is that they are stronger together, and since they weren’t united, they were each more vulnerable.
Returning to talk about family, one fan asked him who he was most like in his family. Jared reflected about being sensitive, emotional, responsible, logical and goofy and assigned each of those traits to his mother, father, sister or brother. He also shared that he had a wonderful dinner in Chicago with his sister and her new fiancée the evening before the convention. Being separated by half a continent most of the time, he hadn’t seen his sister since she became engaged. His admiration of her and joy at being able to spend precious family time together was apparent on his face as he remembered their reunion. As an aside, I was able to talk with Jared’s sister for about a half hour in the vendor area. She was at ChiCon selling her “Big Mo” books and art work. She is truly one of the sweetest, gentlest people I’ve ever met. Talking with her is a very special memory for me.
Jared being who he is, our time together of course included some unintentional teasing. Jared was asked a few different questions about the plots in both recent seasons. Jared grinned and said they are in the middle of filming episode 10 in season 11. He was busting to tell us what was in the story because he said he knows fans will absolutely love both 9 and 10.
(*Slight Spoiler Alert*…..) He said 10 contains the only scene in series’ history where all 5 leads are in the same scene together. Some situation puts Sam, Dean, Castiel, Crowley and Rowena together (*end spoiler*)
…and he was biting his tongue not to tell us more! He told us a tiny bit more about the characters that appear in 11.10 and which story line it addresses, saying it’s not what he thought it would be but that we will love it! I could see on his face the battle within his mind as his boss’ voice screamed “you will be in breach of contract if you say anymore!”, and Jensen punching him in the shoulder saying “Shut up! You CANNOT say anything!” It was so typically Jared! He was that imp he sees in his son dying to share fun times with his friends! At least 3 times in the half hour, he said, “the answer to that is in episode 10…and it’s SO good…and I want to tell you SO badly…but you’ll just have to wait until January! A fan observed how wonderful it was that after 11 years he is still able to be excited by the story, the job and the show. He agreed, saying…again… “I’m just so excited! I can’t wait for you to see it because we know you’ll love it!”
He also said that he loved the scene with the reaper Billie. Jared said it is rare, but every once in a while he will get shivers during a scene, experiencing the reaction Sam would have in that moment. He said it happened once when he was playing a scene in which Gadreel was talking to Metatron (Curtis Armstrong). Instinctively, Jared straightened up making himself taller in his chair and broadened his shoulders. He instantly became Gadreel. It was eerie to watch! Jared said the same chemisty happened in his scene with Lisa Berry (Billie) when she told Sam about not coming back from the dead and about being “unclean in the Biblical sense”. Something clicks with the other actor and Jared becomes Sam. He then teased us about when we would be seeing Billie again in season 11!
Fans brought gifts to give him (of course, there was candy – always have to give him candy!). The half hour goes by so quickly, but in that time we’re just friends hanging out, and it’s the best feeling in the world. If you care to read a report of Jensen’s Meet and Greet session, pop over to SPN Fangasm’s blog after you finish reading my story!
Supernatural Cast Panels
Beyond the semi-private encounter with my ‘dear friend Jared’, the rest of the Supernatural cast filled my heart and mind with several other precious memories. The panels this year were incredible. This was my fourth convention and I can honestly say these panels were by far the best I had seen.
Mark Sheppard’s heartfelt devotion to fans literally brought me to tears. At the end of his panels, he usually shares his deep respect and gratitude for his fans. This year, he gave the longest speech I had ever heard him give about the beauty of the Supernatural family and the joys of being a fan. He also mentioned with pride being a new American citizen and showed us his phone’s wallpaper…
…which is a picture of his fiancée Sarah. It is always a treat to listen to his intelligence, wit and wisdom. His years and breadth of experience in the business give him a perspective that is hard-earned and insightful.
Then there was the moment that Kim Rhodes choked up saying that Mark saved her life. She said he was responsible for her “being here” and she owed him everything. She didn’t elaborate because it was clear she would have dissolved into tears if she continued, but her immense respect and gratitude to Mark was poignant and deeply moving. Kim also shared that at one point in her life her agent told her that her career was probably over. She was too old and wasn’t on the short list of actors that producers recognized or asked for. After that disheartening news, Kim said she decided to let go of the worry and just be herself, because obviously no one noticed her anyway. That’s when everything changed, she got cast on Supernatural, and she’s “never been busier in her life”. Her lesson was that she just needed to be herself because that is the only person she should or could be, and life rewarded her for her honesty.
I loved getting my first peek at the bubbling, strong, proud person that is Briana. She also expressed her admiration for her fellow cast, saying Kim was her mentor. It was clear that those two ladies supported each other and were having a blast together. Briana echoed that she tries to be comfortable with herself. She said she is a ‘fuller size’ than most ladies in film but that is who she is now, and she embraces and celebrates the uniqueness that led her to be Donna.
I was surprised and touched by Travis’ sensitivity. He shared the heartbreaking story of why he feels so close to Jared. During their first scene together, when (of all things) Cole was torturing Sam, Travis learned of the death of comedian Robin Williams. Travis is dear friends with Robin’s daughter, and was hit very hard by the suicide of someone he described as a “father to everyone in the business”. He said the acting and comedy communities looked at Robin as a mentor and idol, and he was devastated both personally and professionally by Robin taking his own life. In his helplessness and grief, he reached out to the actor he was with, whom he barely knew, and (of all things!!) Jared was able to help him process and accept how someone he knew could be so depressed that he ended his seemingly graced life.
Travis also talked about how he deeply respected the military but had decided that being a Marine wasn’t right for him when he saw a good man die in the line of duty. He said he just couldn’t personally be a part of ending life. He also didn’t want any fan to be disappointed so he invited them to write down their questions and give them to the convention organizers. Travis said he would make sure to answer them somehow in the coming weeks. The ‘tough guy’, it turns out, is a sensitive, sweet, caring, nurturing individual, and it was an honor for him to trust us enough to share himself with us.
I was also very excited to have Robert Singer take the time to talk to Supernatural fans for an hour. The cast all praised him, and it was more than obvious that they viewed him to be on a completely different level from all of them. Jensen called him his mentor, and said he “fought the real fight” to keep Supernatural on the air all these years. Rich said he was the funniest man he had ever met. Unfortunately, fans didn’t really understand Bobby Singer’s role with the show, so the questions he was asked pertained to plot continuity and character details versus directing, casting, promoting or dealing with networks on our behalf. The only casting question was about choosing Jared and Jensen, and unfortunately Robert joined after the pilot so that was probably the only casting decision he didn’t make in 10 years! He did gave his perspective when asked about the diversity of the cast (which was a legitimate if uncomfortable question) and it was clear he was being honest with his answers, but having been shielded from the fandom most of the time, there was an obvious generational and relationship gap that ruffled some feathers. That was disappointing and awkward, but every debut has its missteps. The admiration the cast had for the man was obvious, but things would have gone much smoother if his job had been explained, or if he would have prompted the panel with some stories. Maybe next time everyone will understand each other a little better.
I had also not seen Ruth Connell before. I enjoyed listening to her light hearted lilt as she danced and skipped back and forth across the stage. Add her Scottish accent to the mix and my Brigadoon was materializing before me! She gave fans “gifts” for their questions, offering them things she had “picked up” at the hotel, such as Starbucks stirrers, cups and lids; sample sized shampoo and conditioner; and sticks of gums from her purse!
Osric’s smile will always light up a room. I actually enjoyed seeing him in a leather jacket and jeans. He looked so much more comfortable, and himself, than when he is in costume.
Another first for me was seeing Tyler Johnston. For a young actor who is relatively new to cons, he was remarkably comfortable with questions, being both witty and fast with responses. He laughed at how many times he sounded “Canadian”, especially when he told several personal stories about his love of hockey!
Honestly, I don’t remember a great deal of Misha’s panel, or of the two panels I saw of Jared and Jensen, but I never do. I try to soak in every word they say, snap every picture I can, and enjoy every minute of their radiant presence. My time with them goes into the pleasure side of my brain, not the rational, memory keeping side, so I completely live in the moment. I usually remind myself of their panels by reading the live tweets that give a play by play commentary but I know you (and I) can relive their entire panels through on-line videos! If you have questions, though, please ask. I’m sure stories will come back to me!
Jensen did make Jared create a new voice mail recording that included us all screaming into his phone. That was fun!
Saturday Night Special
It’s hard to match the fabulous panels this year, but I’d have to say that the Saturday night concert far surpassed every other event at the convention.
I thought Rob and Louden Swain sounded better than ever. They truly are improving their sound and their show with each performance. Kim and Osric on vocals was the icing on the cake. Then Briana blew us away! Wow, can she SING! She delivered an outstanding performance! Mark really burned up the drums, as did Chris (the photographer) and Richard on guitar. They all played longer than at prior performances so it was a real treat. We were stunned with Robert Singer on harmonica and vocals, with a perfect Blues song for ChiTown! Then Jensen… well, you’ve seen the video by now I hope! He was really pumped!
I tried to capture as much as I could on video (the illicit, snuck videos!). They can all be found on the TVFortheRestofUs YouTube channel (Alice’s other site). Do yourself a favor and check them out. My recording skills weren’t great, but you’ll get the idea… and the energy…and the thrill… of the evening. I consider myself very, very lucky to have been present for that performance! It was beyond, beyond amazing.
Often, the most personal, touching moments occur when the cast sign autographs. That is always an opportunity to have perhaps 30 seconds of their undivided attention, so I try to plan what I want to say to each person in my precious singular interaction with them. My special memory of Tyler will always be the impromptu advice he asked of me as he signed my Supernatural book. I was touched that, in that moment, he was simply a young man seeking input from someone who offered encouragement and insight from many more years of living life.
My time with Osric and Briana turned out to be quite funny! I had Osric sign my Top 10 Funniest Lines article. His delivery of “What is Happening” was #1 on my list for the series, and I thought he would appreciate knowing he beat out Jared! He shared that they had trouble getting a good take of that shot because every time he would yell the line, the entire cast would crack up laughing! Briana was at the table next to Osric, and I had her sign her #2 designation with “What the Cuss? A Vampire?” line. I teased her that Osric just beat her out of #1. She stood up and yelled some joking obscenity across at him that involved something like “effing next time”. They both cracked up, which was the exact reaction I was hoping for! It feels really good to brighten their day and give them each meaningful compliments about their work!
The best autograph memory this year, though, came from Jensen. I asked him to sign the “Dear Jensen – The Triumph of the Executioner’s Song” article I wrote earlier this year. I’ve asked Jensen to sign my articles before. In fact, I just had one of his prior autographed articles framed. I’ve always offered him copies but I honestly don’t remember if he took them (he’s not supposed to) or politely declined, but his reactions in the past led me to believe that he wouldn’t be able to read them (which is what I expect because of their schedules!). Based on those experiences I truly did not expect to give him a copy this year. When I explained what he was signing, though, he stopped and looked at it long enough that I realized he was actually interested in what was written! I timidly said “I have a copy…if you’d like it.” He looked up at me, stared me directly in the eyes and said, “I would like that very much!” I was shocked. Stunned. Beyond stunned. “Really?” was my honest, unfiltered response. “Yes, I really would”, he said while still retaining unblinking eye contact with me. So I gave him the copy which included about half of your comments and congratulations (which was all the commenting system would replicate on paper). He took the copy from me and put it with his things. From my experience with Jared taking my “Sacrifice” article, I know things going in “that” bag stay with them personally, so there is a good chance he will actually read what we all said to him! That was the first personal interaction I’ve had with Jensen. Those smoldering eyes of his melting me in that second, and him sincerely being interested in our reaction to his season 10 brilliant performance, created a memory I will dearly cherish!
Photo ops are always such complicated things, but they are SO worth it. This year’s photo ops gave me SUCH long stories to tell but I’m going to try to be brief! Like many other fans, I always plan a pose that means something special to me. Those ideas have to be communicated to the stars at lightning speed in as few words as possible in the 15 seconds you have with them as the photographer focuses and snaps, all while you’re standing next to, talking to, touching and being hugged by Jared, or Misha, or Jensen, or …name the star. Bottom line?
My Jared solo turned out well. The pose worked and I love our smiles even if I had a slight clothing malfunction that will forever aggravate me! He remembered me from the Meet and Greet, which was a thrill, and told me he would give my question more thought. So worth it!
My Castiel photo is adorable. I asked him to “heal” me with his two fingers to my forehead. I am amazed that it turned out as well as it did given that 1) there was a huge mix up and we were raced between Jensen’s autograph line and Misha’s photo line TWICE (they were in separate areas of the hotel) to try to get them finished as soon as possible, 2) the volunteer had just admonished us all that Misha was running behind schedule and we could not have any special poses, and 3) my eyes were pulled so far in one direction to face the camera they physically hurt from the strain! I can’t believe the photo turned out! (By the way, I heard that both Jensen and Misha missed their planes and had to stay overnight in Chicago! Ouch!)
My duo photo op with Jared, Jensen and a dear friend is the longest story. Let’s just say it was ….chaos. Communication broke down and everyone was confused. Jensen hugged my friend upon recognizing her but the photographer thought that was the pose (which it wasn’t). Jared was facing away from me, because I physically turned him around (per our original pose plan). Yeah, I know. Nuts. I turned Jared away from me. I had to be mental!! The room of on-lookers were hysterically laughing because we were all so confused. I was distraught at being inadvertently, totally accidentally excluded because now Jared’s back was to me and I’m standing by myself. At the very last second Jared realized I was being ignored and turned to put his arm around me. I had no idea what was happening. My arm was across my chest, waiting for the hug that never happened, but it looks like I’m nursing a broken arm without a sling. Click. My eyes were shut and my body was hunched over, but Jared’s long arm reached around and pulled me into the pic. Talk about candid! People said they thought the picture was adorable because it so captured the craziness of the moment, but my eyes are closed! I was told to ask to have my eyes photo shopped (which actually is rather creepy if you think about it), but you can believe that’s one memory I won’t soon forget!
Speaking of camera woes, I bought a new camera specifically in the hopes of capturing the precious, fleeting moments of this dream world. I’ve shared a few of the best pics here, but overall, I did not get the album of perfection I had hoped for (I practiced all summer too!). Still, there are several more fun shots than I could include in this narration, so I’ve put the best photos together in a slide show to help you enjoy as much of the con as possible.
Overall, despite the chaos, minor disappointments and memories already forgotten, ChiCon15 was the best con I have ever attended. Everything was taken up a notch. I thought the panels were by far the best I’ve seen and there is no comparison for that Saturday Night Special concert!
Supernatural conventions will always be my Brigadoon, where time stands still, and everyone is completely and entirely happy in our secret world. ChiCon has disappeared into the mist of my memories, but I know it will magically appear again next year, enchanting us all with its spell.
Personal Note: After we had all returned home from the Chicago convention, and after I had written most of this article, we learned that a member of our Supernatural family passed away on Friday night while attending the convention. From the pictures and tweets she posted on Friday, her last moments with us were happy ones. She even mentioned being in “Con Heaven”. Rest in Peace Megan. We hope that you have found your true Heaven and are happy for all eternity in the mist of your dreams.