Please welcome Jasminka, who was nice enough to submit her first article. She offers a unique perspective on our two favorite lead actors. Enjoy, and thanks Jas for the submission.
Angels, Demons & Brothers On Topâ€¦
â€¦ Supernaturalâ€™s Luck of Being Blessed with Extraordinary Actors
From the first episode of Supernatural I became an addict, something I had never really believed possibleâ€¦ You can become addictive to drugs, booze, gamblingâ€¦ but to a TV show? Come onâ€¦
Of course, I have loved many a TV series or movie before, especially when I was growing upâ€¦ when I was a kid I wanted to become Princess Leia and marry MacGyver, and I had a soft spot for Tribblesâ€¦. but I never really became the kind of super-fan Iâ€™ve seen some Trekkies be. Actually, it always struck me as very weird that a young guy would shave his head and dye the hair left grey in order to look like Picardâ€¦?
Now, what is it about this particular show? There are in all likelihood as many opinions as there are fans.
Itâ€™s the whole look, of course, the music, the sexy car, and the gory horror. And itâ€™s the complex, well-developed storyline made up by uniquely talented writers like Jeremy Carver or the always-getting-to-me Sera Gamble, a lady I would love to sit down with over a glass of wine and talk about the joy and curse of writing.
Itâ€™s the high competence in direction put forward by exceptional directors like Robert Singer or Phil Sgriccia or the late Kim Manners, whose art and skill Iâ€™ll probably never stop missing. And, certainly, the man behind it all, Eric Kripkeâ€¦
What I, personally, care a lot about is the high quality of acting we find in this show. From the two leads who shoulder the responsibility of carrying the show and meeting the exertion that comes with it with grace, wit and humour â€“ and with the kind of talent you donâ€™t find every dayâ€¦ to the supporting cast, â€¦ to the small one-sentence-rolesâ€¦
They breathe life into characters that creative minds made up and make us believe that Sam, Dean, Bobby, Castiel, Ruby, Johnâ€¦ and whoever else, are real peopleâ€¦ and they are so good at it that some fans actually butt heads over the question of who the better person is or who loves which character moreâ€¦seemingly forgetting that we are dealing with fictional charactersâ€¦.
What is it about these actors that enthrals us so much?
They are handsome, yes, but that can hardly be all there is to them. Iâ€™m speaking for myself here, of course. I am not at all immune to the charisma of Jensen, Jared & Co., but to reduce them to good looks only would be too narrow by far. People close to me have heard my occasional sigh when Jared flashes that gorgeous smile in a scene or Jensen looks at his â€˜brotherâ€™ with those beautiful eyesâ€¦ reallyâ€¦ and why not? I donâ€™t think any woman who watches the show would deny being attracted to those charming men. But, luckily, physical beauty is not all they have to offer.
Good looks only will not get an actor far in this business. Or, at least, not for long. To build a long and steady career a handsome face might open the door to a studio or a stage, but you need more qualities of substance to prevail, as outward beauty changes with time â€“ we all know that. Whole industries of cosmetics, vitamin supplements or plastic surgery thrive on it.
A mechanic will fix your break line. A dentist takes care of your smile. A teacher will show you how to get that calculation right. But what does an actor do apart from getting high, appear in gossip magazines, wear the latest fashions to red-carpet-events and sleep around? (Just in case â€“ this is, of course, irony.)
Actors donâ€™t cure cancer or invent new eco-technology. They usually donâ€™t save lives on a daily basis like an ER-doc might, and they havenâ€™t yet banned hunger from this planet. And yet we love themâ€¦?
Hardly any working actor can afford to spend night after night in the hippest bars, drinking or fulfilling any other clichÃ© there might be. When you have to be in your make up trailer at 5 or 6 a.m. you need to be rested, so that the make up artist will not have to cover the bags under your eyes every morning. You need a healthy look for the camera, and alcohol or drugs or late night outs will not serve you in the long run (except perhaps when you are playing a junkie)â€¦ You need to take care of your voice, your body, feed it well and work out to keep it strong enough for long hours of rehearsal, a stage performance or a long term shootâ€¦
Furthermore, your brain needs time to recover in order to remember your lines, as it spends hours of tricking your whole body into being somebody else, speaking lines you did not think of yourself and pretending to be a possessed younger brother, a guy who tortured souls in hell,â€¦ to be an angel with doubts, or a surrogate father to two young men you donâ€™t share any DNA withâ€¦?
Why does a grown man put so much effort into being someone else? Did he have a messed up childhood? Doesnâ€™t he like himself much and needs to find out who he is by playing other people? Does he think he is really that interesting that he needs an audience to watch him do that? Hasnâ€™t he grown up, yet, and just wants to play around a bit longer? Or does he simply have trouble with defining reality and in truth is suffering from chronic psychosis?
There might be as many of those clichÃ©s as there are actors, unfortunately, but there is something all the actors that capture our attention have in common: the magic of talent. Every aspiring actor starts out with the wish to act, to tell stories of people in plays or booksâ€¦ They want to be Hamlet or Lawrence of Arabia or Gatsby or Jack Sparrowâ€¦ They might have seen other actors on screen or on stage and decided â€“ this is what I need to do.
And some of those who come to that decision possess what is needed to succeed in this job: talent, of course, but even more stamina, patience, brains and â€“ perhaps more than anything â€“ luck and fortitude to survive countless rejections before getting a chance (hello, luck!) and not allowing those to mess with your headâ€¦ â€˜Sorry, youâ€™re too young for the partâ€™, â€˜Youâ€™d be what we are looking for, but can you lose twenty pounds in three weeks?â€™, â€˜You need to work on your voiceâ€™, etc.
It always is fascinating to watch a young actor grow from an inexperienced freshman who tries â€“ at times too hard and with too much gusto â€“ to desperately breathe life into a character on a pageâ€¦ to a person who, in the very moment he opens his mouth, is no actor anymore, but some guy driven by certain emotions or thoughts â€“ some person everyone believes to be real. A trait we find in abundance with the outstanding actors of this show.
Misha Collins and Jim Beaver have moved me with their performances just as the two leads have, but for the sake of practicality and not to make this article a book, I will focus on Jared and Jensen, though I have been know to say on occasion â€˜gosh, I love Bobby, have I mentioned that I love Bobby?!â€™â€¦ as Mr Beaver brought so much energy and skill to the part that Bobby became the kind of guy I would love to call a friend. Or a father figure. With my own dad gone, Bobby would be the kind of man I would turn to with a problem I would have asked my father aboutâ€¦ thanks to Jim Beaverâ€™s remarkable acting.
When Supernatural came to life, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki already had been working actors. Weâ€™ve learned from the DVD extras and interviews they gave how they got their parts and what attracted them to this show. I have to admit, though, that I had not watched anything they did before. I knew their names, but was not familiar with Dawsonâ€™s Creek or Gilmore Girls or Dark Angel. So, it was a fresh start for me â€“ and I was captured from moment one. (I watched the mentioned shows, and others, later, or some of it, to learn about their journey as actors, and was completely taken aback by how impressively they were able to portray characters at a very young age.)
Depicting two people in a long-term relationship â€“ in this case brothers â€“ is very difficult a task. When we meet people who have known each other for a long time, we instantly feel their history. There are in-jokes, signs of affection (or resentment), and many more aspects that tell us: they havenâ€™t met just now.
As a viewer you know straight away that Dean and Sam are brothers. The chemistry is there. You feel their connection. You sense their background and recognize the messages between lines. For me it all fell into place â€“ this was going to be an exceptional showâ€¦
I distinctly remember the first time I saw Ed Harris in a movie. It was an old video tape of The Abyss. What struck me was the complexity of his character and the ease he played him with. He was incredibly tender in one scene and absolutely terrifying in his rage. I thought I had never seen anyone so perfect an actor. I was in awe (and I still am, whenever I watch him in a movie). Iâ€™m bringing this up, because I feel that Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are endowed with the same kind of ennobling quality as actors, and they have grown so much while shooting this show…
The talent of being able to make a personâ€™s inner life available to an audience is a gift you are either born with or not. Itâ€™s not an achievement. It is grace. And then the work begins. Which means â€“ how do you approach your role? How do you address your partner? Do you grasp all aspects of the part? At which mark do you need to be? Preparation is a huge deal when it comes to acting, like oxygen a fire requires to build momentum. You make up your mind about what you need for a particular partâ€¦
Given the fact that â€“ on the production of a TV show â€“ time is money, there often is not enough time to invest in preparation like an actor might do when working on a part in theatre or in a movie. Everything has to be done fairly quickly and within a tight scheduleâ€¦ which is one more reason why I am so impressed with the talent on display here. Even though the circumstances might be somewhat inconvenient, and (my guess) they donâ€™t really have a lot of time to prepare or rehearse scenes, Jared and Jensen manage to provide us with multidimensional performances â€¦ Everything flowsâ€¦timing, voice, expressionâ€¦
Even more so, as they are able to transfer their abilities to other parts, other movies and shows. Theyâ€™ve both been in movies apart from shooting Supernatural. Jared did Thomas Kinkadeâ€™s Christmas Cottage and Friday 13th, while Jensen shot My Bloody Valentine 3D and Ten Inch Hero in which Jensen showed beautifully that there was more to his character than crazy hair and a kilt, and he did it with a great sense for comedy which is not easy to do.
When I saw Jared in the Kinkade movie, it was a revelation. Next to the unbelievably formidable Sir Peter Oâ€™Toole (allow me to recommend his autobiography â€“ a most enjoyable read, witty, funny, deeply moving, and it offers great insight into the life of an actor and what it takes to be oneâ€¦ the man did not become the legend he is for no reason) Jared delivered a fine performance that didnâ€™t lack anything.
You see, in that role he would have had enough opportunities to bring â€˜Samâ€™ into it (there are some heart wrenching scenes with his on-screen father, his brother or his mother, and the motives are sometimes similar to some aspects of Supernatural), which he does not do. Jared is a completely different person here. Even when he cries there is no trace of Sam. There is a different body language, a differing expression in his eyes, and even his voice changes its timbre. He is young artist Thomas Kinkade.
Back, when Brad Pitt was merely a sex symbol and not an acclaimed actor, he made a couple of films with Sir Anthony Hopkins (another of those actors who will get under your skin with one look alone). Though still being inexperienced in mastering bigger, dramatic parts, with a strong partner like Hopkins Pitt gave some of the best performances in his career. Hopkins gave him a lot to react to, which is hugely important in acting â€“ reacting to what your partner says or does, provided that you have learned to watch and listen â€“ another crucial aspect when it comes to acting organically.
I think the strong presence of experienced Oâ€™Toole gave Jared a lot to respond to which allowed him to bring on such a great performance. I suppose he might have learned a lot there.
Weâ€™ve seen him become a better actor in the course of Supernatural. Most importantly, he seems to be one who does listen, allowing his characterâ€™s emotional condition to change in a manner a real personâ€™s would. Faith, Provenance, Salvation, Houses of the Holy, Born Under A Bad Sign, Heart, Malleus Malleficarum, Mystery Spot, I Know What You Did Last Summer or When the Levee Breaks and Lucifer Rising are splendid examples for that. What goes on in Samâ€™s soul becomes visible in the most astounding way â€“ from his fervent or cracking voice to his tense hands or his trouble catching breath. He finds minimal nuances that add to his authenticity.
It recently dawned on me that the editors sometimes use different material for the recaps or trailers to coming episodes. For instance, the scene in which Sam/Lucifer turns around to look at Past-Dean. In the trailer Jaredâ€™s reaction was slightly different than the one that ended up in the episode. It was a different take. He might have tried various approaches to that particular moment, but he remained in character one way or the other. We meet Lucifer here. Sam is gone. Nothing left of him, except his â€˜meat-suitâ€™. The sadness he displays as Lucifer is as distant from the grief Sam might show as it gets. To my mind this particular scene shows in an amazing fashion how much Jared has grown as an actor. It takes a lot of guts and skill and charisma to tread the fine line of being unbelievably appealing and utterly appalling in the same moment.
Expressing emotion by learning how to look, how to laugh or to weep is not the only skill you need to learn as an actor. Itâ€™s a part of it, of course, yet showing true emotion (so that a member of the audience will actually believe you) is one of the toughest goals you want to achieve. Ideally, you will allow the emotion only so much space as you need to get to the expression necessary. This means, there still is some distance – so that you are still aware that youâ€™re the one playing the character. The character should not play you. When that happens, you will have trouble controlling it.
And you rely on that kind of control when you have to repeat a scene for the umpteenth time. You might need to show a nervous breakdown a dozen times, because the light was not okay or the camera did not catch it all. And every time your despair is required to be equally devastating, and you need to hit your mark, remember where the camera is and what your lines are. As taxing as it is, weâ€™ve seen in the Gag Reels how playfully our two leads deal with it. There is a lot of humour on set, which is without doubt necessary to keep the great work up. And, of course, it makes it easier to challenge emotionally straining scenes.
I have always thought it gutsy to expose yourself with a variety of emotions to an audience, albeit behind the safe mask of a role. For a moment you are somewhat naked in front of strangers, and it takes a lot of skill to be able to do that. And courage. You have to get to the emotion required, you need to take it from a part of yourself and transform it. Not easy. You play tricks on your body. There comes a point when you realize that you donâ€™t want to shiver or weep anymore or you canâ€™t scream or laugh anymore. But you have to keep going until the scene is finished, and you owe it to your fellow actors (and the production team behind the camera) to keep the quality up, so they can give their best.
This show affects me and plays with my emotions. Whenever I watch an episode, and I could take one from Season One or another from Season Four, doesnâ€™t matter â€“ I will always react to it as I have from the very beginning: I will be moved to the core by what these brothers are forced to faceâ€¦ Their search for their father, for redemption, for understanding the other, and so onâ€¦ and itâ€™s the leadsâ€™ acting skills in particular that draw me in every time.
I remain in a state of awe nearly all the time watching Jensen deliver his performanceâ€¦ Iâ€™ve always been a fan of understatement. You might need bigger gestures or turn the volume of your voice up when you are performing in a play and want to make sure the guy sitting in the last row will notice what you are doing.
Acting in front of a camera is a different matter, though.
You also need to take care of expression, voice, body, of course, but with the close ups we get in this show, you can permit a small gesture to surface in order to express a certain emotion â€“ like raising a brow, allow a tear to well up, but not fall, stop breathing for a split second â€¦ and the camera will catch that. Herein lies the struggle and the art of a film/tv actor: play with the camera and keep your naturalness.
Sometimes itâ€™s even better to reduce the whole performance to a minimum to produce the desired effect on the audience. You donâ€™t need to be knee deep in Kleenex yourself, if you want the audience to feel sadness. A viewer will be more taken in by watching you dealing with a situation or an emotion in a natural way â€“ How does a person who usually does not speak about his feelings show joy? How does he deal with sadness or grief? How does he bear pain?
We have met Dean as this cocky, confident, Han-Soloesque guy with a reckless attitude and a big mouth. Despite all that we also discovered a complex and compassionate man. The chinks in his armour came with small gestures, and Jensen is reducing it even more today. He was quoted in Supernatural Magazine: â€˜I might play it down a little bit overall, but then thereâ€™d be a crescendo at a key moment.â€™ â€¦ which is an art not many accomplish. It is difficult enough to deliver a huge set of lines. There is so much to think about â€“ how do you structure a speech, what about breath, which words do you emphasize, etcâ€¦ and still not lose the emotion within it?
Throughout his portrayal of Dean you can spot how closely he pays attention to what his fellow actors are doing or saying â€“ all the while remaining in character. When you look at some of his finest performances in episodes like Home, Faith, Something Wicked, Croatoan, Heart, What Is And What Never Should Be, All Hell Breaks Loose, No Rest For The Wicked, In The Beginning, Yellow Fever, Heaven And Hell, On The Head Of A Pin, Jump The Shark, When The Levee Breaks, Lucifer Rising or recently The End (and here I realized that I actually havenâ€™t seen him deliver a weak performance to date), you will notice how unconditionally he remains true to the character of Dean â€“ even within his future-self â€“ and reacting to others just like Dean would.
Especially in The End Jensen brings out the best you can hope for an actor to be â€“ what he does with his voice alone is breathtaking: it sounds like too much whiskey, too little sleep, too much disappointment and lost hope. I actually caught myself thinking â€“ Jensen, youâ€™re too young to be having a voice like that.
Taken from the journey Dean had been sent on by the creators, Jensen has stepped up his performance (and so has Jared, of course. It is, after all, the story of two brothers, and both actors have managed to live up to the challenge of the complex mind-sets of their characters, probably spurring each other on to get even better).
Jensen behaves â€“ in character â€“ exactly how a person who survived the most horrific trauma might. When you look into the face of a man who was tortured or barely survived war, you will find the same kind of fear, dignity or doubts that Jensen offers. When you compare Season One Dean to Season Five Dean you find a changed person. His body language is a different one, so is the expression in his eyes and even at times his voice. There is the occasional trembling, a soft gasp for breath â€¦ constantly keeping the psychological continuity.
I believe that Supernatural would not have survived on air for five seasons (with speculations of even a sixth one) without the marvellous young actors chosen for the leading parts. I have rarely seen so real, so authentic a performance as Jensen and Jared are giving with each episode. And the other actors who are being brought in for the smaller parts have been chosen with care, as everyone adds to the quality of the show. With the variety of paranormal tv-shows on air theses days, you need more than a great storyline. When you find assets like these actors, a huge part of your work is done.
You could say, they would be nowhere without the fantastic scripts and the immaculate direction, and you would be rightâ€¦ to reduce the success of this show to acting alone would be too narrow an opinion â€“ howeverâ€¦ for instance Hamlet has some of the best lines ever written, and Iâ€™ve seen actors incapable of serving those words well. Now, Supernatural never claimed to be Shakespeare, but the creative minds involved have always aspired to get out the best show they are able to make. And they seem to have fun making it, which comes across.
They strive to entertain their audience, and they are succeeding beautifully. Itâ€™s what presumably any actor who gets into the business for the sake of telling stories (and not to merely become famous) wants to achieve.
They might not get in line for the Nobel Prize for medicine, but they manage to uplift my spirits after a tough working day. Personally, Iâ€™ve always drawn inspiration, hope and courage from books, music or films, when trying not to burden friends and family with a problem. I love to dive into a fictitious world after having been confronted with harsh reality in my line of work. Itâ€™s like sending your mind out to grazeâ€¦ thoroughly enjoying the show and the exceptional storytelling of Jensen and Jared and the whole talented caboodle.
I, for one, will be following their careers with great joy and curiosity, as long as they choose to share their gift with strangers in a movie theatre or in front of a TV screen. Whatever Jensen and Jared decide to do in their professional lives, I will have a lot of fun watching them give the kind of superb performances they have already put into this remarkable showâ€¦ which has actually shaken my confidence that there is nothing beneath my bed. Or is there?