Bardicvoice's Vancon Reports, Part 5: Julie McNiven
Photo courtesy of sweetondean
Julie McNiven, "Supernatural's" fallen angel Anna, made a delightful solo appearance. Coming onstage immediately after location manager Russ Hamilton, she joked, “I really hope Russ is right about that time machine, because I'd like to have him take me back to 1977!”
Asked about the difference in working on set between "Stargate: Universe" and "Supernatural," she started by laughing, “Well, I died twice on both, so that was the same!” She went on to observe that on "Supernatural," she had only three other actors to work with, for the most part, while SGU had ensemble of 12. Asked which she preferred, her immediate answer was "Supernatural": “I was given a character arc. The writers and Eric trusted I could deliver what they wrote.”
What was the most difficult stunt you've done in your career? “The most fun was the last episode with the hand-to-hand combat with Amy Gumenick. Most of the episode was just, I fling my hand and they'd fly through the air, but the hand-to-hand was awesome. Amy had a swing punch, and I asked Director Steve Boyum if I could add in a little Matrix (pantomiming duck-avoidance). Didn't really catch it, I don't think,but it was like everything went into slo-mo.”
What research did you do to prepare to be an angel? “I did research on angelology, and thought about who Anna might really be in that pantheon, but when I came to the first episode, what mattered wasn't background on angels, but simply acting. I thought about what a person in a high-powered position would do, how they would act. A lot of stillness, measured spoken words.”
Asked how she felt about Anna going bad, she immediately responded that she didn't feel Anna had gone bad. Instead, she thought Anna believed herself to be on a mission to save the world, and thought she could do it by killing one man. She stopped following the rules and went rogue, but didn't go bad.
What was the difference between doing sci-fi/fantasy and "Mad Men"? “Well, the clothes. [chuckle] With sci-fi, you can do a lot of things – die and come back. "Mad Men" was my first real job that brought me to L.A., an incredible show to work on. Brilliant writing. I came out of the first table read in awe. Very little was written for me, so much of the character development came out of what Vincent [Kartheiser] and I did with what we were given. The writers noticed what we did, played it up more, and started to use our elements in the script.”
Have you ever been surprised with how special effects scenes actually turned out? “Always! We never saw anything. For the first one [when I became the angel Anna], it took four hours to set up and shoot. They put dots on my face and brought in a light. The second time, they wrote a lot more description in the script about how I burned to death, all the way to ash, when Michael killed me.”
If you had to write a way for Anna to come back, how would you do that? “Just pop up in the back of the car, that would be fun. I don't believe there's a future for Anna.” [Audience gives a collective, sad “Awwww.”] “Thank you for awwwing!”
What was your favorite episode to shoot, and why? “The last one! I had so much action, and also met Amy Gumenick, who's now a great friend. Doing hand-to-hand was fun. The second episode was also fun because my character was going through so much realization – holy fuck, I'm an angel! – so that was fun.”
Talking about her arc in the show, Julie recalled she was first hired just for two episodes and died at the end, and that was it. “That was all there was supposed to be. Go up to heaven and be a memory in Dean's eyes. The last day of shooting, I discovered she would be coming back.” Surprise!
Asked to describe Jensen, Jared, and Misha each in just three words, she simply laughed. “All three are incredibly funny, I'd just come to set and start laughing, laugh all the way through through 'Cut!' They were all good at goofing off, then when it was 'Action!'” – [She pantomimed a dead-still, serious expression]. “My first meeting with Misha, I thought he was so serious. [The audience cracked up.] I don't know why I thought that! When my husband met him, he asked me why I thought that, because he wasn't serious at all!”
Asked about the love scene with Dean in the back seat of the Impala, she rolled her eyes. “So many long hours of preparation for that scene. So tedious.” She laughed out loud. “There was zero preparation. It's choreographed. I didn't know if we were supposed to tongue or not. I remember thinking, am I supposed to ask him? I didn't ask. I trusted that he'd done this before. There was no tongue, so now I know, of course there's no tongue! During rehearsal, you block the scene but don't kiss; you just move in and back. I didn't know that, so I kissed him in rehearsal. He was a little surprised, but just rolled with it. I didn't know that was wrong until I was working on SGU!” Noting that it wasn't sexy at all to shoot a love scene, she said, “It's a job, there are 35 people all around us, mostly men.” She concluded, “I'm not a fan of Jensen's; I'm a friend. There's a difference.”
The best part of the whole panel came when she reported, “The whole thing with the hand? He wasn't even in the car!” She pantomimed bouncing in the car to simulate having sex, and then drawing her hand down the window – all the time being alone in the steamed-up car!
Asked about whether people on set realized that Jared and Genevieve were romantically involved, she grinned and said that Jared and Gen were flirty with each other on set, kicking and teasing each other, and that in hindsight, she realized they were together.
Asked to recount any funny fan stories, Julie said she had met two male fans, one at this con and one in New Jersey, both with restored 1967 Impalas. Both had invited her out to see the car. The story turned into a hilarious riff on the classic “Come see my etchings” come-ons, but with Julie saying at the end that she didn't believe either of the guys really had any seductive intent – they really did just want to show off the cars!
I asked which aspect of Anna she had been most grateful to be able to play, since Anna had run the gamut from troubled, frightened girl all the way to commanding angel, and she answered that her favorite part of the role was when Anna was an empowered angel, accepting her mission and being willing to break the rules to do what she believed in. She said that had been her first opportunity to play a truly strong, empowered woman. She said that she had played a lot of – well, not weak women, but victims, or at least women who were not strong.
Given the opportunity, I followed up by asking whether any of the things she had played had ever translated into her real life, such that she had applied lessons learned from playing characters to herself, and she answered, “I guess ... yes. I think we women often don't really become mature women until the latter half of our twenties; I know that's been true for me. I think you collect everything into your experience, including what you learned playing characters.”
Asked about other shows she would like to be in, she said she would love to be on "Breaking Bad," but thought the only roles for someone like her would be meth-heads or other addicts. She said she would also like to be on "Sons of Anarchy," but thought her chances were poor because – as she put it – “They only want porn stars and titty girls, and I don't fit [looking down at small breasts].”
Asked her favorite line from "Supernatural," she said it was probably the one she used when she killed Uriel. She said she couldn't recall it precisely, but she loved the essence of it: “Maybe, or maybe not – but there's still me.”
Asked what other character she would have liked to be, she laughed that she sometimes said young Mary, but thought Becky the fangirl was also hilarious and would have been great fun to play.
And that was it for Julie and Anna. Next up – the two Marks: Pellegrino and Sheppard, the kings of Hell!