William S. Paley Television Festival 2011 (transcript)
2011 William S. Paley Television Festival
March 13th, 2011
Original article from Eclipse Magazine, with corrections to the transcript and additional annotations
The first person to start the introductions was Debra Birnbaum, Editor-in-Chief of TV Guide Magazine. She explained how, for the first time this year, TV Guide allowed the fans to choose the cover of an issue through an online voting system. After over five million votes recorded, the winner was Supernatural! At first the votes had reached 100,000 and the editors all thought ‘it was pretty cool.’ Then the votes hit one million and they thought ‘that was amazing.’ The final vote count was beyond belief.
Another poll was held recently, The Fan Favorites Awards, the voting on which just closed. Even though the results will not come out until mid-April, Debra stated, “I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say I was at a photoshoot with a couple of the guys backstage.” Appropriately, the theater erupted in cheers and Debra praised the guys on their good looks. Actually, her exact words were ‘those guys are hot!’ Thank you, Sam and Dean for saving the world each week.
Debra then introduced the moderator for the event, Maureen Ryan, the lead critic for AOL’s TV Squad and a huge fan of Supernatural. A small trip of the tongue labeled Maureen as lead critic for TV Guide, but that was followed by a quick correction (and apology to Matt Roush).
Despite some initial nerves, Maureen kept her introduction short and instead of some long narrative she stated that a certain song kept occurring in her thoughts as she was preparing for this program. It is a classic rock song whose lyrics seem very appropriate to the challenges faced by the Winchesters. Without making any attempt to sing, Maureen read the lyrics to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” And with lyrics that include mentions of Heaven and Hell, pain, heroes, ghosts, cages and souls, it was indeed ideal for a show that we all know and obsess over. And I may have imagined it a bit, but I am pretty sure that our marvelous moderator may have gotten a bit choked up thinking about the pain, the heartbreak, and the brothers as two lost souls.
This segued into the introduction of Executive Producer Sera Gamble, who took over showrunner duties in season six. She thanked the fans for continuing to vote for Supernatural in all the polls and introduced a montage put together by the amazing post-production team. The video contained highlights of the season so far and “a couple of little treats” which referred to extended footage of outtakes from The French Mistake. Sera stated that this is one of her favorite episodes of the entire series “in which Jared and Jensen do some of their best and worst acting simultaneously.” Another one of the treats was a scene from the much-anticipated Western-themed episode, which will air when the series returns April 15 following this spring hiatus -- or as fans lovingly refer to it: hellatus. The montage was set to the song “Are You Man Enough” and began with the customary “The Road So Far.” It featured scenes from the season to date and at the end included extended takes of the ‘bad acting’ scene from The French Mistake. The “Soon” teaser began the scenes from the Western episode.
The preview clip opens with an angled aerial view featuring typical buildings of the Old West in the background, a dirt road in the middle, and a hangman’s noose hanging to the right of our screen, from which this vantage point is shown. The screech of a falcon is heard from overhead. The location is “Sunrise, Wyoming, March 5, 1861.” The background music is without a doubt, old-time-western movie.
We see the first man from the knees down as he walks into the scene, complete with long duster coat and spurs on the boots. A second pair of legs walks on, jeans tucked in the spurless boots, as an observer peaks out from behind a curtain. The vantage point from the noose lets us see that this is heading towards the standard shoot-out, seen in so many spaghetti Westerns. The coats are flipped back as the men prepare for the quick-draw. A close-up of the first man shows concentration. Both mens’ hands are poised by their guns. We see the Sheriff’s Star on the second man, and as the camera pans up to his face, we see that it is Dean Winchester. (the theater erupts in squeals and screams). The time on the clock is a couple of minutes shy of high noon. As the men quickly draw and shoot, the screen fades to black. The teaser then goes to the title card with the edges burning like paper, and the music and logo font reminiscent of “Bonanza,” before it shatters in the manner of the season six title card.
The next part of the preview takes us to Bobby’s house and we see the bag of gold that was collected by the dragons and found by the brothers in episode 6x12 “Like a Virgin”. Sam and Dean come down the stairs, Sam dressed in a white shirt adorned with Western-style embroidery just below the shoulders. With indignation, Sam proclaims that they look ridiculous. Dean is in full gear, complete with cowboy hat and sarape.
“Is it customary to wear a blanket,” asks Castiel standing behind Bobby.
Dean, obviously proud of his wardrobe choice responds, “It’s a sarape, and yes it’s uh... never mind let’s just go.” He cuts himself short as he realizes the others aren’t as appreciative of his sarape as much as he is. Seeing the gold he asks “What’s this?”
“Where you’re going, they don’t take plastic,” Bobby responds.
Castiel then tells them, “I’ll send you back to March 4th. That should be enough time to find the Colt. And this Phoenix creature.”
Dean zips up the bag filled with gold and his regular gun. “Alright, well, see you at high noon tomorrow.” He gives a click of his tongue and a wink of his left eye.
Castiel touches their foreheads and they are zapped back to the past. They examine their surroundings as a small sign states “Sunrise, Wyo.” While Sam seems resigned, Dean appears to be in awe, like a kid in a candy store. “Oh, now we’re talking!”
We cut back to Bobby’s place where Castiel states, “I have to go.”
“What about getting the boys back?”
“Pray for me in 24 hours and I’ll return.”
“I’ll pray for all of us,” Bobby states with a concerned look as he sets his timer for 24 hours.
As we cut back to Sam and Dean, Sam is also setting his watch for 24 hours. “Alright, let’s go find Samuel Colt.”
“Maybe we should go find a saloon first, see what we can get from the locals.”
“Sure, whatever you think.”
“I wouldn’t mind hearing from the saloon girls.” Sam shoots him a get-serious look. “Kidding. Let’s go.”
Sam puts on his black cowboy hat, and quickly manages to step in a gross, but common ‘item’ left by horses on those western paths.
“You know what that is?” Dean asks, almost pleased at the discovery.
Holding on to Dean’s shoulder for balance as he tries to shake off the offending material Sam states, “Yeah, it’s horsesh--”
“It’s authenticity!” Dean cuts him off. The brothers continue walking into the town as Sam struggles to shake the, um, ‘authenticity’ off his boots. And this is where the preview ends, leaving us yearning for more and having to wait much too long with spring hellatus.
Maureen asked the audience if they were excited to “go West with the Winchesters” at which point the theater erupted in appropriate cheers. The panelists then came on stage (to often ear-shattering screams and cheers) with Executive Producer and Writer Ben Edlund leading the way, followed by Jim Beaver, Misha Collins, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki (hi-fiving everyone as if he hadn’t seen them in ages!), Sera Gamble and Eric Kripke, the Creator and original Executive Producer.
Maureen began the questions to the panel by asking about the meta episode “The French Mistake”, from which we had just seen some hilarious outtakes.
MAUREEN RYAN: We all viewed the outtakes from The French Mistake. What was the reaction in the room when the idea was first pitched? Where did it come from?
BEN EDLUND: It started from the discussion about leaping into a movie, and out of a movie, something along those lines. It crystallized and exploded when (pointing to Eric) you, Kripke, said ‘what about if it were Jared and Jensen?’ It was just such a great, mind-breaking, nightmare thought. I was immediately on board, I thought it was great. And I think that Sera was there too. So it became the challenge of how could that possibly all work. It became a delicious puzzle for us all. And you guys watched it and enjoyed it.
MAUREEN: Was this going too far in breaking the fourth wall? You’re just not breaking that fourth wall, you’re blowing it up and exploding it.
ERIC KRIPKE: I’d say that happened daily! There were discussions--
BEN: Calls from the legal department... What are the ramifications?
ERIC: I just have to say this about the legal department. “We’re not sure, we’re checking right now, but we’re not sure you’re allowed to depict the behind-the-scenes of a CW show.” And we were like, "But WE’RE a CW show. How many behind-the-scenes are there?" “Well, we’ll see, and everyone has to sign releases.” And daily there were questions -- every day it was someone and it kinda rotated through -- every day someone was wondering if we were ever going to recover from really pulling back the curtain in that regard. But what I said to Sera and Bob (Singer) at one point when we were having these discussions was that "guys we are in the sixth season of a show that at this point the network lets us do basically whatever the hell we want. None of us in our careers will ever be in a situation again where we would be able to pull this off, so that’s why we have to do it."
MAUREEN: This may come off as too fancy of a theory, so please feel free to shoot me down, but it almost felt like there is such an active and engaged online fanbase that posts commentary on the show. For you guys making the show and writing it, does it feel that doing this meta episode then becomes your way of joining that commentary on Supernatural, which has become such a vivid part of ?
JARED: Cause that's... (makes joke about bending his head down to speak into his lapel microhone.) Who is that (question) to?
(there was hesitation from the panel and not sure who should answer. Jared joked that it was a tough question and could it be repeated. Maureen asked if it was a fun way to join in that commentary, urged the actors to jump in with an answer, further asking what their reaction was upon seeing the script and if they were defensive that their trailers are not really like that.)
JENSEN: It was the first time ever that we (as actors) ever got called in to comment when they were pitching the idea. Normally we just get the script, or the outline--
JARED: (imitates barking an order) You’re gonna do it!
JENSEN: Personally at first there was a slight hesitation along the lines of (incredulously) –what?! They want us to do what?! -- (imitating Kripke in a fast-talking, manic, demanding manner) No! It’s gonna be great! Listen to me, Jensen!
JARED: (also manic voice) And it explodes!
JENSEN: Normally to the point where he just talks me down and I just wilt away. ‘Whatever you want to do, I don’t care.’ And it was really out there to do, even for us. And that’s saying a lot!
JARED: And they talked to us first, which was wonderful, and I loved the idea but 'can we NOT play Jared and Jensen?’
JENSEN: Yeah, that was the biggest (request) he and I had, we didn’t want to play (ourselves) -- ‘cause... I’m not that interesting!
JARED: He’s not! (Jared acts out agreement to the statement, which Jensen acknowledges, and then quickly feigns confusion as he's thinking it through. He looks at Jared, who tries to keep a straight face, and then looks at Misha who looks away innocently. The facial expressions were hilarious watching them react to and play off each other, and Jensen keeps it going a long time while everyone cracks up.)
MAUREEN: Oh no, they’re not talking again! (audience laughs) Misha, ...
MISHA: (Interrupts her) I'm sorry to cut you off, but you've been talking a lot. (audience laughs) For my part, when I heard the idea I don’t usually send emails but (pretends to type) I sent them an email and my comment was ‘can you please make the Misha character a total douchebag?’ At first I was met with some resistance, and I had another volley, and what I got honestly in the end was sort of a watered-down douchebag.
JARED: What they're not saying to him is when he thought he was sending them an email, but it’s not their real email address. So they just made his character as real as possible.
MISHA: Well whoever responded I think they basically said... ‘no’. So I tried to douchebag-it-up as much as possible. Ultimately it wasn’t a total douchebag, just kind of a douchebaggy me! (audience erupts in laughter making some of the immediate comments hard to hear)
JENSEN: Your death scene made me laugh out loud. Which is... (looking down and sounding sheepish) weird!
MAUREEN: So Sera, is it like that for you, to be able to comment on your own show as it goes? Is it fun for you, almost like participating in the fans’ world, or having your own take about what the show is doing, what works and what doesn’t?
SERA: I’ve been on this show since the beginning of the show and this is only the second show I’ve ever been on, so it’s kind of like being raised by wolves. It's like the only world I've ever known, is to be able to comment -- up to and including -- "I don’t know that too many people watch this show." We can almost say whatever we want in dialogue. We’re always like that, we make fun of ourselves first and foremost.
ERIC: (to Maureen) Yea, but I think your theory is probably right, even though I don't think we consciously discussed it. I think we had a feeling, what gave us the belief that maybe we could pull this off is that we’re aware how interested in the behind-the-scenes the fans generally are. So we knew it wouldn't be like watching paint dry, or the naval-gazing-crap that... Usually you don’t try to do this kind of stuff, but there seems to be an appetite for what goes on not just in front of the camera, but behind the scenes. So we thought that maybe the idea was crazy enough to work.
SERA: I don’t know where you go beyond this though, unless--
ERIC: This is an episode here right now! (laughter) Including this (points to the audience) they’re all in it!
MAUREEN: Where’s my trailer? I don’t have an aquarium in my trailer!
JENSEN: Neither do I! In fact I walked into that set and thought “Why not me!”
MAUREEN: So now it has become a whole new world in terms of ‘why is this not my trailer?’
JENSEN: (determined) Season 7 is going to be a lot different! (audience cheers, then Jensen interjects) ... if we get picked up.
MAUREEN: Speaking of that... if there’s a seventh season, even in your sixth season, you're getting fancy articles in the New York Times, TV Guide covers, more attention. The fans have been there since day one, obviously, but it seems the mainstream media has been slow on the uptake. Does this put more pressure on you?
JARED: Where will this get printed? Yeah, the media, oh yeah.
ERIC: (funny mocking voice) The story is good, but is it New-York-Times good?
JARED: That's Kripe's character voice. (imitating Eric explaining a script, starting in a normal voice) 'So Lucifer walks in and he’s... (switches to funny voice) 'So Dean...' (back to normal) And you’re talking to Lilith and Lilith says ‘I’m gonna kill you.’ And Lilith's like (funny voice) 'I don't understand!' (speaking as himself again) He's definitely better at writing. (back to mocking Eric) 'So Ruby says 'No, man'.
MAUREEN: (to Eric) Why are you doing animated voices on television?
ERIC: (shaking his head) I don't know.
MAUREEN: Speaking of characters, Jim your character was in a wheelchair for a while. How much do they tell you in advance about what’s going to happen, or the script shows up and that's pretty much that?
JIM BEAVER: (perfectly deadpan) Well, with the wheelchair thing, I showed up on the set and they said “sit down.” (Laughter) And then a season later they said “stand up.” (more laughter) I’m a pretty good actor, so I did. (the audience really cracks up)
MAUREEN: Moving on to a more current topic, Ben was just up in Vancouver directing an episode. First time director! (cheers) Can you give us a few hints of what it is about? Are there puppets?
BEN EDLUND: No, no puppets. I’ve already ridden those puppet coattails (referring to his work on the series Angel where Angel was turned into a puppet), unwise. The episode is actually very emotional. The fourth act is like a one-act play and it really had its performance. To me, it’s the fruition of some serious friendships and where they are and where they go in the story. A tradition we have, the 20th episode for some reason is the emotional tee-off (interrupts himself to say 'oh no, I'm giving it all away, showing behind the curtain') and launches into the last two episodes. So I think this has all that plus we’re still in the process of making it so it’s not complete entity by any means.
And the act of directing was terrifying. Oh, that was scary! I felt humbled. And these two, I can’t imagine how they kept their sh— together. I walk onto the set and there’s pinwheels (makes motions around eye level) of fear. They gazed upon me. I beg you to watch it when it comes out. That was an experience! I am ten times taller and smaller than when you met me before.
MAUREEN: For the actors, how was Ben as a director? At least as good as Jensen?
JARED: (looks a little confused, then says he doesn't want to answer a question for Ben) They were -- both were great. (Some inaudible quick comments. Maureen tries to start another question, gets cut off. Finally, Jared to Maureen) Go ahead, tee it up!
MAUREEN: Was it interesting and fun to have the writer/director there in person to talk about the character--?
JIM: If you’re a masochist! (audience laughs)
MISHA: More like putty! (more laughs) One thing that’s a lot of fun about having someone like Ben up there directing is that you have a director who knows the whole arc, the characters, and can actually talk to you about what’s going on with your character. Which a lot times the directors are more like guest stars. There are several directors that we have who really know the story well, but a lot aren’t as well-versed, so it’s nice to have that perspective.
JARED: It was nice to have the passion, also, I will say that. It was nice to have the passion and compassion of someone who loves the show and the story so much. A lot of directors will come in -- and it’s not that they lack love -- but they will be very (precise): ‘ok now, you go there, and you go there, I need you to hit this line on this mark.’ It's ok - I’m an actor, that’s what I do. And you hit the mark. (asking the director)'Do you want me to hit it in five minutes or five seconds?'
But Ben was like ‘ok Sam -- Jared -- I want you to walk to this mark, and while you’re walking I want you to think about... how tough it’s been... and maybe you hesitate for a second, it’s really hard, and you love your brother...’ And I love him for it. I told him I knew all that, you could just tell me where to go. He took that care, kindness and compassion to the actors and the crew. That really endeared him to us and made us want to work even harder, if that’s even possible.
(amid many ‘awwwwwws’ Ben provided a ‘thank you’)
MAUREEN: Jensen, I loved the episode you directed and want to ask if you would be interested in directing again? (cheers)
JENSEN: Yes! I think Ben and I went through a very similar experience. I showed up on set and it was basically all headlights right on this deer -- which was a line that he used that I'm stealing! But at the same time, it was one of those good kinds of challenges that I really enjoyed throwing myself into the deep end somewhere, and it was sink or swim. I hope I do get to direct again because I really enjoyed it and want to try it more. I didn’t get to act a whole lot in that particular episode, which was great since I got to focus on what Jim was doing and he did a fantastic job! (cheers) I really didn’t feel that I was in the driver's seat at all since it was a lot like riding shotgun, and I thank him for that. Yea, I'd really love to try it again. (points to Jared) As long as he’s not in it!
JARED: That’s actually... (Jensen interrupts him to finish his sentence "...a stipulation") We agree on that! (both laugh)
JIM: (something inaudible) ... sequel.
MAUREEN: I took a lot of great questions from the fans (she looks at audience) You guys did an amazing job. The difficult part was sorting through all of them. This question is for Jim. The writers seem to be killing off everyone you know. Bobby recently lost Rufus. It seems like a big one to me (Jim pouts and looks sad and Misha pats him on the shoulder.)
JIM: I kept hearing all this stuff about how Supernatural kills off all the women. But Supernatural kills off everybody! I think the writers are the only people who haven’t died.
ERIC: In the meta episode, they do (points to himself)! (Jensen interrupts 'I think that was the best death scene we've ever seen', and remaining seated, does a quick acting of being shot a few times) (Eric keeps talking about The French Mistake scene where the showrunner is killed.) When I first saw the first cut I emailed -- because that wasn’t in the script the way I kept taking multiple hits before falling -- I emailed Charles Beeson, the director (here he starts pretending to type an email), and before I even said ‘good job’ I told him, “First of all, thank you soooo much for letting me die in such a manly way! With none of the urinating or begging or crying. I never looked tougher! Oh and by the way, it’s a great episode.”
JIM: I really need to see this episode.
ERIC: The show has been moved to Fridays now.
JIM: (joking) Oh, I know when mine (episodes) are on.
MAUREEN: This is a show that this season in particular has seen some amazing changes in the characters. What were some changes or twists in Supernatural that you, as actors, never saw coming. Or even as writers some ideas pitched really blew you away in terms of the magnitude.
JARED: I think all of them have been great. I know it’s a cop-out. Sera...
SERA: Probably the one where Bob pitched Sam coming back without a soul. That was... helpful for the season. That happened early, well before we got in the room with all the writers, when it was just the three of us. Doing that to Sam and saying what if Dean had stayed with the woman and child for an entire year. Because on the surface of it, you wouldn’t think that was something he would do, but when you start to scratch (the surface) it made a lot of sense. It was certainly a weird, uncomfortable place to put both of them. When you do that with characters it’s like pulling a rubber band way back and you get a lot of slingshot out of it.
MAUREEN: How about the actors, any twists where you couldn’t believe they were doing this?
JARED: Yea, I (then stops and hems and haws a bit)
ERIC: They're on good behavior because there are a few curve balls coming.
JARED: I don’t know how much we can say.
MAUREEN : Ben has there ever been a pitch where you’ve thought ‘I can’t believe they actually want me to do this’? Where you can't believe they've accepted it? Is there a pitch out there you still want to do that hasn't happened yet?
BEN: There's all kinds of them.
ERIC: (breaks in) I am so sick of talking about that fish.
BEN: The one that happened in the room before this one I think that's cool was the live broadcast like 30 Rock did with a three camera setup at Bobby's place and we do it live! So we can totally mess up in front of three million people!
JENSEN: (mockingly) Have you seen that episode? (more laughs)
BEN: (starts to defend it) It doesn't matter how good the episode is
BEN: But I think this show is extremely courageous. The core of the meta episode was uncomfortable, but it didn’t get shot down. And when we started talking about it I was (incredulously)... really?! Hey, this is great! The show has a tradition of playing with form and playing with form doesn't have to be meta - there’s still all kinds of other stuff still to do. And since I don’t have something really specific, I should probably stop speaking. (laughter)
ERIC: Ben’s particular genius is that he’ll come in and pitch something -- I mean, we hadn’t really talked about it since it was early in the season -- but he came in and pitched the fairies with a straight face. (people laugh). He was really confident.
SERA: He walked in - it was in Bob's office and says 'Leprechauns!' And we were like (she makes a face), well, ok!
ERIC: And even though some ideas are so far into left field, it’s because we have so much trust in each other, speaking specifically for Sera, Ben, Bob, and the whole team really, that it enables us. He (referring to Ben) hasn’t failed us yet. So when he comes in and says “Leprechauns!” there’s a lot more trust to say ‘sure let’s see where the hell this leads us.’ Because he delivers every time. (adding abruptly, slightly ominous voice) Until the day he won’t!
JARED: The voice is back!
MAUREEN: You’re really great at making fun of yourselves, but you also get very serious and heartbreaking. What is going too far in the world of Supernatural? Either too funny, or too light, or too dark. Where do you draw the line?
JENSEN: I don’t think that there are lines. I thought there was until I was standing in ski boots on a Japanese game show. (referring to a scene in Changing Channels) And then I realized, (dejected, shaking his head) there’s no line.
MAUREEN: One of my favorite Supernatural scenes! But how much discussion goes on in the writers’ room, for example, with souls and how you define a soul...
SERA: (jokingly) We barely talk about it.
MAUREEN: What about discussions about the monsters? What's the mix?
SERA: we talk a lot to each other.
ERIC: Bizarre, the conversations are fascinating. Speaking for me, I love the job because you’re having these surreal conversations with a group of really intelligent, funny people and there’s always an amazing, hilarious mix of high culture and low. And that happens in the room. In the same breath we’ll talk about the true nature of a soul, and segue right to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and from that to pornography, then right to French philosophy, or some scene from My Bodyguard (the voice again) 'It's so touching!'. It really is this crazy whirlwind!
We try not to be douchy and we do set out with a certain amount of philosophical aspirations. We have a point of view about what we want to say regarding the soul, destiny, or religion. Sometimes it’s on the nose, a lot of times it's on the nose. But we try to do it hopefully with some elegance. But at the same time we’ll include references to Blues Brothers or Animal House. There’s this really delicious mix which is frankly the background from which we all come. We’re all reasonably well-read people, but at the same time nothing is cooler than Evil Dead 2!
MAUREEN: (to Eric) Do I have it right that you are writing the season finale? (cheers)
ERIC: Yes, I just turned it in to the mercy of Sera and Bob on Friday... or Thursday. And we went through the studio network notes process. Bob is up there (in Vancouver) right now directing an episode. They start shooting the finale... next week. (Jensen says 'next Wednesday'.)
MAUREEN: What I hope for the next few episodes and I think I speak for a few fans... are we going to see more of Castiel?
MISHA: (jokingly) There’s going to have to be some major reshoots then! But that storyline is definitely getting tied up and played out and hashed out at the end of the season.
MAUREEN: And Castiel...
BEN: He adopts a very cute orphan. (Jim facepalms here)
MISHA: Castiel is taking a line from Angelina Jolie. (much laughter) (Jim says 'but with twitter')
ERIC: Sorry, it’s Will Smith’s kid. (Someone else says 'But it’s got a certain something!'. Jared and Jenson both make some comments here.)
SERA: Actually, you will meet an angel named Rachel who is Castiel’s trusted lieutenant. We’ll start opening up that story, more of Raphael, more of the Civil War, and most importantly what is going on with Castiel. What is he thinking when he gives them that look that 'I need a nap but I don't have time to take one', and he’s got to be somewhere else, we’ll find out what he means by that. We will find out what exactly.
MAUREEN: Jim, do you miss Crowley and all your romantic times together? (wolf calls) (Jim facepalms again.)
JIM: After 42 years in this business, and on my tombstone it will say “he kissed Crowley.”
MAUREEN: How did that go?
JIM: (dejected) I’ve had better... not recently, but...
MAUREEN: Now Jared, you were soulless--
JARED: (surprised) That segues to ME?! (shifts uncomfortably, laughter) Speaking of soulless...
MAUREEN: Do you miss soulless Sam, or are you glad that he's gone?
JARED: Actually both. I DO miss soulless Sam. I really, really enjoyed playing soulless Sam. And if y'all disagree I’m sorry.
ERIC: It was great! Totally chilling. We love what you did with it.
JARED: Well, I had great material to work with. I haven’t been shy about liking to play a little bit darker, a little bit disturbed. I’ve had a wonderful time with Sam -- and he’s disturbed enough! I did have a fun time playing with what the writers have been playing with in terms of ‘what is a soul? where does it reside? what is its influence on your personality and your decisions?’ I’m happy to be back, but (pouty, sad voice) I do miss the little guy!
MAUREEN: I have to read this next question because it’s the best phrasing ever, and we talked a little about this backstage. Jensen, do you think that Dean is finally getting back to his usual self now that Sam is all soulful Care Bear again?
(Jensen shakes his head in embarrassment. Jared pats him on the knee. And in an emotional little voice Jensen jokes “I missed you, Care Bear.”)
JENSEN: Yes I do. And it was kind of a relief for me because for the first half of the season it was difficult. To build a relationship, with not only the actor but the character for five years, and then to have that relationship severed, but then to still have to work with that person, was very difficult, for me as an actor. And it’s a testament to what Jared was doing and he was doing great as soulless Sam. But he wasn’t playing a character that I’m used to working with. So I struggled with it as an actor. In fact I called down and talked to these guys (indicating Sera, Eric, and Ben) about it. I was feeling way out of my comfort zone and I didn’t know what was going on, and I just didn’t have those tools to use anymore that I had for the last five years. I was very relieved when I read that episode that he was getting his soul back and that now I could go back to playing Dean that way that I’m used to playing Dean. It was difficult, but it was a good storyline.
MAUREEN: Speaking of Dean, I think the question I got the most, was what’s up with The Amulet?
ERIC: Currently there are no plans to have it return. (a few cheers, among many hisses and boos from the audience. Sera motions ‘wait a minute’) Especially now that we’re in contract negotiations with The Amulet. All I can say is... “diva!” It’s actually doing a guest shot on One Tree Hill. (an audience member called out ‘we'll do a fundraiser!’ Much hilarity followed)
MAUREEN: You guys are so open about discussing the show and the process of making it. Is there anything you wish you could go back and do over?
ERIC: I’ll start because I feel very strongly about this one. My mother used to say ‘food is never as good when you cook it’. All I actually see are things that I wish we had done differently. It’s very rare that I’m able to watch a complete episode -- and there are a handful of them -- but it's rare that I'll be able to watch it from start to finish and think ‘wow, we really nailed it!’ I would say there's moments in every episode - if anyone follows the interviews I've given on Supernatural they can recite the episodes that I hate. Like Red Sky at Morning, Bugs, and Route 666.
JARED: (interjects, making fun of Eric) When I'm a father, I'm going to say Kids, listen, food isn't as good when you cook it.
ERIC: Just this past week I was talking with Bob and he mentioned watching TNT and The Pilot was on. And I was 'oh, God' about that scene where they were walking to the Impala -- and I’m talking about the writing of it, since the guys really nailed it in their performance -- but there are scenes where you just don’t have the time. Just to bring back that scene (as an example), where Sam and Dean are walking to the Impala. And they’re talking about nothing that two human beings would ever talk about, but we had to establish the franchise of the show. (going into a mock actor voice, miming his two hands speaking to each other) “but when dad raised us to be hunters ever since we were three years old” ... and the other one was all “I know” ... “and then he always had us hunting after that creature that took mom” ... and “he never raised us properly” ... I always wanted to have the other one answer back “I KNOW!! who do you think you’re talkin’ to?!” (the panel and the audience have been laughing behind the whole story) “you don’t need to tell me, ‘cuz I already know all this information! Who’s the third party that you’re giving all this exposition to?!”
The thing is, you’re never happy, at least from the writing standpoint. I mean, it is now six years later and you can tell, I’m still not over it.
JENSEN: It’s good to know that those expositional scenes are that hard to write because they are equally as hard to act.
ERIC: Humphrey Bogart used to say that in those scenes, even when he had them, he would wish they would put camels humping in the background, not verbatim, so that it would give the audience something to look. (panel laughs, Jared takes a drink from his water bottle at the exact same moment and amazingly the laughter didn’t make him spit it out) But exposition can be brutal!
JENSEN: I have to applaud you, in fact, that you started giving those (lines) to guest stars. (Jared applauds and everyone laughs) After the first season.
MAUREEN: Any one else want to give a do-over? (Jared asks 'besides camels humping?')
MISHA: Sure, I have one. In the first episode where Castiel shows up and he’s trying to communicate with Dean and in so doing his angelic voice is exploding television sets and breaking windows... And so I, being the consummate guest star that I am, thought that I would do this really (demonstrates voice) deep, gravelly, commanding, kick-ass, window-breaking voice. (normal voice after slight hesitation) I may be running into medical problems now. It has been brutal on my throat. (Higher voice) So yeah... regret. What would be nice is if somehow Castiel has a tank of helium with him, and he (inhales) and then he talks like I do normally.
MAUREEN: You could talk like you talked on The French Mistake. (high voice) 'Hello'.
JENSEN: I remember when we filmed that scene and he came in and this was the first time I worked with him. He went into this voice and this spiel. After the first take, I turned to our camera department and I went (incredulously) ‘what is he doing?!’ (draws in a breath through clenched teeth feigning disbelief) ‘did he audition?!’ (laughter, especially from Misha) But he knows that, I’ve told him that, and I continue to tell him that.
JARED: Yeah, he said the same thing to me, ‘cause I didn’t have a scene with (Misha). I asked, ‘hey, how’s the new guy?’ He's like... (Jensen interrupts seamlessly)
JENSEN: Really nice! But what the hell is he doing on camera?
JARED: (continuing to relate what Jensen was telling him) 'He’s strange! He’s not a bad actor, obviously... he’s just ... really strange.' (laughter) And so we walk past him and (Jensen) is (acting out a nudge on the arm) ‘I think he’s in character, look, look’ (the panel and the audience go into uncontrollable laughter; Jared leans over Jensen to tap Misha on the arm to ask him, but he's laughing too hard to answer and shrugs helplessly.) I remember specifically one moment that he was standing behind the grip truck eating something, must have been yogurt or granola or something. We walk past and Jensen kinda gives me this (Jared nudges him on the leg) going from Stage 3 to our trailers and he's says ‘there he is’ and we both sort of do this (acting out avoidance)
JENSEN: There’s the freak.
JARED: And Misha has a very pensive look about him, even when he’s relaxing. “Yeah, yeah, looks like he’s thinking or something.”
JENSEN: And / or on the toilet. (more seriously) But I will say that his consistency in that character has been--
JARED: --his saving grace! (chuckles)
JENSEN: It has. It’s really grown on me. (in all seriousness) Nice job, buddy! (Applause from the audience, Jensen pats Misha's arm, Jim pats Misha on the shoulder. Misha composes himself.)
MAUREEN: So in the future you'll be doing the voice a few octaves up?
JARED: (turns to look at Misha) You have to be careful (says something in a squeeky voice).
MAUREEN: In terms of things that have happened on the show, is there something that the actors or the writers presented that was perceived in some other way than it was intended based on online commentary or reactions? (the panel hesitated in answering, while Jared urged Jensen to respond, and Jensen passed it off to the writers - 'No, that would be a writing question.')
BEN: This year there was a very strange “Fight the Fairies” trending based on when Jensen yelled “fight the fairies” (in episode 6x09: Clap Your Hands if you Believe...). I’m not exactly sure how that functions, but it became a Twitter trend thing -- (wild cheers) Yes! Twitter!
JENSEN: yeah, I remember reading that.
BEN: And that created a counterweight from the legitimate gay community asking “what the hell?!” (Ben added something that was indiscernible through the chuckles)
JIM: (interjects) Some of our best friends are fairies! (quickly, before anyone finds offense, he uses his hands to indicate something small and pantomimes something flying away)
MAUREEN: We’ll take some fan questions now. Wait for the microphone to come to you. (they turn the house lights up. The panel reacts to seeing the audience. Jensen says 'I thought it was canned laughter'.)
QUESTION: Since the season finale this year is going to be two hours consecutive, has that impacted how you've written the show, or how it's going to be filmed?
JARED: (shocked) The season finale is going to be two hours?? (Smallville is airing its series finale in a two-hour block, so the last two episodes of Supernatural are a week later also airing as a two-hour block)
ERIC: Sera and I are writing the last two episodes. I think in the beginning stages there was some discussion along the lines of ‘we should make this into a movie !’ (animated, mocking voice again) Movie! Movie! Listen to me, it’s gonna be great! (back to normal) But these stories kind of take on a life of their own, there’s so many mythology balls in the air right now and so many things we need to wrap up, it ended up feeling very episodic. In #21 there’s so many mythology threads we need to tie up. And in #22 there’s so many other mythology threads, so it was hard to actually combine them. To such an extent we were a little worried. Somewhere in the middle of writing it I thought ‘aw shit, this is going to air together... can we put a title card here saying one week later?’ So it doesn’t feel seamless, it feels like two episodes, each with their own story. (jokingly) But it will be awesome in re-runs, but for the two hour it will be like 'what?'.
QUESTION: One of the cool things about the show was the way you handled Ruby. You never really knew if she was good or bad. Which leads me to two questions. The first, will you ever again play with the bad/good aspects of demons, such as Crowley -- who is great. The second, will there ever be a female main character that’s a positive force?
SERA: Demons are pretty bad, at the end of the day. The thing with demons is that they can be charming and enjoyable, and they can have moments of helping you, but I don’t know that we’ll be ever be able to pull that off again. I think we’ve played that card out. In terms of having anyone be a force for good, male or female... we kill a lot of people on our show, and it’s not really gender-specific. With the exception of Castiel, the characters that we like to hang onto a little longer are antagonistic.
(The next question was more a statement and request. A fan explained that she was at the end-stage of renal failure and wanted to know if it would be ok to present some gifts after the panel in recognition of what Supernatural has meant to her. She stated that she saw everyone as her surrogate children. And since she was mostly unable to go out and interact with people, all she had was what she was able to watch on TV. She wanted to let the panel know how much the show has given to her)
QUESTION: Jared, is it true that you’re really 6’6” (height)?
JARED: Are you calling me out? No, I’m 5’8”!
QUESTION: Also, why don’t you guys get bungee cords for your weapons, ‘cause it seems like you’re always dropping them! (laughter)
ERIC: We agree that they should get bungees for their weapons. But the real answer is that then there would be no drama. The crew has asked that question many times.
JARED: Probably because it just wouldn’t look as cool. Like umbrellas.
ERIC: I remember one scene from season one where we were still figuring out the show. And it was an episode that Kim (Manners) was directing. We were thinking about him the other day. The first time we ever did any public panel for Supernatural was the Paley Fest here in our first season and Kim was with us. We weren’t sure if anyone was watching the show, then we saw a crowd like you guys here. But anyways, he put Jared and Jensen carrying umbrellas and I called him and said ‘I never want to see umbrellas ever again.’ I mean these guys fight monsters and they slit throats, so I can’t see them (in a girly voice) ‘oh no it’s sprinkling.’ They’re just not characters who are going to worry about getting wet.
JENSEN: Unfortunately for us. But rain really doesn’t read on film, and it was pouring! I stepped out into a puddle that was this big (indicating about a foot with his hands). It was torrential. And Kim was worried that they would have to dry our clothes off after every take. So he ordered “get them umbrellas!” Because it was raining that hard.
JARED: That’s also when I started wearing boots. For the first few episodes I had tennis shoes, but then I was standing in water, so we had to get boots.
QUESTION: We’ve had Dean, Sam, and Bobby centered episodes. Are we ever going to have a Castiel-centered episode?
BEN: It turns out that the one I directed is very much focused on Castiel’s point of view and the Civil War in Heaven. (many cheers and applause, then adds in a somewhat joking manner) We hear moments from Castiel’s childhood.
QUESTION: There’s an episode where you guys use the word ‘dick’ a lot. Any chance of upping the stakes a bit like SouthLAnd and have the guys include more profanity?
JARED: Which episode?
ERIC: Seriously though, there’s Network Standards and Practices and we’re not allowed. (Sera interjects, “We try”) One thing that’s really funny, which doesn’t answer your question, but it’s funny... you can use the word “dick” as long as you’re not talking about an actual dick, and you can say the word “crap” as long as you’re not referencing taking a crap, and you can say the word “balls” as long as you’re not referencing balls. Such as in the generic way that Bobby says “Balls!”, you can say it.
MISHA: Sporting equipment!
ERIC: But you cannot say “I found a mole on my balls.”
JARED: And now we know how Supernatural is written.
JENSEN: (mimicking being a writer) Okay, let’s take the mole away!
QUESTION: One of my favorite characters that disappeared and we never saw again was Missouri Mosely (huge cheers) If we are blessed with a seventh season, is there a possibility of seeing her again?
ERIC: (cryptically) Possibly. Now there’s a reason why this audience should give thanks that they haven’t seen Missouri; I’ll tell you this small anecdote. Loretta (Devine), who played Missouri, is an amazing actress who kicked butt. As I’m writing the finale to season one, Devil’s Trap, and the way the finale opens in the first draft I wrote was that John’s been kidnapped, and the guys need a place to hole up and get help, so they go to Missouri Mosely’s house. And she’s there, then Meg comes in, they catch her in the devil’s trap to interrogate her. At that point, we got word that Loretta had booked a movie and was totally unavailable. Kim was directing that episode and we were just starting the prep for it. We discussed what we could do and we knew we needed another character. So we thought, let’s see what a male would look like in that role, an old friend of John’s who is grizzled and cool and has some bad history with him.
I’ll always be indebted to Bob, who at that point indicated there’s this guy named Jim Beaver... “he’s the guy”. Especially since the amount we’ve used Jim and how integral he has become to the universe of the show, it was obviously one of the great blessings. And it all came about because of a scheduling conflict for Loretta. (Jim feigns slumping down in his chair as if passing out to indicate a “whew”) It’s interesting how a show comes together... all those little moments...
SERA: Didn’t you originally say he should be fatherly and resourceful and then you went and wrote it--
ERIC: Yes. For me, the character was avuncular, paternal... and crusty! ... and at that point of the show I was sort of this young lieutenant in homicide, vomiting in the corner. The two people that were like father-figures and showing me the ropes were Bob (Singer) and Kim (Manners). Actually the character’s name originally was ‘Bobby Manners’. But when the name went through legal clearance they said that there was a real ‘Bobby Manners’ that lived in South Dakota. And if legal finds things like that, you have to change the name. So I made it ‘Singer.’ And Bob, to his eternal chagrin, wasn’t in that day. And when he came back he was all ‘what the hell is this?!’ At that point it was a done deal. And that’s how Bobby Singer got his name.
QUESTION: In other shows like Bones and Psych where there are two main stars, they become Executive Producers of the show, and since it has now been six years I was wondering why-- (eruption of cheers and applause; both Jared and Jensen stood up to applaud her, nodding, then looked over to Eric)
ERIC: Listen lady, you’re doing a great job as their agent, but-- (more laughs) But ultimately it’s a Warner Brothers decision, being that we’re all under their servitude.
MAUREEN: I think we have time for just one more question.
JARED: No, no, that’s a good way to end it!
MAUREEN: (indicating an audience member to whom others around him are pointing enthusiastically) Ok, they’re all pointing to you, right there.
MISHA: How’d you get in here? (laughter)
QUESTION: You have all made an amazing show and I thank you for that. Since you’re already ended the series once before, is there any conceivable way to end it in a way that you’re satisfied? (hesitation) You brought it to a close before with season five’s Swan Song and you wrote that in a way to end the series. If you end it from this point, how do you envision that?
ERIC: Well, we sort of ... figure it out. The longer a series runs there’s no doubt that a lot of the plot elements that I always visualized were going to be the series finale I put into Swan Song because it was gearing up to the war between Michael and Lucifer and averting the Apocalypse, and it was obviously hard to delay that. So we played out all that. And as we’re building the Apocalypse all of a sudden we’re... ‘wait, you want another what?!’
But I will say that there’s been a very specific coda that I’ve always had in mind from the very beginning... at what point all the characters end up. And we didn’t use that, we didn’t go near that. So that’s still there and I’m sure at some point when we get there Sera will -- fifteen years from now -- (loud cheers)
JENSEN: I’ll still be yelling, “Sam, help!” (miming pushing the wheels of a wheelchair)
ERIC: --Sera will go to the finale.
SERA: It’s in a locked safe!
ERIC: Yeah, and if you open it up there’s nothing in it but ... (ominous voice, referencing the movie Inception ) ... a spinning top!
And with that great comment, the event came to its conclusion. Maureen then thanked everyone for coming and announced that the actors could not stay for autographs since they needed to catch a plane to Vancouver right away to continue filming the next day, Monday. There were so many wonderful moments that simply cannot be put completely into words. If the Paley Center for Media makes the DVD available, as they did with the first panel held in season one, it will definitely be worth including in your collection. To support the wonderful Paley Center for Media, either through membership or purchase of other great items, please visit their website: www.paleycenter.org