Eric Kripke, the creator, Executive Producer, writer, and even one-time director of CW’s popular series Supernatural made an appearance at the Salute to Supernatural Convention sponsored by Creation Entertainment and held in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.
In Part 1 we heard about the classic rock music used on the show, his inspiration, difficulties created by budget problems, a possible future visit to the big screen, what we can expect in the DVDs, and what he thinks about the manner in which this show resonates with so many people.
Part 2 will deal with specifics about a variety of episodes, past and present, as well as changes in the look of the show, favorite directing moments, why certain characters stay or go, and so much more. Episodes are mentioned from all seasons and up through episode 3.12, so if you have not seen them, then there are spoilers in the answers.
Then, after the fun excursion into Thursday’s new episode, Part 3 on Friday will get into the analytical discussions about the mythology, what we can expect for Season Four, and just how painful this season’s finale will be for viewers to watch. Answers containing spoilers for the remainder of the third season, as well as the upcoming fourth season, have been labeled.
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Q: The show has been a lot brighter this season. Is that by your design?
EK: (heavy sigh) Yeah, it was. I’m not entirely sure it was a successful experiment, but this was the experiment. And I know the fans were questioning what happened with the show. They thought that the [network] suits had a hand in it since we made fun of [things like this] in Hollywood Babylon. The assumption was that it was the suits meddling, and it really wasn’t… it was ME meddling. Because the reality is that [the suits] are not in the color-timing room with us, so even if they said they wanted it brighter we could always say ‘sure ok’ and then just … hehehe (pantomimes adjusting knobs downward). So the experiment was – and I’m not saying it worked, only that there was conscious thought behind it – when the show was dark and grim from start to finish there was no break in the look when we wanted the scenes to be scary and tense… it was always dark. So the experiment was to allow scenes where they have fun or it’s a comedy scene to light it as reality, just like our lives would be lit. Not to light it brighter, because it’s not really lit bright – we’re not Smallville and we’ll never be Smallville, which is a very different aesthetic of that show since they’re in a comic book world and we’re basically a horror movie. Then when we go into the dark scenes, we would go way dark so that you feel the suspense as a scary scene is beginning and you are now more primed to be scared. So that was my experiment and I’m not at all convinced it was successful and I think that we will probably make more corrections for Season 4. But that was the thought behind it.
Q: Right, because Dream a Little Dream of Me was a lot darker and was going back to the old look that we had missed. Although before we never got to really see the color of [Sam and Dean’s] eyes because it was so dark, we like the dark.
EK: I do hear you and obviously the look of the show in Season 2 was bada**, but we tinker… that’s just the reality when you’re making an evolving product. You try different things, and certain things work and others don’t. It’s all done in the hope of improving [the product].
Q: Thank you for creating such an amazing show! For me, the show has always been about the family business of saving people and hunting things. Are there any plans for Season 4 to head back a little bit to the grassroots? As fascinating as the mytharc is, can we expect to see some more focus on the brothers?
EK: Back to basics is a request I’ve heard before. The honest answer is yes and no. Season 3 has been a weird season with the strike and only having 16 episodes, so we never got our usual rhythm. This season is a bit of an anomaly because we had a lot more self-enclosed things planned. And had you looked at the full 22 episodes, our general rule is that we have about 6-8 mythology shows and about 15 self-enclosed episodes, but we got totally screwed this year because suddenly we weren’t doing ANY shows. And now we have 16, which is six less than our usual and our ratio is completely thrown off. Those six would have been more likely stand-alones and would have allowed you to feel the rhythm more. But there wasn’t much we could do with the [writer’s] strike. But I DO hear that concern. What I dig about Supernatural’s mythology is similar to the early years of X-Files. Naturally in any TV show, you start a mythology line and then you have to tell years of a storyline such that it starts to fold in on itself and you collapse under the weight of it. I don’t know of too many genre shows where their mythology didn’t become totally befuddling. And we’re desperately trying to avoid that trap and I think we CAN be reasonably successful at it.
For the last four episodes one is this really bizarre reality-like show title Ghostfacers which I think you guys will really like. It’s so bizarre and weird, and it was actually written by Ben Edlund before the strike. We actually didn’t use any film cameras for it; it was all done on hand-held video and it will be lots of fun. For the finale, which I’m writing, it’s back to the mythology, which it has to be. But for the two in between I had to dictate that I really wanted it to be CLASSIC Supernatural. Even though we have to have a certain amount of mythology since Dean’s deal is coming due, we have the classic where they’re hunting evil and saving people. It would be bad to do the demon-thing in every episode. But even though the mythology is the mythology, what I think you will see in Season 4 if we have the opportunity of the full 22, which I’m expecting we do, is that the ratios will even out again. There will be about 8 mythology [which are needed] but with about 14 stand-alones, you’ll see that balance a little better.
Q: You directed the episode What Is And What Should Never Be. What was your favorite scene?
EK: I would have to say that it is towards the end, right before Dean stabs himself, and all the characters are showing up begging him to stay and how his life would be better if he basically stayed in <the matrix>. Since it was my first time directing I thought it would be cool to show off and try all these cameras and angles. But actually [the best] was a traditional scene for me where I just set the camera and did practically nothing. It was just these quiet little moves with the simplest placement of the cameras, but the performances of Jensen, Jared, Samantha (mom) and Michelle Borth (Carmen) were just such lovely, sweet and tender performances. For example, the way that mom would touch Dean’s face and he would lean into it, and that [the matrix] was this wonderful oasis that he wanted to stay in but he couldn’t. It was just so heartbreaking. In the whole episode, that scene really gets to me. It has nothing to do with where the cameras go, it’s the performances that matter… that’s where the story is told, it’s what the actors do. I was so impressed with what they did, that this is the scene in this episode that really gets me. Q: Will you be directing any more episodes? EK: Yes, I was supposed to this year but then the strike happened. Now we’re jamming so hard to get these last four episodes done that I do not have time to go up and direct. But next year, definitely! Q: Have Jensen [Ackles] or Jared [Padalecki] expressed an interest in directing and would you let them? EK: It’s possible, but they haven’t expressed it. It would be challenging and hard because they really bust their butts already since they’re practically in every scene and working all eight days of each show. But they haven’t brought it up yet.
Q: In A Very Supernatural Christmas, we get a lot of backstory and continuity between the brothers when they were younger and now. What was the casting like for the little boys who played the brothers, because they were spot-on!
EK: Well, young Dean was easy because we had used him before. We found Ridge [Canipe] back in Season 1 for Something Wicked. He actually played young Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, which is where our casting director found him. Since Sam didn’t have a big role then, we just had a young Canadian actor come in and be cute. But when it came to doing this season, we looked at Ridge again since he would’ve aged about the right time as the character… he was awesome, and I loved the continuity of using the same actor. But for Sam we needed someone who had a little bit more experience for all the emotions of the episode and that kid was terrific! That scene where he is telling Dean about the book and he’s crying could have gone wrong a hundred different ways. And I was so scared in the writing of that because the odds of that actually succeeding were slim. A kid crying and making it very real, and finding great kid actors, especially on a television schedule is really hard. But they both really knocked it out of the park.
Q: In the Christmas episode, it was shown that the amulet that Dean wears originally came from Bobby. Why hasn’t anyone asked Bobby all these years what that amulet is all about?
EK: In my mind, I think they know what it is and what it can do but we haven’t revealed that to the audience yet. There is a little extra mojo to it but we’re saving that card for just the right moment. I think the boys know, but it just hasn’t come up in their direct cases yet. Q: Why did Sam ultimately decide to have Christmas? EK: Obviously he didn’t want it to potentially be Dean’s last Christmas, but there was a chance it just might be. He finally came around to Dean’s point of view that Dean wanted to have this just in case, and Sam didn’t want to deny him that. Apparently Sam feels like that about every holiday. Remember the Pilot… I hate Halloween… then it was, I hate Christmas… now it’s, I hate Groundhog Day. But seriously, if you remember that moment when he says “I don’t want to drink eggnog with you knowing that you’re going to be dead next year — that you might be dead next year” — there’s that lovely little moment at the end when they drink the eggnog and Sam appears like he wants to say something but then he just switches and says to watch the game on TV.
Q: In the second episode of this season, we were introduced to Ben, the possible son of Dean. Will he be brought back again, will that question be brought up again, and will there be any more offspring?
EK: Well, I can say for a fact that he’s really NOT Dean’s kid. That having been said, if you see in Dream a Little Dream, that is the family that Dean dreams of. Underneath this swinger type of shell who just wants to hook up all the time, what he really wants is a safe, traditional, suburban family, which is the one thing he never had. And this is the thing that he also dreamt of in What is and What Shall Never Be. We may see them again because they exist in my mind as the paradigm of what Dean really wants, so it’s possible to see them again. But if we do, [Ben] would be a step-child, if they end up hooking up — which they won’t any time soon.
Q: In the episode Bloody Mary, when a character sees Bloody Mary their eyes would bleed if they had a secret. Dean’s eyes bled, and we still don’t know why…
EK: Right, I know. It’s just one of those things. As a writer you know things about these characters; you have histories and backstories. And there IS a real secret to Dean’s character that we know and that we have; it’s not core or central but it’s there. It appears that the fans have latched onto that and it’s driving them crazy, and at some point before the show is over we’ll need to reveal it, but not now (audience groans). And the more time that passes the harder it gets to revisit.
Q: In the episode Scarecrow, it sounded like their father John just found out that it was a demon that killed Mary. Why did it take him 22 years to figure that out?
EK: (jokingly) I guess John’s slow. Actually, the demon was gone for 22 years because I actually planned for a cyclical thing. We planned to get into that a little more. And into exploring the history of Mary and John (applause). I’m going to spoil away on this because I’m not even sure that I’m going to do it. I’m actually interested in meeting those two characters as teenagers, or their late-teens/early-20s and learning some things about them. We actually have all this really cool extra mythology about them, and the 22-year cycle actually plays into that as well. Therefore the demon was gone and John was running into dead ends for 22 years. And then the demon suddenly appeared again, which is why John took off in the first place in the Pilot episode since the trail suddenly got hot after 22 years.
Q: When Gordon decided to go after Sam, who was Gordon’s Roadhouse connection that gave him the information about Sam?
EK: Well, you saw our version of it. When Gordon has Dean tied up and telling him about doing that exorcism, the tortured demon tells him that Sam was going to be the soldier in this war. Q: But you also said that Gordon had Roadhouse connections and that it’s how he found Sam. Dean called and accused Ellen, but it wasn’t her… EK: Oh, right…. You’re right, I’m wrong. Well, the real story is not that interesting. This is an example of the evolution of serialized television and a story that is always evolving and changing. We actually had a scene in the Roadhouse where you would meet this shifty character who had alerted Gordon. I remember the scenes, which sat there like a pile of sh#&. They really weren’t great scenes. At one point this shifty character, who was drinking whiskey, jumped Dean in the parking lot and Ellen shows up [chasing him away]. These scenes just didn’t fit the episode they were in and didn’t have flow. And it’s painful for me because I’m a bit of a fanboy and I hate little [plot] holes – which fans remind of! I hate the holes, they really bother me and you try to fill these little holes and you end up with sweep-ups – and this is a phrase we use in the writer’s room a lot. And sometimes to explain little things you end up with a worse episode, so it gets cut but the note remains on our board that we need to get back to that. But then we burned the S.O.B down [the Roadhouse] so once it is past history it’s hard to go back and revisit that history again.
Q: We haven’t seen much of Ellen or Jo. I was wondering, but maybe nobody else is, is Jo alive?
EK: Jo IS alive, she’s off where we left her at that bar, she’s starting to be a hunter and for now that’s sort of where she is. We don’t have any plans to bring her back. (audience cheers) Q: Are we going to see Ellen again? She is a strong female character that is much-needed. (loud cheers from the audience) EK: I love Samantha [Ferris] and I’ll be completely honest and say that I actually don’t know. I’m not entirely optimistic at this point. She was supposed to be in the season finale for this year. Unfortunately, we made an offer — we made the offer we usually make — and she passed, so we had to re-write it without her in it. We wanted to. We tried. But I don’t know if it’s going to work out because of business reasons.
Q: Will we ever re-visit the whole <Sam killed another hunter> story which seems to be a hole right now?
EK: Right. Honestly, probably not. There was going to be more to the Gordon storyline but it had to get cut. External events affecting your internal reality. Gordon was going to find out about this hunter that Sam killed and use that to really round up the posse and go after Sam. There were going to be multiple episodes of this band of hunters that wanted to kill Sam. It was a developing story. But unfortunately, the word from Lifetime [network] was that we could get Sterling [Brown] only twice more, so that particular storyline had to drop out the window and we had to get to a climax with Gordon. At this point it would be too repetitive to bring it back up again with more hunters wanting Sam dead, so that’s probably a storyline that will never see the light of day.
Q: Without giving it all away, can you give an idea of what we can expect for Season 4?
EK: The safest thing would be to not answer the question because we’re in such early stages at this point. The only thing we know for Season 4 right now is that it’s going to be a huge mythology story and if I start getting into where that goes it’s going to be a big-time spoiler. Actually, you can expect a lot of full-frontal male nudity! (cheers) All singing, all dancing, all nude!!
Q: Speaking of Season 4, every now and then we know that you put something in one of the episodes for the fans, therefore I want to know which episode in Season 4 will be designated for the much-in-demand body-swap storyline?
EK: Ya know, that idea has been pitched to me, but (hesitantly) maybe… never say never. I have no good reason why I’ve been resisting; it just hasn’t been a high priority at the moment. Maybe, it’s possible.
Q: You have created all these interesting and popular secondary characters, as opposed to some of the not-so-popular ones still around. Given that this is Supernatural, my theory along with a bunch of my friends, is that if you haven’t actually seen the person stop breathing and the corpse salted and burned, there’s always hope.
EK: Yes, there’s always hope. You’re asking about [FBI agent] Henriksen? Q: And Ash. (applause) Ash is a possibility. (loud cheers) I know Chad [Lindberg] is backstage, but this isn’t just because he’s there. I love that we had a mullet on The CW! But Ash had to do with how much I hated the actual Roadhouse itself rather than anyone in it. It just didn’t work in a road show… (sarcastically) It’s a road show! But we have a home. No, that’s the point, it’s a road show so you don’t have a home. So, burn it!!
Let me also tell you this. The reason we made the decision to kill Gordon was because he’s a very good actor and he’s a regular on Army Wives. We really had to negotiate to get him even for two more episodes this season and after that, Lifetime said ‘you’re never having him again’. And we would’ve honestly had him more, but Lifetime negotiated for only twice telling us after that we would never have him on our show. Henriksen is possible. (loud cheers) Charles [who plays Henriksen] just booked another series so these guys just become unavailable. Just like Jeffrey Dean Morgan. And it affects your mythology. So it’s possible if he’s around and available but don’t hold your breath shorterm because he is currently otherwise occupied.
Q: Thanks for a fantastic show, I’ve never been disappointed—
EK: Not even with Red Sky at Morning? (loud laughter)
Q: No, I never thought that there was ever a bad episode. But because of the writer’s strike and the dent that that put into the season, do you feel you were able to do the main storyline, with Dean’s deal coming due, do you feel you were able to do that justice with the four episodes that have been written now?
EK: I do. Because we only have so few mythology episodes in a season anyways. We didn’t even need all four episodes to do it; it lives in the emotional storyline of two episodes and then it becomes front and center for the finale. I DO feel that we’re doing it justice. We had to drop almost every other storyline — the things going on with Sam, the escalation of the demon war, and all these other issues — it was all planning to climax towards the end of Season 3. I actually had a plan for every episode, and then we came back from the strike and we had to pick and choose what to really focus on and that’s now Dean’s deal. So, yeah, I think we’re doing it justice. I think it ends in a cool place and that you’ll be pleased with it; we’ve wrenched as much angst out of it as possible, so I think it really works.
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Don’t miss the continuing adventures of the Winchester brothers on Supernatural every Thursday at 9:00 pm on The CW network. A new episode will air Thursday, April 24, which will make for a nice present for Eric Kripke celebrating his birthday on the same day that the series returns to the screen post-strike. Happy Birthday Eric and thank you!