Supernatural Panel at Paley Festival, Part II

Supernatural made its first appearance at the Paley Festival during its first season and it was wonderful to see the cast and members of the creative team return once again.  The first part of my report outlined the introductions and offered a detailed narrative on the preview clip for the upcoming western-themed episode.  When the Q&A portion began, the first question dealt with the process involved in making episode 6×15, The French Mistake, wherein demon-hunting brothers Sam and Dean were angelically transported to an alternate universe where they found themselves to be actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles working on a television show titled Supernatural.  This very-meta episode, loaded with in-jokes, not only scratched at the fourth wall but brought it crumbling down — just as surely as I suspect the wall in Sam’s psyche holding back the tortuous memories of hell will come crashing down as we approach the season finale.  And while news about a seventh season has not officially been announced, all indications are strong that fans will need to worry only until September about being left with a gut-wrenching cliffhanger.

We pick up the transcript as Eric Kripke started describing the difficulties encountered in working through some of the legalities associated with The French Mistake.  In case you missed it, Part I can be found HERE.

But just a quick note: if you enjoy reading about these events, please visit the website for the Paley Center For Media and do not hesitate to support them through a number of wonderful items they have available for purchase, including full DVDs of past panels of many different shows.  You can also become a supporting member so that these types of events can continue to be offered.  http://www.paleycenter.org/

ERIC: ….. 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 basically lets us do whatever the hell we want.  None of us in our careers will ever be in a situation 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, but there seems to be such an active and engaged online fanbase that posts commentary on the show, does it feel that doing this meta episode then becomes your way of joining that commentary on Supernatural?

JARED:  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 “real life” is not 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 melt away. ‘Whatever, I’ll do it, 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 use first, which was wonderful, and I loved the idea but I asked ‘can we NOT play Jared and Jensen?’

JENSEN: Yeah, that was the biggest 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 annoyance realizing that the agreement was not meant as a compliment. The facial expressions were hilarious watching them react to and play off each other!]

MAUREEN:  Oh no, they’re not talking again!  [audience laughs]  What about for Misha?

MISHA:  We’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, but in the end the result was a watered-down douchebag.

JARED:  He doesn’t know it and he thought he was sending them an email, but it’s not their real email address.

MISHA: When they 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… 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 fun 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 the dialogue.  We’re always like that, making fun of ourselves first and foremost.

ERIC: (to Maureen) I think your theory is probably right, where we consciously discussed it.  What gave us the belief that we could pull this off is that we’re aware how interested in the behind-the-scenes things fans really are.  Usually you don’t try to do this kind of stuff, but there seems to be an appetite for what really goes on not just in front of the camera, but behind the scenes.  So we thought that the idea was crazy enough to work.

SERA:  I don’t think you could really go beyond this because—

ERIC:  This right here is an episode right now!  [laughter]  Look at all of them (points to the audience) they’re getting paid!

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 “I’m not me!”

MAUREEN:  So now it has become a whole new world in terms of ‘why is this not in 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, the show is getting fancy articles in the New York Times, and the TV Guide cover.  The fans have obviously been there since day one, but it seems the mainstream media has been slow on the uptake.  Does this put more pressure on you?

ERIC: [mocking] The story is good, but is it New-York-Times good?  [dramatic mocking] So Lucifer walks in and he’s with The Dean!  And you’re talking to Lilith and Lilith says ‘I’m gonna kill you.’ And Ruby says ‘no, man!’  [Maureen commented on Kripke’s various voices at this point]

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 do you just have to wait for the script to show up?

JIM BEAVER: Well, with the wheelchair thing, I showed up on the set and they said “sit down.”  And then a season later they said “stand up.”  I’m a pretty good actor, so I did.  [it took a while to quiet down from all the laughs after Jim’s perfect deadpan delivery]

MAUREEN:  Moving on to a more current topic, Ben was just up in Vancouver directing an episode. [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]  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.  Traditionally, the 20th episode is the emotional tee-off 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.

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 pangs of fear.  That was an experience!  I was ten times taller and smaller than everyone.

[Maureen also asked how it was when Jensen directed, and amid the huge cheers from the audience it was difficult to hear the conversation and full question.]

JARED: [inaudible]….. both were great.

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 in having someone like Ben up there directing is that you have a director who knows the whole arc, the characters, and the connections, and can really talk to you about what’s going on with your character. Which a lot of 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 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.’  And my response is fine, I’m an actor, that’s what I do.  And you hit the mark, whether it’s 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 my thought was that I knew all that, you could just tell me where to go.  He took that care, kindness and compassion that really endeared 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. But at the same time, it was really one of those good kinds of challenges that I really enjoyed throwing myself into the deep end somewhere, and it was just sink or swim.  I hope I do get to direct again because I really enjoyed it and really want to support the form.  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 much pressure at all since it was a lot like riding shotgun, with such great co-stars, and I thank them for that. But, yeah, absolutely!  [points to Jared]  As long as  he’s  not in it!

JARED: That’s actually my request too…  [laughs]

MAUREEN:  I took a lot of great questions from the fans which made my job easier. 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.  [Jim puts on the saddest-looking pouty face and Misha pats him on the knee]

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! [Jensen, remaining seated, does a quick acting of being shot a few times, and Eric makes a quick comment on his death scene]  When I first saw the first cut I emailed — because that wasn’t in the script taking multiple hits before falling — I emailed the director, 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.

MAUREEN:  This is a show that 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.  That happened early, well before we got in the room with all the writers.  Doing that to Sam along with 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:  I don’t know how much we can say since there are a few curve balls coming.

MAUREEN : Have you ever seen something where you’ve thought ‘I can’t believe they actually want me to do this’?

BEN: I think there was a pitch before this (meta) one, where we have three cameras set up at Bobby’s place and we do it live like 30 Rock ! So we can totally mess up in front of three million people!

JENSEN: [mockingly]  Have you  seen  that episode?  [more laughs]

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 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 episode, he was really confident.

SERA:  He walked in and [confidently] “Let’s talk!”

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, Bob, Ben, 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 the episode 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?

SERA:  we talk a lot to each other.

ERIC:  The conversations are bizarre.  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 that room.  In the same breath we’ll talk about the true nature of a soul, and segueway right to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and from that to pornography, then right to philosophy, or some scene from My Bodyguard.  It really is this crazy whirlwind!

We try not to be douchy and 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, true destiny, or religion. Sometimes it’s on the nose, a lot of times it’s way off.  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 best way.  We’re all reasonably well-read people, but at the same time nothing is cooler than Evil Dead 2 !

And on that note, we’ll take a break.  The next part will cover comments about Eric writing the season finale, Castiel, Bobby’s scene with demon Crowley, Jared’s view on soulless Sam, the amulet, and much more!

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