As we get ready to head to Toronto for some fun with the SPN family, we thought we’d get you all in the mood by sharing our chat with half of the karaoke dynamic duo, Richard Speight Jr. and Matt Cohen. We sat down with Matt in Vancouver on Saturday afternoon, still feeling blown away by the experience we had the night before.
We’ve been going to Supernatural cons since the very first Chicago convention in 2007, and have watched the evolution of Friday night karaoke, which started as a small bunch of fans and most of the Creation staff taking over the hotel bar, belting out AC/DC with drinks in hand. Every now and then Chad Lindberg or Steve Carlson or Aldis Hodge would come take a turn at the mike, and we’d all look forward to Stephanie’s rendition of Carry On My Wayward Son. A few years in, karaoke outgrew the bar and moved into the ballroom – but things really changed when Richard Speight Jr. started playing emcee. Seriously, give that guy a mike and a room full of people, and he can work magic! When Matt Cohen started joining him, karaoke got so popular that just about everyone began showing up for the Friday night event, which is notable for also being FREE. How often does that happen?!
We have to confess we usually don’t stay the entire time, but in Vancouver there was no way we were missing one single minute – the experience was like a physical enactment of everything we’d been writing about in Fangasm and Stalking Fandom. That ‘reciprocal relationship’ between fans and the creative side came to life as the boundaries between them came down – the chemistry was so contagious that nearly all the actors who were at the convention ended up onstage, along with the fans. Even Creation co-owner Adam got up onstage to belt out some Bee Gees! Chad and Sebastian showed off their crowd surfing skills, fans danced on chairs, Colin channeled Michael Jackson, and everyone channeled their inner Dancing Queen to Abba.
Kathy had lunch with Richard Speight the next day (while Lynn slept in to recover from too much karaoke……but hey, it was worth it!) – so we knew that Richard had a blast. Seems that Matt did too.
Matt: You show me another show – Star Trek, Vampire Diaries, Twilight – where they interact like that, where they want to be with the fans like we do. There’s no such thing.
Kathy: The actors throwing themselves into the crowd of fans last night, crowd surfing, it was like a metaphor for how much the actors trust the fans and vice versa.
Matt: It is, it’s unbelievable, everyone’s so cool. I did a convention for South of Nowhere in Manhattan at the Hard Rock and people were like ripping my watch off, ripping my shirt off, it was crazy. The Supernatural fandom is amazing.
Obviously, as anyone who reads this blog knows, we agree wholeheartedly.
Matt: This is a relationship, one that’s built partly through these conventions. And I can’t speak for everyone, but for Richard, myself, Chad, Misha, the boys, we give who we really are, and the respect back is so fantastic. The appreciation goes both ways 100%. I’m so grateful to the fans – very rarely is there a high profile celebrity who makes a career out of being hated. The greatest actors – Meryl Streep, Jonny Depp – fans love them.
We were struck by how much everyone, from fans to celebrities to Creation staff, wanted to be a part of the karaoke madness.
Matt: It turned into this thing, everyone wanted to be a part of it, every actor in this hotel wanted to be up there. Sebastian’s mind was just blown, he had no idea about this. I had just met him in Barcelona, and he’s a great guy, so real, and he gives 100%. I look up to him as an actor, he’s a major guy, and he just couldn’t wait to just get out there and be sweating with the fans. Last night he just fell in love with what we were doing, he completely gave himself to the fans.
(Literally – he did a freefall backwards into the arms of the waiting crowd with complete and utter trust that fandom wouldn’t drop him. We didn’t.)
We left the ballroom feeling pretty damn high, more from the emotion in the room than from the various alcoholic beverages we’d sampled – apparently the actors felt the same.
Matt: I felt the same thing – Richard and I had talked back in LA, we met up to go shopping to pick out our outfits, and we just wanted to make this an event. And last night we were all backstage after and we were so high on the moment, you should have seen us, everyone was soaking wet sweaty and just wrapping each other up in hugs. We felt like we’d just performed a rock show.
Fans felt the same. No wonder everyone talks about the Supernatural ‘family’ – fans were hugging, actors were hugging, fans and actors were hugging, and nobody gave a damn if we all looked a bit silly. How freeing is that?!
Matt: And that’s the goal, this was the launch of the Dick and Matt Karaoke Experience, and we want to continue to bring the actors up and the Creation crew and we’re gonna have fun stuff, tee shirts or something, make it so anybody can bring whoever they want to – me and Richard are gonna tweet ‘we dare you to bring five of your friends who’ve never heard of the show!’ I mean, Richard and me, we’re actors. Put us in costume and it’s the time of our lives. I just couldn’t wait to put those pants on that were six inches above my belly button.
(Only Matt could have made those pants look GOOD – and they did, in fact, look very fine. Yes, this is part of our reporting. What?)
Matt: Last night was EPIC. It got so loud at one point I found myself looking for earplugs. I’m seriously thinking about Dick and Matt earplugs to buy for 50 cents.
Hey, it’s a rock concert, why not?
Matt: I looked out last night and not only are Chad and Sebastian crowd surfing, but every single person was on a chair or singing or dancing, and I was in awe – I was so happy, because we wanted it to be that, a rock show.
Hopefully someone got some video of the entire stage and crowd waving their arms in unison to Abba when ‘Dancing Queen’ came on – we joined our good friend Alice, who runs the Winchester Family Business site, singing and swaying and just plain going crazy.
Matt: “Dancing Queen” comes on and the actors – all of us – our gay and straight sides collide in that moment, the song just takes you over, I find myself dancing and everyone’s dancing.
We wondered how the other actors even knew that karaoke was happening.
Matt: I walk onto the plane yesterday and see Sebastian, who I’d just met, and we split a car, and I said we’re doing this karaoke thing tonight if you wanna come. And of course I call Chad, he’s like family to me now, he’s my guy, and he’s a key element in it, because he’s this weird presence, and he’s floating around with this cigarette hanging out of his mouth and walking on chairs.
Lynn: And that frees everyone not to censor themselves.
Matt: Yeah, he’s very easy, he’s in his sweaty tanktop, he’s just a normal guy. And there’s Sebastian who’s this bigger-than-life sexual type of personality, and he doesn’t want to hide it, and it works for him. I find it so endearing, he’s one of the most charming men I’ve ever met. And the other guy, Colin (Lawrence), who I’d never met until last night, had the fricken’ time of his life! He didn’t want it to end, he thought he was Michael Jackson last night, he was fantastic up there, his energy was perfect. And that’s what we need, we’re adamant that actors that come up with us can’t just stand there. Act foolish, be funny, the fans will accept us for who we are, they don’t care, they love the show and they wanna see who we are. I love sharing it, it’s so rewarding to be yourself in front of people, not fearful of being judged. To just be Matt Cohen and get to dress up and be a bad singer and dance bad and tell bad jokes.
Lynn: That’s a lot of what our books are about, how fandom can free you to be yourself, can be a place where you’re not so fearful of being judged. We have quite a few of your quotes in the book about that, and some from Jensen and Jared about that too.
Matt: I saw those boys last night for the first time in a while, because even though we’re at these cons together, they’re always on Sunday. So last night I went and grabbed a drink with them before karaoke. I hadn’t seen Misha for months, since before I was gonna go to Haiti. I saw Jensen at Nashville, but it’s just nice to see the guys – the whole family was there, I walked into the bar and every one of the cast was there. It’s like a family, it truly is a special thing. We’re just a bunch of friendly dudes with each other, and it’s like, if you need something, you’ve got it, it’s so easy.
Kathy: And that mirrors what happens with the fans when they come together in this space – they don’t necessarily know each other when they get here, and friendships form, and fans support each other.
Matt: And I see that too, I’ll walk around when they’re not noticing me and I’ll see people sitting together in circles and talking and it’s great, these cons are special, different. It’s like a movement in itself, a private little fraternity.
(Or sorority, as the case may be….)
Matt: It’s so rewarding, feels so good – everyone wants to be loved and feel liked, but to make it vice versa, to where I like the fans and love interacting with them, that’s what friendships are built on. We have these mini friendships and we see each other every couple of months, and it opens up both of our minds, the fans and the actors.
Lynn (sniffling a bit just thinking about it): Will you miss it, when it ends?
Matt: Absolutely. I’ve got three more this year, Toronto, Chicago and Birmingham all in October. I’m hoping the fans will want me to come back for next year’s run. Who knows how it’s gonna go, I mean, it was supposed to be over already, but it’s been so successful, I can see it going to an 8th or a 9th.
Lynn and Kathy: *crossing fingers and toes*
We asked Matt what the experience of shooting his recent short film, Trigger, was like.
Matt: Trigger was fantastic. We’re in theaters in LA because you can only be nominated for an Oscar if you’re in theaters for 3 days. It’s got a run time of 33 minutes, and we submitted it to festivals and there’s a lot of heat around it right now, so we’ll see if they want to develop it into a feature. If nothing else, I think it’s enough for me to send to any studio. I’ve never felt this way about my acting, even my work on Supernatural, if I had another chance, I’d do it differently, but Trigger was so well done and I so related to this dark character. I had fourteen guests at the screening and every one of them cried. You hope to hit the cry factor or the scary factor or the anger factor, and we hit all of them. I don’t ever feel anything for my own character, but I was feeling for him. There’s a scene where he has no money and he grabs a few things in a convenience store and I look in my wallet and I only have five bucks, and I grab 2 bananas and some ramen noodles and some lemonade and the clerk looks at me and goes now, and I take one banana off and he’s like no, and I take another off, and he’s like no, and I don’t even know what I did, but I was like holysmokes. It’s always touching when something happens and you didn’t know it happened. It’s my first time taking direction from someone younger than me, but it wasn’t weird when I saw him work and how he got in my face, and heavy stuff went down on that set. That’s the only way I can get to these certain points, it needs to be real to me, and he did it, he put me in that space and let me play and I’m forever grateful.
We’re all hoping SPN is on the air for a long time, but Matt told us he’d also love to be cast in Eric Kripke’s new venture, Deadman.
Matt: There’s a million actors who could play that role, but even though I’ve only met Kripke once or twice in casting sessions, I feel this strange connection to him because he wrote the character of my first film, and he gave me this crazy wonderful opportunity with Michael and young John Winchester. I was researching Deadman, and what a unique character he is – he was a circus trapeze guy who was killed and kinda has the ability to come back through other people’s souls, super kind of dark, and Kripke is gonna make this amazing, it’s so Kripke. I can’t wait to see what he does with it, he’s so talented.
We relayed Matt’s message to Mr. Kripke, so who knows. Fingers crossed!
Many of the Supernatural actors are thankful to Kripke (and successor Gamble) for the unprecedented opportunities the show offers to actors. (The fans are equally thankful, in case either of you are reading, Eric and Sera… especially for those scenes that let the guys stretch their acting chops. Or lose their shirts.)
Matt: We’re so lucky to be on Supernatural, when do you get to act two characters in one show? Supernatural is the luckiest thing that’s happened to me in my life and in my career. I did 90210 and it’s rewarding, but it’s not like Supernatural, where you’re playing different things and making up characters that haven’t been played before, creating a version of Michael or the Trickster or young John. It’s a playground for an actor – even for the boys, Jared and Jensen are dealing with angels and demons and body switching and being used as vessels. It’s an absolute playground.
We admitted to never having thought of it that way, from an actor’s perspective. We know what makes the Show incredible – and unprecedented – from a fannish standpoint. Nice to hear that, once again, actors and fans are in agreement.
Matt: I have a quote my dad sent me a few weeks ago: ‘Let the children play in your heart and you’ll never get old.’ That’s what happens on Supernatural, the writers sit down and write this stuff and the kids come out of their hearts and they put it down on the page, and it transfers right to the fans and the fans get to act foolish, make centerpieces, wear costumes or wings, and we’ve got giant rubber duckies in the front row, and it’s just – we all gather and we let our children come out.
That’s what fandom’s all about, isn’t it?
Matt: I mean, last night I made out with the inflatable Misha onstage.
And that seems like the perfect place to end our chat with Matt – we’re looking forward to letting our children come out in Toronto on the weekend. Hope some of you are joining us!