So where did I leave off in my Minncon adventures?
Saturday night I was invited to speak at the Attitudes in Reverse ‘In Their Shoes’ event, which kicked off the Minneapolis chapter of AIR. If you have not been to one of AIR’s events, let me tell you that it is tremendously powerful and moving to see all those shoes with all their messages – of doubt, sadness, fear, and ultimately of hope. Hope because it is people speaking out, talking about how they feel, reaching out and asking for help even though that’s tremendously hard. I’m inspired by the work that AIR and SPN Survivors are doing to combat the stigma that keeps us from talking about mental health issues and prevents people from getting the help they need. That’s the best way to prevent suicide – and if people can feel comfortable asking for help, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope.
That’s one of the messages of our new book, Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives. It’s a story twelve years in the making, with chapters written by ten Supernatural actors and a dozen Supernatural fans. Every chapter in the book, both those written by fans and those written by the actors, is personal and incredibly powerful. Some of the chapters were hard to write, but every author persevered because the message is so important. We all hope that the book will be an inspiration to others to speak up and be real too, and to ask for the help we all need sometimes to get through the challenges life throws in our way.
Jared Padalecki is one of the actors who wrote a chapter for the book, written with candor and trust, and so inspiring I still can’t read it without tearing up and smiling simultaneously. He came to the AIR event to talk about his own journey – the help he has needed and the hope he has found.
A common thread in all the chapters is how the extraordinary relationship between the Supernatural cast and fandom has been a source of support and inspiration – for both sides. At the AIR event, Jared didn’t leave after he’d had his turn at the mic. Instead, he reached out to a young girl who was crying, crouching down and holding both her hands as he listened to her and helped her feel grounded.
He also continues to give the best hugs ever.
Mark Pellegrino and his wife, Tracy, attended the AIR event too, adding a pair of boots to the table where Jared’s and Jensen’s shoes already sat. Mark lost his best friend of thirty years to suicide recently, and he brought a pair of his friend’s boots, writing on one shoe how much he missed him.
I was there to speak as a psychologist who has fought to challenge stigma and get people the help they need – and to announce that we’re partnering with AIR with our new book. Sales of Family Don’t End With Blood will help to support AIR’s important work. Our wonderful publisher, SmartPop Books, has even agreed to donate some of their proceeds. Jared and I and the other book contributors are thrilled to be able to help support AIR with this book, both with the donations and with the messages of hope in Family Don’t End With Blood.
It was an emotional evening, but an inspiring one.
And then came Sunday.
I got up early for the Gold Panel, which is a very good way to wake up indeed. Jared kicked off the panel by tossing a gigantic burger at Jensen, who then (of course) tossed it back. Boys.
They were also, like all the guests, impressed all over again with the size of the gigantic hall at the Minneapolis Convention Center. And the seats waaaaaaaay up there (in what was affectionately known as the ‘Star Trek pod’)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan made a surprise appearance. Winchester reunion! Most fans had already seen the pictures of him and the boys hanging out the night before, which warmed all of our hearts.
There were some interesting show questions, including one about Stanford. Someone asked Jared about Sam and the Stanford years, and he said that he thinks Sam was in denial at that time about his calling (being a hunter).
Much of the panel was just plain fun though.
One of the funniest parts was Jensen’s imitation of long time SPN stunt coordinator Lou Bollo, who is short enough that Jared apparently has trouble seeing him – or at least pretends to.
Jared: Jensen, is someone talking to me?
They also said they know that Lou always has their backs. We were privileged to watch Lou at work on one of our set visits, and it was amazing. The detail that goes into staging a fight scene is incredible, every movement choreographed – simultaneously with, you know, the acting!
They gave us a little more detail about their cavorting on the Arrow set during the CW photo shoot last week too. Apparently that Amell sign was bolted to the wall. But no problem – Jared ripped it off!
Jensen also admitted that what he drew on the sign was a little bit graphic, smirking adorably and unrepentantly as he did so.
A fan from Hawaii brought them leis, which allowed me to tweet ‘Jared and Jensen just got leid.’ Because I’m shallow like that.
But actually they looked really good in them. See?
We also got to hear more about the prank that Mark Sheppard pulled on Jared, that he was so giggly about during his panel the day before. Apparently while Jared was filming a little promotional spot for various countries, they changed the script so that it seemed like Mark had his own television station. Jared’s reaction sounded priceless when Jensen played it on his phone. (Of course Jensen had helpfully filmed the entire thing)
Jared: A Mark Sheppard channel? Are you fucking kidding me?!
At the time, Jensen had played along, saying “oh yeah, didn’t you hear about that?”
It was a treat to hear it play out, as Jensen held his phone up to the microphone to share it with all of us.
Also I managed to capture a lot of JA tongue in my photos. I think my phone has a bit of a thing. I don’t really blame it.
The boys looked incredible in the morning panel (despite their late night out cavorting with JDM and the early morning time), so both my phone and my camera refused to stop taking pictures. Again, I don’t really blame them.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan was on next. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Vegas Con when he appeared there and was so impressed by him – this time was no different. He’s a very appealing mix of self deprecating and takes-no-shit.
He was candid about how much he struggled in his early years of trying to make it as an actor. In fact, he had just done a role for Star Trek where he was entirely invisible as some sort of reptilian creature and had decided he was ‘done’ – then he got the part of John Winchester and the part of Denny on Grey’s and that turned everything around. (Thankfully!)
Jeff: I was so thankful to get both roles. I spent 25 years not being able to pay my rent.
And damn, he’s good looking. I’ve said it before, but casting on this show can be brilliant – you can see the good genes that could have resulted in Sam and Dean for sure.
Jeff tends to stalk back and forth across the stage (with those long long legs), wanting to be close enough to the fan asking the question that he can a) hear them and b) answer right to them. That means I got very few decent pictures.
He was asked what character he’d play other than John, and he answered without hesitation.
JDM: Dean. He’s a smart ass. A boy after his father’s heart.
Biggest thing he learned from Supernatural? That there are people working in this business who are good people. Like Jared and Jensen.
JDM: And you know how I feel about those two idiots. They just really had their shit together right from the start and still do. We were up until 2:00 am talking and they’re just awesome dudes.
We ended the panel by flipping off Jeff’s Walking Dead costar, Norman Reedus, while he gleefully took a picture.
That afternoon, I had a chance to talk to Jared and Jensen for a bit – most of the conversation with Jared was about the book, and most with Jensen was about the twins he’s expecting.
Jensen: OMG I’m terrified!
I assured him of what I assured him before JJ was born – they’re caring, empathic people and they’ll be excellent parents. Not that it won’t be challenging sometimes, but I have no doubt they’ll be great. On a more show related topic, he also said he’s excited about the new big bad this season, which they’re going to take their time revealing, and that makes me excited too!
I asked Jared and Jensen for a preview of Season 12. They pondered and consulted for a few minutes, whispering to each other while they tried to decide what to do. This is the result. OMG how long is it until the season premiere again??? Protective Dean is so my fangirl weakness…AAAAHHHH!
Jared and Jensen’s afternoon main panel was also a lot of fun. It included the fuller story of their bocce playing adventures with Jeffrey Dean Morgan last night. Apparently there initially was no bocce court open, so Jared essentially bribed some guys to give up their court – which in hindsight seems like a ripoff, alas. Then Jensen and Jeff proceeded to beat Jared at bocce.
Jared: Turns out Jensen and Jeff are like little bocce Olympians.
Jensen: (is smug)
Jared also made me laugh out loud with his answer to who he’d want to play him in a movie of his life?
Jared: That guy who climbed Trump Tower.
Hahaha. The guy who even CNN mistakenly thought was Jared, as ridiculous as that sounds.
Jensen: Meryl Streep. She can play anything.
When a fan asked them about being dads, they were busy spinning around and around on their chairs, their knees repeatedly getting tangled together. The irony was not lost on them.
There was also a question about what shows they’d spoof if they did Changing Channels Part 2. One answer was the Olympics, complete with Speedos.
Jared: Strap on a speedo, Jensen.
Jensen: Already on.
A question about the twins that Jensen and Danneel are expecting gave Jared a chance to say some very sweet things about his best friend. But first, Jensen related how when Jared first heard the news, he said to Gen, ‘The Ackles just caught up. And passed us. To the bedroom!’
More seriously, Jared talked about why he’s thrilled.
Jared: He and I and our wives are all very close. We see each other on a regular basis whether we’re shooting or not. The twins will have wonderful parents, and Tom and Shep will have two new friends.
They also had some nice things to say about some of their costars. The first time they worked with Briana, they looked at each other and said, ’winner’. And Jensen is still upset that Charlie is gone, noting that people do come back all the time on Supernatural.
‘Just kidding’, he said after, then cocked an eyebrow. ‘Or am I?’
They also had a hilarious grammatical argument, which apparently is a common occurrence.
And told some amusing stories. Like, once JDM was so exhausted from running back and forth filming SPN and Grey’s that he needed his lines on cue cards. So Jared and Jensen stuck them on their foreheads.
Sometimes what I enjoy most about the J2 panels is just watching them together. The way they amuse each other endlessly, after twelve years of being joined at the hip most of the time.
The way they listen to each other. The way they anchor each other, with a hand on the shoulder or a pat to the knee.
The way they sometimes start whispering to each other and seem to forget that an audience of thousands is watching, and then throw their heads back and laugh over whatever it is they said – and we don’t even mind.
J2 gave the Kings of Con an enthusiastic endorsement. Then Rich and Rob walked out and paid him off.
For the last question, the fan asked them to re enact the Yellow Fever scene with the cat, which they immediately did.
Jensen did a little singing with Rob to end the panel, which is always a treat. Actually he sang some of the ‘Last Question’ song too, so we got a double singing treat.
I love these pictures of Jared watching, beaming with pride and affection. This cast, I swear. I can’t say it often enough; the way they care about each other is inspiring.
Jared and Jensen left the stage, Jensen squeezing Jared’s shoulder in solidarity and Jared waving goodbye.
The day ended with something new (and awesome) – a Kings of Con panel! It was the perfect ending of a weekend which is always incredible but exhausting, because only Rich and Rob (who should be the two most exhausted people in the house) can keep the energy level up no matter what!
Richard told the hysterical story of the time Rob was over-served (ahem) and called Rich trying to figure out how to get back to their hotel – which he was STANDING IN FRONT OF. Hahahaha.
We got some inside information – Kim, Matt, Sebastian, Osric, Gil, Misha, Jared, Jensen and Kurt Fuller will all be on Kings of Con! And we even got a sneak peek at behind the scenes filming, which included Misha with a monkey on his head. Or was that a Gishwhes related dream I had??
Louden Swain will also be playing on the show, and the score is by the talented Jay Gruska, of Supernatural!
Richard: Kings of Con is inspired by the craziest people at a con.
Richard: The actors.
And THAT is why I can’t wait for it!
Rob talked about how his friendship with Richard deepened after he had a stroke at the Toronto con a few years ago. That amazing story is told by Rob in his own words in the chapter he wrote for Family Don’t End With Blood – I still cannot read it without tearing up. This show – this fandom – this SPN Family – it really has saved lives.
This is Richard as Rob talks about how Rich saved his life. I could barely see to take the picture, my eyes were so watery.
Which is pretty much the perfect way to end a con.
For more information on AIR, http://attitudesinreverse.org/
For more information on SPN Survivors, http://spnsurvivors.org/
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Photos of AIR event by Lisa Michelle. Used with permission.
Photo edits by @mamaprior and @arkine13.
Thank you all for your help!
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