It’s Supernatural premiere week, so this will be a drive by Toronto con write up. As in, I’m writing this at the con between panels since I’m not a vendor here. That’s my only hope of actually getting a con report posted before the season premiere. Squeeeee!!!
This was reputed to be the last Toronto con, though it looks like Creation might now be considering coming back in 2019. But the chance of it being the last one was enough to make it emotional for me – for anyone who was here the year that Rob Benedict had the stroke here at the con, or for anyone who was here the next year for his triumphant return. When I first read Rob’s intimate first person account of having the stroke that he wrote for Family Don’t End With Blood, I couldn’t make it through without reaching for the tissues – not many other people have told me they could either. All those emotions come up when I’m here in Toronto, but it makes this con a special one.
The other thing that made me emotional was having Rob and Rich back. I loved NJCon (as you know if you read my con report) and I think Jason Manns and company did a fabulous amazing job. But I just miss Rob and Rich when they’re not here. They’re part of the family, and not having them with us just feels wrong. Unfortunately I got here so late that I missed their intro and rushed to my seat just as Julian Richings was starting his panel.
Julian was his enthusiastic energetic self – and I think I need to call this the Glasses Con so far, because almost everyone was wearing kickass glasses, including Julian. He had some lovely things to say about the show and the cast and working with Jensen on those pivotal scenes (liked the pizza one, but regrets letting him near a scythe…)
PS – I love Julian’s glasses!
Emily Swallow wore an awesome Golden Girls shirt (from Target) which prompted all kinds of Golden Girls jokes and recasting with SPN actors. She always gets asked about kissing Jensen/Dean, and instead of answering just asks everyone to close their eyes and imagine it too. Mmm.
Someone kept asking very difficult questions – like who do you like better, Sam or Dean? Or even worse, Jensen, Jared or Misha? Luckily the SPN cast is too smart to actually answer those questions.
PS – I love Emily’s glasses!
Jason Manns did a lovely “quoncert” including a beautiful duet on Hallelujah with Rob, a rousing version of Wagon Wheel with Richard, Rob and the band, and an old favorite, , that he sang with Jensen Ackles a decade ago at the very first Supernatural convention in the UK. Jason remembered how nervous Jensen was, hesitant to even step close to the mic and wearing a baseball cap and chewing lots of gum. Jason said he’s loved watching Jensen’s evolution into a rockstar.
We also got Jason and Rob singing Hallelujah, which never fails to give me chills.
Then we had a Kim and Briana panel, which was irrepressible with all the energy that both they and we have around Wayward Sisters. They start filming next week, and they clearly cannot wait (though Kim did say the fight training had left her so sore that she was going to wear flats all weekend). Both are excited about the fact that it’s a show starring six women, who are real and complex and aren’t standing around talking about a man.
Kim got emotional when someone asked her how this all has changed her (which is what she wrote about in Family Don’t End With Blood too). She said that she was good at living with pain, but that until three days ago when she went to set to film this pilot, she had never had to be good at living with her dreams coming true. She started to cry, I started to cry, Briana beamed. It was a moment.
They also made me cry when they each talked about how unique and special their friendship is – Kim is the easiest to be friends with ever, and Briana asks for honesty and really means it. Yep, you guessed it. More tissues (someone handed some to Kim, while I fished out my own from my backpack).
Also, they are so much like J2 in their propensity for grooming each other – or pulling hairs off each other, etc.
It really was wonderful to have Rob back with Louden Swain and Rich as emcee – we had some autographs and then I went to dinner with some old friends who I’ve known since my very first Supernatural con over a decade ago. See why I have a soft spot for Toronto?
I’m headed downstairs to karaoke now even though I’m beyond exhausted. Just for a few songs. That’s what I always say…
Karaoke was notable for Matt’s innovative costume complete with attached inflatable doll and for the people in the audience wearing balloon penises on their heads. Dickheads, I presume? It made for an unusual vibe in the room…
Also notable for Julian Richings bopping around the stage as he always does. There’s something about Death cavorting so joyously that just makes me smile.
I managed to catch most of the Rich and Rob and band opener for Saturday yay, and then Kim and Briana had another panel. They always come out to the band playing ‘Bad Girls’, so Briana made a few attempts to live up to their ‘reputation’ by kicking the water bottles around the stage. Very demurely and carefully tho, gotta say. They had more info on Wayward Sisters, including that they’ve read both the pilot episode and specs for a possible first two seasons, which was exciting.
They also had some emotional things to say, which always makes me emotional too. Kim thanked the SPN Family for helping her expand her understanding of autism and thus be a better parent – if you ever doubt that we’ve changed their lives as much as they’ve changed ours, don’t!
Briana answered a question about finding balance as a parent and an actor with credit to her wonderful husband Jose, who is a stay at home dad, but also by saying that she can’t be the best wife, mother, and woman if she doesn’t also pursue her own passions. Which is pretty much a theme in all our books. Too often we end up mired in guilt over it, but passion is good for us! As is balance.
Then we had a hysterical R2M panel, which started out with Matt’s traditional leap from the chair. I swear he defies gravity – and it’s a miracle he never breaks anything!
Somehow this panel also included Rob saying with a straight face “I have a giant staff” and the rumor getting started that Chuck does a lot of manscaping.
Richard: You don’t have time to bring Gabriel back because you’re too busy with the landing strip down there?
Matt did a lot of cracking up at Rich and Rob, who were as funny as they were on all those awesome Kings of Con episodes. Matt took his turn amusing us too, especially with his story of acquiring the inflatable doll that was part of his karaoke costume. He never did exactly say where he purchased her…
Richard also got a lot of questions about Band of Brothers, which he is very passionate about. He became close with some of the real people who he and his fellow actors portrayed on that show, and one night when they were drinking, one of the men suddenly said to Richard, “we looked for you, man, we tried” – he was referring to the fact that Richard’s character, the real hero Skip Muck, was killed in battle and so blown apart by the bomb that he was never found, at all. Richard got emotional talking about that, and Rob, who was sitting across from him rapt listening, spontaneously exclaimed “Oh my god.” Sometimes panel moments are special because we’re just listening in on an intimate conversation, and that was one of those times. No wonder Band of Brothers impacted Richard so much. He also talked about the bravery of anyone who volunteers to go fight, and how those people are braver than the people in ‘suits’ who try to make rules about who cannot serve.
Matt also got emotional when they talked about bucket list items – he just wants to live long enough to see his son grow old.
I got teary. Richard and Rob both said OMG Matt is a thousand times healthier than us, he drinks green juice for breakfast every day, we’re doomed!
I tried to grab some lunch with friends, which meant gigantic lines at Subway and eating our subs in about 3 minutes flat, but it was worth it to catch the Louden Swain acoustic set (with Jason Manns) in the vendor room. Everyone joined in on Medicated, with makeshift kazoo sounds, and it was all kinds of awesome. I kept thinking, SPNFamily, this is what it means. And Rob’s smile pretty much said it all.
I got a chance to chat with Rob, Billy, Mike and Stephen a bit about Family Don’t End With Blood – the band was kind enough to play at the book release party in LA this summer and have all read it so they are always wanting to know how many people the book has reached, because the whole point is to make a difference, to share both actors’ and fans’ struggles and triumphs to inspire others. They were all thrilled to hear that an excerpt from the book was included in Entertainment Weekly’s special Supernatural issue. When EW contacted me and my publisher for permission to use some excerpts, I gave them both a portion from the chapter Rob wrote and the one that Jim Beaver wrote. They used the part from Jim’s amazing chapter – and ended up doing a whole article on Rob and Rich and Kings of Con! Rob hadn’t seen it yet, so I was wishing I brought my copy along.
I also got to catch up with Jason Manns for a bit and to congratulate him on the news about baby No. 3. His baby announcement is so perfect I told him he might just have to stop there since I don’t think he and Krista could top that one!
Then it was time for Mark Sheppard – only a couple more months of Mark at these cons, so I get emotional every time he gets serious. And he did, quite a bit in this panel. He answered seriously some deep questions about his character and his experience on the show – including talking about how everyone on Supernatural does such a good job that the characters become very real to us. A fan asked why Crowley wasn’t considered family like Cas, and Mark said that he thought he was.
Mark: The Winchesters never stop calling him…
It’s true. Which is why I’ll really miss him.
He also said something very interesting that I hadn’t thought about before, which really pinged my psychologist self. He said that he thinks that fans identify with Castiel and Crowley, and those characters are a way of inserting themselves into the story, through the other characters who love the Winchesters. I’ve never thought about it before, but it’s an intriguing thought.
Mark also got a lot of questions about his kids. He gets such a fond look on his face when he answers, telling stories about how proud he is of his oldest son, how his middle son and his wife love to laugh, and how little Isabella loves to sing and even play the drums a little. Awww.
Of course there were laughs too. When he didn’t like the original intro the band and Richard and Emily did for him, they came up with another. Which was epic. The look on Mark’s face tells me he liked this one. Me too.
Time for a latte break and a Tim Hortons run now, and then it’s Misha Collins!
Misha showed off his socks for Rob, who was fascinated. I have a thing about guys wearing cool socks, so this made me very happy indeed.
Um, at least I think it’s his socks he’s showing off…
While Rich and Rob were still onstage, Misha cracked everyone up by telling a story of being at a serious business-y meeting and then a sock fell out of his pants. You can imagine where everyone’s minds immediately went. Then he told a hysterical story about his formerly straight laced mother in law getting divorced and discovering 70s porn, which was made a thousand times MORE hysterical because AWKWARD!
God, I love watching them all laugh – they amuse each other as much onstage as they amuse us, which is awesome.
Richard Speight Jr. had his son at the con, and he had a swear jar backstage. Pretty sure he made a fortune just on this segment alone. Smart kid! Kim later tweeted that she just paid up front. Smart.
Misha told Rob and Rich how excited he was to get a phone call from NPR’s Bob Garfield after he mentioned him at a recent con. I felt good about that one, since I had tweeted it and tagged Garfield so he would be sure to see. He then tweeted me and we had a lovely little exchange in which I encouraged him to give Misha a call – which he did! Putting a smile on Misha Collins’ face is right up there with my favorite things to do in the world.
In more dangerous territory, Misha questioned whether the Impala was really a practical car for Sam and Dean to drive – don’t they have to fill up with gas constantly? He suggested a Honda Civic might be more practical. (Hey, my Honda Civic is totally practical, so…)
He also shared what I thought was a touching little opinion on Castiel – that he wants very much to be a protector and to take care of people. Unfortunately, he knows pretty much nothing, which complicates that. But still, aww.
Also a fascinating little behind the scenes tidbit? Cas was originally supposed to sing ‘Highway to Hell’ to that baby, but they couldn’t get the rights so it ended up being the Greatest American Hero theme. Which was still awesome, but Highway to Hell would’ve been hysterical. Of course I’m the mum who used to sing rock songs as lullabies to my kids when they were babies, so what do I know?
And I’ll end the Misha section with this. Misha gave some “teasers” on how the new season opens – Cas lying dead, prone, and Dean pulling a sheet over him, noticeably upset.
Misha: Problem is, I’m lying there with a sheet over me and I can’t see, which means that Jensen has ample opportunity to mess with me and slap my balls…
As you do.
Time for a nice dinner and then one of my favorite parts of any con. The Saturday Night Special in Toronto is always extra emotional because this is the city where he had the stroke and his fellow actors and the SPNFamily literally saved his life. The chapter he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood takes you through that harrowing experience minute by minute, day by day – and Rob is such a good writer that you can feel every heart pounding moment when nobody knew if he would make it. He referenced that experience at the concert last night, and I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience reaching for the tissues. I can’t imagine this whole experience without Rob Benedict.
Rob also said that many of them were deeply impacted by the death of Tom Petty, so there were several of his songs as a tribute to him.
She Waits is always emotional, but Rob was particularly demonstrative last night. The room was lit with gorgeous purple candles that fans handed out, and the effect was so beautiful as Rob sang and the lights swayed to the music. There was also a message in lights on the side of the stage that Rob went over to read, exclaiming “I love you guys so much” again and again.
And if that wasn’t enough emotionality, they also dedicated Angela to Tim Omundson as he continues to also recover from a stroke.
Fans gave Rob his own purple lights and button after She Waits, and the emotion in the room was very nearly overwhelming – for Rob, but for all of us too.
As we neared the end of the show, Rob asked if Matt was still backstage and could he come out for Mama’s Jam if he was – and when Matt bounded onto the stage, the joy on Rob’s face and the answering joy on Matt’s made me emotional all over again. That is such a triumphant song, the entire ballroom on their feet and dancing, Matt on a chair cheerleading.
We also got triumphant performances from Richard Speight Jr., Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Emily Swallow, Jason Manns, Chris Schmelke, Stephanie Dizon and Matt Cohen (with Doris, of course).
The encore was Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’ with everyone on stage and everyone in the audience singing as Rob ran around the ballroom with the mic and slapping our hands in solidarity.
Sunday morning was the Jared and Jensen gold panel. Jared was wide awake, having cut his nose, and Jensen was sleepy, having only gotten a small coffee. Didn’t matter, they were as entertaining as ever. The first question was a rather long and involved (but excellent) question about how Sam and Dean’s relationships with characters from the AU might be different, which caused Jensen to hang his head and give up, blaming his too small coffee.
Jensen: Next question…
Time period they’d go back to?
Jared: The sixties.
Jensen: The dinosaurs.
Jared: That’s not a time period!
They then had an adorable mock spat.
Jensen: When Amara said she’d give Dean what he needed most, I thought he’d want…
Jared: Straight legs?
Jensen and everyone else: NO. (His dad)
They both said they thought if John came back now, Sam and Dean would see him as more human.
Someone asked about pranks they played on each other (drink!) and Jensen said that they made a pact early on not to prank each other.
Jensen: We’re better as allies.
They certainly did scheme a lot to prank Misha though, including hooking the bumper of his car to the very heavy hair and makeup trailer – luckily a crew member put the kibosh on that. It sounds like new cast member Alex Calvert is bearing a lot of the brunt of their propensity for pranks, which Misha has now (happily) climbed on board for since it’s no longer all directed at him. In fact, once director Nina Lopez Corrado actually stopped the scene because poor Alex couldn’t get his lines out. He was panicked, thinking he’d be fired, but instead after getting Jared and Jensen’s close up coverage, she sent them and Misha home. Essentially for bad behavior!
They were serious from time to time too.
And yes, they did carve Sam and Dean’s initials into the bunker table.
Jared: It was outlined for us, but we did the actual carving.
Jared: That scene felt like Sam and Dean talking about what they’d done, but also felt like us talking about what we’ve done.
Jensen couldn’t resist adding:
Jensen: It’s better than urinating on everything, which is our usual way of doing it. (making our claim)
Jensen sweetly gave a plug for Jared’s upcoming guest spot on Jimmy Kimmel on Thursday night, looking entirely proud of his costar. Also, yay!
Someone asked what memory would really stick with Sam and Dean at the end, similar to Bobby’s last memory of the boys squabbling on the couch. Jensen said it would be a collection of good moments – the brothers reuniting, John, Bobby, Cas.. .. but also killing the big bads. (Sounds like a Dean answer for sure).
Which story would they want to extend or elaborate on and Jared immediately answered: Demon!Dean and Soulless!Sam!
Answered like a true fanfic writer.
They had some emotional things to say about the show and the fandom and the lightning in a bottle that is the SPN Family, which is what they both wrote about in their chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood.
Jared: If this is what defines my career, I couldn’t be happier.
When told about Misha’s comment about the Impala, Jensen quipped…
Jensen: Let’s be honest, the car isn’t practical. (beat) But it’s awesome.
Maybe my favorite part of the panel was when they did impressions of Season 1 Sam and Dean. Jared whipped off his beanie and shook out his hair into bangs (which is still my favorite Sam look). I mean, look at him!!
He immediately looked like a little kid, with an adorable smile. Neither of them could stop smiling through all that either, as they said their lines in super high voices. Awww.
In between the gold panel and the afternoon J2 panel, we got panels by both Samantha Smith and then Jim Beaver – mother and then father figure. Samantha brought her mother with her to the con – it was lovely to meet her later at autographs. Sam remains a bit mystified about why fan reaction to her character was so negative for some fans (myself included at some points). Of course any actor has to make sense of their character, and Samantha sees Mary’s motivation for joining the British Men of Letters as wanting to make the world safe for her boys so they wouldn’t have to hunt and risk their lives. It never seemed to me that was realistic at all, but maybe that’s the fault of the show for not making it seem believable, and thus I couldn’t quite believe that Mary believed it. It certainly makes her character more relatable if that’s true, though. She also joked about the fight training she’s been doing, since the AU is “not a nice place”. I feel like that’s an understatement.
Jim Beaver came onstage to a standing ovation from the crowd – there was plenty of disappointment that Jeffrey Dean Morgan had to cancel, but also plenty of gratitude that Jim stepped in once again.
Jim: I’m making a career out of taking over for John Winchester…
Jim was a little bit cagey about whether or not he’s returning in S13, which gives me hope that maybe he is!
The afternoon J2 panel was also full of fun, per usual.
Jared said he’d like to see Danneel on the show, which got a lot of cheers from the audience.
Jensen: Kiss ass.
Jared: Hey, he killed my wife, I should get to kill his…
Jensen: Oh great. And then we have a viewing party for all the kids.
Second favorite moment was when a little girl stepped up the mic.
Jensen: What’s your name?
Jared and Jensen: (back away)
Jensen: That’s a pretty dress you have on, Lilith…
It was hysterical, but I couldn’t figure out for sure whether the young girl really was named Lilith or just trying to freak out the boys!
I was particularly enamored of the story Jensen told about Jared being unable to tell a joke without cracking up himself, in part because of the expression on Jared’s face as he listened to his friend affectionately ribbing him. It was, for some reason, very heartwarming.
The most entertaining exchange of the weekend was entirely random, and thus completely hilarious. It started when a fan asked what advice they would give Sam and Dean this season.
Jensen: I would tell Dean not to jump to conclusions.
Jensen: Talk amongst yourselves.
Jared then launched into a rendition of that old Saturday Night Live character played by Mike Myers, Linda Richman, who ended every discussion with those same words when she got too verklempt to continue.
Jared: Rhode Island. Neither a road nor an island. Talk amongst yourselves.
Jared: If a fly didn’t have wings, would you call it a walk? Talk amongst yourselves.
By this time, Jensen was laughing – you know, that sort of throw your head back and laugh kind of thing that he does, slapping his knee, hand over his face thing when he’s really loving something?
Jared: Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways? Talk amongst yourselves. What is that…
Jensen: I don’t know, but keep going, you’re killing it.
Jared: (delightedly) When you mail something by car it’s called a shipment. When you mail by ship it’s called cargo. Talk amongst yourselves.
By this time, they’re doing the hand movement that accompanies that phrase in sync because of course they are.
After a long time of this, and everyone dying, Jared finally answered the question too.
Jared: I would tell Sam, don’t get too attached.
Intriguing answers for Season 13, which premieres tomorrow night. I am so ready!!!!
A fan with amazing body art painted on her (by @bastienbodyart) impressed the boys – Jared was literally open mouthed when he saw her. The creativity of fandom and the artistic talent will never cease to amaze me, seriously.
The last question was notable not so much for the question, which I’ve forgotten, but for the fact that Jensen played keyboards for the entire thing. It was over the top melodramatic and he nailed it and it was hysterical. Watching Jared try to keep a straight face and actually answer the question while Jensen just kept playing was priceless.
They waved goodbye, shared the traditional pat on the back as they were leaving, and that was that.
We ended with a Kings of Con panel, during which Richard told the hilarious story of when he ripped his pants onstage and was terrified that Jared and Jensen were going to make it a ‘bit’ – he danced around trying not to turn his back on the audience while he tried to introduce them and then get the hell out of there.
Fans are all hoping that Kings of Con Season 2 finds a home very soon so we can all get back to watching it again – Rich and Rob are already working on it!
And that’s a wrap on a drive by Torcon post — see you back here very soon for our first episode review of Season 13!!!
As always, kudos to my partner in crime, Kim Prior, for the photo and vid edits.
Read Rob’s and the other actors’
chapters in Family Don’t End With
Blood – links on this page!