September 4th is an important day in the SPN Family – it’s the birthday of Supernatural’s own Richard Speight Jr. As I write this, Richard is hard at work up in Vancouver directing his second episode of Season 14. Today is an important day because, in my opinion, Richard is one of the most influential individuals in terms of Supernatural’s success. He’s been integral to the show not just in one capacity, but in three important ways. His first connection to Supernatural was as a guest star way back in 2007. He’s been on the Show as a guest actor intermittently since then as either The Trickster or the archangel Gabriel, spanning almost the entire run of the show. He made us laugh and fall in love with his character as the Trickster, but most recently as the tortured and traumatized Gabriel, he’s made us feel for the character and mourn his death (and cross our fingers that it doesn’t stick once again).
Second, Richard has been directing Supernatural in addition to acting in it for the past several years, including some of my favorite episodes. Along with Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Amanda Tapping, Speight is one of the few actors who have also directed the show. In fact, Ackles recently told me that it was wonderful being able to rely on Richard as a director when he had to play a new character this season, Michael. It was a challenge not playing Dean Winchester in the midst of all the familiar people and visual cues that make up the Supernatural set, so Jensen asked Richard to keep an eye on his performance and make sure it was coming across as Michael, not Dean. Richard was able to help him, as Jensen said, “craft the character.” The fact that the cast trusts Speight so much, in both a professional sense and as a result of the friendship forged in over a decade of traveling the world and doing conventions together, make Speight a popular and effective director for the Show – along with the fact that he worked his ass off to perfect his directing skills.
Finally, Richard has been instrumental in making the Creation Supernatural conventions the runaway success that they’ve been for the past eleven years. He started as a possibly one-time guest, but as time went on his sense of humor, ability to improv, and vision for what the conventions could be moved him into the role of con emcee. Along with Rob Benedict and house band Louden Swain and partnering with Creation Entertainment, Richard Speight Jr. makes Supernatural conventions an experience unlike any other – which explains why we’re about to have the 100th Creation Supernatural convention this fall – truly an unprecedented occurrence!
Rich and Rob even wrote and directed their own highly successful convention spoof, Kings of Con, which hit just the right notes in making fun not of the fans but of the people on the other side of the fence – hilariously.
We first met Richard shortly after he appeared as the Trickster, at one of the very first Creation conventions. Kathy and I were writing our first book on fandom and Supernatural, chatting with the actors in the green room between panels and trying not to look too awkward (and like we knew what we were doing…) We hit it off with Richard right away – in fact, during our very first interview, we eventually left the green room and went out to get some lunch because we all wanted to keep talking. We had questions for Richard, but he had just as many for us – he was naturally curious about these things called conventions and wanted to figure out what made them work. He was also curious about fandom and wanted to know what made that so special too. Kathy and I were happy to clue him in.
When one of the guests for the next convention cancelled, we suggested they call Richard, since he was a hit at his first one. They did, and the rest is history – Richard took it from there and they kept inviting him back.
In the early days of SPN cons, we would often meet up at the end of the con for a drink and to talk about each of our experiences – I learned a lot from him and I think he learned at least a little from me about fandom (or at least this fandom). His understanding of fandom helped make things like his “Rules and Regulations” intro song hilarious, and his innate understanding of people made him the consummate host, putting his fellow cast members at ease and helping them learn the ropes too. In those early days, if an actor was new to the cons and not getting any questions or not knowing how to handle them, Richard would often appear onstage to help them out.
We’ve had alot of chats over the years, and I’ve enjoyed every single one!
And then there’s the way the Supernatural cons have evolved. I was with Richard when he went to his first Louden Swain concert at a con to see how blown away he was, and he put that appreciation to good use as a proponent of making Louden Swain the convention house band and helping Rob and the band make the Saturday Night Special the amazing thing it is. Now I cannot imagine a con without him (the few times he’s missed, Rob or Matt or Jason have filled in admirably, but Richard is a fixture at Supernatural cons at this point). And the Saturday Night Special, with Richard also performing (as a talented bass player, guitarist and singer), is invariably one of my favorite parts of any con.
Our first chats with Richard and some of the amusing things that happened during them are in our first books, especially Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls! When we wrote the next book, Fan Phenomena: Supernatural, Richard wrote an entire chapter – all about how he discovered conventions and fandom, and made karaoke at Supernatural cons the epic event it is today. And if you’ve read the chapters that Rob Benedict or Matt Cohen wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, you know what kind of a friendship the Supernatural cast have developed – and how Richard’s best friends appreciate him.
Richard has had a tremendous positive impact not just on the show but on the conventions, and the conventions in turn have had a positive impact on the show and helping to keep it on the air.
So for his birthday this year, I just wanted to thank him – for making first Loki and then Gabriel such memorable characters, for making the Supernatural conventions the unique and special emotional experience that they are, and for taking the reins and directing this show we’ve both loved for way more than a decade.
It wouldn’t be Supernatural without you, Richard. Thanks for all you do and have a wonderful birthday.
Now kick it in the ass up there in Vancouver!
We’ve done many exclusive interviews with Richard over the years – here are a few of my favorites.
And stay tuned for more!
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