Finding Your Courage – Behind The Scenes of Supernatural with Lauren Tom

Next up in our celebration of Supernatural’s last week on the air, catching up with Mrs. Tran herself, Lauren Tom!

Supernatural has brought some wonderful people into my life, and I’m so grateful. As the show comes to an end, I caught up with some of my favorite actors from the show, many of whom wrote chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural. One of those people is Lauren Tom, who wrote a beautiful chapter about playing Linda Tran on Supernatural and how her own cultural background has impacted both her personal and professional journeys. Lauren has been super busy as one of the stars of Ghosts of Tsushima, on Season 4 of Goliath, and has also been doing some political advocacy and some important work with charities like Homeboy Industries. So I’m grateful she took some time out of her busy schedule to chat!

In Ghosts of Tsushima

We did some personal catching up first — where our kids are, the joys of family facetime, how the pandemic is affecting us and our families, the importance of self care and how challenging that can be. We also discovered a shared affinity for coffee ice cream. Which, we both agreed, counts for self care.

Lauren had recently watched The Social Dilemma (which I’m trying to find time for – but I’ll have my coffee ice cream ready. Reality is the scariest kind of scary!)

Then we talked a little Supernatural (note to self: stock up on even more coffee ice cream for this week’s series finale…)

Lynn: As the show is actually winding down, how do you look back on it and what it’s meant to you?

Lauren: I really appreciate the show on so many levels. The humor and the acting is really good, you know?

Lynn: Totally, agreed.

Lauren: And the special effects and the whole way it’s put together. Humor goes a long way with me, and I think they were so smart to incorporate that. I think that’s part of why it’s been so successful too – it has everything.

Lynn: I was just saying that to Matt Cohen, who I chatted with earlier.

Lauren: He’s such a nice guy, I’m so glad he’s getting to direct. I feel like that’s why Supernatural has been one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, because it combines everything that I’ve actually been able to explore and participate in, as far as comedy and drama and even my days in avant garde theater, because  you kind of have suspend your imagination and really just go there (laughing).  You know, I have to look down at my body and imagine that red smoke is coming out, not a normal thing, you know?

Lynn: Let’s hope not.

Lauren: And then the sitcom work and the drama, too. It was like oh, I get to do everything in this series. So I kinda felt like I was really using myself. And of course the people I’ve met along the way. I do think it’s gonna have a life beyond this, when the last episode airs, because the fandom is so strong and I think people will keep in touch.

Lynn: I do too. Now that it really is ending and all of us who were involved are poking back, when you look back, does anything stand out as a favorite moment for you, either on the show or with fans?

Lauren: Wow that’s a good question. I think my very first episode was so thrilling for me. Two things are  popping in my head at the same time. The love of the fandom, that I’ll always cherish. That will just be there. I was so surprised by it and I’m so grateful to Osric  (Chau) for pulling me into social media so I could connect with people, because  I had no idea how to even create an account. He’s really guided me through everything, into Instagram and just how to do things. When you’re in a different generation, it’s not that easy.

Onstage with Osric Chau at a convention

Lynn: I hear you!

Lauren: So that connection meant everything to me, especially with all my fundraising because that’s so close to my heart. But talking about the red smoke scene, I think the memories that I have – I’ve told this story before but – when Jensen has his arm up and I’m sorta pinned against the column and he’s trying to kill me and I  just looked up and I thought, I’m so not in this moment right now, looking at this gorgeous guy, like come on, snap out of it, get in character, girl!

Lynn: (laughing) But totally understandable.

Lauren: It was just hilarious to me, I just thought wouldn’t it be nice for him to just reach down and brush my hair back a little bit…

Lynn: lol

Lauren: I mean I’m happily married and everything and you are trying to kill me, but…

Lynn: You are all of us, Lauren.

With Jensen Ackles

Lauren: It just seemed like a real moment. And then the other two moments I love are Mark Sheppard coaching me in my trailer on how to be Crowley.

Lynn: Oh right, when your character was possessed.

As Crowley

Lauren: Teaching me the cadence of his voice and the attitude that he has when he’s Crowley. I thought that was incredibly generous of him, he’s just a great person.

Lynn: It shows how much he cares – not just about you, but about the character and the show and getting it right.

Lauren: And the show, yes. And he totally offered that to me. You’re absolutely right, he cared about all those things. So that meant a lot to me.

With Mark Sheppard

Lauren: Jared being there for me meant a ton to me too, in that scene where I’m chained up for a year and then I find out that my son is dead – that was, you know, that was heavy

Lynn: Oh, that scene was heartbreaking. Especially because you’re a mom in real life.

Lauren: Oh forget it, yeah. I really was almost a little scared to let my imagination go there.  But in moments like that, if you don’t have an actor that’s present across from you in a scene like that, you are screwed. Because then you have to do all the work yourself in your imagination and it’s just not nearly as alive. But if you have someone that’s completely present as a human being from one human to another, like Jared was, then your work is the easiest thing in the world, because all you have to do is look over there.

Lynn: Right, because it becomes so organic.

Lauren: It does. And it connects people on a very human level when both people are present. So I really really appreciate that Jared showed up for me in that scene. He does always, but in particular for that scene.

With Osric Chau and Jared Padalecki

Lynn: Those are great moments. I know you didn’t plan this because I asked you this off the cuff, but those kinda really show why this show is so special and has lasted so long. Just those little things that you said.

Lauren also participated in several of the zoom sessions that Misha Collins did in the run up to the election, including one with Sen. Cory Booker.

Lauren: That was hilarious on the zoom when Gen was going on and on about Misha. I’m sure we all feel that way about Misha and I’m so glad that he’s invited me again to do another one of those. When I think of how many people have been on the show, and there were only 35 of us the first time around, so I’m glad I made the cut again. I thought he might pick different people.

Lynn: You wrote about your own journey and identity in the book. I feel like you’ve really continued that journey in the past year, including with social activism. What has changed for you in the context of what we’re living through now?

Lauren: I think the first thing that pops to mind is trying to find my courage. It’s kinda like little by little. I’m trying to find a way to succinctly say this, but I come from a long line of super strong activist Asian women. And then there’s me! (laughing) And I didn’t want it to drop off the cliff in my generation. I was so in awe and in the shadow of what my mom and grandma achieved and then I also came in really sensitive. I feel like it’s taken me all these years to try to find my courage to be able to stand somewhere. And I feel like because of what we’re all going through right now, I didn’t have a choice. So little by little. For instance my son said, and this has happened to all of us, if you have any platform. When I first started posting things about politics, which I had never done before, I started losing followers at an alarming rate. Not that followers mean anything but it’s like there’s still a part of me that wants people to like me.

Lynn: I can relate. I also come from a line of strong women, from Spain and Central America, and then there’s me who also  just wants to be likeable.

Lauren: How does that happen though? Honestly my mother has asked me, how did you turn out to be such a wimp?

Lynn: (laughing) I don’t think you can say that anymore about yourself!

Lauren: Because my mother, she’s tough. She and my grandma are tough and they call it as they see it. I said I don’t know, I just kinda came in this way. Plus they’re so strong, it can be overbearing, you know? And also just culturally Asian, you are typically raised to be polite. I don’t know what happened in her case! My mom has a lot of great qualities but she has that quality where she doesn’t really care as much as I do about being liked, which can really be freeing.

Lynn: She’s a stereotype buster! I’m envious, it’s a constant anxiety for anyone who worries about it all the time.

Lauren: And it all stems back from how okay you feel inside about being exactly how you are. Then it kinda makes you bullet proof if you’ve got that self love going, which seems to be the trend now in therapy, love and kindness to yourself. It’s interesting how in each decade, there are certain tools that people use. I think that it’s really effective for me. I’m at the point right now, over the past year, of finding my courage and really I’m just in the first stages of being aware of how relentlessly I judge myself. It’s a constant auto pilot reflex for me to not treat myself very kindly.

Lynn: What a contrast between how you treat the rest of the people in your life and yourself sometimes.

Lauren: Yes, and my therapist keeps pointing that out…

Lynn: Haha, sorry!

Lauren: It’s great though for me to hear. Sometimes I do really well and sometimes I just take ten steps backwards but it’s all a process. It’s motivating too for me to think about modeling that – even though my kids are out of the house because my little one is at boarding school in Connecticut — he’s a hockey goalie so I got gipped out of four years – but I can still model for them the behavior that I hope they will adopt as adults. Being kind to yourself when you make mistakes and especially during this pandemic. It’s really important because all of us are making mistakes constantly. Covid brain!

Lauren from our very first chat

Lynn: It’s true. We’re stressed and anxious – it’s a whole new world.

Lauren: I’m cutting everyone lots of slack, it’s almost like being in a constant mercury retrograde for everything. Everything is a little off.

Lynn: it definitely is.  The journey you wrote about in the book and what’s happened since, I can see you stepping out from that shadow. I hope you feel really good about your chapter in the book. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about how much the book has inspired people, and people have been inspired by your chapter so you’re modeling for them too.

Lauren: Oh thank you for sharing that, I wasn’t aware. It’s always so lovely to talk to you, you’re such a positive light in the world. I love that you put that book together. Are you going to have a follow up and ask other people to write chapters?

Lynn: I keep saying no, but probably! The last one was stressful because we had such a short timeline to put it together before the show came to an end (and then of course it didn’t end right then anyway). I feel good that it’s raising money for Random Acts and SPN Survivors too.

Lauren: That’s fantastic. As I get older I feel like that’s what gives me a lot of joy.

Lynn: Agreed. Were you already passionate about being involved in charitable work before, or was that partly inspired by Misha and the SPN Family?

Lauren: I don’t think it had at to do with Misha, but I so admire him. I was already fundraising for Homeboy Industries before I was ever on Supernatural. So that’s been a long association.

Sharing popcorn with Misha Collins

Lauren: My connection is with the founder, Father Boyle, because he’s just such a rockstar. He’s this Jesuit priest who’s so freaking kickass funny – again with the humor, humor really can draw people in and make them able to listen to what his message is, about standing with the people who are the most marginalized. He wrote this incredible passage about this election, which is really sticking his neck out. As a priest you’re never supposed to endorse a candidate ever. So he’s bracing to have his hand slapped. There were two sentences that were lifted for this article in the NY Times last week.  They should’ve made the whole article about him. This passage he wrote is so beautiful and so moving and so dead on, so I asked him, how would you feel about me posting this on social media? Because he’s sticking his neck out but it’s so important right now and so he gave me the go ahead. It’s so well articulated and so I’ m getting ready to do that.

[See Fr. Boyle’s words at the end of this article]

Lauren: It’s an example of someone being willing to stand somewhere knowing that there will be consequences. Because he’s my friend and mentor, knowing that I see him doing things like that, I think, I can do this. What’s the worst that can happen to me, it’s just followers?

Lynn: Probably this isn’t the last time we’ll be fighting battles like this.

Lauren: The fandom embracing Homeboy Industries, that has meant everything to me.

Lynn: It is a wonderful thing about the show and the fandom – the message of the show, after all, is Always Keep Fighting, and that has inspired a lot of good in the real world too.

Lauren: I went from raising about $1,000 from my friends and family each year to raising $10,000 or $20,000 because of the fandom. Every year we were raising money and even this year was $9,000 in the middle of a pandemic.

Lynn: That’s amazing. Fandom does so much good in the world. Thank you again for your chapter in the book, Lauren.

If you’re interested, below is Fr. Boyle’s message:

I endorse Joe Biden because I'm Pro-life. 

I'm Pro-life and so I wear a mask and hope others will too. I also hope Pastors won't pack their churches in a time of pandemic.

I'm Pro-life...and

I think we ought not to separate children from their parents at the border.

I've lived in a very poor community for nearly 40 years and, because I am Pro-life, I would hope for health care for our people here, quality schools and access to opportunities.

Because I am pro-life, I think the Federal government should not execute people.

I am Pro-life so I hope we will cease to incarcerate the mentally ill and punish the wounded, broken and traumatized. Healing is Pro-life.

Here at Homeboy Industries, we stand with those left behind, but because we are Pro-life we ask, what keeps them behind?

To stay consistently Pro-life, I stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and strive for the creation of equity and an anti-racist country.

All of us aspire to holiness. We long to be mystics who see wholeness in each other and have a reverence for complexity. Holiness has never been a one-issue stance. Ever.

All of us just want to be in the world who God is: compassionate, loving and kind. 

I don't demonize Donald Trump. Demonizing is the opposite of who God is. It is always untruth. 

Joe Biden is healthy, whole and an integrated adult. Donald Trump is saddled with huge maladies and disorders not of his choosing. These chose him. I would not want to wear the daily anguish that he carries. For that reason, he is worthy of our compassion...and wholly unfit to be President.

Silence in the face of this is complicity. And there is too much at stake.

I long for an economy that is equitable and vibrant enough to infuse hope to those for whom hope is foreign. Few things will reduce the number of abortions than that.

Because I am Pro-life, I want to imagine a circle of compassion and then imagine no one standing outside that circle.

To be anchored in a Pro-life view compels me to stand in awe at what the poor have to carry, rather than in judgment at how they carry it.

I've disagreed with every President I've ever voted for. A Biden presidency won't be different.

We've never seen a moment like this in our country's history. This is not about partisan politics. It's about truly ...choosing life.

Blessings,

Greg Boyle , S.J.

— Lynn

You can read Lauren’s and the other actors’

Chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are

Done, links in the banner at the top or at

Peacewhenyouaredone.com

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