I can’t let March 1 go by without wishing a happy birthday to Jensen Ackles, who has made a significant impact on so many people’s lives, including mine.
I love so much about Supernatural, but I don’t think I would have been as captivated by Dean Winchester as I was 16 years ago if someone other than Jensen had played him. The way he cared about that character, making him nuanced and complicated, imperfect and heroic, and achingly real, made all the difference. Add to that, the way he and Jared Padalecki became brothers on set and off brought the Winchesters to life and created a relationship and a story so unique and powerful that I will literally never get over it.
It’s been a rough few years, and a really rough last month – I recently lost my OG partner in crime Kathy, who fell into Supernatural with me way back in 2006, so I’ve been thinking a lot about those early days that we wrote about in ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’. We were both ‘Dean girls’ which means that Kathy and I spent a lot of time appreciating one Jensen Ackles. We spent whole weekends binge watching Jensen’s earlier shows and movies, rewinding (yes, it was that long ago) favorite scenes from Dark Angel and Dawson’s Creek and Blonde and even Devour (yes, you know the one), sipping cold drinks and occasionally swearing or slapping each other on the knee because DAYUM.
We loved all of his performances, but he drew us in with his brilliant portrayal of Dean Winchester, and that ended up changing both of our lives. Half of our story in ‘Fangasm’ was the two of us propelled by some permutation of “how can we meet Jensen Ackles” into roadtrips and flights and online communities and all kinds of unlikely adventures. How do you thank someone for inspiring something like that??
Over the past 16 years, my appreciation for Jensen has evolved –not that I’m not still a Dean girl, because that is FOREVER, but I also have a lot more genuine appreciation for how hard Jensen works and how much he cares about what he does. Because I care so much about Dean too, I am incredibly grateful for that. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the set and watch him work, and to talk with him about the show and the character many times over the years (and to play an ongoing game of guess-what-was-an-adlib which even he will admit I got frighteningly good at). Dean fascinates me as a psychologist, and I have loved discussing what makes him tick with Jensen – who invariably gets him better than I or anyone else ever could.
I’ve seen how much he puts into a performance, and witnessed firsthand how emotional he is when he’s just gone through something traumatic as Dean. It’s striking, and for me as a non-actor, frightening in how much it clearly takes out of an actor who embodies a character like that. I’ve seen how much he cares, and how much he puts into trying to make a scene ‘right’ – for Dean. I’ll appreciate that always.
I’ll be over here mourning Supernatural forever, which will surprise exactly no one reading this, but as I write this in 2022 I’m also so excited for all the amazing new things Jensen’s doing – if anyone thought all the Supernatural actors wouldn’t be a success after the show ended, they were certainly wrong! I can’t wait to see him bring a new character to life on The Boys, reunited with Eric Kripke on a show I’ve been watching since the start and loving (and enjoying dissecting of course).
I can’t wait to dig into Season 3 and see what Jensen does with a character who isn’t the ‘good guy’ on a show that does an amazing job of making nothing black and white or as simple as it seems on the surface. Gimme!
I’m also excited to be able to at least hear Dean Winchester’s voice (and maybe more, who knows) on the upcoming prequel The Winchesters, currently in the process of casting young John and Mary with the same brilliant casting agency that did such a perfect job with Supernatural. I’m looking forward to all the other projects Jensen’s got in development with Chaos Machine –it’s so wonderful to have things to anticipate now that I don’t spend every week anticipating a new Supernatural episode.
This week feels special not only because of Jensen’s birthday. For many Supernatural fans like me, it feels special to have Jensen and Jared on set and working together again as Jensen directs an episode of Walker. I’m so glad they were both able to make that happen, and they both very much wanted that to happen. It’s a big thing to direct on a show that’s not your own for the first time, and I’m sure Jensen is nervous. He wrote candidly about his anxiety in his chapter in ‘Family Don’t End With Blood,’ and I can imagine that taking this next big step in his professional career is stressful, as it would be for anyone.
But I can’t imagine anyone who could facilitate that challenge for Jensen better than the person who knows him best as a director and actor. No matter the bumps in the road they’ve gone through since the show ended, I know it will be an experience that’s satisfying for both of them, and one they both value a great deal. And I know Jensen will work his butt off and succeed with flying colors.
The Supernatural set was a special place, and that was largely because of the tone the actors set and made sure anyone who joined in took on as well. In Jensen’s chapter of ‘There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done’, he talks about how proud he is of the tone they had on the Supernatural set and how much it means that so many guest stars and directors said it was the best, most fun and comfortable set they’ve been on. In his words, he’s proud that they put in the effort to make their home a place where everybody’s welcome. You can tell, in behind the scenes shots and gag reels and testimonies of every guest star ever, just how special the Supernatural set was.
It seems like Jared has done that on the Walker set too, so I have no doubt that “the new guy” is feeling welcomed on his special day, by not only his costar of 15 years and good friend, but by all the wonderful cast and crew of that show. Jensen recently said that it just “felt right” to be able to celebrate his birthday on set with Jared again, like he did for so many years – so here’s wishing you an epic celebration on the Walker set today, Director Ackles!
And as far as directing and producing and acting and all the other exciting things the future holds?
As Kim Manners would say, kick it in the ass!
You can read Jensen’s chapters (and
Jared’s and Misha’s and many others)
In Family Don’t End With Blood and
There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done
(links here or at the website below)