It has been a wonderful week of celebrating Jared Padalecki’s birthday for his fans – every day was a different hashtag so we could highlight something else, from photos and videos of Jared with other celebrities, or exercising, or smiling, or with pets, to his best performances and fans’ favorite photos. The hashtag #JaredPadaleckiWeek trended all week long, and my timeline was full of good feelings and positive posts and it felt like all the best things about fandom.
Then the week got even better – Jared popped onto twitter, shocking the fandom as he enjoys doing, to shine some light on a teacher trying to get ready for the next school year and without funding for things her students needed. So many teachers have a list of needed supplies that they often have to spend their own money to get, so #ClearTheList was a call to action for anyone who wanted to help. And help the fans did! People retweeted, donated, sent messages of support. Jared hopped on and thanked fans for the help, and then later in the week highlighted another person in need of help for a very sick cat, once again shining a light that allowed others to help if they could. The collective endorphins that we get from being able to help others just added to the good feelings already there, and made this a really special week.
When I started putting this post together, it was because I’d been reminded of some of my favorite Jared performances over the years. He has brought so much joy to so many of us, first as Sam Winchester and now as Cordell Walker, so I do want to post a few of those moments. But this week also reminded me that I value so many things about Jared that aren’t about what he does for a living. He’s a good soul who genuinely wants to help others – we saw that again this past week. More about that in a minute – but first let’s look back at a few of those performances that really demonstrate Jared’s powerful acting.
The first one that came to mind was one of the two episodes that made me fall in love with Supernatural, ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’.
I’d been watching, but I wasn’t head over heels, and then there were a few episodes in a row in Season 2 that just blew me out of the water. Jared’s performance as Sam possessed by Meg was one of those things that made me realize just how special Supernatural is. He was somehow so NOT Jared, not sweet smart caring Sam Winchester – he had an edge to him, evil, sadistic, insecure. Those scenes with Alona Tal as Jo and then with Jensen Ackles as Dean tries to exorcise his brother were breathtaking. Literally.
The second Supernatural episode I thought about was another opportunity for Jared to play a different version of Sam, this time as Lucifer’s vessel in ‘The End’. It’s a short scene, but it’s one of the most memorable in the entire series, Jared making Lucifer absolutely terrifying without ever raising his voice or appearing angry at all. His soft spoken manner nevertheless radiates horrible power, his almost affectionate oh-you-poor-thing reaction to Dean’s tearful resistance enough to turn my stomach. Jensen has talked about how blown away HE was by Jared’s performance, and it came through powerfully on screen too.
There are lots of other great acting moments in the fifteen years of Supernatural, but a few from the later seasons stand out too. One is from ‘Red Meat’, one of my favorite episodes of the entire series – largely because of Jared’s incredible acting. From the moment that Sam gets shot, he makes you believe how much agony Sam is in, and at the same time, makes his almost superhuman persistence believable too. His every facial expression, his every bodily movement, radiates the pain he’s feeling and the struggle it is just to keep going, and that makes the episode one of the most compelling of the series. It literally hurts to watch – and yet I love it.
Jared struggled for real with one of the scenes in ‘Prophet and Loss’ when Sam confronts Dean about giving up and tearfully tries to talk him out of sacrificing himself in the Ma’lak box. Perhaps it hit a little too close to home as Jared and Jensen mentally prepared to say goodbye to the show eventually and to Sam and Dean, but Jared has talked about how he couldn’t get the lines out, something that had never happened to him before. But ironically – or maybe because of that emotional struggle – the filmed scene is amazing. Sam’s anguish, his anger, his lashing out and simultaneously needing a hug from his big brother – that’s what Supernatural is all about. I cry along with him every time I watch that scene.
Honorable mention to ‘Beat The Devil’ when Sam is killed by the vampires in the tunnel because I watched that scene be filmed and I have a little idea as a result about how hard that was and how many times they had to try to get that blood to spurt the way it was supposed to and not douse everyone and everything with fake blood – but also to that powerful moment when Sam wakes up and realizes Lucifer has brought him back and you can see all the warring emotions he’s feeling – rage, terror, determination to stand up to him anyway. I remember how exhausted Jared was after that very long day and night, so covered with blood that I couldn’t hug him goodnight.
The scene in that episode when he’s reunited with Dean is also amazing, where the guilt he feels when he has to let Dean know it was Lucifer, is all too clear. A+ acting and I feel privileged to have witnessed some of it.
Honorable mention also to ‘Heart’, which I just watched in our Supernatural rewatch – and that ending scene, Sam sobbing and Dean with the one perfect tear and Silent Sympathy playing….oh, my heart! In those early seasons, Jared and Jensen have told the story about Jared thinking about his beloved dogs dying in that scene, and it worked so well that not only did Jared lose it, but Jensen did too seeing Jared’s pain.
And finally for Supernatural, the finale. Full disclosure, I love the finale intensely. I cried so hard I nearly threw up, but that is exactly what I was expecting from it. Jared and Jensen put their hearts and souls into the barn scene and the result is one of the most riveting ten minutes of television ever. I’ve talked to both of them about it and I know how proud they are of it – and they should be. I can’t imagine how hard it was to be that vulnerable and let that much emotion show, especially when some of that emotion also belonged to the actors, saying goodbye to the characters they so loved, the crew that was family – and to each other as costars.
Jared was absolutely fearless in letting us see both Sam’s courage as he holds it together to literally hold his brother together in his final moments, and to tell him what he needs to hear to be able to go, and then Sam’s anguish as he dissolves in tears after Dean is gone.
That is what grief looks like, and we all recognize it.
It’s hard to watch, but it’s real and genuine and validating too.
He did so much justice to the character of Sam Winchester there, and to the bond that the brothers had for all those fifteen years we got to watch them and witness their ‘saving people, hunting things’.
That brings me to Walker, because that show’s depiction of grief and loss has been something I value a lot about it. Especially in the first season, but throughout the second too, Jared has showed us the depth of Cordell’s grief. Losing Emily, trying to figure out how to go on without her and be there for his children.
Struggling to get past his misplaced guilt about the fire, his complicated feelings for Geri and hers for him – all of that wouldn’t have been nearly as moving if it weren’t for Jared’s portrayal.
Jared has been as fearless as Cordell as he was as Sam, bringing a new character to life by letting us see who he really is and how he really feels.
I realize alot of what I’m including is how well Jared portrays grief, because it truly astounds me – and I think it must be so much harder than some of the other emotions that actors are called upon to show and to feel. He is also adept at comedy, as anyone who has laughed their way through Bad Day at Black Rock or The French Mistake will attest, and can play badass Sam Winchester or Cordell Walker with the best of them. (And those tender romantic scenes and the fiery carry-you-across-the-room ones? The guy has range!)
So yes, his acting is amazing. But that’s not what I value most about Jared Padalecki. I’m honored to have been able to get to know him a little as he worked on writing his autobiographical chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood. I was in awe of his courage and candor in telling the story of his own anxiety and depression and persistence so openly – it has helped so many people always keep fighting as a result of his willingness to do that. (And yes, working with him was a pleasure, especially seeing just how much he cared about what he was writing – and no, Jared, that isn’t negated by the fact that you worked on it for so long, because it was totally worth it in the end!)
I love watching him impulsively jump on social media and spread joy and laughter (and a little OMG Jared’s online, stop thirsting!)
I love witnessing his genuine affection and appreciation for his fans, whether it’s in person at a convention or online.
He finds joy in helping others, whether it’s working with Out Youth or Attitudes in Reverse or TWLOHA or supporting local Austin charities or doing tee shirt campaigns or bringing awareness to teachers who need school supplies and cats who need medical help.
Happy 40th birthday, Jared Padalecki.
Keep being you – the world is a whole lot brighter for it!
You can read Jared’s chapter, along with the
other Supernatural actors and fans, in Family
Don’t End With Blood, and more about the
legacy of Supernatural in There’ll Be Peace
When You Are Done. Links in banner or at: