There are only a few cons that I can drive to, and the one in northern New Jersey is one of them. I hate driving, so this is both a blessing and a curse – but I also hate paying for airfare, so of course I drove to this one in scenic Whippany. (I don’t actually know if Whippany is scenic, tbh). It’s a familiar drive from many trips to Rutgers, and this hotel was conveniently right off the NJ Turnpike, so I got there with less stress than last year – and last year’s parking lot debacle had left me with the coveted knowledge of where the extra parking spaces were too. What last year’s debacle did not tell me was that somehow this parking lot does not have an elevator from the lower floors – so I ended up dragging suitcases full of books up multiple flights of stairs and just about had a heart attack by the time I actually got to the hotel. ARGH.
Sweaty and exhausted but a few dollars richer at least from not flying, I got there on Friday afternoon and managed to catch some of the Friday people onstage, so there’s that. Jared Padalecki was unable to be at this con because he was at Matt Barr’s wedding in Cancun – we missed him ALOT but I’m so glad he could be there with all the Walker Independence cast celebrating such a joyous occasion.
David Haydn Jones and Gil McKinney were onstage when I finally got to the ballroom.
The two were contemplating the possible impact of AI on acting when I arrived. (More ARGH). (Not Gil and David).
David: My favorite episode was when Ketch and Dean were on the mountain. Jensen and I tried to add to the scene.
And apparently it snowed just long enough for them to film – the snow melted right after their scenes were done!
I love that David always tries to dress the part of wherever the con is, looking kinda Bruce Springsteen for Jersey. And love Gil’s stylish hat!
David: When I got the role of Ketch, I watched the Supernatural top 20 episodes, and I was like whoa, they’re really leaning into the absurd comedy.
(Mystery Spot and The French Mistake cases in point!)
Gil pledged to go back and watch all of David’s episodes. David pledged to do the same.
Gil: I only have two!
Gil told the story of finding out that Henry Winchester’s name was in the pilot of The Winchesters, and then getting the call from Jensen to ask if he wanted to play Henry again.
(You can read the whole story in our exclusive interview with Gil here on Fangasm last month)
David: At the wrap party (that they were finally able to have in Vancouver years later), Jensen and I were spitballing about Ketch’s granddad in The Winchesters.
He then proceeded to do an Austin Powers Ketch imitation lol
What weapon would David have taken from SPN?
David: The grenade launcher! It actually had a quarter charge in it, and that was a practical explosion with real fire and glass!
Gil reminisced about having to break Baby’s window on SPN.
Gil: That was really fun, but I didn’t know how much that would upset people. I nailed it on one take, like F yeah!
Another memorable scene was when Henry and Dean took that drive in the Impala.
Gil: Jensen and I got into the Impala, and he did a full 180 in the middle of the street – I didn’t know it was closed off! Jensen was like, do you need new shorts?
David said that Ketch was originally supposed to sound more like Billy Butcher on The Boys.
He also reminisced about some pranks, like trying to say his lines while someone was holding the mic like this and “fondling the balls in my hand” which I can imagine was… challenging…
As actors with experience on lots of other shows, they both had heartfelt positive things to say about working on Supernatural.
Gil: I’ve never worked on a show so nice and professional as Supernatural, and that’s because of Jared and Jensen. The Winchesters felt like a continuation of that.
We finally had Richard Speight, Jr. back as emcee for this con – he’s been so busy directing that it’s been a while – and he joked when he introduced Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster and Kim was like ‘who are you?’
Richard: Hi, I’m the new guy.
A fan asked about the Wayward Podcast, which they now record live at cons with some fans joining them. So you never know what you’re gonna get.
Briana: When we think of something we want to talk about on the Podcast, we usually do!
They did some reminiscing about Supernatural too. This is Briana trying to figure out if Kevin is a character on the show.
Kim: Kevin Freaking Solo!
Paging Osric Chau!
Kim said that she watched Supernatural episodes over the pandemic, and really liked The Ghostfacers episodes.
Briana told an amusing story about once saying to Jensen something like “sweet Jesus on a jeep”. Then he texted her when he was filming The Boys to ask, what’s that thing you said, because they just said sweet Jesus something!?
On Saturday there was a group panel that I caught a little of, with DJ Qualls, Gil McKinney, David Haydn Jones, Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster.
David said that when he went to his first convention, he thought: I’m in Heaven!
(He has a great chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done all about his experience with Supernatural and fandom – and Kim, Briana and Gil all wrote chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood about theirs!)
DJ: I met my best friend, Ty Olsson, at my first convention!
(I love that so many fans have also met their besties at cons or through the online fandom)
I also caught a few minutes of the adorable Ruth Connell and Rob Benedict panel, which is extra adorable since they’re a duo in real life.
Rob (excitedly): It’s almost Ruth’s birthday!
Rob told a hilarious story of going to see a show with Jessica Chastain in it with Ruth, and the usher was like OMG I love Supernatural!
(Supernatural is everywhere!)
They, like so many of the actors, talked about what a wonderful experience it was working on the show.
Rob: Jared and Jensen never cease to impress me. It was Season 11 of the show [when he went back to film an episode], and they never phoned it in.
Rob also said he loved filming the episode ‘Don’t Call Me Shurley’ with Curtis Armstrong – and Ruth added that she loved the commentary they did with writer Robbie Thompson on the DVD set.
Ruth said one of her favorite memories was when she was filming late and lamented that she really wanted pizza, and when it was brought in, Jared made sure she got some.
Ruth has just finished filming Dead Boy Detectives (which Alex Calvert is also in!) which I’m looking forward to.
The two also pitched a spinoff called Lucky Chuck and RoRo and I would totally watch that, just saying.
And then it was Misha time!
A fan asked if he ever found himself saying or doing something and thought ‘OMG that was so Cas!” He thought for a minute and then deadpanned.
Misha: Hmmm yes, I got stopped by a policeman once…and I smote him!
(For some of Misha’s trademark humor and also some serious appreciation for the fandom, he has chapters in Fan Phenomena Supernatural and Family Don’t End With Blood – links at the home page here)
I’m really enjoying Gotham Knights and so is Misha – we had a nice little conversation about how on the surface it might not have been our “thing” but that we have both come to really like it. He said that the producers have been open to collaboration too. He had a dream about his character’s arc on the show and told the producers about it – and they said okay!
He also said they tried to get Jensen to play Batman on the show (he’s deceased on the show fyi).
Misha: But he was too “busy”
Misha also reminisced a bit about when he auditioned for the role of Castiel many years ago.
Misha: When I auditioned for Cas, it was very secretive, like a Marvel movie. The sides said it was for a demon – and I’d never even seen the show!
He said the casting director, the brilliant Robert Ulrich, gave him a second chance to portray an angel, and Misha gave a ‘total deer in the headlights’ rendition – which kinda stuck!
One of the fan favorite moments of the panel was when Misha was trying to joke around saying “I find myself attractive” and then totally embarrassed himself by saying that and overheated – and had to take off his jacket. Much to fans’… dismay? I think not.
Luckily a fan gave him a fan…
On Castiel, Misha said that his message was one of acceptance.
Misha: Ironically, it took me a while to get to that place myself.
I think most of us can relate!
What’s Castiel’s love language?
Misha: Getting to sit in the front seat of the Impala! But mine is making things for people.
Another amusing moment was when a fan claimed she’d watched Supernatural – all of it – in two weeks.
Misha had to add up the hours to see if that was actually possible (which, not gonna lie, it barely is)
He had some amusing stories from set too, including the time he made the rookie mistake of actually drinking the beer in that dive bar scene with Dean and Cas.
Misha: Jared’s idea for my memoir title is ‘A Good Idea’. And then in tiny letters ‘It Seemed Like…At the Time…’ It’s so good, I have to actually use it!
We also got a ‘The Winchesters’ panel in New Jersey, with Drake Rodger, Meg Donnelly and JoJo Fleites.
Drake immediately spun his chair around and sat backwards in it, grinning.
Drake: This is a Jared move, I know!
Jared wasn’t there, but he was definitely on everyone’s mind – including Drake’s.
Drake: I did that scene in two takes, because I was working with Jared that day – I mean, Jensen!
(Understandable mix-up tbh)
Drake also talked about wanting John to be a little more like Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s version.
Drake: In season 2, I really would want John to have facial hair, closer to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s John.
(We didn’t know at the time that unfortunately the show wouldn’t get a Season 2, at least for now).
(Me, a non-beard fan: Noooooooo!)
(Perhaps an unpopular opinion…)
A fan who is non-binary asked JoJo about their experience.
JoJo: Representation is important. I’m grateful that I can help pave the way for others moving forward.
Drake said he felt it was a real responsibility stepping into the world of Supernatural and its fandom, and JoJo agreed.
JoJo: It was a responsibility taking on a canon queer character and I wanted to do that justice. It’s hard reading negative things on the internet, but I focus on how my character inspires people.
They also said it was important that Carlos wasn’t a stereotype.
Meg said that their experience has been that the entire Supernatural family, including all the actors, are so wonderful.
Meg said she’s realized she’s a lot more like Mary than she thought she was. She got her license just to be able to drive Baby in that scene.
Meg: I texted Jensen and said, If I crash, I’m so sorry!
(Jensen tells a hilarious version of that story, but was reassured by how seriously Meg takes everything she does as an actor)
Drake said that he was nervous about playing John Winchester, because there was some negative reaction to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s version.
They also got some just for fun questions.
What would Mary’s song be, a fan asked.
Meg: I think Mary’s song would be Baba O’Reilly (which was played in the scene with Baby).
(And which is an awesome song)
Saturday night was, of course, the Saturday Night Special – and Louden Swain, of course, did not disappoint!
The band did some oldies and some new songs, including Silver Spoon and Wave, and the traditional This Is How.
We got a very pleasant surprise when Mitch Pileggi joined in the SNS for the first time, performing Prince’s ‘Raspberry Beret’!
Kim Rhodes never disappoints when she joins the band, and neither does Briana Buckmaster.
Briana: Hold My Halo!
And it’s so wonderful to have Gil McKinney back at the cons and singing at SNS again – this time with a great rendition of Addicted to Love.
I thought JoJo Fleites killed it at the last SNS, but in NJ they channeled Freddie Mercury and brought the house down with Don’t Stop Me Now!
— Fangasm (@FangasmSPN) April 16, 2023
JoJo signing off: Take up space, bitches!
Petition to have JoJo at every SNS!
Meg Donnelly also joined in the fun – she’s had plenty of experience belting out a song onstage, and it showed.
The Winchesters cast is a great addition to the concerts with their musical talent.
Jason Manns joined Rob Benedict for a beautiful duet of Hallelujah, as they always do. I never fail to get goosebumps when the audience sings the chorus and Jason and Rob look so awed every single time.
As we got near the end of the show, the band played ‘Fare Thee Well’ with fans holding up lights in support. That song will always make me emotional because Rob played it on Supernatural, so it holds a special place in my heart. And his, I think.
And then it was Sunday!
That’s usually the J2 gold panel, and in a way it was this time too. Jared couldn’t be at this con, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan stepped in to join Jensen Ackles onstage for his Sunday panels. I’m a huge fan of JDM, and it was a treat to see him again even if I did miss Jared a lot.
Jensen: Look who’s back from the dead! He’s like the walking dead…. See what I did there?
(Jensen taking up the dad joke slack in Jared’s absence, clearly…)
Right out of the box, I nearly got everyone in trouble when I tweeted what Jeff had to say now that both he and Jensen have been on The Boys.
JDM: I told Karl Urban I was gonna see Jensen Ackles this weekend, and he said I’d better check with Eric Kripke about what we can say (and what we can’t)…
The Boys official twitter account immediately replied to my tweet.
TheBoysTV: Looks like the secrets are still safe in the cryochamber, nice work lads.
JDM tweeted back: BARELY.
Both Jensen and Jeffrey said that they were very very excited to be on The Boys.
JDM and Jensen to Eric Kripke: Come on, put me in!!
There was a question about Supernatural Easter eggs in other shows.
Jensen: I directed an episode of Walker, and the writer was a huge Supernatural fan, so there are all these Easter eggs!
Me: I loved that so much!!!!
Both Jeffrey and Jensen are used to being away working a lot of the time, but have been home recently.
JDM: We’re away a lot, so our wives are like, we’re glad you’re here…but it’s time to go now!
They both agreed they need to work.
JDM: Jensen and I both get antsy. We need to be working.
They also said that in their families, how projects get decided on is a group decision – by their whole camp and their families.
What would Jensen like to do next?
Jensen: I’d like to do a film, a project that’s out of the box.
JDM: You did a pretty good stretch from Dean to Soldier Boy!
Someone suggested Jensen do Dancing With The Stars (which frankly he would probably win lol), and JDM said he was totally up for Jensen doing that – or The Masked Singer!
A fan stood up to ask a question and Jeff smiled.
JDM: Is that Care Bears on your shirt? Can you tell I’m a dad? Or a weirdo…
Between the gold panel and the main panel, we got a Mitch Pileggi panel. He talked about his time playing the Yellow Eyed Demon in a scene with Dean on Supernatural.
Mitch: It was so fun playing the yellow eyed demon. I got to sniff Jensen all up!
Me: Honestly we’d probably all think that was fun…
Mitch: Jensen really is a good looking boy.
No one is immune to the Ackles Effect, seriously.
Mitch said that his wife was Gillian Anderson’s stunt double on the X Files – so sometimes when he was in a scene talking to her character, he was actually talking to his wife!
He also played guitar and sang a little for us, taking a page out of Jason Mann’s “quoncert” book.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan joined Jensen Ackles for the main panel – and for the traditional J2 jump.
— Fangasm (@FangasmSPN) April 16, 2023
Jensen and Jeff have such a nice friendship – Jensen told the romantic story of Hilarie Burton meeting Jeff for the first time (thanks to the Ackles’ intervention)
They agreed about their amazing and unpredictable daughters.
Jeff: She’ll be twerking over my grave!
Someone asked about their favorite convention memories.
Jeff told the story of the convention when he inadvertently gave away that he and Hilarie were expecting a daughter – I tweeted the photo of him I took at that con when he realized what he’d done and it went viral. My photo was on Jimmy Kimmel even! (Of course that was before I watermarked anything so nope, nobody knew it was mine – my big moment on Jimmy Kimmel squandered. Oh well.)
For Jensen’s favorite convention memory, he reminisced about the last Supernatural panel in Hall H at Comic Con.
Jensen: At our last panel at Comic Con, I took Jared aside and said, just drink this in – and we kinda got emotional.
They weren’t the only ones, I can attest to that!
JDM: The year I did Supernatural and Grey’s Anatomy changed my life.
Everyone in the audience: Mine too!
Going back even farther, Jensen said that getting the part of Tony in West Side Story in high school was life changing for him – after his baseball coach talked him into doing it.
There was lots of The Boys talk, which made me happy – other than Supernatural, that show is my happy place (and be on the lookout for a new book on that show very soon…)
At one point, Jensen re-enacted getting fitted for the Soldier Boy suit…
When he called Jeff to tell him about it, Jeff had one question.
JDM: Can I see the codpiece?
There then followed the hilarious story of Jensen confronted with a basket of codpieces to choose from. He finally picked one out and strutted out in it.
Costume Designer: Nope, we’ve already got one like that…
Everyone agreed that we all need Kripke to do another con, by the way. Are you listening, Eric?
Together they told the also hilarious story of when they were both at a wedding with their wives but on their own for an afternoon, so decided to get tattoos. They went to one shop where no one recognized them and it was too long a wait, so they went to another. They walked into the shop and the owner was working with someone else when he looked up and saw who had walked in.
Owner to current customer: Holy shit, get outta the chair!
I can just imagine!
They both talked a bit about John Winchester, a character both beloved and controversial.
Jensen: Even though it was a vengeful mission, John set out to right a wrong. In ‘The Winchesters’, we wanted to show John before that trauma.
(Of course, it turned out that wasn’t our John)
They reminisced about Supernatural and how great it was, is and always will be.
JDM: We knew Supernatural was gonna be great when Kripke put the music right in the script.
Jensen: And the writing. The pilot still holds up!
When Jeff was doing both Supernatural and Grey’s Anatomy, he was so sleep deprived, he could barely keep going. In fact, he was so exhausted, they used to put his dialogue on post it notes on Jared and Jensen’s chests.
Jensen: Just look at my tits, man!
Such a hardship…
All too soon, it was time for the last question. Jeff looked a little confused by Rob and Jensen suddenly bursting into song, but went right along with the customary insanity.
— Fangasm (@FangasmSPN) April 16, 2023
And then they hugged and signed the stage banners and thanked the fans and said goodbye.
I left right after their panel ended because I wanted to drive home while it was still light out – dragging my suitcases down the stairs of the parking garage once again because there was no elevator urgh. I was cheered up on the way out by my friend’s invitation to come jump in the Impala before she too left the con – always a treat to sit in Baby!
The drive home was long but I’m pretty sure there was a smile on my face the whole time anyway.
Til next year, Jersey!
Additional photography courtesy of the very talented Liz Madsen.
You can read the chapters by the Supernatural
actors on why the show and the fans are so
special to them in Family Don’t End With
Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are
Done – links here or at: