This is birthday month for the OG’s of the Supernatural family – and today is Mr. Matt Cohen’s turn! We first met Matt shortly after he appeared on the show as young John Winchester, and were enamored of him from his very first con. He didn’t know how conventions worked and assuming there were thick boundaries between the actors and the fans just wasn’t on his radar, so Matt wanted to hug each and every person he met that weekend. His down to earth personality and infectious genuine joy made him a fan favorite from day one. The first time we sat down to chat with him, we realized there was so much more to Matt Cohen than a pretty face or an incredible physique. (Not that we didn’t already know that)
The first time Matt shared the stage with Richard Speight Jr, his frenetic energy and rapid fire improv style were a bit of a contrast with Matt’s more laid back approach. We watched as Matt and Rich found their rhythm together, both in panels (later joined by Rob Benedict for the now iconic R2M) and in Friday night karaoke. Matt and Rich together spearheaded the evolution of karaoke into a few fans taking the mic in a hotel bar to a crowd of fans singing along and batting a hundred balloons in the air as actors and fans share the mic onstage. It’s been a wild ride, and one that Matt has been an integral part of.
One of the best things about being a fan is that it broadens your world in ways you never expected. I fell I love with a television show and ended up with so much beautiful music in my life. I’m sure that doesn’t happen with every TV show, but Supernatural just happens to star a lot of very musically talented people, and those people know some wonderful professional musicians. Jason Manns is one of them.
Jason has been an integral part of the Supernatural conventions since early on. At the first Supernatural cons, the musical guest was usually Jason Manns or Steve Carlson, which means these conventions have had good music since almost day one. Both Jensen and Jared are huge music lovers, which means many of their friends are musicians – that explains Manns and Carlson at cons, as well as Brian Buckley Band and that incredible duet by Ackles and Corey Taylor. It also explains JJ from Kaleo at Jared’s house yesterday.
One of the very first videos I ever saw of Mr. Ackles after I embraced being a fangirl was one with Jason Manns – the old Youtube classic of Jensen singing “Crazy Love” at some lucky person’s wedding. I immediately ran out and tried to find out everything I could about Jason (and may have watched that Youtube video approximately 6 million times). Then Jason gifted us again by performing Crazy Love at one of the first Supernatural conventions, Asylum in the UK – and pulling Jensen up for a duet. Once again, video watched 6 million times. Here’s a little trip down memory lane…
Today is a special day because it’s the birthday of a special person – actor, singer, writer and just plain awesome guy Rob Benedict!
I’ve written many times about how Rob is the heart and soul of the Supernatural conventions, and it’s just more true every year. Once Rob and Louden Swain became the house band, and Rob and Rich became the con hosts, the Creation Supernatural conventions turned into something that no other con has been able to duplicate. So much of the energy and the positive vibe and the pure FUN of a con is due to Rob and Rich and their boundless enthusiasm. Didn’t get more than an hour of sleep the night before thanks to too much partying with fellow fans? Don’t worry, Rob and the band will wake you up and get you in the mood for celebrating in no time.
Louden Swain has become our favorite band for many Supernatural fans. Sometimes I think about how sad it would be if Rob had never been on Supernatural or ended up coming to conventions or brought the band with him, because then I never would have discovered Louden Swain’s incredible music. Tragic! The Saturday Night Special is often my favorite part of the con, because it’s the time when we all come together and feel most like a family – the passion in that ballroom on a Saturday night is infectious, lifting your spirits and setting your soul singing. So much of that is due to Rob.
He’s more than the front man for an awesome band – he’s the linchpin that pulls us all together. When Rob had a stroke at the Toronto convention several years ago and had to give up conventions while he worked on recovering, we all felt his loss like a palpable thing. Not just fans, but his fellow cast members, missed Rob and his energy and kindness and sincerity – he’s never shied away from expressing his emotions, both in song and in words, and that has made the SNS the powerful emotional experience that it is. When Rob was gone, the SNS became all about keeping that emotional energy alive while we crossed our fingers and waited for Rob to come back and take his place at the mic. When he did? That concert was a ten-tissue-pack experience for everyone, on both sides.
One of the wonderful things about fandom is how it expands your world. When I fell in love with Supernatural, I fell in love with a whole universe – not just the fictional one that I adore, but everything encompassed in the hashtag SPNFamily. That means I discovered beautiful music, met some of my best friends, participated in charity projects that have changed the world for the better, and discovered all sorts of creative projects that actors who have been on Supernatural have gone on to make. I mean, I never would have laughed my ass off over Kings of Con if I hadn’t kept following Richard Speight Jr. and Rob Benedict – unimaginable!
My most recent discovery, from following the threads of Supernatural as they expand ever outward, came courtesy of Supernatural alum Brendan Taylor, who memorably played New Doug opposite Briana Buckmaster’s Donna on the show. I chatted with Brendan about his guest spot on the show last season and got to know him a bit, so when he tweeted about a new project, I decided to check it out. Am I ever glad I did!
A Typical Fairytale is a Storyhive winner, so it’s currently up on Youtube for your viewing pleasure. I watched it because Brendan was in it, but within a few minutes I was thoroughly and completely engrossed. It’s a magical little film, with wonderful acting and visually gorgeous, and told all in verse – it almost has the allure of a Dr. Seuss book, which to me is a very good thing indeed (or if you want a more recent example, Megan Padalecki’s beautiful books Big Mo and Little Moon). But that’s not what made me immediately contact Brendan to see if he wanted to do an interview about A Typical Fairytale – it’s because the film is important.
I’m a psychologist, so it’s my job to help people deal with whatever challenges they’re facing in life. I’ve worked with clients facing all sorts of difficulties, many of them coming from the culture within which we all have to survive. I’m also a professor teaching human development, and a researcher who looks at the impact of media on things like identity development, so I know how important it is to see your own experience reflected on a screen or in the pages of a book. A Typical Fairytale is the story of a king and queen and their child, the princess – who it turns out is actually a prince. The journey of the prince in figuring out who he is, and the journey of the prince’s parents in struggling to accept that their daughter is actually a son, are portrayed as a poetic fairytale – and yet their journey taps into emotions and reactions that are utterly realistic. It’s the sort of media that can make a difference, for children and adolescents in the midst of their own journey or for parents and other adults who need to be there for them.
The first time I watched it, I had to reach for the tissues. And then reach out to Brendan to find out more about the film. Turns out that A Typical Fairytale is a passion project for everyone involved, including Brendan and Annette Reilly, who both stars in the film and acts as director and producer too! Brendan and Annette were in Canada (Annette on her way home with someone else driving) and I was on the East Coast of the US, but we made it work with a late night conference call!
I’ve been a fan of the Hillywood Show since I discovered their parody videos with their first Supernatural video several years ago. Hannah and Hilly Hindi, the sisters behind The Hillywood Show, were kind enough to chat with me about that video and to also contribute some insights to the documentary film on fandom I co-wrote, Squee! I’ve been eagerly awaiting their second Supernatural parody with high expectations, but the reality surpassed them when it was released last week – Supernatural Parody 2 is a loving tribute to the show, its amazing cast, and its incredible fandom. As I took some notes on why I was enjoying it so much, I realized it’s because once again, they totally got it right – even for someone like me, who adores Supernatural and has written five books on the show and the fandom!
I was at the Supernatural convention in Denver last weekend, and there was quite a bit of talk about the new parody, which both fans and Supernatural stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles had high praise for. Jensen in particular was impressed with the production value and the professionalism of the set and the shoot, and especially with the realistic proton packs that he and Jared got to wear – they sometimes had to take them off between takes because Jared kept bumping into the door and other things. Jensen seemed excited that the blasters really worked too, which I think means they were having a lot of fun playing with them! I shared those reactions with Hannah and Hilly when we chatted.
Hilly: He did keep bumping into the door, we can confirm that one. Hannah: I just know that Jared really likes to push buttons!
Hilly: The pack, though, really was the coolest toy. They were like the real deal, so it’s the ultimate toy and Jared was like, yes! I could just see his eyes light up.
[There’s a great moment on the behind the scenes feature where Osric shows Jensen how to pull out his blaster, and he does. Then Jared pulls out his, with significantly more flourish, and Osric grins and whispers to the camera.
Osric: The gentle giant…
Jared makes the blaster light up and then asks, with his eyes all hopefully lit up, “do you want this on?”
Hilly: No, cuz that means you’re killing us…]
I laughed out loud at that.
Hilly: We haven’t been able to talk about it or hear from them since the shoot. They asked, “When can we mention it?” I told them you can’t until the video is out. So, weeks down the road now, it’s really cool to hear them talk about it.
Lynn: They definitely enjoyed it. So, after thinking about this a bit, I’ve identified ten things you got very right. I’m gonna go through them one by one, and you can comment, okay?
Number 1. One of the things that makes your parodies so brilliant and so loved by fans is that you really GET the show you’re parodying, maybe Supernatural more than even the other shows you’ve parodied. You were able to reproduce the show itself with the level of detail that fandom relishes – the kitchen set from Changing Channels, the library in the Men of Letters bunker, the proton packs with Dean’s little army man and the Colt and Sam’s with Ruby’s knife. Some of the scenes looked so eerily similar, like that iconic moment when Dean fires the Colt and kills Azazel in slow motion. How do you decide what scenes and what details to include and how much detail to put into it? It must take so much time!