Julie McNiven on Supernatural, Anna, and That Scene with Dean

Next up in our Supernatural Spring Break celebration, the There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done book club also chatted with Julie McNiven, Supernatural’s Anna and another contributor to the book. I love what her chapter has to say about how Anna inspired her and how the show and the fandom have done the same. She also had some heartwarming things to say in her chapter about filming Anna and Dean’s love scene in the Impala’s backseat, and how Jensen Ackles helped her ‘find her light’.

Here are some excerpts from the book club discussion. I neglected to explain to her that the book club was on Discord, so Julie was laughing as she sat there with her ring light ready – sorry, Julie!

JMN: Hi Everyone!

BC: The chapter was beautiful.

Lynn:  Julie, you wrote your chapter more than a year ago (unbelievably) – how does it feel now to have Supernatural for real coming to an end?

JMN: Sad…but it’s been over for me for a looooong time so it feels almost unbelievable that it’s still on.  It really goes to show how great this cast and fandom is!!!  I’m also excited to see what my talented group of SPN friends will do next!!

BC: It’s a recurrent theme that this cast and show and set have been so different than all others.

JMN: Absolutely.

BC: Did you ever expect for the fandom to still care about you or your character even years after her last appearance?  What is the most surprising thing about that??

JMN: I NEVER expected for Fandom to care about me after my death!!!  That has been the gift that keeps on giving.  I’m so grateful that y’all tune in to Doom Patrol and cheesy Christmas movies to support me!!!!

Julie onstage at Vegas con

BC: Anna was a complex character.  Did you enjoy the challenge of playing a character that went from lost to (being) such a badass? (In response to the Christmas movie comment:) I’ve loved Matt Bomer since White Collar!

[I mean, what’s not to like about Matt Bomer? Also Doom Patrol is a great show]

JMN: This was my favorite part about playing Anna and I’d be lying if I said I was totally fine not getting one more chance to portray her…I wonder how the Empty changed her?  Matt (Bomer) is a dream. So kind and an incredible acting partner.

Doom Patrol

BC: The behind-the-scenes glimpse of the how-to of intimate scenes in your chapter was eye-opening. [In which Julie writes about the challenges of the backseat scene with Jensen Ackles]   I’m so glad you had a positive experience on the SPN set.  Have you been able to maintain that control and self-agency on sets after that, or is it still a challenge?  I would like to think we’re all moving forward along those lines, but sometimes the pace seem glacial.

JMN: I’ve been able to maintain that control but it definitely helps when the co-star is supportive and protective!  They have “intimacy directors” on set now…this is new and I have yet to experience it but I think that it’s a great move.

BC: I think that a lot of people who find someone like Jensen incredibly attractive would find it easy to do this type of scene, but I think it would be so difficult and terrifying.  I love that you told your story so that we see a positive way that it can be done, while highlighting that it’s not the fantasy some might have about this.

JMN: Truly, that’s the LAST thing on an actor’s mind…it’s very choreographed and does not FEEL sexy or anything.

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A Chat with Supernatural’s ‘Dracula’ – Todd Stashwick!

Next up in our Supernatural Spring Break celebration week, another chat with one of the Supernatural actors who made their way into our hearts – this time while dressed as Dracula. Todd Stashwick is a genre favorite actor from so many of my favorite shows, as well as a bona fide fan himself. We met over a decade ago at an early Supernatural convention, and I was so taken by his understanding of fandom and passion for all things geeky that we included that chat in our first two books. When I put together a book to celebrate the legacy of Supernatural as it was ending, I knew I wanted to ask Todd to write a chapter – and I’m glad he did!

At the end of last year, the online There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done book club for that book invited him to drop in and answer some questions about his chapter and the show, and I’m glad he did that too. Here are some excerpts from that discussion, that I was happy to join in on also.

BC: So glad you could join us. Can you talk a little bit about how you decided on what would be in your chapter?

TS:  Kind of you to say (smile).  Thinking about the long road you all traveled down, and looking back at the fact that you all found commonality of experience through the show got me thinking about fandom as a whole and what that means to me.  So I reflected back to what I believe lit the fuse of being “fan” in myself.  How we don’t “become” fans, we notice that we are, we find ourselves innately drawn to certain stories, characters, and franchises because it answers some need inside of us.  It connects us to other people.  It gives us a tribe.

BC: I adore that you have a long history of being a fan of so many things!  My husband is a huge Star Wars fan, but I never experienced that kind of community until SPN.

TS: It’s also not restricted to sci-fi/horror/fantasy.  My mother in her 70’s attended Downton Abbey parties.  We seek like-minded souls.

BC:  When you wrote in your chapter that “We are tribal creatures who use mythology to come together and understand ourselves” – that really resonated.  So true!

Lynn: Yes, that is so much what fandom – ANY fandom – is about.  We seek like-minded souls, and finding them validates us and feels incredibly satisfying.  It’s like a primal need, for belongingness.

TS: Mythology is a way to analyze ourselves, our culture, explain the unexplained, wrestle with death.  It gives us a metaphor to understand ourselves.  Mythology gives us an escape.  It’s really fun.  And horror allows us to field-test fear without consequences.  Like a roller coaster, we tempt fate, death, and come out okay.

Photo: troubledgirl, from There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done

Lynn: Yes – and Supernatural has both mythology and horror.  No wonder it’s so compelling. People always ask me, how did you choose who would write chapters in the book?  A decade ago, I sat down with Todd in the green room at a convention, and was so taken with how deeply he understood fandom that I never forgot it – something he said, “television is our campfire” resonated with me so much I couldn’t get it out of my head.  So I knew I was going to ask him to write a chapter in the last book about Supernatural and its legacy.

TS: It’s (TV is) just an extenuation of our oral traditions.

BC:  I also think it’s so wonderful that someone who is such a fan themselves, and who has such an appreciation for fandom itself, played the shapeshifter enamored of classic monster movies, and with such pathos.  We very rarely see a villain on SPN, especially those with a humorous bent, evoke such a sympathetic response.  I think that moment is one of the reasons it has endured as a fan favorite (for me at least).

TS: It’s what drew me to the role, the high melodrama and the quiet fragility.

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Happy Birthday Danneel Ackles!

It’s Danneel Ackles’ birthday, so we thought for our continuing celebration of Supernatural Spring Break week, this was a good time to both wish her a happy birthday and share the rather amusing story of one of our first times meeting her.

There have been a few memorable times since, including the party celebrating ‘Supernatural Day’ in Austin with Mayor Adler, which was just plain fun and an opportunity for some real conversation.

Photos: Prior Studios

And I’ll be forever touched that Danneel wanted a copy of Family Don’t End With Blood (and how incredulous she was that Jensen actually had a chapter in it!) and that she has read our other books too.

The actual first time we met Danneel was a long time ago – at the after party following the premiere of indie movie Ten Inch Hero, which was at a club in LA back in, I think 2008. We all left the premiere and walked over to the club, invited by director David Mackay – the cast and the audience all together.

We had a lovely little chat with Danneel there about the film, met screenwriter Betsy Morris who’s still a friend today, and asked actor Matt Barr (now of Walker) to watch the rest room door while I in desperation used the men’s room because there was a huge line at the women’s. (He was lovely about it and it makes me laugh now every time I see him as Hoyt).

It was a momentous party, what can I say?  After that, my co-author Kathy and I interviewed David over a three hour brunch in Vancouver for the first book we were working on, and mentioned that we’d love to chat with Danneel  too. To be honest, we didn’t really think that would happen. But a few months later, while we were in LA for the Supernatural convention, we got a call from David.

I’ll let some excerpts from our second book, Fangasm! Supernatural Fangirls, take it from here…

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Celebrating Supernatural – A Chat with Director Guy Bee

Guy Bee has always been one of my favorite directors on Supernatural, directing some of the pivotal episodes, starting with ‘Asylum’ in the first season. I met him a long time ago (which he for sure does not remember) in the green room at an early Supernatural convention. I was waiting to do an interview and he was chatting with some of the actors and I remember wanting to compliment his directing but feeling too shy to do that. This was also the time I was so nervous that I poured myself a very large glass of what I thought was wine from the carafe in the back of the room – except it was very expensive bourbon and that much would likely have left me on the floor. Luckily Kathy intervened. With an eyeroll.

That’s our storied history, Guy Bee! I’m grateful I didn’t embarrass myself, at least. Since then we’ve shared some zoom hello’s and some less fraught convention hello’s, but that first “meeting” will always stick with me.

Fast forward to the present. There’s an online book club that some fans started to discuss the two books that I edited that have chapters by the cast and the fans of Supernatural – Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. They often invite the actors and fans who wrote chapters to drop into the book club on Discord and answer some questions about their chapters, and I drop in too when I can.  And because the Supernatural cast and crew is like no other, they actually do drop into the book club and join in the discussion of their book chapters and the show!

Rick Worthy (the Alpha Vamp on Supernatural) dropped in a few months ago to discuss the chapter he wrote in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, and the conversation turned to Rick’s collaboration with director Guy Bee in creating the memorable character. Rick mentions working with Guy and becoming good friends in his chapter also. The book club was so intrigued, they invited Guy to come chat with them the next time they met. I was excited to join in too, because directors always have some fascinating insights and I will never ever get tired of hearing about Supernatural. Maybe especially now that it’s ended – having some new insights feels like an incredible treat!

Here’s the Book Club conversation, with some wonderful memories of Supernatural and some interesting thoughts on directing too.

Book Club: Rick Worthy was here at our last meeting and talked about the two of you collaborating to create the Alpha Vamp character. You seemed to work very well together. Is this kind of collaboration common between an actor and a director to flesh out a character? What made Rick great to work with?

Guy: I remember having some suggestions for the part (Brad Dourif) and we auditioned my pal Nick Lea [SIDEBAR – Nick Lea played Alex Krycek on the X-Files and was eventually on Supernatural in the ‘Time After Time’ episode]  who lives in Vancouver, but when I saw Rick’s audition tape I knew he was the only guy to play the Vamp! That Voice!  One of the joys of directing is working on subtext and a motif, (collaborating) with the actors and finding subtleties that aren’t necessarily “on the page”. Rick is a consummate actor who thrives on that kinda stuff. He’s a director’s dream because he ALWAYS elevates the script from just ink on a page to a fully realized, believable character!

[SIDEBAR – Rick Worthy enjoyed filming that episode as much as Guy did, and it sounds like Jared and Jensen did too. Here’s what Rick Worthy had to say about the episode: When Sam and Dean come to his house there is this big long Citizen Kane table where the Alpha Vamp presides, and it was just awesome, a beautiful set design, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. And then Dean attacks and comes after me and I have to hurl him, just toss him over the table like he’s paper! It was one of those really cool stunt scenes and I love to do those. I remember Jared got very excited and came up to me and said dude, you should totally record this on your iPhone! So I gave him my iPhone and he said I’ll record it for you. When the director Guy Bee called ‘Action’, we do the stunt and then I just toss Dean (I believe it was his stunt double) over the table. I think we did it in two takes, and I remember looking back at Jared and he gave me the thumbs up like, yeah that was really cool! I love working with actors who enjoy what they’re doing and have respect for the process. How many times has he done this kind of shot? Dozens and dozens and dozens of times, maybe hundreds since the pilot. I really loved that.]

[And on his friend Guy Bee:  He’s a great guy. He’s like the one director who goes to conventions and does karaoke. He does “Dirty Deeds and They’re Done Dirt Cheap” and sings his ass off. He’s a fun guy to hang out with.]

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Get To Know Micki’s Mom – Alex Meneses Joins Walker!

Tomorrow night we get to meet Micki Ramirez’ (Lindsey Morgan) mom, Adriana, on the new CW show, Walker. If you’re reading my episode reviews of Walker, you know that I’m really enjoying the complicated characters the show has introduced and the genuine struggles they’re all going through. So I was excited to have a chance to chat with Alex Meneses, who will portray Adriana, alongside Lindsey Morgan and Jared Padalecki, when the show returns on March 11. Now that I’ve learned more about Adriana (and about Alex), I’m even more excited to see where this show is headed.

Here’s my chat with Alex from a few weeks ago. She shared some insights about Adriana, avoiding Jared pranks, and the considerable acting and life experience she brings to the role – as we get ready to meet Adriana!

Lynn: It’s so nice to meet you, I’m really enjoying Walker.

Alex: I know, isn’t it good?

Lynn: I was rooting for the show because it’s Jared Padalecki – he has chapters in two of my recent books. The chapter he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood is like a 30 page autobiography, very personal and powerful, so I admire him a lot, but you never know with a new show whether it will be good or not.

Alex: It is good. He’s put his heart and soul into this show, and it shows. As you know, he’s a wonderful person. I’m crazy about him and his whole family.

Lynn: Absolutely. You’re playing Adriana, Micki Ramirez’ mother. What is your favorite thing about the part and what have you enjoyed the most about filming for the show so far?

On the Walker set (tweet @RealAlexMeneses)

Alex: I love Adriana. I love the fact that she is a woman of color, a Latina, and she’s a psychologist. She’s an educated woman, not just a Latina mommy who’s crying and cooking all the time. Which sounds fine – that’s who I am basically at home – but it’s really fun to play someone who’s taken a path in their life that might not have been easy for her or her family and accomplished something. I’ve enjoyed it so much. The cast and the crew, I have to tell you, you’re gonna love writing about this show, because they are wonderful. They’re so nice, and Austin is fabulous, I love it.

Lynn: Me too, it’s wonderful.

Alex: It’s like a big town. The neighborhoods have been here for a long time. There are so many places that are wooded, and nature is respected there. The people are very friendly too. When you’re spending a lot of time in a place, it’s much easier and such a delight when they – my new Walker family – are nice. I’ve been in this business for a very long time, and that’s not always the case.

Photo Vince Trupsin

Lynn: I’m looking forward to learning more about the relationship between Adriana and Micki. At first I read the description of Adriana and thought ‘oh she’s like me!’ – I’m a “psychologist and published author” too – but then I read “manipulative and invasive in her daughter’s life” and decided NO since I also have a daughter in real life and I try not to be either of those things! Have you been able to find things to relate to in the character as a mother yourself?

Alex: (laughing) I was reading your question and started laughing when you’re like oh, like me… wait, manipulative and invasive?!

Lynn: Then I was like, nope!

Alex: Well, Adriana is, but when you say manipulative, when it comes to someone that’s very close to you like a son or daughter, a husband or wife even, it’s hard to see it, I think. I think Adriana has a difficult time seeing that she’s being manipulative. And anything she does for Micki is out of complete and utter love. Adriana desperately loves Micki, and you’ll find out why in the coming episodes. Of course because she’s her daughter, but it’s more complicated than that. She has had to protect Micki from things that happened earlier in their lives. She loves her daughter and she’s devoted her life’s path to being a better person for Micki. That’s how I see it, that she needed things to be in order because their early life was so out of order.

Lynn: That makes sense. One of the things I really like about the show, as a psychologist, is that they do a great job of going deep into all the characters, and not just the leads. I feel like my episode reviews are always a deep dive into what’s going on with the characters internally and psychologically, and it sounds like there will be a lot to dig into with Adriana and Micki too.

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