Behind the Scenes of The Last Season of Supernatural with Director Richard Speight, Jr.

Richard Speight, Jr. has a birthday coming up, and that has me thinking about a) how long I’ve known him and b) the incredible impact he has had on Supernatural and on the SPNFamily. In our very first conversation, close to 12 years ago, I was impressed with how smart and thoughtful he was. It wasn’t long before he talked about wanting to direct in addition to acting, and I was not a bit surprised when he added that to his repertoire – and kicked ass at it. He’s come a long way from 2014, when producer Jim Michaels posted a photo of Richard shadowing director Tom Wright on the set of Supernatural, going on to direct eleven episodes and to shape the show in significant ways.

I also knew early on that Richard was an excellent writer, because he wrote a chapter for one of my first books, Fan Phenomena Supernatural. When it came time to write my last book on the show that captured my heart as it went into its very last season, I knew I wanted Richard’s voice in that book too. His chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done is, fittingly enough, a conversation between me and him. Like countless other conversations we’ve had over the past twelve years, in hotel restaurants or convention green rooms or in a taxi so he could show me where he’d filmed in San Francisco, his chapter is brimming with insights and a little bit of his trademark humor. In There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, Richard also gets serious about this little show that has changed so many lives. The way he describes Supernatural’s legacy, and what makes it so special, makes me tear up a little every time I read it. He gets it. From Richard’s chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done:

The “Supernatural” take on family ain’t the Lifetime version. It’s dark, it’s rough, it’s painful, it’s broken. It may not be a perfect family, but it’s our family. It may not be a perfect world, but it’s our world. And I think the way Sam and Dean and Castiel choose to navigate that world and how they deal with each other along the way is inspirational to a lot of people and will continue to be an inspiration for a very long time.

Richard understands why the SPNFamily is so important, and why the show and its iconic characters will always be with us, which is what that book is all about. He also gets the show itself. That’s why I couldn’t wait to talk to him about the episodes of the show he directed for Season 15, three of which have already aired. In part 2 of my conversation with Richard, he takes us behind the scenes of those three episodes with so many fascinating insights. And maybe makes me a little emotional again as he talks about the upcoming end of this incredible show.

Part 1 of my epic interview with Richard shared insights into his new film Driven, his hilarious podcast with Rob Benedict, and some behind the scenes stories of directing his first episode of Season 15, Proverbs 17:3. I had a few more questions about that episode, because so much about it was SO good, so we pick up there…

L: Switching gears again, another scene I really liked in that episode was with the actress who played Lilith, who was so good – things very quickly go from all serious and horrifying to this poor traumatized girl falling on some antlers and being impaled, to her just getting up and brushing herself off! How challenging was that kind of split second progression?

R: Let me tell you, first off, Steve Yockey wrote a great script. So clever, the miscues were great. It was like my third or fourth Steve Yockey script, so we work together well. We connect on the material, he likes what I do, I like what he does. As we go through and adjust, we’re always on the same page. But I really really think, to pull that moment off, I give massive credit to Anna Grace Barlow. Finding her was finding Nate Torrence for Sully. I cast her off tape, I never met her. She turned in an audition that she shot in the garage during a short film she was doing that was so fantastic. And she came up and just knocked the leather off the walls. She was so good at every scene, from day one. Day one, her first day of shooting, she was confronting Sam and Dean in a parking lot as Lilith and taking the gun. She was already doing heavy hitting stuff right out of the gate. I thought she was incredibly talented. And she got the character. We discussed the character, she got the beats, and she played all that drama for real. Because you don’t get the joke, you don’t enjoy that moment, if you didn’t buy into everything that has happened before that.

L: Yes, and you really did.

R: You believed that she was in distress, you believed that she was a victim in this scenario, that she was in peril and incapable of doing anything to defend herself. And she’s completely distraught by what she’s witnessed and probably damaged for life, and then she stumbles and dies on those antlers and it’s a WTF moment of massive proportion.

L: Massive! She did a great job there and Jared and Jensen did too, with Sam and Dean’s WTF just happened expressions.

R: They did, they played it like the audience should have been too. But Anna Grace did such a good job and when she makes that turn, she’s Lilith the rest of the time. We had such fun crafting that character. To really go into this episode, I started talking to Jerry Wanek about the episode two weeks before we went up there because he read it and he called me and said “Wes Anderson”.

L: Ohhhhh

R: And I said, you had me at Wes. Because he’s like, I’m trying to figure it out, tonally I don’t want you to hang your hat on the set here but if you’re into it, I’ll lean into it and let’s create that vibe of symmetrical sets and straight on angles. And I said, oh absolutely. Then Carrie at the costume center got on board and that’s why Anna Grace Barlow looks like she’s from Moonrise Kingdom.

L: Yesssss

R:  If you go back to the campsite scene, we used plaids and all these things ala that heightened style. I loved that episode so much, and every set was a meal. It was all stylized. The sheriff’s office, very stylized. We used angles that reflected that kind of style – I don’t wanna say an homage because every shot is an homage because you picked it up from somebody at some point – but nonetheless it was a consistent style thing through the whole episode and it was so fun to do. Anna Grace in her little beret and kerchief being super evil was just so phenomenal.

L: That really added to the character being memorable and full of personality.

R: Everything she does previous to that scene – when she did that hospital scene and expressed her fear to Dean and in the hotel room telling him she doesn’t know what she’ll do now because her friends are all dead? That scene rips your heart out.

L: Yes, you have no idea at the time.

R:  She was shaggin’ flies with every take. Everything was a great take by her, so she gave so many options and choices. And when she went dark, she went dark so well. She was a fantastic villainess. In many ways, I wish it was Season 5 instead of Season 15, because I think we would have seen her many more times.

L: My favorite moment was when she asks them to give her the gun, and Dean says, “the Equalizer?” and she just deadpans “I’m not gonna call it that.” I laughed out loud.

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One More Time While Still Castiel – Happy Birthday Misha Collins!

In the midst of the Supernatural cast returning to film the last two episodes of the series, it’s also a special day for Misha Collins – it’s his birthday! What better way to celebrate than to trip down memory lane a little, look forward to what may be next for Misha, and share some pretty pretty pictures?

I can’t help but feel nostalgic now that the show I love more than any other is ending. I reminisced about some of my favorite moments with Jared and Jensen when it was their last birthday while still their characters, and today that’s the case for Misha. This will be the last birthday that he’s still Castiel, and the last birthday that Supernatural is still on the air, and that’s a big thing. His character has been an inspiration to so many, and in real life Misha himself has been just as much an inspiration. So many of the fans who wrote chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood or There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done bear witness to Misha and Castiel’s impact on their lives, from inspiring them to change the world to validating their personal journey to being an incredible support through the gender transition process. Whether he has met someone in person or not, Misha has had an impact on people all over the world.

Including me.

In keeping with my immersion in nostalgia now that Supernatural is ending for real, I’ve been thinking about the first time I met Misha. Kathy and I were writing Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls and we were set to do an interview with “the new guy”, Misha Collins. We had been to the set to do some interviews with others for the book, and then headed back to our hotel to be introduced to Misha. On the way back to our hotel, another set transport van was in front of ours. It stopped, and out jumped Misha. I remember just sort of pausing and going OH.

We had never met him in person – he had only been on the show a short time and we had only seen him as Castiel on our tv screens, in his trademark trench coat. So when Misha hopped out of the van, wearing a tee shirt and faded bluejeans that looked like they were straight out of the 70s – flared and nicely fitted – I was entirely unprepared for just how attractive he is.

Oblivious to my being flustered, we had a quick introduction and then went to the hotel bar to chat (which was a terrible idea because hotel bars are very noisy and that means your audio recorder will be a nightmare to transcribe later).

Kathy and I had questions, but Misha managed to turn the interview around within about ten minutes and start asking us questions instead. We were both utterly charmed by how genuine he was and how eager to understand the very thing that Kathy and I were studying – fandom. Before we could ask about shipping, he asked us! It took me a good ten minutes more to say hey, we’re supposed to be asking the questions! That conversation was so enjoyable that we went way over the allotted time; Misha eventually got a phone call saying where the hell are you, you had another interview that you’re missing! Oops.

That’s still probably my favorite memory with Misha, all these years later.  What an introduction!

I’m also grateful to Misha for being the first member of the Supernatural cast to say yes to writing a chapter for one of our books – by being so generous with his time and effort, he changed the trajectory of my professional life and the books I’d write. The first two books Kathy and I published, we did the writing, including anecdotes and interviews from the actors but not actual chapters. When we decided to do Fan Phenomena Supernatural, the publisher wanted an edited collection – but instead of chapters by fans and scholars, we wanted the voices of some of the actors to be included. We knew how smart and thoughtful Misha was, so of course he was the first person we asked – and we were thrilled when he said yes! When he sent the draft to me, it came with the tongue in cheek caveat that I wasn’t allowed to change anything – which explains why that chapter starts off with:

When Lynn and Kathy first asked me to contribute a chapter to this book, I said, “No way! Leave me alone!” and threatened to take out a restraining order against them. But when I learned that they were willing to pay me more money than most people make in a lifetime to jot down a couple of pages, I said, “yes!” and then qualified that with, “but it isn’t about the money, I’m writing from the heart for the love of the fans.”

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Supernatural Heads Back to Finish Filming — and Jensen Ackles Heads to The Boys!

Once again, I’m keeping my resolve to document everything that happens in the final months of Supernatural – the things that make me cry, the things that make me dance around my kitchen with joy, the things that leave my head spinning because I have so many conflicting emotions. Hopefully it will help you too to make sense of all the feelings we’re invariably having about the ending of this show so many of us love.

The plan for today was to finish an article about another show and then to sit down and write about Jared and Jensen (and some other cast members) going back to film the very last two episodes of Supernatural. I knew it would be an emotional day – for them and also for us – as is every “last” that comes along for this show I have loved so much for so long. I knew I’d send them messages to “kick it in the ass” and hope that they feel joy in putting on Sam and Dean’s flannels and boots as well as some bittersweet sorrow knowing this is their last return from hiatus to become the Winchesters again.

Tweet Jim Michaels

The Powers That Be are keeping it under wraps as to when Misha Collins returns, or if – but I’m going with when until we know otherwise. Jared and Jensen joined Misha for a panel discussion with Senator Cory Booker and MJ Hegar from Texas last week to talk about the importance of voting – but the panel got hijacked temporarily by Booker, who is a huge Supernatural fan.

Cory: Screw you, Misha, I’ve got questions! (about the show)

Misha threw his head back to laugh so hard he nearly fell off his chair. It was wonderful to see how thrilled J2M were to realize that their little show has had such an impact even on someone as influential as Cory Booker, who referred to them as “his heroes”. I loved what Cory had to say about how important the art and media we love is and how much it inspires us, and the story MJ told about how Supernatural got her through some tough times. They clearly get it, and it was wonderful to watch J2M take that in and feel good about what they do.

Cory taking out his phone to take a picture of them all onscreen, unabashedly embracing his inner fanboy, was priceless.

Misha also did a panel for an online ReedPop convention a few days ago and said he had intended to take a sort of sabbatical once filming ended, giving him some time to reflect before taking auditions and maybe figuring out what he wants to do “when I grow up”.  Of course, that didn’t happen – the pandemic happened instead. That’s left all of them, he said, feeling adrift because they started to mourn the ending of the show during this break – which must make it difficult to return and put those costumes on again. Misha hasn’t committed to what he’s doing next, but he has a lot of irons in the fire – a book of poetry, two true stories optioned, and his interest in politics very much on the forefront.

Misha said his favorite episode was 15.18, the last episode they shot before the shelter in place order. Many fans speculate that it’s in episode 18 that something big happens to Castiel, so that was both a hopeful and an ominous answer. They’re keeping it under wraps as to whether Misha is in Vancouver now in quarantine – my best guess is that while Cas may not be in episode 19, he will be in the series finale, episode 20. In some way!

The moderator also asked if Cas fans be satisfied with the ending of the show?

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A Chat With Richard Speight, Jr. – Driven, Kings of Con and Supernatural!

I hadn’t had a chance to chat with Richard Speight, Jr. since the fall of 2019, when, as we all know, the world was very, very different. So it felt like a welcome little slice of “normalcy” to sit down (in two different parts of the country) last week to catch up on what’s going on in his world – including the new film Driven, the newly renamed podcast with Rob Benedict, and the four episodes of Supernatural he’s directed in Season 15.  We’re so excited that Richard has a chapter in the new book, There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural — his is one of the most inspiring chapters in the book and really wraps up what the show is all about and why so many of us love it. That chapter came from our last chat in the fall, and this chat turned out to be equally fascinating!

But first, our conversation last week began with the obligatory wow, 2020.

Lynn: Crazy time. Interesting time to be a psychologist.

Richard: Interesting time to be an auto mechanic! Everything is so bizarre. Every now and then, as I move through my day, I just have a moment of ‘Holy cow’…

L: It hits you like a slap in the face, doesn’t it? Like oh, this is actually real… It’s nice to cling to these little bits of normalcy. I’ve really been enjoying your podcast with Rob. Last week you announced it’s now going to be both a podcast and sometimes a youtube show – called Kings of Con. Which made a lot of people very happy, including me. How did that come about?

R: Well, we started the podcast on a lark, just to be creative and kill time, so we didn’t think about it or plan on writing the songs or anything. And it just became its own thing as we went along, and we discovered what was funny and what worked. Then, 12 episodes in, we started talking to some people who are much more ensconced in the podcast world and got some advice – one thing that is valued across the board is expanding the brand. And My Guest Is Richard Speight is a wonderful title if you know who the hell Richard Speight, Jr. is, but if you’re just scouring podcasts that’s not gonna mean anything to you.

L: (laughing) Very true.

Rob & Rich: The Kings of Con!

R: So we began aiming for a very specific audience vs. aiming for an audience in general. And because we’re enjoying doing it and we’re finding a comedic style and format that we really like, we thought, “let’s take the advice of people who do this for a living and really try to make this a cooler brand.”

[Detour on the phone call for Dad Richard, which was frankly adorable]

R: Hang on Lynn, I’m with the kids by myself, I need to keep my eye on things…

L: (also a parent) Yes you do.

R (to young son): Your hair looks great, but you’ve gotta get dressed.

L: (cracks up)

R: (to Lynn) His hair is fabulous, but he’s totally naked.

[Yes, this was one of my favorite parts of the interview. Anyway…]

R: So we’re gonna have to discover this new podcast the same way we discovered that the first one worked.  We’ll figure it out, we’ll involve some guests, but not much is gonna change. We still like what we were already doing — the songs, the banter. We like everything. What we’re gonna do now is expand the brand so it’s a known property, but it’s not gonna be Richard Slate and Rob Bennett and the cast of the series, you know? It’s just like, we’re the dudes from the convention who are that voice and face of cons.

Richard emcees a con

L: It’s a great idea! So many of the people we love seeing at conventions, but especially you and Rob, can just sit and riff and make it hilariously funny. But this will allow other people who don’t know who you are to find it – and I think it will fill a real gap because you are the guys who have this vast knowledge of cons and con stories and other actors, so I think it will feel a real gap right now when people are really missing conventions.

R: Yeah, and I’m itching to have people come in and join us, from that world and elsewhere. The whole zoom recording and youtube posting, which were not things we really had considered, were strong recommendations from the people that we are tapping for info. So I figured we’d try that and see how it goes.

L: It’s a great time to explore and evolve – there’s a freedom to that I imagine, as an artist, to do what you want to do.

R: Yeah, it’s incredibly freeing — because it’s just us making crap up!

L: (laughing) There’s that.

R: There’s no time limit, no context, no ad dollars, nothing. It’s great!

L: I’m enjoying it, and I look forward to the new format. I really enjoyed the indie film you co-starred in that came out recently too, Driven. The film has an almost theatrical feel to it, since for most of the film it’s just the two main characters, often in a car. It had an intimacy to it with that close focus. What are the good things about that and what were the challenges?

R: In this case, I think when you have a movie that is theatrical in its style, which this was, you’re at the mercy of the dialogue — so you better hope it’s well written. I happen to think this was very well written, which was why I agreed to do it to start with. I thought it was very clever and fun.

L: It was!

[Phone call interlude, this time for the dog]

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Happy Birthday, Osric Chau!

I was going to throw back to one of my interviews with Osric that have happened over the past seven years, but then I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to include, so I thought, why not just write up a new happy birthday post and revisit a few of those favorite times? I am incredibly nostalgic right now, with Supernatural’s wild ride coming to an end soon, so looking back and appreciating the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know over the past fifteen years is one of my favorite things to do. And Osric Chau is one of those wonderful people.

Our first interview was way back in 2013, during which Osric refused to start eating his lunch before ours arrived even though I kept fretting that his was getting cold, and I realized for the first time what a very nice person he was.

In some of the more serious parts of our chat, Osric explained his hesitation initially about even putting the role of Kevin Tran in his reel because it was such a stereotypical character, and his delight in being able to watch the character evolve and be fleshed out over time (into Kevin Freakin’ Solo!)

In a less serious moment, I gushed about Osric’s cosplay of Princess Bubblegum and we laughed about the rest of the cast’s reaction. Come on, though, he can rock a dress!

Photo Briana Buckmaster

Osric also gushed about his love of Mark Sheppard, and he patiently fixed my camera. Tech problems have been a theme of my interviews all my life, with no sign of that changing. Luckily the Supernatural cast all seem to be technologically skilled. And endlessly patient. That was one of Osric’s first cons, and he was eager to experience what a Supernatural convention was all about – from the perspective of a fan, which he was accustomed to. After our chat and lunch, we walked him back to the ballroom – where we were allowed in thanks to our wristbands, and he was not! Somehow our ‘but he’s one of the guests’ wasn’t initially taken seriously, but eventually he was allowed inside. Like everything else, he took that in stride. That was our first chat, and I already knew by the end of it what a nice person Osric Chau is, and how savvy he was about all things fandom.

It was also his first time performing at the Saturday Night Special. When we had lunch on Saturday, he was extremely nervous about singing and playing the guitar for the first time onstage, so we got a chance to calm him down a little for a change. He killed it, and proceeded to kill it many other times at many other Saturday Night Specials. Damn, I miss Saturday Night Specials!

Our next actual interview was the following year, at Van Con in 2014. It started out with me unable to make my iPad record, and immediately handing it over to Osric to fix. He did.

Osric: (graciously) That’s all right, we all have our strengths…

That interview, Osric walked me through what it was like to film his final scene (at the time) as Kevin, as he’s killed by Gadreel. I wasn’t surprised to hear that he was so emotional, he couldn’t bring himself to come back to the set and say goodbyes, or that there were tears behind that thick burnt-out-eyes makeup.

On a less serious note once again, I wanted to hear the real scoop on how Osric managed to (unintentionally) dislocate Jared Padalecki’s shoulder – I have to say, the blow by blow account of what really happened was fascinating (and occasionally hilarious), but left me scratching my head and muttering “boys…”

There have been other interviews over the years, which apparently included at one point a standing-on-your-head contest in the green room with Osric and Matt Cohen and presided over by Alaina Huffman, if I recall correctly.

But my favorite memories with Osric have been not in an interview, but at San Diego Comic Con. We’ve spent time together at a few Comic Cons, but in 2015 we had some adventures that are some of my favorite memories of any Comic Con. I was an associate producer of the documentary series ‘Squee’, so I spent much of my time at Comic Con that year coordinating film shoots, including one with Osric.

After that was done, we planned to get together later that day for dinner, but then I got a call from Osric saying that Misha Collins was going to buy pizza for the thousands of people in line for Hall H who would be spending the night outside to get into the Supernatural panel the next day. Misha needed help, so Osric wanted to pitch in and asked if I could help out too. I think this may have been the first year of Misha’s traditional bring-sustenance-to-the-Hall-H-line tradition. It was a wonderful, generous, and very Misha idea, so of course I said yes. What I didn’t realize was that the place where we were getting the pizza was FAR away from where we were, way up in the Gaslamp district, which I had never quite realized was on a hill. Let’s just say Osric and Misha are in way better shape than I am and have fewer years of accumulated fatigue, so I was woefully out of breath by the time we finally reached the pizza place. Were there no pizza places CLOSER to the convention center??

The GISH mascot met us there and we all loaded up pizzas – and then made our way back down the long walk to the convention center. It was a lot more fun going down, gotta say. People started to recognize Misha (our pizza caravan was a bit conspicuous) and trailing along behind us, so we looked a bit like some strange parade. Osric gave me his camera and asked me to film it, but he should have known by then that my tech skills are nonexistent – there’s a reason you never saw him post the impromptu parade footage.

We finally made it down to the convention center. Misha loaded pizzas on a pedicab and took off pedaling down to the place by the water where fans were waiting, like the pied piper with us following and giving out pizza to hungry and grateful fans. It was so much fun watching the expressions on people’s faces when they had the sudden realization that it was Misha himself bringing them pizza!

Osric suggested that he and I grab a couple of pizzas and bring them to the ADA line, which had a big group of waiting fans also, but was in an entirely different place. The fans there were equally surprised to see Osric handing out pizza, and were happy to have not been left out of the free food. We chatted a while, and then decided to try to go visit a mutual friend who works for Comic Con and was inside getting ready for the next day. By this time it was close to midnight or maybe later and the convention center was closed up tight. Nevertheless, we followed our friend’s instructions for where to go – only to be stopped by security, who were none too happy to see us where no one was supposed to be. By this time, Osric and I were over tired and kind of silly, which did not endear us to the security person. We giggled our way through that interrogation and finally were permitted inside after some back and forth phone calls, where we stayed until the wee hours of the morning catching up and talking about all things fandom and Supernatural and Comic Con. We were all tired the next day, but even now, that remains one of my favorite memories ever of Comic Con. Thanks, Osric.

The following year, Osric wrote a chapter for the new book I was putting together, Family Don’t End With Blood, in which he talks about his personal struggle with feeling anxious and awkward and trying to figure out his own identity, and how the validation and acceptance of the SPNFamily contributed to his own evolution (with cosplay, conventions and concerts all contributing). He concluded his chapter with:

Knowing all this and tabulating the wealth of experience I’ve collected and adventures I’ve had that I would otherwise have missed without the safety net of this fandom, I can only be grateful. I receive amazing messages from fans every single day thanking me, but it really is a two-way street and a wonderful symbiotic relationship. Because of you, I allow myself to do the things that I do, and then you thank me for it. And so I respond with the most honest and straightforward answer I know: “No, thank you.”

It has been such a pleasure watching Osric’s evolution and success over the past seven years. I love what he wrote in Family Don’t  End With Blood, and many fans have told me how much his chapter inspired them.

I’ve loved so many of the creative projects he’s been in over that time too, from (another favorite) Dirk Gently, to Ryan Choi on Arrow/DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Eric in the feature film Empty By Design, Damien on the fabulous indie film Demon X, and numerous brilliant Hillywood Show parodies including, of course, both of the Supernatural ones – and more!

Dirk Gently
BTS of Demon X
Hillywood Supernatural Parody 2

Kevin Tran’s return to Supernatural in Season 15 was bittersweet, but I was grateful to have a conclusion to his powerful story.

And yes, I cried like a baby as Sam and Dean waved goodbye.

Thank you for bringing such an important character to life on Supernatural, Osric. And even more, thank you for being you. I’m honored to have your inspiring chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, and cannot wait to see what new successes and adventures you’ll be off to next!

Here are the links to just a few of our chats and adventures with Osric, and you can read his chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, available at the links at the top of the page here.

First interview with Osric

Kevin’s Death and the Perils of Wrestling with Jared

Dirk Gently and Writing for Family Don’t End With Blood

Comic Con Adventures with Misha

— Lynn

Family Don’t End With Blood and the newest

book written with the cast of Supernatural,

There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, are

available at the links on the home page here!