Happy Halloween! A Chat With Supernatural and Blair Witch’s Eduardo Sanchez

 

What could be more perfect for Halloween than talking with the director of some of the scariest projects out there? Eduardo Sanchez burst onto the film scene in 1999 with the innovative and terrifying Blair Witch Project. He has gone on to direct in film and television, including my favorite show of all time, Supernatural.

I am fascinated by every aspect of creating the Show I love, because if there’s one thing that has become very clear to me after researching and writing about that Show for over a decade, it’s that Supernatural is a collaboration. It takes top  notch writing, set dec, locations, cinematography, make-up, special effects, producing, acting and directing (among a multitude of other things) to make Supernatural the special thing it is. So I’m always genuinely interested in the perspectives of all the many people who contribute to that collaboration. I loved hearing the actors’ perspectives when they wrote chapters for Family Don’t End With Blood and the insights of director of photography Serge Ladouceur in Fan Phenomena Supernatural and all the contributions that everyone on the set shared in Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls. I am endlessly fascinated by what it takes to make a show like Supernatural.

So it was with great anticipation that I scheduled a chat with Sanchez, who has done four episodes of Supernatural so far, not to mention the groundbreaking film The Blair Witch Project. And guess what? Our chat was even more fun and more fascinating than I had anticipated! (And not scary at all).  So sit back and relax and enjoy a director’s insights into the diverse episodes of Supernatural he has directed so far.

Lynn: The first episode you directed is one of my all-time favorites, The Chitters. That’s partly because it introduces two of my favorite original characters, Jesse and Cesar (Lee Rumohr and Hugo Ateo), affectionately known in the fandom as the “hunter husbands”.

Warner Bros/The CW

Lynn: Written by Nancy Won, who I wish had stuck around on Supernatural, this episode was groundbreaking in its own quiet way. It was the first time Supernatural told a fully fleshed out story of two gay characters in such an organic and matter-of-fact manner. There were articles after the episode aired praising Supernatural for being “quietly progressive” with an interracial gay couple who are both hunters and heroes. Were you aware that it would be an important episode in that aspect?

Eduardo:  I didn’t know the history of Supernatural. I came in like the tenth or eleventh season, so it was impossible to watch every episode to catch up. But they told me that there hadn’t been this sort of thing in the show before, so we cast it really carefully and wanted to kinda ground it in not being stereotypical and just make these guys as real as possible and make their backgrounds as real as possible. At a certain point, yeah, I started to realize that this was an important episode. It was also just a fun episode for me – it was the first time I had done the show so I was nervous. The crew made me feel very much at home, and the guys were very friendly and welcoming. It was cool that we ended up bringing in these two characters who I know people really loved and I really loved bringing them to life. It was an all around good experience.

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Melanie Takes On Michael: Andrea Drepaul Talks Supernatural!

One of the scenes that really crackled in last week’s Supernatural episode was the intense power-struggle-disguised-as-flirtation scene between Michael and the beautiful but dangerous werewolf Melanie. Although it was a relatively brief scene, Andrea Drepaul managed to bring Melanie to life and make me even care about her a little (despite the fact that she was intent on eating Michael and therefore Dean Winchester!) Okay, maybe I don’t care all that much…

Andrea had shared a few enthusiastic posts about her experience on the show, so I was eager to ask her about her guest role and her take on Melanie the werewolf. But before we go there, in case you’ve forgotten (which is highly unlikely), here’s a brief reminder of the scene.  Michael is dressed to the nines, charming as he offers Melanie a glass of wine.

Melanie: Mmmm, very elegant. But then, so are you.

Everyone watching at that moment: (nodding enthusiastically)

They banter, and Michael tells her that Duluth is nothing like his hometown, which is windswept and barren and oh, there are lots of dead bodies lying around.

Melanie, instead of running away like I would have in about two seconds flat, giggles.

Melanie: You’re so funny…what a nice surprise meeting you.

Not what my reaction would have been, but then again, this is Jensen Ackles in a tux.

Their banter takes on a darker tone as it goes on, Michael’s cruel streak coming through as he assures her with a hint of derision that he most certainly does know why she was in that bar alone. They each think they’re playing the other, but Michael has the upper hand – he knows she’s a werewolf, but she has no idea she’s planning to eat an Archangel.  Nevertheless, nothing he says discourages her or frightens her – this is one badass werewolf.

Melanie (still seeming delighted) You’re terrible!

Michael: You have no idea…

Melanie shows her (rather substantial) teeth, and Michael picks her up by the throat like she’s nothing and tosses her across the room, coolly ordering her to summon her master.

So much for the power struggle!

I had a few questions for Andrea about her portrayal of the fearless werewolf and her experience on Supernatural.

Lynn: You were able to make Melanie a memorable character even with the short amount of time she had onscreen – it was a well written scene but you also invested her with a great deal of personality. How was the character described when you auditioned for the part?

Andrea: This scene was my audition piece. From the first moment of reading the scene I felt very connected to Melanie. The character description was very limited. I believe they do this to see what the actor will bring in the room. It made no mention she was a werewolf, or monster of any kind. The one thing that stood out for me was they had mentioned she “Seemingly had an ulterior motive.” As I dug a bit deeper, the writer mentions in the screen direction that she was sophisticated, and the location was a high end hotel. I saw right from the the get go she was a very complex woman. This scene was in fact a ruse. A tactic that Melanie was using to get what she really wanted. As a performer, I find leaning into the strength of the character is really what makes her exciting. Also because she loses in the end of the scene, I wanted her to be in control until the end. So in fact the scene becomes a dark twisted power struggle between Michael and Melanie.

Lynn:  Yes, that’s exactly what came through in the scene! I loved how sassy and confident Melanie was (even if she was wrong about being the baddest monster in the room). Was your personal take on the character that she was attracted to Michael (even if she planned on eating him…)? I mean, it is Jensen Ackles we’re talking about…in a tux no less…

Andrea: Oh definitely yes! But I feel that her attraction came from feeling his power. In a sadistic type of way. Because Melanie is always in control, always in power, she relishes in a man who can hold the same power as her. Her sass and confidence comes from the fact that she believes she is stronger than humans.

Lynn: That definitely comes through, even when confronted by the likes of Michael. Melanie and Michael’s interactions were very flirtatious. Was that a fun vibe to play or is it challenging to enact that sort of vibe with another actor who you may not know very well?

Andrea: It’s a funny thing when a scene is written in a certain way. Because I would say that it reads flirtatious but I definitely didn’t feel that way when we were shooting. I was more locked into the certainty that I could have some fun and eat him too! Boy oh boy was Melanie wrong! Jensen is an incredible actor — he was very generous in his performance so I felt completely comfortable working with him. There’s definitely a salt of the earth quality he has that allows a performer to feel safe.

Tweet @AndreaDrepaul, Photo by Richard Speight Jr.

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Supernatural Hits New York City For A Sneak Peek at Season 14!

 

It’s been a whirlwind and very Supernatural-centric week – which is of course the very best kind. First the 100th Creation Supernatural convention in New Jersey (lots more about that soon) and then a wild and wonderful Monday in New York City to celebrate the Season 14 premiere of the show — with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles!

For once living on the East coast was a benefit instead of a liability, so I went all out to try to get tickets to Entertainment Weekly’s screening of the Season 14 premiere and to Live with Kelly and Ryan for Jensen’s appearance on that show. Getting tickets to both NY events was a lot like the early days of Supernatural cons, where fandom would wait hovering over their keyboards (yes, at the time we didn’t use our phones for everything) constantly hitting refresh waiting for tickets to go on sale so we could grab the best seat. When Entertainment Weekly announced that they would be hosting a screening of the Season premiere episode on October 1 in NYC, and that it would be offered only to existing subscribers, I was ecstatic. I’ve been a subscriber since before Supernatural was on the air, and I’m within driving distance of the Big Apple, so I eagerly awaited my email on the day they were to go up for grabs – and waited – and waited. Nothing! I’ve lost none of my fangirl propensity for getting emotional when it comes to my favorite show, so I promptly freaked out and started frantically tweeting the universe trying to figure out why I hadn’t gotten an invitation when I was seeing people happily proclaiming that they already had their tickets! It was like fangirl hell for a while there – but the lovely Sam Highfill replied and an equally lovely person from EW helped me out as well as several of my awesome fellow fans and all was well eventually. Phew!

Next announcement was that Jensen Ackles would tape a segment of Live with Kelly and Ryan that same day – cue another adrenaline-fueled OMG how do I get tickets panic on my part. Some of my fellow fans were kind enough to give me instructions on how to set up an account, but by the time I figured it out, I didn’t get tickets. Instead I was waitlisted, which meant more constant refreshing and lots of freaking out. Do some work, hit refresh, nope, still waitlisted. Do some work, hit refresh, nope, still waitlisted. Do some work, hit refresh, no….wait! It says ‘Available’!!!! I’ve never typed my information in faster to snag those tickets before it magically turned back to ‘Waitlist’ once again!

My friends Liz and Kristen and I got approximately 2 hours of sleep on Sunday night after working our butts off at the con, but getting up at 4:45 am is a lot more doable when you know you’re going to see Jared and Jensen and the premiere of Season 14 if you do! We headed out into the dark and made it into the city by 6 am, where we joined a small group of fans to wait for the Live show to let us in. We weren’t lucky enough to be Priority, which meant we had no idea if we would actually get in or not – there were no guarantees for us general admission folks. But there was a Starbucks a few blocks away and lots of fellow fans to chat with, so the wait wasn’t too bad. We watched the sun come up over the city, and even got to tape a little promo with Ryan Seacrest. No clue if it ever aired anywhere, but it was fun anyway.

I didn’t actually relax until we managed to get inside the studio, and even though our seats were way off to the side, I was incredibly grateful just to be there. (I also haven’t done the whole studio audience thing, so the experience was fascinating). We were right by the entrance door to the studio, so we saw Clif appear and knew the fun was about to begin! Danneel and JJ came through the studio first, Danneel holding JJ’s hand as they crossed over to the other side to watch the taping, and that got a huge ovation from the Supernatural contingent of the audience. We were coached on hand signals that meant “clap” or “clap more” or “add some hoots and hollers” but when Jensen finally appeared, we didn’t need any coaching – our section of the room burst into screams of joy.

Photo: Paleonut

Jensen high fived fans as he came in, and clearly we were all VERY happy to see him!

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A Typical (Atypical) Fairytale – A Chat With Supernatural’s Brendan Taylor and Sabrina’s Annette Reilly

 

 

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!

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Happy Ten Years on Supernatural, Misha Collins!

 

It was ten years ago that the character of Castiel was introduced on Supernatural, in one of the most dramatic and powerful entrances of any fictional character ever. We were writing Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls at the time, and sat down with brand new guest actor Misha Collins shortly after Lazarus Rising aired, so I thought I’d share a few excerpts form that chat in honor of the 10th anniversary.

Misha had just finished filming and changed into faded vintage jeans and a tee shirt, catching us off guard because he didn’t look much like the trench-coated angel we’d seen onscreen! He was so new to the show and the whole idea of fandom that he didn’t really know what fan reaction to his character was, so asked us.

Lynn and Kathy: Fans don’t always take well to new characters on the show, but they did to your character.

Misha: Oh I see. You hated the character.

Lynn: Did I say that??

Clearly Misha’s personality shone through even in the first ten minutes of chatting with him. Luckily.

Misha: (laughing) I think part of it is that it was such an interesting scene. The character is a super cool character and it was a super cool introduction to the character.

Lynn: Talk about dramatic!

Misha: Just the way it was built up, I think that made people receptive to Castiel.

Lynn: I always wonder if you can feel in the moment when some of your scenes are going to be very good and some of your interactions very powerful.

Misha: No, never. I’m not very good at telling. I think the things that are horrible actually turn out to be the best.

Lynn: Luckily you’re not editing the show.

Misha: You’re right.

Kathy: The first online community dedicated to Castiel was set up 42 minutes after the episode aired.

Misha: Why do you think it took so long? Maybe the servers were down or something…

I’m not sure we ever laughed so much in an interview as we did that first chat with Misha. We talked about his previous roles on Nip/Tuck and 24 and Charmed, about his childhood and how that led him to acting, about his own lack of experience with being a fan. And he asked us as many questions as we asked him – about conventions (he was about to do his first one), about fandom, about shipping, you name it! This was an entirely new experience for Misha, and he was in the very beginning stages of processing it and figuring out what it all meant.

Misha: I had no idea what I was walking into when I went in to audition for this show.

Lynn: What did make you audition?

Misha: The desire for a job. I think I didn’t even realize until after the audition that it was for a regular, I thought it was a guest star.   My manager told me I wasn’t paying attention.  It was a demon that I was auditioning  for – Kripke didn’t want that to get out to fandom.

Lynn: I love Eric, he’s always messing with the names.

Misha: He gave me a little direction, after I did the demon version once, he gave me a little direction to change it to be an angel, and he told me they hadn’t been down on earth for two thousand years  so there would be a quality of just looking at humans as though they were strange alien beings.

Lynn: You do that so well. I’m a psychologist, I tend to read people’s non verbals. And there’s this subtle sort of little twist you do, like regarding someone a little too long and sort of speaking a little more slowly, because you’re not sure of your footing. It’s subtle, but it’s very there.

Misha: Cool. It’s fun to play with that.

The origin story of the famous Cas head tilt!  And the rest is history.

A lot of our first chat with Misha is the last chapter in Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls – he was pleased when we told him he has “the last word” in the book. A few years later, when we were putting together our next book, this one of contributed essays on Supernatural in Fan Phenomena Supernatural, we asked Misha if he wanted to write a chapter. He did – and it’s still one of my favorite essays ever. It’s surprisingly sincere and personal, but it’s also funny as hell. Maybe none of that is surprising, actually.

From Fan Phenomena Supernatural, here’s what Misha had to say about being cast on Supernatural, including his experience watching his very first episode, Lazarus Rising, air ten years ago:

Fandom and its many fascinating aspects have, for the most part, blindsided me. Not only did I not see it coming, but previously, I was only peripherally aware of its existence. For me, discovering this fandom was pretty much like getting kidnapped by a dragon. I didn’t expect being inducted into this world to be anywhere near as strange, wonderful or overwhelming as it has been. I didn’t expect any of it. I remember watching the season premiere of Supernatural Season 4 – the episode in which my character was introduced – with the producers and writers at a little screening party at producer McG’s offices in West Hollywood. Sera Gamble, a writer and producer on the show, was standing next to me as we watched. When my character came on-screen, she leaned over and whispered to me, ‘Your life is about to change.’ I thought, ‘That is a truly arrogant thing for a producer of a CW television show to say. I’ve been on plenty of television shows. My life is going to stay exactly the same, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Well, Sera,  I think I owe you an apology for that thought.

I’m sure Sera understood – but she was totally right!

Misha also wrote a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood, from his perspective almost a decade later. A portion of the proceeds from every sale benefits Random Acts, the charity he founded shortly after this amazing journey began – and one of the ways in which Misha has been changing the world ever since he realized he had a platform that allowed him to do so, thanks to playing Castiel on this little but long-lasting television show.

Happy 10 years on Supernatural, Misha!

–Lynn

You can check out Misha’s chapters and all

our books on Supernatural at the links on

the home page!