Family Don’t End With Blood and National Suicide Prevention Week

 

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every 40 seconds. One of the biggest impediments to people getting help is reluctance to admit to struggling with depression and feeling like you can’t go on. The stigma around talking about depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts prevents people from reaching out and getting the help they need – it is crucial that we challenge this stigma and let everyone know that it’s okay to talk about how you feel, without judgment or criticism or censure.

As a psychologist, I’ve worked to eliminate that stigma and help people individually to find a reason and a way to keep living. One of the reasons we put together the book Family Don’t End With Blood was to challenge the taboos around talking about depression and suicide on a broader level – in a way that would be powerful to readers. Sometimes we think of “celebrities” as immune from those difficulties, so Family Don’t End With Blood is written by the actors from the television show Supernatural.  The actors who wrote chapters were all courageous in refusing to allow stigma to silence them. They wrote, with candor and emotion, about their struggles with depression, anxiety and self doubt. They allowed readers into their worlds, into their darkest hours, so that anyone reading the book would know that they are truly not alone. That it’s okay to speak up and tell people how much you’re hurting, and it’s okay to ask for help and to accept it when it’s given.

Sometimes we also think, mistakenly, that people who are “like us” are nevertheless much happier or more successful or more loved or whatever; we don’t think that they’re struggling in the same way that we are. So Family Don’t End With Blood also has chapters written by fans, who are just like you and me. They too write with courage about fighting against depression, anxiety, addiction, the feeling of not being “enough” – and of how they managed to keep going even when it was very hard.

Jared Padalecki’s chapter stands out for his willingness to speak openly about the time he almost gave up – and how he was able to let his friends and family and fans give him the support that allowed him to Always Keep Fighting. We hope, and all of us who wrote the book hope, that his words and his courage inspire others who are having trouble not giving up to keep fighting too. That everyone who reads his chapter feels validated in their own struggle and encouraged to continue on.

There are organizations out there that are doing amazing work trying to change the world. That’s why every copy of Family Don’t End With Blood benefits Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse, an organization that aims to educate about depression, to erase the stigma around mental health, and to prevent suicide.

For his birthday this year, in appreciation of Jared’s chapter and his AKF campaign, we also decided to do a fundraiser in Jared’s honor. He asked that the proceeds go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Most of the actors who wrote Family Don’t End With Blood signed a copy, and a very generous fan contributed almost $2000 to purchase it. We also sold a few tee shirts designed by Angie Siketa, and we were honored to donate all the proceeds to the Hotline, to support the important work they do providing a lifeline to those who need it.

It’s important to remember that we all need to hear encouraging and supportive messages from time to time. We all need someone who cares about us to have our back and to lift us up when we’re in danger of falling and carry us until we find our footing again.

So we wanted to give something to Jared too. Thank you to everyone who wrote him a heartfelt message about what his #AKF campaigns and his chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood have meant to you. We gave those messages to him in book form at the last con (with beautiful cover design by Cris Griffin, who also did the gorgeous cover art for Family Don’t End With Blood). I hope your words encourage him just as his words have encouraged so many of us.

You can donate to any of the organizations below that are working to provide help to anyone dealing with depression and to prevent suicide, or give a copy of Family Don’t End With Blood to someone who needs to know that they aren’t alone, and that even lead actors on a successful television show struggle with depression and anxiety and need support sometimes.

Ask about it. Talk about it. Make it okay to talk about ALL emotions openly and honestly, and to ask for help when you need it.

And #AKF.

Jared and Jensen show each other how it felt to read the other’s chapter

There’s help if you or someone else needs it. Don’t be afraid to reach out for it.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Attitudes in Reverse: AttitudesInReverse.org

To Write Love On Her Arms: twloha.com

IMAlive: IMalive.org

Random Acts Crisis Network: randomacts.org/crisis-support-network/

— Lynn and Kim

Family Don’t End With Blood is

available at the links on the home page

 

Vote For A Hero! The 2018 Change Maker Awards and the Supernatural Connection

When we decided to write Family Don’t End With Blood, one of the main reasons was to break the silence around mental health challenges. If nobody talks about their challenges, we all tend to think we’re the only ones suffering, and thus we keep silent. That means we don’t reach out for help when we need it – and that is a dangerous thing. As a psychologist, I know the tremendous value of hearing other people’s stories, so that our own can be validated. So that WE can be validated, and thus feel worthy of the help we so deserve. Many of the chapters in the book are written by people who have dealt with a significant challenge – and have come out on the other side. Some of those are Supernatural fans, and some of those are Supernatural actors.

Jared Padalecki was the first Supernatural actor who told me that he had something to say and a reason to say it in Family Don’t End With Blood. He wanted to tell his own story of coming up against significant challenges of anxiety and depression, so that others would be emboldened to tell theirs to someone who could help – so that others who were struggling would truly know “you are not alone”. Jared had partnered with two important organizations to help get that message out there, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and Attitudes in Reverse (AIR). Both organizations do amazing and important work in fighting stigma, educating people about mental health, and providing a route for people who are struggling to find the help they need.

Because everyone who wrote a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood was passionate about making a difference, we decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to two of the charitable organizations the cast supports – Misha Collins’ Random Acts and one of Jared’s partners, Attitudes in Reverse.

AIR was started by Tricia and Kurt Baker after they lost their son Kenny to suicide. AIR volunteers, along with Trish and Kurt and their therapy dog Miki, speak at schools and universities about suicide prevention and mental health, and have put together a powerful exhibition called “In Their Shoes.” Each pair of shoes in the exhibit is from someone with an important message, written in their own words on their shoes, and helping to increase understanding and empathy for those who are struggling. You can literally “put yourself in their shoes” and understand the need for help and breaking the silence.

I’ve donated a pair of shoes, and so have many of the Supernatural cast. Gil McKinney, Samantha Smith, Mark Pellegrino, Carrie Genzel, Rob Benedict and Louden Swain, Jason Manns, Lauren Tom, Chris Schmelke and many others have written their messages on a pair of their shoes.

Samantha Smith donates a pair of shoes
Gil McKinney
Carrie Genzel

Jensen Ackles donated a worn pair of sneakers, with the message “My brother, I’ve got your back….Always.” When Jared was struggling, Jensen was there for him, and his message reflects his unwavering empathy, understanding and support.

Jared Padalecki donated a pair of boots which have travelled all over the country to help raise awareness. His message: When life breaks you down, never give up. Always Keep Fighting.

Jared and Jensen’s donated shoes and heartfelt messages
Miki feeling safe and comforted between Jared and Jensen’s shoes 🙂

In the chapter he wrote for Family Don’t End With Blood, Jared opens up about his own anxiety and depression, and how sometimes it has been difficult for him to keep going. He writes with extraordinary candor and vulnerability, taking the reader along with him on a lifetime journey of self discovery starting with his own childhood and continuing through Supernatural and the present. Jared shares his story so that others can feel like it’s okay to share theirs – and to accept help, just like he did.

I’ve had an ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression most of my adult life… it did win a few battles along the way (though I am proud to say, I am winning the WAR!). One of those battles was in season 3, during the filming of “A Very Supernatural Christmas.” It was a day like any other: I woke up, worked out, memorized my lines, and headed to the set. But something I couldn’t identify (or, maybe, that I was choosing to ignore) was eating at me. Beating me down. Convincing me that it was going to win, and that I didn’t have a chance to stop it. I made it through my daily hair and makeup and was taken to set for a rehearsal and blocking of our day’s first scene. I got in the car and rode to set, and then I was sent back to my trailer to finish changing into wardrobe and to wait while the crew set up the lighting. I walked into my trailer, sat down on the couch, and I couldn’t get up. I could no longer, on my own, muster the will to carry on. I heard the knocks on my door and I knew my crew was ready for me on set, but I couldn’t make it out of my trailer. After a bit of time, Jensen came into my trailer to see what was going on, and he knew I was not okay. He had the assistant director call for a doctor, and he sat with me to talk. The doctor showed up a bit later and sat with me in my trailer to ask me a few questions. After some time, the doctor told me that his professional opinion was that I was clinically depressed, and I should take some time off from filming.

That’s when it hit me.

I couldn’t stop filming.

I couldn’t put my crew out of work for a day, a week, a month.

I also couldn’t face, or admit, what was going on in my head.

I met the doctor in the middle. I went home, and we pushed that day’s scenes to another time. After a long sleep and a long jog and a long bath, I was ready to show back up for work the next day. Supernatural has continued for many years after that. And then, seven years later, we went back to film at the very same house we were using the day I sat in my trailer and couldn’t make it to set. That day was the day I also launched the first Always Keep Fighting campaign. In over 200 episodes, over 1,600 filming days, and hundreds of locations, what are the odds?

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Happy Anniversary to Jared Padalecki’s Always Keep Fighting!

 

Today is the third anniversary of Jared Padalecki’s ‘Always Keep Fighting’ campaign – three little words that inspired so many people. I think we all knew, the first time Jared said those words, just how much they meant. We knew that those words, that sentiment, were the mantra of the Winchester brothers, the iconic characters who Jared and Jensen Ackles portray on Supernatural. For those of us who love the Show, Sam and Dean’s determination to “always keep fighting” had inspired us for a decade. But when Jared brought that inspiration to “real life”, those words took on an even greater power.

The first AKF charity campaign took Represent.com by storm – the passion of the SPNFamily had never burnt so brightly or been so united.  There were more campaigns that followed, some joint campaigns with Jensen or with Misha, as the power of the messages to inspire became clear. As ‘AKF’ became something many of us lived by, it soon became clear also that for Jared, those three words had a very personal meaning – one that he decided to share, courageously, by writing a chapter in a book. We began to put together ‘Family Don’t End With Blood’ in 2015, shortly after Jared’s ‘Always Keep Fighting’ message lit up San Diego Comic Con in an unprecedented way. When I got the first draft of the chapter he wrote, I was floored by what AKF meant to Jared, and how much his own life experience had inspired his determination to help others keep fighting.

It’s three years later, and the AKF campaign and the chapter Jared wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood have done just what he hoped they would. Countless people have found the strength to keep going because of those three little words and the personal struggle that Jared had the strength to share in his chapter. I hope that the inspiration that so many of us have found in his words is reflected back to Jared a thousand fold. Working with him as he struggled to write his chapter and tell his story honestly and openly, without censoring himself – because it was so important to him to be real with everyone who would read it – was an inspiration to me. When I feel like something is too much, like it would be easier to give up, I remember that he didn’t. Not in writing the chapter, or in keeping fighting. I hope he knows how much he inspires me, and so so many others.

In celebration of the AKF anniversary, I thought I’d share a short excerpt from his almost 30-page chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood – one I’ve re-read many many times.

So, there I was, sitting in an airplane after filming for four days, en route to San Diego….I was going to a city where I had no home base, where I had no quiet corner to excuse myself to in case of a panic attack. I was going to a city that gets an influx of 200,000+ visitors during the week of Comic-Con. I was going to a place where I would be looked at by thousands of people. Would they judge me? Did they think less of me after my not-so-private struggles? Would there be people in the audience who’d worked long and hard to see me (and others) in Rome and Australia, whose money and time I’d wasted? How would I apologize? How could I even begin to apologize? Was I supposed to just get up there on stage in Hall H and smile and pretend I hadn’t let thousands of fans down? Hell, I would hate me, too. What do I do???

As I mentioned before, an airplane is a terrible place to have a panic attack.

But I got through it. I employed some of the breathing techniques I had learned and practiced, and I was able to read a few things I have that are special and private to me, and that help a lot when I start to panic or feel helpless…My Sunday experience at Comic-Con is always a whirlwind: round-table interviews and red carpets, photo shoots and meetings, Nerd HQ, and, of course, Hall H.

Now, for those of you who haven’t had the good fortune and opportunity to experience Hall H in person, lemme tell you, it is a sight to see. It is a room that seems large enough for an airplane to take off, fly around inside, and land. It’s enormous. And terrifying. I’ve been told that it holds 6,000+ people, not counting standing room. I don’t find that difficult to believe.

Suffice it to say, I was pretty nervous. My anxieties and self-doubts from my flight down were starting to surface again. Here it was: I was about to confront 6,000+ people whom I had let down. And I didn’t know how to apologize. Furthermore, I didn’t want to commandeer the mic and start talking about my personal issues. It was sort of a no-win situation.

But then it happened. As I sat onstage, a sea of lights appeared before me. Were they cell phone cameras? Lighters? It wasn’t immediately clear to me. But then someone behind me (I still don’t know if it was Richard Speight or Rob Benedict—our moderators—or someone else entirely) tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a note. A fan had made thousands of tea lights with a reminder to ‘Always Keep Fighting’ and handed them out to the people in Hall H. The giant hall was lit up in support of me and that message.

Since memory is faulty, I’m going to copy my Facebook post from that day, since that will be the best snapshot of how hard it hit me:

A thank you.

To anybody and everybody that had ANY part whatsoever in the Always Keep Fighting Hall H tea light event.

As I travel back to Vancouver from San Diego Comic-Con, with my partners in crime Jensen Ackles and Mark Sheppard, the enormity of what happened is finally starting to sink in . . .

I am beyond moved.  

I feel so blessed, and grateful, and honored to be a part of the magical Supernatural family.                              

Sitting on that stage in Hall H, I initially mistook all of the lights for cell phone cameras. It’s difficult to discern specific shapes and faces with all of those stage lights shining on you (and it’s quite intimidating up there, sitting in front of 6,500 people!!). Then, when I had a light given to me with an explanation of what it was and what it stood for, I was (and am still) gobsmacked.

Thank you.     

From the very bottom of my heart and my soul, thank you so much.           

I will never forget this day. I will never forget the love that I felt, and still feel. And, to everybody who held a light for me, please know that I hold my light for you.

Though I happened to be the one sitting on stage, I am but one small light in a sea of thousands. TOGETHER, we can and will make a difference!                     

Keep letting your light shine. I will do the same. And, keep fighting.         

Always Keep Fighting.

The light that was given to me that day still sits in my office (as does the note that was handed to me on the stage explaining what was going on). It always will. It is more valuable to me than any award or accolade ever will be. It helps put to rest one of my greatest fears: that I’ve let the fans down. Sometimes, when I still feel like I’ve failed somebody, or let somebody down, I’ll walk into my office, and see it, and remember that I have an entire family out there that wants me to know that “just” me is “just” fine.

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Happy Birthday Jensen Ackles!

 

So the actor who plays my favorite fictional character of all time (that would be Dean Winchester) is having a birthday today, and it’s a “big” one. Jensen Ackles is turning forty, and on that momentous occasion, many fans are posting messages for him about why he’s special to them. I thought I’d chime in and try to put into words why I agree, and in the process wish Jensen a very happy 40th birthday.

It’s no secret that Supernatural has changed my life. I never would have thought about publishing a book, let alone seven. I never would have travelled all over the world – by myself sometimes – or met the fellow fans who are now some of my closest friends. I never would have found my voice and figured out that being me was okay. Loving a television show and joining its wild, crazy, supportive community made all the difference in my life – but if Jensen Ackles hadn’t played Dean, and Jared Padalecki hadn’t played Sam, that never would have happened.

I am so grateful.

It wasn’t the premise of the show that drew me in. It wasn’t the rock music (as much as I loved it from day one). It wasn’t the gorgeous sleek black Chevy Impala, though I fangirl Baby almost as much as I fangirl her owner. It wasn’t the amazing special effects or the scares or the monsters-of-the-week with their commentary on so much more. It wasn’t even entirely the brilliant writing, though I never would have stuck with the show if there hadn’t been plenty of that. Instead it was Sam and Dean. It was the complicated, messy, unique, fraught, angst-filled relationship between those two brothers – and the love that refused to be extinguished between them – that made me fall in love with Supernatural. Yes, that was partly the writers, and I’ll fangirl Eric Kripke forever for creating those characters. But I’m fairly certain that if two other actors had been playing Sam and Dean, I would have said huh, interesting, and maybe watched a few episodes. I wouldn’t have fallen head over heels in love and not looked back.

I watched Season One with a friend and didn’t fall. I enjoyed, but I wasn’t a fan. It was Jensen, with his incredible acting, who finally pushed me over the precipice and sent me careening into a life-changing journey. Early in Season Two, I was grading papers, only half watching the show, when suddenly I realized that my stereotypical red grading pen was hovering uselessly in midair. I had become so engrossed in the scene I was watching that I’d forgotten all about the papers – in fact, they were about to slide onto the floor. On the screen, Dean and Sam leaned against Baby, a gorgeous Vancouver background framing them. And while I watched, transfixed, Dean Winchester – who had seemed on the surface an emotionally restricted gruff kind of guy – broke down. Emotion poured out of him, and at the same time it was heartbreakingly clear that he didn’t want it to. The range of emotions that I could see – could feel – in him was so intense that it took my breath away. His anger, his sense of loss, his pain. And underneath all that, so much love. He turned all that emotion on his brother, and I could see it floored him too.

The papers hit the floor. Who was this character, that he had pulled me into his world so suddenly and completely that my heart was pounding and my own eyes were tearing up? How had I missed the complexity of this character and all that emotion that he kept hidden?

I rewatched the entire first season in a weekend, picked up watching Season Two live, and never looked back. If it hadn’t been for Jensen’s incredible acting – his willingness to make himself, and thus his character, emotionally vulnerable – I would have missed out on the ride of my life.

Over the next eleven years, my fascination with Dean Winchester has only grown, and that again is largely due to Jensen’s portrayal of him. I’ve been privileged to have a fair amount of conversation with him over the years, and I have always been struck by how thoughtful he is about the character he plays. He reads a script and he thinks about it. Why would Dean react this way or that way? What would he be feeling? What drives him, what keeps him up at night, what keeps him going?

As a fan, I think about those things too, dissecting dialogue and facial expressions and every other hint I have about what makes Dean tick. Another actor might just take what’s on the page and say the words and hit his mark and be done with it, especially after doing it for 13 years. Jensen has never gotten to that point – he has never stopped caring. If anything, he seems to care more now. He genuinely loves Dean; is protective of him. If a new writer doesn’t get the characterization right or a new director doesn’t quite understand who Dean is, Jensen is there to suggest a correction or make a subtle change that brings the characterization back to where it should be. The writers, producers, directors trust him to do that and welcome the collaboration. I know how rare that is, and I’m so thankful for it – so thankful he cares enough to nurture and protect the character I care so much about.

I can’t talk about how Jensen plays Dean without talking about how Jared plays Sam. It wasn’t just Dean Winchester who pulled me in, it was the Winchester brothers. And that is something that Jensen and Jared have created together. From the start, everyone who met them talked about their chemistry – the fact that they hit it off the way they did, and that they allowed that mutual affection and respect to translate to the screen, made Dean and Sam’s relationship something special. Both actors have never been afraid to be vulnerable, or to show emotion other than anger (which is sometimes the easier one to express). They were vulnerable with each other, clinging to each other when they were alone in the world – and that was tremendously compelling. I could relate – can still relate – and I’m so grateful to Jared and Jensen for bringing those characters to life in the ways they have.

Sometimes I’m just thankful that the show I picked to fall for, and the actors who have been on that show, are unusual in the best of ways. Jensen, Jared, Misha – all of the actors – have been more respectful of and grateful for their fans than just about anyone else. One of the reasons the Supernatural conventions took off in such an unprecedented way was that the actors were genuinely open to getting to know their fans, instead of making the barrier between them a mile wide. They interacted, they communicated, they talked – and they listened. As a result, those stereotypes about who fans are didn’t hold up. They saw fans as fellow humans, and that has made all the difference. I give Jared and Jensen a lot of credit for their openness, right from the start.

The first time I met Jensen in person, I was a stranger asking him to sign a Ten Inch Hero poster at Comic Con. He was clueless as to my near-hyperventilating excitement, and with a line of hundreds of people waiting for his signature, he could have been forgiven for scrawling his name and then moving on to the next person. Instead he took the time to talk to me – to ask where I got the poster, to listen when I began haltingly to tell him about the movie premiere and my chat with then-girlfriend Danneel. To give me a smile that was genuine, and to make a joke about why he wasn’t there. Little things, but they made a difference (They also caused me to burst into hysterical tears once I was a safe distance away…but not in a bad way…)

The first time we were invited to the set, I assumed I was still a stranger. Sure, there had been a couple of conventions, but I was one of thousands of fans who had stood next to him in the photo op room and smiled. The studio had given us strict instructions that we could interview Jared and Jensen for the book we were writing as long as we stayed on the set (presumably where there were lots of people to watch us in case we decided to….I’m not sure what actually, but just in case). We watched them film, watched Jensen and Jared joke with the guest star to put him at ease, and chat with the crew, and consume candy between takes. It was so much fun that when the PA who was in charge of us said she was sorry, filming had gone too late, there was no time for an interview, that we didn’t break down into sobs. We had already had a utopian day, and we were genuinely okay with that.

Seems we underestimated Jared and Jensen though. When they walked up to us to say hi and perhaps explain that they had run out of time, Jensen stopped short in front of me where I was perched precariously on one of those high set chairs.

“Oh,” he said, and smiled. “It’s you! We know you!”

I was dumbfounded.

Half an hour later, as we waited for a driver to take us back to our hotel, the PA came by to tell us there had been a change of plans – both Jared and Jensen were insisting on doing the interviews after all. IN THEIR TRAILERS. Needless to say, if we thought the day had been utopia before, it quickly rocketed up into actual heaven. It was way after midnight but Jensen (the last to finish filming) welcomed us into his trailer, got us drinks, and chatted until his driver finally came by to say we all really had to go. Once again, he didn’t have to do that – but he did. He and Jared answered all our questions, even the ones that were definitely out of the ordinary. As exhausted as he was, Jensen still jumped up and acted out a hilarious scene of what happens when someone sort of recognizes him in an airport but then can’t figure out who he is. I had been terribly nervous; within ten minutes, I’d forgotten about my nerves and was just having fun.

That’s another thing I love about Mr. Ackles. His sense of humor and playfulness (and those of the other actors) have made the experience of being a Supernatural fan so much more FUN than it would have been otherwise. I got back from Vegas con a few days ago and I’m still laughing about so many of the hilarious things that happened onstage.  From jumping up to play the keyboards to tease Jared, to pretending to strip, to throwing back his head and full-on laughing with such contagious abandon, Jensen’s willingness to be a kid and not get hung up on being a “celebrity” makes the conventions the fun things they are. And makes my stomach literally ache after some of the panels – which I don’t mind one bit.  That chemistry he had with Jared? Still there, maybe moreso. And the other Supernatural actors have jumped right on the bandwagon, to everyone’s delight.

I feel so lucky that the actors on my favorite show are who they are. That they care about the show, and the characters they play. That they care about the world and making it a better place. That they care about their fans and appreciate the support. When I wanted to write a book about how this show and this fandom have changed lives, I never thought that it wouldn’t be only the fans who would want to share their stories – it was the actors too. From those very first interviews in their trailers, Jared and Jensen have been unfailingly generous with their time and willingness to contribute to every book I’ve written.  Jensen told me over and over that “I’m not a writer” when we were putting together Family Don’t End With Blood. He’d watch Jared writing his chapter and shake his head and say not me. But I knew that he had something to say, even if he didn’t want to sit down and type it out. Ultimately he gave me the words and I did the typing, and I think he’s proud of what he wrote. I definitely am.

So Happy 40th Birthday, Mr. Ackles. Thank you for caring about Dean and making him so vivid and real and alive. Thank you for pouring so much love into the bond between Dean and Sam. Thank you for bringing so much fun and laughter to conventions – for not being afraid to be playful. Thank you for the serious conversations we’ve had too, and the way you think deeply about things but sometimes try to pretend you don’t. Thank you for going way out of your comfort zone to allow that chapter to be written. Thank you for the good you’ve done in the world, with charity campaigns and just in the everyday interactions you have with so many people that allow them to feel special and valued. I hope you feel very proud of the person you are.

–Lynn

You can find Family Don’t End

With Blood (and Jensen’s chapter)

In the links on our home page!

PS – Thanks too for being a total effing rockstar onstage and please do not ever stop singing!

 

Supernatural Gets Wayward – What’s Special About Wayward Sisters

 

One week from today, my favorite show will return from its winter hiatus, and I can’t wait. This return will be extra special, because of two things. One, it’s on my birthday – I suppose that’s only special to me, but it feels extra special because of the other thing. That other thing is the return episode will also be the “backdoor pilot” for a possible spin-off for Supernatural – Wayward Sisters.

What’s so special about that? The show has tried a backdoor pilot before, with the Bloodlines episode back in Season 9. That was a pretty spectacular failure – I adore this show, and I must confess even I didn’t like it. Largely because it didn’t feel like a Supernatural episode at all. There were no established characters who would transition to the new show, and the new characters seemed like they’d be more at home on Dynasty than on Supernatural. I couldn’t imagine Sam and Dean ever making a guest appearance – in fact, I was pretty sure they were secretly rolling their eyes at some of the newly introduced characters.

To the show’s credit, the overwhelming NO response to Bloodlines didn’t sour them on considering a spin-off. And they’ve learned from their mistakes. Wayward Sisters is different in a number of ways. First, it stars characters who are already established on Supernatural, and who fans already know and like (not every character is liked by every fan of course, but you can pretty much say that about any fictional character ever – there’s no such thing as unanimous liking and that’s okay). Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) has been a recurring character for some time, as has Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster) – both are fan favorites on the show and the actors are fan favorites on the Supernatural convention circuit too.

Also in the cast are Claire (Kathryn Newton) and Alex (Katherine Ramdeen), both of whom have been in multiple episodes of the show. In Season 13, we were introduced to Patience (Clark Backo) and Kaia (Yadira Guevara Prip), rounding out the cast. Instead of a bunch of characters we don’t know at all, this attempt at a spin-off utilizes characters who are already familiar to us as part of the Supernatural universe. That should make a big difference.

 

That’s not what makes Wayward Sisters special, though. Instead it’s the way the spinoff came about and the striking evolution that the composition of the show represents. Wayward Sisters, unlike its inspiration, Supernatural, is a cast of women. Don’t get me wrong, I think Supernatural has given us some amazing female characters over the years – the women of Wayward are some of them, but there are many more. The show was roundly criticized in its early days for the rarity of any episode passing the Bechdel test and for its use of the ‘fridging women’ trope to serve as inspiration for its tortured heroes. There has been evolution over the course of 13 years, in terms of cast and more slowly in terms of female writers and directors, but this is a leap forward, not a step. If the pilot flies, this is a show about women that, according to its cast, is committed not only to being told through the perspective of women, but to diversity of many kinds. That’s a lot of evolution for a little show on the CW.

That evolution is one of the unique things, but it’s not the only one. The other unique, maybe even unprecedented, thing about Wayward Sisters is the way it came to be. The idea for Bloodlines came from the usual places – producers, studio, network, showrunners, writers room. The idea for Wayward Sisters came from the fandom. And that really doesn’t happen. Fandom has all sorts of fabulous ideas, as anyone who’s been in a vibrant creative brilliant fandom like the Supernatural fandom knows. But those ideas don’t get heard, and even if they do, they certainly don’t get taken seriously to become reality! As Kim and Briana are fond of saying onstage at Supernatural conventions, “YOU. You did this.” And you know what? We did. And that’s pretty extraordinary.

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