Losing Supernatural – We’re All In This Together

Tomorrow is the last day that Supernatural will be on the air. The last time I’ll wake up in the morning and think oooh there’s a new episode on tonight! The last moments I’ll get to spend with the fictional characters who  have meant so much to me and the show that has changed my life. I don’t think I ever could have been ready for that, to be honest. And I know I’m not alone.

Whether you’ve been watching Supernatural for one year or fifteen, most of us are not what you’d call ‘casual viewers’. We don’t just watch this Show, we live it. Many of us found our closest friends here. We fell in love with the richly drawn and brilliantly portrayed characters, and they have been our inspiration for real life change and real life determination to keep on fighting whenever something threatens to knock us down. We spend alot of time here, immersed in the community that formed around the show, sharing thoughts and feelings and hilarious memes and heartbreaking confessions on every social media platform imaginable.

We all found our niche and our people, and we count on that support system every single day. All because of a little television show on the CW that drew us together. Even when we’re railing about its plot holes or inconsistencies or canon not going where we wanted it to go, Supernatural is the thing we have in common. The fact that we’re still railing and meme-ing and posting and stocking up on tissues makes it pretty clear that even after all these years, we’re passionate about this Show and its incredible cast.

Photo: Rob Hayter IG

The impact that Supernatural has had goes beyond watching a tv show. The theme of the show has always been one that fans have taken to heart and used as an inspiration in real life too. The Winchesters have never been traditional superheroes – they’re human, and their flaws and challenges have never been glossed over either by the writers or the actors. For fifteen years, Supernatural has showed us that ordinary people can make a difference, just through their determination. The Winchesters have lived the “always keep fighting” mantra – even when it means they’re often bloodied and bruised and beaten down — and showed us that we can too. When real life beats us down and leaves us bruised and bloodied, we can pick ourselves up like Sam and Dean did after God himself put them through a literal beating. Castiel taught us something similar – he may not have been human (for most of the show), but his journey mirrored the journeys of many of us as he fought to become himself and rebelled against forces conspiring to prevent that. So many other characters have also inspired us to be who we are, from Ash to Kevin to Bobby, from Charlie to Eileen to all the Wayward women letting us know we all can embrace our wayward too. Supernatural changed most of us in some way, for real.

And that means that knowing it’s ending is hitting us hard. I’ve had television shows end before and I’ve been sad – I remember gathering with friends to watch the last episode of the X Files back in grad school, all of us going out drinking afterwards to drown our sorrows. I remember watching the final episode of Buffy, and Angel, and then talking long into the night with friends who had been invested in those stories. This feels different. Somehow, although we all always knew that the show would end sooner or later, when it kept on going (and going and going) it started to seem like Supernatural would really never end. That we could keep on joking about it being the never-ending show and look forward to Jared and Jensen calling out “Sam! Dean!” gray-haired from their rocking chairs. That we’d always have this show to talk about and argue about and care about – and the vibrant communities within which to do that. I’m still having a hard time getting my head around the fact that tomorrow really is the last episode – it’s been a part of my life for so, so long.

Graphic Offlarjun

It’s hard to believe, after all this time, that Supernatural will, in fact, end.

Every time I do manage to get my head around it, the realization hits me like someone just punched me in the stomach. You would think I’d be good at this – I’m a psychologist. I teach graduate courses on grief and loss, in fact. I should know how to cope for myself, right? Not gonna lie, I’m pretty worried about Thursday night. So I thought I would sit down and pull my thoughts together to remind myself how I can get through it – and how we all can get through it.

First, we need to allow ourselves to call this what it is. This is not just “a silly television show going off the air” – this is a real and genuine loss. Supernatural has been important to us, not just as a sci fi fantasy show we enjoy watching, but as a real life inspiration and a source of great satisfaction and belongingness. Losing it is going to hurt like hell. Allow yourself to frame this as a loss and accept that you’ll need to grieve that loss, just like any other. Don’t let anyone’s “oh get over it, it’s just at tv show” invalidate your feelings. The loss of the show itself is difficult enough, but secondary losses can be just as painful – the constant media coverage we’ve grown used to, with new photos and updates all the time, the vibrancy of the communities, the passionate conversation created every week around new episodes, the frequent conventions where fans meet not only the actors but other fans who have become forever friends.

Like everything else in life, the pandemic has made what would always have been a deep loss even harder to take. Many of us had planned to be surrounded by fellow fans when we watched the series finale – to be with people who also “get it”. The fact that Supernatural is ending in the middle of a global pandemic means that’s not possible for most of us. However, we can still pamper ourselves a little. Maybe that means a slice of pie ala Dean Winchester or wrapping yourself in a warm fuzzy blanket. Maybe that means having a zoom call open with your friends or staying on social media in between scenes so that you don’t feel like you’re watching alone. I’m hoping it will make me feel a little better to share in the communal expression of feelings that will be going on in every corner of the internet. Even if you’re watching “alone”, know that you won’t be – all over the world, the rest of the SPN Family will be watching too.  When ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ starts to play for the final time, we will all tear up together. Every time you grab a tissue from the box(es) you have at the ready, know that you won’t be the only one.

Once we’ve made it through Thursday, give yourself time to grieve and permission to do that in whatever way feels right. We all cope with grief differently and there’s no right or wrong way to do that. Some of us are what we call “instrumental grievers.” We need to DO something in order to feel better. Organize a rewatch, put together a playlist of funny moments at Supernatural conventions, post your own personal tribute to the show. Plan a get together with other fans for once the pandemic lets us travel safely. Tweet your thanks to a cast member who inspired you or another fan who got you through a tough time. Celebrate all the things that Supernatural has meant to you.

If, on the other hand, you’re more of an “intuitive griever,” you need to feel your emotions and express them in order to grieve the loss. That means it will probably help you to share your feelings with other like-minded people. Talk about how you’re feeling in whatever community you feel comfortable in; the validation of ‘OMG I feel that way too’ really does help. If losing Supernatural is the icing on the cake in a year full of stress, do what Jared Padalecki has been candid about doing that helps him – make an appointment with a therapist. Most of us who are therapists have a broad understanding of loss and will understand what that loss means to you.

Here are a few coping strategies that are helpful when we’re grieving a loss that might help with this one:

Objects of connection. These are symbolic objects that help you feel connected to whatever or whoever you’ve lost. Wear your favorite piece of Supernatural jewelry or clothing. Make a scrapbook, physical or virtual, with photos that are meaningful to you – actors, characters, photo ops from cons, or fun times with fellow fans. Put your Pop Funko Sam, Dean and Cas where you can see them and smile. Construct a memory box that holds items that remind you of the show or of the experiences you had as a result of being a fan of the show. If you’ve collected way too many Supernatural tee shirts, sew them together into a quilt that you can snuggle up under as the weather gets colder. Whatever object lets you feel close to the show and remember it, keep it close and let it keep you connected to what you’ve loved.

We put together two books which include the actors’ feelings about the show in their own words specifically to help us stay connected to Supernatural and what it means to us as the show comes to an end. I guess you could say they’re objects of connection too.  There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done and Family Don’t End With Blood are intended to be a reminder that this show has changed the lives of both its fans and actors. A reminder of the characters who have inspired us, and why they’re so important both to the fans who love them and the actors who brought them to life.  Something you can hold in your hands and hang onto while you read their words and know that we were never in this alone.

Share your story. Especially if you’re an intuitive griever, sharing what the show has meant to you and what the loss feels like can be helpful in adapting to the loss. Write your own ‘chapter’ like the actors and fans did in the books; share it in whatever space feels comfortable to you. Writing is therapeutic in itself, helping us make sense of the loss and express whatever feelings are associated with it.

Resilient image. If the feelings of grief start to seem overwhelming, it can be helpful to create an image of resiliency that can remind us of the strengths and supports that we do have. It’s a way of self-soothing when our emotions are strong enough that we feel temporarily helpless and out of control. Create an image of a time and place when you felt safe, comfortable and in control even though there was chaos or danger around you.  Maybe you’re in the Men of Letters bunker, running your hand over the names carved into the library table. Maybe you’re in the Impala, who always kept her boys safe in the midst of even a literal apocalypse. Maybe you’re wearing Dean’s leather jacket, or huddled beneath Castiel’s wings.  Visualizing that resilient image when there are lots of emotions and stressors can be calming and comforting.

Gif jaredandjensen

Ecotherapy. Being immersed in nature helps us make meaning of our life and our losses, making us more aware of the here and now and less stuck in our heads, and helps us experience our emotions more fully. Take a walk in the woods or on the beach. Notice the sun and the clouds and the wind and the smells and sounds around you. If it’s safe to go barefoot, dig your toes into the sand or the grass.  If there’s a labyrinth near you, walk it. Being in nature makes us feel more connected, both to ourselves and to the rest of the world, so this can be especially helpful if you’re feeling some of that loss of community.

We’re a diverse community of fans, and we’re all going to grieve differently. We sometimes tend to think that everyone should process loss the same, and if someone doesn’t, maybe they’re not “really” grieving. But there’s no right or wrong way to grieve and no timetable for how long it takes each of us to adapt to a loss and for the hurt to lessen. Some people want to be distracted and move on as quickly as they can, maybe finding another show to love and another fandom to join. Others need to sit with their feelings for a while and just FEEL them before they can adapt. Both are valid ways of grieving a loss.

graphic elisemichellex

The hopeful thing about grief is that it doesn’t mean forgetting. We never forget the people and things we’ve loved, and we don’t need to stop loving them. They become part of us, cherished memories that eventually bring smiles. We can celebrate what the show has given us, how it’s changed us. The friends it’s brought into our lives, the courage that the story and the characters have inspired in us. The ways Supernatural and the SPN Family have kept us going and gotten us to where we are in life – to who we are in life. There’s a lot to celebrate and cherish about Supernatural and what it’s meant to all of us.

Most of all, know that you’re not alone. Even if you’re sitting in your living room watching a screen by yourself this Thursday evening, there will be people all over the world doing the same thing. People who love Supernatural, who have been inspired by its characters and its message. Whose lives have been changed by this little show and who are going to miss it when it’s gone – but who will keep on celebrating all the things it gave us for a very long time.

In the wise words of Castiel to Jack, about losing what you love…

Eventually they’re gone, even the very best ones, and we have to carry on. So what’s the point? The point is, that they were here at all and you got to know them. When they’re gone, it will hurt, but that hurt will remind you of how much you loved them.

Oh, we loved them. We’ll always love them.

And maybe, just maybe, as the final words of Jensen Ackles’ chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done remind us, “nothing ever stays dead on Supernatural.”

Graphic: SammyTheMetallicar

Graphic: Offlarjun

Gif michaeldean

This video linked below kinda says it all… See you on the other side!

There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done Video

– Lynn

You can hang onto Supernatural forever and

remember it in the words of its actors and fans

with There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done and

Family Don’t End With Blood. Links in banner or

at peacewhenyouaredone.com

 

 

Celebrating Supernatural: An Inspiring Chat with Director Matt Cohen

I’ve known Matt Cohen a long time. I was there for his first Supernatural convention a decade ago – I remember turning to my friend Kathy as we watched Matt try to hug every single fan he met and saying “this guy is a keeper.” I was thrilled when his reception at the cons ensured he would be invited back, eventually becoming one of the Karaoke Kings and an integral part of the Supernatural conventions all over the world. Matt was one of the first Supernatural actors I invited to write a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood, because I knew he would have something inspiring and moving to say. I was right. The chapter he wrote is candid, insightful and very personal – it describes the way being on Supernatural has changed his life and how his relationships with his fellow cast members has changed him as well. It’s one of the chapters that makes me smile and tear up simultaneously (like all the best Supernatural episodes).

I was thrilled when he returned to the show again to play John Winchester, and perhaps even more thrilled when he became part of the final season of the show – not as an actor this time, but as a director. By then he had already made his own short film, Mama Bear, which he had directed and proved just how talented he was behind the camera, not just in front of it. I loved that film, so I couldn’t wait to see what he did with Supernatural.

I waited until his episode, Gimme Shelter, had aired last month, then we caught up by phone.

Matt: It’s nice to hear your voice.

Lynn: It’s been a long time.

Matt: Too long as far as I’m concerned!

(I think the entire SPNFamily feels that way at this point – we all miss each other! We caught up with family stuff, and how his son Macklin is doing with online learning (great) and then dug into the episode.)

Lynn: I was super excited that you got to direct an episode before the show ends. It seems so right and so special.

Matt: It certainly was special and I feel lucky. This show has given me everything at this point, and for it to give me my first hour of prime time TV directorial debut? I agree with you, it felt right. I felt like I was at home because I knew these people were going to do everything they could to not have me fail.

Lynn: For sure. You’re family.

Matt:  And to me, that made me work harder than I’ve worked on anything my whole life, to make sure I could get them out on time and get everyone home and rested and then back to my set again and we could just knock this one out and keep on moving. And that’s exactly how it went. It was a special experience with the most remarkable crew I’ve ever worked with.  They were there for me and I was there for them and it was just beautiful. Every day was emotional for me. When I wrapped every single day, I felt that this was part of my eight day goodbye to the show. And it was difficult, you know? I tried not to cry every night.

Lynn:  I can’t even imagine how emotional it was for you, after all this time and this being such an incredible, life-changing journey. This was one of those quintessential Supernatural episodes that has a little bit of everything – humor, excitement, and emotion. All of them came together, but it was a complex episode. The emotional moments are probably my favorite things about the show – in this episode, like the scene when Castiel talks about his journey – finding a family, becoming a dad.

Lynn: It struck me that is so similar to what you wrote about in your chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood, about your own journey finding yourself and becoming a dad too. Misha [Collins] was so good in that scene. How did you feel about the episode’s story?

Read more

Happy Birthday Rob!

Today is a special day in the Supernatural fandom – the birthday of Rob Benedict!  There are few people who are more integral to the SPNFamily than Rob. His character, at first seemingly the mild mannered Chuck, became so much more as Rob himself became a fan favorite – first a stand in for Eric Kripke himself and later, quite literally, God. Albeit not exactly a benevolent version. The part Rob has played in this show has been as important as the role suggests, and he’s been there right through until the end in the last few episodes.

It’s not only the part he’s played on the show itself that makes Rob so important to this fandom and this family, though. Early on in the now long history of Supernatural conventions, Rob brought his talented band, Louden Swain, to play at the conventions on Saturday night. I remember going to one of the first concerts and bringing Richard Speight, Jr. with us; we all sat there going WOW. (I feel like that was part of the spark of something else great and memorable in Supernatural history that eventually became and now is again Kings of Con). Having a band like Louden Swain made the conventions so much more fun, and did their part to keep the cons going and the fanbase passionate.

Those Saturday night concerts became special in a deeper way after Rob had a sudden stroke at the Toronto Supernatural convention in 2013. It was the closeness of the Supernatural cast that saved his life that night and the love of the SPNFamily who helped him fight his way back. Rob wrote a heartfelt, incredibly powerful chapter that takes you moment by moment through that night and the long recovery that followed in Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Changed Lives. I remember when he sent me the first draft, how I read it with my heart in my throat, even though I knew he was okay – it was that compelling a chapter and his story is that compelling.  That year, the Saturday Night Special, while Rob couldn’t front the band, carried on without him – in his honor. When he returned to Louden Swain and the SNS, there were tears of joy and gratitude that were unstoppable. We had all learned, when we almost lost him, that Rob and the band are truly the heart and soul of this SPNFamily. And we would never forget it.

I’ve had many long chats with Rob as we’ve gone on this journey with a little show on the CW that turned into so much more. In a weird way, I feel like Rob’s journey with Supernatural and my own are oddly intertwined. I was on set the same day he was on set for the first time – introduced as Chuck in ‘The Monster At The End Of This Book’. I sat there and watched him film some of his first scenes with Jared and Jensen, little suspecting that he would become such a big part of the show and the fandom and my own life. I was on set again in Season 11 when Rob was back on the show – I didn’t know at the time that he would be there and squealed so loud when he got out of the van to say hello, “ROBBBBBB!” that Jensen reminded me “hey, I’m here too.”  Anyone who knows me at all knows that is REALLY saying something! (This is not me dissing Jensen, I knew he was there but Rob was a wonderful surprise).

I’ve been so thrilled to watch Rob’s success over the years — with Louden Swain and in so many acting roles, in Kings of Con the show, and now on Kings of Con the podcast.

I’ve traveled across the country to see Louden Swain play live more than once. I am more likely to have Louden Swain playing in my car than just about anything else, with Radio Co. the other top contender.

I am forever grateful that Rob and Billy and Mike played at the book release party for Family Don’t End With Blood at the Study in LA – and Rob did a reading from the chapter he wrote, to my great delight (as you can see…)

Rob reading from his chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood

Like so many Supernatural fans, our love of Rob Benedict and Louden Swain has enriched our lives in countless ways.

Clearly I’m a big Rob fan, as most of us are. But my partner in crime, photographer extraordinaire Kim Prior, is a Rob girl through and through. So here are her happy birthday wishes for Rob, along with of course some very pretty pictures…

KIM:

Listen, I could probably write an entire book about all the wonderful things about Rob Benedict… and while many of you might appreciate that book, I should probably keep this short and sweet instead. I’ll start with a few of my favorite photos.

The thing about Rob is, well, he’s Real. He is real, and genuine, and sincere. It’s the way that he brings his true self to his podcasts with Richard Speight, Jr. – from his full belly laugh at the things that are said, to the way that he gets frustrated when he stumbles over his words or can’t find the right words to explain something – it’s like eavesdropping on an actual conversation between long time friends. It’s the way he really listens to the questions during his meet & greets at conventions, and in the way he puts thought into his answers, in the way he gives us his truth. It’s those little moments on stage during a convention, when he is listening so intently to someone else speak, the flash of a sparkle in his eye when someone is telling a funny story and he is enjoying their moment with them. It’s the little wave that he gives to a fan as he sings during the Vendor Room Jam. It’s the hug that he gives during photo ops, as if each and every one one of us are an old friend that he hasn’t seen in awhile. In every way, in every moment, Rob is sincere and genuine and Real.

Read more

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.”

Read more

Happy Birthday, Jared Padalecki!

 

When I wrote a birthday message for Jared Padalecki last year, I had no idea that this year’s birthday would take place in a world that is completely different. I thought Supernatural would be wrapped and over, and Jared would be on to his next project (which we didn’t know at the time will be Walker). I thought Jared would have celebrated the last birthday on which he was still Sam Winchester. Instead, Supernatural is in limbo with production stopped just short of the series finale, and the actors and the fans are all in limbo too until they film those last two and air the remaining episodes.

That’s a tough thing for all of us. As Jared posted a few weeks ago, being Sam Winchester and a lead actor on Supernatural has been a huge part of his identity for more than fifteen years. Having all that yanked out from under you unexpectedly is even harder than having a planned ending that you can anticipate and prepare for, surrounded by the support of the people you’ve been close to for all that time.  His post was heartfelt, but there’s always mixed response when a celebrity posts something personal online. There was also speculation about why Jared has grown out his hair and his beard (during this time when he doesn’t have to step in front of the cameras). All that discussion about hair and beards made me remember some of my earliest chats with Jared, so I thought for his birthday this year, I’d throw it back to some of my favorite moments with him. Like most of us, I don’t know him well. We don’t know any of them well, even though it can seem like we do if they’ve made themselves accessible and enjoy interacting with fans like this cast does.  I’ve been lucky to spend a little time with him when he’s not on a stage or at a convention over the years, so I thought I’d share just a few of the little glimpses I’ve gotten in those times of the person Jared Padalecki is –  thoughtful, warm, emotional, intelligent. And a very good writer.

I first met Jared in 2007, shortly after my friend Kathy and I fell in love with Supernatural and spontaneously decided to fly across the country to see Jensen Ackles in a community theater production of A Few Good Men in Fort Worth, Texas. (Yes, our families did think we’d lost our minds)  There was no fandom twitter, so fandom was connected through sporadic posts on Live Journal mostly. We happened to read that someone had spotted Jared and then girlfriend Sandy on a flight to Texas, along with speculation that maybe he was going to see his costar perform. So when we saw a very tall man in the lobby candy line trying to be inconspicuous (by putting on a hat), we knew who it was. The audience for the play was mostly the regular community theater-goers, so nobody else went over to say hello other than us. Well, me. Kathy refused to budge from the corner. I don’t know what I was expecting as a brand new and extremely passionate Supernatural fan, but Jared’s warm welcome was not it. I said it was awfully nice of him to fly all the way down here to see his friend in a community theater play.

Jared brightened, that now familiar white-teeth smile making his whole face light up.

“Of course I would, he’s my bud!”

Jared was so nice, I felt protective of him immediately.

Me: Are you sure we should take photos, right now nobody knows who you are? But if we take pictures, they probably will come find out.

He waved my concern away and posed for photos and went on his merry way, standing in the refreshments line like the rest of us and greeting Jensen’s dad with a joyful “Papa Ackles!” and a big hug for Danneel – also in the candy line.

Wow, I thought, what a nice guy. Also? He was a baby! Look at those bangs!

The first time I got to spend more than a few minutes with Jared was on our first set visit, which took place the next year, in 2008. There’s a whole chapter devoted to that in the book Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls. But what told me more about the kind of person Jared is was not the interview we did that day, but the moments in between. Kathy and I sat there rapt watching them film for an entire day, and came away with a little bit of understanding about what makes that set so special. Jared and Jensen seemed to set a tone that kept everyone from getting stressed out, from crew to guest actors, with constant jokes in between takes and then a lightning fast snap into professionalism when the cameras rolled. It was clear to us, as nobodies from the outside, that everyone making the show loved it – because everyone kept coming up to us eager to tell us about the part they played in that, with obvious pride. Every single member of the crew also had glowing things to say about “the boys”.  The same thing has happened every single time I’ve had the privilege of being on that set over the years.

We soon had our own proof of how nice “the boys” are. As midnight approached, the PA who was watching over us told us that shooting had run too long, there was no way we could do interviews with Jared and Jensen as had been planned. She apologized profusely but we were fine with that – we had already had a day that was beyond our wildest fangirl dreams. Jared and Jensen, however, had other ideas. One after the other, as they wrapped, they came to find us.

“Come on, we’ll just do this on the fly,” Jared said, and we jumped down from our chairs to follow him out of the studio and onto the lot. It was pouring rain and Jared’s legs are ten times longer than ours, so we essentially ran after him as he helpfully carried our little primitive audio recorder and did the “interview” as we hurried to the makeup trailer. He kept right on answering our (rather breathless) questions in the makeup trailer, and then instead of saying goodbye, invited us into his own trailer to keep right on going! It was late at night, he was exhausted and wet and must have just wanted to go home, but he was a lovely host anyway, introducing us to his dogs Harley and Sadie and generously answering all our questions.

Here’s the part of that interview that I was reminded of when all the discussion of Jared’s hair (facial and otherwise) happened.

Lynn: It reminds me of what Eric Kripke said about this [looking at fan reaction online]. He said he likes to hear what the fans are saying, but not so that he can follow it and do it, because then he’ll lose the vision and what they love in the first place.

Jared: Exactly, exactly,  and I’m lucky because I’m able to avoid the internet and opinions.  I remember when I started Gilmore Girls, I was 18, fresh out of Texas, just graduated high school, pretty naïve — and the 5th episode they cut my hair. The internet was kind of new and I was like oh, weird, they write about that? Cool! And so I read about it and it was like ‘oh Dean has a different hairstyle’ and a girl was like ‘he looks ugly, he looks like a girl’, and I was like, that hurts! … I don’t know where it comes from but not only is the bad, bad, but the good is bad, even if it says ‘he looks hot, he looks better than he used to’. Even that’s bad… you get false confidence or arrogance and you know, just start focusing on vanity, which I don’t want to do. My job is to flesh out Sam Winchester how I can, not to take from a billion people, but to play it my way, otherwise all these shows would be CGI – but there’s nothing interesting in that, they would make it exactly like choose your own adventure novels, but that’s not fun. It’s like choose brown hair, etc, but that’s not interesting.

Lynn: And then you’re devoid of emotion and reality.

Jared: And history and experiences.

Lynn: That’s a really good recipe for staying grounded.

Jared: I’d like to take credit for it, but it’s nothing more than – it’s once bitten twice shy kinda thing, you know? I’m not a masochist, it hurts so I stay away. And it’s stupid that I’m hurt, but still, I am hurt.

Once again, I was struck by what a nice person Jared is, and this time also by how thoughtful and sensitive a person he is too. That conversation happened twelve years ago, which seems unbelievable now. The world has changed a lot, but what he said that day still makes a lot of sense.

He contributed to that first book for us, and then to another, and another, and another. He even read them all.

Fast forward to 2015 at a convention. Jared casually asked if I was working on another book and I said yes, I’ve heard so many powerful stories from fans about how this show and fandom has changed and even saved people’s lives, so I want to put all those personal stories together in a book so everyone will understand just how special Supernatural is. Jared considered for a minute and then said that he had a story to tell too – and that’s how Family Don’t End With Blood ended up being written by both the fans and the actors. (If Jared wanted to write a chapter, I thought, maybe the other Supernatural actors did too. They did.)

Working with Jared for the two years it took him to write his chapter in that book let me see some other sides of him. I was blown away that he wanted to share a story that was so personal in a book. He had already started the Always Keep Fighting campaign and had spoken out about his own mental health challenges, but it’s different talking about them in an interview and actually sitting down and writing the story of your own most difficult and hopeless moments, in the first person, with all the details that actually happened. It was a tremendously courageous thing for someone who is a ‘celebrity’ to do, opening himself up for judgment and ridicule – and that hurt we’d talked about so long ago – but he wanted to do it. I think there were a few times I asked, ‘are you sure?’  He was. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to give back.

In the three years since Family Don’t End With Blood was published, I’ve heard from hundreds of people who say that Jared’s chapter did make a difference, sometimes a life saving one.

I learned about Jared’s determination too as I worked with him on his chapter. I learned that he was someone who wouldn’t get annoyed when I sent him lots of follow up emails, and that he would still smile when he saw me at conventions even though he knew I was going to ask how his chapter was coming along. I learned that he doesn’t do things half assed – I was not the one asking him to make most of the revisions that got made, that was mostly him. And I never once asked him to say more. That was him. He wanted to tell his story in a way that was real and genuine, and he kept pushing himself until he did, until his chapter was thirty pages long.

I knew, when I started putting together the final book about Supernatural last year (There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, which came out in May), that I wasn’t going to ask Jared to write another chapter like that – he had written his heart out in Family Don’t End With Blood. He once told me it was one of the hardest things he’s ever done. But he still had some important messages to get across in the new book – things he’d said at events and interviews over the past year about the show and about being Sam, that he wanted fans to know and remember. Even though he was incredibly busy trying to film the last season of the show, he also included some new thoughts about the legacy Sam Winchester leaves behind in his chapter for that book.

And he was, once again, still smiling after my many follow up emails trying to meet the nearly impossible May publication deadline. Sometimes when you work with someone, your view of them changes, and not always for the better. In this case, working with Jared on those two books made me appreciate him even more.

I’m sure Jared, like all of us, has changed quite a bit in the thirteen years between that first meeting in the candy line and now. But I think that capacity for honesty (and admission of not being perfect), innate sensitivity, and thoughtfulness about himself and the rest of the world are still what shapes him.  There are so many fan-written chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done that talk about how Jared has inspired someone else. How his openness and affection have enabled change for someone, or his portrayal of Sam has given someone the strength to always keep fighting. That says alot.

I hope, on this last birthday on which he’s still Sam Winchester (for real this time), that he can continue to hang onto all those things and know that they make a difference.

That he makes a difference.

Happy birthday, Jared Padalecki! Thank you for Sam Winchester – and for being you.

–Lynn

You can read Jared’s chapters in Family

Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace

When You Are Done – links here on the home

page or at peacewhenyouaredone.com