I’m at San Diego Comic Con right now, on the day of one of my favorite people’s birthdays – Jared Padalecki. But that’s okay, because he is too! Last year I got to give him a birthday hug the day after his birthday, also at Comic Con. This year, who knows if I’ll be that lucky – but either way, I wanted to tell him how much he means to me and to so many others.
It’s been an emotional year for the SPNFamily, for the fans and for the cast. As Season 14 was nearing its wrap, Jared, Jensen and Misha announced that the next season would be Supernatural’s last. To say that the news sent shock waves through the fandom would be an understatement. But it was a complicated decision for the actors as well, and one that left them almost as emotional as we all were. I’ve talked with all three of them a bit about it since, but even that day, it was clear that – like with so many complex and sweeping decisions – there was ambivalence and mixed emotions. Sometimes even when you’re the one making a difficult decision, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a painful one to make.
So, as the actors head back to work for the final season, I think this will also be an emotional birthday for Jared (and for the other actors as theirs come along). It will be the last birthday that happens while Jared is still Sam Winchester. The last that happens when Supernatural is still filming and still on the air. The last time Jared’s birthday will happen in the midst of the actors holding court in giant Hall H for thousands of fans or being shuttled back and forth from press room to press room and party to party. Like most of the things that will change with the Show ending, that means some things will be better next year. He can spend his birthday at home with the kids, or halfway around the world on an exotic vacation, or anywhere he damn well pleases. He can take the time to kick back and enjoy what he has and what he’s done, and plan for what he’s yet to do. There won’t be PR to do and make up to wear and clothes styled for him; he can wear jeans and bare feet and however much facial hair he wants.
At the same time, there’s a lot of loss associated with the ending too. Because the show – and the fandom – the SPNFamily — has changed these actors’ lives. Not just a little, but a lot. It’s what so many of them, including Jared, wrote about in Family Don’t End With Blood. I honestly didn’t realize, before I put that book together and read what the actors wrote about how important this Show and this fandom has been to them, not just us. Those changes won’t be erased, but the unique and powerful symbiotic relationship that allowed them to happen will change. Losing Supernatural will be a major loss for all of us, on both sides of the fence.
I’ll still be a Supernatural fan, because that’s part of my identity now that I cherish, and I’m sure many of you will too. But Sam Winchester’s life will be put on pause (this is me being optimistic). If the character really is gone, that means we won’t find out anything new about him. We won’t be able to follow his evolution and argue about whether or not it makes sense or does the character justice. We can look back, but we can no longer look forward. And that’s different. Similarly, Sam will be frozen in time for Jared too. Always an important part of his life and his identity, but Sam himself won’t have a [fictional] life to live out. He won’t get any older; he won’t grow and change. He’ll be frozen in time at 38 while Jared moves forward, instead of the two of them evolving in lockstep all these years. He’s so right, he’ll always have Sam, but it will be different.
(Of course, since I’m an optimist at heart, I’m hanging onto the hope that we WILL get more of the Supernatural universe at some point. Maybe there will be a Supernatural movie….or a Netflix mini series… we’ll have to wait and see. And cross all our fingers and toes. And keep telling Warner Bros how badly we want it. We’re good at that.)
For the actors, the changes as a result of the Show ending are if anything even bigger than for the fans. I don’t know about you, but every time I’ve left a job that I loved, it was traumatic to say goodbye – even when I was moving on to something that I’d chosen, something that in some ways at least was better. They are all so close, such a supportive little community, working together and traveling together and experiencing the world together. They’ve quite literally grown up together. I have no doubt they will stay close, but it won’t be quite the same as having morning coffee together every day and running lines and making incredible television.
Things will change; it’s part of life, but some years bring more change than others. So I hope that this birthday is one that Jared can cherish – that he can relish the craziness of Comic Con and the phenomenon that is Supernatural taking over the gigantic Hall H one more time this weekend. I look back on the darkest time in his life, the one he wrote about in his chapter when he almost gave up and didn’t keep going, and I look at how far he’s come and who he is now. Running marathons, facing his demons, unashamed – proud even – to seek help when he needs it and to encourage others to do the same. What he wrote, and what he has said in panels, has inspired so many people. What a legacy he’s built in 37 short years!
I hope he knows that the fan support that he wrote about in his chapter, that helped get him through those tough times and shaped the man he’s become, isn’t going anywhere. It may not feel as immediate or as all encompassing after next year, but it will be there. None of us who have been changed and inspired by this little Show and this SPNFamily – and by Jared Padalecki – are going to forget that.
Happy Birthday, Jared. Enjoy every minute!
You can read the moving and inspiring chapter
that Jared wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood,
info and amazon links on the home page!