A Chat With Eric Kripke – The Boys, Supernatural and Crafting the Icebergs Under the Water

 

I was introduced to the new Amazon Prime show The Boys at San Diego Comic Con and was immediately intrigued. I was already excited about it simply because Eric Kripke, creator of Supernatural, is executive producer (and we all know how passionate I am about Supernatural...). So I went to the “activation experience,” which took you inside the first episode of the show and let you help some of “the boys” solve a superhero-related crime. That’s right, the superheroes in this show aren’t exactly the good guys. In fact, they’re a bunch of assholes. Most of them anyway. Propped up by big corporate money and power, the “Supes” are essentially the worst kind of fabricated and manufactured celebrities, their personas carefully constructed to appeal to the unsuspecting masses as the only hope for an increasingly frightened and powerless humanity. If that sounds a little too close to real life right now, that’s exactly the point.

That’s the premise of the comic on which The Boys is based, and the premise of the Amazon series as well. The show has something to say about who holds power in our current culture and how they wield it, including the role of social media and propaganda in shaping people’s views and keeping them in a perpetual state of fear – which makes a superhero who swoops in to save the day and claims to be able to keep everyone safe very appealing indeed. It’s a dark, gritty, cynical world that The Boys inhabit, but it reflects the fear-mongering and online manipulation that is all too real, that make people long for “saviors” and turn the other way when those saviors turn out to be the actual monsters.

All that hits a little too close to home, and if that’s all the show was about, the darkness would be too much to take on top of the overwhelming dose of darkness I get every day through every type of media. What makes The Boys instead as hopeful as the traditional superhero tropes it subverts were intended to be is the existence of a resistance. In the tradition of Supernatural’s Sam and Dean, the resistance comes in the form of a bunch of just plain humans, who nevertheless are willing to go against the odds and try to do what’s right. Instead of taking out demons and wendigos, the Boys are going after the Supes. Outgunned in terms of powers and definitely the underdogs, nevertheless the Boys are every bit as invested in the “always keep fighting” mantra that has made Supernatural such an inspiring show. I’ve only watched one episode so far, and I’m already rooting for them.

For a show whose first episode begins with an ultra violent occurrence and includes a decadent sex-fueled club scene and some full frontal (equal opportunity) nudity, The Boys tackles complex and relevant themes with a surprisingly deft hand. Main character Hughie, whose quest for revenge is instigated by one of the Supes callously running through his girlfriend at super speed and exploding her, has his trauma examined instead of just tossed out there as an explanation for what happens next. And while everyone on the show seems to live somewhere in the morally ambiguous grey area that I love seeing characters struggle through, that goes for the Supes too – or at least one of them.

The premiere episode also takes the time to examine new Supe Starlight’s recruitment into the elite “Seven”. Presented as young and naïve and fully buying into the cult of celebrity that she thinks she craves, Starlight soon finds that the Supes are not who she thought they were when she had that poster of The Deep on her wall. It’s a pointed commentary that was fascinating to me as a psychologist who’s studied celebrity and fandom for the past decade plus. There’s significant sexual assault-based trauma for Starlight that happens with that realization, and it too is not glossed over but explored realistically. That story line pulled on my heartstrings more than anything else in the first episode, and anchored the show in a feminist slant while critiquing the misogyny and power dynamics inherent in that world – and our own.

At the Comic Con press room, Erin Moriarty (who plays Starlight) said she loved the fact that you initially believe that Starlight is going to fit into the familiar stereotype, but it turns out she’s a lot more than that. So far, one episode in, she feels like the moral compass of the show, along with Hughie, who she just so happens to meet on a park bench as they struggle to come to terms with their respective traumas and how those traumas have changed how they view themselves.

The Boys is executive produced by Seth Rogen and Eric Kripke, based on the comic series by Garth Ennis. It stars Karl Urban (Billy Butcher) as leader of the Boys, along with recently traumatized Hughie (Jack Quaid), Karen Fukuhara (The Female), Laz Alonso (Mother’s Milk), and Tomer Kapon (Frenchie). The Supes include Anthony Starr (Homelander), Dominique McElligott (Queen Maeve), Jessie T. Usher (A Train), Chace Crawford (The Deep), Nathan Mitchell (Black Noir) and Erin Moriarty (Starlight). Elisabeth Shue plays Madelyn Stillwell, the corporate PR person who pulls the strings with a chilling smile.

As a passionate Supernatural fan, I was initially interested in The Boys because of Eric Kripke, who created the characters I love so much on Supernatural. I asked him a question at the press room for The Boys at Comic Con (see video link below), but couldn’t wait to talk with him some more about his new show and its similarities to his first ‘baby’, Supernatural. We’ve stayed a little bit in touch over the past decade by email, but having a chance to actually chat was a treat.

E: Hey Lynn, how are you?

L: It’s been like ten years since we’ve had an actual conversation!

E: It probably has been, but I follow you on twitter and we’ve had some twitter conversations and you seem like you’re doing great, so I know what you’ve been up to. And thank you so much for all the support over the years.

L: Pretty sure I should be thanking you – I’ve written six books about your show (Supernatural) that helped me get tenure and promotion to professor. Thank you for that!

E: Well, you’re welcome!

It really had been a while. I first chatted with Eric Kripke way back in 2008 when I began researching and writing books about fandom and celebrity, mostly focused on the show he created that I had fallen head over heels in love with, Supernatural. (Here’s Eric the first time we met at the Supernatural Creation convention in Burbank – he was a baby!)

Photo Lizz Sisson

We did a few phone interviews and met up at Comic Con that year to chat some more. We talked a lot about fandom and of course about fannish creativity and fanfiction. Eric’s first question: Am I ever in it?

Me: Umm, I guess? I may have run across a few…

Kripke: Oooh, is it porn? You have to send me that!

Fast forward to 2019 and Eric’s Reddit AMA when someone asked him if he’d read any Supernatural erotica and he said yes, and then described the definitely-not-G-rated fic…

L: I had to laugh when I saw you mention that fic with you and Jared from back in the day (laughing). I mean, what you said is true, you were assertive in it…

E: Exactly!

L: I had forgotten what it was actually about and was like OMG that’s right…

E: Yeah (laughing) I’ve never forgotten it, it made a major impact that’s for sure.

L: Well, either you’re welcome or… I’m sorry?

E: (still laughing) Yeah right, I think a little of both.

Side note: Eric has always been fine with fans “playing in his sandbox” and understands transformative works as a sign of affection for his characters and his worlds. There’s a whole chapter on our early conversations about Supernatural in Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls if you’re curious.

L: Anyway, The Boys! I’ve watched the first episode, I’m a bit old school in that I like to watch one at a time and space it out and sort of digest it. I LOVED the first episode and I think other Supernatural fans will really love the show too. There are some similarities to Supernatural for sure.

E: Mm hmm

L: For one thing, the protagonist is sent on a hunt for revenge because the love of his life is violently killed – Mary burning on the ceiling is an iconic image for Supernatural, and so is Robin being decimated and Hughie standing there still holding her bloody hands!

E: Hmm. That one, I mean yes, now that you’ve pointed it out, there are similarities to that. Robin dying in The Boys is taken almost frame for frame from the comic book so it’s funny, that hadn’t really occurred to me about that connection, because in The Boys the instigating incident is so infamous for anyone who’s a fan of the books. It was my job to capture it as faithfully as possible and that’s mostly where my head was, but yeah. Also, I think where they’re similar is there are a lot of tonal and thematic similarities. In a lot of ways, The Boys is a hard R Supernatural.

L: (silently) A hard R Supernatural….ohgod yes please…

E: And it’s funny because you don’t even realize these things until it’s hindsight. I don’t set out to say oh I’m gonna make something for Supernatural fans, I just make stuff – the only person I really try to please is me. But because I love Supernatural and those are the kind of things that I love, I guess it stands to reason that if left to my own devices to make another show that I put all my love into, it will have some similarities.

L: That makes sense.

E: What The Boys is really ultimately about is these kind of very down to earth middle class blue collar people taking on these arrogant ultra powerful forces that are overwhelming and all powerful. In Supernatural it’s angels and demons and (laughing) God…

L: lol

E: And in The Boys, it’s the sort of pantheon of superheroes. The incredibly big guy with magical powers basically is something that I’m clearly interested in. I think I really like the idea of blue collar no bullshit guys taking on and puncturing these huge myths and kind of having to bring them down to earth just through their own wits, because they’re outmatched…

L: Yeah, and that’s all they have, their own smarts.

E: And that says something to me, I think, about the world. Like we’re always up against these seemingly insurmountable forces, but there are things we can do to get some equality. You just have to – it’s not easy and it’s not fair – but you just have to keep banging away at it.

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The Final Supernatural Panel in Hall H at SDCC

To say that the final Supernatural panel in Hall H was emotional would be a serious understatement. Supernatural fans, myself included, alternated between trying to stay in denial about the upcoming ending and getting unexpectedly overcome with feelings at other panels for soon-to-be-ending shows. By the time Sunday morning came around, most of us had packed extra tissues as we filed into the giant Hall H.

We waited for the panel with mixed emotions, staring at the familiar name placards that have been there every year at Comic Con. I still remember the very first panel we were at, in the much smaller 6BCD room.

Excitement ran high as it always does. Fans who sacrificed sleep to wait in line and get their Hall H admission wristbands were nevertheless filled with energy as soon as those doors opened. Several cast members had come through the lines like they always do, including Misha Collins, Rachel Miner, Alaina Huffman and Osric Chau. Jared and Jensen stood out on the landing to greet the fans before the panel. Coffeed up or not, everyone was wide awake as they filed in and hurried toward the front to get the best seat possible.

WB gave out special edition Impala models, which are awesome. (In the press room that afternoon, Jared was wishing he had one too). As we settled in to wait, I chatted with some Supernatural crew and with Osric Chau, one of my favorite people in the universe. I love that he was as excited as we all were!

It was a good thing that the woman next to me brought an entire BOX of tissues because just the very start of the panel made me tear up. Warner Bros publicity person Holly Ollis, who has kicked off every Supernatural panel I’ve been at since way back in 2007, took the mic to talk about how special this little show and this incredible fandom have been. Her voice broke for the first time and I had to choke back tears. I didn’t even get through her intro, folks!

Holly has been a champion of this show from the start and it’s been a long and winding journey, with lots of ups and downs for the show — and for me. I’ve written thousands of articles and episode reviews, and published 6 books on Supernatural. Knowing this was the last time I would sit here and listen to her introduction, after 12 years here at Comic Con…it was a lot. It’s been a lot to be privileged to experience, and it will be a lot to give up.

Whether you’ve been on this wild ride from the very first Supernatural appearance prior to its airing in 2005 (as were several fans I spoke to) or you discovered the show in Season 14 and binged to catch up, every fan has their own shared story with Supernatural. Everyone has a reason why the show is special, their own history with Sam and Dean and Cas and company. We each know what the show and the cast and the fandom have done for us. And as we start the journey through the “last year”, that makes it an emotional journey indeed.

The panel kicked off, as it usually does, with a filmed compilation. I’ll never forget the epic year that WB installed surround screens ALL OVER Hall H and it was Sam and Dean in the Impala racing around them, followed by Kansas performing Carry On Wayward Son LIVE.

But this compilation was also special – because it was a look back at the ENTIRE series. And it began with this sign.

Photo @paleonut

And yes, it made me cry.

The montage then began with those iconic scenes from the pilot, “We got work to do” and then took us on a wild ride through the seasons, each one introduced with its number. FOURTEEN seasons, countless special moments flashed before our eyes, a visceral reminder of how incredible this show and its cast and crew have been.

The audience cheered our favorite scenes and our favorite characters, and if we were filled with emotion before, it was overflowing now.

And the video ended with this.

Which made me cry even more.

And then the last Hall H panel began – moderated by the only two people who could possibly do it justice: Richard Speight Jr. and Rob Benedict. I feel like we are the luckiest fandom ever to have two actors from the show, who play iconic characters, and who happen to be super talented at improv and at emceeing panels (which they do constantly at Supernatural conventions). They came out wearing trench coats, then quipped, “We’re cosplaying…. Sam and Dean in the rain…”

They got us to laugh so we could temporarily put down the tissues.

Rich and Rob were also emotional though – not only have they been on the show since its early seasons, but it has changed their lives in countless ways. Rob and Louden Swain have their own passionate fan base. Rich is now an accomplished director who’s directing three episodes in Season 15. It was so much more meaningful having them anchoring the panel; they’re part of the family. They get it.

Rob and Rich introduced the panel – showrunners Bob Singer and Andrew Dabb, writers and exec producers Eugenie Ross-Leming, Brad Buckner and Robert Berens, and Alex Calvert, Misha Collins, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. The actors were all clearly moved as they took the stage, trying to take it all in and remember this unique experience of being applauded by a room full of 7,000 some people. Jared and Jensen stood side by side and paused for a few photos, physically anchoring each other through all the emotion.

Credit Getty Images

Misha sat down and just smiled, looking out over the crowd. Alex was clearly trying to take it all in.

Rich and Rob kicked off the panel by asking the first question – where are your heads at? You grew up with the show, and now it comes to an end, how are you feeling about it all? What’s your grand take away from this?

Jared: That’s so mean to start with, I’m trying not to cry, can we all just start crying?

Most of us: We’re way ahead of you!

Jensen said that what he’s gotten from the show are lifelong friends, experiences of a lifetime, and this (gestures to crowd).

He paused, looking out at the sea of adoring fans.

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Supernatural at Comic Con: Press Room Interview Videos

The Supernatural press room is always one of the most well run press rooms in the entire Comic Con experience, but it’s also always a nerve wracking experience that I sit through biting my nails terrified my table won’t get to chat with everyone. In fact, we almost didn’t get a chance to talk with Jared Padalecki at all as they ran late, but he was nice enough to stop over for a few minutes before heading out. I was so flustered by almost missing him that I didn’t realize that I never turned off my video recording of the person we were chatting with before him, and thus spent several hours convinced that I somehow had not recorded Jared’s interview at all! Tears were shed. And then tears of joy as we found it!

Here’s our chat with Jensen Ackles, in which he talks about coming to an understanding of the show’s projected ending, and gets a little emotional thinking about filming that last ending scene – that they’ve already set aside an added day for. Tissues anyone?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QpkTXPf1HQ

And here’s our little chat with Jared Padalecki. Since we only had 30 seconds, I was elected the question asker – Jared talks about his reaction and Jensen’s reaction to hearing about the show’s ending and why it’s so important to him that there’s “peace when you are done” for the brothers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X223Zew95wg

We were incredibly lucky to have some extra time with Misha Collins, and to get rather deep into a conversation about what Supernatural is about and how unique it is that the show has been able to focus so much on brotherhood and to explore masculinity in a different way. Misha was asked to move along to the next table at one point, but then there was no room for him so he said F it and came back and picked up the great conversation, much to our great joy. With bonus Jared tickling Misha’s ear, because that’s how this cast rolls.

Also? Misha has a great new cookbook out called the Adventurous Eaters Club that everyone should check out! It’s available on amazon or at Barnes and Noble stores!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBwHdOXQRfg

Alex Calvert asked me to toss him a psychological question (or a good question, depending on which one of us you ask) so I attempted it. Alex tackles Jack’s mental and emotional state at the end of Season 14, along with what might be coming up for him and his character.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7lv9egaEhA&feature=youtu.be

We also had some great chats with writers and producers Eugenie Ross-Leming, Brad Buckner and Robert Berens, and showrunners Andrew Dabb and Bob Singer.

Berens expressed excitement about the ending of the series, saying that it would surprise people without subverting the emotional imperative of closing out the story. To say that I’m dying to know what they have in store, equal parts anxious and excited, is not an understatement!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-ZkbaWWgSE

Showrunner Bob Singer confided that he’s talking with Eric Kripke later this week about the ending of the show and that Jensen had also chatted with him. He also had some lovely things to say about the fandom, including reminiscing about his first convention experience, which I also remember!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGy3jl-mpgc

Writer Eugenie Ross-Leming talked about how the characters are coping with their new knowledge that some of their past wins may not have been a result of free will, and how Castiel helps Dean come to terms with it when he’s struggling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPY87lAixt8

Brad Buckner talked about the emotionality of the Supernatural panel that preceded the press room, especially when the actors were asked to reflect on their many years on the show. He shared that all Supernatural scripts always end with “To Be Continued” – and that the other day the writers all realized that Andrew is now writing a script that will instead say “The End”. Cue lots of sniffling at our table.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MBE9z4M4Ws

Showrunner Andrew Dabb joked that he was just going to “wing it” with the last episode. More seriously, he said what he’s crafting is something that will make sense as an emotional ending for these characters. Which I do think is what we’re all hoping for!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHjhnG5w2gw

My head was spinning with how much insight we got about the next and final season, and my stomach was in knots with anxiety thinking about what that ending everyone is talking about is really going to be!

Stay tuned for Season 15 – and for more Supernatural coverage from Comic Con 2019!

–Lynn.

 

Happy 37th Birthday, Jared Padalecki!

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!

Much love,

Lynn

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!

The Sunday Recap of #SPNDallas!

Sunday is always a fun day at a Supernatural con – also always the most hectic! It’s alot more fun (and a bit less hectic) if you have a ton of friends there to help out in the vendor room and to share the special moments with during panels and photo ops and autographs. Some of my favorite people in the entire universe were at Dallas con, so Sunday was extra fun.

And Jared and Jensen were there too, which definitely makes the day special.

The gold panel kicked off the day at 10:30, which felt much too early to both of us. And to Jensen, who savored his customary cup of Starbucks in between answering fan questions.

Lynn: The floof is impressive from the side, isn’t it? (Okay, who am I kidding, it’s impressive from any and all angles. Jensen’s recent back-to-work selfie proved that beyond a doubt)

Jared wore his customary gold panel beanie, which I think is as much a security blanket as Jensen’s coffee and allows them both to wake up and get comfy with the crowd as they settle back into con space.

Jared’s beanie really brings out his beautiful eyes, doesn’t it?

A fan asked about their Saturday routine when they’re at a con. Jared prefers a steakhouse dinner, which he says they often have the night before a con in whatever city they happen to be in. Jensen said that he works out in the morning, so he sleeps in as late as he can.

Lynn: I’m with you, Jensen. Also, the floof is out of control in this next photo – and eye crinkles! And that little boy grin! Kim captured some of my favorite moments, which always makes me happy because I can just concentrate on my live tweeting. I no longer even bring my actual camera when I know Kim’s going to be sitting next to me – why bother?

They were also asked about advice for planning a wedding.

Kim: I especially loved Jensen’s answer; as a wedding photographer, I take it as my responsibility to make sure the bride and groom have a quiet moment to themselves. Jensen said someone had given him that advice, to make the time to sit back and take it all in and enjoy the moment.

Lynn: I’m sure someone else more memorable gave Jensen that advice, but I got momentarily excited because I gave him that advice too. Shortly before his wedding, I was at an album release party in LA and Jensen was there. I must have had one drink too many, because I ended up giving him unsolicited wedding advice about the importance of making sure that he and Danneel had FUN, and not getting too caught up in worrying about all the details. I guess I kept patting his shoulder enthusiastically to emphasize the importance of this advice, to my great embarrassment when a friend helpfully pointed that out after the fact.

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