Julie McNiven on Supernatural, Anna, and That Scene with Dean

Next up in our Supernatural Spring Break celebration, the There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done book club also chatted with Julie McNiven, Supernatural’s Anna and another contributor to the book. I love what her chapter has to say about how Anna inspired her and how the show and the fandom have done the same. She also had some heartwarming things to say in her chapter about filming Anna and Dean’s love scene in the Impala’s backseat, and how Jensen Ackles helped her ‘find her light’.

Here are some excerpts from the book club discussion. I neglected to explain to her that the book club was on Discord, so Julie was laughing as she sat there with her ring light ready – sorry, Julie!

JMN: Hi Everyone!

BC: The chapter was beautiful.

Lynn:  Julie, you wrote your chapter more than a year ago (unbelievably) – how does it feel now to have Supernatural for real coming to an end?

JMN: Sad…but it’s been over for me for a looooong time so it feels almost unbelievable that it’s still on.  It really goes to show how great this cast and fandom is!!!  I’m also excited to see what my talented group of SPN friends will do next!!

BC: It’s a recurrent theme that this cast and show and set have been so different than all others.

JMN: Absolutely.

BC: Did you ever expect for the fandom to still care about you or your character even years after her last appearance?  What is the most surprising thing about that??

JMN: I NEVER expected for Fandom to care about me after my death!!!  That has been the gift that keeps on giving.  I’m so grateful that y’all tune in to Doom Patrol and cheesy Christmas movies to support me!!!!

Julie onstage at Vegas con

BC: Anna was a complex character.  Did you enjoy the challenge of playing a character that went from lost to (being) such a badass? (In response to the Christmas movie comment:) I’ve loved Matt Bomer since White Collar!

[I mean, what’s not to like about Matt Bomer? Also Doom Patrol is a great show]

JMN: This was my favorite part about playing Anna and I’d be lying if I said I was totally fine not getting one more chance to portray her…I wonder how the Empty changed her?  Matt (Bomer) is a dream. So kind and an incredible acting partner.

Doom Patrol

BC: The behind-the-scenes glimpse of the how-to of intimate scenes in your chapter was eye-opening. [In which Julie writes about the challenges of the backseat scene with Jensen Ackles]   I’m so glad you had a positive experience on the SPN set.  Have you been able to maintain that control and self-agency on sets after that, or is it still a challenge?  I would like to think we’re all moving forward along those lines, but sometimes the pace seem glacial.

JMN: I’ve been able to maintain that control but it definitely helps when the co-star is supportive and protective!  They have “intimacy directors” on set now…this is new and I have yet to experience it but I think that it’s a great move.

BC: I think that a lot of people who find someone like Jensen incredibly attractive would find it easy to do this type of scene, but I think it would be so difficult and terrifying.  I love that you told your story so that we see a positive way that it can be done, while highlighting that it’s not the fantasy some might have about this.

JMN: Truly, that’s the LAST thing on an actor’s mind…it’s very choreographed and does not FEEL sexy or anything.

Read more

A Chat with Supernatural’s ‘Dracula’ – Todd Stashwick!

Next up in our Supernatural Spring Break celebration week, another chat with one of the Supernatural actors who made their way into our hearts – this time while dressed as Dracula. Todd Stashwick is a genre favorite actor from so many of my favorite shows, as well as a bona fide fan himself. We met over a decade ago at an early Supernatural convention, and I was so taken by his understanding of fandom and passion for all things geeky that we included that chat in our first two books. When I put together a book to celebrate the legacy of Supernatural as it was ending, I knew I wanted to ask Todd to write a chapter – and I’m glad he did!

At the end of last year, the online There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done book club for that book invited him to drop in and answer some questions about his chapter and the show, and I’m glad he did that too. Here are some excerpts from that discussion, that I was happy to join in on also.

BC: So glad you could join us. Can you talk a little bit about how you decided on what would be in your chapter?

TS:  Kind of you to say (smile).  Thinking about the long road you all traveled down, and looking back at the fact that you all found commonality of experience through the show got me thinking about fandom as a whole and what that means to me.  So I reflected back to what I believe lit the fuse of being “fan” in myself.  How we don’t “become” fans, we notice that we are, we find ourselves innately drawn to certain stories, characters, and franchises because it answers some need inside of us.  It connects us to other people.  It gives us a tribe.

BC: I adore that you have a long history of being a fan of so many things!  My husband is a huge Star Wars fan, but I never experienced that kind of community until SPN.

TS: It’s also not restricted to sci-fi/horror/fantasy.  My mother in her 70’s attended Downton Abbey parties.  We seek like-minded souls.

BC:  When you wrote in your chapter that “We are tribal creatures who use mythology to come together and understand ourselves” – that really resonated.  So true!

Lynn: Yes, that is so much what fandom – ANY fandom – is about.  We seek like-minded souls, and finding them validates us and feels incredibly satisfying.  It’s like a primal need, for belongingness.

TS: Mythology is a way to analyze ourselves, our culture, explain the unexplained, wrestle with death.  It gives us a metaphor to understand ourselves.  Mythology gives us an escape.  It’s really fun.  And horror allows us to field-test fear without consequences.  Like a roller coaster, we tempt fate, death, and come out okay.

Photo: troubledgirl, from There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done

Lynn: Yes – and Supernatural has both mythology and horror.  No wonder it’s so compelling. People always ask me, how did you choose who would write chapters in the book?  A decade ago, I sat down with Todd in the green room at a convention, and was so taken with how deeply he understood fandom that I never forgot it – something he said, “television is our campfire” resonated with me so much I couldn’t get it out of my head.  So I knew I was going to ask him to write a chapter in the last book about Supernatural and its legacy.

TS: It’s (TV is) just an extenuation of our oral traditions.

BC:  I also think it’s so wonderful that someone who is such a fan themselves, and who has such an appreciation for fandom itself, played the shapeshifter enamored of classic monster movies, and with such pathos.  We very rarely see a villain on SPN, especially those with a humorous bent, evoke such a sympathetic response.  I think that moment is one of the reasons it has endured as a fan favorite (for me at least).

TS: It’s what drew me to the role, the high melodrama and the quiet fragility.

Read more

Supernatural Rewatch – Kim Manners Brings the Scary with ‘Scarecrow’

I sound like a broken record, but ‘Scarecrow’ is another scary Season 1 episode of Supernatural. That scarecrow was incredibly creepy – and inspired one of the show’s most iconic lines since it was also “fugly”. Kim Manners directed this episode, which means it’s gorgeous and terrifying and heartbreaking simultaneously. I feel like Jared and Jensen cherish every Manners episode so much, since he was such an influence on them and their careers – and on this show. Supernatural wouldn’t have been what it is without Kim.

Kim Manners directing this episode and Jared playing Scarecrow

It was particularly therapeutic to escape into a familiar episode of my favorite show this week, since the Supernatural fandom hasn’t always been a comforting place recently. There’s so much infighting and bullying and policing, I sometimes can’t recognize the supportive community that I discovered fifteen years ago and began researching and writing about. Also, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. So what to do? Rewatch the episodes that aired at a time when fandom was a wonderful, supportive place that felt like a refuge and I was falling in love with this incredible show for the first time.

I also needed a reminder that most of Supernatural fandom is still a wonderful, supportive place. I had zoom calls with some of my friends who share my love of this little show, and who I miss seeing at cons and concerts and Supernatural-related adventures. This Sunday night weekly rewatch also helps remind me. This was the best idea ever – thanks to the little group of friends whose idea it was to do this and for inviting me to watch along with them. I knew it would be needed post finale, but I had no idea it would be THIS needed.

We open the episode on ‘Burkittsville, One Year Ago.”  A hometown diner, apple pie on the house for a young couple who got lost and then got what they think is lucky – someone to ‘fix’ their truck and send them on their way with helpful directions. Except their car dies as soon as they turn into an apple orchard that looks plenty creepy in the dark. Add to that a gigantic scarecrow looming over them – and then appears to turn its head to watch them as they walk past – and I’m with that girl. Scared!

They hear noises behind them in the orchard and begin to run toward some lights, the scare factor enhanced by some Blair Witch style camera work. The couple gets separated, and as the girl runs, she discovers her boyfriend’s dead body. The giant scarecrow, off its post and pursuing them, approaches as she screams.

CREEPY.

This episode picks up right where we left off with Sam and Dean (which I love – the first season is almost spooling out in real time as the Winchesters try to find their dad and their dad tries to find the demon). Sam and Dean are asleep in the motel room when Dean’s phone rings and Sam picks up. (They both sleep as close to the edge as possible, presumably ready to spring into action to have each other’s backs if needed).

Sam: Hello?

Voice: Sam, is that you?

Sam sits up, instantly wide awake.

Sam: Dad?

What follows is a pivotal conversation, Sam concerned about whether John is all right and John concerned about his sons. There is at first mutual affection, John even calling Sam “Kiddo”, but he says he can’t tell them where he is and they’ll have to trust him on that.

Dean wakes up, half sitting up in bed, shirtless, amulet on his chest. I think it’s the only time we ever see Dean Winchester sleep shirtless and that is a damn shame.

Dean: Is that Dad??

Sam realizes that John has gone after the thing that killed their mother, and John says yes, and that it’s a demon.

John: Listen, Sammy, I also know what happened to your girlfriend. I’m so sorry, I would’ve done anything to protect you from that.

He says he’s closing in on it, but won’t let the boys help, saying they can’t be any part of it – that Sam and Dean have to stop looking for him. It’s the only reason he’s calling, we realize.

John: Write down these names. Even us talking isn’t safe.

Sam protests, and John insists he’s giving them an order – to stop following him and do their job.

Dean puts on a shirt (why?), grabs the phone and, like Sam, wants to know what’s going on, but whatever John says to him, it shuts him up fast.

Dean: Yessir. Yeah, I got a pen. What are the names?

Read more

Supernatural Spring Break – Photo Post No. 3 of Kim’s Favorites!

For our final photo retrospective for Supernatural Spring Break week, Kim has put together her thirty favorite photos from Supernatural cons over the years. I have no idea how she was able to do this, because narrowing it down to 30 from so much incredible beauty? I would give up. If you’ve ever stood behind her and looked over her shoulder in a convention hotel room at 2 am and watched while Kim edits her shots and tries to decide which of the hundreds (from one con) to post, then you get what I mean.

Most of the time, my contribution on those late night editing sessions is to periodically distract her by exclaiming OMG GUH!!! when she gets to a particularly gorgeous one. Kim, for some reason, does not appreciate this.

So I’m paying her back by NOT rearranging these photos before this posts. You’re the photographer, Kim, so you get the final say on which of your photos bring you the most joy. I’m just grateful for every single photo you’ve taken, and that you put together the color photo spreads for both Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. The books would not be nearly as pretty if it wasn’t for your contributions, and the photo and art contributions of other talented fans you coordinated too. (Also you wrote a powerful chapter!)

So here, in order of ability to spark joy, are Kim’s Supernatural cast faves – along with her commentary below and some of mine I couldn’t resist adding. Enjoy!

#30 – Misha at the convention in Jacksonville 2016.

Lynn: And Misha Collin’s blue blue blue eyes too!

#29 – Nashville 2019. I love their riffs.

Lynn: Me too. And their smiles. Jensen Ackles and Rob Benedict aka Robsen definitely sparks joy.

#28 – Louden Swain concert in Austin, Texas, 2020. I’m pretty sure this is “Rock Song.”

Lynn: The Swain show in Austin as 2020 began was one of the last times we got to see them play and be with our fellow SPNFamily. It was a charmed trip in so many ways, and the Swain show on my birthday was the perfect way to celebrate. And, I’m in my feelings already…

 

#27 – Saturday Night Special, Nashville 2019. She just has so much fun at these concerts, and it shows.

Lynn: Kim Rhodes putting her inner rock star out there at the Saturday Night Specials is one of the best things to come from Supernatural conventions.

#26 – Literally the best emcee Ever. Dallas, 2019.

Lynn: Hands down. I remember Richard Speight, Jr.’s very first con and how his personality came through loud and clear. When Creation had an actor cancel for their next con and were wondering who could replace him, I said they should call that Richard Speight guy (who we’d interviewed for our first book) because he was a natural for the convention stage. They did, and the rest is history. And the conventions became something they might not have without Richard’s guidance and incredible ability to improvise onstage at the drop of a hat.

Read more

Supernatural Celebration Week -Fave Photos of Jared and Jensen!

Next up in our celebration of Supernatural Spring Break week, I asked my partner in crime, Kim Prior, to compile some of her favorite photos that she’s taken at Supernatural cons over the years. Three days later, after she probably wanted to kill me for my request, she managed to narrow it down enough to make a few posts. But hey, that’s not such a bad problem to have, is it? Too many beautiful photos of gorgeous (and wonderful) people to sift through? I think she should probably thank me.

At any rate, I know I’m thanking her!

We hope this brightens up everyone’s Friday!

First up, Jared and Jensen.

This one is from Jacksonville 2016… highlighting Jared’s incredible multi-hued eyes. Kim takes photos that are so clear and so true to color that it makes his eyes even more striking.

I’m not going to have to convince anyone that Jensen’s eyes are equally striking – there’s a reason the words “fanfic green” exist in the Supernatural fandom.

Also she captured an adorable expression. Skeptical Jensen? Grumpy Jensen? Doesn’t matter, adorable nevertheless.

And Rockstar Jensen is a whole other level. Damn, I miss his live performances so much. It’s been a privilege witnessing the evolution from hesitant duet partner to confident command-the-stage rockstar.

Now where’s that new album, Mr. Ackles??

Here are a few from Dallas con 2019, with hiatus beards in full bloom. Jared in a beard and beanie is always a good look and even though I’m not the biggest fan of beards, Jensen can rock any look – as evidenced by the recent ‘mountain main’ incarnation. And the long hair? Yes please.

Back to Pittsburgh con 2016 for the next few photos, more bearded boys and gorgeous eyes and damn, that shirt looked so good on Jared and his hair was *chef’s kiss*.  He looks amazing on Walker, but sometimes I do miss those luxurious locks that Sam Winchester favored.

One from Vegas con 2015 in beautiful black and white capturing an equally beautiful moment. I caught Jeffrey Dean Morgan on Kimmel last night and he is such a lovely human with an adorable giggle. The bond between these three real life friends and on-screen family is so heartwarming. And now they have matching tattoos!

Read more