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?
Today is the last day of filming for Supernatural, after fifteen seasons on the air. It took me a season to truly fall in love with the show, but once I did, I fell head over heels – and in fourteen years, I haven’t looked back. Others’ stories are different, but where we’ve ended up is the same. All over the world today, people whose lives have been touched by Supernatural are feeling the loss of something that is so much more than a television show. There’s a collective grieving, a sense of shared overwhelming emotion, that I’m grateful for – one of the most powerful things about fandom is its validation, and I feel that today. There are plenty of people in my everyday life who don’t really understand what a big loss this is, but there are plenty of people in the SPNFamily who do.
At the same time, there’s also a worldwide celebration of a little show that began on The WB and was an unlikely candidate for fifteen seasons and an incredible impact. The show itself and its brilliantly depicted fictional characters have been an inspiration to me, like they have been for so many other fans. For fifteen years, the Winchesters, and soon after, Castiel, have faced seemingly insurmountable odds – and have come out swinging again and again. The ‘monsters’ they’ve faced have been literal, but they have also been figurative: addiction, depression, PTSD, loneliness. Struggles with identity and purpose and finding one’s mission in life. The challenges of family, both by blood and chosen. The very things that we all struggle with are things these fictional characters have faced, again and again and again. And yet, no matter what the challenge, again and again they have persevered. Always Keep Fighting is a mantra for us all in real life, but it has also been the mantra of the show since the beginning. And that has made Sam, Dean and Cas incredibly important to many of us.
The final seven episodes of Supernatural won’t start airing until October and the series finale won’t happen until November 19. But for me, there’s a tremendous sense of loss knowing that today may be the last time that these fictional characters who are so real to me will exist in the world. No, I’m not delusional, but psychologically our attachment to fictional characters who become very familiar over time is significant. We have the same biochemical reactions in our brains when we watch our favorite television show with our most beloved fictional characters as we do when we sit down to dinner with our loved ones in real life. It’s powerful, and especially in stressful times like these, it helps us feel a sense of safety and satisfaction. I am going to miss them so, so much.
I fell in love with Sam and Dean Winchester watching one of the first episodes of Season 2, as Dean broke down and tearfully confided to his brother that he was not all right, and Sam’s anguish at his brother’s pain was equally palpable. I realized at that moment that this show was so much more than its monster-of-the-week episodes, and that these characters had a depth that pulled me right in, hook line and sinker. I realized too that these actors weren’t just pretty faces (though that was a bonus) – they were willing and able to portray that depth, expressing emotions that ran the gamut, just like real life. Their acting sold their portrayals of these characters, just as Jensen and Jared’s real life friendship sold their love as brothers. I will never, I don’t think, feel this way about fictional characters again, as long as I live.
When Misha Collins arrived – whether he expected this or not – Jared and Jensen pulled him into that norm of openness and vulnerability and he rose to the challenge, forging his own friendships in real life and crafting distinct and complex relationships for Castiel and each of the brothers.
Knowing that today those characters will say their last words to each other is hard for me to get my head around. I can’t even imagine how hard it will be for them. Yesterday, on the second to last day of filming, some of the crew tweeted photos of the beautiful Vancouver locations they were filming at, and Jim Michaels and Kevin Parks shared photos of the Impala. I began to tear up immediately, thinking of the actors looking out over the familiar Vancouver beauty. I felt a rush of gratitude that Baby was there with them. They’ll need her comfort, and she’ll comfort them and keep them safe, just like she has for the past fifteen years.
Today will be the last Quote of the Day, the last song, the last whiteboard that Jason Fischer shared with us every day, making us feel like truly part of the family.
Nobody knows how life will go for any of the actors or where each of their roads will take them. There may be a Netflix limited series someday or maybe even a film, but whatever there is, it won’t be exactly this. These actors who have worked together so closely have become brothers in real life. This crew, many of whom have been there since season one, who work together like a well oiled machine and who have been there for each other through births and deaths and marriages and divorces, are family. They have all loved this little show so much, so tangibly, turning down other opportunities to stay loyal to what they built together with Supernatural.
That love and loyalty and care have made all the difference; have made the show what it is.
We put together two books to make sure that we would always remember how special Supernatural is, both to its cast and crew and to its fans. Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done have chapter after chapter that attest to the importance of this show, and its ability to change – and even save – lives. More than thirty Supernatural actors and fans wrote from their hearts about what Supernatural and the SPNFamily has meant to them; hopefully the book and its photos and art and personal stories will be a comfort as the show reaches its end.
In their chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, Jared and Jensen both express their deep love for Sam and Dean, and their reluctance to make this a goodbye. I’ve talked to them from time to time over the past year about their feelings on the end of the show, witnessing them go from protective denial and ‘let’s just throw ourselves into this last season’ to a gradual breakdown of that denial and starting to feel the strong emotions that come with that. I know they’re feeling it now, and that there will be tears today. Saying goodbye to their own characters, as well as saying goodbye to each other’s, is going to be very hard. Incredible actors that they are, they’ll channel all those real life feelings into their characters, and that will make the ending every bit as genuine as all those other scenes they’ve done that have broken my heart in two.
It’s the title of Jensen’s chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. It’s about Sam and Dean, but it’s about Jared and Jensen and Misha and the entire SPNFamily too.
It helps somehow, knowing they’ve been as affected and changed by this show as we have. Jensen went back to the Men of Letters bunker as they tore down what apparently had been Dean’s room a day before, taking us along with him and letting us see his emotional reaction. I’m so grateful to have been along for this wild ride and that even now, at the end, they want to take us along on their journey.
Jensen: Goodbye, men of letters…
I also keep re-watching Jensen’s chat with Michael Rosenbaum, listening to him talk so genuinely about his friendships with Jared and Misha and how he thinks of this not as an ending of Supernatural, but as “let’s hang this in the closet for now, and we’ll dust her off down the road a bit.”
God, I hope so.
I don’t want to think that Sam and Dean and Cas aren’t out there somewhere, fighting insurmountable odds and trying to save the world — and each other. I don’t want to think they’ll never be on my screen again, that their stories won’t continue.
The loss is too big, if I think of it as forever.
For today, I’m sending all good thoughts northward towards Vancouver, and hoping Jared and Jensen (and anyone else who’s there on this last day) can feel it. I know I’ve told them many times, but I hope they really believe it – that these characters, this show, this SPN Family, have changed the world. We’ve made forever friends, discovered creativity we never knew we had, made the world a better place through all kinds of charitable endeavors from GISH to making sure an SPNFamily member had a safe place to live. We’ve been part of a worldwide community that makes us all feel less alone, all sparked by sharing a passion for a little TV show on The CW. We’ve been inspired by the Winchesters, and Castiel, and Jody and Charlie and Bobby and Donna and Ash and Jo and Ellen and Rowena and Jack and so many others to keep on fighting even when we felt like giving up – because that’s what they do.
I can never express my gratitude enough for all that Supernatural has given me.
As they film their last scenes and the words “that’s a wrap on Jared and Jensen” are called out, with a hitch in the voice no doubt, I hope the words of Kim Manners are ringing in their ears today. I hope they know they made him proud a thousand times over.
It’s no secret that I loved the recent Supernatural episode, ‘Just My Imagination.’ I loved Jenny Klein’s script, I loved Richard Speight’s directing, I loved the cinematography, I loved the acting. So I was thrilled to have a chance to talk to Carrie Genzel, the actress who played the cluelessly glitter-and-blood-smeared mom so brilliantly. Little did I know that our conversation would end up being so much fun – and so hysterical!
Lynn: Thanks for chatting with me, I was really looking forward to talking to you.
Carrie: Oh me too, I loved your article, the one I commented on about the episode. I was like, wow, Lynn’s really thorough!
Lynn: [laughing] That’s one way of putting it. Kathy would say I just can’t shut up! Grad school makes you very detail oriented…and then you can’t unlearn it!
Carrie: Yeah but that’s a good thing. Everybody thinks they can write and gets on social media, but it’s usually not that in depth, and when you read something that obviously was researched — you went to different sources and took the time to research everything, so I was like wow, this article stands out.
Lynn: Thank you, that’s so nice of you to say. Sometimes I have to shake my head at myself. This isn’t my actual job, but when it comes to Supernatural, I kinda get carried away easily.
[I know, I know. Understatement.]
Carrie: I’m sure people really enjoy them as well because they’re really getting some great little nuggets of information and great little stories or something that isn’t just out there in the public eye or that they can just read anywhere. You’re getting the special little things in your interviews and articles and they just soak everything up. It’s been pretty incredible, the reaction to the episode.
Both of our set visits in Vancouver have been strange, surreal experiences – albeit for very, very different reasons. (Have you seen The Wizard of Oz?? Yeah – something like that.) One thing that stayed constant through both times though, was the generosity of dozens of people who did not have to be generous or take time out of their crazy busy schedule to accommodate us of all people. Perhaps we’re too cynical, but it still amazes us.
Even now we’re a bit bewildered that Serge Ladouceur was kind enough to share his thoughts and give us behind the scenes insights on things like this gorgeous image among others.
In December of 2008, we made our first set visit to (finally!) interview Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. As soon as we arrived, though, we were welcomed with open arms by everyone in this tight-knit crew. And we do mean everyone – PA’s, lighting crew, the great people in the props and costume departments, Production Designer Jerry Wanek, and Serge Ladouceur, Director of Photography, came over to introduce themselves to us. During our twelve hours in fangirl heaven, we were quite overwhelmed with how wonderful everyone was. (And frankly a bit confused considering the strange, arduous and often embarrassing road we’d traveled to get to this point.)
As we waited for Jensen to film his last scene of the day (the scene in “Sex and Violence” in which Dean is driving down yet another dark stretch of road, alone, having a cell phone conversation with Sam) Serge came over to explain what we were about to see. Think Dean was really alone? Not even close. There were about fifteen people clustered around the Impala working lights and other effects. Think he was really driving down a lonely stretch of road? Wrong. The shot was filmed entirely on the sound stage. And the movement of the car? Well, that was the movement of one very strong man with a 2×4 wedged underneath the back bumper, pressing up and down on it to make it look as if it were moving. It was an amazing team effort and smacked of the “magic of Hollywood”. Afterwards, Serge asked if we had any questions.
Ummm . . . Yes!!!
The next time we were back in Vancouver in February of 2009, we sat down with Serge in our hotel bar. (Note to anyone who decides to conduct interviews in bars – bad idea!! We’ll explain why in the next part of the interview.) His remains one of our favorite interviews – the man is gracious and thoughtful and quite generous with his time – especially when you consider that they had been filming all day and we didn’t start the interview until about 10:00 pm. Two hours later we were still chatting. We thought we’d share a few excerpts from our interview with Serge here. As fans, we’re fascinated by how our favorite show gets made – so we thought some of you might be as well.