Behind the Scenes of The Last Season of Supernatural with Director Richard Speight, Jr.

Richard Speight, Jr. has a birthday coming up, and that has me thinking about a) how long I’ve known him and b) the incredible impact he has had on Supernatural and on the SPNFamily. In our very first conversation, close to 12 years ago, I was impressed with how smart and thoughtful he was. It wasn’t long before he talked about wanting to direct in addition to acting, and I was not a bit surprised when he added that to his repertoire – and kicked ass at it. He’s come a long way from 2014, when producer Jim Michaels posted a photo of Richard shadowing director Tom Wright on the set of Supernatural, going on to direct eleven episodes and to shape the show in significant ways.

I also knew early on that Richard was an excellent writer, because he wrote a chapter for one of my first books, Fan Phenomena Supernatural. When it came time to write my last book on the show that captured my heart as it went into its very last season, I knew I wanted Richard’s voice in that book too. His chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done is, fittingly enough, a conversation between me and him. Like countless other conversations we’ve had over the past twelve years, in hotel restaurants or convention green rooms or in a taxi so he could show me where he’d filmed in San Francisco, his chapter is brimming with insights and a little bit of his trademark humor. In There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, Richard also gets serious about this little show that has changed so many lives. The way he describes Supernatural’s legacy, and what makes it so special, makes me tear up a little every time I read it. He gets it. From Richard’s chapter in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done:

The “Supernatural” take on family ain’t the Lifetime version. It’s dark, it’s rough, it’s painful, it’s broken. It may not be a perfect family, but it’s our family. It may not be a perfect world, but it’s our world. And I think the way Sam and Dean and Castiel choose to navigate that world and how they deal with each other along the way is inspirational to a lot of people and will continue to be an inspiration for a very long time.

Richard understands why the SPNFamily is so important, and why the show and its iconic characters will always be with us, which is what that book is all about. He also gets the show itself. That’s why I couldn’t wait to talk to him about the episodes of the show he directed for Season 15, three of which have already aired. In part 2 of my conversation with Richard, he takes us behind the scenes of those three episodes with so many fascinating insights. And maybe makes me a little emotional again as he talks about the upcoming end of this incredible show.

Part 1 of my epic interview with Richard shared insights into his new film Driven, his hilarious podcast with Rob Benedict, and some behind the scenes stories of directing his first episode of Season 15, Proverbs 17:3. I had a few more questions about that episode, because so much about it was SO good, so we pick up there…

L: Switching gears again, another scene I really liked in that episode was with the actress who played Lilith, who was so good – things very quickly go from all serious and horrifying to this poor traumatized girl falling on some antlers and being impaled, to her just getting up and brushing herself off! How challenging was that kind of split second progression?

R: Let me tell you, first off, Steve Yockey wrote a great script. So clever, the miscues were great. It was like my third or fourth Steve Yockey script, so we work together well. We connect on the material, he likes what I do, I like what he does. As we go through and adjust, we’re always on the same page. But I really really think, to pull that moment off, I give massive credit to Anna Grace Barlow. Finding her was finding Nate Torrence for Sully. I cast her off tape, I never met her. She turned in an audition that she shot in the garage during a short film she was doing that was so fantastic. And she came up and just knocked the leather off the walls. She was so good at every scene, from day one. Day one, her first day of shooting, she was confronting Sam and Dean in a parking lot as Lilith and taking the gun. She was already doing heavy hitting stuff right out of the gate. I thought she was incredibly talented. And she got the character. We discussed the character, she got the beats, and she played all that drama for real. Because you don’t get the joke, you don’t enjoy that moment, if you didn’t buy into everything that has happened before that.

L: Yes, and you really did.

R: You believed that she was in distress, you believed that she was a victim in this scenario, that she was in peril and incapable of doing anything to defend herself. And she’s completely distraught by what she’s witnessed and probably damaged for life, and then she stumbles and dies on those antlers and it’s a WTF moment of massive proportion.

L: Massive! She did a great job there and Jared and Jensen did too, with Sam and Dean’s WTF just happened expressions.

R: They did, they played it like the audience should have been too. But Anna Grace did such a good job and when she makes that turn, she’s Lilith the rest of the time. We had such fun crafting that character. To really go into this episode, I started talking to Jerry Wanek about the episode two weeks before we went up there because he read it and he called me and said “Wes Anderson”.

L: Ohhhhh

R: And I said, you had me at Wes. Because he’s like, I’m trying to figure it out, tonally I don’t want you to hang your hat on the set here but if you’re into it, I’ll lean into it and let’s create that vibe of symmetrical sets and straight on angles. And I said, oh absolutely. Then Carrie at the costume center got on board and that’s why Anna Grace Barlow looks like she’s from Moonrise Kingdom.

L: Yesssss

R:  If you go back to the campsite scene, we used plaids and all these things ala that heightened style. I loved that episode so much, and every set was a meal. It was all stylized. The sheriff’s office, very stylized. We used angles that reflected that kind of style – I don’t wanna say an homage because every shot is an homage because you picked it up from somebody at some point – but nonetheless it was a consistent style thing through the whole episode and it was so fun to do. Anna Grace in her little beret and kerchief being super evil was just so phenomenal.

L: That really added to the character being memorable and full of personality.

R: Everything she does previous to that scene – when she did that hospital scene and expressed her fear to Dean and in the hotel room telling him she doesn’t know what she’ll do now because her friends are all dead? That scene rips your heart out.

L: Yes, you have no idea at the time.

R:  She was shaggin’ flies with every take. Everything was a great take by her, so she gave so many options and choices. And when she went dark, she went dark so well. She was a fantastic villainess. In many ways, I wish it was Season 5 instead of Season 15, because I think we would have seen her many more times.

L: My favorite moment was when she asks them to give her the gun, and Dean says, “the Equalizer?” and she just deadpans “I’m not gonna call it that.” I laughed out loud.

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Remembering #NashCon: The Saturday Night Special!

Guest post by Kim Prior to pretty up your Saturday… in which she looks back at the last four years of Nashville Saturday Night Specials and remembers just how special they are. Take it away, Kim!

And thus begins all the many ways in which I try to express how special the Saturday Night Special is…

2016

The recap of the 2016 concert in Nashville is a little less recap, a little more overflow of emotion as I tell y’all how much I love this band, and all the celebrity guests.

And lots of pictures.

#ActualRockGod Rob Benedict

Matt Cohen
Gil McKinney
Osric Chau
Ruth Connell and Kim Rhodes
Tim Omundson on harmonica

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Remembering #NashCon: Friday Panels

Guest post by Kim Prior

(With commentary by Lynn…)

Lynn and I should be meeting this weekend, in Nashville. At the Salute to Supernatural Convention at the Grand Ol Opry Hotel/Resort. Instead, we are locked down. Quarantined. The convention has long been canceled. (Rescheduled for August and Chuck knows we are beyond excited at the thought of attending another convention!) Rather than sit and worry about the state of the country, the world… rather than be sad we don’t have a convention this weekend… we thought we should remember the good times we’ve had in Nashville over the years. So without further ado, here’s a quick look back at the Salute to Supernatural Conventions in Nashville!

2016

[Kim]  One of my favorite parts of these conventions is listening to the Rules and Regulations as presented by our host, Richard Speight, Jr. alongside Rob Benedict and Louden Swain. Do they discuss what they are going to do each time? Do they write it, plan it, rehearse it? I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. Their version of the Rules and Regulations are different at each convention, usually laced with indirect or direct innuendo about the host city, and always laugh-‘til-my-cheeks-hurt funny. I may or may not have laughed ‘til I cried at more than one of these presentations.

[Lynn] I miss Rules & Regulations! I miss the theme song, and the fabulous showcase that it is for Rich and Rob’s hilarious sense of humor and mad improv skills. Just sayin’.

[Kim} This convention began on Friday with Richard bringing us yet another fresh, new version of the Rules and Regulations. In typical fashion, he managed to explain these to us all while making fun of southern sayings; he referenced so many that I could not possibly include them all – and yes, I reckon I laughed so hard I was fixin’ to cry.

(Ugh. Eww. Look at the ridiculous watermark. Look at the blurry photo. *sigh* I had so much to learn back then.)

Friday panels began with the dynamic duo of Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster.

They danced their way onto the stage, and immediately began to tell us about their conversation from the night before – one that included both periods and trying on underwear – because that’s how best friends roll. Listening to their panel, watching their interaction, I had no doubt they share an epic friendship, and it reminded me of my own real life best friend. (You really don’t want to read some of our texts either.) I don’t know if Wayward Daughters will ever be picked up as a spin off, but if it isn’t, can someone please give these two besties their own show already?

[Lynn]  Ouch. That one’s hard to read now…

Gil McKinney had a solo panel on Friday. Always smooth and sexy, he talks effortlessly about his life on Supernatural and beyond. He also reminds us how much the show and the fandom have impacted his life. Oh, and he discovered and now loves Cracker Barrel… and y’all know you’re gonna eat there for breakfast every time there’s a con in town.

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Supernatural ‘Destiny’s Child’ – Some Fun and Some Tears Before A Last Hiatus

I honestly did not think it was possible to be even MORE emotional and off balance while watching the last episodes of Supernatural – but for this week’s episode, that turned out not to be true. Not only are we in the midst of a global pandemic and in the last eight episodes of the series, we learned shortly before the new episode aired that it would be the last one to air for an indeterminate amount of time.

Showrunner Andrew Dabb broke the news, saying that while they had filmed through episode 18 of 20, the post production was only finished through this week’s episode, 15.13. So Monday’s episode, Destiny’s Child, will be the last episode of Supernatural to air in its regular planned manner. The last one perhaps to air in this season, with no clue when it will be safe to finish the ones that are filmed or to film the ones that are not. Dabb, along with producer Jim Michaels and Misha Collins by video yesterday, did reassure the stunned fandom that they would, at some point, return to “finish what we started.”

A fandom that was already dealing with a lot is now dealing with a lot more! All those things made watching this week’s episode a different experience than it usually is for me. I was incredibly grateful to HAVE a new episode to watch, to pull me out of that always lurking anxiety that keeps threatening to overwhelm me, and to give me a healthy and welcomed escape for an hour. Supernatural has been both an inspiration and a healthy escape for me for going on fifteen years, and once again, I was acutely aware that I need it more than ever. There was a little bit of panic at the thought of not having it anymore as we go through this very difficult time in isolation, I’m not gonna lie. New episodes are all encompassing for me in a way that rewatching old episodes is not, though rewatches are definitely going to be part of my plan going forward!

Destiny’s Child was a mixed bag, as pretty much of all Season 15 has been, but there were quite a few parts that I thoroughly enjoyed – enough to pull me out of the present reality and make me forget for some precious minutes that we’re living in a real life apocalypse! I’m so grateful for that.

So, let’s wade in. The THEN included both Rachel Miner as Meg and Gen Padalecki as Ruby. The entire fandom knew that Gen and Danneel would be in this episode thanks to tons of promotion, but huh, why was Meg in there? I was not spoiled for that return at the start of the episode, so I just filed it away as maybe. I adore Rachel Miner and have wanted her to be back for a while. Also there was a whole helluva lot of pizza in the THEN, which made me kinda hungry. (That’s a good sign that you don’t have COVID19, so yay)

As the episode begins, Sam and Dean are startled out of doing research by a weird noise, so they run down the hall to see what’s going on. As they open the door to the Armory, a bright flash of light appears, and then a lovely little Fiat. And Savage Garden’s “I Want You” starts to play!

This is an idiosyncratic detour, but I LOVE that song and it is, for me, a Supernatural song. That’s because it was the music to one of the very first Supernatural fan vids that I discovered when I first fell down the rabbit hole of loving the show way back circa 2006. I had a youtube playlist of maybe 20 videos that I used to watch over and over and over, and that was one of them. (As I recall, it was pretty much still photos of Jensen Ackles that someone had collected and put to music. As you do.)

I sat there grinning happily at just the music cue, and then it got better. Close shot of one sockless ankle in a snazzy shoe stepping out of the Fiat; close shot of yet another snazzy shoe stepping out of the other side. Pull back to AU Sam and Dean from another universe (which we were all also spoiled for but I didn’t even care because I was just GIMME!)

AUSam to AUDean: Bro, we did it!

The two fist bump – which made me grin even more because that’s what Jared and Jensen do after every joint convention panel they do in real life, so it seemed like a little meta nod.

Actual Sam: Dean?

AUDean: Sam?

Actual Dean: Sam?

AUSam: Dean?

gifs jaredandjensen

It was a Rocky Horror Picture Show moment, so I expected a “Rocky?” “Uh” but honestly, it was just a wonderful little moment thanks to the comedic talents of both these actors.

Actual Winchesters: What the hell?

AU Winchesters simultaneously: What the heck?

Then poof, they’re gone.

Me: Noooooooooooooooooo bring them back!

I have a conflicted relationship with the writers of this episode (Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner), who have written some things that make me furious but who also have written some solid episodes – or parts of episodes. This scene and its dialogue were A+, so credit where it’s due. (That won’t be the case for all of the episode, alas). But I’m all for what some of my timeline was calling the “Fancychesters”.

Sam and Dean run off to tell Castiel, who responds with a very understandable response: I’m not understanding you.

One of the things I loved about this episode was that it gave the cast the opportunity to really show off their considerable gifts for subtle humor. Misha Collins, in just that one line, made me laugh out loud. They are all SO good at it, with their facial expressions and delivery. And credit too for the writing that gives them the chance.

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Supernatural Returns From Last Mid Season Hiatus with ‘The Trap’

 

Supernatural returned from its very last mid season hiatus with an episode that fans waited for with a wide range of emotions, which is probably going to be par for the course for the last eleven episodes of the series. I have mixed feelings every time an episode airs, because it’s one episode closer to the end, and because it’s one more chance to take the show somewhere I may not want to follow, knowing there’s no time for that to change anymore. This is not an easy thing, staying with a show you’ve loved for fifteen years to the bitter end! It feels like an emotional and psychological risk, which is something I’ve never experienced before with television.

I’m actually really looking forward to next week’s episode, which will be a ‘funny’ one – at least in parts. I feel like I need a break from all the angst and stress! To think, this used to be my stress reliever!

So here are the things I liked and the things that didn’t work too well for me. It was a kickass ‘The Road So Far’. I watch those beginnings and am always in awe of just what a remarkable show this is. We also had an amazing Shaving People Punting Things video the week before, which made this next string of episodes look truly epic. I think sometimes those editors get the show better than anyone!

Anyway, the episode was split into two story lines, as it so often is. Sam and Eileen wake up tied to chairs, captured by Chuck. I’ve said before that I thought Chuck had a hand in manipulating Sam and Eileen and it turns out that yes, he put her in Sam’s path and made that spell fall out (that was obviously too much of a coincidence) and let Sam being a good person do the rest. What an awful thing for Eileen and Sam to find out. How do you have any hope of sorting out which of your feelings are real and which aren’t? Worse yet, did you really have agency (and the capacity for any kind of consent) when you acted on those feelings? Chuck really is a bad bad guy. I’m still confused as to why Sam looked so conflicted about his relationship with Eileen the entire time, though. Side effect of Chuck’s “nudges”? Was he somehow sensing the interference? We may never know.

Chuck’s explanation is particularly cruel.

Chuck: I couldn’t see you. I needed eyes and ears on the inside… well, eyes.

Ouch. If you wanted to turn Chuck into an irredeemable villain, Show, that’s a good way to do it. So vicious and pointed. Rob delivered it perfectly; I could appreciate that even as I literally cringed hearing it.

I love that Eileen shot back, “Screw you.”

Shoshannah Stern delivers the line with all the venom and badassery it warranted.

Yeah, screw you, Chuck! (But not you, Rob, I still adore you)

Meanwhile, Dean is worrying about not being able to reach Sam, not knowing that Sam and Eileen are captured. I also love that Eileen almost did screw Chuck over by managing to place a call to Dean (more badassery). I’m assuming her phone has a convert to text feature because Dean kept yelling “Eileen?” into the phone.  Unfortunately, Chuck realizes and picks up.

Dean: Chuck, you dick!

Chuck: Bye, Dean.

Dean tracks Sam’s phone, and smart Winchesters make me happy. Cas is also doing something smart – making Leviathan bullets out of Borax.

Dean: We need to go!

Cas: To Purgatory.

Not what Dean meant; he’s understandably focused on saving Sam and Eileen. They argue, and Dean says he’s not leaving Sam, because he’s Dean.

Cas: Stop being so stupid!

I was taken aback by that. Castiel in this episode is written as had-it-up-to-here, bristling with anger and resentment. We don’t always see Castiel’s emotions come to the surface, but I think he’s every bit as angry as Dean has been, to the point where he’s harsh and sometimes cold. It’s not the “badass Cas” which we’ve seen before, it’s as though he’s so angry that he’s put up a wall.

The episode had a lot to say about anger, but not all of it was easy to decipher. We saw Dean’s anger come spilling out in his initial fight with Cas, in which he lashes out with some hurtful things. Everyone expresses anger differently, and in this episode we saw Castiel’s anger too. I think he walked out on that fight with Dean because it was just too painful, but it was also clearly because he was angry. Otherwise he would have picked up Sam’s phone calls. His response to anger is to withdraw and then to put up a cold shoulder and refuse to be reached, literally or figuratively. Maybe I can’t stop my psychologist brain from kicking in, but this is a familiar pattern. One person goes on the attack, spewing hurtful words, then the other withdraws and puts up a wall. Both are expressions of anger and intended to hurt. Often one of those people is very afraid of abandonment; in this case, that applies to both of them, so the withdrawal and stonewalling is an effective counterattack (that probably impact Dean’s later breakdown).

Cas points out that they have no way to kill Chuck and that going to Purgatory and doing the spell is the way they’ll save Sam – and the world.

Surprisingly, Dean goes along fairly quickly, which I didn’t expect. I had a little trouble with that instant capitulation, much like the scene in the tunnels in Season 13 when Dean tries to go after an in-peril Sam and Cas stops him. Dean seemed a little too easy to convince here too. However, Cas does have a point, so maybe Dean just reluctantly agreed. The pacing (or the editing?) was wonky in this episode, so perhaps some things that were meant to be conveyed just didn’t come through.

Back to the casino (isn’t it interesting that Chuck has taken up residence at a casino? He loves rolling the dice and playing the odds, especially when it’s with other people’s lives.)

Chuck does a lot of dialoguing in this episode, which Rob Benedict pulls off quite well. He decides to dig out the god bullet in Sam’s shoulder that he realizes is keeping him weak, but hesitates. (I at first thought it was because it would hurt Chuck too, because isn’t that exactly what we’ve been told in canon? But no, that’s apparently been discarded, because Chuck calmly plays guitar while Sam has a knife dug into him). For some reason, Sam thinks it would be a good idea to taunt God while he’s holding a knife to him, ridiculing Chuck for not being able to get his hands dirty.

Sam: You just like to watch.

Oooh, Sam. Good one. But still not sure it’s a great idea…

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