Celebrating Supernatural: An Inspiring Chat with Director Matt Cohen

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?

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Ready for Tonight’s New Supernatural? Here’s All The News From Last Week!

Week two of Supernatural’s return was not as frenetic as the week before, but we still got some great new coverage of the show and interviews with the cast. Only one more month of Supernatural actually airing – ONE MONTH! I’m not sure I have my head around it yet, but ready or not, one month it is.

Here’s my wrap up of all the Supernatural happenings from last week, including a few favorite moments from some of the interviews the cast did this week, many of which were the second or third parts of interviews we saw last week. That included Jared and Jensen’s chat with TVLine.

Interviewer: Were there tears after the director yelled cut?

Jensen: No, we shotgunned beers! (laughing) Yes, there was crying.  The final moments on set were weighty, because we knew it was coming, and we had a long time to see it on the horizon.  And when it came, and it was there… I know I certainly broke character, I’ll tell you that much.

Jared: (softly) We both did.

I don’t know why, but that little exchange made me tear up instantly as I was watching. Knowing how much it got to them, how much finishing their time as Sam and Dean meant to them, really got to me too. I’m looking forward to that scene, but I also think it’s going to leave me in a puddle on the floor. They won’t be the only ones crying, that’s for sure.

Jensen: I felt like if you could take, like, happiness and satisfaction and being proud and just wrapped it up in emotion, then that’s the pill that we swallowed that day.

Jared: It was a good pill, though. I would take it again if I get the chance.

I so hope they do get that chance, because I cannot conceive of a world in which we never get to see the Winchesters again.

https://tvline.com/2020/10/15/supernatural-video-jensen-ackles-jared-padalecki-final-last-day-filming/

Jensen also did a wonderful video interview with Rolling Stone, which I was thrilled to see cover the show. I feel like the whole world has finally discovered just how unique and special Supernatural is – and I keep wanting to say hey, it’s been this special for fifteen years, glad you finally realized!

Jensen on the show’s premise: The long lead story was the relationship between these two brothers and how they bond together and get torn apart.

He told a story that I’ve heard before, about his very first multi-fandom convention and how he was surprised to realize that Supernatural already had a passionate fandom.

Jensen: I was the lone Supernatural representative – and I got over to London and it was me and 12 actors from various shows, and the crowd response when I came out for the show was like jaw dropping!  People were super hyped about Supernatural. I immediately called Jared and said dude, I think people are watching this!

There’s a whole chapter about that convention in one of our first books, Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls, which includes the incident of the “Flying Fangirl” too – a young woman who was overcome with excitement at seeing Ackles at that convention and leapt right onto him like a spider monkey! Clearly that con made a big impression on him.

He also reminisced about some of his favorite moments filming the show, and I teared up again (with a smile on my face this time) when Jensen talked about how much fun they had filming the brilliant Robbie Thompson episode, ‘Baby’, told entirely from the car’s perspective.

Jensen: Jared hopped in and we took off down the road…  At one moment I took a terry cloth towel and dabbed the sweat off Jared’s face. We were doing everything ourselves, out on the road, out on the highway.

It’s so clear how much he enjoyed that episode, and that those will be some of the moments he hangs onto.

Jensen: They outfitted eight cameras in and around and on the car and they just sent us off. There was no camera operator, no grips, no DP, no director, no script supervisor, no makeup, no nothin’. … Jared had the audio deck between his legs. We were doing everything ourselves. …

The Impala has always been important to him, just like it is to his character.

Jensen: One of my other favorite moments happened the other day when I drove the car — and put it in my garage.

He’s talked before about trying to stay in denial for as long as he could as the end of the show approached.

Jensen: I tried to keep my eye on the prize and keep steering us toward the finish line. So I think it was less a ‘long goodbye’ and more of the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl game. I didn’t want to put too much emotion into this final season because I didn’t want it to change what we’d been doing these past 15 years or foreshadow what was coming ahead. I wanted to keep it kinda business as usual, keep doing the work I’ve always done. I don’t know if that was my way of dealing with it, just suppressing it and sweeping it under the rug. Maybe I took a page out of Dean’s book.

Me: It was definitely his way of dealing with it – and he has been playing Dean for 15 years, after all.

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Matt Cohen Directs! Supernatural’s Gimme Shelter

This was a noteworthy episode for a number of reasons. A) There are now only five episodes of Supernatural left, so EVERY episode is noteworthy.

B) This is Matt Cohen’s first time directing an episode of the show that has impacted his life so much. Matt has memorably played young John Winchester and the archangel Michael on the show over multiple episodes and seasons, and he’s been a beloved fixture at the Supernatural conventions for almost a decade. Matt wrote a very personal chapter about how his experience on the show changed his life in Family Don’t End With Blood, so I know how important the SPNFamily is to him and I’m beyond thrilled that he got to direct an episode before the show ended. It’s a testament to how much the cast and crew and everyone involved love him, and a vote of confidence in his substantial talent. So proud of you, Matt!

And C) This is Davy Perez’s last episode of Supernatural. Davy is one of my favorite writers, and the only writer to contribute a chapter to There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, about what this show and this fandom has meant to him personally, so he has a special place in my heart. I’m genuinely sad that I won’t hear his evocative words from Sam or Dean or Cas ever again.

I knew these last episodes would be emotionally fraught for me, but I’m not sure I could have anticipated just what that would mean. I didn’t know that there would be an incredible media blitz around the show’s end run, which has been both heady and wonderful and also made the sadness of losing the show somehow even more poignant. It IS this special, and some of us have known that for a very long time. Now it seems like the rest of the world has caught up, only for the show to be ending. I’m thrilled that Rolling Stone and Glamour and CNN and so many other publications are covering the show now, but I’m also a little bit like, where were you a decade ago?

All that is to say that I’m going into these last episodes with a lot of mixed feelings. I desperately want to just cherish and enjoy every minute of what we have left, and at the same time, I desperately want these last episodes to be GOOD. There’s no time left to waste time, and it’s a lot harder to hand wave and say well that one wasn’t my favorite, but maybe the next one will be. That’s a lot of pressure to put on the little show – or, more accurately, that’s a lot of pressure to put on myself and my own expectations. The show is filmed and done and it is what it is, and I’m very aware of that. Now it’s on all of us to draw from it what we can – but damn it, I really hope it’s going to go out in a way that everyone can be proud of!

I did like quite a bit of this episode, which had some of Davy’s emotionally genuine dialogue and which showcased Matt as a director who knows how to get the best performances from his cast – maybe especially because he knows them and they trust him. There were some scenes that were incredibly beautiful, which is something that I think we saw more often in the early seasons, and something that made me fall in love with the show. There were also some scenes that made me tear up unexpectedly because they just rang true, and in each case the actor inhabiting the character was clearly feeling that too. Good job, director Matt!

Like the best Supernatural episodes, there was a fair amount of humor, and Cohen managed to mix that in organically with the grab-the-tissues scenes and the scary/gory/horror movie vibe that is also quintessential Supernatural. I also felt like the episode moved the story ahead, with some reveals and some hints of what’s to come next, so that was satisfying.

This was a Cas and Jack heavy episode, and I thought both of their story lines worked well – and that both Misha Collins and Alex Calvert nailed their characters’ emotional journeys perfectly. The confrontation between Dean and Amara also was outstanding, with Jensen and Emily Swallow making me believe every second of it. The fact that I haven’t mentioned Sam yet is my biggest problem with the episode – I don’t have a very good idea of where Sam’s head (or heart) is at right now during the events of this episode, and I want to!  Especially now, with five episodes to go, I need to know exactly what’s up with the Winchesters every step of the way.

I just finished my customary rewatch, and here are the things I liked and the couple of things I questioned. The opening scene delighted me more than usual, not because of anything that happened, but because I found myself asking out loud, ‘wait, is that Dr. Sexy MD???’

It was! Both Steve Bacic (the pastor) and Nicole Munoz (playing the pastor’s daughter) have been on the show before, so it was nice to see them back. I saw a post shared by my friend Amy Hutton about meeting Steve at an Aussie con. He did a double take when she asked him to sign a photo of the Impala. When she informed him, “But you’re Dr. Sexy MD – you’re iconic!” he was dumbfounded, since he had no idea. He told her how great the guys were and how much fun he’d had doing the episode – and that she’d made his day!

Supernatural really does cast the best people.

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Supernatural Is Back – With A Media Blitz Bang!

When I said I was going to try to document everything Supernatural related in the weeks before the show returns to the air for the last time, I had no idea just what that would mean. I’ve watched this show since the beginning, and I remember wishing for more media coverage, trying to get people interested in the show, telling anyone who would listen that Supernatural was the best show ever. Fifteen years later, the world has figured that out. That was never more obvious than in the couple of days leading up to the show’s return, when it seemed like every major outlet from Variety to TVGuide to CNN had an interview with Jared and Jensen and an article about the show, and every CW local outlet had their 10 minutes of questions with the boys. It was incredibly overwhelming trying to keep up with the constant onslaught of coverage, and I was constantly emotional – so proud of the little show that could which, now that it’s coming to an end, is recognized for how special it is and what it has created.

There were also bits of news every day, all of it exciting. Jensen and Danneel struck a deal to form a production company under the Warner Bros. umbrella called Chaos Machine Productions. Not gonna lie, I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that they’ll helm the next Supernatural project. Come on, Ackles, it’s a no brainer!

Jared got a hair cut, which left fandom in a collective panic about how short Walker’s hair was going to be.

Turned out to be a fruitless worry, because – in my humble opinion anyway – the new haircut is every bit as hot as the previous one! Fandom then turned its considerable attention to wondering what the new tattoo is that Jared’s sporting and what it might mean. Hmmm.

Jared started a new AKF campaign with Stands that included a plaid AKF charm and a stuffed AKF moose, which is seriously adorable. He did a facebook live about the campaign, which he hasn’t done in one million years, and posted a gorgeous photo in the You Define You hoodie and with his new Walker haircut. Mmm.

Jensen bought a new car, which does not do a damn thing for me but which he was clearly very excited about.

The company he bought it from was equally excited. And clearly Supernatural fans!

Not gonna lie, I’m laughing at the Ackles family tooling around Austin in either their ’67 Impala (they took it to Starbucks the other day) or this new ‘beast’ of a car.

Misha went naked to get out the vote, to fandom’s sincere appreciation, used his text line to help get the vote out, and made sure water and snacks were handed out to voters in Georgia standing in insanely long lines to vote, and generally kept on working to save the world. And look adorable doing it.

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Happy Birthday to Supernatural Actor – and Director – Matt Cohen!

 

Today rounds out the trifecta of birthdays that happen in the month of September – Richard, Rob and Matt, otherwise known to con-goers as R2M!  So, in the spirit of this being the last year of the little show that brought the three of them together being on the air, a look back at what makes Matt Cohen so special, and such an integral part of Supernatural.

Kathy and I first met Matt ten years ago at his first Supernatural convention. He didn’t really know what to expect, so he just went with his instincts. That is, he attempted to hug every single person who wanted a hug from him. I remember turning to Kathy and saying oh, we need to interview this guy, he really knows how to interact with fans (And also? He’s gonna have to not keep hugging every single person or he’s never going to get anything else done ever again!)

We sat down with Matt for the first time shortly thereafter, and found out that he was in fact every bit as warm and genuine as he seemed – and just as appreciative of the fans as his hug policy had suggested. In those early days, when Matt was onstage with Richard Speight, Jr. he was the quieter one. Richard’s quick wit and ability to riff off the cuff had to be intimidating – for anyone! But little by little, Matt developed the same ability, and soon he was keeping up with Richard and making us all laugh.

I have enjoyed all our thoughtful chats, and a few times when we weren’t all that serious – what were we doing this day?? I can’t remember but it was undoubtedly fun!

When Rob joined Richard and Matt onstage at cons, the kinetic energy between the three of them onstage was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever sat through an R2M panel without laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes. They are hilarious together, and at the same time, the depth of their genuine affection for each other is always clear. Who knew I’d be missing Matt’s traditional leap off the chair onstage that kicks off every R2M panel so much right now?

As some of the few ‘regulars’ at the early Creation conventions, Matt and Richard also were the natural options to revamp the convention karaoke. When they realized it wasn’t as egalitarian as they wanted, they recreated karaoke and made it something amazing – something no other show’s conventions had. They had costumes, they had themes, we all dressed up and got silly together, and they played all the songs we loved from the show.

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