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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Week Two of Supernatural’s Final Filming (or What Made Lynn Cry This Week)

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for my Supernatural’s Final Run weekly wrap up – week two of filming! In keeping with my resolve to document every week of Supernatural’s last few months on the air – and, who am I kidding, in an attempt to save my own sanity as I try to deal with the fact that it’s ending – here’s the latest installment of ‘The End of Road: What Made Lynn Cry This Week’.

A lot, it turns out. Which is a surprise to no one.

First up, that poster in the header – created by @OfflArjun. Breathtaking.

And the CW’s new poster that came out last week too. The final seven episodes….  #Tissues

Also breathtaking.

Jared and Jensen returned to the set a week ago to begin filming the final two episodes of the series. Fandom was overjoyed to see Sam and Dean back in the bunker but a bit devastated not to witness the ritual shaving of the hiatus beards and cutting of the long hair. We’ve been spoiled by often having Jared and Jensen take us along with them when they magically transformed back into Sam and Dean, but this time – whether due to COVID restrictions or the actors’ own strong emotions about this being their last time going through that transformation – we didn’t get to witness it. Mixed feelings were the order of the day. Excited to have them back to filming, which somehow made the world seem more right than it has in over five months, but sad that this means it really is almost over. And I confess to some grief about Jensen having to cut that long hair because mm mm mm.

Also RIP to Jared’s beard and his entire look just before getting a trim. Mm mm mm again. Fandom is confusing right now, to say the least.

We did, however, get to witness Jake Abel shaving his hiatus beard and turning back into Michael, or Adam, or both. Jake also gave the fandom the most amazing treat – a video series called ‘Jake And Quarantine’ that documented his fourteen day quarantine in Vancouver that was so scary in the beginning it could have been an actual episode of Supernatural! If you haven’t watched it, please do. You’re in for a treat.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6MaM_3fnYA&feature=youtu.be

We also got a few spoilery photos from Jake, so skip this next little section if you’re spoiler free – though I think the entire fandom knows this one.

SPOILERY PARAGRAPH: Jake posted photos of his trailer and the one next door, both marked  ‘Choose your fighter – Michael or Lucifer’. There was mixed reaction – let’s just say that Lucifer is not the character many fans were hoping to see again. Fingers crossed that it’s to finally defeat him once and for all (which I thought had already happened. But this is Supernatural…)

We also got a new promo still from an upcoming episode which made its way around the internet. I relish that too, realizing how spoiled I am with the constant new content we have gotten about this show for such a long time. The internet will be quieter – and a lot less exciting – once Supernatural no longer graces all my timelines constantly.

#Tissues

From the upcoming episode Gimme Shelter

Misha Collins, whose presence online has been blessedly consistent during these past five months, did an Instagram live with former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang earlier in the week, which I was able to tune into. Once again, I was struck by the fact that so many unexpected people are Supernatural fans. While Misha reassured Andrew that you “couldn’t be too big a geek” when talking to people from Supernatural, Andrew excitedly referred to Misha as “a real life superhero”.  They clearly got along well, and it was a lively and informative discussion, reinforcing the importance of having a voice and using it to vote. Jensen Ackles hopped online to watch during a break from filming, after he and Jared Padalecki joined Misha for a conversation with another former Presidential candidate, Cory Booker, the week before.

Misha and Andrew Yang

Meanwhile, filming resumed. For this small amount of time, it’s almost felt like things in the Supernatural fandom went back to “normal”. Every day there are little things that remind me that they have only a few more weeks of filming, though, and that reminder makes my breath catch every time, brings a fresh pang of pain. At the same time, it always brings a profound gratitude too, for all these talented people who have cared so much about this little show and helped to make it so wonderful. I asked Jensen a little while ago if the crew that is so much a part of making the show what it is were able to come back and he said that luckily yes, most of them could. I imagine that means so much to the actors who trust their talented crew completely, and value being surrounded by professionals who care about the show as much as they do and know it just as well.

Because filming has resumed, the crew and producers are also coming to terms with the reality that this is the beginning of the end. Many of them have been with the show since the beginning, and it has been as much a part of their lives as it has been for the actors. I’ve been acquainted with some of them for over a decade, so every time I see someone post about their gratitude to the show or fandom, or document a ‘last time’, my emotions are in overdrive. Yes, this goes under the category of ‘things that made Lynn cry’.

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One More Time While Still Castiel – Happy Birthday Misha Collins!

In the midst of the Supernatural cast returning to film the last two episodes of the series, it’s also a special day for Misha Collins – it’s his birthday! What better way to celebrate than to trip down memory lane a little, look forward to what may be next for Misha, and share some pretty pretty pictures?

I can’t help but feel nostalgic now that the show I love more than any other is ending. I reminisced about some of my favorite moments with Jared and Jensen when it was their last birthday while still their characters, and today that’s the case for Misha. This will be the last birthday that he’s still Castiel, and the last birthday that Supernatural is still on the air, and that’s a big thing. His character has been an inspiration to so many, and in real life Misha himself has been just as much an inspiration. So many of the fans who wrote chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood or There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done bear witness to Misha and Castiel’s impact on their lives, from inspiring them to change the world to validating their personal journey to being an incredible support through the gender transition process. Whether he has met someone in person or not, Misha has had an impact on people all over the world.

Including me.

In keeping with my immersion in nostalgia now that Supernatural is ending for real, I’ve been thinking about the first time I met Misha. Kathy and I were writing Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls and we were set to do an interview with “the new guy”, Misha Collins. We had been to the set to do some interviews with others for the book, and then headed back to our hotel to be introduced to Misha. On the way back to our hotel, another set transport van was in front of ours. It stopped, and out jumped Misha. I remember just sort of pausing and going OH.

We had never met him in person – he had only been on the show a short time and we had only seen him as Castiel on our tv screens, in his trademark trench coat. So when Misha hopped out of the van, wearing a tee shirt and faded bluejeans that looked like they were straight out of the 70s – flared and nicely fitted – I was entirely unprepared for just how attractive he is.

Oblivious to my being flustered, we had a quick introduction and then went to the hotel bar to chat (which was a terrible idea because hotel bars are very noisy and that means your audio recorder will be a nightmare to transcribe later).

Kathy and I had questions, but Misha managed to turn the interview around within about ten minutes and start asking us questions instead. We were both utterly charmed by how genuine he was and how eager to understand the very thing that Kathy and I were studying – fandom. Before we could ask about shipping, he asked us! It took me a good ten minutes more to say hey, we’re supposed to be asking the questions! That conversation was so enjoyable that we went way over the allotted time; Misha eventually got a phone call saying where the hell are you, you had another interview that you’re missing! Oops.

That’s still probably my favorite memory with Misha, all these years later.  What an introduction!

I’m also grateful to Misha for being the first member of the Supernatural cast to say yes to writing a chapter for one of our books – by being so generous with his time and effort, he changed the trajectory of my professional life and the books I’d write. The first two books Kathy and I published, we did the writing, including anecdotes and interviews from the actors but not actual chapters. When we decided to do Fan Phenomena Supernatural, the publisher wanted an edited collection – but instead of chapters by fans and scholars, we wanted the voices of some of the actors to be included. We knew how smart and thoughtful Misha was, so of course he was the first person we asked – and we were thrilled when he said yes! When he sent the draft to me, it came with the tongue in cheek caveat that I wasn’t allowed to change anything – which explains why that chapter starts off with:

When Lynn and Kathy first asked me to contribute a chapter to this book, I said, “No way! Leave me alone!” and threatened to take out a restraining order against them. But when I learned that they were willing to pay me more money than most people make in a lifetime to jot down a couple of pages, I said, “yes!” and then qualified that with, “but it isn’t about the money, I’m writing from the heart for the love of the fans.”

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Supernatural Heads Back to Finish Filming — and Jensen Ackles Heads to The Boys!

Once again, I’m keeping my resolve to document everything that happens in the final months of Supernatural – the things that make me cry, the things that make me dance around my kitchen with joy, the things that leave my head spinning because I have so many conflicting emotions. Hopefully it will help you too to make sense of all the feelings we’re invariably having about the ending of this show so many of us love.

The plan for today was to finish an article about another show and then to sit down and write about Jared and Jensen (and some other cast members) going back to film the very last two episodes of Supernatural. I knew it would be an emotional day – for them and also for us – as is every “last” that comes along for this show I have loved so much for so long. I knew I’d send them messages to “kick it in the ass” and hope that they feel joy in putting on Sam and Dean’s flannels and boots as well as some bittersweet sorrow knowing this is their last return from hiatus to become the Winchesters again.

Tweet Jim Michaels

The Powers That Be are keeping it under wraps as to when Misha Collins returns, or if – but I’m going with when until we know otherwise. Jared and Jensen joined Misha for a panel discussion with Senator Cory Booker and MJ Hegar from Texas last week to talk about the importance of voting – but the panel got hijacked temporarily by Booker, who is a huge Supernatural fan.

Cory: Screw you, Misha, I’ve got questions! (about the show)

Misha threw his head back to laugh so hard he nearly fell off his chair. It was wonderful to see how thrilled J2M were to realize that their little show has had such an impact even on someone as influential as Cory Booker, who referred to them as “his heroes”. I loved what Cory had to say about how important the art and media we love is and how much it inspires us, and the story MJ told about how Supernatural got her through some tough times. They clearly get it, and it was wonderful to watch J2M take that in and feel good about what they do.

Cory taking out his phone to take a picture of them all onscreen, unabashedly embracing his inner fanboy, was priceless.

Misha also did a panel for an online ReedPop convention a few days ago and said he had intended to take a sort of sabbatical once filming ended, giving him some time to reflect before taking auditions and maybe figuring out what he wants to do “when I grow up”.  Of course, that didn’t happen – the pandemic happened instead. That’s left all of them, he said, feeling adrift because they started to mourn the ending of the show during this break – which must make it difficult to return and put those costumes on again. Misha hasn’t committed to what he’s doing next, but he has a lot of irons in the fire – a book of poetry, two true stories optioned, and his interest in politics very much on the forefront.

Misha said his favorite episode was 15.18, the last episode they shot before the shelter in place order. Many fans speculate that it’s in episode 18 that something big happens to Castiel, so that was both a hopeful and an ominous answer. They’re keeping it under wraps as to whether Misha is in Vancouver now in quarantine – my best guess is that while Cas may not be in episode 19, he will be in the series finale, episode 20. In some way!

The moderator also asked if Cas fans be satisfied with the ending of the show?

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Savoring Supernatural

I told myself that I would work really hard to savor every moment of Supernatural’s last season, and today I feel like I’m keeping that promise.  I’m going to try to document these last months with the show that has been so important to me, because I want to remember every moment.

Today is a good day.

It’s been a week of being immersed in the show and the fandom and the fandom-adjacent things that have made this wild ride so special. A week of doing GISH (a charity scavenger hunt challenge sort of game spearheaded by Misha Collins) with the team I’ve been on for six years, which will never be in the running for actual winning but which always manages to be silly, have fun, spread some kindness and do some good in the world. My team is full of spectacular cheerleaders who applaud even my most not-quite-masterpiece-level attempts and somehow inspire more creativity than anything else I do all year long. Credit for that also goes to Misha Collins and company’s think-outside-the-box challenges that I always think nah, I can’t do that, and then the damn item will not let me forget about it!

GISH always makes me feel close not only to my team but to the SPN Family at large, knowing many people are out there doing the same silly things I am all for a good cause. This year, because of the pandemic, there were lots of zoom panels too, some of which were informative and some of which were just good old (chaotic) fun. It was so nice to see the faces of some of my favorite Supernatural actors and also some fans who I miss seeing! Having a zoom panel each day made it feel almost like a convention weekend, and made me feel immersed in the Supernatural fandom in a more immediate and consistent way than I’ve felt for a while. We even joined Kansas for a ‘Carry On’ singalong over zoom, which I’m not ashamed to say made me all kinds of emotional. And yes, I savored it.

This weekend Creation had a virtual mini con, so as GISH was ending, the fandom gathered around their screens once again, this time to watch Stage It panels of Kim and Briana, then Misha, then today Jared and Jensen. I had to work during Kim and Briana’s, but I bought a ticket for Misha’s and for Jared and Jensen’s and then live tweeted the panels because apparently I just wanted it to feel as much like a con as possible! We have been lucky as a fandom to have been able to see Misha quite a bit online over this quarantine, and I’m so grateful. I would have felt so much more cut off without his zoom chats and panels pulling together all sorts of fascinating people – and I would have been a lot less informed and able to help make change too.

Also, as shallow as this may be, quarantine has agreed with Misha. He looks GOOD.

We haven’t seen as much of Jared and Jensen, however. Last week there was a little interview from Australian tv, which was wonderful. Then today they did some meet and greets and a joint virtual Stage It panel for a mini Creation con, live from their respective quarantines in Vancouver (they’re back in their apartments that they’ve had there for many years – and now having to start cleaning out soon…)

I’m not sure I realized how much I missed them until today. Conventions, whether you’re there or you’re watching a video kindly recorded by fellow fans, are a way of feeling close to the cast of our favorite show. That near constant contact is what has made this fandom feel so much like a family, and part of why we all feel so close to the actors who bring our favorite characters to life. I said to someone tonight, it actually felt “healing” to be able to “spend time” with them, even though we could see them and they couldn’t see us. Nevertheless, it was a connection. We got to see them smile and tease each other and throw their heads back and laugh, and I found myself grinning like a fool and kinda glad nobody could see me! I’m so glad they’re happy to be back and still in love with this show and these characters just like we are.

Jared and Jensen on the possibility of having more Supernatural in some form one day: Spinoff? Special feature? Hmmm….

Hmmmm

That constant interaction that we usually have through conventions and interviews etc also makes me feel close to the show itself. My questions are always about the show, and I’m used to regularly hearing Jared and Jensen and Misha’s thoughts on what their characters are experiencing, and little clues about where the show might be going. We haven’t had that in a long time, and it was so good to hear them talk about the show again. It made me feel so much more immersed in the fandom and the show, and so grateful that Supernatural is still on the air and is not over yet.  My social media was overflowing with Supernatural content, which felt so good – with joyous posts and a million screencaps and fans who are so grateful for something good and fun and pretty in the midst of such a dark and difficult time.

Also, how do they look like this just hanging out on a zoom call???

Cap jaredwalkersam
cap acklespower

I might have stared at those last two for a while. Pretty sure I’m not alone.

Jared and Jensen both have their dogs with them in quarantine, which melted at least half the fandom. (Icarus waved hello on his way to greet dog walker Maisie). Also speaking of melting, in his meet and greet, Jensen wore a white Henley sans hoodie. Anyway…

From rainbow-motors gif

It was a good day, and that’s not something you hear all that often right now.

I’m so grateful that Supernatural is still here, and that it can still make me this happy. A day like this, it’s easy to keep that promise. I’m savoring it! Meet you back here for the next moments I want to remember – you can follow updates on twitter @FangasmSPN.

Panel videos below – enjoy!

–Lynn

You can always remember and celebrate

Supernatural with the new book There’ll Be

Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans

Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural. Links

above or at peacewhenyouaredone.com