Next up in our celebration of Supernatural’s last week on the air, catching up with Mrs. Tran herself, Lauren Tom!
Supernatural has brought some wonderful people into my life, and I’m so grateful. As the show comes to an end, I caught up with some of my favorite actors from the show, many of whom wrote chapters in There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural. One of those people is Lauren Tom, who wrote a beautiful chapter about playing Linda Tran on Supernatural and how her own cultural background has impacted both her personal and professional journeys. Lauren has been super busy as one of the stars of Ghosts of Tsushima, on Season 4 of Goliath, and has also been doing some political advocacy and some important work with charities like Homeboy Industries. So I’m grateful she took some time out of her busy schedule to chat!
We did some personal catching up first — where our kids are, the joys of family facetime, how the pandemic is affecting us and our families, the importance of self care and how challenging that can be. We also discovered a shared affinity for coffee ice cream. Which, we both agreed, counts for self care.
Lauren had recently watched The Social Dilemma (which I’m trying to find time for – but I’ll have my coffee ice cream ready. Reality is the scariest kind of scary!)
Then we talked a little Supernatural (note to self: stock up on even more coffee ice cream for this week’s series finale…)
Lynn: As the show is actually winding down, how do you look back on it and what it’s meant to you?
Lauren: I really appreciate the show on so many levels. The humor and the acting is really good, you know?
Lynn: Totally, agreed.
Lauren: And the special effects and the whole way it’s put together. Humor goes a long way with me, and I think they were so smart to incorporate that. I think that’s part of why it’s been so successful too – it has everything.
Lynn: I was just saying that to Matt Cohen, who I chatted with earlier.
Lauren: He’s such a nice guy, I’m so glad he’s getting to direct. I feel like that’s why Supernatural has been one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, because it combines everything that I’ve actually been able to explore and participate in, as far as comedy and drama and even my days in avant garde theater, because you kind of have suspend your imagination and really just go there (laughing). You know, I have to look down at my body and imagine that red smoke is coming out, not a normal thing, you know?
Lynn: Let’s hope not.
Lauren: And then the sitcom work and the drama, too. It was like oh, I get to do everything in this series. So I kinda felt like I was really using myself. And of course the people I’ve met along the way. I do think it’s gonna have a life beyond this, when the last episode airs, because the fandom is so strong and I think people will keep in touch.
I was going to throw back to one of my interviews with Osric that have happened over the past seven years, but then I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to include, so I thought, why not just write up a new happy birthday post and revisit a few of those favorite times? I am incredibly nostalgic right now, with Supernatural’s wild ride coming to an end soon, so looking back and appreciating the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know over the past fifteen years is one of my favorite things to do. And Osric Chau is one of those wonderful people.
Our first interview was way back in 2013, during which Osric refused to start eating his lunch before ours arrived even though I kept fretting that his was getting cold, and I realized for the first time what a very nice person he was.
In some of the more serious parts of our chat, Osric explained his hesitation initially about even putting the role of Kevin Tran in his reel because it was such a stereotypical character, and his delight in being able to watch the character evolve and be fleshed out over time (into Kevin Freakin’ Solo!)
In a less serious moment, I gushed about Osric’s cosplay of Princess Bubblegum and we laughed about the rest of the cast’s reaction. Come on, though, he can rock a dress!
Osric also gushed about his love of Mark Sheppard, and he patiently fixed my camera. Tech problems have been a theme of my interviews all my life, with no sign of that changing. Luckily the Supernatural cast all seem to be technologically skilled. And endlessly patient. That was one of Osric’s first cons, and he was eager to experience what a Supernatural convention was all about – from the perspective of a fan, which he was accustomed to. After our chat and lunch, we walked him back to the ballroom – where we were allowed in thanks to our wristbands, and he was not! Somehow our ‘but he’s one of the guests’ wasn’t initially taken seriously, but eventually he was allowed inside. Like everything else, he took that in stride. That was our first chat, and I already knew by the end of it what a nice person Osric Chau is, and how savvy he was about all things fandom.
It was also his first time performing at the Saturday Night Special. When we had lunch on Saturday, he was extremely nervous about singing and playing the guitar for the first time onstage, so we got a chance to calm him down a little for a change. He killed it, and proceeded to kill it many other times at many other Saturday Night Specials. Damn, I miss Saturday Night Specials!
Our next actual interview was the following year, at Van Con in 2014. It started out with me unable to make my iPad record, and immediately handing it over to Osric to fix. He did.
Osric: (graciously) That’s all right, we all have our strengths…
That interview, Osric walked me through what it was like to film his final scene (at the time) as Kevin, as he’s killed by Gadreel. I wasn’t surprised to hear that he was so emotional, he couldn’t bring himself to come back to the set and say goodbyes, or that there were tears behind that thick burnt-out-eyes makeup.
On a less serious note once again, I wanted to hear the real scoop on how Osric managed to (unintentionally) dislocate Jared Padalecki’s shoulder – I have to say, the blow by blow account of what really happened was fascinating (and occasionally hilarious), but left me scratching my head and muttering “boys…”
There have been other interviews over the years, which apparently included at one point a standing-on-your-head contest in the green room with Osric and Matt Cohen and presided over by Alaina Huffman, if I recall correctly.
But my favorite memories with Osric have been not in an interview, but at San Diego Comic Con. We’ve spent time together at a few Comic Cons, but in 2015 we had some adventures that are some of my favorite memories of any Comic Con. I was an associate producer of the documentary series ‘Squee’, so I spent much of my time at Comic Con that year coordinating film shoots, including one with Osric.
After that was done, we planned to get together later that day for dinner, but then I got a call from Osric saying that Misha Collins was going to buy pizza for the thousands of people in line for Hall H who would be spending the night outside to get into the Supernatural panel the next day. Misha needed help, so Osric wanted to pitch in and asked if I could help out too. I think this may have been the first year of Misha’s traditional bring-sustenance-to-the-Hall-H-line tradition. It was a wonderful, generous, and very Misha idea, so of course I said yes. What I didn’t realize was that the place where we were getting the pizza was FAR away from where we were, way up in the Gaslamp district, which I had never quite realized was on a hill. Let’s just say Osric and Misha are in way better shape than I am and have fewer years of accumulated fatigue, so I was woefully out of breath by the time we finally reached the pizza place. Were there no pizza places CLOSER to the convention center??
The GISH mascot met us there and we all loaded up pizzas – and then made our way back down the long walk to the convention center. It was a lot more fun going down, gotta say. People started to recognize Misha (our pizza caravan was a bit conspicuous) and trailing along behind us, so we looked a bit like some strange parade. Osric gave me his camera and asked me to film it, but he should have known by then that my tech skills are nonexistent – there’s a reason you never saw him post the impromptu parade footage.
We finally made it down to the convention center. Misha loaded pizzas on a pedicab and took off pedaling down to the place by the water where fans were waiting, like the pied piper with us following and giving out pizza to hungry and grateful fans. It was so much fun watching the expressions on people’s faces when they had the sudden realization that it was Misha himself bringing them pizza!
Osric suggested that he and I grab a couple of pizzas and bring them to the ADA line, which had a big group of waiting fans also, but was in an entirely different place. The fans there were equally surprised to see Osric handing out pizza, and were happy to have not been left out of the free food. We chatted a while, and then decided to try to go visit a mutual friend who works for Comic Con and was inside getting ready for the next day. By this time it was close to midnight or maybe later and the convention center was closed up tight. Nevertheless, we followed our friend’s instructions for where to go – only to be stopped by security, who were none too happy to see us where no one was supposed to be. By this time, Osric and I were over tired and kind of silly, which did not endear us to the security person. We giggled our way through that interrogation and finally were permitted inside after some back and forth phone calls, where we stayed until the wee hours of the morning catching up and talking about all things fandom and Supernatural and Comic Con. We were all tired the next day, but even now, that remains one of my favorite memories ever of Comic Con. Thanks, Osric.
The following year, Osric wrote a chapter for the new book I was putting together, Family Don’t End With Blood, in which he talks about his personal struggle with feeling anxious and awkward and trying to figure out his own identity, and how the validation and acceptance of the SPNFamily contributed to his own evolution (with cosplay, conventions and concerts all contributing). He concluded his chapter with:
Knowing all this and tabulating the wealth of experience I’ve collected and adventures I’ve had that I would otherwise have missed without the safety net of this fandom, I can only be grateful. I receive amazing messages from fans every single day thanking me, but it really is a two-way street and a wonderful symbiotic relationship. Because of you, I allow myself to do the things that I do, and then you thank me for it. And so I respond with the most honest and straightforward answer I know: “No, thank you.”
It has been such a pleasure watching Osric’s evolution and success over the past seven years. I love what he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, and many fans have told me how much his chapter inspired them.
I’ve loved so many of the creative projects he’s been in over that time too, from (another favorite) Dirk Gently, to Ryan Choi on Arrow/DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Eric in the feature film Empty By Design, Damien on the fabulous indie film Demon X, and numerous brilliant Hillywood Show parodies including, of course, both of the Supernatural ones – and more!
Kevin Tran’s return to Supernatural in Season 15 was bittersweet, but I was grateful to have a conclusion to his powerful story.
And yes, I cried like a baby as Sam and Dean waved goodbye.
Thank you for bringing such an important character to life on Supernatural, Osric. And even more, thank you for being you. I’m honored to have your inspiring chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, and cannot wait to see what new successes and adventures you’ll be off to next!
Here are the links to just a few of our chats and adventures with Osric, and you can read his chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, available at the links at the top of the page here.
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!
[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.
This is a tough time for everyone. For fans of Supernatural, it’s also the countdown to the ending of the show that has gotten us through our toughest times for the past fifteen years. I’ve seen the fandom and the cast come together online to try and offer ways to help each other get through this, from posting adorable family home videos to organizing rewatch parties to Stage It shows to virtual cons. For our part, we’re really hoping that our new book, There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, that celebrates the legacy of Supernatural will also be a help to this SPNFamily we love.
We planned the book because we knew this would be a hard time for Supernatural fans and cast – hoping that a book to hang onto that celebrates the legacy of the show and its importance would be a help getting through. But we had no idea just how hard this time would truly be. Our hope is that getting There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done out in early May will be a bright spot for the SPNFamily both for the show’s ending and the painful position all of humanity is in right now. Preorder link is at the end – and you get some freebies right now to amuse you until the release date.
We’ll try to do our part here on the blog too, with more features from the new book and its authors – both cast and fans – in the coming weeks. Here’s our first offering of ‘bright spots’ to give Supernatural fans something positive to hang onto – our adventures at the last Supernatural convention for who knows how long, SPNVegas. And some pretty pictures.
Everyone knew that this year’s Vegas Supernatural con was going to be an emotional one. For one thing, there hadn’t been a con since November, so cast and fans and vendors were all missing each other a great deal. Even more impactful, this was the last convention during which Jared, Jensen and Misha were still filming Supernatural. The last con at which they still *were* Sam, Dean and Cas. (Or at least that was the plan – who knows what’s going to happen now!)
As I boarded my flight on Wednesday morning – more than two weeks ago as I write this – (clutching my hand sanitizer and incredibly thankful that there was no one sitting next to me), I kept thinking that this was the last convention that would be the same as all the ones before it. I’ve been going to these cons for 13 years, since 2007, and all this time, Jared and Jensen have been Sam and Dean. If you know me at all, you know that my questions are always show questions. I am always dying to know what they thought about their character’s emotional reaction to whatever was happening on the show, or what their head canon is about the latest episode. This would be the last convention where I could ask those sort of questions and still have ongoing canon to spool out before us. The last one in which the Winchesters’ and Castiel’s stories are not yet over; not yet fully told. At this point as I post this, we don’t know when they will actually be able to film the last two episodes, but it will certainly be different, and not something that happened organically, with the crew that has been family for fifteen years, in a continuous season of filming. There will never be a convention quite like this one ever again.
Like so many things I’m emotional about that have to do with my favorite show ending, it sounds silly to be so worked up about this kind of ‘never again’ – but it’s not. This show, these conventions, these actors, have been a big part of my life and the lives of most Supernatural fans – whether you’re there in person or not, everyone enjoys the panels and getting to know the cast of our favorite show better. And while some things won’t entirely change going forward, some most definitely will. There are cons planned throughout 2020 (assuming COVID19 allows any), but they will still be different. And now that the entire world is on the brink of apocalypse, I need the healthy escape and inspiration of my favorite fictional characters more than ever!
So let’s just say I arrived in Vegas already a bit teary eyed. It seems weird to write this now, only two weeks later, but at the time we didn’t know just how serious and widespread COVID19 would be. Nevertheless, I followed an air hugs only rule at the con, washed my hands constantly, and kept a bottle of hand sanitizer at my vendor table throughout the con. I’m now very glad I did!
Luckily my good friend Laurena met me at the airport so we could share this entire experience, and ensure that neither of us totally decompensated from being emotionally overwhelmed at some point. We caught an Uber and consoled each other with a plan of an afternoon lounging in the sun beneath the palm trees at the Rio’s beautiful pool. Ahhh, just what two people escaping from Philly and Chicago needed in early March!
I have a love/hate relationship with the Rio. It’s always where the Vegas con is, and that makes me fond of it in that nostalgic way I have of being fond of everything that’s familiar in my life and can anchor me to the good stuff. On the other hand, there was that year the entire bathroom overflowed with sewage in the middle of the night – literally bubbling up out of our sink and tub and toilet – that sent me and my roommates out onto the casino floor in our PJ’s with a luggage cart of all our hurriedly stacked up belongings to move rooms at 3 am. Not one of my best memories.
So when Laurena and I arrived and were informed that the pool was CLOSED, it was like a flashback to that earlier trauma. Closed??? For the entire time we’d be here? What’s worse, it wasn’t just the pool – it was the entire outside area. There was literally nowhere to sit outside and enjoy the Vegas warmth. We ended up sitting at the shuttle stop on a metal bench, feeling pretty forlorn, just to get some fresh air for a little while.
First it was the announcement that this would be a “no-touch” con, thanks to COVID19, which was upsetting to many fans who were looking forward to hugging their faves in a photo op, even if everyone was starting to understand that it was probably very necessary. Then no pool??
Late lunch at Hash House, which is always a treat, made us feel a bit better. Then it was time to open our table in the vendor room, and to reunite with all the awesome vendor squad people I hadn’t seen in way too long. I was so exhausted from the time change and travel that I almost crashed right after, but luckily I decided to join my friend Lisa and a bunch of her friends – all of them writers – for a late dinner. Well, really for some delicious milkshakes. YUM! And writing talk, which I always enjoy.
Thursday the convention itself kicked off. Vegas is four days long (five if you count Wednesday evening vending and events), so it’s really more like an endurance marathon. The walk to the convention area of the Rio is approximately ten miles long, so endurance really is the right word. My knees have still not recovered.
There were SO many friends at this con, and I’m so grateful I had the chance to catch up with so many people since I have no clue when we’ll all be together again. HR was there with his newest awesome sculptures – I’m always blown away by the talent in this fandom!
Can’t you just hear Jack saying “Hello…”?
Thursday kicked off the con itself. After an intro by Rob and the band, first up was a panel by DJ Qualls, who hasn’t been to a con in a while. It was wonderful to see him, and heartwarming to hear the SPNFamily’s enthusiastic support of DJ, who had recently come out as gay.
DJ: Everyone knows I came out, right? I really was never in to anyone who knew me. But I learned at the time I started in this business that Hollywood wanted you to be quiet about it.