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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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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For You, Supernatural – As You Start That Last Ride

For You, Supernatural – As You Start That Last Ride

Tomorrow Supernatural returns for its final seven episodes, leading up to the series finale after fifteen glorious years. Most of the fandom is feeling a lot of conflicted emotions right now – anticipation, elation, pride in what the show has accomplished and what it has meant to so many. And at the same time, anxiety and sadness knowing we’re about to lose it. Over the past year, the actors and fans pulled together their thoughts and memories of the show and how it has changed their lives. How Supernatural has inspired them, gotten them through tough times. Has helped them figure out who they really are and become that person. Has created lifelong friendships.

The result was the book There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural. There are chapters from Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and a dozen other Supernatural actors, plus a special message from Misha Collins to close out the book, and from twenty fans. The hope is that the book will be something we can all hold onto, to remember forever how special Supernatural has been and will always be –and to help get us through its ending. Everyone talks about what Sam, Dean, Castiel and the other brilliantly written and acted characters have meant to them in their chapters, whether they portrayed that character onscreen or were inspired by that character in real life. These characters have been incredibly real, and incredibly important, to so many of us.

So now, as Supernatural’s fictional characters prepare to jump in Baby and try to save the world one last time, we wanted them to know that they’re not alone – we’re all here with them, cheering them on, right up to the end. The title of the book is a wish for those fictional characters we love. The beautiful original song and video are too – it’s our message to the Winchesters and Castiel, the boys’ “angel over us”.  It’s what we wish for them, after all they’ve given us – the peace they so richly deserve.

All the kudos to the incredibly talented Eloisa Parton, who created an amazing video, and J R Wyatt, who wrote a song that makes me cry every time I listen to it. That’s a high compliment.

LYRICS:

Take up the fight

In the family business

Don’t pretend to be something you’re not

And in the end

We’ll drive Baby toward sunset

‘Cause, Brother, we’re all that we’ve got

To hell and back

And all that we’ve been through

It’s been quite a road so far

On a path

That ain’t easy to stick to

Just never forget who you are

We’ll dance with the devil

With an angel over us

And you’ll always keep fighting

Next to someone you can trust

Together we’ll carry on

Just a couple of wayward sons

And, Brother, just remember

There’ll be peace when you are done

Save each other

Save the world

Together into the unknown

Face whatever 

Comes our way

Let’s take those boys home

At the end of the day

I’m always proud of us

But when the time comes to leave here

We’ll put Baby in drive

And leave this place in the dust

We’ll dance with the devil

With an angel over us

And you’ll always keep fighting

Next to someone you can trust

Together we’ll carry on

Just a couple of wayward sons

And, Brother, just remember

There’ll be peace when you are done

So, Brother, just remember

There’ll be peace when you are done

About the Book

There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done has chapters from Jared, Jensen, Richard Speight, Jr., Shoshannah Stern, Lauren Tom, Julie McNiven, Andrea Drepaul, Carrie Genzel, Todd Stashwick, David Haydn-Jones, Adam Fergus, Tahmoh Penikett, Rick Worthy, Chad Lindberg, Gabe Tigerman, Lee Majdoub, Brendan Taylor, Hugo Ateo, Lee Rumohr and writer Davy Perez, as well as twenty fans of the show. The very personal chapters talk about the characters we’ve come to love and the experience of portraying them, and thoughts on what the legacy of Supernatural will be. The book benefits the important work of charities Random Acts and SPNSurvivors. You can find more information at peacewhenyouaredone.com

About the Vidder

Eloisa Parton was born in Italy, but is currently studying Visual Effects in Vancouver. She started casually making videos and uploading them on her youtube channel in 2012, but only in the summer of 2014 did it became a full-time hobby. Around that same time, she started watching clips and videos of Sam and Dean Winchester and immediately fell in love with the characters and their relationship, even without knowing anything about the show. She started watching Supernatural in May 2015, and the show and her love of the characters (especially her favorite, Sam Winchester) gave new life to her channel, inspiring her to make more and more videos and bringing lots of new subscribers. What was a small channel with just a few hundred subscribers now has over 16k subs, largely thanks to her Supernatural videos.

About the Singer/Songwriter

J.R. Wyatt believes in the American songwriter’s dream enough to bleed for it. Music has been flowing through him since he first picked up the drumsticks at age three and then never stopped exploring new instruments, the most important of which was the pen at age twelve. Drawing influence from musical heroes like Bruce Springsteen, Kurt Cobain, Jason Isbell, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Jeff Tweedy, Wyatt learned to bear his soul whenever he put pen to paper. After becoming a staple at local bars and clubs in the small Maine town he grew up in, he decided to take his guitar and his dreams to Nashville. Starting with no contacts, job, or money, Wyatt found a kindred group of songwriters and musicians to collaborate with and self-released his first full-length album, Staying Gold, in 2016. Four years later, he’s back with his sophomore record, I’m Still Here, which demonstrates new levels of confidence as a songwriter and ambition as a producer. J.R. Wyatt’s songs acknowledge pain from the past so we can learn to live better while we’re still here, a perfect fit for the story of Supernatural.

Enjoy! (Or cry with me, which is what I do every time I watch the beautiful video…) We love you, Supernatural – and we’ll miss you like crazy. But we’re wishing our favorite characters ‘peace when you are done.’

Watch the video here (and have tissues ready):

There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done

— Lynn

There'll Be Peace_Preorder Graphic_Banner_v4

Happy Birthday Richard Speight, Jr.!

Yesterday, perhaps so we can all celebrate his birthday today in style, Richard Speight, Jr. released his first music video from his first CD with his band Dick Jr. and the Volunteers. The song, ‘Goin’ Straight’, will get stuck in your head in the most enjoyable way possible, and the video itself is brilliant!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMdsL-oQatw&feature=emb_logo

Leave it to Richard to give us a toe-tappin’ way to celebrate with him.

As Supernatural comes to an end, I’m more nostalgic than usual and feeling incredibly grateful to the people who have made the show the phenomenon that it is. Richard is one of those people.

He joined the show early on to play The Trickster and captured the fandom’s hearts. Over the years, the character returned, eventually revealed as Gabriel.

Richard went from acting on the show to directing, even proving his versatility by directing himself as both Gabriel and Loki! I’ve chatted with Richard over a dozen times over the past thirteen years about acting and directing Supernatural, and his insights never cease to amaze me. He’s been an integral part of the show since almost the beginning.

He’s come a long way from our very first chat back in 2007!

Photo: Lizz Sisson

In fact, Richard has developed his own distinctive style as a director, and has brought his vision to some of our favorite episodes. He collaborated with writer Jenny Klein to direct ‘Just My Imagination’ which is still one of the episodes I go back to watch again and again. He then went on to direct many more, including four episodes in Supernatural’s final season.

Photo: Chris Schmelke

Here’s our most recent chat, in which Richard shares fascinating insights and behind the scenes looks at directing Supernatural Season 15, and what it felt like to finish that final episode.

Behind the Scenes with Director Dick

But that’s not all.

Richard came to a Supernatural convention early on, rather reluctantly and not knowing what to expect, and ended up becoming the host of the whole damn thing – as well as joining Rob and Matt for countless hilarious R2M panels and joining Louden Swain onstage to rock out at countless Saturday Night Specials. He took the sparsely attended Friday night karaoke and turned it into a free event that everyone could enjoy. He helped make Louden Swain the house band. Perhaps more than anyone else, Richard turned Supernatural conventions into something special – which has helped keep them going for almost fourteen years!

Richard wrote a chapter for Fan Phenomena Supernatural with all his trademark wit and humor but also a lot of serious appreciation for the Supernatural fandom. I’m so grateful that he also contributed a chapter to There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural – in it, he puts his finger squarely on what makes this show so special, and why its legacy will live on. He also expresses his appreciation for the show and the fandom that changed his life. He’s eloquent, and I think what he has to say in his chapter will be a comfort and an inspiration to fans grieving the end of the show.

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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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