Jim Beaver Interview with Support Supernatural

Jim Beaver

The man who portrays Bobby Singer, everyone’s favorite father figure for Sam and Dean Winchester, was kind enough to take time out of this very busy schedule to answer fan questions for SupportSupernatural.com. He is currently in the midst of filming his new TV show “Harper’s Island” and has his own memoir coming out in 2009. Support Supernatural cannot thank Jim Beaver enough for being so frank with us! 

Please sit back and enjoy the words of the man who gets to call Sam and Dean “idjits” whenever he pleases!

Support Supernatural asks:

-How did you get into acting?

I got into acting seriously after I got out of the service. I’d done a little bit of theatre in elementary school, but had no thought toward making a career of it. But when I got out of the Marines, I went to college, where I wanted to study film history. My college didn’t have any courses on that topic, so I signed up for theatre classes as the next best thing. I helped a roommate audition for the college drama organization and found I really loved acting. I did my first “real” play there, “The Miracle Worker,” and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

-When will we get to see your new series Harpers Island? What can we expect from your character?

“Harper’s Island” will premiere in the U.S. on CBS in February 2009. I don’t know if or when it will show up in other countries. My character, Sheriff Charlie Mills, is very different from Bobby on “Supernatural.” He’s much more serious and carries a dark secret. That’s about all I’m allowed to say!

Lindsay from Michigan asks: What is your all-time favorite Supernatural scene? Why is it special to you?

So far, my all-time favorite scene from “Supernatural” is the one in the wrecking yard in “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two,” when Bobby takes Dean to task for disrespecting himself and making the deal to bring Sam back. It’s such a good scene and was so affecting that I like it even though it doesn’t involve Jared. I love working with both the guys, and most of my favorite scenes involve them both. But this was a particularly special scene. I hope another like it comes along! It got underneath the skin of the show, below the surface scary stuff and into the depths of feeling the characters have for one another. Good stuff.

Heather from Maryland asks: Would you ever like to direct a television show or feature film?

I don’t think I’d ever really want to direct film or television. It’s an enormous amount of work, and I don’t have a sense that I’d be very good at it. Oh, I have ideas sometimes that I’d like to implement, and if a good budget and an experienced crew were in place, that would make a lot of difference. If someone offered me the opportunity, I’d have to take it, just to experience it, to grow and learn. But I’m in no hurry. It’s a VERY demanding job.

Lynne from Ontario asks:

-Have you ever had what you feel is a genuine psychic, Supernatural experience (such as a prophetic dream)?

I don’t believe I’ve ever had a supernatural experience of any kind. I suppose I’ve encountered a few strange things, here and there, things I couldn’t explain. But none of them were strange or unexplainable enough to make me think they were outside the realm of the natural world. Sorry!

-Also, the Supernatural set seems to be a really fun place to be. What is your happiest or most fun memory of working on the show?”

The “Supernatural” set IS a fun place to be. It’s a little less fun this year, with budget cuts and illness causing much longer hours and a drooping morale. But it’s still better than any hundred other sets I could name for you. The people are splendid, absolutely splendid, some of my favorite people in my entire life.

Probably my most enjoyable moment ever on the set is hard to talk about without seeming like I’m bragging. I’m not, it was just very touching to me. It was just as we finished the last episode before Christmas, in season 2 (“Tall Tales,” I believe). There was a Christmas party for the crew on the set, with everyone sitting around in chairs in a diner set, with lots of jokes and gifts and general fun. Even though the party was going on for quite a while longer, I had to leave to catch an early flight. I yelled goodbye and started to leave, but suddenly the crew started clapping and everybody got up and gave me a standing ovation. I’m still not quite sure why, but it really made me feel good, really feel like part of the family, especially since I’d only done four episodes at that point. A wonderful memory.

Kaye from Wisconsin asks: If you had your choice to play any character, real or fictional, who would it be and why?

“If I had my choice to play any character, real or fictional, who would it be?” That’s a tough one to answer, because there are lots of ways to consider it. I’m too old to play Hamlet or Cyrano de Bergerac or Jamie Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” but those are roles that I would have loved to play, probably more than any other. I’m not a John Wayne or Randolph Scott type, but if I were, I’d love to play one of their roles in a tough Western. I’m not a handsome leading man type, but I’d love to do a deeply romantic film with love scenes and passionate looks.

There are a lot of roles I’d love to play and that I think I could do well, but that I’m not right for. And it’s not really fun to play a role you’re wrong for. At least for me, it isn’t. I’d just feel silly and embarrassed trying to play a Hugh Jackman role in a romantic drama.

I’d love to do more Westerns, especially another Western feature. And I’d love to do a crime drama. Villains are great fun to play. There are many, many roles I’d love to play. It’s hard to single any one out, and I’m too old to play many of the roles I started out dreaming of playing.

I’ve been toying with the idea of putting together a production of “King Lear,” just for the stretch and experience of it. I can’t think of a real-life person I’d like particularly to play. There are many I’d enjoy playing, I’m sure, but none that I especially want to play. I’ve played Lincoln and Ambrose Bierce (GREAT character!), Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry II, but I can’t think of any other real-life people.

Bottom line: A great part is a part that fits but tests your abilities, that is fun or rewarding to play, and makes you work just a little harder than your comfortable working. Lots of those still out there.

Alice from Ohio asks: I noticed you are a film critic and you have written plays and books. Are you still writing the biography about George Reeves? It also looks like a memoir is in the works. Do you prefer acting, writing, or a balance of both? Do you find much time for writing these days?

I’ve been writing since before I was seriously acting, and I don’t ever seem to quit. I’m still working, between gigs, on the George Reeves biography, and I’d like to take some time off sometime soon and finish it. My memoir, “Life’s That Way,” about my wife and daughter, comes out in April 2009. I still mess about with plays and have some film/TV scripts knocking around inside my head. But writing’s very hard work, acting’s very easy work (for me), and I seem to be able to do a lot of the latter without HAVING to do the former, so I don’t write as much as I should or would maybe like to.

Jenn from Pennsylvania asks: I am sure every project is a learning experience, good (Supernatural of course!!) and bad. If there were one project that you wish you wouldn’t have done, which one would it be?

Which project do I wish I hadn’t done? Hmmm. Looking back over my resume, I can’t see anything I wish I hadn’t done. I did a few things that weren’t particularly fun, like the “Melrose Place” episode where I was sick and was working with two stars who weren’t very nice. There’ve been a few plays I wish I hadn’t gotten involved in, because they were either not good plays or not good productions, but all in all, I’ve been lucky. They say life is made up of either successes or lessons. All my work experiences have either been one or the other, so I’m grateful either way.

Erin from Nevada asks: Hi, Jim! We talked about writing at the last EyeCon and I learned later that we are both preacher’s kids. Do you think that growing up as a preacher’s kid instilled a love of words and writing in you, as my bookish dad did for me? Or was writing something you discovered all on your own?

Erin! My dad was a preacher, and he loved language and encouraged me to love it. He highly encouraged me to take speech classes and to read, read, read. Listening to him in the pulpit every Sunday for many years, hearing how simple words could be made to soar and swoop with intonation and juxtaposition made me very aware of the possibilities in both writing and acting, long before I knew I had any inclination toward either. So, yeah, there’s no doubt that being a preacher’s kid served me well in my chosen field. Probably made me want to get up in front of people and be the main guy, too. 🙂

Margaux from Germany asks:

 -Let us assume you got the opportunity to do the remake of a classic western (like “El Dorado”, “The Sons of Katie Elder” or “Winchester ’73”) and you’d be the one who calls the shots…

-What movie would it be?

-Who would have the leading role?

-Would you direct it?

-If you had to give Jensen, Jared or both a role in this movie, which characters would they play?

If I could remake a classic Western with Jared and Jensen, I think I’d do my favorite film of all time, “The Searchers.” I’m not saying I would be one-hundredth as good as John Wayne was in the original — one of the best performances in history, in my opinion — but if you’re gonna stick me in a situation like that, I’m gonna take advantage of it! I think I’d put Jared in the Jeffrey Hunter role and Jensen in the Harry Carey Jr. role, the two youngsters who tag along with the old guy as he tracks down his nieces kidnapped by Comanche. That would be a great project. Too bad John Ford’s not around to direct it. I think no one today would do better than Walter Hill, who directed me in “Geronimo” and in the “Deadwood” pilot.

-Also, I was amazed as I heard that it was actually your input that Bobby spoke some words in Japanese on the episode “Yellow Fever”. When and where did you learn to speak the language? Do you speak any other language, perhaps German?

As to speaking Japanese: I’ve been interested Japanese stuff, especially film, for many years. In 1995, I decided to take a class in hopes of someday being able to watch the films in the original language. I studied for a couple of years and got pretty good — good enough to get around in Japan for a few weeks without too much trouble. But I have very little chance to practice the language at home and no time to resume classes, so I’ve gotten very rusty. In fact, I’ve forgotten a great deal of what I learned. I’m sure it would come back with practice, but I can no longer do much more than order sushi.

As to German: Studierte ich für zwei Jahre in Gymnasium und zwei Jahre in der Universität. Mein Urgroßvater war Deutscher und ich wollte zu sprechen, die ihm in seiner Muttersprache. Ich habe lange genug daran erinnern, dass ich viel mehr deutsche als ich Japanisch, trotz der viel größeren Anzahl von Jahren, seit ich studierte.

How’s that? (I said I studied German two years in high school and two years in college. My great-grandfather was German and I wanted to speak to him in his native language. I studied it long enough that I still remember more of it than I do Japanese, despite the longer time since I studied.)

Lisa from New York asks: If you could write the character of Bobby, is there anything you would change or add?

If I wrote the character of Bobby, I can’t think of anything I would add or change. The writers do a great job with the character and I wouldn’t presume to change a thing. Now, I’ve said this ad nauseam, but if the writers want to write an episode in which Bobby is abducted by demonic Victoria’s Secret models who want to hot tub him to death, I’d be up for that. As long as they don’t QUITE succeed.

Becky from Kentucky says: You are awesome, and Bobby rocks! Supernatural was so lucky, and was made even better, when you became a part of the show. My question is, we know that you are an author and an avid reader. Bobby has tons of books in his house for research, but what do you think Bobby would read for fun?

Hey, Becky! What would Bobby read for fun? I picture Bobby as a Raymond Chandler fan. It’s hard to imagine Bobby having much time for enjoyment reading, what with all the mystical and historical research he does, but the only thing that strikes me as completely natural for him would be Raymond Chandler. I can’t see him curling up with “Harry Potter” or Steven King, but “The Big Sleep”? “Farewell My Lovely”? “The Long Goodbye”? Yeah, those are the books that Bobby would read. He’s got some qualities of the Philip Marlowe character, in a rustic/mystical variation, so I think Chandler’s the one.

Damien from Germany asks: “Mr. Beaver, What is the difference in playing the role of Mr. Elsworth on Deadwood and Bobby Singer on Supernatural?”

The biggest difference in acting in “Deadwood” and “Supernatural” is the scripts. On “Supernatural,” we GET scripts! On “Deadwood,” I only saw one complete script in three years, and that was on the pilot. “Deadwood” was written on the run, scenes showing up the night before or even the morning of shooting. And the language in those scripts was far more complex than on any other show I’ve ever worked.

“Supernatural” gives us great scripts and gives them to us early enough to have some time to work on them. Both shows were challenging, but in very different ways. The big differences for me lay in the working methods, not in the characters so much. And of course, I don’t get to call Sam and Dean some of the stuff I called people on “Deadwood!” I’m pretty much stuck with “idjits.”

Jo from England asks: If you could write a stand-alone episode for Supernatural, which direction would you take the brothers and what location(s) would you place them in? And, who would you choose to guest star with them?

If I could write a stand-alone episode for “Supernatural,” I think, just because it’s fun, I’d send the boys to a ghost town in West Texas or Arizona, put ’em up on horses and have them face down demons with ties to the Old West. As to guest stars, well, I think I’d have to be there! Then I’d bring in Mark Harmon from NCIS, since when we both worked with Robert Singer on “Reasonable Doubts” years ago, we always talked about doing a Western together. That would be fun.

Your biggest fan, Susan from Illinois, asks:

-Jim, we have seen some pretty amazing cons from Bobby what are your favorites, and what ones would you like to see him pull?

I’m not sure how you define a con, in terms of ones we’ve seen Bobby pull. Most of what we’ve actually seen have been small things, like holy water in the beer. (That was fun.) I’d like to see a big con sometime, the sort they used in “The Sting” or “The Grifters.” Something massive that would leave the audience’s jaws on the floor when it was revealed. I don’t know what it would be, though.

-If you could hunt ghost and ghouls like Bobby, which ones would you want to hunt?

If I could hunt ghosts and ghouls like Bobby, I’d hunt the pretty ones, of course!

-Do you like to watch the horror genre? What are some of your favorites?

I’m not a big fan of horror movies, especially since they turned into mainly slash fests. The last really great horror film I saw was the original “Exorcist,” which scared the bejabbers out of me for weeks. I like the old Universal horror movies, “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “The Wolf Man,” but they’re not really scary, just fun. “The Blair Witch Project” was very frightening. I’m not a big fan of being scared anyway, and someone jumping out and cutting someone open isn’t very appealing to me.

Some movies, like the original “The Haunting,” are very frightening almost entirely by suggestion, the way horror used to be done on the radio. Nothing beats the imagination for creating terror, certainly nothing visual. By the way, “Harper’s Island” is sort of a horror movie in a TV series, so if you like to be scared, I think you’ll dig it.

Thank you again Jim! Support Supernatural speaks for all of your fans when we say we are extremely excited to watch you on “Harper’s Island” and to read your memoir! For more information on Jim Beaver, visit http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0064769/ and http://www.lifesthatway.com/.