San Diego Comic Con 2009 with ‘Supernatural’ by Amanda Rebholz
Anyone who has known me for any length of time at all knows that there are few things very near and dear to my heart: among them are classic rock music, old cars, ghost stories, and cute boys. Therefore, when three of my best friends insisted that I pick up the first season of a show called ‘Supernatural’, I was in love from the minute the first episode ended. I had been peripherally aware of the show before, but I’ve never watched much TV and thus somehow I spent four years oblivious to the show’s charm. However, while sick in bed this January, I devoured all three seasons that were on DVD at the time, then ended up curled on my best friend’s bed watching the more current episodes on her On Demand. I read the criticisms and praise alike of this dark horse of a show; somehow, the small-budget “Hardy Boys meets The X-Files” program had morphed into a formidable cash cow for The CW, raking in millions of viewers each week and developing one of the most intense and devoted fanbases of any current show on the air. Fans aligned themselves as “Dean girls” or “Sam girls”, soundtracks were compiled, plotlines were dissected, and tie-in novels were published. The show was a complete phenomenon, described as its own creators as “a mini-horror movie each week”. And being a lifelong afficianado of scary movies, it was also right up my alley.
As my awareness of the show grew, so did my love, until I found myself completely active in the fanbase. Writing reviews of episodes, discussing character development with my friends, or making my own episode-appropriate playlists on iTunes, I had fallen hook, line and sinker in love with “the little show that could”, and when season four wrapped with a cliffhanger that left every fan’s jaw on the floor, I was desperate to find out what happened. Was the world going to end? Was Lucifer really going to be allowed to walk among Earth? And maybe more importantly, were the endearing and enduring Winchester brothers were going to make amends to their relationship, or was the damage done too irrevocable to fix?
When I decided to go to San Diego Comic Con this year, I was understandably a little nervous. After all, the show had been sold out for months; it’s an international conference where movie studios, art houses, publishing firms, and hundreds of independent vendors show their faces to hawk their wares and get people excited about upcoming projects they’re pursuing. One of the panels sure to be the biggest draw was on Sunday morning: it would feature Eric Kripke, Sera Gamble, Ben Edlund (the backbone of the show’s technical/creative staff), as well as series stars Jim Beaver, who portrays the lovably gruff Bobby Singer, and Misha Collins, the show’s newest main character and Dean’s personal guardian angel, Castiel. The ‘Supernatural’ panels were always packed at Comic Con, although this year the show’s headlining stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were sadly unable to attend; despite this slight disappointment, I knew that the panel would be crammed full of fans dying, as I was, to know what was going to happen when our beloved show reclaimed the airwaves in September.
A lucky email to a press coordinator at Warner Brothers landed me on the list for an exclusive press conference to be held before the panel; in it, we would be given personal time with each panelist to ask our questions and get them to reveal as much as we could about the upcoming twists and turns they had planned for us.
Being a nervous person anyway and always having the Eeyore confidence that something will go wrong, I arrived for the conference almost an hour early and befriended the security guard. He confessed that he’d never seen the show, so I spent about forty-five minutes schooling him on why it was totally worth his time. After awhile, other press junket people began to show up and file into the room for check-in. Anxiously I approached the table where two friendly ladies with clipboards stood. Positive that I would’ve been skipped on the list, a glitch in communication somewhere, I nervously flashed my badge. They found my name with ease and told me to go on in and have a seat. It was a large room, divided in half with a black opaque curtain. On each side of the curtain was the canvas backdrop imprinted with the Comic Con logo; one side of the room would be the camera crews, TV personalities, and other ‘live’ media outlets, while the writers and bloggers were put on the opposite side of the curtain. Our side of the room had several small, intimate tables set up; each table seated 6-10 people and left a chair open for the talent. The conference would work as such: each personality would come to our table and we’d have our tape recorders set up facing their chair. We’d be allowed to ask them as many questions as time allowed, and then the WB executives would come around, ushering the talent off to the next table and bringing us the next in turn. We had about five minutes with each of them, and the conference began a bit late. I began to chat with the people at my table, albeit a bit shyly. However, there was no need; while I didn’t catch most of their names, I was quick to realize that our table was the ‘fan friendly’ one. We had, perhaps unknowingly, sought each other out; some of the other tables’ occupants didn’t even know what the show was about. But our table consisted of several Webmistresses, a few bloggers, and a handful of fans who already knew each other through other ‘Supernatural’-related appearances, including Alice, the lovely founder of the infamous website The Winchester Family Business.
First up at our table was Eric Kripke. If first impressions are everything, this man was definitely someone to pay attention to; he looked relaxed and casual despite being surrounded by a table full of women who were obviously in thrall with his creative genius. Some of my composure wiggled away when I realized that the seat I’d chosen was only two away from the ‘hot seat’ where the talent would sit; therefore I was less than three feet away from these people I admire so much. I tried to steady my nerves and instead focused on what Eric had to say. After a warm welcome and some joking around, the interviewers got down to business and began grilling him on his motives and intentions for our boys. One of the more interesting questions was whether or not anyone had considered using one of the brothers (it went without saying that they were referring to Sam; this was an insanely popular theory on the Internet and in my own head as well) as a vessel for Lucifer. Kripke agreed that it had been discussed, but said that they’d opted to have him find a different vessel instead in the end. He did express interest in staying on-board with the show even after the much-discussed five year plan ends, stating that just because one epic story was finished didn’t mean that there weren’t many more to be told in the Winchester plot line.
After Kripke left us, Ben Edlund was led over to our table. An executive producer on the show and driving force behind such delightful oddities as the suicidal teddy bear in the wishing well episode, Ben is an eccentric fellow with a laugh that draws you in and puts you at ease. He was enthusiastic about an upcoming episode which places the boys in the future and asks the question about whether fate is truly inescapable or if it can be changed due to the course of the choices made; an interesting dilemma for Dean, especially, who has always wavered between being determined that he can change things (selling his own soul to bring Sam back from the dead) to being cynical and fatalistic (when he realizes and accepts they can’t get him out of his own deal). Ben also posed an interesting question— if Hell is powered by Lucifer’s essence, and Lucifer leaves Hell to roam the Earth, then wouldn’t Hell essentially freeze over? If so, what would happen to the inhabitants of Hell? Who would govern the underworld without Lucifer there? Ben also commented on the long-time speculation that Sam was being prepared by Ruby to be Lucifer’s vessel on Earth; the plot lines certainly seemed to be heading there, and the only monkey wrench in our theory was when the casting announcement of Mark Pellegrino broke to the Internet. Ben agreed that it had been a thought they’d kicked around, but in the end they decided that he needed to be a separate entity, an antagonist all his own for the brothers to face. He also promised that Lucifer is a very sympathetic, nice guy, and that he’s been very difficult to write because he’s so smart and likeable.
After Ben came the grizzled, weathered face of the beloved Bobby Singer, hunter and idgit-wrangler extraordinaire, as portrayed by the loveably gruff and endearing Jim Beaver. Dressed in a silly t-shirt and trademark trucker hat, the veteran actor took his spot at our little piece of journalist-territory and dove right in to the questions. He was carefully evasive, given both that he’d only read the first three scripts of the season and that he knew a very important spoiler that he couldn’t let slip, but he did give us the information he could: that Bobby has a major story arc coming up in the first few episodes and it will change his relationship with the Winchester boys. He mentioned that the twist is somewhat out of left field and that he thinks a lot of fans will be utterly shocked when they see it, because he was surprised just reading it! Jim also discussed how great it was being recognized and loved by fans, since he’d been acting for so many years and had finally landed on a show where the fanbase was so utterly devoted to the characters. When Alice from thewinchesterfamilybusiness.com mentioned his book, he glowed proudly and thanked everyone for their congratulations on his role as an author. As charming and likable as he is on the show as Bobby, Jim’s own nature translates into the character; from the laid-back way he sat to the gentle teasing he administered about being terrified of sitting at a table full of women, he won us over in the few minutes of his time we had to spend with him.
When we wished Jim luck and he went on his way, Sera Gamble made her way over to the table. As one of the driving creative forces behind the show, Sera has penned some of the best-loved episodes of the entire series. She is also an immensely charismatic woman with a bright smile and a quick wit. When asked another poignant question, this time about the boys’ relationship and if it would see its former glory days, Sera would only say that she didn’t think it would be fair to have the boys suddenly kiss and make up after all of the hurt and betrayal they’d visited upon each other during the last season. She said that there would be a lot of anonymity and anger and resentment between them still, and that Dean would likely go off and do things without Sam; it is representative of Sam’s lingering boyhood in the show, and how for three seasons Dean had to constantly pull Sam out of trouble. Now Dean has bigger problems than watching Sam’s behind, and Sam will either have to step up and mature into adulthood quite quickly, or die. She said that the two would come back together, however, partially thanks to a major arc that will be pursued later in the season. The idea of Sam having to own his own manhood while Dean steps up into a role larger than any he’s ever played— the reluctant savior of the entire world— is an interesting one, and one that I personally can’t wait to see them play out through the season!
While talking to Sera, several of us were distracted by a man who had just entered the room and was sort of slinking up behind Jim Beaver. The man had a black lightweight jacket, a shock of carefully-tousled chestnut hair, and a mischievous grin. In short, it was none other than Misha Collins, the beloved angel Castiel! However, we were questioning whether he’d really earned his wings or not when Misha began to rub the very tip of his finger over Jim’s earlobe as flirtatiously as possible, distracting Jim from what was obviously a very thought-provoking question during another table’s interview. When he’d gotten his validation— a round of delighted laughter from the table, a scoffing “Get out of here!” from Jim— Misha, quite pleased with himself, slipped away to resume his own press coverage. When he made it to our table, time was running very short and the panel was due to start in just a handful of minutes; Misha dropped into our ‘hot seat’ and promptly informed us that he was feeling terrible. When questioned about why, he informed us that he’d been involved in a 55-mph bike crash recently that had left him in the hospital (hence his lack of Twitters; we’d wondered!) and had resulted in the loss of a lot of skin. He claimed that his shirt was sticking to his scabs and that he was uncomfortable, but that at least he was wearing a helmet. After we all expressed our concern for him, we scrambled to fill the remaining precious moments with questions— the season left off with our defiant angel facing off with the wrathful archangels!
When asked how Castiel fared, Misha gave a derisive laugh and nodded, claiming that his own injuries were helping with his method acting of finding out how much pain Cas should be in. The age-old question regarding set pranks popped up; everyone loves a good set-story, and luckily the boys from ‘Supernatural’ are goofy enough that there are always good ones! Misha told us about an upcoming scene where Castiel walks through a doorway where Dean and Sam are both standing— unfortunately, every time he’d walk by, Jared [Padalecki] would lean over and do something to Misha, whether it was grabbing his ass or tripping him or jabbing him in the ribs, and Misha would struggle to stay in stoic, serious character while the camera was on him. When asked what Castiel had been doing with his time since having his ass kicked by Heaven, Misha just laughed and said that the angel had taken up crochet and learning to ride a bike. While wearing a helmet, we hope— we’ve all seen “City of Angels”!
When the head-spinning pace of the interview was over, I had a tape and a half full of laughter, fascinating insights, and intriguing bits of plot gossip that sent my overactive imagination to whirling. Unfortunately, we literally had like t-minus five minutes to make it across the hall to the panel where the public forum and Q&A session would be held, as well as the exclusive five-minute sneak peak of the season’s first episode! I wouldn’t have missed that for the world, so I leapt to my feet, gathered my things, and bolted for the door, calling out a quick but very genuine thanks to the press coordinator who’d made it all possible for me, a lonely little freelance blogger, to take part in this amazing morning.
As I plowed into the hallway, determined to make it to the panel and find a seat despite the ridiculously long line of die-hard fans curving through the hallways like a serpent, I almost ran headlong into a security guard. A very beefy security guard, who had a handsome, slightly-tousled man walking right behind him. Misha Collins was standing mere feet away from me, on his own way to hurry to the panel! And unable to help myself, I said his name, half-expecting him not to hear it; after all, it was a squeak, and I wasn’t even positive I’d spoken aloud. But to my surprise, he turned, a warm grin spreading over his face when he recognized me. I had a bare minute to talk to him, but I did tell him that I followed him on Twitter and was a huge fan of his work, especially ‘Karla’ (an amazing serial killer film he was in with Laura Prepon awhile back – very disturbing, but Misha’s performance is incredible). He was very sincere and sweet with his thanks, and I asked for a photo. Misha was all too kind to lean into me, putting an arm around my shoulders as I held my camera at arm’s length to snap the picture; when I went into the panel and found a seat near the back, I was on absolute cloud nine.
Despite the roaring of the crowd as each panelist walked out, the deafening screams and howls during the teaser clip and the scenes we were shown from the upcoming Season 4 gag reel, I barely heard any of it; my heart was divided into a thousand pieces, all of them beating in sync with every other fan in that room screaming for the show we all love so much, and my mind was already leaping ahead, trying to figure out the twists and turns that the amazing gang at ‘Supernatural’ have cooking up for us in Season 5.