From a show that in its early years spent every season on the bubble for cancelation, Supernatural and its story pitting the power of family against the forces of Heaven and Hell—with a hefty dose of epic manpain—has ballooned in popularity to become one of The CW’s tentpole programs. The show is now approaching two landmarks: its 10th season and its 200th episode. At Comic-Con, we sat down with stars Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins, as well as showrunner Jeremy Carver, to discuss secrets of the new season, including Sam and Castiel’s reactions to Dean’s demonic transformation, returning characters, and the 200th “musical-ish” episode.
JEREMY CARVER: For me Season 9 was very much about each of our characters – and this is including Crowley and Castiel – each of them at a certain point of that season were sort of presented with, “Who do I want to be?” You know, Castiel started as a human, and Sam was inhabited by Gadreel, and even Gadreel himself had this arc of, “Okay, I chose the wrong way to find redemption, but do I want to find…?” Everyone was faced with that choice. I think this season, the overall mythology doesn’t hit you in the face in episode one in terms of, “This is going to be a quest for this” – it’s really sort of careful building blocks sort of centering around the idea of we’re basically forcing our main characters to eventually come to a, “You are who you are” or “I am who I am.” We’ve crossed a lot of paths between monster and human, and I think people are going to be forced to make much more stark choices this year based on “who I am” and it’s not going to be only themselves pushing them to make those decisions. It’s going to be very personal this year.
So Sam’s been through a lot…
JARED PADALECKI: Yeah! That’s putting it mildly.
How does having a demon for a brother compare to everything else?
PADALECKI: Well at first, Sam obviously doesn’t know. Sam was in the dungeon trying to summon Crowley when Crowley was actually there with Dean. So Sam got back to Dean’s room and Dean was gone, so since Sam didn’t get to see the show, he doesn’t know what happened. So we start out and Sam knows his brother’s gone and he knows he’s going looking for his brother but he doesn’t know exactly what happened. He doesn’t know if he was abducted – whatever. He has his suspicions. When Sam finds out what happened to his brother, he’s not pissed at Dean, he just wants to fix the situation. He made a promise to Dean at the end of Season 9 that he wasn’t going to let him go and he’s going to do whatever it takes to make good on his promise.
MISHA COLLINS: It drives a wedge between them, let’s say. Cas still obviously cares about Dean very much because basically his primary mission is to get Dean cured of being a demon. But at the same time, Cas is determined not to let a demon Dean roam the earth, so if it comes to it, Cas is willing to kill demon Dean if human Dean can’t be rescued. So yes, that puts a strain on any relationship.
How did you approach playing Dean as a demon?
JENSEN ACKLES: This particular version of Dean that we start with in Season 10, it’s not that Dean is possessed by a demon, it’s that his own soul is twisted enough to where it’s become demonic. So I basically took what Dean was doing last season, which was really kind of tortured and brooding – it was a tough season for old Dean last year. He was going through a lot: you know, the fact that he had betrayed his brother, the fact that he feels like he kind of lost his brother as a brother, and the fact that he didn’t really have that motivating force of protecting Sammy like he always had. He was kind of on a crash collision course. So I wanted to take all of that away. All the weight of the world, all the heavy heart, the guilt, just all of that stuff – remove all of that, because demon Dean does not care. So that’s kind of where I went with this character is that he is Dean – without a care in the world. And it’s not comedic, it’s almost scarier, I think, that he cares so little for anybody and everybody – and he loves it. And I think that’s scary.
ACKLES: Very. Very weird. Jeremy and I talked, like, “Maybe do your hair a little different?” And I’m like, “All right,” so I didn’t cut it quite as short, so it gives me somewhere to go, like when I get back to regular Dean, I can like, shed a portion of that façade. But it was really difficult because I was introducing that character and also directing that episode because we shot my episode first [it’s airing third] so I could prep without working, blah blah blah, technical stuff. So I had to really, really prep – I mean, it kept me up nights for eight days. I got it to a point where I knew I could just set it on autopilot once I got to set, as far as the directing, because I’d homeworked it so much, and that way I could focus on bringing this new character to life, which was nerve-wracking, you know. It was like, “Am I making sure I’ve got the coverage I need for Jared’s side of stuff? Oh wait, I need to be focusing on the lines I’m about to deliver because I’m not doing it like regular Dean, which I can just snap into, I’ve got to think about this whole other mindset.” So it was tough, but I like to challenge myself, the challenge is where I get the gratification.
Did you find it refreshing –
PADALECKI: To not have to do it? To let him do it? [laughs]
PADALECKI: Yeah, that was a big change. It was a nerve-wracking, man. I’m not kidding: it was effing nerve-wracking! And I’ve had a few of those: there’s been soulless Sam, and there’s been Gadreel, and there’s been Lucifer. They like doing that to me. I’m like, “What’s wrong with Sam?! Just let me be Sam!” So I laugh because inevitably, I get the episodes during the summer, so I’m in summer and I’m relaxing and having a beer or something and then I read and I’m like, “I have to make up a character now? Like, what’s going on?” So it’s fun to see Jensen do it and have him have a chance to flex his muscles. But something like Gadreel or Lucifer or soulless Sam, that’s refreshing – it’s really challenging as an actor. You don’t want to just…do a different voice. Like, that’s going to be stupid. I really take it seriously and whenever Sam has to go through one of his iterations, I try to pretend I’m auditioning for a different show as that character. I pretend that I’m auditioning for some show where I’ll play an angel. I try to think of what I would do to create that character. It’s a lot of fun but it’s very challenging. It’s nerve-wracking. And we’d shot, I think, like five or six episodes before it aired, and I was committed to it then, you know what I mean? I had the character and I was playing it and I was like, “God, I hope they like it.” Because it was too late to change it, so: nerve-wracking! And luckily the fans have always been so generous and kind and forgiving and supportive, so when that first episode aired and they saw that character at the very end, I was like, “Ahh, good, everyone’s being cool,” so it was awesome.
Any challenges between swapping back and forth between being an angel and being human?
COLLINS: No, I think it’s been good, I think it’s been good for the character to have that arc, and also it has changed Castiel because now he knows what it’s like to be a human so he can empathize a little bit better with humans. He is probably a little bit more human himself in the sense that he’s had this experience. So, no, I don’t have whiplash.
Do you think he absolutely still wants to be an angel or do you think if he could choose he’d go a different direction?
COLLINS: I think Cas knows that he is an angel at his core so I don’t think he wants to be a human. There are certain perks of humanness but I think that this whole season is about – and I think Jeremy said this – but I think it’s about “You are who you are,” and Cas is an angel and that’s who he wants to be, who he’s supposed to be, who he will be.
Is Cas’ storyline going to be more of a solo thing dealing with Heaven or is he going to be interacting more with the brothers?
COLLINS: There will be interaction but there will also be independence. Cas has got a kind of very personal arc that’s going on, that’s less about Heaven or Hell and more about a small personal journey.
Do you have any teases for any monsters or creatures for the new season, anything we can expect?
CARVER: I think we have a lot of spins on some monsters we’ve seen before. To me it’s not so much a question of introducing new monsters as it is finding a fresh new way to get into the world of even monsters that we’ve seen. If we’re doing a vampire or a werewolf again, it’s all about the character inhabiting that monster, that’s what gets me going. But there will be a few new ones that you’ll see. Not all monsters will all be monsters.
Will we see any characters returning? Will we see Cain again?
CARVER: Well, we’re not going to see Cain in the first run of episodes, but he’s an absolutely wonderful character, we’d love to find a way to bring him back. Just love him. For him it’s actually something of a professional issue – [actor Timothy Omundson] is actually on another show right now. Galavant – I don’t know if you’ve seen the teaser for that? He’s like terrific – he’s like ridiculous in that! But off top of my head you will see Sheriff Mills [Kim Rhodes]. You’ll see her teamed up, actually, with another sheriff that we introduced last year — I don’t know if you remember Donna Hanscum [Brianna Buckmaster] from “The Purge” — in what we think is actually a really fun plus emotional episode. It’s sort of our version of The Heat.
Any chance for Felicia Day to come back from Oz?
CARVER: They’re working on a way to get her back! I mean, we absolutely adore her. We are actively working for a way to bring Felicia back.
Is there any planned closure on the Kevin storyline?
CARVER: Kevin’s in a really weird spot right now. I just love that character and I was as sad as anyone to kill him off, so any chance we can find to bring him back, we will. I love Osric [Chau]. I think he’s terrific.
COLLINS: It’s kind of bizarre. This is such a fractured business typically, you hop from one job to another with great rapidity and you work with a crew or cast for a few months or maybe a year, maybe a couple of years, but then you move on. And it’s very surreal to be with this group for so long. I haven’t even been there from the beginning, I’ve been there for seven years now, but it’s almost like a family. It’s not at all what I ever expected to have in this line of work. And, I like it.
Are you going to direct another episode?
COLLINS: I hope to, yes, but I’m not going to do one this season. So, hopefully there will be more seasons and I will direct in them.
Or a movie!
COLLINS: Or a movie would be great!
Can you tell us anything about the 200th musical episode? Are you going to sing?
COLLINS: I have not yet read the episode so I really don’t know much more than you do. Only a little bit more. It’s gonna be good. It’s going to be kind of meta.
Would you be willing to sing?
COLLINS: Of course, of course. I mean, I’ve sung before. [In the episode “Heaven Can’t Wait.”]
[jokingly] It was so good!
COLLINS: It was so good. How could you not want more of that?
Did you ever sing “The Greatest American Hero” to your son?
COLLINS: No, I didn’t. But I have to say, I loved that show when I was seven. When it would come on, I would pinch myself — I couldn’t believe I was having that good fortune to see that show. It didn’t last as long as it should have. That show should have been on the air for 20 or 30 years.
Like Supernatural’s going to be.
COLLINS: Yeah, like Supernatural’s going to be.