It’s All About the Fans: Jensen Ackles at VanCon
Jensen Ackles started his semi-private Q & A with a question for the gathered fans – “Has anyone embarrassed themselves yet at the con?” He seemed certain that Misha must have accomplished at least a bit of embarrassment (we wonder why….)
Fans: Well, there was Russ Hamilton and a certain stripper pole…..
Jensen: (deadpans) Going to a coffee shop with Russ could be embarrassing.
The group then launched into some questions of their own. A fan asked Jensen if his third time directing an episode of Supernatural had been more or less difficult?
Jensen: This time, there were lots of scenes with Dean, so I’m on camera more, which is a bit of a challenge. When I’m just acting, I can clear my mind and really not worry about anything, which leaves me very open to the nuances of a scene. You need to be able to be in the moment with the other person, be open to the scene unfolding between you and the other actor. Sometimes guest actors memorize their lines for days, and they know them so well, but then the other actor says or does something different, and you need to be able to actually react to that, you have to be open to that, so it can’t be overly rehearsed. Otherwise you’re just reciting lines. Kim Manners used to say that scenes are about the nuances, the subtext, what makes the scene unique.
Jensen paused at that point and laughed.
Jensen: Sorry that was sort of long on explanation!
Fans: (silently and rather sarcastically) Right, terrible hardship, not interesting at all…..
A fan asked about Season 9 and 10 being a done deal, everyone in the room grinning happily at the prospect.
Jensen: Not officially, we still have to get picked up, but it looks good – it helps that the new head of the network is really behind the show.
Fans: (are still grinning and nodding)
Jensen: But we still have to get picked up — you guys still need to keep watching!
Fans: (with perhaps a little sarcasm) Oh no!
The next question was from a person who said she was new to the fandom, attending her very first con.
Jensen: And you’re still here?? Most people would have jumped ship by now!
The intrepid newbie fan bravely remained, luckily, and wondered how Jensen thought the Show would eventually end.
Fans: End? What? *lalalalalala we can’t hear you*
Jensen: We’ve said before, I think they’d go out in a blaze of glory, like Butch and Sundance. Give each other a wink and then there’s a freeze frame, so you never really are sure about what happens. And then if there’s a movie, you can pick up there, and if there’s not…
Fans: (silently) Ohhhhh, a movie….okay, we’re listening again.
Another fan asked about Jensen being a musician, like so many of his friends.
Jensen: I don’t consider myself a musician, I’m a lover of music. It relaxes me — when I come home I can sort of strum the day away.
Fans: What about how you’ve played with Steve Carlson?
Jensen: (laughing) Steve is such a talented musician, that he can rope me in.
Fans (are grateful to Steve Carlson)
Another fan asked if he had a pet project that he’d like to do.
Jensen: There are a couple of stories I’d love to tell from the acting side, that I’d like to develop – and I don’t really know what that entails, but I know people who do, so I’d enlist their help. Oh, and I wouldn’t let myself direct it!
Fan (protesting) But you could, you’re a seasoned vet.
Jensen: (wryly) Well, I’m seasoned….
We asked Jensen about one of the new books we’ve been signed to write on Supernatural – more on that good news soon.
Lynn: There’s a new series of books called Fan Phenomena, and there are volumes on some of the most popular shows, films, and actors of all time. And Supernatural is one of them – the only currently running and relatively new show to be included, so we’re really excited. Why do you think Supernatural is such a fan phenomenon?
Jensen seemed as excited as we are – he wanted to know what other fan phenomena properties were on the list, and raised his eyebrows in appreciation at being in such good company. Then he got thoughtful about the reasons Supernatural is on that list, and deserves to be.
Jensen: Really, I think it’s because of the fans. It’s you guys. There was a core group of you who latched onto this little show and took your passion to the internet and discovered there a whole social universe around the show, and that sustained the passion. It’s a great show, but a lot of it is the fans. You’ve gotten us the People’s Choice awards and the TV Guide cover.
Fans: (are beaming)
Jensen: And I think what it is about this show, it’s about the relationship between the two guys. Eric Kripke told us long ago, we can have ghosts and monsters and whatever, but this show hinges on the two of you, it’s about you two guys. And it’s about their complicated relationship, these are two guys who shouldn’t even get along, who are so different. You know, it’s like a good story is either about two ordinary guys in extraordinary circumstances, or two extraordinary guys in ordinary circumstances. And this is the first, two ordinary guys who are put into extraordinary circumstances. And I think people really related to that.
Jensen: (laughing) Good thing Jared and I got along!
Lynn: I think you and Jared can take some of the credit too, for making Sam and Dean so believable.
Another fan asked Jensen if he had ever had any weird stuff on his resume, like Misha Collins apparently had when he was just starting out.
Jensen: I’m sure I did at one time. Though I don’t think “acting on camera” is on most actors’ resumes…
Shhhh, don’t tell Misha!
A fan asked Jensen what he was best at, and the actor shared his view of himself and what he’s good at.
Jensen: I’ve done a lot of things, I always played a lot of sports, but I never really exceed at anything.
Fans: (are protesting that self assessment)
Jensen: I was never the best, never the tallest – (‘That was Jared’, he interjects with a laugh) – but I was always on the first string team. I’m good at a lot of things, but not the best. I’m a good actor, but not the best out there.
Fan: Yes you are – well, okay, maybe there’s one better.
Jensen: (deadpans) Not on our show!
Another fan asked how difficult it is doing a show where there are only two main characters.
Jensen: It’s not so different really, because even with a lot more cast on a show, you develop an on-camera relationship usually between two or maybe three people, so it’s not that different. Just a heavier workload. The writers want to keep it about the brothers.
Another fan asked an interesting question. What advice (if any) Jensen had gotten from fandom?
Jensen: (ponders) I’d have to think about that to come up with something specific, but I’ve learned a lot of things.
Fan: Like how crazy we are?
Jensen: (laughs) No, in all honesty, like I said, the collective has brought such a powerful impact to the show. It’s great to know that what you’re doing is going to translate to you guys. The awareness of that is a great motivating factor in a time of need. Being able to see your faces at these cons is so great for us — we know who we are doing this for. We see what it does for people. When we’re tired and it’s raining for 6 months and we’re shooting all night, we think “we’re gonna have something to tell them!”
Fans: (are grateful)
Another fan asked how Jensen and Jared memorized so much dialogue.
Jensen: Jared and I can read through our lines twice and we’ll have it down, two pages of dialogue. It’s like a muscle, the more you work it. And we know the characters so well and the writers do too, so it flows, there’s a certain cadence to these scenes. We run it in the makeup trailer when we’re getting ready, and then we do the run-through, and now I’ve got the spatial associations too. The scene takes shape then, the lines take shape within the movements, which also helps the continuity editor, so when you cut and then pick up again, nobody’s arm is in the wrong position.
Fan: Is it a challenge to play a character for eight seasons?
Jensen: The challenge is keeping it fresh. The writers, we’re lucky, are still passionate about the show and the characters, so it’s keeping the passion alive. In my opinion, the show is really good, so it hasn’t been that hard. I am playing Dean a little differently this season –
Fans: (interrupting to gasp) WHAT??
Jensen: (laughing) Not that differently! Not a completely different guy, he’s still the same guy, but he has a bit of an edge to him. I’m sure you guys will probably pick out when I don’t do that well.
The lone male fan in the group asked the next question.
Fan: So what’s your next challenge?
Jensen: Jeeez, is that not enough? Whaddya want from me? Song and dance, shine shoes? What??
(He helpfully acts out a little song and dance)
Jensen: So far actually I’m pretty satisfied. I guess photography would be.
At this point, he pulls out his iPhone with a burst of boyish enthusiasm.
Jensen: Here, I can show you guys – I leave my nice camera at home and just use my iPhone.
(Shows every person in the room the photo he took of the front of the Impala – a gorgeous black and white close-up).
Jensen: (proudly) I put some antique on it. I just got down (he crouches on the floor to demonstrate) and shot it real close. I tried abstract painting for a while, but I’m not good at painting or drawing or whatever.
Fans: Well, you’re good at this!
And pretty damn good at playing Dean Winchester too!
Stay tuned for more from VanCon from Richard Speight, Matt Cohen and Misha Collins. We had a blast!