Why We Can’t Wait for Supernatural Season 9 (Part 2): It’s A Family Affair
Last week, we confessed that we were ridiculously excited for Supernatural Season 9 after spending some time with Jared and Jensen and hearing how excited they were. We also got to chat with some of the Show’s amazing creative team while we were in Vancouver – which only made us even MORE excited. At this point, it’s a miracle that we’re still managing to go to work every day instead of just watching the S9 promo vids over and over and counting down the hours. Does anyone else feel that way?
One of the main themes of our first book on SPN, Fandom At The Crossroads, was the reciprocal relationship between the creative team who bring Supernatural to life and the fandom who keeps it that way. In Vancouver, the strength of that relationship was clear. Producer Jim Michaels and location manager Russ Hamilton did a Q and A onstage, and producer/director Bob Singer joined Jensen and Jared for a charity auction. But many who weren’t appearing onstage were there just to support Jared, Jensen and Misha, and because they wanted to meet the fans they constantly thank for the Show’s success. Kevin Parks, his lovely wife and their beautiful dog Kuma were there to greet fans – Kuma had a photo op line almost as long as the official ones. For obvious reasons.
Director of photography Serge Ladouceur. production designer Jerry Wanek, and VFX miracle-workers Adam Williams and Ryan Curtis came by too. The creative team seemed as excited to meet the fans as we all were to meet them, with lots of heartwarming mutual appreciation to go around. The day after the con, the VFX team even held a special gathering at the Storm Crow Tavern for a group of fans and shared some of their secrets – a podcast of that fascinating talk is here. The day before the con, we joined a small group of fans for a walking tour of filming locations with John Marcynuk, which gave us a behind the scenes glimpse of just how challenging it is to find locations that work (and a great workout as we traversed Gastown!)
Some of the locations held a strong emotional resonance for us, as we remembered the pivotal scenes that took place there. Like the alley where Dean and Sam said goodbye to their father for the last time. Excuse us while we sob a little and pine for Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Writers Adam Glass and Robbie Thompson also came to the con on Sunday, and stayed to chat with some of us who are as interested in the writers’ insights as we are the actors. For those of you who are spoilerphobes, we’re keeping this very spoiler-light, fyi – no spoilers about episode titles or content.
Adam Glass is an executive producer on the Show as well as a writer. He also teaches at the American Film Institute in New York. Adam reads over a lot of the submitted scripts as they come in and then consults with Bob Singer. We asked him about “the new guy,” Robert Berens.
Adam: Bob is great! He sent his first script in, and Bob Singer was like, woah.
Us: Oooh, that bodes well!
Both Robbie and Adam talked about the importance of ‘writing what you know’. They can tell, when they review scripts from new writers, that sometimes they’re not doing that, and it shows. (We certainly have followed that rule in publishing our own books, which explains why most of them are about Supernatural and its fandom. One track minds, what can I say?)
Adam also had good things to say about Andrew Dabb, who has really found his voice and established himself as one of the main writers. Dabb is writing the spinoff episode that will happen in Season 9. The close relationship among the writing team, something that seemed to be in evidence during the “Kripke years” as well, is another reason we’re so excited about the new season. Adam gives some of the credit for that closeness to one of our favorite writers, Robbie Thompson. When Robbie came on board, Adam said, the writers really started to work as a team again. They constantly break story ideas together and toss ideas around. Robbie and Adam are particularly close – in fact, they like to tease fandom by referring to themselves as #Robdam on twitter, a ‘ship’ portmanteau designation that they came up with themselves, and use with the utmost respect. There’s just something about this Show that draws everyone closer together – cast, crew and fandom alike.
Adam: I write the #FEELS, Robbie writes the quirky episodes.
(Clearly Adam did not see us sobbing our eyes out over Charlie reading The Hobbit to her dying mother. ALL THE FEELS does not even do justice to how many tissues we needed.)
Adam’s precocious young son joined us for a while, and proved himself an avid Supernatural (and Dean) fan. If he got a little nervous around “Dean,” we certainly know how he feels.
Here’s our friend @Bardicvoice in a Robdam sandwich at VanCon, and looking pretty damn happy about it. Who wouldn’t be, right? The thing is, Adam and Robbie look every bit as excited about meeting her in person as she is to meet them. #SPNFamily — it’s not just a hashtag.
We spent some time with Robbie the next day and talked more about the way he sees the Show and some of the characters. As he and Adam both said, the story is about the brothers. Robbie would, however, like to see more strong female characters on Supernatural – and frankly, everywhere on television. (Us too!) He particularly loves Jody Mills and Charlie, who are just that. (Us too!)
Robbie takes a lot of pride in creating Charlie as a female character who’s fully rendered and not defined by her sexuality. She’s smart, strong, geeky, gutsy, sassy, and lesbian. It’s an important part of her identity, but not all of her, just as sexuality is for all of us, and it’s addressed matter of factly. It’s no secret that Robbie based Charlie on himself, gender aside. He also was read The Hobbit at bedtime, which makes that scene even more poignant. How many of us were emotionally overwhelmed at that scene, our own memories adding to its intensity? (My grandmother read me and my little brother The Wind In The Willows, so yeah, I needed a lot of tissues for that scene. In fact, telling Robbie that made me reach for them all over again. Yes, I’m overly emotional when it comes to this Show. This should be news to exactly no one.)
Robbie and Adam were both in Vancouver to consult on episodes they’d written which were currently filming – as Vancon ended, Episode 9.04 (written by Robbie) was wrapping up filming, and Episode 9.05 (written by Adam) was about to start. When one of the writers is on set, they’re periodically called in to consult about dialogue or a scene that worked well on paper but isn’t working quite so well in reality. How handy is that, to have the writer right there to make impromptu changes?
Robbie gets why it’s so emotionally important to the fans for the boys to (finally) have a home. And what a home it is! The Men of Letters bunker takes up the entire Stage 2. Unlike most of the other sets we’ve seen constructed and then rapidly deconstructed for SPN, this one is much more permanent. Although it doesn’t have a solid ceiling, in order to allow filming from above and from all angles, other than that, the bunker looks and feels real. Heavy wooden doors and hallways leading from room to room, where the cast sits while awaiting their call. Protective sigils carved into floors and ceilings and light fixtures. Stained glass lamps that give it a sense of time past as well as beautiful lighting, bookshelves with some real books mixed in with the ‘fake’ ones. Beakers and test tubes of colorful liquids, microscopes on desks, shelves full of jars and cans and notebooks. Even the ventilation grates are intricate and beautiful. There are some rooms that haven’t been seen on screen yet that have the potential for glimpses of the Winchesters really being “at home”. Robbie said this realism was intentional, that it allowed the actors to really lose themselves in the moment, to feel like they are really “there.”
Robbie: They try to make it look as real as possible to help the actors believe it.
Both Serge and Jerry told us that while it’s weird not to be doing motel room sets as much, everyone loves the MoL set. Pretty sure we can count all of fandom in with everyone!
We asked about Robbie’s interaction with fans, since he and Adam are fairly prolific tweeters. Robbie said the writers are often caught between fans’ conflicting demands, but they are always very grateful for the passion the fans feel, and very upset when they make a mistake. (Yes, they are STILL bothered by the Grand Canyon thing…)
Robbie: Maybe Sam was hallucinating…
Lynn: That’s what I decided.
It amused us that the writers talk about their own “headcanon” as much as fans do.
Some of the conflicting demands that end up on the writers’ twitter doorsteps are about either Sam having more story line or Dean having more story line, often at the same moment in a seemingly mutually exclusive way. The writers genuinely seem to love both characters equally and to care about the relationship between the brothers as much as fans do. But where there’s great passion, there’s likely to be great longing for whatever it is each fan wants to see in canon – and since we all want something different, it’s unlikely everyone will end up happy. We’re sworn to spoiler secrecy, but suffice it to say that at least some things will be explored more deeply for both brothers and for Cas this season.
Robbie: I think canon should be open to interpretation; the story is what the viewers make of it.
We agree. One of the things we love most about fandom is fannish creativity, and the million and one ways that fans make the Show their own. Supernatural is one of those rare shows that gives you characters and a world fascinating enough to make you want to know more, but lets you fill in some of the blanks yourself to craft that world into whatever floats your boat. That said, the very fact that fans are passionate means that we’re often upset about something. Sorry, writers!
Robbie: What else are fans upset about? We know about the Samulet, and I get that.
Lynn: (perhaps bouncing a bit excitedly) Could it be back?
Robbie: Nothing’s outside the realm of possibility, but there has to be a reason for it in the story.
Lynn: (pondering) Pretty sure I could point you to some fanfic that would give you some excellent reasons….
Robbie: (laughing) I bought a Samulet at the con. I call it the Robulet and keep it in the trash can.
Lynn: (wryly) That sounds appropriate.
Robbie used a whiteboard to write all the notes for Episode 9.04, which was not only gigantic, but covered with notes! Writers get notes on their scripts from multiple sources. From the other writers on the team. From editors. Then from the director. Then from the studio. It takes a month, from start to finish, from pitch to teaser to outline to actual screenplay. Pretty impressive. Robbie is currently working on Episode 9.17, and Adam will be writing another script for Season 9 too.
Keep writing, guys, we’re waiting impatiently!!!
In the meantime, you can kick off Season 9 with Fangasm, available now on Amazon.
And if you’d like to read our more academic exploration of SPN and fandom and our analysis of WHY we’re all so passionate, for better or worse, you can buy Fandom at the Crossroads: Celebration, Shame and Fan/Producer Relationships now on Amazon.
We’re headed to DallasCon this Thursday, so check back for photos and news on Jared, Jensen, Misha and more – we’ll live tweet as much as our fingers will allow!