As promised, another report from the Salute to Supernatural con in LA this past weekend – this one from the kinda-sorta-private Q & A with Jensen Ackles, who joined the small room full of fans and sank into his chair with a grateful sigh.
Fan: Feels good to sit down?
Jensen: It does, yes – photos with Jared can be exhausting!
Actually he’s being pretty accurate, from what we saw of the ‘J2 sandwich’ photo ops. The boys were both in a playful mood, which resulted in at least a thousand hugs, several rounds of Harry Potter wand-waving, a slew of hysterical poses and a lot of very happy fans. And a tired Jensen.
One of our fellow aca-fans pointed out that the room looked disturbingly like a thesis defense, which gave Lynn flashbacks of dissertation committee interrogations. Luckily Jensen was reminded of something far more pleasant.
Jensen: Or we could have James Lipton (from Inside the Actors Studio) next to me. You know you’ve made it when you’re there, right?
We have no doubt he’ll be in that chair one day, but for now, the fans were the ones asking questions.
Fan: A lot of the actors who guest on the show say very complimentary things about you and Jared, that
you’re a very thoughtful and giving actor. I was wondering what you thought about why.
Jensen: (laughing) Why do people compliment me? I think because we pay them!
He went on to answer more seriously, putting at least half of the credit right back on the other actor. If he’s getting a good performance from the other actor, it helps him give a good performance back. He and Jared, because they’re on set every day, can give and give back pretty easily. They don’t have to break down very scene like they would if Supernatural was a new project. Because they’ve done 130 episodes, they know the characters, know how they’d react in a given situation, know their relationships with other people, so they’re able to use the tools they’ve refined and utilize them pretty well.
At this point, the Q & A was suddenly interrupted by the unexpected and alarmingly loud chirp of crickets, which cracked Jensen up.
Jensen: We do that on set sometimes – somebody’s telling a story and someone has an iPhone and we’ll just hit the crickets and the person is like, all right, all right, I’ll shut up!
Fans (gasping): No no no, that didn’t mean shut up!!!
Jensen: Okay…..So I think Jared and I can rely more on that spontaneity from the scene. If it’s a long scene we’ll run lines, but as Kim Manners used to say, the important part of the scene is the nuances of the scene, and the nuances we don’t find until we’re on set and the cameras are rolling. And we may get it in the first take or in the 2nd or 3rd take. Usually they start with a wide shot so you’re not getting all the tight stuff – you know, the show is very close, so the wide shots kinda give us an opportunity to get into the scene and find those nuances, so by the time they get into the close ups, we’re in it. And we’ve been fortunate to ave a lot of very good guest cast, and they give us something and we’re able to give back.
Okay, we admit it – we love hearing Jensen geek out about the nuances of filming, especially when he talks with such respect and gratitude about what he and Jared learned from Kim. Most SPN fans are just as geeky about Show as the boys, so hearing about the process of filming is always a treat.
Next a fan asked the ‘Batman’ question, ie why was Dean’s voice more natural in the first season, and later it got more gravelly.
Fan: I wonder if that was intentional, or if you just hung around Jeffrey Dean Morgan or Fredric Lehne too long?
Gotta say, we love that SPN fans can go toe to toe with most of the cast when it comes to snarky sense of humor.
Jensen: Well, (a) I got older. I was 26 and now I’m gonna be 33, so I think my voice has just gotten deeper. And I also think it became a characteristic of the character – I made two character choices. One, his father had a gruff voice, and two, it kinda makes him a little older than Sam. Season one I was still trying to find he character, and I was still using a lot of Jensen to play Dean. I would say around mid season two or season three, there was this sense of okay, Dean is now this complete character that I play, and I separated the two entities completely. And it’s crazy because a lot of tv shows, they’re on like a season or even a half a season and they get cancelled, and they never even got to explore and find their character, or find the relationships between the characters, and that’s unfortunate.
The fans obviously agree – it’s the richness of the characters and their relationships that got us all hooked on the show, after all.
Having just watched Jensen’s antics playing with the sword in the stone in a recent episode, the next question was about his comedic acting. Where does that come from?
Jensen: Comedy? My father. My dad is a big ham and growing up there was a lot of Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Pink Panther and Monty Python, so there was a lot of that physical comedy slapstick, and it always made him laugh. And I figured if I could make my dad laugh, that’s gonna make me happy. Now there’s nother figure that’s come into my life since Supernatural that I want to make laugh as well, and that’s Bob Singer. I know if I can make that grumpy old guy laugh, I know I’m doing something funny. He’ll be like, ‘you got me there.’ So my dad and Bob, if I can make those two guys laugh, then I’m content.
Fans: Us too! (And now we’re picturing Jensen at the Ministry of Silly Walks, or clamoring for more Spam, or fighting off a killer rabbit…..we might share his affinity for Monty Python just a wee bit).
Jensen: Comedic timing, it’s almost something that, I don’t know if you can really learn it – or teach it – it feels to me like it’s just something that you can do, like either you can sing or you can’t sing. You can work on what you have but if somebody’s tone deaf, you’re not gonna be able to sing. And some people just have comedic timing and some people don’t. I think I’ve got a little bit, so I try to utilize it as much as possible.
Fans: A little bit? Have you SEEN the show??
Next fan question: You’ve been on YouTube a lot…
Jensen: That’s your fault!
Fans: *look shifty*
Fan (undeterred): These professional interviewers are so mean to you, so unprofessional. Do they at least run the questions by you ahead of time? I always feel so sorry for you….
Jensen: (looking vaguely horrified) What interviews have you been watching??
Turns out one of the clips was from Jensen’s appearance on Chelsea Lately. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a YouTube search, and actually is one of our favorites.
Lynn: That’s just Chelsea.
Jensen: Yeah, that is – you kinda know what you’re getting into, and I’ve watched enough of her show to understand her bit. I think I got out pretty unscathed, I mean I’ve seen some people get absolutely reamed. It’s like those restaurants you go to sometimes and the waiters treat you bad on purpose. I knew there was gonna be some give and take, some sarcasm and sharp wit, so I was prepared.
Sarcasm and sharp wit indeed – we’d say Jensen more than held his own with Ms. Handler. And then some.
Jensen: A lot of those interviews came when the show was just getting going, and because it was a show that was highly publicized its first season, because it was on the WB, and then hasn’t really been publicized ever since (by the CW)…
Fans: No, really? We hadn’t noticed! *drips sarcasm*
Jensen: So it kinda flies under the radar for journalists and the entertainment industry. We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve carved out an awesome fanbase who keep us alive – so thank you guys.
Fans: *are beaming*
Jensen: But as far as journalists, you never see Jared or me on the cover of any of those rag magazines,
they never talk about us on TMZ, so a lot of times we get a journalist, they don’t know the show, they’re just asking random questions. Sometimes that can lead to an odd situation maybe, but you’ve gotta be prepared for everything. Even when I did the Jimmy Kimmel Show he threw some curveballs at me.
Fans: And what she threw at you (meaning the other guest that night).
Jensen: And what she threw at me, yaa! Do you curl your eyelashes? Really?
Fans (silently): Well, they are sorta amazingly long and kinda…..uhh, never mind. Go on.
Jensen: So yeah, you just gotta be on your toes.
The next question was one most of fandom has been pondering, along with various other fantasies and flights of imagination that probably belong on LJ instead of in this blog.
Fan: Western episode. Chaps or jeans?
Jensen: Uh, neither.
Fans (silently, but barely): OMG, you mean??? Oh wait, that was fantasy, wasn’t it? Our bad.
Jensen (courteously ignoring the sudden detour taken by fans’ imaginations): We’re actually going throwback realistic late 18th century, so I’ve got like the wool cowboy pants on that sit way up with a high waist, and suspenders, and a duster.
Fans (still a little bit caught up in previously noted fantasies…): Oooooh, dusters are always hot.
Jensen: Diane, our costume designer, ordered an Australian oilskin, and there are only a couple of companies that make this kind of material. But she didn’t want to do an Australian duster, she wanted to do an old cowboy duster. So they agreed to send her the material and she designed my coat and they actually built the coat. So that’s a one of a kind coat…..a one of a kind coat that will be coming home with me.
Fans (still caught up…..oh, never mind. Snap out of it, people!)
The next question took a u-turn from the sexy to the sweet, thereby allowing everyone to calm down.
Fan: If you were raised in a religious household, and then you get this script and it’s like God is dead, angels are dicks, do you think ohgod, I’m gonna get struck by lightning?
Jensen: My grandma has a white courtesy phone directly to the big guy, so I feel completely covered.
He did say that he sometimes has to remind his grandma that it’s just make believe, that Jensen is not really Dean, and he’s saying the words that writers write and playing a character. We sympathize with her though – who wouldn’t want Dean Winchester to walk off the page and into real life??
Preferably in that duster we talked about. Or did someone mention chaps?
Another fan asked an interesting question about the progression of the show and its audience.
Fan: I feel like the series was geared toward men in the beginning. How do you feel now about having mostly women watching?
Jensen: Well we even have a woman running the show now. And I do know that they listen to the fans, and that plays a role in whether or not they keep a certain character on and whether or not they go in a certain direction in the storyline. So I think they gear it toward our fan base period, and it just happens that the majority of our fan base is women. But the other day, I had a fifty year old guy come up to me and he just stopped with his family and was like hey, I really enjoy your show. One of my favorite times was at the airport in Boise after Jared’s wedding, and I went through security and this guy, like a grampa, was checking IDs. He looked at the ID, looked at me, looked back at it, and then he was like, ‘enjoy the show.’ It caught me so off guard. Just when I think I’ve tagged what the fanbase is!
The next question was ours, and as usual, Jensen didn’t disappoint with his thoughtful answer. In the earlier Q & A sessions that day, more than once Jared and Jensen were asked what their disturbing/crazy fan encounter was. We’ve spent the last several years writing books about fan psychology and attempting to dispute that lingering sense of internalized shame that fans seem mired in, so those questions always make us grit our teeth. How come nobody is asking about their best, most heartwarming, most inspiring fan ncounters??
Lynn: You speak so genuinely and respectfully about the fans, which I think fans really appreciate, and which isn’t really the usual media representation of fans — that’s a lot more negative. Was there a point where you were sort of surprised, that you had expected something scarier or more negative, and then you met fandom and that changed?
Jensen: Yeah, in fact I would even say that in the beginning I was much more hesitant. I don’t know if guarded is the right word, but there was definitely more of a hesitation than the embracing of fans. But what I’ve learned is that the hesitation came from just the few bad apples who give fans that kind of negative vibe. And it took things like this, meeting the fans and being part of the show, having the response from people who really enjoy the show and are entertained by it and by my work, the more I realize that is a necessary connection and I think really important. And when you think about it, that’s really very flattering. When it comes down to it, you guys keep us employed. If we didn’t have people watching, we wouldn’t be on the air. So you know, this is an undeniable appreciation from me. And I think on a personal level – I mean, my mom is a fan of tv shows, and I think my mom is an angel on earth, so I have no reason to believe that people like that aren’t right here in this room too.
Lynn (trying not to sound a wee bit choked up): Your appreciation really comes through, and I think it’s appreciated right back.
Jensen: Well, I hope it’s a mutual feeling, and from my end I want you to know it is.
Fans: (are beaming again)
Jensen was also asked about his most embarrassing moment on set.
Jensen: I haven’t had any horrible wardrobe malfunctions….I don’t know! All I can think about are Jared’s….
He was also asked what he sees as Dean’s personal arc this season.
Jensen: This was for me a kinda highly anticipated season, a changing of the guard, and I didn’t know what to expect. And in the first ten episodes, it was predominantly Dean. It was Dean trying to get Sam back to Sam, and dealing with getting back into hunting and leaving this family he spent a year trying to be part of. So it was very Dean heavy and I was getting exhausted. I called Sera and Bob and said look guys, I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t tell you right now that I’m starting to redline. And Bob said something I’ll never forget – he said listen Jensen, we don’t want that to happen, we want to protect you as much as we can, but this isn’t like turning around a rowboat, this is like turning around a cruise ship. So the last five or six episodes, there will be more of Heaven, and Castiel and Balthazar and Crowley, so it’s gonna get that apocalyptic storyline and Dean will just be Dean – you know, runnin’ and gunnin’. Which is good, because I need a break. I don’t know, but I’m hoping for a really solid storyline for season 7. I think this was a bit of an experimental season, and I really liked it, but it was a heavy workload even though they were really good episodes.
Fan: Is there anyone you’ve worked with before that you’ve tried really hard to get on SPN?
Jensen (laughing): Well I’ve been trying to get Jeffrey Dean Morgan back for a long time and its funny, he would too, but he’s constantly working. We actually had dinner last weekend and he was like man, I wanna come back but I’m doing this movie and I’ve got another one lined up and I’ve got this new show in Miami next fall…he’s a busy guy. I really wish we could have gotten Patrick Lussier the director from My Bloody Valentine to do one but he’s doing massive projects now. You always want to surround yourself with talented people and I think we’ve been very fortunate, not only with directors but with cast. Sometimes we get a director or guest cast that doesn’t seem to get our show – not to say that they’re bad, just some people get it and some people don’t.
The fans in the room – who most definitely get it – nodded their agreement.
Fan: How do Icarus and Oscar (Jensen and Danneel’s dogs, old and new) get along?
Jensen: Well, golden retrievers can be a little mouthy, so Oscar constantly has Icarus’ neck in his mouth, but he’s just playing. It’s good for Icarus because he’s got a playmate, but after a while he gets sick of it and lets Oscar know. He runs the show – you know, his two buddies have been Harley and Sadie for six years now, so he can handle himself just fine.
We had the pleasure of meeting Icarus, Harley and Sadie a while ago, and somehow we have no trouble
At that point, while fans were busy oohing and awwwing about the adorable dog stories, it was announced that the next question would unfortunately be the last.
Fan: is there anything you’d like to experience, or would change, if you could time travel?
Jensen (gleeful): Time travel, that would be awesome! But I don’t know that I would go back and change
anything in my own life. There are things in history I’d change – I’d love to evacuate the World Trade Center before 9 am on that Tuesday morning, but I don’t think for me, my mistakes and my triumphs have led me here, and I’m pretty happy with what I have. But time travel would be cool, and I definitely would go back to the old West. Although we did it kinda raw and gritty (on the show), not like fancy, but women with yellow teeth and it was dirty and gross. One of Dean’s lines is “This isn’t awesome at all!”
The Q & A, on the other hand, kinda was.
Look for our next article – a candid interview with Matt Cohen, young John Winchester, coming up soon!