Jensen Ackles – Keeping It Fresh at ChiCon
Jared and Jensen made their fourth visit to Chicago Con on Sunday – we were feeling nostalgic to be back, and Jensen seemed to be feeling it too. He looked around the Q & A room nodding hello to the familiar faces he’s gotten to know over the last four years, then asked if there was anyone there that he didn’t know. Only one new person — from Chicago. Ten minutes away.
Jensen: Oh, long schlep here.
(Fan: Totally worth it…)
Jensen: I like Chicago. Actually my brother was born here. My dad worked at WGN as a technician. They had Josh and then they moved back to Texas right before they had me.
Jensen has the next few days off so he’s heading back to Dallas, where he’ll get the chance to sit in his house with his family and watch the game, something he says he rarely gets to do.
The next question was an interesting one, and gave us a chance to envision the tables turned from what we’re used to at a con – and to ‘see’ Jensen having a bit of a fanboy moment.
Fan: We come here from all over, we buy photo-ops and autographs and fangirl you….and we know that Jared fangirls Pearl Jam….so who do you fan over?
Jensen: (deadpans) Nobody.
Fans: (are laughing)
Jensen then proceeded to contradict his denial with an amusing story, most of it acted out so we could imagine it quite vividly. In all its amusing detail.
Jensen: I had this conversation with my wife Danneel yesterday. We were walking down the street, and there were a couple of those kind of reactions, you know, where someone walks by and they do the double take and then they go “Ohhhhh!!!!!” at me and then I’m like, “What??”
(This was acted out quite convincingly….)
Jensen: But when I do see famous people, like the other day Dustin Hoffmann was right in front of me getting coffee and I was like “oh” and that’s about the biggest reaction I actually have. Danneel actually though, she’s Miss Cool to me. She never gets really excited. But the other day I saw her kind of lose it. I was on a flight from Vancouver back to Los Angeles and Jared was on the flight with me and I recognized the guy who was sitting behind him. It’s funny, Jared and I fly back and forth so much, that we don’t sit with each other anymore. Because he likes the left side of the plane and I like the right side of the plane. It’s weird, you fly that much it’s like “No, I like 3F, that’s my seat,” And he’s like “I like 2A.” But we’ll talk, you know, anyway.
Fans (Imagining the hapless passengers stuck in between them….)
Jensen: So I kinda recognized the guy behind him and I was like “Oh wow” because I’ve been a big fan of his and I kind of geeked out. So as we were walking through the terminal I was like “Hold on Jared, I gotta do something” and I turned around and said “Hey man, I just wanted to say I’m a big fan, I hope you do another cowboy movie sometime soon. It was Luke Perry. “Eight Seconds” is one of my favorite movies. And he stopped, took his bag off his shoulder, and he was like, “It’s so nice to meet you, what’s your name?”
Jensen: (in the same voice we all respond with when he or Jared ask us that question) “Jensen.”
Luke Perry: “I recognize you, you do that Supernatural show. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Congratulations on all your success.”
Jensen: (not sounding anything like a fanboy….ahem….) And I said “You were amazing in 8 Seconds!”
Fans: (silently) I think I said something like that to Misha yesterday….
Jensen: And he said, “I’ll tell you what. If I find a good cowboy script, I might give you a call.” And then Jared went to go get coffee or something cause Gen was going to pick him up and Danneel was waiting for me downstairs – she was just across the street in the parking garage – and I’m walking out and I noticed that Luke walked out right next to me, and I was like “Hey, here we are again.” And we’re walking across the street to the parking lot and Danneel had gotten out [of the car] and as we walked up I could see, like all the blood drain out of her face. I’m saying “This is my wife Danneel” and he’s like nice to meet you and she’s like nice to meet you and he turns away and I looked at her and I just asked, “Are you OK?” And she was like “It’s Dylan!” I don’t think I’ve ever seen her lose her composure like that. And Jared fangirls over Pearl Jam, but it hasn’t happened to me. When it does, I’ll let you know.
Fans: (silently) Okay, sure. Because it didn’t happen at all there with Luke Perry.
We actually love hearing about the fannish moments of the people we fan. One of these days we’re sure someone is going to leave Jensen as flustered as his wife was by Mr. Perry.
Somehow, the Q & A went from fan encounters to firearms. Then again, both topics are SPN related, aren’t they? A fan recently deployed in Afghanistan, who happens to know her way around a weapon, wanted to know how the boys learned to clean and load and lock their weapons so well.
Jensen: Actually we have a friend of ours, he’s special forces, he’s done like seven tours of Iraq, who lives down in Washington state, just across the border. And Clif got in contact with him and we go down there – he has a three acre gun range in his front yard. I actually was there just two weeks ago. We were shooting all kinds of 1911’s, Glocks, fully automatic, really intense, teaching us how to clean our weapons and load, We’re definitely not nearly as pro as I’d like to be, but for what we do, for the movie magic it is, I can take apart my double barrel side by side shotgun and Sam’s Beretta. I can take them all apart without looking at them, while saying my lines. That was the biggest challenge. In fact, I’ll show you a little something here. This is a little video that Clif took of me, just a couple weeks ago. I was trying to do a stance…
Jensen proceeds to jump up and pull out his iPhone and motions us all to gather around so we can watch the videos.
Fans: (silently of course) Jensen shooting guns and looking nearly as badass as Dean? Twist my arm.
Jensen: We get to play around. I like to go down there whenever I can.
Fan: But when would Dean ever have to shoot something like that?
Jensen: (smirking) He wouldn’t.
Switching gears entirely and rather precipitously once again, a fan wanted to show Jensen a photo of a friend’s new baby, who happened to be named Jensen.
Jensen: You know what’s funny? I popped out with a full head of hair, just like that. I actually popped out with a full ‘fro. My dad was like “hummmmmm??” Then after six months I went like platinum blonde and I was blonde blonde until I was about twelve.
Fan: You are a fantastic director from what we can see.
Jensen: I’m still learning.
Fan (continues): My favorite line from the episode you directed was the one about the wildebeest.
Jensen: (laughing) And the guy who’s talking, doing the voice over? That’s the real Bob Singer talking.
Seriously, those are the little touches that make the Show so special. And we love to know about them!
A fan asked who makes decisions about things like music, since she was happy to hear the GooGoo Dolls in that episode. Jensen explained that’s post production. He (as director) gives suggestions, and the editor will give him some options
Jensen: On the first cut they had an old Belle and Sebastian song and then I guess they couldn’t get clearance so they had to go down the line and eventually they got to the Goo Goo Dolls’ song.
Apparently the GooGoo Dolls weren’t quite as high on production’s list as they were on that fan’s.
Fan: Will you try anything different the next time you direct?
Jensen: You know, I really enjoy the action sequences. In “Weekend at Bobby’s” the wood chipper scene, which is basically a fight scene — I got a real rush out of directing the fight scene. I’ve always been attracted to, as an actor, when we get fight scenes. It’s almost like choreographing a dance. It’s like three left, three right, block, parry, shove. So it’s really this unique choreography that I like to do. I didn’t really get a good fight scene in “The Girl Next Door.” I had the kids, I had young Sam, had a little tussle with the boys outside the library. But those kids were not trained to fight, they had no experience with stage fighting or anything like that. So I just kind of had to hide the fact that they really didn’t know how to throw a punch. I’m not sure I knew how to throw a punch at that age either. But I hope that next time I get a bigger action sequence to direct. A car chase would be fun. Those kind of things would be exciting to direct because there’s so much going on, whereas just a scene with two people talking – you have to get really creative because you don’t want the audience to fall asleep while they’re listening. So I’d like to do more of that kind of stuff.
Fan: What’s your favorite season of Supernatural?
Jensen: I know my least favorite – last season. And that would be personal issues with workload and storyline and the character. In the beginning of last season I guess I felt a little lost. Sam was soulless, so I didn’t have my partner in crime. But my character wasn’t actually progressing, it was just all about the progression of Sam, so selfishly I was like, come on, I understand it’s Sam’s storyline, but it was Dean-centric, so that was kind of throwing me off. We got through it and Jared did a great job, but I was glad to be done with that storyline. As far as my favorite, I still love Season One, just because of the formula – it was simple, it was tight, we were still getting to know each other, the characters were starting to develop and I liked the fun nuances between the brothers. And I liked that simple formula – the monster of the week episodes. I understand that the show needs the mythology and I applaud Kripke for how he did that but I do like the monster of the week episodes.
Fan: What do you think about Dean’s story arc in Season Seven?
Jensen: It’s been a bit of a relaxed season so far, as far as my character goes. There’s a lot happening around us, and with Castiel gone, what it’s done is force the brothers to get back together and rely on each other. It feels a bit like going back to Season One. The two brothers against the world, and I do like that.
Fan: In the last episode, I was literally screaming at the screen “Just tell him!”
Other fans: (nodding vehemently)
Jensen: (laughing ) Yeah, it will happen soon.
The next question was rather creative.
Fan: You seem horrified by the idea of doing Supernatural the Musical. Were you traumatized as a child by a musical?
Turns out Ackles doesn’t have a dark history of being victimized by musical theater. Quite the contrary in fact.
Jensen: Actually, I did a musical in high school. I’d never sung before anybody in my life, and the drama teacher said, I really want you to try out. Somehow she convinced me to do it my senior year. I was like, “It’s my senior year in high school, what do I have to lose, why not?” And she ended up giving me the lead in West Side Story. I played Tony.
Fans: Not exactly a small part!
Jensen: For someone who’s never sung before in front of people – yeah!
Apparently Ackles has always enjoyed a challenge.
Jensen: So baseball season had ended, we didn’t get picked to go to the playoffs, so I asked my coach and the coach was like “You’ve given me three years of your life, go do it. (Cause that’s all I did through high school was play baseball. ) Go get as much out of your high school experience as you can, I’ll support you.” And I was like, okay. And of course, the girl that got Maria was like this all state choir phenom but had never done any acting, and I’d had a drama class – just like an elective, cause you know you have to take an art class. And I can’t draw, but I thought, I can act like an idiot, so I’ll do that. So she helped me with singing and I helped her with the acting part and we made it happen. It wasn’t traumatizing, but I think the whole Supernatural Musical thing – I’ve always played Dean as someone who can’t sing very well. If somebody could figure out a way to do Supernatural as a musical and keep it true to the characters, I’m sure that there could be a hard look at it.
Hey, Ben Edlund did the puppets episode of Angel, right? Why not the musical version of Supernatural??
Fan: Is there ever a time when you read a script and you say to your character, “Dean! What are you thinking?”
Jensen: All the time. Seriously. Usually just certain lines, because we get new writers. I know that every year they have to take at least one outside submission, so basically someone who has never written for the show. They understand the show because their script got picked, and it’s a good script, but it’s just that sometimes the dialog isn’t really true to character. So I’ll either sit down and rewrite the lines to tailor it to Dean or just call Sera or Bob and say “Hey, this particular scene doesn’t sound like Dean at all. That’s happened maybe twice this year. There’s a scene between Jared and I, Sam and Dean, in fact I think it’s the next episode, it’s the end scene. We have like a falling out, an argument. And I kid you not, the scene was like straight out of a romantic comedy. It was like a break-up between a woman and a man. Right out of a romantic comedy.
Fans (silently) Wait, is this canon or fanfiction??
Jensen: And Jared and I were in the make-up trailer that morning and I hadn’t really read the scene before then, and I was like “Dude, we gotta change this!” So he and I sat there in the make-up trailer and rewrote the scene to make it closer to our characters. And we didn’t even tell the producer. And then it happened again two episodes later, there was another scene and we were like, “What is happening??” And that time we finally called Sera and said we’re changing the scene. But it all says the same stuff, it’s just the way of saying it. I think one of Jared’s lines was when I go to move toward Sam and he goes “Don’t! Just don’t! I can’t even look at you right now!”
Fans: (are hysterical)
Jensen: And we were like “No way! I’m not saying that!” So we made it a little bit more manly. So yes, there are times when we look at the script and change lines. The writers trust us enough to know, I mean, we love these characters. We want to protect them, we would never do anything to make them look worse.
The Q & A wrapped with a question about how you keep a television show that’s been on the air for seven seasons fresh and exciting.
Fan: After seven seasons, how can you keep things fresh for your characters and not just phone it in?
Jensen: Sometimes I do feel like that. Sometimes if I’m tired, or I’m grumpy or I’m sick. I can’t tell you how many days I’ve had to work while being sick. I’ve had over a 100 degree temperature and still worked a thirteen hour day, but like you also said, we’ve been doing it for so long, that the immediate connection that we have with those characters is there. The director says “Action” and I feel like I know this character so well I just go right into being Dean.
Fan: Do you and Jared prompt each other?
Jensen: Absolutely! Absolutely. He’ll come over and say “Hey, you’re missing that line.” We’re constantly watching each others’ backs. If I feel like he has a better take I’ll be like “Do another one, go again.” So quality control [goes on between the two of us]. Some days it’s tough — but we hope that you don’t see that.
You know what? Most of the time we don’t. Thanks for the hard work that makes it look easy, boys.
That’s all for now, folks. Check back for our chats from Chi Con with Chad Lindberg and Misha Collins soon!