Jensen Ackles Talks Dean, Directing and More in NashVegas
Jensen Ackles’ Q & A with twenty happy fangirls took place this afternoon at Creation’s Supernatural convention in Nashville. Jensen joined us in a small meeting room and climbed up on the extra tall chair at the front of the room, wondering aloud why they always had him seated on such a high chair. He suspected that perhaps it had something to do with Jared. Logical assumption, but fans knew better. The better to see you with, one fan said with a smile.
The theme continued with the first (somewhat unexpected) question: Who dressed you?
No way it was a criticism, because Ackles looked good. Really good. (yes, we’re Anchorman fans). We’re also pretty sure he can dress himself and still look that good, but in this case he confessed that he came home one day and found a few new outfits – jeans, shirts, sweaters — laid out on the bed courtesy of Mrs. Ackles. The conversation went something like this:
Danneel: There you go, I’m sick of looking at this stuff.
Jensen: What’s wrong w my tee shirts??
Fans (and Jensen) agreed that Danneel’s sense of style was an asset, however. Fans were appreciative.
Jensen: And we always have someone kinda looking out for us on set, so it makes it easy. And then Jared just wears plaid. Gen does the same thing for him as well but I think that when she’s not around he’s like, back to basics!
Luckily Padalecki makes plaid look pretty damn good too.
We asked the next question, which wasn’t quite as playful as the first. We’d had a lovely chat with actress Kim Rhodes (Sheriff Jody Mills) the day before, and she’d told us a story about why it was such a pleasure to be directed by Jensen – someone who understands acting and actors. So we were eager to hear the director’s side of that picture.
Us: Kim said that instead of coming over to her and saying “what are you doing, that’s not working”, you respectfully asked ‘what are you trying to accomplish there?’ and she pretty much said, I have no idea, and you said “okay, well let’s put our heads together then and figure out how to do it”. Did you have any experiences with directors that taught you to do it that way for another actor?
Ackles: Not one in particular, but I’ve probably learned lessons over the years from various directors that I liked the way he noted that actor, or something. It’s different with a lot of the directors we have come on, who’ve directed our show in the past, and we’ve built up a rapport over the years, so like Bob Singer doesn’t even need to speak to me anymore. He’ll just make eye contact, and he’ll be like –(gestures)— stretch it, or —(more gestures)— pick up the pace. Or he’ll walk up set and be like, “Jensen?” And he’ll do one of these — (jumps up and acts it all out, complete with complicated nonverbal Bob Singer gestures which had fans laughing out loud)—and I’ll know exactly what he means, try something different. And I love that I have a relationship with somebody like that and it’s great because he’ll come right back after the take and say, “I think it, you do it — love it!”
And I guess to come back to Kim, I know how I would like to be talked to, as an actor, and I think that’s probably why actors can make a transition into directing, because they know how to talk to actors. A lot of times, I’ve talked to the guys who direct our show like Don Showalter, who comes from an editing background, and so he had to learn how to talk to actors. And by talk to actors I don’t mean we’re all kinda hard to talk to, it’s just saying the right things to get them to do what you want them to do. Without telling them, or line reading sometimes. Some people will get a little shifty about it if a director comes up and goes ‘say it like this.’
Us: And Kim said you didn’t do that.
Jensen: Sometimes I don’t really mind, I’ll be like I don’t care, tell me how you want me to say it, and I’ll say it. But a lot of times, it’s better for the actor to get there for themselves. So you kinda coach them so they get there by themselves. And I guess because I’ve spent fifteen years of my life in front of the camera, there are certain techniques that I use to get there myself and I guess I just use that same technique as a director.
Us: Apparently you did, and she appreciated it
Ackles: That’s a very high compliment from her, I appreciate that, thank you.
Would he ever think about writing an episode?
Jensen: I’ve made feeble attempts in the past, friends of mine who are writers have said hey, let’s get together and do this, and I last for about two minutes. I have a hard time with conceptualizing things, coming up with concepts. I can take ideas and tweak them, I feel like I’m good at doctoring dialogue but a far as conceptualizing from the genesis I’m always at a loss. So no, not really.
It was apparently impossible for the room full of fans to be distracted from the visual for too long, however. The next question got right back to basics, so to speak.
Fan: In “Time After Time”, you were just so hot. Gorgeous in that long coat and hat.
Other fans: (are laughing)
Jensen: (is blushing)
Jensen (still blushing): It’s the hat
Fans: (look skeptical): Riiiiiight. It’s the hat.
In what seems to be typical Ackles fashion, Jensen deflected the discussion by giving props to the wardrobe and art department for their attention to detail, noting that it’s difficult to make a period piece look authentic.
Ackles: The difficulties in shooting a period piece like that are in getting it as authentic as you can. You’ve gotta get all the cars, all the old timey props, the wardrobe, all the details. And I thought that Diane (Widas) our costume designer just knocked it out of the park. Our set designer, Jerry Wanek, did an amazing job. And Phil (Sgriccia) did a great job directing, they put a little treatment on the film to give it that old not quite sepia look. I had a really fun time doing that. And going back to what you were saying about the look, I remember I walked on set in the outfit for the first time and I had crew guys who were all dressed in like North Face Gore Tex, and it’s cold and raining and they’ve got their hats and their gloves, and I had a couple of these guys, these grips who like have no emotion, and they were like man, why did we stop dressing like that?
Fans (nodding in agreement)
Ackles: And it’s true, everybody looked so sharp and back then, even if you were going to the grocery store, you were in a shirt and tie. Men dressed really really nice back then. I think my grandmother really enjoyed seeing me dressed like her husband did. She was like, oh, you looked so amazing, just like your granddad.
The next question was about portraying Dean, something Ackles has had seven seasons to think about.
Fan: How do you make certain decisions for Dean, like the scene where Cas dies and you took the trenchcoat out of the lake and folded it, that wasn’t scripted?
Jensen: It was not. A lot of those are just character instinctual things I’ve been playing Dean so long I feel like I have a pretty good handle on how he would react to a situation – his relationship with Cas was very deep, there was a deep friendship there, and I discussed it with Guy Bee, and said if he ever comes back, he’s gonna need the trench coat. And there was just something like, almost a closure, I was just folding it up, like a flag. So I pulled the coat out, and Guy was like “Do that again.” I wanted to take care of it, it belonged to somebody who meant a lot to Dean. So it was a happy accident. A lot is written, it’s a very well written show, but it’s nice when they happen.
A fan asked if he’d seen the final version of the last episode.
Ackles: I watched the air of “The Slice Girls”.
Fan: Did you know when you were filming the scene with Lydia that they were going to intercut it with the scene of the murder?
Ackles: Yeah it was written like that
Fan: Do you think Dean would have actually shot her?
The fans in the room had divergent opinions, but Ackles, after all, knows Dean best.
Ackles: I’ve gotta be honest, I think he probably would have. I think if push comes to shove, he was still processing it in his mind but I think he would have done it. We wanted to play that ambiguity, it was important for Dean to have a real struggle with it. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue there to make the struggle, but he had to struggle, and the struggle had to come off the screen. I’m glad that was a question in your mind.
Apparently the drunk off Turducken scene in an earlier episode had some improvising in it too.
Fan: When you sat on the counter and did that crazy thing with your head when you were saying ‘I don’t care’, did they write that?
Jensen: No, it just happened. I did a few variations, and that was just the take they took. That sandwich killed me. It was on a hard toasted ciabatta bread and because I make Dean look as silly as I possibly can most of the time, I was trying to get as much of it in my mouth as I could so it would be funnier when I tried to speak, but the hard bread started actually cutting my mouth. After five takes, Jared stopped and was like, dude, you’re bleeding! It looked like someone punched me in the face.
Fans: (with sympathy) Owww
Ackles (with stoic bravery): It’s what we do
Ackles’ wounds didn’t prevent him from eating a Turducken for lunch that day, by the way
Jensen: They were specially made for me and they were really good!
The fandom is spending a lot of time speculating about and hoping for a Season 8. Have Jensen and Jared been spending much time talking about where the show’s headed? Has anything taken them by surprise?
Jensen: Leviathans took me most by surprise – how much bigger can we get?!
And the speculating?
Jensen: We never really did in the past, just went with the flow. But recently we’ve started going, how’s this gonna work, if we go another season, or more, and if so, what’s the end game? On the flight over here, he and I were hatching out some of these. I actually have an idea for the ending, and I might for the first time in seven years actually pitch something to the writers. Of course, they’ll probably be like oh yeah Jensen, that’s a great idea (rolling his eyes)
Fans: So is it a happy ending? (all fingers in the room crossed….)
Ackles: It’s not a hold hands riding off into the sunset, it’s what I think is the only way it can end.
Fans: *biting lips*
A fan asked if Jensen could get lost in films, or if he watched them too critically because of his profession.
Ackles: If it’s a well done film, I absolutely get lost in it. There can be shots I remember from films, and I might be like ooh, I’d like to try that shot. But I try to get lost as an audience member and for the most part I can. Unless it’s too stylized or an actor is giving a performance that’s not believable.
Sounds like he watches pretty much like the rest of us!
And then the conversation turned back to Dean, who we’re all worried about.
Fan: Dean’s got such low self esteem, when will he realize his life is worth something?
Jensen: I think there is worth and value in his heart, and he has a will to survive — to take a lyric from a famous song — he’s such a beaten up and scarred hero, he’s a battered warrior, but he’s gonna keep going because that’s where he finds his validity.
Would Dean call a redo on anything he’s done? Any of the deals he’s made?
Ackles: No. He would’ve made all the deals. He wouldn’t have tried to live a life of normalcy with Ben and Lisa though. I think he’d wish to take that back, in hindsight knowing he was never really out of the game and that attempt was never really going to go through.
Will we ever see an Evil Dean?
Jensen: Right now Sam’s kinda cornered the market. We had soulless Sam and now the wall’s cracked and he’s not sleeping and he’s having visions of Lucifer, and as long as that continues, Dean’s gotta be a pillar of strength. He feels like he always has to be there for his brother.
Fans: Yep. That’s the Dean we know and love.
Jensen: So something supernatural would have to happen to go down that road, of evil Dean.
Fans: Umm, well the show is called…
Some fans wanted to know why we didn’t see more anger from Sam and Dean after Bobby’s death, to which Jensen pointed out that they can’t show everything in 42 minutes! The anger was there, but the show picked up with the boys dealing with the emptiness that comes after. Fans went through some of the same emotions, already missing Bobby acutely and lamenting that the boys salted and burned his bones. Of course, as Jensen cryptically pointed out, you can’t count anything out on this show J
He also said they leave some things intentionally open, in case they might ever want to use them. Dean’s amulet, his alcohol use….stay tuned, fandom.
Fan: Is it tough to switch back and forth from your character to yourself?
Jensen: It’s pretty easy when you’ve been doing 140 some episodes. The more that muscle gets worked to switch it on and off. There are obviously a lot of similarities, mannerisms, the way we talk, that will probably get used in every character I do from now on. And Jared does the same thing. He’s not actually a crazy insomniac! If you’ve ever seen us behind the scenes you’ve seen how quickly we go from being serious to being idiots.
Frankly, that’s one of the things we love about them.
Next up once we roadtrip back home, our take on Jared Padalecki’s Q & A, and chats with Brian Buckley, Gabe Tigerman and Misha Collins. Stay tuned!