Jensen Ackles in Burbank – Why Dean Winchester Needs a Vacation!
Just as many of us want to share the awesomeness (yes, that’s a word…) of Supernatural with friends, we wish we could take all of them along on our con weekends so they could experience the fun, frivolity and sense of family – it’s hard to describe otherwise. The celebrity guests feel pretty much the same, so many of them took advantage of the “local” LA location of the Burbank SPN con to invite friends and family. Richard Speight Jr. brought old friends, fellow actors and his proud father-in-law. Guy Bee brought Samuel Colt – or at least the talented actor who played him on Supernatural. And Jensen Ackles brought his friend Chris to the semi-private Q & A.
Jensen (taking his customary seat at the front of the room): My friend Chris will be auditing the class today.
Fans (silently as usual): As long as he doesn’t block our view of the prof.
Chris: (wisely takes a seat to the side)
Jensen joked about the need for a tram to get from one end of the hotel complex to the other, which he and the rest of us were using as our weekend exercise program. Phew! Then we settled in to ask some questions.
Fan: Out of all the seasons of Supernatural, has there been anything that’s shocked you?
Jensen (with zero hesitation): Bobby getting shot.
Fans (with zero hesitation): OMG us too!
Jensen: I was feverishly waiting for the next script, after the episode where he was shot in the head. I kept asking for the next script, asking ‘what happens??’ And they didn’t even email those scripts to us like they usually do. They hand delivered them to the producers and the actors, so I knew it was something big. They let Jim know, and Jim actually told us.
While he was shocked, and both he and Jared are clearly missing Jim’s presence on the set and Bobby’s in the Show, Jensen also recognized what a superb episode ‘Death’s Door’ was.
Jensen: Like Kim Manners would say, ‘give them what they want – in a way they don’t expect.’
Expected or not, it seems like Bobby’s death has impacted cast and fans alike. But of course this is Supernatural, so who knows what the future will bring….
The next question was about Crowley, one of our favorite characters. Mark Sheppard had cheekily noted that we couldn’t really be sure that Crowley was a demon, since we’ve never seen his eyes go black. Hmmm. A fan wanted to know what Jensen thought of that theory.
Jensen: (throwing up his hands in mock exasperation) Now why did he have to mess with things like that??! But then, demons’ eyes only go black when they show anger, and Crowley really doesn’t have to, so….
Fans (are pondering…)
Jensen: Then again, that would be a cool twist.
A fan then asked Jensen how often he made some changes to a script to “Deanify” the dialogue (which frankly we think is an awesome verb.)
Jensen: If it’s a line or action sometimes, if it’s a story point, rarely. We generally stay true to the story line. But I’ll doctor the dialogue to fit the character more sometimes. Especially when we bring on some new writers – and I think it’s a WGA (Writers Guild of America) rule – isn’t it Chris?
Chris: I don’t know.
Jensen: But you’re a writer!
Chris: (smiles winningly)
Fans: You’re fitting right in, Chris.
Jensen: Anyway, we have outside writers and then they’ll take the script and make it Supernatural, but at times I’ve doctored it to make it more Dean. In the scene where Sam finds out that Dean killed Amy Pond, it was straight out of a rom com, like ‘I need space’, so when Jared and I were in the make up trailer that morning to run our lines, I was like ‘so Jared, rewrite this scene, right?’ and Jared was like ‘yup, let’s do it.’ So they sounded like two guys arguing. And we called Sera (Gamble) after and said we changed this, and she was like, ‘okay’. I’m protective of the character and the show.
Fans: (can totally relate)
A fan then asked if there were some things that he wouldn’t do in real life, that he was called upon to do as an actor, and how uncomfortable that was (for example, hitting a female character)
Jensen: A lot of things I will allow myself to do as an actor, as a character that’s separate from me. It’s like my grandmother says sometimes – she’s very religious, and she’s smart and strong and powerful, and she doesn’t like that Dean cusses and drinks and womanizes, but she says “I know it’s up here (points to his head) and not in here (points to his heart)”. I’m telling a story.
And speaking of that story and where it’s going in Season 7, a fan characterized it as a sort of ‘throwback’ season, much like Season 1. She also expressed her worry about Dean and whether he’s headed for an emotional breakdown.
Jensen: It is sort of a throwback season, and I really like that. I think over time the show was skewed a bit from its original format. But Dean now is teetering, so much has happened, he’s not sure his brother is whole, and it was a big blow to him that not only could he not have normal, but it blew up horribly on him. It’s like a long dark tunnel with no light, and he should be headed for a breakdown. Dean’s a hardass though.
Fans: (nodding in agreement). So if Jensen were to give Dean some advice, what would it be?
Jensen: Take a vacation! Go to Hawaii. And oh yes, we should film that episode!
We’re always struck by Jensen’s empathy for the character he plays, who he seems to know so well after seven seasons. Does he have the same musical tastes as Dean?
Jensen: Oddly enough, Dean and I have pretty similar tastes, it’s been classic rock for me since high school, Metallica – add a little blues and country, and you have Jensen! Right, Chris?
Chris (nods, still smiling)
We’re not sure what Chris thought of the whole Q & A thing, but he apparently quite enjoyed it. As did we.
Jensen: I knew when I went in to read for this Show, “I can play this guy.”
He first read for Sam, and after the reading, he asked David Nutter if he could “read for the other guy”? They weren’t casting Dean yet, but apparently the reading that Jensen had done for Sam netted him the role of Dean instead.
A fan then asked Jensen if he was ever surprised by how well a piece of his acting turned out?
Jensen: (dramatically) ALL THE TIME!
So, the fan wondered, how does he know when he’s nailed a scene?
Jensen: Not so much with exposition, but in a heavy or emotional scene, there’s almost a sense of “that was it, that was the take” that happens. Jared and I both are attuned to that now. It’s where you get to the point where you believe it yourself.
We followed up with another rather serious question, asking which director he’s experienced the closest connection with and gotten the best direction from.
Jensen: Well, not when we have a new director. If they say, “I don’t think Dean would do that”, at this point I’m like, “really??”
He loves working with Bob Singer, with whom at this point he shares an almost telepathic connection. He acted out several examples of the (rather comical) facial expressions and gestures that Bob uses to communicate to him everything from ‘step it up’ to ‘do it again’, much to the delight of the room full of fans.
A fan asked about that heartbreaking fake smile that Dean so determinedly practiced a few episodes back, frantic to ‘fake it til you make it’ as he drove into the night with a traumatized Sam beside him. The scene, we think, turned out beautifully, but it was apparently one that put some pressure on the actor.
Jensen: That was scripted. And when it says exactly what they want you to do with your face, it’s scary. I get scared, like ‘am I doing what they want?’
Fans helpfully assured him that it totally worked, and in fact was an amazing piece of acting.
One of the fans who had been at Jared’s Q & A earlier asked about something Jared had mentioned – that they might ‘push the reset button’ if they get a Season 8.
Jensen: That was just conversation between me and Jared! I’m sure the writers will say no to us if we suggest it, because you know, we’re actors and they’re writers. Of course then they’ll be like (mimes a loudly whispered “secret”) ‘Why didn’t we think of that??’
Fans: (supportively) Exactly!
Jensen: Because we have Lucifer constantly telling Sam that this isn’t real, so…. And we could bring back Bobby, and Cas, and Rob and Richard, and all the guys – get the band back together!
Fans: Just like at cons!
Speaking of our favorite departed angel-in-a-trenchcoat, a fan asked about Dean and Castiel’s special friendship, and how that would turn out.
Jensen (deadpans) Special….because it’s so awkward??
Fans: Well, yes, there’s that….but how would they be after everything that’s happened?
Dean: There’s an underlying respect there. Dean doesn’t like to talk about it, but there’s a humanistic quality to him, Dean needs that, he needs that from his brother, from Cas, from his father, from Bobby. He grabs that person and hangs on. But he’s not very forgiving when he’s betrayed. So he and Cas would have to work things out.
Fans: (silently) But they would, right? Right???
Jensen also shared some of the upcoming gag reel content, which we’re really looking forward to. The scene where we get to hear some ‘Air Supply’ was short on the episode, but on the dvd it promises to be much – MUCH – longer.
Jensen: We had to cut what we used because the rights are like 20 grand, but John Showalter was like , “let’s just do it anyway”, and I just went full out (even though we weren’t going to use it). And afterwards, John was like, ‘we just cost WB 20 grand.’
Fans: (are cheering)
A fan asked the rather philosophical question, “What has been your best and your worst experience so far in life?” Once again, Jensen didn’t hesitate.
Jensen: Supernatural has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Fans: AWWWWWW. US TOO!!!
Jensen: Not just the training, the nine months a year in front of the camera, but the lifelong friendships I’ve made and the sense of family. It’s extremely rare – every guest star that comes on always says it – we have focus pullers who could be camera operators on other shows, who have stuck with us because of this magic we have.
Fans: (at this point are nearly overcome with AWWW)
Jensen: Worst experience? Devour. If you haven’t seen it – don’t!
Fans (silently) Too late….
Jensen: They rewrote the script for the film as we were shooting it, so there were just so many loopholes and missed plot points. I still can’t figure out how it ends.
Fans: Yeah, neither can we. Sorry.
Jensen: Ten Inch Hero also has a special place in my heart, since it’s where Danneel and I fell in love.
Fans: (now completely and totally overcome with AWWW)
The last question was mostly for fun.
Fan: So do you love a giant rainbow colored slinky as much as Dean does?
Jensen: (deadpan) What do you think?
Fans: Ummm, that would be a no?
Jensen: I just tried to be as childlike as I could in that scene.
Fans: (one more time) Awwwww.
Jensen left the room, as he often does, with “Thanks so much guys, it’s always such a pleasure to talk with you.”
Ditto, Mr. Ackles.
Photo credit: Thanks to our friend Alice Jester – visit Winchester Family Business for more con updates!