Fandom and Show Love – The SPN Family at Supernatural Chicago Con
Our weekend at the Chicago Con brought a surreal feeling of coming full circle – in a wonderful way. Chicon was our very first Creation Supernatural con, way back in 2007 (SPN wasn’t even popular enough to warrant its own convention then, so we shared it with a few Buffy and Angel alums). We did the first interviews for our book here, and met one of our favorite people, Richard Speight, here. Back then, we didn’t know if our little book on Supernatural and its amazing fans would ever come to fruition, and we had no idea the circuitous route it would take to finally get published. It seems fitting that Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls was published this month, and here we are back in Chicago once again. It seems even more fitting that Richard is here too, along with two of the photographers who contributed their beautiful photos to the book, Chris Schmelke and Lizz Sisson, and of course quite a few of the actors whose interviews are some of the best parts of Fangasm – Jared, Jensen, Misha, Matt, Richard and Samantha. What we could never have anticipated is that everyone connected with our favorite Show would be so supportive, let alone that they’d all actually read it!
We also had the pleasure of getting to know one of the newer stars of SPN, Osric Chau, whose journey as Kevin has been such a treat to watch. Look for our exclusive interview with Osric coming up soon. The fandom has embraced him as one of us — he’s a fanboy, and a fan of Supernatural. Onstage, he wore a fan-made hoodie complete with fur hood and tail, fanboyed Crowley and Mark Sheppard, and won the hearts of everyone watching. He spent the rest of the con sitting in the audience with the rest of us. Every now and then, he’d hop across the fan/actor boundary and interact with one of the other actors onstage, much to the delight of the fandom. He cosplayed Castiel for the costume contest, and wore the footie pj’s that he had on at karaoke to most of the con, chatting with fans in the hallways and causing a lot of delighted double takes.
Fan: Would you kiss Crowley to sell your soul?
Osric: I’d kiss Crowley for a lot less!
Us: Who wouldn’t?
On a more serious note, a fan asked what Osric would sell his soul for –
Osric: For fandom and Show to get along.
See why we love him? Our first SPN book, Fandom At The Crossroads, was all about the reciprocal relationship between fans and producers (actors, writers, directors, producers, etc), which has been fascinating to see as it evolves. Recently, that reciprocity has been fraught with hurt and confusion, which is perhaps an expected part of an evolutionary process, but one that’s been hard to watch. We love the Show and we love fandom, so Osric’s wish actually made us tear up a bit. Tissues, anyone?
Richard Speight proved himself the host with the most by swooping in to ask questions of the actors onstage whenever there was a lull in the question line. His interactions with Julie McNiven quickly descended into R rated territory, as fans and guests alike came up with creative euphemisms for getting it on (and this was with no Sebastian Roche in sight!).
Richard: So, after Dean parks his car in your garage, what was that like?
Julie: Well, his car is really big, so it’s a tight squeeze…
Julie: I haven’t really ever fangirled anyone, I haven’t worked with anyone gigantic.
Fans: What about Jared?
Samantha Smith’s mom was at the con, so Richard kept it PG, but again he saved the day and kept the energy level at the con high whenever things got too quiet. Creation’s decision to have Richard emcee the SPN cons? Brilliant. And just another thing that our cons have that others don’t. Yes, I’m con proud, what can I say?
Samantha: Mary would be so pissed at John. Like, how many times have my sons died?? #onlyonspn
Samantha: I hope they give me that nightgown when the show is over. So I can burn it.
Friday night Julie, Samantha, and Osric all came to karaoke, which was off the charts fun as always. Samantha’s mom even came onstage to do a song! Richard and Matt Cohen were disturbingly realistic zombies, thanks to a local Chicago theater makeup wizard – the fact that they were a zombie Ackles-garbed gym coach and a zombie crossdressing cheerleader only made it more awesome. Sebastian Roche was his usual delightfully dirty self (and woah, can that man dance…) and Julie and Samantha not only dressed up for the night but took some turns at the mic too. Creation’s head honchos joined in the fun as well, with Adam Malin channeling his inner 70s dude complete with shoulder length wig and Stephanie Dizon belting out Janis Joplin so well it gave us shivers. We love karaoke – no other cons do it the way we do. Because we’re the best! We’re repeating ourselves, but hey, it’s just a fact.
Saturday always finds us (and everyone else, fan and celeb alike) a bit bleary. Luckily Richard and Matt’s panel was so hilarious, we all woke up – it helped that we laughed so hard we cried, which then helped our eyes actually, you know, open. Favorite moments:
Matt’s interpretation of a fan’s question which was a bit hard to understand
Matt: Have I ever thrown Jeffrey Dean Morgan on a table? Yes – and you can ship that!
Fans: Okey dokey
Fan who came up to Richard and Matt at karaoke:
Fan to Matt: You get hotter every time I see you.
Same fan to Richard: Oh, hi Richard.
Audience: (shouts) We love you Richard!
It’s true, we do.
We also do not dispute the fact that Matt is hot. Here’s a gratuitous shot to prove it.
We had a lovely interview with Osric over lunch, then the three of us raced back to the ballroom so we could catch Sebastian Roche’s panel. We have no clue where the guy gets all his energy, but he is amazing in his ability to a) never stop moving and b) make the most innocuous statement sound dirty. Here he is showing off a) his ass and b) his happy trail. lol
The highlight of his panel was the entire audience singing “Get Lucky” while Sebastian danced on chairs and skipped across the stage and generally got us all pumped up and grinning. SPN Family, hell yes!
Mark Sheppard and Mark Pellegrino are a good team for their panel, with Mark S’s dry sense of humor amusing Mark P as much as it does the rest of us. They both have genuine fanboy cred too, and have worked in so many genre projects, I think fans could keep asking questions for hours. They’re also funny as hell. (See what I did there? Lol) Favorite moment:
Mark S. told a story about a crazy fan experience in New Zealand, when a fan told him she was so nervous she was trying not to shit herself.
Mark P. (deadpans) Keep trying!
We also got first time SPN con guest Alaina Huffman, who is drop dead gorgeous and almost as sassy as her character. Favorite tweets:
Alaina: I apologized to Jensen for talking so dirty to him. But it was fun.
Fans: (smirking) For us too.
Alaina’s friend, on seeing her Twitter feed: Who are all these people and why do they love you?
Alaina: Because I’m the Queen Bitch.
She closed her panel with a heartfelt thanks that made us all warm inside.
Alaina: I’ve been around, but I’ve never felt as welcome as I do in the Supernatural family!
Then it was time for the costume contest. At our first SPN con, there were perhaps a dozen people inspired enough to participate. Then a certain trenchcoat wearing angel joined the show, and suddenly the costume contest was very popular. Once again, the stage was filled with Castiels – and of course, the only appropriate judge was Misha Collins. One of the Cas cosplayers really stood out….because it was Osric, doing his fanboy thing right along with the rest of fandom. Misha did the logical thing – swept Osric up and gave him away as first prize.
Misha’s panel was both entertaining and controversial, much like Misha himself. He set the tone by giving fans permission to “ask me anything” though he did add that he reserved the right not to answer and probably would not be taking off his pants. (There was more than one disappointed sigh at that bit of info).
He asked how fans were feeling, and if we were upset by the wank that’s swept through fandom after last week’s episode and some producer tweets. Reaction to what Misha said was mixed, both in the convention ballroom and on the internet, but we were impressed that he didn’t shrink away from talking about the elephant in the room, and that he did so with what seemed to be a genuine desire to help. We had a chance to chat with Misha later, and let him know we applauded his attempt. Every time we’ve ever interviewed him, or worked with him on one of our books, we’ve been impressed with how much he cares about not just the show, but the fans. His concern about the hurt feelings and disappointment and anger and confusion on all sides seemed like a breath of fresh air after all the name calling and vitriol flying around last week. We love SPN fandom and we love the Show – it’s what we write books about and are passionate about – so it’s heartbreaking to see anyone hurting.
Misha also talked about the fact that we all read texts differently, whether they’re books, films, paintings, or tv shows, and that everyone watches the show for different reasons. Keeping the text open to interpretation is what allows all of us to read into it what we need to and to take from it what we want – it’s what makes the Show so validating to each of us. Sure, the author of a text (or the writers of a television show) have their own idea in mind when they create it. But we don’t all read it the same way, and that’s okay. When we were writing Fangasm and Fandom At The Crossroads, we talked to Eric Kripke about the multiple interpretations fans had of the little show he’d created – and like any savvy creator, he welcomed them. All of them. He was thrilled that fans wanted to come ‘play in this sandbox.’
The other thing Misha expressed was concern for fans who were upset, and we shared that concern. We hate seeing any of our fellow fans hurting. We’re all passionate about this Show, and with passion comes investment. That brings the potential for some very real pain. That the show is about fictional characters is entirely missing the point — because the pain itself is anything but fictional. There’s no reason to dismiss anyone else’s genuine reactions; we’re all allowed to feel. Misha also spoke sincerely about how much fandom and Random Acts have changed his life, and said that he carried around a letter from a fan about how Supernatural had changed her life as a reminder of its importance. That, right there, is the reciprocal relationship we’ve come to value.
The rest of Misha’s panel was a bit less serious. He came onstage dancing, much to fandom’s glee.
He enlisted the assistance of the fans to send a little recorded bedtime message to his kids…
And he left the stage only after picking up Richard Speight Jr and carrying him across the stage, over Richard’s vehement protests.
Also, he looked damn good. Just sayin’
Sunday, as always, was J2 day. We also were treated to a panel by Nicki Aycox to close out the day. She came out and saw the gigantic ballroom and was clearly surprised.
Nicki: You guys really love this show, huh?
Nicki: One of my favorite parts of working on SPN was the episode where I got to tie the boys up and just go at it.
Nicki also kept expressing her heartfelt gratitude at being embraced by the fandom.
Nicki: I’m here because you guys are wonderful and you make me feel good
Fans: Back at ya!
The rest of the day belonged to Jared and Jensen, and the theme of SPN Family continued. Set designer Jerry Wanek’s nephew came to the con, and got up to the mike to ask a question about set design. After the boys answered, Jensen took a moment to praise Jerry, which must have been a wonderful moment for his nephew.
Jensen: When I walk onto Jerry Wanek’s sets, it takes me right to the Supernatural world.
Fans: Us too!
Here are some of our other favorite tweeted moments of the J2 breakfast and panel, from our live tweets @FangasmSPN. Jensen, as always, brought a cup of coffee to the breakfast panel. Two of our favorite things in one photo…
The boys demonstrated how they used to film scenes of Sam and Dean driving in the Impala with crew members with flashlights running by the car to simulate motion. The first time we were on the set, we saw them do that, while another crew member rocked the Impala up and down propped on a 2 x 4 and an apple box to make it look like she was bouncing over an uneven road. It was amazing to see the scene later and realize that it all came together to look so real! Also, bowlegs dayum…
Jensen patted Jared on the back, literally and figuratively, praising his performance as both Zeke and Sam this season.
Jared did a hysterical imitation of Sebastian portraying Lucifer, which consisted of Jared sashaying across the stage and posing for us, while Jensen watched and laughed. Actually it was kinda hot, not gonna lie.
At one point, a fan asked them what superheros they’d be, and somehow after a long discussion that included Jared insisting that whatever superhero Jensen played, he should have to wear tights, and most of fandom agreeing, it was decided (by Jared) that Jensen would be “Tightsman”. Jensen, knowing when he’s outnumbered, just shrugged and went along with it. Hopefully there’s fanart already in the works.
Fans were also pitching script ideas. One pitched ‘Sam gets a haircut.’
Jensen: (deadpans) And Dean cuts it.
Jensen: I’m still resisting Twitter.
Jared: (open mouthed) But I follow you!
Fan to Jensen: You (Dean) raised Sam, so do you feel sort of like his mother?
Jensen: Oh sure. I’ve had to reprimand him….spank him…
Fans: (silently) Is it hot in here?
Clearly, the answer to that question is a resounding YES. *fans self*
Fan to Jared: Is that VFX, with your Zeke eyes?
Jared: (deadpans) No, I’m doing that.
Fan: What would your Halloween costumes be?
Jared: Jensen would be the gym teacher.
Jensen: (deadpans) That’s just a Tuesday…
They both agreed that there could easily be a two hour gag reel for every season, which fans were totally on board for. In fact, they may even set up a separate camera to film whatever ‘happens’ during Misha’s episode. Poor Misha, we feel bad for him already.
Fan: Jensen, you’re perfect, but…
Jared: (interrupting) Perfect butt?
Jensen: (jumps up and shows off said perfect butt)
Jared: (jumps up and shows his off too)
Fans: Wow, that was a good question…
Jared told a story about being a little kid and squeezing the leg of his little sister when their parents were trying to take a family portrait. Apparently not much has changed.
Jared demonstrates his leg squeezing propensity…. On Jensen.
Jared and Jensen’s panel ended, as all panels do, with Richard Speight coming onstage to give the time’s up. But this time, another member of the SPN Family joined them too — Osric, who literally leapt into Jared’s arms. Sort of like the spider monkey and the moose. Jensen couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to give Osric a playful whack on the butt, and then the boys just grinned happily at each other, while everyone in the audience did pretty much the same.
If you read this blog, you know we can’t take notes at the meet and greets anymore and are asked not to share details, which we couldn’t anyway since we invariably don’t remember them. But we do tend to remember our own conversations, so here’s a few tidbits from Jensen’s meet and greet. The meet and greet room had a whiteboard at one end with dry erase markers, which was right behind Jensen’s chair. He came in, glanced in surprise at the whiteboard, then joked that he should start teaching a lesson.
Fans: (looking much more attentive than our students ever do…) Yes please!
Jensen: Forget it, you guys all know a lot more than I do!
It’s that kind of self deprecating sense of humor when he’s interacting with fans that make conversation with Jensen feel so comfortable. Before he came into the room, some fans who had never met him were nervous – once he’d joked around and let everyone know that the respect we give the boys is mutual, most of the anxiety was gone. Or at least lessened!
Of course Lynn had to ask about Dean, her favorite fictional character in the history of ever. After watching last week’s episode, Lynn was still worrying about him. Dean, not Jensen. But since she can’t really ask Dean anything…
Lynn: I’m feeling so bad for Dean this season. It’s such a difficult thing to keep a secret from someone you’re very close to, and Dean is having to keep such a big secret from Sam.
Jensen agreed that it’s starting to really take a toll on Dean, who is dying to just sit down and say, look Sam, this is what I did and this is why I had to do it, but he can’t. Jensen compared it to ‘Breaking Bad’ (which I’ve never seen, so I hope I’m getting this right….) and the same frustrating situation of doing something you think is for someone’s own good and yet being unable to explain that to them. He actually spoke quite passionately about how hard it is, with as much empathy for Dean’s situation as Lynn was experiencing. That’s one of the things we love about all the SPN actors – they really care about their characters, just like we do.
Lynn: You had a line of dialogue where Dean talked about ‘getting whiplash’, and it really must seem like that for him.
Jensen agreed, and said that it gets even worse for Dean over the next episodes, as he inevitably gets tangled in a web of lies. And never knowing if he’s talking to Sam or Zeke makes him constantly walking on eggshells. Dean is used to having Sam to relate to, to share with, but he can’t share everything because Zeke could be listening.
Lynn: Is it hard to play?
Jensen: (nodding) It’s challenging. (He paused, then smiled) And exciting.
In fact, Jensen seems excited by Dean’s story arc this season because it is challenging for him to deal with so many changes in the two people he’s closest to, Sam and Cas. Both of them are different (boy, is that ever an understatement!), and Dean has a lot to deal with. It sounds like things are going to get pretty rough for Dean, and it sounds like, as an actor, Jensen is very much up for that challenge. He mentioned in the panel later that the mid season finale episode is going to be particularly challenging for Dean. Jared, Jensen and Misha all seem to be anything but daunted by the acting challenges facing them this season; in fact, they seem to be relishing them.
We weren’t the only ones tripping down memory lane at this con – at the end of the meet and greet, Jensen was also remembering that he’d now been to six years of Chicago cons. A fan asked what was different. How did he feel then, and how does he feel now?
Jensen: That first con, it was overwhelming. We’d been up in Vancouver filming, and had no idea.
Jensen: Now it’s comfortable. I know so many of you, see so many familiar faces. It’s gone from overwhelming to….
He paused, trying to come up with the right word, then smiled.
Fans: (are smiling right back)
They inspire us, we inspire them. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Check back soon for our interviews with Osric, Richard and Rob Benedict. And you can read our books on Supernatural and the best fandom in the world, the SPNFamily, by clicking the amazon links at the top right of this page!