Feeling the SPNFamily Love – TorCon 2014!
It’s Tuesday night as I’m writing this, and I’m so wired with excitement after watching the new episode of Supernatural, that I figured I’d put the energy to good use and post my convention thoughts. Then I can concentrate on a review of Reichenbach. Though I’m thinking that might just be a gigantic SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! OMG that episode was amazing! And after a wonderful weekend at TorCon, I’m feeling very lucky to have fallen for this Show and to be a part of this special SPN Family.
I want to share my own emotional reaction to the con, but first a few tidbits from Jensen’s meet and greet and some of my own conversation with him. He came in to the meet and greet and started talking about Buca, the restaurant where he and Jared ate the night before. Apparently when they got there, the Sommelier turned out to be Mick, who they knew well from one of their favorite restaurants in Vancouver (the one where I was privileged to have dinner with them, in fact). Mick was pleasantly surprised to see them, and said just sit down, I’ll take care of you. That resulted in Jensen trying the deep fried stuffed olives (he hates olives, how is that even possible??) and liking them. Then there were some big sausages wrapped in bacon.
Jensen: These look great – sausage, right?
Mick: Sure, sausage, let’s go with that.
Jensen: (taking a bite) These are squishy for sausages…
They were pig’s brain. Poor Jensen.
In Jared’s meet and greet, he also started out talking about their dinner. He said they both got to Toronto and were like, we should be good, we should get to bed early. We’ll just have a nice dinner, then turn in early. Then they ran into Mick and all bets were off.
And apparently Jared had a run in afterwards with a statue that Jensen felt the need to tweet and share with all of us. Fortunately.
The first question was about Demon!Dean (Thankfully Jensen did not refer to him as Deanmon or I would have lost it right in front of him).
Fan: So is Dean still in there? I thought I saw a glimpse of him sometimes but I’m not sure. Sometimes he just seems like a douchebag. I’m so confused – is it just me?
Everyone else in the room: (shaking their heads)
Jensen said that’s pretty much how we’re supposed to feel, that we should be wondering how much of Dean is still there. He reiterated that it’s not a possession kind of thing, it’s more like when Sam was soulless, all Dean’s memories are still there. So of course he calls Sam “Sammy” just like Dean would, for example. In other words, he gave absolutely nothing away, but at least I’ve been validated for my confusion.
My question was about Dean’s story arc this season.
Me: Bob Singer has said that Dean’s journey is to rediscover his heroism. Is that compelling for you to play, and what does it really mean?
Jensen said that the journey for Dean for part of the season is for him to get back to being “normal” Dean.
Jensen: (laughing) Not that the Winchesters were ever normal…
Me: (air quotes)
He said that Dean getting back to hunting, essentially getting back to the “family business” (my words, not his), is Dean’s journey to rediscover his own heroism.
Me: And how does Sam’s arc intersect with that?
Jensen said that Sam is his support system, he’s being there for Dean. There’s a question as to what is the influence of the Mark of Cain, even if Dean eventually isn’t a demon anymore. Sam is the one keeping an eye on him, constantly asking, is this my brother, or is this the influence of the Mark? Dean’s saying ‘oh no man, that’s all me’ even when he just killed twenty zombies.
Me: (doing a bad Dean imitation) Like ‘Oh, I would’ve done that anyway!’
Jensen: (laughing at me and doing it correctly) Right! I would’ve done that anyway.
He said he’s really enjoying playing that arc, and playing Sam and Dean.
Me: (over excited) Oooh, that sounds really good!
Jensen: (laughs and agrees)
A few more tidbits – someone asked if he still did his own stunts. Jensen said that sometimes he’ll do something, like a recent scene where he was supposed to take a hit from a “supernatural being” and fly backwards and slide across the floor. He just did it and then Lou Bollo, the stunt coordinator, came over and said “Should I even ask?”
Meaning did Jensen want hip pads and butt pad and knee and elbow pads. And Jensen was just like nah, I can do it. By the fourth take, he was getting up a bit more slowly.
Lou: “Want them now?”
Jensen: “No, I don’t want to have to shoot this again. Did we get it? Okay, moving on!”
Because Jensen has some directing experience now and because he’s been fighting as Dean all this time, they let him do some of the stunt coordination. Jesse, who was Jensen’s stand in but left when his wife had a baby, comes back to help the fight coordinator team too. Jensen works out at his dojo occasionally, and told a funny story about the first time. Jesse put on gloves and gave him gloves.
Jesse: “I won’t hit you, but you hit me.”
Jensen: “Don’t you want to put on…”
Jesse: “Nah. You won’t hit me.”
And he couldn’t. Jesse is that fast. So Jesse and Jensen will work together to coordinate a complex fight sequence. Jensen will specify that they need something that’s not too tight, that needs to be bigger, or say that he wants to sort of spin around and end up on a mark, and Jesse will come up with a move that will do that and they’ll work it out. He also told a story about a guest actor who sort of got lost in the fight scene. It’s fine to get lost in an emotional scene, you want that, but not in a fight scene, because that’s when accidents happen. Fight scenes are like a dance with a partner, choreographed, and everyone has to do what they’re supposed to do. If you get lost in it, you’ll lose count and make a mistake. So the whole time he was working with this guy he was sort of holding his fists up protectively thinking he was about to get hit and going “ohshitohshitohshit”. It was hysterical. Luckily, Jesse came in and did part of the scene on the other guy’s coverage, and then Jensen did his coverage with the guy’s stand in, like dance partners. Otherwise, Jensen would have been punched right in the ear. Ouch!
The long version of this was pretty funny, but what was really excellent about this question was that Jensen felt compelled to jump up from his chair and act much of it out – taking punches, flying backwards, being spun around. Fun to watch. Ahem.
The last question was about lessons Jensen has learned over the time he’s been on Supernatural. He said he’s changed a lot, gone from a young man to a man, but as far as the show, he’s learned to be grateful for “what we have with the show.” It’s a rarity, he said, to be on a show for ten years and to be able to play the same character – a character he loves and enjoys playing. And a privilege to be able to play opposite someone who has become a best friend in real life.
Jensen said he had recently had a conversation with a successful actor who’s had regular work but on several different shows, and he said to Jensen, “I’d give anything to have what you have.”
Jensen: I didn’t realize how rare and special this was until about Season 5. Before then we knew we had a good thing going here, but now me and him [Jared] really realize how special that is. And part of that is the relationship we have with you guys. It’s a privilege, and I’m grateful for that.
It was heartfelt, and left me kind of emotional myself. That was pretty much the theme of the weekend.
Of course, there were some moments that were not exactly deep. But hey, that’s part of a con too. I was particularly enamored of Misha Collins’ pink pants. He said he didn’t pack any and had to go out and buy some quickly. When he picked up that pair, the sales woman helpfully said “Oh no, you don’t want those.” Misha being Misha, of course he then had to buy them. I’m really glad he did.
Yes, I took alot of pictures of the pink pants. So sue me.
Though Misha looked pretty damn good in leather too.
I also had some lovely chats with Jared, Jensen and Misha about the books we’ve written that they’ve all contributed to. Near the end of the con, I took a copy of Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls through the autograph line so we can donate a signed copy for charity. The young woman in front of me had made a guitar – actually made it! – and wanted Jensen to sign it. He did, stopping to admire it. When she had moved on, he looked at me and said, “Wow, right?” I nodded.
Me: Wow indeed, that’s amazing. I mean, she actually made that! I could never do anything like that – so much creativity and talent in this fandom.
Jensen looked up from the book, which he was so much a part of, and said very seriously, “But look what you’ve done. You wrote these books, and they’re so important. This book here? [patting Fangasm]. This is your guitar.”
I have to say I was rendered almost speechless (anyone will tell you that never happens). This isn’t the first time Jensen or Jared or Misha has been supportive of our books, but he was so serious and so heartfelt when he said it, that it caught me off guard. I care about that book – it meant so much to us to tell the story of being a fan in a way that celebrated instead of pathologized – and every time I know that they get it too, it makes my eyes water.
Watery eyes were pretty much the theme of the weekend anyway.
As most fans know, this year’s con was the one year anniversary of the con in Toronto last year when Rob Benedict had a stroke. It happened during the autograph signing, and Rob became unable to find words to answer fans’ questions, but didn’t know what was happening. He went back up to his room to lie down, but Richard had a feeling something just wasn’t right. He and the other SPN actors went to check on him, and that saved Rob’s life. Literally. We’ve written many times about how the fans who love this Show have become family, but the same thing has happened for the actors, especially those who hit the road every other weekend on the convention circuit. They’re now best friends in real life – and SPN Family. As Jared is fond of saying, we’re all family here – this is the place we come to be ourselves. There was, as always, plenty of affection at this con.
One of the things I love at cons is when the actors watch each other perform. Every so often, someone will sit off to the side or on the edge of the stage and just watch their fellow actors perform. They invariably look every bit as enthralled as the fans in the audience, and it sort of warms my heart to see that.
We’ve actually heard many stories from fans about how Supernatural has saved their lives too, just as literally. So Rob’s experience, and the way in which being a part of the SPN Family saved him too, was a powerful one for many fans. Even if it isn’t literal, I think many of us feel that falling in love with this Show has changed us. I know it has changed my life completely – brought me some of my best friends, showed me places I never would have gone to, challenged me to do things I never would have dared do. I never thought in a million years I’d publish three books on Supernatural and have another in the works, let alone that so many people would read them and relate to them. My own gratitude toward the Show and the fandom makes Rob’s gratitude compelling for me too, and I think many people in the ballroom this weekend felt the same.
Rob confided that he was nervous coming back to Toronto, to the same hotel where the stroke happened almost exactly a year ago. In one very emotional moment, Rob performed the song he sang last year spontaneously a capella, this time with his amazing band Louden Swain supporting him. It was clearly healing for him, a way to say I did it, I’m back here, I’m alive and kicking (and singing up a storm).
Karaoke had an extra energy too, with the huge gathered crowd raising their hands in celebration as Rob took the stage. The entire ballroom, in fact, was bouncing – literally. So many people were jumping up and down in unison that the floor was shaking! Perhaps that’s not entirely a good thing, but at the time it just added to the euphoria of the moment. Now that I’m writing this I’m just glad everything remained intact…
The other powerful moments came during the Saturday evening cabaret, which is always one of my favorite parts of the con. One of the most moving performances was by Osric Chau.
Earlier in the day, Osric kicked off his panel with Gil McKinney with a video all about cosplay – something that’s become a tradition for him to do at every con.
He sent a message to Gil (delivered by a giant suicidal teddy bear, which would never happen anywhere other than a Supernatural convention…) telling him to stand on the side and watch the vid. Gil ended up sitting out in the audience so at first when Osric came out, he couldn’t find him — and was disappointed that he didn’t get to see Gil’s reaction.
Gil re-enacted it.
Osric was very nervous the first time he challenged himself to sing and play guitar in front of an audience (at a Supernatural con, of course). At Torcon, he stepped up to the mic and did a rendition of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ that hit everyone, to borrow a Tumblrism, right in the feels. I think I yelled ‘Ohmygod’ when he started, because Radiohead is one of my favorite bands and that song is one of my all time favorites of anything they’ve done. From the crowd’s reaction, many people felt the same. We wrote a lot in Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls about the feeling of being an outsider, a ‘freak’, of not quite fitting into the mainstream, that so many people in fandom have experienced. It might be all sorts of things that made you feel different, but the feeling is the same – and that song captures it. There’s so much self doubt and pain, so much longing for acceptance, in that song, and the way Osric sang it let us all know that he has felt that too, all of it. One of the things we love most about Osric is that he identifies as a fan himself, and he’s never afraid to color outside the lines or express himself the way he really is, societal response be damned. Whether that’s cosplaying Sailor Jupiter or making papier mache heads for GISHWHES or whatever. As Misha would say, Death to Normalcy! (What the hell is normal, anyway?)
The first time Osric’s voice broke as he sang, I started to tear up. By the time Osric was choking back tears himself, and then letting them fall, I was right there with him. So was most of the audience. And Rob – Osric’s SPN Family – was immediately right there, a hand on his back, an arm around his shoulders, saying it’s okay, you’re safe here, you’re with family. In fact, everyone gave him a hug. That just made me sob harder, but it was the best kind of crying, shared with a room full of people who were feeling the same thing.
Osric jumped off the stage and ran down the aisles, and all along the aisle hands came out to slap his, support and solidarity offered from the fans as he ran by. When he leapt back onstage, the band kicked into his second number and he rocked out with them, defiance and determination and “I am who I am and we’re gonna celebrate that here” clear in every word. He got a standing ovation that went on and on – and deserved every second of it.
Try singing along to “Carry On My Wayward Son” when you’re already that emotional – especially when so many people joined in onstage. Mark Sheppard on drums, Creation’s Adam Malin on keyboards, Creation photographer Chris Schmelke (who knew he could play a mean bass?? Or was in a band for years and actually opened for the Libertines at CBGBs, omg!). I think they could hear us all singing all the way across Lake Ontario.
The last song was the most emotional moment I’ve ever experienced at a convention. Richard Speight came onstage and gave a heartfelt speech about how grateful he is that his friend Robby (“my friend – my brother – Robby”) is still here, still alive. About what an amazing person Rob is and how the world is a better place for having him in it. Then Rob and the band performed “I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends” and one by one the cast made their way onstage to back Rob up. As they left the stage, they all clapped Rob on the shoulder or hugged him, and then he ended the song onstage, with the ballroom full of fans letting him know how much we all love him too – and how very very glad we are that he’s here.
Damn it, now I need the tissues.
There were, of course, many moments that were pure fun, or totally hilarious. Jensen re-enacting his most awkward date, with Jared playing the part of the confused young woman who got caught in the middle of Jensen and his buddies having too much to drink the night before to remember what she looked like. Not a good thing when you’ve planned to meet up with her the next day. (Jared did a bang-up job, in case you’re wondering).
Misha came onstage at the cabaret saying “I’ve been accused of not adding anything to the cabaret, so…” His cabaret act involved a very talented dog who acted out scenes from Supernatural at Misha’s suggestion (with a little assistance from his owner). The dog did a spot-on rendition of Sam falling into hell and Dean being dead and Cas and Dean looking longingly at each other. And we give Misha points for cabaret creativity.
Then there was the debacle of the glass dildo story, which Misha shared in his Q&A. (Yes, it was a prank, of course it was a prank – something about Jared being silly enough to all asleep on a plane and leave his credit card lying around. So Misha could order something for him and have it sent to him charged on his own credit card.) That story was hilarious enough, but then someone asked Jared about it at the Jensen and Jared panel the next day. Jared’s face when he finally realized just what she was asking about – and that Misha had already shared the story – was priceless. He leaned over to tell Jensen, and then both their faces were hilarious.
Jared then confessed that he had started it by pranking Jim Beaver when he dared to fall asleep on a plane they were all on, and Jared turned over the script that was on his tray and drew a portion of the male anatomy on it. Of course, everyone in the plane saw him do it, so one by one they filtered by and checked it out before poor Jim woke up.
So I guess Misha was justified. Jared said Misha actually messed up the address, which led to some amusing conjectures.
Jared: “Someone gets the package, opens it – Oh look what Jared Padalecki sent me!
I laughed until I cried. Clearly it’s an endless cycle of pranking with these boys, which sometimes seems to be for our amusement as much as theirs. But if you’re ever on a plane with them, for godsakes don’t fall asleep!
We’ve talked with several of the actors about how Supernatural and their experience with the fandom has given them the courage to push their own boundaries, as Osric did with singing. Richard sang a rendition of “Sympathy for the Devil” that was amazing, and then took the stage a few more times to sing. I don’t think most fans realized just how musically talented Richard is, or how many of these guys have actually played in bands in the past. How lucky are we to have them in our SPN Family?
Gil McKinney told us the acceptance and encouragement of the fans have re-ignited his love of singing (which is excellent news, since damn, can that boy sing!) Look for our interview with Gil here soon for more on that – we were lucky enough to have an impromptu piano serenade as part of that interview, which was a treat. I think everyone we interview should do something like that, don’t you?)
And Matt Cohen sang for the very first time at the cabaret – we had no idea he was also a rockstar, but he tore the place up! (And gotta say, he totally looked the part too, complete with his inspirational unicorn tee shirt).
Mark Sheppard plays drums like you wouldn’t believe (and a mean tambourine too), Creation photographer Chris Schmelke joined the band on bass for a song or two, and Adam Malin is amazing on keyboards. Alaina Huffman, Misha, Matt, Richard, Gil and Osric all sang backup for their friends. Even Jared jumped onstage and started drumming at one point.
And on Sunday, Jensen caught the musical bug and performed too. I will never – EVER – get tired of him singing “Your Love” and hitting all those high notes perfectly. Seriously, for a guy who insists he’s not a musician, Jensen has an amazing voice.
And I love how both Jared and Jensen start to move when the music starts.
At the end, Richard, Rob and the band did a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘I Am Superman’ and Jensen joined them for the chorus. This was by far the most musically epic con I can remember, and it seemed like the actors were as reluctant to let it end as the fans.
In fact, the con ended on a musical note. I was in the ballroom waiting for re-ups as the autograph sessions were ending, and they brought a guitar out onstage. The young woman behind me gave a muffled shriek and said “OMG that’s my guitar! Jensen Ackles is going to play my guitar.”
WHAT??? Needless to say, I didn’t move from my seat. When the con was over and the autographs were done, sure enough, Jensen came out onstage and sat down with the guitar. And as everyone in this fandom knows by now, he sang two songs that he sings to his daughter. Could he possibly have said anything that would make us more emotional? I don’t think so. He sang the most beautiful, laid back versions of Tom Waits’ ‘Picture in a Frame’ and The Corries’ ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, as the small group of fans who were still there knelt in front of the stage and listened. He asked us to be quiet so he could pretend no one was there, so he wouldn’t be nervous, and so it was almost silent, fans rapt and Jensen singing like he must at home, with JJ his audience. It was touching, and wonderful, and seemed like the perfect ending to an incredible weekend.
Jensen must have felt the same. He tweeted this after the con was over:
#torcon2014 thank you! I’m humbled, grateful and inspired. “Family don’t end with blood”… #SPNFamily
That’s the theme of both Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls and Fan Phenomena: Supernatural. And yes, I had to reach for the tissues once again. You can check out both books at the links at the top of the page.
More from TorCon soon, including some exclusive interviews!