Meet and Greet Tidbits from Chicon – Jensen Ackles on Directing SPN!
Chicon, as everyone there kept saying this past weekend, is where it all started. It was the site of the very first Creation Supernatural convention, way back in 2007. Kathy and I took turns stalking the website, sometimes to the detriment of things like jobs and carpooling children, waiting for tickets to go on sale. When they did, I was lucky enough to snap some up – I think we’re still sitting in those same seats today. And up on stage, many of the same actors we met that day for the first time were onstage once again.
There are not one but two chapters of ‘Fangasm’ that take place at Chicon, so let’s just say it’s a special con for Kathy and me. This year it seemed to hit all of us that it’s been a long time we’ve been coming to the Windy City to celebrate our love of Supernatural, with both actors and fans feeling a bit emotional about it. Which made for fabulous panels, and a great meet and greet with Jensen.
(My good friend Laurena, who rescued me at Chicon two years ago when I got stranded there without a hotel in the middle of an East coast hurricane, did the Jared meet and greet, so look for that write up soon over on the Winchester Family Business site). Laurena and I spent Sunday night gushing to each other about our respective meet and greet experiences over some delicious food and drink in the Red Bar, where they were serving Crowley themed drinks all weekend. (This must be a tradition: At the first Chicon all the hotel bars were serving purple nurples.)
Jensen started off his meet and greet by saying thank you for the candy and other treats that some considerate fans had left on the chair next to Jensen’s as an expression of gratitude – or a fangirl offering. He said he’d eat it later, patting his tummy, since he and Jared had apparently had plenty to eat and drink the night before. They tried several iconic pizza places that had too long waits, but finally found a place that had good food and drink. I can’t remember where he said they finally landed, or what they ate, but I do remember that my stomach might have growled during that story; there’s never any time to eat at cons!
Most of the M&G consisted of show-related questions, which always makes me a happy fangirl. There was also a way too adorable story about Jensen’s affection for Jared’s younger son, Shep, who apparently is quite a character. Jared talked about Shep and Uncle Jensen too in his meet and greet. Every time they talk about their extended family, it makes me realize all over again how much Supernatural has changed their lives forever – just as it has many of ours.
There were lots of great show-related questions; the room was buzzing about last week’s episode, The Bad Seed, which Jensen directed. A fan asked about his most challenging scenes and episodes to direct, and he said that actually last week’s episode was a challenging one. It was a very “talkie” script, heavy on exposition, and it didn’t really get to the action part until the fourth act, instead of the second or third which is more usual. He had to ask himself, how can I keep the pace of the episode going when it’s just three guys in a room talking? But he said he was ultimately happy with the way it turned out, and thought it turned out okay.
Jensen said he really enjoyed that the episode had the three guys working together again, which was fun. And he got to work with Ruth Connell a lot, which was also a good thing.
Jensen: From a directing standpoint, she’s a dream. She comes in so prepared every day. Jared and I are prepared, we know our lines and we know our characters. Ruth also goes a step beyond and takes risks.
Some of Ruth’s ideas are pretty wild apparently, which Jensen seems to really appreciate. They’re “really unique”, he said, grinning.
Jensen: She’s really pliable too [meaning she can do the scene multiple ways]. Jared and Misha can do that too.
Jensen: [deadpans] Mark, not so much.
A fan asked if there were any funny or interesting things that happened during the filming of that episode, and Jensen laughed. He apparently spent a bit too long filming the Fortune Nookie episode that Cas unwittingly pulls up on Dean’s laptop (which was edited down to about ten seconds, I’d estimate). He had the actresses, who were excellent, all over the place, he said. Including the bed, of course. Then Jared and Jensen’s stand ins, Jay and Jason (because clearly if you want to work on Supernatural your name should begin with a J…), who look quite a bit like Jared and Jensen (and Sam and Dean) came in dressed in lingerie and full makeup and joined the ladies on the bed. Go Sam and Dean! If there isn’t gag reel footage of that, it’s some kind of crime. Maybe we can convince Jensen to share the footage that’s on his cell phone…
The chase scene with Cas and the fleeing woman was apparently a lot longer too, but got cut back for time. Jensen said he tried to draw out the suspense as Cas chases her down the alley. I actually thought that scene worked well, and the suspense definitely did come through.
Someone asked Jensen about that “one perfect shot” – has he directed an episode that had one? And what were his favorites?
[By the way, if you don’t follow @spn_shot (One.Perfect.SPN.Shot) on twitter, you don’t know what you’re missing!] There are seriously gorgeous shots in this Show that are instantly recognizable to fans.
And some not so serious shots too.
Jensen said he personally loved the shot of Dean’s hand pushing out of the ground in the first episode of Season 4 as Dean comes back from hell. It was a Kim Manners shot, and like so many of Kim’s shots, it really was perfect.
Everything about that sequence, Jensen said, he liked – Dean digging his way out, walking down the road…
Fan: There’s a great meme about that, because Dean has a plaid flannel shirt tied around his waist.
Jensen: [laughing and doing an impromptu imitation of what Dean must have said as soon as he was freed: I need plaid!]
Although Jensen, with characteristic modesty, said he didn’t think he had shot any iconic scenes yet as a director, several people disagreed. That scene in Soul Survivor when Demon!Dean comes after Sam, stalking the hallways of the bunker with a hammer, silhouetted in the doorway?
Terrifying. And possibly iconic.
Someone also asked what he thinks he’s gotten better at, when it comes to directing. He said he’s gotten better at transitions. At first, when he was new to directing, he didn’t understand what that was, or how important transitions are. Bob Singer told him to watch his transitions after his first directing stint, and in what seems to be typical Jensen fashion, he has worked on that ever since.
Jensen: If you’re incredibly bored one day, you might want to watch the older episodes…
Everyone: Oh yes, we’d have to be incredibly bored. We NEVER do that…
He laughed as we all rolled our eyes.
Jensen said that in his earlier episodes he might have just cut away between scenes, but now there will be the camera moving away and sort of dissolving, then a moving in to start the next scene. He gave some examples from last week’s episode with Rowena – there’s a moment that transitions from Amara to moving up on Rowena, focused first on her stomach and then her face as she sits down in the chair in the Winchesters’ dungeon. So if you rewatch again, take a second to appreciate Mr. Ackles’ transitions!
My question was about the thing that surprised me most in last week’s episode – one of my favorite scenes didn’t even have Sam or Dean or Cas in it! I absolutely loved the scene with the angel and the demon in the bar. Love love loved it. It’s been a while since Show made me say out loud, “OMG did that really just happen? Where the hell are we going now?!”
I like that feeling. I like it a lot. Was Jensen pleased with the scene and how was it to direct those two guys?
He said that he really liked the scene too. The two actors were green but talented, which meant he had to give a lot of direction but that they were able to take it. They were both eager to get to the dialogue parts, and Jensen had to draw them back.
I think that was exactly what made the scene work so perfectly. As I watched it, little by little, it dawned on me what was happening, and the suspense made that have so much more impact. You had to believe at first that they were about to fight in order for their détente to hit you like a punch in the stomach. And it did! And that was all Action Ackles.
Jensen said that you have to learn that sometimes you learn most about a character when they’re not talking. He worked on that with Dean early on, learning his reactions and deepening his understanding of the character.
He finally said to the actors who kept wanting to start talking, “just stand there and look at him like you want to kill him!”
Lynn: It came off so well – I think I said OMG shit just got real!
Jensen: (laughing) Yeah, a suck sandwich! I read that scene and was like, ooooh. An angel and a demon walk into a bar…sounds like a bad joke! But I knew it was an important scene.
I love hearing his insights into directing, he gets so excited talking about it.
A fan who is also an actor said that she just did an audition (or maybe it was a piece for acting school, I can’t recall) – at any rate, she used the scene where Dean monologues over Sam’s dead body in AHBL. One of the most emotional and devastating scenes in the series. She asked if it was hard to cry like that.
Jensen: I didn’t plan it, I don’t go in planning to cry. I just let the emotion play out.
[And boy, did the emotion play out in that scene!]
Someone also asked if it had gotten easier to slip in and out of playing Dean, and Jensen said yes. That now he and Jared and can do that with ease, though it’s not a “complacent ease”.
Jensen: It’s a muscle, and you have to work it. And we’ve been working it for a long time. It’s fun watching Ruth finding those moments that make a character a character now [with Rowena]. You find the character in the not talking moments.
Of course there was some squeeful talk about this week’s upcoming episode…
A fan wanted to know how they filmed the ‘Baby’ episode, considering it was in the car. Jensen said that a lot of it was filmed with smaller cameras, since their usual larger ones won’t fit in the car. Something like a Canon SLR, but with very high resolution. They can mount it on a sandbag and put it in the wheel well so it can shoot up at the boys. Sometimes, in the Baby episode, it was just him and Jared in the car, they left the crew behind. And, as most of us know, there’s a long scene in the episode of Sam and Dean just talking, lying down in the front and back seats of the Impala.
Jensen: Just the brothers having a chat. For five pages. That one was a crane shot; they used a roofless car.
It took three or four hours to film, he said. Frankly at this point, just the thought of it has me so bursting with anticipation I’m not sure how I’m going to make it to Wednesday! Both Jared and Jensen have told me that they’re very excited about the episode, and while its writer Robbie Thompson is sworn to secrecy, he did let me know that he’s very excited too. Like I needed any more encouragement!
And there’s lots more from Chicon too, with photos of the whole gang – stay tuned!
Photos by me
Edits by the talented @arkine13
If you haven’t yet read ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’ and
‘Fan Phenomena Supernatural’, they’re both on sale at
Amazon – click the links on our home page!