What SPNFamily Is All About at SFCon
The last Supernatural con of 2016 was memorable for me, though not for the reasons I thought it would be. I was spending time with the kids so was only able to get there Saturday night, and the second – literally – I stepped off the shuttle and into the hotel, my phone rang and I got the shocking news that my dad had passed away. It was one of those moments that turns completely surreal immediately. I think I told the doctor trying to be sympathetic on the phone “no that can’t be right, I’m in San Francisco.” He patiently answered that yes, he realized that, but in fact my father had still expired. It will be darkly comedic at some point, but I’m not quite there yet.
I wandered into the hotel in a sort of daze, and immediately some of the Creation people I’ve come to know over the years knew something was wrong. Even though it was way too late to get registered, they got me a wristband and my seat pass and whatever else I needed. My friend Max held my hand and walked me to my seat and checked on me throughout the concert.
I couldn’t even bring myself to make any phone calls; instead I drank in the Saturday Night Special like it was a lifeline. It feels like that sometimes anyway, but never so much as that night. I felt surrounded by love, fans who are friends all around me and cast who feel like friends too singing such emotional songs that I was swept up in it and out of my own sadness. Just for an hour, but it was what I needed to give me time to accept what had happened gradually, so it didn’t overwhelm me.
There was new Louden Swain and classic Louden Swain. Songs I love played by a band I love. And Rob, always the emotional heart of the Saturday Night Special. It was cathartic to lose myself in his soulful voice, both the songs of pain and sadness and the songs of resilience and triumph.
My camera – and even my phone – were apparently in love with the lighting and the stage set up (thanks Liz!), so I took lots of pictures, which was also sort of therapeutic.
There was Kim Rhodes singing Blondie and making it more her own every single time, with a defiance and a strength that I wanted to channel. If she doesn’t look like a rockstar up there, I don’t know who does.
There was Osric singing Lose Yourself – and playing the keyboard intro. They all take the SNS so seriously – he learned to play so he could perform that song. A tiny glitch brought only audience support and a smile from Os, because that’s the way it should be when you’re playing for friends.
Ruth too has become a rockstar. When she sings ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ she wears the boots to prove it. And I love when she’s joined by the Ruth Connell dancers too, in this case Kim and Matt shaking it for all they’re worth.
Mark on drums and Richard on bass for Whipping Post was hypnotic with that prominent beat that gets everyone’s heartbeats thumping in time, and makes me marvel every time at just how good all these people (most of whom who aren’t musicians by trade) actually are.
Creation’s Chris Schmelke took a turn on bass, and Stephanie Dizon sang, and Adam Malin played keyboards – everyone involved with these cons is musically talented, I swear!
Also, everyone kisses Rob. Understandably.
Briana and Rob made me cry with the gorgeous harmony on ‘I’m Giving Up On You’, Briana staying totally in character throughout the song. By that point, it was therapeutic for me to let the tears start to come, and I knew it would happen for ‘She Waits’ too, as it often does.
Jason and Rob sang a beautiful version of ‘Hallelujah’ which also made me reach for the tissues, and then Rob and the band sang ‘She Waits’. I stood with my friend Max at side stage like I always do, so we can sing at the top of our lungs and cry a little – that night I cried a lot, but it was a good cry, with Max’s arm around me and the entire ballroom lit up with multi colored glow sticks in support of Rob, and of each other.
Matt Cohen came out into the audience to cheerlead for ‘Mama’s Jam’ – he surprised me by coming over and hugging me tight in the middle of the song, whispering in my ear how sorry he was for my loss. I hadn’t even known that anyone knew. That’s the kind of cast this is – that’s the kind of family this is.
I love that Louden Swain sings ‘Medicated’ as the concert draws to an end, and that the whole cast joins in with kazoos and to sing out loud and proud about being a little crazy and not giving a fuck. We all sing it together, and it feels like a rebellion of sorts, a whole room full of people who refuse to apologize for having struggled with something at some point.
And a room full of people who can play kazoo. Rob’s reaction, while conducting them and us, was pretty much mine as well.
I made phone calls, and the next morning I made more phone calls and told some of my friends, and fandom was the supportive and loving community I needed – both virtually and right there at the con. Every time someone heard, there were hugs and words of comfort. On a very difficult day, I could not have been at a better place. It was impossible not to feel loved in the midst of all that SPN Family Love.
The gold panel gave me a break from the grief that was starting to replace the shock, in part because Jared and Jensen looked mighty fine indeed, and in part because they were adorable and funny as hell. Which is nothing new, but I appreciated it more than ever that morning.
We all had just heard the news that Jensen and Danneel now had twins. Jared turned to Jensen with a big smile.
Jared: For someone who just had kids, you look great.
Which, by the way, was quite true. For both of them.
Jensen said he had struggled with the decision of whether or not to come to the con, but Danneel said that he should go. I often think about the interview we did with Danneel way back in 2008, one of the very first people we talked to when we were writing Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls. She wanted very much to understand fandom, and asked us as many questions as we asked her. (She also proved herself a really good sport by crawling around under tables trying to find us an outlet when our laptop died.) I guess she figured out just how many disappointed people there would have been if Jensen had stayed home – though we certainly would have understood!
There followed a very funny story about how Jared asked Jensen if he had his passport, which of course he had his passport, he always has his passport….except nope. Not this time. They barely made it back to Austin in time.
Jensen was also very anxious awaiting the birth of the twins – it must have been pretty scary to be far away and not knowing when he’d need to rush back.
Jared: He and I have a friendship where we can just be silent with each other, but he just would not stop talking, he was so nervous.
People were speculating about why Jensen chose Zeppelin and Arrow for the twins’ names – apparently a Zeppelin blend is a type of knot, and the baby had the cord around his neck, so that’s where that came from. Arrow they just liked, and the idea of an A A name too.
Jared talked about his boys a bit too – specifically that Shep likes to fling himself at Jensen’s “parts”, which Jensen helpfully acted out his pained reaction to. Ouch.
Both Jensen and Jared said they were really impressed with Rick Springfield during his turn as Lucifer this season. They kept hoping that he’d bust out a guitar and start singing, but alas that never happened. Personally I’d love to see him at a convention – and at the Saturday Night Special!
In between the morning J2 panel and the afternoon one, I had some lovely chats with Megan Padalecki about writing and publishing, and lots more hugs to carry me through the day. Then it was time for Ruth Connell, who was kind enough to give a shout out for the new book.
Ruth: Because of you guys, I can now even sing onstage, which I write about in Lynn’s new book.
That she does – eloquently and powerfully. I cannot wait for everyone to read the amazing things that the cast and the fans had to say about how Supernatural and this whole experience has changed their lives. It’s…inspiring, to say the least.
When she got the audition for Supernatural, Ruth hadn’t had one in a long time. She really wanted this role and watched 14 episodes to get ready! Ruth talked about all the positives in her life that have come from playing Rowena. One of these days I really do have to send flowers to that casting agent.
Ruth gave some behind the scenes insights, including lamenting that filming group shots on Supernatural is essentially just the boys messing around. Getting things done is like “herding cats”, which sounds like a pretty accurate description of that set.
Ruth kept up her tradition of ‘hotel giveaway section’, giving various freebie goodies to fans who were brave enough to come up to the mic and ask a question.
She also had a heartwarming thing to say about Mark Sheppard. Before they even started filming, Mark told her that he’d heard good things about her – which gave her, a newbie on set, confidence.
Then the boys were back for the afternoon panel, in their new #SPNFamilyLove shirts.
There was more baby talk, including Jared translating something to ‘baby’ so Jensen could understand, which was adorable.
Jared said that when Gen held the twins, she called him to say that she wants another baby.
Jared: You’re already pregnant.
When asked what they disliked and liked about their characters, Jensen came up with this:
Jensen: I dislike my character being stuck in a car all the time with someone who smells so bad…
… But I like that it’s that car I’m stuck in.
It was a family affair onstage for a few minutes, when the boys were joined by Gen’s dad, who has a remarkable resemblance to a certain movie star.
Jensen: Who here didn’t know that Gen’s father was Richard Gere?
He had them both sign something then there were hugs all around.
Everyone had to take a few drinks because there were a couple of prank questions. Jensen said that once Jared walked up to him and casually asked how much he thought it would cost to replace Misha’s car.
Jensen: What did you do?
Jared: Nothing yet…
I wonder what Jensen saved Misha from that time.
It doesn’t always work out for Mr. Collins though. Poor Misha was nice enough to let Jensen park his car in his driveway when he was getting it from Austin to Vancouver. He even parked his own car on the street – and it got totaled!
So much credit to you, Misha. You’re a good friend.
One of the most therapeutic things in the universe is watching Jensen and Jared amuse each other. There was plenty of that on Sunday afternoon – and I really needed it!
Also, I just love watching Jared listen to Jensen. Or Jensen listen to Jared. I’m not picky.
One of my favorite things was when a fan asked them what they were afraid of. Jared, randomly, said he was afraid of bears. He even has an app on his phone called ‘scare bears’. In fact, he insisted on demonstrating it to Jensen (and to all of us), which was hysterical.
Jensen: He has a completely useless app on his phone to prove he’s afraid of bears.
Jared: So what are you afraid of?
Jensen: (in Dean Winchester voice) I’m not afraid of anything.
Actually he was very anxious recently while awaiting the birth of twins. A fan asked if he was ever anxious (which he writes about in Family Don’t End With Blood).
Jensen said yes, and that when he’s anxious, it helps to have friends around – that Jared and Misha and recently Richard have been a help to him on set (Richard was up there directing).
Other favorite moments?
Jensen: (Flexes his biceps)
Oh, and they actually called each other ‘Bitch’ and ‘Jerk’ and I got unexpectedly emotional. Which I think is understandable.
Their real life friendship makes me a bit emotional too. Even when they’re not spending time together, they stay connected. On Thanksgiving, Jared said, he brined a turkey and served his guests Jensen’s beer. Jensen spent nine hours prepping for the feast since Danneel wasn’t up to it – and sent Jared a photo of him wearing ‘onion goggles’. Which I would dearly love to see, btw.
The last question was about whether the boys will ever accept Crowley as one of the good guys.
Jared: I hope not. But Dean was closer to him, so Mr. Ackles?
(Jensen was busy beckoning Rob over to join their little SPNFamily group hug. Who could resist that look? Not Mr. Benedict certainly. Pretty sure not anyone who is human actually.)
Jensen seemed to agree with Jared, though he did say that Crowley was their ‘man on the inside’ as far as the underworld goes.
And then we got some Jensen singing with Rob, which I look forward to at the end of every con.
I’ll end this with a more profound exchange, though. The boys were asked how their characters had changed, and what Sam and Dean have learned.
Jared: That pain is mandatory, but suffering is optional. Every one of us has had crummy times – seeing it for what it is, realizing you can’t change the past but you can move forward trying to make it better. Sam has realized that. He’s learned to deal with it.
Jensen: In the beginning, Dean didn’t realize this is his calling. He’s content with being beside his brother, to (always keep) fighting.
I’m content with that too.
They almost always share a reassuring touch before they leave the stage, this time a squeeze of the shoulder. It never fails to make me emotional.
There was a Kings of Con panel to wrap up the entertainment, which has become a welcome con tradition. Everyone put on their crowns and laughed along with Rich and Rob as they shared some behind the scenes stories and laughed with us over the trailer and Rob’s bare butt. Filmed on his own front lawn.
The day ended with more hugs and support from the cast and my fellow fans, and then I headed off to be with what is generally defined as my “real” family. I hugged my daughter for a very long time. We have a close family and their support and love has gotten me through these last few weeks. But there was nothing that wasn’t “real” about the love I felt from my SPN Family that Sunday. I titled the new book Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives because I wanted to celebrate this amazing family we all have built – that we really are a family and that makes all the difference. I learned with each chapter the actors and the fans poured their heart and soul into that the SPN Family has been even more life changing than I ever imagined. On that Sunday at SFCon, I felt that life changing – and life saving – reality myself. And I’m so grateful.
Thank you to @mamaprior for the watermarking and edits (and all the support!)
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