Behind the Scenes of Supernatural with Director Richard Speight Jr.

I’ve known Richard Speight Jr. for a long time – a decade in fact! I loved his portrayal of the Trickster and Gabriel on Supernatural, and I’ve always loved talking to him. About the show, about the cons, about the fandom, about the business – Richard has always had the most fascinating insights. He wrote a chapter for our third book, Fan Phenomena Supernatural, which I love. And it’s always just plain fun to sit down and chat with him, especially as a wonderful way to end a hectic but fun con weekend. Richard talked about wanting to direct early on, so it’s been truly awesome to watch him pursue that dream and be successful thanks to determination, talent and lots of hard work. We don’t get to sit down and chat at the end of cons nearly as often as we used to, but we did in San Francisco. And yes, Richard still has the most fascinating insights – this time all about directing his most recent episode of Supernatural, and the incredible collaboration with cast and crew that has ensured the show’s success.

Lynn: War of the Worlds was a huge episode – It seems like (writers) Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner often get these episodes where they tie all these plot lines together.

Richard: Right.

Lynn: What is it like directing an episode like that, with three big reveals and so much plot movement? Does it feel as unmanageable as it sort of seems?

Richard: Well, it’s interesting, there’s a double whammy. I mean, Eugenie and Brad write phenomenal scripts, I think they’re very smart writers and they’ve been doing it a long time, they’re very experienced writers in the field.

Lynn: Which may be why they give them these complicated episodes.

Richard: Yeah, and I dig what they do so I was intimidated by getting one of their scripts. I’m intimidated by all scripts, to be honest…

Lynn: Well you haven’t been doing this that long!

Richard: Exactly, so everything intimidates me. But especially since Bob Singer is a mentor of mine, they’ve been together for a long time doing great work, so that’s intimidating. And the size of the script was huge in terms of what was involved. This was very challenging because every day was chock full and we moved like a freight train, but I felt like the story was in great shape when I got the script. We didn’t have to have a lot of conversations about ‘what about what about what about’. It didn’t need much massaging, it was kinda ready to go, so I could start working right out of the gate on what I thought the show should be from a shooting standpoint.

Lynn: That makes a lot of sense yeah.

Richard: And so to me it was as daunting as anything else is, but I think the thing that was most daunting were the fight scenes, because I had several. I had Castiel in the park and then I had the big fight scene in the bar, so those are the ones I kinda obsessed about alot – especially when I had the boys being thrown around in the bar, and Asmodeus throwing Lucifer and Castiel around in the bar. So those massive moments take a lot of energy and time and stunt work.

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Last Con of 2017! Supernatural Returns to San Francisco

 

The last con of 2017 was once again in San Francisco. It was an emotional con for me, because exactly one year ago, as I was attending this same convention, I got the news that my dad had unexpectedly passed away. I remember being in shock, only telling a few of my closest friends there – but word got around. My friends from Creation made sure I was okay, even walking me to my seat. My fellow fans checked on me all weekend long. And word got out to the cast too, who were incredibly kind. I remember Matt Cohen jumping off the stage in the middle of the Saturday Night Special, enfolding me in a hug and telling me how sorry he was for my loss; Jared and Jensen hugging me for a long time, asking me what I needed. Everyone was just so very kind – fandom and the SPNFamily at its best.

This year, the anniversary brought all that back. I was touched that many people remembered it had been a year, and didn’t hesitate to bring it up. Cons can be therapeutic for a lot of reasons, and this one definitely was. There’s nothing quite like being enfolded in your SPNFamily when you’re feeling emotional, for whatever reason.

It was also Mark Sheppard’s last convention with Creation. He’s been to just about all of them since he started on the show, so it’s just been a given that I’ll see him whenever I’m there. I’ve come to expect that Jared, Jensen, Misha and Mark will of course be there, every single time. Mark will be snarky and will answer one in five questions but will melt every time there’s a baby in the audience, and will suddenly get very real and give a heartfelt testimony about why he loves fandom before he leaves the stage. I don’t like change – I love Mark’s panels. I was tremendously honored that he wrote an essay for Family Don’t End With Blood, with many of those same heartfelt words about his love of fandom. I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time in the green room with him and other cast a few times, and was able to get to know him and his lovely wife Sarah a bit. It’s weird to think he won’t be there again.

Because this fandom can always be counted on to be awesome, Mark’s last con didn’t go unrecognized – just like Alex Calvert’s first con didn’t either. There were signs for all of us to hold up with the line Mark had wanted to say in his last episode, that inexplicably got cut. ‘Even when I lose, I win’ on red signs were held high all over the ballroom when Mark took the stage, and he was clearly moved. He pulled out his phone and started filming, and from where I was sitting, I could tell how much it meant to him. As the panel progressed, Mark was more serious than usual, and there were several times that I could see his eyes were glistening. Or maybe that was mine; it got hard to tell. I didn’t expect to be as emotional as I was, but when Mark left the stage I had already grabbed for the tissues several times. Thank you, Mark, for the amazing job you did bringing Crowley to life, for being a fan yourself and for loving fandom the way you do, and for being a part of Family Don’t End With Blood.

Those were the very emotional parts of this con – there were also parts that were purely fun. (Isn’t that always the case with cons? Half strong emotional reaction and half laughing until I’m needing a tissue for an entirely different reason).

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Behind the Scenes of Supernatural with War of the Worlds’ Farrah Aviva

 

One of the things I’m really enjoying this season is highlighting the amazing women of Supernatural – that means being over the moon excited about the Wayward Sisters episode and possible pilot coming up, and it just might mean another book project in the works. I also want to celebrate the many talented guest stars we’re privileged to have on the show, many of whom are kickass women in real life too.

I sat down with director Richard Speight Jr. last weekend to talk about the making of ‘War of the Worlds’ so look for his fascinating behind the scenes insights soon. I also wanted to chat with guest star Farrah Aviva, who played the witch Daniela. Even in the short amount of time we had with her, Farrah managed to make the character memorable. She was clearly a strong woman, with the smarts to ask the Winchesters for help and the courage to sit there cool as a cucumber to trap Ketch.

Lynn: How was the character described to you and did you create any additional ‘backstory’ for her to help with those scenes?

Farrah: The character was originally described to me as: 30s, please submit all ethnicities. This exotically attractive woman is a witch whose life in in grave danger.  She nervously approaches Sam and Dean for help in her predicament…GUEST STAR.

I was working on a movie in a different city when I was asked to audition for Daniela so I had to put it on tape which can sometimes be challenging because you don’t get the opportunity to ask casting or the director if you’ve interpreted it properly.  I originally prepared her a bit more vulnerable.  In a way that showed I was risking everything by approaching the Winchesters.  To prep, I imagined it was the middle of a war and I had to ask the enemy for help.  Almost as if Anne Frank escaped the attic one day to approach a couple of Nazi soldiers to ask for help.  I know that can seem a bit dramatic but I love working off of ‘what if’s’.  What if I had to risk everything in order to save others and myself? And that’s exactly what Daniela had to do.  In order to save herself and the other witches she had to approach the boys and bring them to one of the witches’ safe houses.  Not only did that put her in the middle of nowhere with the Winchesters, I also don’t think the other witches would have forgiven her for it.

Lynn: That makes sense, it really was a big risk for her. And witches don’t seem very forgiving.

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Director Richard Speight Jr. Helms a Wild Ride in Supernatural’s War of the Worlds

There was a new Supernatural episode last week even though in the US that day was the Thanksgiving holiday, which meant I was at a big family gathering and not in charge of what was going to be watched at 8 pm. Lucky for me, I have really considerate family members, because most of us ended up watching my favorite Show. However, I couldn’t exactly tell people not to make a sound (which is how I like to watch Supernatural. I mean, I make a lot of sounds, but the rest of the family should be quiet. What?) I kindly said “oh no, please feel free to keep chatting” when asked, even though I might have been gritting my teeth.

But it turns out that the episode was engaging enough that everyone ended up watching instead of chatting – thanks, I think, to Richard Speight Jr.’s directing. I’ve loved every episode Richard has directed, especially the last two, and especially especially ‘Just My Imagination’.  ‘War of the Worlds’, is not going to go down in history as one of my favorites, but thanks to Richard’s directing there was never a dull moment and I definitely wasn’t bored. It’s just that my favorite episodes have an emotional arc for the Winchesters, some of the brother moments I live for, some psychological insights into the main characters who I care about – something that grabs me and reminds me why I love this show. This episode didn’t have those things, but what it did have is excitement and surprises and reveals and some pretty epic fight scenes. Speight made sure all of that came through and kept me riveted.

We start out with strikingly beautiful images, which were so serene they didn’t look like they belonged on Supernatural. But it’s only Michael invading Lucifer’s brain to see what Earth is all about. Michael is not nice at all, which should be no surprise because angels on Supernatural are just about the most deplorable beings ever. Except for Castiel, who (as is pointed out in this episode) is truly a renegade. This fact about angels was quite confusing to the extended family members who decided to watch with me.

Michael locks Lucifer in an iron maiden and brutally tortures him, Lucifer screaming plaintively.

Family: Uh, I thought you said that guy Michael was an angel.

Me: Oh yeah, he is. Typical.

Family: Typical? And who’s that poor guy screaming and bleeding?

Me: Lucifer.

Family: Wait, the Devil? An angel is torturing the devil??

Me (silently) This was such a bad idea…

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Supernatural 12.22 – This Really Is “Who We Are”

I feel like I’ve been waiting all season to write a review like this one – one where I unequivocally enthusiastically at-the-top-of-my-lungs want to scream from the rooftops that THIS IS MY SHOW AND I EFFING LOVE IT! I’ve already regaled writer Robert Berens with all the reasons why he can never leave Supernatural, so he’s probably regretting writing this masterpiece, but honestly, I can’t help it. There were quite a few episodes this season that were disappointing, last week’s especially, so the reminder of why I fell for this Show and just how incredible it can be felt like the very best sort of relief. At least half my live tweets were in all caps, and that hasn’t happened since the last Robbie Thompson episode. I’m incredibly grateful to be able to return to that kind of enthusiasm for my favorite Show.

I’ve been watching Supernatural live since Season 2, so it’s been over a decade of season finale nights, but the mix of anticipation and dread that I feel leading up to every one has never diminished. All day, I kept an eye on the clock. I left work early, made sure I had all the necessary supplies – a little wine, some good take-out, a little pie for dessert. And of course, tissues. Lots of tissues. I tweeted Berens a few hours before the show aired, asking just how many boxes of tissues I would need, and he tweeted back that there were not enough tissues in the world.

Let’s just say that didn’t do anything to calm my nerves. There was mostly anticipation for 12.22, since Jensen had told me this was the episode I would love and I figure he pretty much knows what I love at this point. If he said I was going to be a happy fangirl, I was fairly certain I would be. Which also means tissues. At the same time, I had nothing but feelings of foreboding about 12.23, amped up by all the rumors about Mark Sheppard leaving the show and by Misha Collins’ tweet of an ominous (and emotional) video celebrating Castiel’s 100th episode.

Finale nights are full of lots of nail biting, but they’re also nights when the entire Supernatural fandom comes together. All over the world, thanks to streams and downloads as well as broadcasts, fans sit down “together” to watch, sharing our reactions and trying to support each other through the ups and downs of the episode. You can almost feel the tension across the globe as those final minutes tick by, as everyone waits to find out – literally – who will live and who will die. It’s been like that since the Kripke days, and this season was no exception.

And boy, were we right to be emotional – both the anticipation and the dread turned out to be well founded.

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