It’s been a while since I had a chance to sit down and chat with Gil McKinney and Osric Chau, two of my favorite guest stars on Supernatural (as Henry Winchester and Kevin Tran) so I was happy to catch up with them at the Supernatural convention in Chicago this summer.
It’s been a busy year for Gil – he has a new baby, wrote a chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, and just released his first EP (How Was I To Know), produced by fellow SPN Family member and talented singer, Jason Manns. After a wildly successful kickstarter, the EP was released this summer to rave reviews. Family Don’t End With Blood, was released this summer as well, and many fans have said that Gil’s chapter has inspired them.
It’s been a busy year for Osric as well, who also wrote an inspiring and personal chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood. And of course because he’s a regular on the smash hit Dirk Gently, on BBC America. As we sat down to chat in Chicago, filming was just beginning on Season 2, which starts airing next month, and Dirk Gently was about to conquer Comic Con in the gigantic Hall H!
Gil and Osric did a panel together at this convention, something they haven’t done in a while. I was there for their first joint panel, several years ago, when they haltingly started to get to know each other after being thrown together somewhat randomly, and I watched as they developed a genuine fondness and a lot of chemistry. It was a joy to see them onstage together again.
A fan asked about the book they both wrote chapters in.
If you’re coming to the Supernatural con in Minneapolis tomorrow, come see me in the vendor’s room if you’d like to grab a copy of Family Don’t End With Blood. The book is unique for being written by the Supernatural actors themselves – Jared, Jensen, Misha, Mark, Kim, Briana, Ruth, Rachel, Rob, Matt, Jim, Gil and Osric all tell their very personal stories of how the fandom and the show have impacted their lives. In their own words. As Gil joked recently, they can now all add “author” to their bios! Most of the actors who wrote chapters will be at the con, and they are always thrilled to sign their chapters – it’s one item almost all of them love to sign since they’re (very justifiably) proud of their chapters. I’d be honored to sign it for you too at the vendor’s table – I’d love to meet you and hear your Supernatural story, to add to the powerful chapters in the book written by fans.
I’m extra excited about this con because the super talented Jodi from Eldwenne’s Fantasy has designed a special necklace inspired by the stories in Family Don’t End With Blood. This piece was commissioned to honor the powerful, courageous, inspiring chapters written by some of the women of Supernatural – Briana Buckmaster, Ruth Connell, Rachel Miner and Kim Rhodes. The blue is from the book’s iconic cover art of the Winchesters, with silver and black wrapped around to symbolize their supportive found family (including black for Baby, of course – she’s family!). And that drop of red? Just the beginning of what family means in Supernatural – and in the entire SPNFamily.
I love the little drop of blood and I love the whole wrap around family feel of the blue with the black and silver hugging it. I love that the necklace stands for the way the characters have each other’s backs, and also for the way the fandom and the cast support each other too. That’s the inspiring message you’ll take away from reading the book.
Jodi is offering $5.00 off at the con to anyone who buys a copy of the book that inspired the necklace, and I’m offering $2.00 off the book at the con if you happen to be wearing the necklace.
Here’s what Gil and Osric had to say about writing their chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood, and what Jared and Matt had to say about writing theirs.
I was going to post my Vancon report this morning, but there’s something I want to talk about first. That something is Misha Collins. Partly because the events of the past week are so upsetting, which makes me long for a leader whose moral conviction and willingness to stand up for what he believes in can actually make change in this world that needs it so badly. Partly because I just finished my third Gishwhes, and watched Misha’s genuine and emotional reaction to the change we were all able to make together — I can’t think of ‘leader’ without thinking of Misha. Partly because Misha got some criticism for something he posted online, which I read as supportive but some read as the opposite – which can happen on the internet, no matter how good your intentions. Partly because I got some criticism too – which happens every time I try to share what’s happening at a con in live tweets, because LIVE tweets – but this time it struck me as so ironic, because I was sitting there thinking so much about Misha and the accusation was of ‘erasing’ him. (I had virtually no data service all day Saturday, so there were very few tweets that went through of those panels, including Misha’s, so that was probably part of the problem). But erasing?
That would be such a tragedy, it made me sick to my stomach. So I tried to think of something that could prevent it. All I have is my voice, but Misha has taught me my voice is important to use. So here goes.
The world would be a much less hopeful place without Misha Collins in it, and right now that is extremely important to me. I’m hanging onto hope wherever I can find it, and I’m unspeakably glad that one of the many wonderful things that SPN has brought me is my acquaintance with Misha Collins. He was the first of the cast to figure out how he could use his position and popularity for good, and he wasted no time doing so. Jared and Jensen have both given Misha credit for inspiring their own determination to make change through their charity campaigns. Together, the three of them – and just about all of their castmates – have done incredible work toward the kind of change we desperately need. The thing about Misha is, he’s not afraid to put himself out there, even when he’s standing out there initially alone. I admire that about him more than I can say, because that scares the hell out of me. Misha sees something that’s hurtful, and he immediately speaks up. And he doesn’t stop there – somehow he never got the discouraging message that most of us get, the ‘you’re one person, you can’t make a difference’ message that we let stop us far too often. Misha sees a problem and jumps in with both feet, uncaring of whether some people will disapprove. He doesn’t see impossible, no matter how unlikely the change that needs to happen – he sees possible. That kind of strength and courage is unusual, perhaps especially in the world of ‘celebrity’.
The other reason I admire Misha so much is because of his refusal to accept the constraints of ‘normal’. Whether it’s what you wear, what you want to do, who you want to be, or where you want to go, conforming with what someone else insists is ‘normal’ can take away your right to be yourself. And that leaves us feeling bad about who we really are. That’s right in line with all my research on fandom, which also changes the norms, and removes barriers to being genuine and real, celebrating who we really are and what we really love. It frees us to be passionate, which is the healthiest thing a human can be. From the very start of his role on Supernatural and joining the SPN Family, Misha refused to bow to all those rules about who a ‘celebrity’ should be and what he should say and what he shouldn’t. He wore a dress when he felt like it, he refused to stay inside the assigned room at his convention meet and greets and instead strolled with the gathered fans to local coffee shops or malls or into the woods to make a campfire…. He challenged what it meant to be a ‘celebrity’ and pushed back against the constraints of ‘normal’. And that made all the difference – eventually resulting in Random Acts and Gishwhes itself.
I knew Misha was different the very first time I met him. We were writing ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’ and asked for an interview with ‘the new guy’. He had just joined the show, but his character had already made an impression. I remember being struck by how good looking he was as he got out of the set van to meet with us, looking like he’d stepped out of the 70’s in faded flared jeans and with the bluest eyes. Television doesn’t really do any of them justice when you see them in real life, does it? By the time we had finished chatting for way too long (Misha got involved in the conversation and missed his next scheduled interview – oops), I knew he was a very unique person. And I was already impressed. Much like Eric Kripke had done, Misha constantly turned the tables on us to ask us questions during the interview – he wanted to understand everything about the fandom. What did fans love about this show, how did they feel about his character, what did fandom itself give to people and was it a good thing? [Yes, absolutely]. He winked and made a joke about Dean and Cas before we could even ask him the shipping question, catching me off guard and making me spit out my drink with laughter.
He talked about joining Supernatural and becoming a ‘celebrity’ just like that.
Misha: That was an interesting process for me to negotiate. Jared and Jensen have had a lot more time in the limelight leading up to Supernatural exploding into a fan phenomenon, so they got to see it gradually unfold, whereas I stepped into it when it was already kind of a big thing, and it happened all of a sudden. Sort of like being hit by a bus!
He was thoughtful about what that meant, and how that could help him do some good. We gave him the last word in ‘Fangasm’, because what he had to say was so inspiring.
We stayed in touch after that, so when we decided to write another book on Supernatural, he was the first person I asked to write a chapter. I knew how much he had to say, how smart and insightful he was, and also that whatever he wrote would be both unexpected and inspiring. We sat down to talk about the chapter several times, over tea or Starbucks or at a con, and little by little I got to know him better.
I watched him figure out what fandom was, and figure out what his place in all this was, and then figure out how he could do something important with it. I’m honored to have been along for the ride a little bit as those ideas took place and came to fruition. His chapter in ‘Fan Phenomena Supernatural’ traces that evolution as well, as Random Acts was created and Misha began the incredible journey he’s been on ever since he set foot on the Supernatural set.
It was Osric Chau who convinced me to do Gishwhes the first time. He kept telling me how much it had changed him, what the experience had given him, what it had pushed him to do and how that had moved him forward in his own life. Osric, who I admire greatly for his willingness to step outside the box and cosplay everything from Ariel to Captain America, in turn admired Misha for his willingness to step outside the box too. Claudine Hummel, who wrote a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood, says the same thing about Misha and the powerful impact he has had on her life. Her chapter is titled “Spreading Kindness Like Confetti,” which I think is pretty much the perfect title for a chapter all about Misha.
Misha instinctively realized, I think, that people needed explicit permission to be “not normal”. Not just encouragement, but permission – and sometimes not just permission, but a directive. Misha isn’t a psychologist, but he has a keen grasp of what makes people tick, and uses it to motivate all of us to change both ourselves and each other. I wore a hat made of kale to a very fancy country club with my friend Vickie, nervous and hesitant and feeling terribly self conscious – and experienced firsthand the liberating power of ignoring all the ‘should’ voices in my head and just being in the moment. Gishwhes also reminded me of the importance of doing for others, and the positive impact that has on all of us. I thought back on those early conversations with Misha and was in awe of the fact that he had actually done it – he was making change on a global scale, one random act of kindness at a time.
After that, I wanted to help. I’ve consulted for Random Acts and for Misha several times, and am currently about to start doing some consulting for a new project Random Acts is working on – one that is critically important in this age of cyberbullying and anonymous hate-fueled posts. Despite the fact that he’s been incredibly busy doing all those things I so admire him for, Misha also contributed a personal message to my new book, Family Don’t End With Blood – a message of love and appreciation for what the SPN Family is all about. He sets a damn good example, so I’m donating some of the proceeds of that book to Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse. And even more striking? My awesome publisher is too. They have been just as inspired by Misha’s example.
On days like this, when it seems like the world has gone mad and I’m worried for my children and their future, I like to remind myself that there are people out there like Misha Collins. People who aren’t afraid to try to make the world better – or more accurately, are determined to push through their fears and make the change anyway. I keep telling Misha he needs to be in politics, but in a way, he already is. His voice has made a difference already, and he’s inspired many of us to do the same.
Here’s a little bit of spotlight on you, Misha, though you shine pretty bright already. Keep up the good work.
Stay tuned for more cast and crew members ‘In The Spotlight’ – we’ve got a pretty special group of people in this SPNFamily.
So excited that we’re getting close to the release of Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives! Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Mark Shepherd, Jim Beaver, Rob Benedict, Briana Buckmaster, Osric Chau, Ruth Connell, Matt Cohen, Gil McKinney, Rachel Miner and Kim Rhodes contributed to the book, along with a dozen fans who shared their powerful stories. There are eloquent cover blurbs by Richard Speight Jr. and Curtis Armstrong, and there’s a free digital download of a Station Breaks favorite courtesy of Jason Manns, Rob Benedict and Billy Moran!
If you think Supernatural is like any other show, this book will change your mind. If you already know how special SPN is, you’ll be nodding your head as you read (and maybe grabbing for the tissues). And it’s not just fans whose lives have been changed – the super talented actors and crew who bring Supernatural to life also write about how they’ve been changed forever by the show and the fandom. I don’t think you can get to the end of this book and not feel incredibly good about being part of the #SPNFamily. Or in awe of what this Little Show That Could has accomplished.
Everyone who contributed to the book is very excited about the upcoming release, so we’ve decided to throw a party to celebrate!
If you’re anywhere near LA (or up for a little Supernatural inspired trip), please join us for a Book Release Party at The Study in Hollywood. Rob Benedict (who wrote an unbelievably powerful chapter for the book), Billy Moran and Mike Borja of Louden Swain will provide some live music, and there will be fun and games, author readings, Supernatural drink specials and free mini pies from The Pie Hole LA — because what would a Supernatural party be without pie??
All the authors are invited, along with some of the people who make the show incredible (writers, crew, etc.) and some of our favorite SPN cast alums too. Of course, not everyone will be able to come, but we’re expecting some contributors and cast alums will join us for the fun.
We’ll have plenty of copies of Family Don’t End With Blood for sale, and I’d be honored to sign your book for you. You can grab your ticket here –
(If you’re under 21, please email us at familydontendwithbloodspn@gmail before ordering a ticket – you must be on a list to be able to enter the club if you’re under 21)
We’re all very proud of this book and the important messages that it contains, and that it benefits the important work of Attitudes in Reverse and Random Acts. We hope you’ll all find it as inspiring as we did to write, and that you’ll let us all know your thoughts and reactions once you read.
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.