2011 Supernatural Paley Festival Panel
The DVD of the 2006 Supernatural PaleyFest panel is one of my most cherished possessions, so being able to attend the 2011 panel was a dream come true. And it was every bit as great in reality as it was in the dream.
I've written up the whole experience. This has spoilers, because I'm going to share every little detail I can remember from the advance clip they showed from the Western episode, so prepare to shield your eyes!
The Paley Center itself opened the panel with, as the Center put it, “an appropriate selection from the Paley Center archives.” And boy, was it ever appropriate: to my delight, it was the full-length “See the USA in your Chevrolet!” musical advertisement from the late 1950's/early 1960's, something I remember quite vividly from my childhood. Hey, we used to sing along, because we had Chevys!
The panel was hosted by TV Guide Magazine, so editor-in-chief Debra Birnbaum (@TVGMDebra on Twitter) introduced the show. Before handing things over to panel moderator Maureen Ryan (@moryan on Twitter), Debra let slip that she was just at a photo shoot for the April 18th issue of TV Guide featuring the winners of the magazine's recent “Fan Favorites” contest, and – as she put it – “A couple of the guys backstage right now were there!”
Rather than give a flowery introduction speech, Mo Ryan observed that she'd found a classic rock song that just seemed to be a blueprint for the show, and quoted some lyrics from Pink Floyd:
So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees? ...
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
We're just two lost souls ...
Year after year, ...
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Noting the song was most appropriately called “Wish You Were Here,” she concluded – they were here, and introduced showrunner Sera Gamble, who in turn introduced a clip that began with a “The Road So Far” montage of scenes from the episodes that already aired this season set to the Four Tops' “Are You Man Enough,” then segued into some hilarious extended takes of the “bad acting” scene from The French Mistake, plus a few additional outtakes (including Misha laughing in the car in his kidnapping scene), and then, using the classic teasing “Soon,” slid into some selected scenes from the upcoming Western episode directed by Guy Norman Bee (@guynormanbee on Twitter).
Hide your eyes from the next bit (the paragraphs between the ****** breaks!) if you don't want any spoilers, because I'm going to recount what I saw as best I can recall it!
The montage opened with a classic shot of a deserted Western town street, seen past a hanging noose. We saw booted feet with spurred heels beneath the swinging tails of duster coats as two men took up the classic positions of gunfighters facing off for a quick-draw duel. One was a classic man in black; the other, sporting a sheriff's badge, was Dean. He squinted up a the clock on the town's tallest building, which clicked ominously over to high noon, and then both men pulled and fired … and we cut to a hilarious title card for Supernatural done a la the old opening credits sequence for Bonanza, complete with the burning map, which then shattered apart like the current shattering glass title! The music was also overblown old-style Western.
Following that, we saw the brothers coming downstairs in Bobby's house, where Bobby and Castiel were waiting for them. Sam was bare-headed, wearing a dude-style cowboy shirt with a decorated front yoke embroidered in yellow, and proceeded to pull his jacket on over the shirt, while Dean was in an outfit topped off with a cowboy hat and a Mexican serape hanging over his shoulders. Sam looked uncomfortable, almost embarrassed, while Dean looked like a boy happily playing cowboys and Indians. Castiel, bemused, asked if it was customary to wear a blanket, and Dean, after beaming that it was a serape, not a blanket, got impatient and asked if they could just go already. Reaching for the duffel bag of their supplies, including his contemporary handgun, he found it also heaped with the watches and gold they'd taken from the dragons' lair in Like A Virgin, and when he asked Bobby what that was for, Bobby observed dryly that where they were going, they couldn't exactly use credit cards. Dean looked reluctant to give it up, but then zipped up the duffel. Castiel said he would send them to March 4, saying that should be enough time for them to find the Colt, and then touched their foreheads.
The brothers disappeared from the house and landed on the outskirts of Sunrise, Wyoming. Dean was all, “This is more like it!” eager, while Sam continued to look uncomfortable. Back at the house, Castiel said he had to get back to Heaven, and when Bobby asked about getting the boys back, Castiel told him to pray for him in 24 hours, and he would try to return to bring them back. He disappeared, and Bobby, setting a 24-hour timer, said he'd pray for all of them. Back in the past, Sam set the chronometer on his watch to begin ticking down 24 hours, and asked Dean where they should start looking for Samuel Colt and something called the Phoenix. Dean advocated hitting the local bar and asking the locals, and started walking into town. Moving with him, Sam promptly brought his cowboy boot squishing down into a pretty fresh horse dropping, much to Dean's amusement and Sam's irritated dismay. Dean proclaimed it “authenticity” as Sam tried distastefully (and with amusingly limited success!) to shake the stubborn dung off his cowboy boot while he walked.
From the look of it, in the midst of serious plot, it's going to be a hoot and a half!
I know I've missed details, and probably slipped a bit in the order of precisely what we saw when in the clips, but we have a lot to look forward to!
And in the rest of this write-up, I'll give you every tidbit I remember of the panel itself, which consisted – as expected – of Eric Kripke, Sera Gamble, Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Jim Beaver, and Ben Edlund, who sat in that order from the audience's left to right, with Mo Ryan sitting beside Eric.
Okay: on to the main event! This will be as detailed an account as I can manage, so bear with the length and the time it's going to take. I know I'll miss things, but I'll do my best!
First off, Maureen Ryan did a stellar job moderating the panel! The questions were great and the discussion flowed from one topic to the next without hiccups. When the DVD of this session comes out, I encourage fans to buy it, because the moments in it are priceless!
One of the first things to come up was the recent meta episode, The French Mistake. Mo asked if the meta episodes were in part the production's way of entering into the fandom discussions about the show, given the way they acknowledge many of the things fans have commented on and discussed, and Eric acknowledged that in part. He said when Ben Edlund first suggested the idea that became The French Mistake, though, they got pushback from the legal department, which wasn't sure they could legally depict what went on behind-the-scenes at a CW show. Eric's response? “We ARE a CW show!” He laughed that since they were solidly in season 6, the network would let them do pretty much anything, so why not go for it? He added that this was probably going to be the only chance in all of their careers to do something like this, so they had to try.
Jensen added that this was the first time the actors were brought into a discussion about an episode before simply getting the script with their marching orders. He said he and Jared were called in to hear the story pitched, before any of it was written. He said he was hesitant about it because, as he put it, “I didn't want to play … me … because, well, I'm not interesting.” Jared immediately chimed in with, “He's not!,” and after first nodding agreement, Jensen did a retake, pretending to consider what Jared had implied and realize it was a crack at his expense. The guy's comic timing is impeccable! Jensen did an extended reaction take, Jared threw his head back and guffawed, and Mo chimed in with, “They're not talking again!” Jensen concluded that he was fine once he was knew he wouldn't have to play alt-himself, that he'd just be playing Dean. Misha's contribution was to say when he heard about it, he sent email to the writers asking them to make the Misha character a total douchebag, observing that he wound up being a watered-down douchebag. Jared joked that what Misha didn't know was that the email address he'd been given was a fake. Misha concluded that the way he finally came across was, “kind of a douchebaggy me!” Much hilarity ensued!
These are the kinds of moments you really need the DVD to convey. See what I mean?
Asked about her interactions with what fans and what it was like to hear what others were saying about the show, Sera observed this was only the second show she's really been on, and said, “It's kind of like being raised by wolves.” She laughed that when you never really knew even how many people were watching the show, you could really do whatever you wanted. Eric said that the reason they thought they could get away with doing this meta episode was precisely because they realized fans were interested in more than just the story, that there seemed to be an appetite in fandom to see what went on behind the camera, behind the scenes, and they thought they could use that. He laughed that them doing this Paley panel right now was an episode of the show, and we were all in it!
Mo asked about the impact on the show of finally receiving media attention so late in the show's life, citing the recent New York Times article and the fan-won TV Guide cover, noting how rare it is for a show to garner that several years in when most shows are tapering off in quality, and that prompted hilarious riffs on whether various performances were “New York Times-worthy.” Eric used his “portentous” voice and Jared was on fire with the jokes throughout the panel, and I couldn't keep up!
Mo asked, since Jared, Jensen, and Misha had gotten to weigh in on the meta episode and what they would be playing in it, whether Jim had similarly been approached in advance about any developments in Bobby's character, such as the decision in season five to put him in a wheelchair. Jim deadpanned that he got to the set one day and they told him to sit down, and that at the end of the season they told him to stand up, and said since he's a pretty good actor, he did it. It was hilarious!
Mo threw the next question to Ben, noting he'd just directed his first episode of the show, and asked if he could share anything about it. Teasingly, she specifically asked if there were puppets in it, since Ben's only other directing credit was the “Smile Time” episode of Angel he'd also written, in which Angel was turned into a puppet. Ben admitted there were no puppets, saying he could only ride the puppet coattails so far, but said he really enjoyed it because he thought the episode was very emotional and very focused, like a one-act play, centered on emotional developments in the relationships among the characters. He observed that it was kind of a tradition in the show that episode 20 was an intense, emotional one setting things up for the last two episodes of the season, and that's what this episode did. He laughed that directing was terrifying and humbling, dealing with these actors; he said he was taller and smaller than everyone on set.
Mo asked what it was like for the actors, having the writer right there on set doing the directing, and amid much hilarity, the actors had fun with it. Misha emphasized that it was really nice to have a director who was familiar with the whole story and character arc, because Ben could talk to the actor about what his character was feeling and why, not simply be told where to stand. He pointed up the difference between the recurring directors who are very familiar with the show because they've worked on it before, and the ones who come in for a single episode with no background in the characters and the mythology. Jared agreed, but laughed that he was going to make fun of Ben, saying that it was great to have someone directing with such passion and love for the show, but it was funny too, and very different from what he was used to. He said for most directors, not out of a lack of love but just because of the business, direction usually was “Okay, you go there, you go there, this happens,” but with Ben, he stood up to illustrate Ben literally walking him through the scene, exaggera telling him, “You're here, Jensen's there, and while you walk, you can think about how tough it's been, so maybe you hesitate for a second, cause it's hard, and you love your brother ...” Amid much laughter, he concluded that he loved it, and Ben having that much passion made them all want to work him harder.
Mo asked Jensen about his directing experience, and Jensen agreed his experience was probably a lot like Ben's in terms of directing being demanding, feeling like you're being thrown in to sink or swim, but that he'd gotten a lot of support from everyone to help keep him afloat. He said he didn't get to act much in that episode, but said that was a good thing since it let him focus on what he was doing as a director and what he was getting from Jim in terms of performance. He praised Jim highly for the job he did, and everyone on the stage applauded. Jensen said he felt he was just riding shotgun on Jim's performance, and thanked Jim for that. He also agreed he'd like to do it again, if the show goes on to season seven, and said the production office seems inclined to let him do it if the opportunity arises. Then he amusingly pointed at Jared and said, “As long as he isn't in it,” and everyone had a good laugh!
At this point in the panel, Mo turned to questions she had gotten in submissions from fans.
Her first one went to Jim, noting that the show seemed to be killing off all of Bobby's friends, the latest being Rufus. As the audience reacted with an “Awww” of shared sympathy, Jim proceeded to give the most pouty sorrowful look possible, earning encouraging pats on the knee from Misha. You really have to see this on the DVD someday, I'm not kidding! He proceeded to observe that for all the complaints he's heard about Supernatural killing off all the women, the truth was, the show killed off everybody. To general laughter, he said that was down to the writers, and he thought the writers were the only people who hadn't been killed yet. Eric protested that comment, pointing out his death in The French Mistake, and the hilarity continued as Jensen in his chair proceeded to mock-act Eric's death scene, hit three times by shotgun blasts. Eric laughed that the scene hadn't been written in the script that way – there hadn't been direction in the script about him taking multiple blasts before falling – and mimed typing as he said he'd emailed Charles Beeson, the director, to say good job, but started it off with “First of all, thank you so much for letting me die in such an amazing way! None of that urinating and begging and crying there would have been in reality. I never looked tougher!”
The next question concerned all the changes there had been in the characters over time, and asked whether there were certain changes or twists they'd simply never seen coming. Jared shifted that one over to Eric and Sera, and Sera said it probably was when Bob Singer pitched Sam coming back from Hell without his soul. She said that happened early on in the planning, when it was just she, Bob, and Eric in the room, and the next thought had been about Dean actually having stayed with a woman and child for a year – something that on the surface you wouldn't have thought he would do, but once you started thinking about it, made a lot of sense. She said it was a totally weird, uncomfortable place to put both of them to start with, and when you do that to a character, it was like pulling a rubber band way back, giving a lot of slingshot out of it. Mo tossed the question to the actors, and Jared simply gestured at Sera and said he agreed, to which Jensen's only comment was, “Well put!” Eric added that the actors were being careful because there were a few more curveballs coming.
Mo asked Ben if there were any things he'd pitched that had been deemed to go too far, and after Eric's obligatory comment about the wishing fish, Ben teased about comments he'd evidently made on the press line, suggesting a live broadcast episode like the recent one on 30 Rock, laughing about having three cameras set up in Bobby's house to catch the action. Questioning his sanity, Jensen asked if he'd seen that episode, and everyone laughed. Ruminating on all the crazy, creative things they were able to do in the show, Ben pointed to the meta episode, saying the core of that hadn't even come from him, but when he saw the idea floating across the room he hitchhiked aboard it. Eric added that Ben's particular gift was to pitch insane things that somehow managed to work, citing as an example Ben pitching the idea of fairies. Sera laughed that he'd walked in that day and said simply, “Leprechauns!” She mimed herself and Eric looking at each other, shrugging, and saying, “Okay!” Eric agreed there's a lot of trust because Ben delivers every time – up until the time he won't!
Mo then asked, given the extremes to which the show has already gone in terms of being not just funny, but also heart-wrenching, what was going too far in the world of Supernatural – was there a line they wouldn't cross where something would be too funny, too dark, or too out there. Jensen offered that he didn't think there was a line, saying he may have thought so once, but that ended when he found himself in ski boots on a Japanese game show, and then he realized there was no line!
Mo asked next about the monsters the writers were coming up with, and how the monster situation reflected the brother's lives, and Eric said he loved the job because of the surreal conversations they had in this group of very intelligent, funny people in the writer's room, with an amazing hilarious mix of high culture and low, where in the same breath they'll talk about the true meaning of the soul and then segue to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then pornography, philosophy, and all the way around to some scene in My Bodyguard. He said they really did start out with a certain amount of philosophical aspiration, something they wanted to say about the soul or religion. He admitted they were pretty often a lot on the nose, but said they really set out to say something, but at the same time, would reference Blues Brothers or Animal House. He chuckled that they were all reasonably well-read people, but that at the same time, nothing was really cooler than Evil Dead 2.
Mo asked if the word was right, that Eric was writing the season finale, and he agreed, saying he'd just turned in the script to Sera and Bob on Thursday or Friday, and they'd gone through the notes process. He added Bob sent his love, but was still up in Vancouver because he was prepping to direct the episode, which would start shooting late this coming week or early next week.
The next question from Mo came from fans disappointed to have seen so little of Castiel this season, who wondered if there would be a lot more scenes with the angel in the next few episodes. Misha deadpanned that there would have to be some major reshoots for that to happen, but added the heavenly civil war storyline was getting tied up and played out. Some hilarity followed with comments about Castiel and any romantic developments, but that calmed down a little as Sera explained we would be meeting Rachel, a female angel who is Castiel's trusted lieutenant, and we would find out what's been going on whenever he'd give them that look about needing to be somewhere else.
Mo asked Jim about Bobby's scene kissing Crowley, and Jim, shaking his head in amused resignation, observed that he'd been 42 years in this business, and on his tombstone it would say, “He kissed Crowley.” Mo asked laughingly how that went, and Jim said, “I've had better!”
With Sam now having gotten his soul back, Mo asked Jared if he was sad or relieved, and if he missed soulless Sam. Jared said he was both, jesting that he missed “the little guy,” saying he really enjoyed playing soulless Sam. He said he'd never been shy about wanting to play dark and disturbed – jesting that it wasn't as if Sam wasn't disturbed enough! – but he really enjoyed playing with what the writers had been playing with, the question of what is a soul, what is its effect on your personality and decisions. He said he was happy to be back, but he did have a good time.
The next question was the mirror-image one for Jensen, and this one, Mo read verbatim because she couldn't resist the phrasing: “Jensen, do you think Dean is finally getting back to be true to himself now that Sam is all soulful Care Bear again?” While the audience howled and Jared patted Jensen's knee, Jensen shook his head and switched voices to whine, “I miss Care Bear!” and then said he agreed. He added it had been really hard for him to play Dean with soulless Sam, because after building a relationship not just with the actor but with the character for five years, it was difficult to have that relationship severed, but still be working with the same person while the character was so totally different. He said it was a testament to what Jared was doing in playing soulless Sam because he was great in the role, but at the same time, he wasn't playing the character Jensen was used to working with. He admitted having struggled with it, even calling down to Sera and the writers and producers to say he was working way out of his comfort zone and didn't know what was going on, that he didn't have the tools any more that he was used to having for the past five years. He said he was very relieved when he read the script where Sam was getting his soul back, because it meant he could go back to playing Dean the way he was used to playing Dean. He said it was difficult, but it was a good storyline.
The next question was what was up with Dean's amulet, and that one brought the house down! Jensen immediately passed the question to Eric, who said there currently weren't any plans to bring it back. When the audience reacted with loud disappointment, Eric riffed that contract negotiations with the amulet hadn't gone well, and dismay turned to laughter. Saying the amulet was a diva, he joked it was doing a guest shot on One Tree Hill.
The next question Mo asked, I'm very happy to say, was one of mine! She asked of the panel if there was anything that, given the chance, they would want to take back and do over. Eric put dibs on starting that one, saying all he ever saw when he watched the show were the things he wanted to do over. He said it was very rare that he could watch a complete episode – there were only a handful of them – and say, “Wow – we really nailed it!” He said there were things in almost every episode he wished to redo, and joked that people who've followed his interviews could probably list off the episodes he actually hates – Red Sky At Morning, Bugs, Route 666. He laughed that just the previous week, he was talking with Bob Singer, who mentioned that the pilot had been on TNT, and Eric immediately groaned about the scene where they walked to the Impala, not because of the way the guys played the scene, which he said was great, but because of the writing. He lamented not having had enough time to do things in a better way, lamenting how the characters, in order to deliver all the exposition about the past, talked about things no real human beings would talk about – “the way Dad raised us to be warriors” – when any normal person on the other end of the conversation would have been saying, “Yeah, I know all of that, I lived through it with you, what are you telling me this stuff for? I KNOW all this information!” Eric laughed that, as passionately as he still reacted to it six years later, you could tell he still wasn't over it. Jensen chimed in to say he was glad to hear those exposition scenes were so hard to write, because they were equally hard to act, and he applauded the writers for having started giving the exposition lines to guest stars. Eric laughed that another writer once said whenever he had to do that kind of a scene, he always wrote they should put camels humping in the background, because that way, at least the audience would have something to look at. Jared was taking a swig from his water bottle at just that moment, and how he resisted doing a spit-take as his laughter crossed with his swallowing, I really don't know! There's another one you have to see to appreciate.
Mo asked if anyone else had a do-over they wanted to share, and Misha volunteered his consummate guest-star decision, in the very first episode where Castiel appeared, to use a deep, powerful, gravelly, kick-ass, window-breaking speaking voice, since Castiel's first attempts to speak to Dean while still in angel form had exploded television sets and broken windows. He joked now that he may be running into medical problems, and added it would be nice to do an episode where Castiel had a tank of helium with him so Cass could speak the way Misha did normally! Jensen added he remembered the first time he was working with Misha and he went into this – voice – and said after the first take, he turned to the camera department and said, “What is he doing? Did he audition?” The whole panel lost it right along with the audience! Jensen said he'd already told Misha the story, so he knew it, but it was still too funny. Jared chimed in to say that, since he didn't have scenes with Misha in that episode, he'd encountered Jensen later and asked him what the new guy was like, and Jensen's response, which they both immediately acted out, was, “Really nice – but what the hell is he doing?” Jared continued pretending to be Jensen, saying “He's really strange, you know, it's – he's really strange.” Then they walked past him, and Jared said Jensen elbowed him in the arm and said, “I think he's in character. Look!” He laughed that Misha was eating something at the time, yogurt or granola, and had this very pensive look on his face, and after they'd passed and gone into one of their trailers, Jared asked if he was acting, and Jensen had said “Yeah, yeah he looked like he was thinking or something” – to which Jensen immediately added, “And/or on the toilet.” Jensen began to add a praising comment about Misha's consistency in playing the Castiel character, which Jared promptly derailed by interjecting his consistency was “his saving grace.”
Mo then asked if there were any times when viewers had taken away from an episode a totally unexpected message quite different from what the writers had intended, as evidenced by online commentary and reaction to the episodes. The panel members were generally at a loss until Ben noted the strange thing that happened after Jensen as Dean delivered the line “Fight the fairies!” in Clap Your Hands If You Believe, when “fight the fairies” began trending on Twitter, with the unanticipated reaction from the legitimate gay community thinking it was some kind of attack on gays.
At this point, Mo opened the questions to the theater audience. The first one came from a woman asking, since they knew before the scripts were actually written that the finale would air in a two-hour block, whether that had affected how it was written. Eric said that he and Sera were writing the final two episodes, and there had been some discussion early on that, as they both very animatedly put it, “It should be a MOVIE!” He said that as they were thinking about it, though, stories take on a life of their own, and it became clear there were so many balls in the air, so many plot threads they needed to tie up, that it ended up feeling very episodic. So in 21 some of the mythologies tie up, while in 22 other aspects of the mythology come together. He said they had a hard time writing them at the same time precisely because they wouldn't come together seamlessly, and they were a little worried about how they would air back to back. He and Sera joked that while they were working on putting the pieces together, they joked about whether they might need to insert a card between the episodes saying “One Week Later ...” and observed they'd actually play better in rerun season, when they would naturally air a week apart!
Another fan asked if we would see more development of good and bad demons, complimenting the writers on how they'd faked people out with Ruby appearing to possibly be good and wondering if we'd ever meet a good demon. She also asked about the possibility of any recurring character emerging to be a positive female force on the show as a character who would live. Sera responded that demons are pretty bad and they'd probably played out the “potential good” card with Ruby, so she didn't expect we'd ever see another possibly good demon. As for a surviving female character, Sera observed that they weren't gender-specific in terms of whom they killed: they pretty much killed everyone!
Another fan got a huge laugh by asking about the brothers getting bungee cords for their weapons, and Eric practically howled with laughter, promptly reenacting the German fan dressed as the Hookman in The Real Ghostbusters to repeat the question. He laughed that, along the way, they'd actually discussed the idea, since the brothers kept getting tossed around and losing their weapons all the time, but they'd realized there would then be no suspense, since the brothers could just yank on the cord and have a weapon back in hand. Rather than try to figure out a different way for the monsters to menace them, they ditched the bungee cords. Besides, he added the brothers wouldn't have looked as tough!
Jared laughed that was the same reason they always got soaked in the frequent Vancouver rain: umbrellas wouldn't be macho or look tough enough. Eric reminisced about giving emphatic notes to Kim Manners after seeing dailies where Kim had given the guys umbrellas because they were getting plastered by a downpour, telling Kim, “These guys fight monsters and slit throats! They're not going to hide from a sprinkle!” He said he'd forbidden them from ever having umbrellas. Jensen explained that rain just doesn't read on camera, so even when they were getting so wet that they had to dry their clothes out between every take, the falling rain didn't show on camera even when it was pouring down. Jared added that the one thing they were allowed to change was Sam's footgear, pointing out that in the early episodes, Sam was always wearing tennies, but after he had to stand inches deep in water more often than not, they finally had him switch to boots.
Responding to a question about when we'd get to see more of Castiel, Ben and Misha between them said the episode Ben had just directed is very much from Castiel's point of view, getting into not only the civil war in Heaven, but all the relationships between and among the characters. Misha quipped, “We hear moments from Castiel's childhood.” I'm pretty sure that part was a joke!
Another fan asked if we'd ever hear the brothers doing more genuine cursing, even if they had to be bleeped out. Eric laughed that they still had to deal with network standards and practices, but that the rules of word usage were really arcane. He said, for example, that you could use the word “dick” as long as you weren't talking about an actual dick, and similarly you could use “crap” and “balls” so long as you weren't talking about taking a dump or referring to a specific piece of anatomy.
Another fan asked about the possibility of the character of Missouri Moseley returning in season seven, if we get a season seven, and that prompted one of the best answers of the entire night. Saying that he'd love to bring Missouri back if circumstances allow, Eric revealed that in the original version of Devil's Trap, the brothers, looking for help in rescuing John, were going to go to Missouri, and she was going to be the one to teach them about devil's traps and seals of Solomon. Unfortunately, however, actress Loretta Devine had a scheduling conflict, so they weren't able to get her for Missouri. Eric decided to figure out what a male old friend of John's would look like instead, and reported that Bob Singer said, “I have just the guy for you,” talking about Jim Beaver, with whom he'd worked before (I remember them both from the Mark Harmon, Marlee Matlin series Reasonable Doubt, among other things!). Eric called it one of the great blessings of the show. Listening to the story, after first showing surprise, Jim mimed passing out in his chair with relief. Eric went on to say that they conceived the character as being avuncular and paternal and crusty, something of a mentor to the boys, and because Bob Singer and Kim Manners were Eric's mentors, he originally named the character “Bobby Manners” in honor of both of them. Unfortunately, the legal department reviewing the script found a real Bobby Manners in South Dakota, so the name had to be changed. Eric was the one who made it Singer, taking advantage of Bob Singer being out of the writers' room at the time.
As a little aside here, I ran into Jim Beaver in LAX on Monday, since I had to walk past his departure gate to reach mine. We chatted for a few minutes, and he confirmed he had never before heard the story of Bobby coming about only because Loretta Devine hadn't been available, nor that Bobby had originally been named for both Bob Singer and Kim Manners. He marveled at both stories, saying he'd never remotely guessed things had happened that way, and he was really happy to know it now.
Another fan got applause and recognition from both Jared and Jensen when she asked why they, unlike certain other series stars, didn't have executive producer status on their show. Both of them stood up to applaud her, point her out, and then look significantly at Eric and Sera. Eric raised his hands and said that was something that had to be taken up with the studio, because it was a Warner Brothers decision. The whole hall applauded and whistled enthusiastically in support of the guys!
The last question was another delicious one. A male fan asked how they could eventually end the show as well as they would have, if the end had come as originally conceived at the close of season five. He noted that the way Swan Song wrapped things up was very satisfying. Eric first shrugged and said they'd figure it out, but then he dropped an amazing nickel: he said, “There's a very specific coda I've always had in mind, for where all the characters would end up: we didn't go near that.” He went on to say that when the time comes, they'll use it.
And that concluded the panel! The Paley Center has been making DVDs of all of the panels lately; it's pretty clear there will be a Supernatural one. Whether it will be for sale directly from the Paley, or be incorporated into one of the season six DVD packages, I don't know, but I do know this: it will be worth the price!
I hope you enjoyed the experience as conveyed in words! Thanks for reading.
Sorry this took so long for me to post here: it's also up in three separate parts on The Winchester Family Business. There's a lot of other good stuff there, too; you should drop by and explore! There are good writers there … :)