From March 18-20, 2016, comic book writers and artists, genre television stars and gaming enthusiasts met with fans for three days at the Chicago Comic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as C2E2. For the past several years, a few energetic fans have organized a Supernatural discussion panel during the C2E2 weekend, inviting the SPNFamily to mingle and exchange ideas about the show. This year the panel was a bit different, though. Supernatural show writer, Robbie Thompson, who was attending the convention to promote his newest Marvel comic book projects, graciously agreed to join the panel! 

During his time with fans, Robbie answered questions on plot lines, shared background stories on episodes and characters, and described his personal journey to Supernatural’s writers’ room. The panel took place during a season 11 hiatus, after 11.15 "Beyond the Mat" had aired but before the final eight episodes of the season had been seen. In his opening comments, Robbie stated that even though the last few episodes were still being filmed, the writing team was finished for the year, so he obviously knew the outcome of the season's stories. 

This is Part 2 of my coverage of Robbie's 60 minute panel. If you need to catch up, take a moment to read Part 1 of the panel!  All of the Supernatural screen shots that accompany the articles are from episodes written by Robbie (the two exceptions for the opening of the panel are otherwise credited). A full list of Robbie's 18 episodes can be found in the Fan Video Tribute to what we later learned would be his last episode for Supernatural, 11.20 "Don't Call Me Shurley".

I hope this chronicle helps you share in the absolute thrill and honor it was to hear Robbie talk with his fans once again! Sit back and enjoy C2E2 Supernatural, Part 2!


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Fan: What came first, Charlie or Felicia Day? Did you write Charlie and wonder, who could play this, or did you think of Felicia Day and write a character for her?
 
Robbie: Thank you and I’ll tell her you said that. She’s an absolute delight and a national, [correcting himself] international, treasure. I wrote that part, that episode – It was designed around Jared’s first child being born. He needed to get a few days off because he wanted to be there, but obviously Jim Michaels and the rest of the Vancouver crew wanted him to be there too.

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Frank Devereaux was a character that we had that season, but that actor, who is a wonderful actor, had a new gig, so we didn’t have access to that character. We knew what we wanted to do plot wise. I pitched out this character - originally my inspiration was the whistle blower from 
The Insider. It evolved from there; Sera [Gamble] and I cobbled that story together.

I had actually written it before we got Felicia, but I think I said in the pitch “A Felicia Day type”, thinking, “She is not going to be able to get Felicia Day”. Then I got the greatest email ever from Sera. She writes very short emails: “Felicia Day. Booked.” And then I kind of freaked out a little... then I rewrote the script a little bit, for her, because she’s a terrific actor and because I knew her work very well. I knew I could lean on her a little bit more in certain scenes.


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But I have to say the reason why she stayed on the show is because of her great work. It [the deciding moment] was the call back (that we’ve done a couple times) to The Empire Strikes Back - the “I love you”, “I know”. The way she played the “I know” - this was someone who had heard that nerdy reference a million times.  “I know. I know” [imitating Felicia saying it]. She played a history there that we hadn’t actually shared (I had written a nice history for Charlie [but] we didn’t meet, I don’t think, until the 3rd or 4th episode she did). As soon as we saw her in dailies, we were like, “Oh we have to go with her!”  She’s a delight.

Fan:  From where do you draw your inspiration for your writing?
 
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Robbie: For Supernatural, honestly this is going to sound cheesy, but it’s really our cast and the work they do. If you watch the dailies for our show - I’ve done a lot of shows and I’ve worked with some terrific actors -  but [Jared and Jensen] never take a take off [blow off a "take"], and I feel like it’s my responsibility to hold up my end. Yes, when you see the gag reels, they are pretty silly, but I’m really inspired by them and the work that they do. I would say that’s probably number 1, and an equal number 2 is you guys. The interaction that I’ve had in person, whether it was at DePaul or here, or on the internets on this phone, on “the Twitter” or on “the Tumblr” (I can’t figure it out. I still can’t. I’m legally too old!). It’s great to meet people on line but to meet people personally and to hear how the show has affected their lives… it’s a privilege to work on the show. I feel lucky and fortunate to do it. So I would say in that order: the cast, then y’all.

Fan: Was Amara a combined redo of the previous bad guys (Leviathans and Eve)?

Robbie: I would say that there wasn’t any specific intention, but when you’ve been on the air for 700 seasons, there are some tropes that are going to come back. I think once you see… Shoot, how can I say this? I can’t really say where we’re going but I think where we get… [considering spoilers]… Stayed tuned?? Whether or not it was intentional – I can’t really speak to that but I’m excited about where we’re going at the end of the season, so maybe [after you’ve seen the finale] it might frame the discussion a little bit more. Come back here next year and we’ll talk about it.

Fan: Will we ever see other, non-Judeo Christian deities again?

Robbie: I’m trying to figure out how to say this without saying the words, “no-spoilers”. I’ll put it to you this way: We haven’t forgotten about those others and so whether or not they’re going to come back now, or next year, or the year after that, or the year after that, or the year after that, or 10 years from now… but we haven’t forgotten about them.

Fan: In “There’s No Place Like Home”, when Charlie is talking with Sam and Dean to let her know what’s been going on, you said in the commentary that you wrote a
ton more pages for that scene. What was in there?
 
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Robbie: [To give you a perspective], a whole act is 10 pages [of script].
I can’t remember all of it. Bringing her back, I realized that a lot of the adventure had happened off screen, so I had to fill in a lot of blanks... like she had a dragon named Mittens! So yeah, we had to shave it down to size. Even Phil [Scriggia], God bless him, found a couple more things to trim out. I was a kid in a candy store. {Someday we’ll do the commentary on what happened when she was gone.}


Fan: What inspired you to start writing and how did you get into television?

P1020016 enhanced sm Robbie: That’s a great question. I wanted to make movies. I saw Star Wars. It was the first movie I ever saw as a kid. It blew my mind. I remember when it ended, I said to my parents, “Who made that and how did they make it?” Then 700 years later… I found that the only thing I could afford to do was write because I had paper and I had a pencil. I couldn’t afford to make movies. Now I’m really jealous of all you guys who have iPhones. I just want to go far, far away again.

I always loved telling stories. I prefer telling visual stories. I went to screenwriting school at USC (I’m from Michigan) [lots of talking about sports teams here]. When I graduated, it was just the beginning of the TV boom. That’s where most of the work was. I worked mostly in post-production. That was my background experience, working in {event} films. You can learn a hell of a lot about writing in post-production. It’s the last draft of the script. Then I graduated, and I moved myself over to writers’ rooms. Then I got lucky on Jericho.

Fan: Is the [writing] process easy for you? Does it come naturally?

Robbie: It depends. When you’re working with a group of people, it’s a little easier. It’s very collaborative. [It's the adage of] when you put in 10,000 hours [doing something], you start to develop muscles that you didn’t really realize you had. Some days are good, some days are terrible.

Fan: Because Supernatural tends to get darker with each season, especially with Amara, is it harder to write episodes like “Baby”, “Changing Channels”, “French Mistake”, etc.?
 
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Robbie: Is it harder to write the lighter episodes? No, it’s actually a lot of fun. The entire reason I wanted to write an episode that I wrote called “LARP and the Real Girl” was because I just wanted Sam and Dean to Have. A. Day. Off! -even if it’s only 30 seconds at the end of the episode! But in my head canon, they spent the weekend in New York, and Sam went back to that tech tent!

In a conversation tangent, Robbie mentioned that Baby is his favorite character...

Fan: Question about your favorite character. At some point, the cars have to be retired. How does one go about acquiring it?
 
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Robbie: We have several cars. There’s one that I want that I’ll never get. The one that I want is the “PMP” car which is basically the frame of the car on a stage. Whenever they’re driving, they’re actually not moving. They’re on a sound stage. We have a fantastic lighting crew that makes it appear [like they’re moving]. It’s called “PMP”, or “Poor Man’s {Process}”. That’s the one I would like. That’s the one they use that has the tear-away roof, and stuff like that. That’s a question for Vancouver, but my personal hope is that Jensen Ackles gets every single Impala, should the show ever end or should one be retired. They keep a lot of the ones junked as well as the ones that are actually smashed in case they want to smash her again. I don’t know that they’ve actually released her into the wild yet. If they ever do it, I hope Jared and Jensen get them.

Little girl fan: Do you like writing for Jared or Jensen better, and which do you like better? [Entire audience: “awwww”]

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Robbie: Are you a Sam girl or a Dean girl?
Little girl: I like them both.
Robbie: Me too.

Fan: Was the bunker a pre-season collaborative process, or did one writer just get really lucky and everyone else [used the idea]?

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Robbie: I have to give props to my work husband, Adam Glass. This is an incredibly challenging show to produce. It’s what we call a “road show”. We needed what we call standing sets, but we didn’t just want to have a standing set. We wanted something [special]. Adam started kicking that idea around, and Ben Edlund as well, then it just kind of snowballed. I have to give credit to Adam. It really helped us a lot from a production standpoint and I think it opened up a lot of stories that we have yet to tell. It is the most gorgeous set in the world, IRL. [IRL= In real life]

[The bunker was first seen in 8.13 "Everybody Hates Hitler". Robbie gave us an expanded tour of several of its rooms in 9.04 "Slumber Party".]

Fan: What brought you to Supernatural? Were you a fan of the show before? Was there an episode that got you interested [in Supernatural]?
 
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Robbie: Richard Speight, Jr. got me into the show. Richard and I have been pals for 20+ years. Obviously we met when we were three, since we’re both 23 (I should have said 10 years!). I’ve always followed Richard’s career. So I had watched most of his episodes, but I had not watched “Tall Tales”. I had watched “Mystery Spot” and “Changing Channels”, which if you’ve never seen the show… [laughter as he imitates Richard in the episode] . “Mystery Spot” is now my favorite episode of the series. I go back and watch that a lot.

Panelist: While you’re on holiday?

P1020029 cropped smRobbie: I watch it at the beginning and at the end of the year. I love that portrayal of the {boys and it’s just such a fun episode}.  When you talk about it, you can get... it’s super dark. I love that! So Richard actually got me into it. Then I got a call from my agent. I cancelled a lot of shows by just being on them(!), so I was like, “let’s go for Supernatural!”

I went to the library and checked out the first 4 seasons and I binge watched as much as I could. My plan was really simple: “Oh, I’ll go on the internets and see which is the best episode” . (By the way, if you Google image search
Supernatural with your safe search image off, enjoy the rainbow! Apple also. It was extremely educational!) [When I didn't find an answer], I was like, “I’ll just watch the pilot”, because I really didn’t have an understanding of it. So I got up early and I watched the pilot - the sun rose; the sun set. I got through I think 3 seasons in a week. I just pounded through them. Then I met Sera... then I was like, “Sh*t, I really want this job!” Then I watched the rest and caught up before I met Bob Singer. Then I just waited and waited and waited around. Unfortunately, I was their 3rd choice! They had 2 really good choices ahead of me! I just like giving them crap for that.

Fan: Are you ever going to bring the Colt back in Supernatural?
 
Robbie: Would you like to see the Colt back in Supernatural?
Fan: Yes I would.
Robbie: I’ll see what I can do!

Fan: I’m a bit upset that Sam and Dean are just killing people who are possessed by demons instead of trying to exorcise them.
 
Robbie: I agree with you. This is something that we tried to address a little bit more this year……. But Yeah, I agree with you. If we can get them out of there without stabbing someone, it actually makes a better story, so I agree with you.

Fan: With all the different monsters you have brought on from previous lore, how do you choose what is truth in the Supernatural world?
 
 
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Robbie: That’s a great question, and I’m not quite sure how to answer it. One of the things that we do with the show, something that Sera used to say all the time, is that you have to start with {Google . Google all things.} It has to be a monster that we have some familiarity with. But we’ve had some really long, strange, special “Ben” conversations about what is truth and what is not; what is Heaven and what is Hell? Ben had a great analogy for the membrane that separates us from the netherworld; the nether regions (that I can’t repeat because [this is a family setting]). So it is something that we talk about a lot. It is a difficult thing to find: What is the point at which you’re breaking it and what is the point at which you’re buying it? So it’s kind of a push/pull obviously and it’s a bit of an evolution. I have a different opinion about it as a fan versus as a writer. As a fan, I don’t like when shows break their own rules. To me, it breaks the trust {wall}. As a writer, sometimes I’m like, “I hate that rule. That rule’s dumb.”’ So it’s a dialog. I’ll put it to you that way. It’s a discussion that’s happening.


Fan: How did you come up with the idea to have Amara be the sister of God as opposed to a different kind of god?
 
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Robbie: I don’t know if I can answer that without giving away some of what we wanted to talk about thematically this season. But it was kind of involved in the conversation at the end of last year - actually probably up till like the mid part of last year - whenever we knew that we were going to be picked up. I have to say it did kind of evolve, as all of these things do. We’ll talk about it next year.

Panelist: You’ll come back next year, right?

[Unfortunately, the next question was asked immediately, cutting Robbie off from answering that question. Now we know that his answer might have been very revealing.]

Fan: Are you ever going to get Adam out of the pit?

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Robbie: This is my standard answer: “Who?”
Fan: You wrote him into the 200th episode [“Fan Fiction”]. You at least acknowledged him!
Robbie: I’ll put it this way. It bothers me too.


I hope you've enjoyed this virtual hour with Robbie! I would love to hear your questions and comments about the panel!

I'm going to miss Robbie a great deal. The attention to detail and emotion he brought to his stories reflected his great admiration and respect for Supernatural's history and fans. He returned beloved characters to us (e.g. Gabriel, Chuck, John Winchester, Bobby, Rufus) and created wonderful, new ones (e.g. Charlie, Dorothy, Cain, and maybe the hunter Eileen? With Robbie's departure, only the future will tell if she becomes a recurring character).  His stories expanded Supernatural's universe into Oz, video games, the 1940s and a girls' high school, reflecting a unique, gifted imagination for creating worlds. His episodes were not without controversy, as some generated heated plot and stylistic debate among some fans. Still, many of his episodes such as "Fan Fiction", "Baby", and "Don't Call Me Shurley" ("LARP and the Real Girl", "Time after Time", and "Safe House") are widely considered to be among the absolute best and most popular of the Supernatural series. 

Robbie, we may never know exactly why you left Supernatural, but we wish you luck and happiness. You'll always be SPN Family. May your future be bright and blessed. 
#ThankYouRobbie

- Nightsky