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From March 18-20, 2016, comic book writers, artists and fans joined genre television and gaming enthusiasts at the Chicago Comic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as C2E2.

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For the past several years, energetic Supernatural fans organized a 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!20160320 113951 cropped WM sm So for the second time in as many years, Robbie shared his humor, wit and insights with Supernatural fans in the Chicago area!

Of course, I attended Robbie’s panel! His episodes have consistently been among my favorites each season since he joined the Supernatural staff in season 7. Besides learning a great deal from him about writing, I love hearing his behind-the-scenes stories about working with the Supernatural cast, crew and producers. He appeared to be at ease with the fans, which was a pleasure to see since last year he told the DePaul University crowd that he was rather anxious speaking to a large group of people.

Listening to him for an hour was a true delight. Robbie answered questions on plot lines, shared background stories on episodes and characters, and described his personal journey to Supernatural’s writers’ room. Please share in the comments if you’ve found any video recordings of this panel, but as far as I know, this may be the only record of his C2E2 discussion. It is my pleasure to share it with you so you can also experience Robbie’s wonderful insights into the creative process behind Supernatural.

As with any large venue discussion, there were a few places where audience noise (laughter, coughing, etc.) kept me from hearing Robbie’s answer completely. When that happened, I placed the phrases that weren’t absolutely clear to me in {braces}. I also added context or explanation in [brackets], and very lightly edited his comments to clarify the transition from the spoken word to the written word. What has emerged from that process are the highlights of an incredible hour of interacting with fans.

I will present this panel discussion in two parts. 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!

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Panelist: Why is Castiel’s vessel so far undamaged and able to house Lucifer, when it has been drilled into our heads that Sam is the only true vessel that should be able to host Lucifer?

Robbie: That’s actually a question I can answer, and it’s a really interesting point. I think you’re going to see a lot of…
[Robbie began whispering to the panel members to tease the audience. He never went further with his answer!
Panelist: He just spoiled the ending but you didn’t get to hear it! Only we did!

The discussion began in earnest with the panel listing each of the Supernatural episodes Robbie had written. Sometimes Robbie chimed in with a behind-the-scenes story about the episode. Other times, the panelists asked specific questions. [The Lucifer/Castiel images above are from 11.10 "The Devil in the Details" and 11.14 "The Vessel". All remaining images in the article are from episodes Robbie wrote.]

Panelist: S11 gave us one of the best episodes of the series, or at least since S5: “Baby”. It was just amazing.

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Robbie: That top shot [above] was actually one of the first images I had in mind for the episode. When I first was pitching it (actually, it was the 2nd time. You do a pre-pitch in advance), I could not believe they said yes. Once a year, I try to get one [idea] that they’ll say “no” to, but somehow they said yes. We did this one, we did Wizard of Oz, we did the musical – the musical wasn’t my idea but I was happy to write it – and the ‘found footage’ episode. There’s always one [episode pitch] where I’m like, "Uh….what do you think of… putting Eliot Ness into Supernatural?" During the break, there’s always one moment where Bob [I presume Bob Singer] looks at me and says, “I’m can’t believe we’re doing this!”

We have several show cars, several ‘Babys’.  There’s not just one, but they’re all special. We had one that had a torn off roof and I really wanted to make sure that I could write that in so that we could actually shoot it, so we had to call in advance to make sure that we had it. The gentleman who directed this is Tom Wright. If you’ve never IMDB’d him, this man is an absolute living legend. He used to be a storyboard artist for Alfred Hitchcock. If you ever watched Night Gallery, he did the paintings in the actual Night Gallery. This guy is a legend. Actually, I have as my most prized possession from Supernatural so far, his script [for “Baby”], with all of his little doodles and drawings for every single shot. He absolutely crushed it.

Panelist: 7.06 “Slash Fiction”. Do you get paid extra if you put the word “fiction” in your title?


Robbie: No. The titles are free. Actually, I cannot take credit for that title.  That was Andrew Dabb, then it became like “a thing”. I don’t know why. Then it was “Meta Fiction”, then “Fan Fiction”.

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Do we have any fan fiction writers in the audience today? Raise your hands. I am a HUGE, huge fan of what you guys do. I’d like to end the stigma of fan fiction writing. I think we should just call it “writing” from now on. We don’t need the qualifier. [I once told someone that] I don’t read fan fiction, which I don’t for legal reasons but I also said that I had never written any, and they were like “No, the
Wizard of Oz, the ‘Slumber Party’ episode, was actually a transformative work”, so I am a fellow fan fiction writer. I wrote in that genre for that episode, so thank you guys for being amazing.

Panelist: So this episode [“Slash Fiction”] had Sam and Dean’s Leviathan versions going on killing sprees.

Robbie: S. E. Hinton is actually in that episode. She’s one of the victims who dies in the diner. I keep trying to kill her in every single episode. I love Susie. She’s the best.
["S.E. Hinton, was and still is, one of the most popular and best known writers of young adult fiction. She...wasn't satisfied with the literature that was being written for young adults... which influenced her to write novels like The Outsiders, her first novel, published in 1967. That Was Then, This is Now was published in 1971. In 1985, the movie version of That Was Then, This Is Now was released. Three years later, S.E. Hinton became the first person to receive the YASD/SLJ Author Achievement Award." - from I believe that's Susie sitting in the booth behind Sam, with her arms raised.]

Panelist: Speaking of Eliot Ness, 7.12 “Time after Time”. Taking us back to 1944…


Robbie: This is an episode that really bothers me in terms of how it is credited because we originally called it “Time after Time after Time after Time” because one of us thought it was funny (maybe it was me!). It got that way on IMDB, so sometimes on TNT it’s listed as “Time after Time after Time after Time” but it’s “Time after Time”. [Side Note: the episode title on my S7 video insert is "Time After Time After Time"]

The original idea behind this was just wanting to see Jensen Ackles dressed in this clothing.

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Such is the extent of my creative process!

Panelist: 8.04 “Bitten”. The “found footage” episode…

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Robbie: I get a lot of sh*t for this one because the boys are in it for about 30 seconds. Who gets that episode [asking the audience]? This was another one where I thought they’d never let us do this. Again, Tom Wright & our crew did an amazing job. It looks easy but it’s actually incredibly challenging.

Panelist: 8.17 “Goodbye Stranger” [audience groans]. Those sighs are for Meg.

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Robbie: Who here is mad at me about that? You can blame me for this one.

Panelist: That one you’ll take the heat for?

Panelist: 9.11 “First Born”. Where we get to meet Cain…
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Robbie: Any Timothy Omundson fans? He is a delightful human being. He and I have worked on 3 shows now together. When this character came across my desk, I was hell-bent on getting him on the show. This is one of the first episodes that John Badham, another living legend, the director of War Games and Saturday Night Fever, directed for us.

That scene [the fight in Cain’s kitchen] was a 9 hour day
 of Jensen fighting 3 people. They [Jared and Jensen] do most of their own stunts but there are some stunts where they obviously don’t want to risk their health, but the guy Jensen's fighting in the scene was his stunt double! There’s a scene where Jensen's thrown across the floor, he slides and he actually breaks the cabinet. That was not a break away cabinet! So Tim is watching him for 9 hours (while shucking corn) get his ass kicked and then turn the tables.

You did [9.18 “Meta Fiction”], where Gabriel came back, then 10.20 “Angel Heart” with Claire. What made you bring Claire back?

Robbie: I really wanted to write that actor. She’s terrific. I thought the dynamic that she has with all of them was a lot of fun to write.

Panelist: There are a number of Charlie Bradbury episodes. Introduced in “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo” all the way to “The Book of the Damned”. I’m sure there will be a lot of Charlie questions so I’ll save that one.
Robbie: I’m wearing my Kevlar!

Panelist: Then you wrote the 200th episode. That little cameo by Chuck at the end…
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Robbie: I shed a single man tear when I saw it in dailies. I love the way Phil [Scriggia] shot it. It was a great way to reveal him and it was one of the few spoilers we were able to [keep secret]. I think most people didn’t know? I was live tweeting the episodes – that and when Richard came back were the only two times that my Twitter was like “Nope, I’m done!” It broke, like “I’m out”. I couldn’t see it at this point. “Come back tomorrow or maybe the next day.”

The format of the discussion changed at this point, as the panel opened up the forum to questions from the audience. There was only one ground rule: No speculation (or questions) on what might happen next on Supernatural while Robbie was in the room. Show writers are contractually not allowed to listen to, read or participate in speculation about the future of the storylines. That ensures that their stories and arc direction are not influenced, knowingly or unknowingly, by fans’ input.   

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Robbie: I’m so sorry. I’m here representing myself. I’m here just because I love you guys. I’m happy to answer any questions I can.

While you’re lining up, I’ll answer some questions I get a lot:

1.       Yes, Jared and Jensen are even better looking in person. They smell like baby Jesus. Mark and Misha are also equally handsome. One smells like {___corns}; one smells like dragon breath. I’ll let you pick which one… [whispers] Misha’s the dragon. [Sorry. I tried for a LONG time to hear what kind of corn Mark or Misha smell like but I just couldn't get it! Unicorn maybe? Kernel corn? Use your imagination!]

2.        I’ve never read any fan fiction for the show, but I’ve read Wicked so I have read fan fiction.

3.       I cannot tell you what happens at the end of season 11.

4.       Yes, they all give great hugs -the kind like you can tell they’re closing their eyes, and you just don’t want to let go!

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Fan: Who selects the music [for episodes] and how do they go about doing that?
Robbie: It really depends. I can only speak to the episodes that I’ve written. 9 times out of 10, I’m very picky about the songs.  In “Baby", I pitched out a different M.I.A. [the British rapper who sings "Bad Girls" in the episode] song to Tom Wright, and he was like “Oh no, we have to do this one!” Then earlier in that episode, we did not actually have “Guitar Man” there.

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Now on “Night Moves”, I have to give a shout out to my wife. I was writing that episode and I pitched out that scene [but] I could not find the right song! I think I had “Every Rose has it’s Thorn”, or “Feels Like the First Time” [for when] Dean was teasing his brother. So I pitched the scene out to my wife (she’s a TV writer as well), and she was like, “No, dummy, it’s got to be ‘Night Moves’”, and I was like, “How dare you?” So I’m listening to the song and was like, [sighing] “Oh, she’s so right.”

You never know how songs are going to land. I like to pitch them within the episode to whomever is clearing them. Bob Singer was like “Bob Sieger is one of the top 10 rock writers of all time”, so I put that as a description into the script: "They turn on the stereo, he puts in the cassette and 'Night Moves' by Bob Sieger, one of the greatest rockers of all time, comes on. On the day [of filming], we asked them [Jared and Jensen] to improvise some stuff, and Jensen actually turned that into a line. He said, “one of the greatest rockers of all time, Samuel.” Then obviously, Jared improvised the line, “It’s Sam”, which is obviously a call back. That’s just a great example of how this is a collaborative process. It starts obviously with my wife! [lots of laughter]

Fan: …and ends with Jared Padalecki?? [more laughter]
Robbie: Right! I mean, whatever!

Fan: You’ve talked about the ridiculous ideas they’ve accepted. Is there one they have not accepted?
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Robbie: Hopefully someday, but I will tell you that there’s an episode I wrote called “Pac Man Fever” where originally the video game that they go into was supposed to be a dead-space style video game, so it was going to be Charlie and, in that original version it was actually going to be Sam, going into outer space. I’ve been trying to get a Winchester, or preferably both Winchesters, into outer space for maybe 5 years!

[Fan mentions that outer space was incorporated into Marie’s Supernatural in “Fan Fiction”.]

Robbie: A couple of those references in “Fan Fiction” were about the episodes that I pitched!

Fan: Of all the episodes you’ve worked on or written, what were your favorites?

Robbie: That's a really hard question for me to answer. The one that was the most personal to me was actually “Pac Man Fever”. That episode is about grieving. My dad died 6 years ago in December and he used to read to me “The Hobbit”, so that was for my dad. So probably that one.

The one I had the most fun writing was hands-down, “Baby”. That was an absolute joy to write. I would have written that one for free (but I’m glad that they paid me!).

Want more? Enjoy Part 2 of my report on the remainder of Robbie's panel, when he talks more about Charlie, how he got into writing, and the boys!