Hopefully by now you've seen The WFB's 16 Supernatural press room interviews from San Diego Comic-Con 2019 (SDCC)! Alice Jester and I were lucky enough to conduct all of those interviews with Supernatural's cast and producers! If you missed any of their reflections on the past and future of Supernatural, I encourage you to take the time to listen to the videos, as I will soon want to prompt discussions about the season 15 implications contained in those interviews! For now, though, I'd like to focus on the dynamics surrounding obtaining those interviews, namely the intricacies of talking face-to-face with the Supernatural creative team in the SDCC 2019 press room.
As you are no doubt aware, this was Supernatural’s last appearance at SDCC. Jared, Jensen, Misha and others mentioned that they were keenly aware they were experiencing more “lasts” - their last Hall H panel, their last Comic-Con autograph line, their last SDCC press room, their last San Diego photo shoot - all emotional milestones in their march toward the end of the show. The feelings stirred by that ending of an era may be why this year's press room seemed to me to be subtly different than prior years' press rooms.
Before the Press Room
The cast and producers' day started with the extremely emotional goodbyes in the Hall H panel (if you wish to get a more complete, genuine experience of Supernatural's final day at SDCC, read "Saying Goodbye to Supernatural: The SDCC 2019 Panel" first, then come back here to continue with the rest of the day.). Immediately after the panel, the creative team was rushed to the Supernatural autographing session at the WB booth on the main vending floor. The intensity of the autographing session is hard to imagine unless you've witnessed it. For example, when the Supernatural cast signs autographs, the area surrounding their WB autographing table is swarmed by a throng of fans. The crowd makes that area of SDCC's massive vending floor completely unpassable.
Pic Cr: @Paleonut
You can see Jared's head peeking above the crowd in the center of the picture! Misha can be seen on the overhead screens. Here's another view, to convey the scale of the crowd:
Pic Cr @Paleonut
Jared and Misha can again be seen on the overhead screens. That's a lot of attention thrust upon the actors, and a lot of eyes and cameras watching their every move! The press room immediately follows the autographing with fans. Considering that the events take place in different buildings, there is virtually no time for the actors to catch their breath. Given the depth of emotions invoked by the panel, they had to compose themselves and regroup in the few moments between public appearances.
While all this is going on, reporters are scrambling to transition from Hall H (if they attended, which of course I did) to the Supernatural press room. In contrast to the massive gathering of fans on the main floor or in Hall H's Supernatural panel (which is also easily seen online through various video recordings), only a handful of fans have ever been able to be in the coveted SDCC Supernatural press room. Since that too has now passed into the shadows of the show’s history, I thought I would share with you what it was like to talk one last time with the cast and producers as press. I don’t do this to brag or incite envy, but rather to share with you the experience of being behind those video cameras and between those brown paisley wallpapered walls you’ve stared at for so many years. Interested?
Waiting and Anticipating
As you can imagine, being in San Diego Comic-Con’s Supernatural press room is an exhilarating experience! Adrenaline, excitement, stress, nervousness and anxiety exude from most everyone in the room. The show’s creative team (actors and executive producers) have to be on top of their game as they are paraded in front of a hundred cameras and voice recorders. Many of them have shared with me how nervous they get (at least initially) for their appearances, and that's been in prior years when emotions weren't running so high! Reporters are on edge every second to fit in their question and the right question at the first breath of available downtime. I can personally attest to the nervousness that incites! Publicists need to rotate nine interviewees through a dozen interview stations so every media outlet has an equal chance to hear about the show that’s the center of attention for one hour in the SDCC schedule. Lights, video cameras and everyone talking over everyone else is the background to balancing being professionally respectful yet appropriately aggressive to get everything you want from this rare time with the creators of the show. It’s simultaneously nerve-wracking and thrilling.
2019 was my fourth year in this highly charged microcosm of the largest annual fan and pop culture convention in the world*. Alice has done it for ten years, ever since 2009! Each year has been an immensely special opportunity for which I am eternally grateful. To help you imagine this happening to you, let me walk you through this year's press room experience, step by step.
As each reporter enters the press room, they first check in with the publicists with the clip board, then pick the tables where they want to sit. That's an exercise in assessing the angle of the camera against the designated position of the interviewee, and the background and lighting of the interview. I also try to size up the other reporters who might already be sitting at the table. Do they look like Supernatural fans who will compete with me to ask their own endless list of questions, or do they have blank stares, usually indicating they're only on assignment and will probably ask general questions of little interest to WFB readers? Reporters from all over the world are granted admittance, so the show's coverage can spread geographically to as many markets as possible. Alice and I never sit together so we can bring you double the interview videos!
The larger outlets are usually lined up on the video wall. They get to talk to the stars first. I'm not sure what's more intimidating to the cast and writers - moving through a gauntlet of bright lights and microphones, talking with one reporter after another on the video line; or sitting at the 8 or so roundtables, each with 8 reporters who all want a piece of them during 5 minute rotations.
I’ve been asked how I manage to even put two coherent words together when I’m in the same room with this cast. For me, it all begins with homework and preparation. For weeks ahead of the event, I jot down questions in a notebook whenever I think of something I want to ask the Supernatural team. I also usually ask WFB readers and social media followers what questions they want me to ask the cast and writers, so everyone has a chance to be heard. This year, I received five pages of questions! A few days before I leave for San Diego, I sift through all the potential questions to prioritize one to five of the best ideas for each interview.
When each celebrity is offered for interview, it’s possible I won’t get to ask any questions at all, depending on the dynamics of the table and the time allowed to us by the public relations team. Conversely, sometimes other reporters run out of questions, or aren't specifically interested in the interviewee, so I am lucky enough to ask two or three questions (e.g. Jared this year, because we had so much time with him!). I also always have a few extra questions prepared in case I have to quickly switch up my game plan when another reporter asks the same questions that were on my list!
For me, the technical prep is even more daunting than the question prep! Making sure my phone/camera has enough memory to record 9 videos usually involves deleting or transferring treasured memories from the entire prior year! I have to remember the tripod, the microphone (if any), the video and voice recorder backups, all the equipment's charging cords, etc. I also have a backup thumb drive for my phone's memory (that I bought when all this started but never used) so I reread its instructions 5 times - just in case! It’s like planning the logistics of a massive incursion into enemy territory! I get one shot at this and there’s no do-overs if I mess up!
Then there’s meeting the cast and writers in person! By now, many of them recognize me, and even more of them recognize Alice. We’ve talked with them at mixers and conventions enough that we’re all a little more comfortable together. You can sometimes see their recognitions of me and Alice (or sometimes the WFB name cards, like Sera Gamble at The Magicians every year) in a few of the videos if you look for it as soon as the guest of honor takes their seat at our tables. It's a wink (Jared) or an "Oh hi!" (Eugenie) or a fist pump (Christopher Lennertz). That breaks the ice a little and offers us a brief moment of rapport before questions begin. Yeah, that always feels good!
I think the first time I sat across the table from this cast, I was visibly shaking.
Yes, Jared is looking at me in these photos! He's always been my bud, so even though his magnetic presence makes my heart skip a beat, I usually feel more comfortable with him. Still, my first year in the press room, I was so transfixed (professional translation: concentrating) listening to him, I forgot to take any pictures of him while I was shooting video. When the press room closed, I realized I had pictures of everyone except Jared! Fandom Flameout Fail!
Misha’s good looks are stunning, but he jokes so much that he puts everyone at ease. Still, when I saw another outlet's video of his private interview with them this year, I was confused at seeing him in a denim jacket. I couldn't imagine when he had time to change clothes between my interview and theirs because I was sure he hadn't been wearing that denim jacket when talking with me! Yet, here he is, denim jacket and all. This freeze frame from my video proves my senses were overloaded trying to look at him, talk to him and record at the same time!
Alex is still so young and new to all of this. Everyone just wants to be kind to him to give him a break and help him do well.
But Jensen. Jensen just sits there and lets the full force of his grey steel bombard your senses.
The moment Jensen first sat down at my interview table in 2016, his charisma hit me like an energy blast that took my breath away! I remember writing about the experience at the time (although I can’t seem to find that account right now. I'd be grateful if you find the link). It is truly an honor to talk with the writers of the show, but they know they can't compete with the sex appeal and charisma of the stars of the show! The physical reality of the boys' 6+ foot, Greek god frames adds to their overwhelming presence.
So being able to talk with Jensen, Jared and Misha (and now Alex) is definitely an acquired skill. I call upon lots and lots of deep breathing and professional training to control the staggering excitement and nerves. That, and I get really quiet. Like really, really quiet. Lock it down, girl. Get it together.
The Last Supernatural Press Room
Given this was Supernatural’s last Comic-Con, as I said I sensed a difference in the mood between this year’s and prior years' press rooms. It seemed larger but less exuberant than usual. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it somber but it was definitely not as electric as in the past. There was less unchecked excitement or anticipation, and maybe a little more guarded respect. It was as if everyone there felt the weight of what was happening. Some of us had been in the panel and had seen Jared and Jensen break down with emotion as they said goodbye to the fans in Hall H. The boys had just experienced that last time they would all be together on stage in front of 6000 people who loved them and their show. There were also far more reporters in the press room who were not specifically attached to the show, i.e. they weren’t fans themselves. Many had never even seen the show, but were there because a 15-year old TV show coming to a close is news. They came armed with rote questions: What does it feel like to end the show? What do you want to get out of your last year? What are your plans for the future?
A few reporters, though, were fans themselves, and felt the full impact of the emotion of saying goodbye. Most had been alongside the actors, writers, and producers for many years – some from the very beginning - so this was a last for them as well. This was our last press room, and for many, our last Comic-Con. Our questions were the same as those who had merely been assigned to this story, but we were fighting back the same tears that had just been shed by Jensen, Jared and Misha on stage. We knew them, their wives, their children, their characters and their story. We shared their journey for the past 15 years. This wasn’t going to be easy.
This year I was less nervous than in the past about talking to the guys and their producers, and more nervous about the questions I was going to ask. There were questions I absolutely wanted answered about Chuck/God and season 15, but there’s an etiquette to the press room. Its purpose is to promote the show’s next season. Reporters are supposed to prompt the public relations messages the actors and writers have been given. This is not a political press conference where ambush is expected and applauded. Here, it would be inappropriate to ask hard ball questions that surprise the stars or harass the writers. So how does a true fan, one that runs one of the show’s largest fan sites, one that dearly loves these characters and this story, get the information we all want yet respect the boundaries of the occasion?
I’m not sure if it was the timing (very likely), the mix of reporters (also likely), or the actors’ moods, but the questions asked by the non-fan reporters were very different than in the past. There were almost no questions about last season’s cliff-hanger finale, and very few questions about where the plot was going next year, at least at my table. I think the words, “Sam”, “Dean”, “Castiel”, “Jack” or “Baby” (or Chuck, God, or any of the other characters pertinent to the story) were rarely uttered by anyone other than me at my table!
However, when I and a few other Supernatural fans/ website editors (there was approximately one per table) managed to squeeze in a few critical queries, I was stunned at the openness of the answers. Usually the creative team has sound-byte messages about the coming season, teasing bits of the plot without really giving anything important away. This year, though, they seemed more reflective and unguarded, as if they truly wanted fans to understand how much they cared about giving the show a proper ending. Their answers seemed a lot less practiced. I didn’t sense the usual coyness or vague avoidance, but instead sincere dialog. Andrew, Brad, Bob Berens, Bob Singer and Eugenie (husband and wife) all revealed what they’re currently thinking about season 15, including the things they haven’t yet decided. They talked about how much of the end was previously determined (Andrew) but that there are still points where they don’t agree (Eugenie). They freely acknowledged the thematic concerns of fans (Brad and Berens), like free will being a sham and God being an enemy, which frankly surprised me. I expected them to downplay our deepest objections because in past seasons, their answers seemed limited to generalities or teases. Bob (Singer), Eugenie and Brad especially seemed to be talking to us as themselves rather than as representatives of the writers’ room. Bob and Eugenie were particularly quiet and more serene. They have been making Supernatural from the very beginning so this last season represents a huge change in their lives.
The three main actors were all much more reflective than usual as well.
(Frame from Alice's interview )
Misha was more serious I have ever seen him. Usually he jokes around and talks at length about GISH or his family, but otherwise it’s been hard in the past to get a straight answer out of him. This year, though, I felt like we were seeing the serious side of Misha at my table, as he struggled to understand and articulate his feelings about the momentous decision to end the show. From my interview and from a private moment I had with him, it seems clear that he feels it’s time to move on. Although he doesn’t exactly know what the future holds, he’s at peace that it’s time to explore his options.
As you all saw in the panel, Jensen was extremely emotional about saying goodbye to Supernatural and its fans at SDCC. He said he was nervous even though he had long ago gotten used to, and even looked forward to and welcomed, the Hall H stage. At the end of the panel, he couldn’t even say what was in his heart, because the tears and lump in his throat were overwhelming him. Danneel's tweet confirmed that Jensen's public display of emotion reflected the magnitude of what this all meant to him.
Jensen's press room presence was correspondingly subdued, charismatically speaking. He was professional and very experienced, but to me it seemed he was making darn sure he wasn’t going to “go there” again and feel the deep feelings that had surfaced at the end of his Hall H goodbye. When a reporter at our table asked the first question, Jensen answered with a long recitation of the history of the show. This was an answer he had given many times before. It was safe. I don’t know what others perceived, but I definitely got the impression that Jensen was being very guarded. He needed to hold it together. Like Dean, he had shoved down his feelings so he could keep going and keep doing the things that were expected of him. I understood completely. I as well was avoiding any emotional reactions to what was happening around me lest I break down in sobs and be a complete blubbering mess. So recognizing and respecting the emotion of the moment, there weren’t any questions (at my table) about Dean, or God, or the plot, or the brothers, or Castiel or any of the other things fans are dying to know about season 15. Instead, Jensen was asked more general questions so he could say what it all meant to him, and what he saw for his future.
The questions for Jared were similarly reflective. I had obsessed for days over a particularly charged question I dearly wanted to ask about Sam shooting God, how Sam would be affected by such an abrupt end to his faith, and the message the show was trying to send about religion (i.e. “God was never on your side”). When Jared was sitting with us, though, it just didn’t seem like the right time to ask him a pointed, existential question. I’m sure he would have answered it, because he seemed to be holding it together better than the others (more practice at breaking down in public maybe?), but like Jensen and Misha, Jared also seemed to want to talk about the meaning of 15 years, and the decision he and Jensen had made together.
Sometimes, You're Just Lucky
Jared was our last interview, and I was personally getting very nervous that we wouldn’t get to talk to him at all. In fact, when the publicists asked us if we had spoken with everyone, implying they were wrapping up the rotations, the forcefulness of my “NO! We haven’t yet talked to Jared!” stunned the other reporters at my table. They all teasingly chastised me for being so pointed in my reply, but there was NO WAY I was going to miss out on talking to Jared! When he was finally brought over to us, the PR team said we had time for 1-2 questions at most. That meant that 8 reporters all had to politely but forcefully assert themselves over everyone else to get their question in.
True to their word, the public relations team gave us the “last question” signal after 2 questions, then they started rounding up all the other actors and producers to get them out of the room. Misha walked past Jared and, in Misha's words, gave us "gold" by messing around with Jared!
Hilariously, one reporter jokingly rebuked Misha saying "we're on the clock here!", communicating the pressure we felt to rush our questions for Jared. Jared heard that and laughed even harder, telling Misha "Now you know what it feels like to get kicked off your own set!" In our exuberance to get our questions to Jared, we may have also missed a great story. At the beginning of my interview (see link below), Jared asked us if we knew about the Star Wars book he was holding. We all said, "Yeah, sure, yes!" so he wouldn't take 4 out of our 5 minutes geeking out about Star Wars. Honestly, I didn't know anything about why he ws holding the book. I just knew he loved Star Wars (from his mini-autobiography in Family Don't End With Blood). After I returned home, I saw the video of him receiving the book. It's included in our "Reports on Final SDCC Supernatural Panel." I highly encourage you to watch that video. It made me immensely happy to see Jared so thrilled throughout the entire video! At the time, though, we all just felt pressured to channel Jared to what we wanted him to talk about!
Then we got very lucky. While rounding up the other talent, they somehow left Jared alone! Twice more a publicist came up to us and said “last question.” We all nodded and continued talking with Jared, determined to use every second they would give us to hear him talk about what he and the others were thinking and feeling. This kept happening, though, until someone realized he was still at our table (or maybe they left him there on purpose because he was safely occupied?)! All the other actors and producers had already left the room yet here was Jared, still talking with us! There was even one more table still waiting to talk with him! He had been with us for an unprecedented 17 minutes. That’s unheard of for press room interviews! It was unintentional, to be sure, but we, and you, benefited from the mistake! Jared’s relaxed conversation with us revealed some special moments.
Once our interview with Jared was over, our press table was finished and everyone started packing up to leave. Jared moved over to talk to that last table of reporters who were by this time frantic that he not skip them. As an editor, my duties were complete, but as a fan… I was keenly aware that I hadn’t had a chance to talk with Jared personally yet, and he was moments away from being escorted away, disappearing down those back hallways reserved for the talent. In the past, I’ve talked with him for 1-2 minutes somewhere at SDCC, but this time – nothing. Nada. Zip. Not even his customary wink when he sat down at my press table, nor the shoulder hug as he walked past me between interviews. I hadn’t been lucky enough to run into him around San Diego at all, and he hadn’t come to the one mixer that he had been scheduled to attend (well, actually, he did come but not in enough time to see anyone at the event.) After having missed him in June at Austin’s Supernatural Day (he was invited but wasn’t able to come), I was determined I was not going to end up with the “close and yet so far” regret of not having talked to him!
So I may or may not have broken the press room’s golden rule of not ever trying to talk personally with the talent! Ignoring the consequences, I elbowed my way through the throng of people encircling his last interview and positioned myself between his last press table (where Jared was truly being limited to answering just 2 questions) and the exit door. It certainly wouldn’t be my fault if Jared recognized me and stopped to talk to me! Happily, he did recognize me and pulled me into a giant squeeze hug. I managed to get out about 3 sentences before the PR manager realized he had stopped and came back to politely but firmly get him moving again. I’m sure I wasn’t on her “best behaved” list at that moment, but who knows? Maybe she blamed Jared? He’s always the one getting into trouble after all!
With the entire Supernatural team and all their handlers gone, I could now truly exhale. The videos were all recorded, the questions were all asked. Now started the work of uploading and writing to share all these experiences with you.
I don’t want to think about that being my last Supernatural press room. For four years, it’s been a magical experience that I never in my wildest dreams imagined would happen.
Yes, I’ve volunteered thousands (upon thousands) of hours to keep The WFB running these past 6 years, and written hundreds of articles on Supernatural to promote the show, its stars and its family, but I know how lucky I am that Alice let me join her in the press room, and the WB PR team granted me access to their inner circle for a few days a year. So since I think it was an unbelievably serendipitous set of circumstances that led me there, what’s to say that something miraculous won’t happen again to keep me in touch with these guys? I may be in denial, but I simply can’t accept that this chapter in my life is coming to an end as quickly as it is ending for them. I have to delay the inevitable as long as possible. It is Supernatural, after all, so who knows what the next year might hold. My fingers are crossed as tightly as that last hug I gave Jared.
Check out The WFB's complete coverage of Comic-Con, including interviews, Supernatural alumni panel appearances, major media's private access to the stars & more!
Next up – Reflections on attending this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, being in the audience during Supernatural’s last Comic-Con panel, and a series of “Let’s Discuss” articles to bat around the revelations contained in this year’s interviews! Until then, Alice and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the Supernatural press experience! Please add your comments below!
Unless otherwise noted, press room images were created by me (a few by Alice) from video I filmed during the interviews. Header collage created by Bettina Bier. Please credit and link if reused.
*Comic-Con's size confirmed through references provided by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Diego_Comic-Con.