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Going to New York Comic Con 2022 ("NYCC") to see the premiere screening of The Winchesters was a near necessity for me.  Once it was announced that the "Pilot" episode would be shown to a ballroom full of people before it premiered on television, I went into full out panic/obsessed mode to get tickets, credentials and travel reservations. To see the first episode of The Winchesters, to hear a panel of the show’s producers and cast talk about their vision for this show, and to interview the new faces and familiar old friends associated with Supernatural’s prequel became my single minded mission. In two short hours, I would get insight into this controversial series that I just couldn’t achieve watching it on my 2-dimensional television screen. If I am to write about this show for as long as it is lucky enough to be renewed (15 years is probably too ambitious a goal, but hey, they thought the same thing when Supernatural debuted on a doomed network!), I needed to experience it as close to first hand as possible for someone who doesn’t have a SAG card and isn’t likely to get a casting call to be on the show itself.

To my great relief, after a frantic week of trying to connect with the right contacts at the studio, the publicity sprites worked their magic and I was soon on my way to a last minute trip to New York City! Of course, I fretted over every last detail of logistics and technology, but in the end, everything worked out fabulously! The result was an up-close and personal, marvelous few hours with the producers and lead cast members of The Winchesters on October 9, 2022.

Since I know how incredibly unique it is to be able to sit across a table from these talented rainmakers, I'm delighted to pass along my observations and insights with you - the curious, wary, emotionally invested, extremely knowledgeable SPNFamily, in hopes that some day you'll also consider yourselves fans of The Winchesters. So enjoy this behind-the-scenes report on NYCC, as I attempt to share the energy of The Winchesters as I perceived it in my initial visit with its creative team. Along the way, I'll also add a few perspectives from my viewpoint now, half way through the first season, and how what we've seen so far compares to the promise of that day, and the overwhelming excitement of anticipating this new series. 

The Press Room

As is common for comic con press rooms, The Winchesters team was running behind schedule. While anxious reporters waited, there was constant maneuvering to get the best seat at interview tables or the best spot on the camera line. Even though press pre-registration is tightly controlled (so attendance was somewhat predictable), there were far more people than there were chairs at tables, so we all ended up being ad hoc furniture movers, hurriedly "borrowing" seats from nearby rooms while we frantically looked over our shoulders to see when the guests of honor would arrive. 

We knew who to expect from the panel announcement. The show's spokespersons would be Danneel Ackles (Executive Producer) and Jensen Ackles (Executive Producer and series narrator); Robbie Thompson (Executive Producer and Showrunner); and Drake Rodger and Meg Donnelly (the stars of the show as John Winchester and Mary Campbell). We could immediately tell when they arrived, as the hallway outside the open door of the press room suddenly filled with an entourage of publicists, handlers, and of course, the "talent". When the stars finally entered the room, it came alive with bright lights and a din of ubiquitous conversation, as the stars who are so accustomed to red carpets took turns donning their best poses for the cameras and sharing their prepared sound bytes with interviewers. 

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Since I asked to be a "reporter" and not a photographer, I snuck all the standing poses in this report with my phone camera while I stood on my chair and shot over the heads of at least 30 other people jockeying for position. Happily, I didn't fall or get yelled at in the process! 

The Supernatural Team

Surprisingly, I was one of only a few reporters who video recorded the entirety of all three interviews. To me, these interviews were the pot of gold at the end of a Supernatural rainbow! Being able to capture 25 minutes of the team's uncensored answers was a tremendous treat, and a great start to understanding the show they are jointly creating. I will assume that you have either already watched or will soon watch those videos so rather than repeat questions and answers, I will share the impressions I formed while talking with these old friends. 

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Danneel and Jensen listening intently to my question. It's no small feat to think clearly and talk coherently while maintaining eye contact with this charismatic power couple. Something about melting down while staring into the sun... 

“I tend to be heavily involved … because this is a story that is very important to me… This one's really special to us and we take great care.” - Jensen

I expected Danneel and Jensen to be relaxed around cameras and photographers, but they were even more open and engaging than I would have imagined. From my table's vantage point, I was able to see them talking with their daughter, JJ, outside the press room before the cast’s grand entrance, so I was thrilled when JJ made a short cameo appearance on my recording! Their comfort with their show, the reporters and their fans allowed this unguarded, momentary glimpse into their family to happen. Even their husband and wife interactions on camera were adorable and natural.

Their excitement for their creation seemed to be sincerely grounded in wanting to extend Supernatural in the right way - not for money or to increase their celebrity, but because of a love of the Winchester family's story.  Reading between the lines of Jensen’s answers, he’s valiantly trying to use all the wisdom imparted to him by the people he revered on Supernatural to recreate as much of its lightning in a bottle appeal as he can (until he and Jared get back in the Impala to travel back roads together again).

By the way, when you listen to my interview with Danneel and Jensen, yes, that was me agreeing with them when they said Wayward Sisters should have been picked up. No, I hadn’t lost all semblance of sanity simply because I was talking with them! The long answer was that Wayward Sisters was a great idea that, if developed properly, should have been picked up. I believe the fandom would have followed Jody (Kim Rhodes) and Donna (Briana Buckmaster) into any dark, dangerous monster cave for many years to come… but that’s not the tactic the show took. That was way too much explanation for the few short minutes we were granted with these two enthusiastic producers, so a sincere agreement on the show’s concept had to suffice.

Robbie Thompson NYCC

I didn’t know what to expect from the Robbie Thompson interview. Even though he has an impressive resume of writing stories in all forms, including seven years on Supernatural, this is his first gig as showrunner (and maybe in a press room?). It’s no secret that he deeply loves Supernatural, giving it some of its best episodes in its 15 year run. He’s also a master character builder (Charlie, Eileen and Cain to name a few). In my experience, though, showrunners aren't always comfortable explaining their vision to reporters.

Happily, it turns out one of Robbie's many talents is articulately sharing his palpable enthusiasm for his show. He was relaxed and open, but it was his confidence when talking about The Winchesters story that was infectious. He made me want to meet the Scooby Gang he created because he believes in them so much. There was a familiar passion when he talked about these characters that gave them the intimacy we (and he) feel for Sam, Dean, Bobby, Jody, etc. He’s trying to extend the protectiveness and love we have for the next generation of Winchesters, to the parents we knew only through the eyes of their sons.

I was also encouraged by the thoughtfulness that he’s putting into crafting this new universe. Robbie’s stories about tone and music reflected how much attention he is paying to seamlessly duplicating yet diversifying Supernatural’s formulas.

Really, the tone that we wanted was the tone that Supernatural has. Sam and Dean are really funny; they’re very funny guys. As far as [The Winchesters], heart was a big thing for us, humor was a big thing for us, but so was horror, so we were trying to strike the balance that Supernatural did. - Robbie

I hadn’t realized that the tone of The Winchesters worried me more than the canon challenges it faces, so the fact that he’s trying to stay true to Supernatural’s underpinnings was encouraging. He promised that the canon integration between the two shows would be explained in episode 13, so we don’t have to wait too long until we all know how this prequel’s story supposedly works. He also confessed that the “sweet spot” on Supernatural for him was working on high risk/high reward episodes, so he isn't shying away from going all in on The Winchesters

After talking with them all, I want this venture to succeed even more than I did before. Of course, I want to live in Supernatural's world for many years to come, but I also want this series to succeed for Robbie's and Jensen’s sake. Beyond this being a joint, professional project for them, they are both emotionally tied to Supernatural as much or more than fans. By the way, that was Robbie making rabbit ears over Jensen in my video. Ever the jokesters, those two.

"The New Kids"

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There's that unblinking attention again...

[Drake] is a Jared/Jensen hybrid – Danneel

Watching [Drake] on camera, he’s doing both Sam and Dean - Jensen

Drake does things that are very Jared like, not even Sam like, but little quirks and nuances – Jensen relating Richard J. Speight Jr.’s comments about directing Drake.

Drake and Meg were huge surprises. I was intrigued by everyone’s observation that Drake channels Sam, Dean and Jared, but when I had 10 minutes to talk to Drake privately after cameras stopped rolling, it was eerie how much he acted like a 23 year old Jared! Absolutely unmistakable.  Drake’s mannerisms, his laugh, his youthful confidence that edges on arrogance but is justified because of raw talent, his stories, his smile, the twinkle in his eye, his protectiveness of Meg, his impishness – he’s even become the prankster on set! He talked to me about being directed by Richard J. Speight, Jr. and when I told him that Jensen had held back that detail (in my video interview), Drake quickly looked around to see who heard him leak the news, just like Jared has done so many times on convention stages (Jensen announced it an hour later in the panel so I no longer need to keep it “off the record.”)!

After getting such a strong Jared vibe from Drake, I suspected we'd be smitten by his version of John Winchester. In some supernatural version of our universe, he's a clone of the actor who plays his son! It turns out he has a piece of Jared's talent as well, since every WFB reviewer has praised Drake’s performance as John. The series is lucky to have him.   

I’m going to share with you the picture I took with him when things were wrapping up because I know you’ll laugh yourselves silly… but please don’t post this on social media. I really don’t want this picture widely distributed! I’m a few inches taller than 5 feet and look at us together! 

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Yes, Drake even has Jared’s height! (I'm not leaving this picture up long so enjoy it quick!)

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Meg in a selfie taken with me. 

“I was like, ‘Cast her, cast her’!” – Danneel

“Trying to capture that essence, which I believe we’re doing, that’s the magic - Jensen

Meg was a pure delight. Out of the five people we interviewed, she was the most hesitant, usually allowing, or even asking, Drake to answer questions first. She has an electric smile, though, and it’s clear she’s given a great deal of thought to playing Mary. It’s understandable that Meg is hanging back a bit, as she’s the only one out of this group that isn’t a Supernatural expert. As diehard fans, Supernatural is practically part of our DNA now, so imagine an actor who hadn’t lived in this universe for the past 15 years of their life! But Meg seemed quite capable of giving us a fresh perspective on Mary, which is precisely what is needed.  Everyone spoke of the chemistry Drake and Mary have both on and off camera, which they hope will add immensely to the believability of the Winchester family story. While I didn’t personally perceive “chemistry” in our brief 6 minutes, it was very clear that they relied on each other and were very comfortable as a professional couple who had become good friends. My lasting impressing of Meg is her sweet, innocent effervescence.

The Panel

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Robbie geeking out, taking a picture of the capacity crowd that had assembled to hear about The Winchesters.

The entire NYCC panel was fascinating! I could have listened to this group for hours! Again, I'll presume you have or will watch the panel on YouTube so I'll share my impressions of being there in person. 

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Two things stood out for me from the group's introduction of their show to their fans. First, the announcement that Tom Welling will play Samuel Winchester! The room erupted when Tom walked on stage!

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Talk about being totally unprepared to capture that moment on video or camera! Such a surprise.

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I got a few blurry pics because I was simultaneously screaming, shaking, tweeting and scrambling to snap shots!

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The second lasting impression I took away from the panel was Robbie’s comfort talking to a room full of Supernatural fans about this new show. He did most of the talking! I expected Jensen to take the lead, but The Winchesters was clearly Robbie’s playground.

The Canon

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It's not a secret that one of the top concerns Supernatural fans have about The Winchesters is the apparent incongruity between John learning how to be a hunter from Mary, versus John stumbling into hunting after Mary’s death. That is the cornerstone of the show, and the super secret premise that could make or break the story. Jensen and Robbie were obviously prepared for that question, probably having answered it already dozens of times in interviews. Their confidence that we’re going to totally buy into the solution they decided upon was reassuring.

The first thing we talked about was that we were not going to erase 15 years of Supernatural. We’re not rewriting anything, we’re not redoing anything.... it was our Hippocratic Oath: 'Do No Harm'... The goal of this was always to not rewrite or change anything that happened in 15 season [of Supernatural]. – Robbie

We’re going to pull the curtain back completely about where we’re going and what we’re doing and what we have been doing in episode 13. – Robbie

Did we talk about different iterations of where a prequel context story could go? Yeah, absolutely, we did. We talked about quite a few different iterations. But this one always felt more personal, in a way to keep a certain handsome gentleman [gesturing toward Jensen] involved in a pretty direct way. - Robbie

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Rather than be evasive, they both hit the issue head-on and assured us, ‘We know. We care, too. Trust us.' I believe they’ve earned that trust so I felt more comfortable waiting until the last episode currently ordered by the studio to get that answer.

The Characters

Stepping into characters that launched a 15 year story would presumably be very daunting for Drake and Meg. Sam and Dean discussed John and Mary Winchester at length over the years. The representation of these characters also evolved over time, as they were lost, found, killed, resurrected, killed again, blamed, redeemed, reconciled and everything in between. 

Drake especially seemed to understand John, but that makes sense since Drake watched the first 12 seasons of Supernatural

I have zero intention of trying to live up to Jeffrey Dean Morgan's portrayal of John; I just want to provide context to the character, to his life - Drake

[On his portrayal of John] “This isn’t what I wanted for my sons. This is something I was destined to do and had to do. It was out of my hands…. How can we give context to the characters without changing anything, but giving our own spins to it? We get to see a little less developed, a little less emotionally available, if you can believe it.  – Drake

Not having previously been a Supernatural fan, it seemed Meg's understanding of Mary was less internalized. She described Mary as the strong, independent leader, which is exactly what we've seen her portray in the first half of the first season. 

[On her portrayal of Mary] “...having so much more context for how she was raised a hunter. That’s all she’s ever known. She knows exactly what she wants. She’s a natural born leader, a strong, independent girl/fighter. It shines a light that girls can be badasses too. - Meg interview

Curiously, the first impression one gets from Meg is the exact opposite of "badass". My impression of her in the panel was the same as when I talked with her in the press room. With reporters, she was a poised but shy, confident but always deferred to Drake to answer first. She didn't seemed nervous at all (which surprised me) but, probably appropriately so, often looked to her producers and her acting partner for cues. She was incredibly kind to me when I asked for a selfie. At the panel, she cried backstage at the audience's reaction to the pilot.  I didn't get "independent girl/fighter" vibes from her at all but was more left with the impression that she has an innate goodness, and that she's sweet, honest and emotionally sensitive. She's the type of person I'd want as a best friend.

Throughout the show, you’ll see more vulnerability in Mary – Meg in the panel

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Notice Meg's shoes! Being around Jensen, Drake and Robbie is no joke! They are all giants!  

It will be curious to see how long it takes her to get to know Mary, and how she will make the character her own. 

JoJo Fleites (who plays Carlos), Nida Khurshid (who plays Latika) and Demetria McKinney (who plays Ada), weren't part of The Winchesters entourage at NYCC, so we didn't get a chance to meet them in person. It was interesting then to hear them described after seeing their characters for the first time in "Pilot".

[On Latika] Interviewer: It seems like she might be corrupted.

Jensen: Very perceptive

Robbie:  Yes, I would be very worried for that sweet {summer?} child.

[On Carlos] He takes up all the space – all the space. – Robbie

Months later, having now seen several episodes of The Winchesters, it is clear that Carlos is a classic, tour de force, Robbie character. Jensen said as much in my interview with him: “Straight out of Robbie’s brain. It’s pure Robbie. It’s Robbie unleashed.”

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Admittedly, it’s been very hard to be patient and discover these characters gradually, as their story unfolds! We want them to be as developed as the older selves we know so well, but Danneel, Jensen, Robbie and Speight all repeatedly told us (virtually or in person) during our visit that we’ll come to love "the new kids." 

So far, I completely agree with everything they said about John, Carlos, Latika and Ada. I absolutely love Carlos, yet he was my greatest concern in the trailers. I also have a soft spot for Latika, and am worried that hunting will cause her to lose her innocence, her pacifism and her idealism. Ada has added a more mature dimension to the Scooby gang's antics, grounding them in wisdom and the experience of having fought both  personal and actual demons, some alongside Henry.  

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 Merging Supernatural and The Winchesters

Jensen: The Supernatural vibe is still being collectively curated by those who were there and know what it was originally, and that’s important to all of us.

Interviewer: It’s in the hands of those who love it the most

Jensen: Correct.

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Can this group of people recreate the unique appeal of Supernatural? That's a tall order, and from everything they said, I think they realize that. But they can expand Supernatural's universe, filling in details that make its characters richer, its history more personal. They can extend our visit to the Winchesters' world, and make sure we all have fun being there together. 

Robbie: Danneel and Jensen at the beginning were like, ‘Let’s establish a foundation for these kids, and then let’s slowly bring some people in.’ We will be bringing a lot of familiar faces…

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Jensen: [when asked about seeing Crowley] If you all give us an opportunity to tell more of this story, I guarantee you’re gonna see a lot more familiar faces.

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Robbie: How can we find little parallels between 1972 and 2005?

I didn’t remember Robbie saying that in the panel, so I’m excited that my first Threads review on The Winchesters noted a parallel in storytelling between the two shows! Phew! I got that one right.

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Since the first 45 minutes of the The Winchesters main event at NYCC was taken up by us all watching the "Pilot", the panel itself was only a half hour long - and half of that was answering fans' questions. So the excitement was over all too soon. 

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I captured my "morning after" impressions of The Winchesters' first episode while the exhilaration, anticipation and immense curiosity that surrounded the premiere screening still lingered. Rather than a usual analytical review, Fangasm's Lynn and I recorded our exact conversation over breakfast the next day, and shared our reactions to the show in our joint review, "The Winchesters Pilot: A Good Start for the Supernatural Prequel".  With that last account of my whirlwind trip done, I packed my bags and headed home, anxious to see more of the adventure envisioned by this hopeful group of Supernatural hunters. 

A month and a half later and nearly at the mid-season break of its first season, The Winchesters is now a part of my Tuesday evening routine.  I find that I am still as excited as ever, anticipating and wondering what each new episode will bring. My general anxiety about the premise and the characters has been replaced with a handful of specific questions about how the show will develop and grow.  As The WFB's team of reviewers has observed, the show has had its high points and its low points, but we're all still curious about where this is all leading. I fervently want it to succeed for the sake of these wonderful people who spent the day with us in New York in October, and for Supernatural fans, who want to extend that show's legacy. Fingers crossed, we're here for the long haul. 

I hope you enjoyed "being in the room" with me at NYCC! Please share your questions and comments below!

Gain More insight into Robbie Thompson's Supernatural episodes with my exclusive interview with him, Memoir from BG's Canteen!
Follow along with The Winchesters reviews, updates and news on WFB dedicated page for The Winchesters!
Get More behind-the-scenes reports on Supernatural from The WFB's Con Reports, and first hand interviews!