Exclusive Interview with Robbie Thompson: Nerding Out & Discussing Every Supernatural Episode He Wrote
Note: This interview took place during New York Comic Con in October, and we are just now posting it because of a delay on our part. We discuss everything from Robbie’s current comic work, his responses to the Pivot questionnaire, and every episode of Supernatural he ever wrote. We hope you enjoy the interview!
Nerds and Beyond: So I’m here with Robbie Thompson for Nerds and Beyond at New York Comic Con. Do you want to say hi, Robbie?
Robbie: Hi Robbie.
Nerds and Beyond: So we are just going to go over a few questions. You did an interview with us last year. So it’s semi a follow up to that.
Robbie: It’s our annual tradition.
Nerds and Beyond: It is our annual tradition. So, I wanted to start with a few questions about comics, since we are at a comic con. Specifically about Spider-Man Deadpool, and if you can share anything about that.
Robbie: Yes, I’m writing Spider-Man Deadpool. We’re going to be out in November (editor note: It has been out since 11/17 and is a phenomenal comic). Semi bi-monthly, kind of, and I’m working with Chris Bachalo he’s one of my all-time favorite artists. He’s done a bazillion comics, and he’s one of the few artists that when I was dead-ass broke in college, I would scrape together a couple bucks to get his Generation X book because I just loved it so much. So it’s a dream to work with him. Tim Townsend is inking the book, and Chris is coloring it, and yea. I’m having, I guess I quote the song all the time, but I’m actually having “the time of my life.” It’s totally a dream job to get to work with Chris, and also to work with Nick Lowe, Jordan D. White and Kathleen Wisneski, who are the editors on the book. Nick called me up and asked me if I wanted to pitch on it and I was thrilled. When they told me how the book was going to be positioned post Secret Empire which is the big event that Marvel went through, I was even more excited because it was a really cool take. You don’t have to read the flagship Deadpool book that Gerry Dugan is writing or the flagship Spiderman book that Dan Slott is writing, but we are taking a lot of direction and elements from those current runs. We’re calling it Spider-Man versus Deadpool because Deadpool did a very bad thing during Secret Empire, he killed America’s Sweetheart, Agent Coulson, and Deadpool is a wanted person now. Spider-Man is kind of going back to basics after Secret Empire as well, so they’re both in an interesting place in their lives. From Peter’s point of view, he’s trying to bring Deadpool to justice, and Deadpool doesn’t care what anybody thinks about him anymore, he’s like “I’m going to go back to being the ‘Merc with a mouth’”. He’s become an arms dealer in the absence of S.H.I.E.L.D., which fell during Secret Empire. Deadpool doesn’t care what anybody thinks except for Spider-Man because he just loves Spider-Man. So, it’s a lot of fist a cuffs, but they end up encountering, I don’t think I’m allowed to say yet, but a pretty big Spider-Man villain who’s pulling the strings and is manipulating the two of them. That gets revealed at the end of our second issue. So yeah, it’s been a ton of fun to work on.
Nerds and Beyond: So my next question, a kind of simple one. Do you miss Cindy Moon?
Robbie: I do miss her. I miss Cindy Moon every day, I miss Cindy Moon every day. She’s my boo. Ellie Pyle, who was the original editor on the book, she cast the book and brought me in because she’s a Supernatural fan, and knew my work from that. She would say “you and Cindy are kind of similar because you’re both kind of new to the Marvel Universe. Cindy was locked away for a while. She was trying to get out, and you were trying to get in.” So we were kind of on an emotional journey together. Also, I’ve struggled with anxiety for years, I’ve gotten an enormous amount of help in therapy. To have the opportunity to tell a story about people struggling with anxiety and getting help for it was extremely rewarding for me personally. So yeah, I miss her all the time. She’s still there, she’s somewhere kicking around the Marvel Universe. Hopefully someone will bring her back. We’ll see how she shakes out post Secret Empire. I’m hoping to see her in some books. I’m always looking out, anytime there’s an announcement for a new toy. I think there’s a Silk tsum tsum now, which I can’t wait to get — she’s like a little potato, but she’s my little potato. I can’t wait to buy that one, but yeah. I miss her every day.
Nerds and Beyond: I think there is a huge group of us who really love Silk.
Robbie: The “Silk Squad” is a passionate squad, and they’re just the best people. Tana Ford and I just got to meet a bunch of people irl at C2E2 this past April. It was great, we all went out to lunch. There was 6 of 7 us. They were a group that just really stuck with the book. We had just published the last issue. I don’t want to say it was a going-away party. It was more like we graduated. It was such a great experience, and hopefully we’ll work together again down the road. It was cool, a good way to close the book out.
Nerds and Beyond: I mentioned this when I reached out about how I’ve read or listened to a lot of your interviews. I wanted to take a different spin, something that is hopefully a little bit of fun. We talked about the Pivot Questionnaire ahead of time. So it has actually been adopted a few times. This is actually more the James Lipton version. So we will jump right in.
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
What turns you off?
Robbie: Pineapple on pizza
What’s your favorite curse word?
What sound or noise do you love?
Robbie: My wife’s laughter
What sound of noise do you hate?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
Robbie: I don’t like blood, so doctor.
If you were reincarnated as another plan or animal, what would it be?
Can you say more about that?
Robbie: No, that’s all I’ve got. Sloth.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Robbie: Back to one. Which is an expression that we use on sound stages. When you do a take, and you have to do it again, you say “back to one” it’s your first position on the stage. So yeah, I would like to hear “back to one.” Like another swing, another take.
Nerds and Beyond: I like it.
Nerds and Beyond: We are going to shift to Supernatural. An activity if you will, which we will go through all of the episodes that you wrote. I think there is seventeen.
Nerds and Beyond: Eighteen, great. I’m just going to give you the title, and you are going to share a memory, trivia, tidbit or really anything. So starting with season 7 episode 6 “Slash Fiction.”
Robbie: Well, wow. You never forget your first time. I was extremely nervous and intimidated. I had only watched Richard Speight’s episodes of Supernatural at that time because he’s an old friend of mine. We’ve known each other for twenty-plus years. We met when we were two, we’re both twenty-two now. He’s twenty-three. I had watched the show to prep for my first meeting with Sera (Gamble) and I was like “I’ll just watch some highlights,” but then I ended up watching 3 seasons in 7 days. I was like “oh shit, I really like this now.” I met Sera and I really liked Sera. The process is that you meet with Sera, and then with Sera and Bob. It’s kind of like a two-tiered system. I remember meeting with Sera and Bob, and by that time another week had lapsed and I had watched another season and a half. I went to the library and rented them, they weren’t on Netflix back then. It was the stone age. So I remember pitching them the first time. I wasn’t really nervous because I was like “maybe I get this job, maybe I don’t”, but when I got the job I was intimidated, like “wow that’s Sera Gamble, she’s written some of the best episodes of the show, and that’s Bob he’s been there since the pilot. He’s been involved in every single episode and directed some of my favorites. I think he’s a hell of a shooter.”
So by that point I was very intimidated. The one memory I have about that first episode, I mean I have shared a lot of things about the “All Out Of Love” scene, and what a great example that is of collaboration, but I just remember relaxing that first time in the writer’s room. I knew that I had to write one specific scene going into breaking the episode, because we had talked about it that first week because Baby had to be put on lockdown because the boys were wanted. And I was just like, “oh man I really don’t want to do that because I really love that car, and everyone’s going to be mad because everyone else loves that car.” We called the new car in the script the “POS” the Piece of Shit Car, and that’s what we ended up calling it for episodes after that, Interior POS, night. So, I pitched the scene, and I was just kind of riffing, and I said “Dean’s pissed because nobody puts Baby in a corner,” and I remember Sera smiling and saying, “you just wrote your first line for Supernatural.” I was like “okay, I got one down, now we need like fifty more.”
I also remember the first two weeks of the season, you kind of blue sky it with the show runners. They have a sense of where they want the show to go, and where they want to pivot, usually in the middle of the season, so I knew everything that was going to happen for the rest of the season, so going into “Slash Fiction,” I knew everything that was going to happen with Bobby. I remember when we were talking about possible episodes, this one was up on the board because they really wanted to see leviathan versions of Sam and Dean to confront the real version of Sam and Dean. I think it was called “Clone Wars.” I remember Kripke was in the room for that first week and a half. We didn’t have a name for him, but we talked about Gene Hackman’s character from The Conversation and Enemy of the State and that became the character of Frank Devereaux, a character introduced in this episode. And Krip had a great line, he was riffing on a scene and he said something like, “if you’re going to be stupid, you might as well be smart about it”, which I wrote down in my notebook. I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna steal that line.” And then of course I got assigned the episode, and I was like, “Shit, I gotta put that line in.” So, that line is a Kripke line. But yeah, the process of working on that first episode was really great. It’s a weird experience when you pitch a story and then you write a script, and there’s this scene between Bobby Singer and Leviathan Bobby Singer and you’re getting notes from Bob Singer. Bob’s like, “I think Bobby might say something like this.” And he pitched out a reference to a poem in that scene and I was like, “Oh, that’s cool.” and then I ended up rewriting it with that in mind. If you get a note from actual Bob Singer about what Bobby Singer might say, it feels like you should listen to that note.
Nerds and Beyond: You take it seriously.
Robbie: It was an awesome experience and that initial brush with collaboration. I’ve talked about it before, I put in that All Out Of Love song for fun because I thought it was a funny moment and it got cut, and then the director ended up shooting it anyway. So then, we got the rights to it, and then the boys made it like an epic scene. And all the stuff with the My Little Pony thing, which was just like a throwaway thing in the script. The prop department made it really funny. Jensen added a bit where he had to struggle, like he couldn’t just pull the thing off, he had to cut it. That was my first sort of entry into how this is a really fun collaborative process. At that point I was addicted. I mean, I was completely all in and wanted to write more.
Nerds and Beyond: Alright, so next episode, 12th episode of season 7, Time After Time.
Robbie: Yes. Sometimes called Time After Time After Time. Because we never could make up our minds about the title. It’s just Time After Time, for the record. I don’t care what TNT Rewind says.
Nerds and Beyond: Does it actually say that?
Robbie: Sometimes it says Time After Time After Time. I think on one of the cover pages we called it that, we went back and forth a bit, because Time After Time is a movie, and I was like, “Can we call it that?” But we did. That one was my first time collaborating with Phil Sgriccia, who I think is a genius. He’s a fantastic shooter and I know how hard it is to shoot on an 8-day schedule, but Phil always finds a way to push it as far as it can, and make it look the most cinematic it can. And so, it was a real blast to work with him. We’re both a couple of kids from Michigan. He’s from like 15 minutes from where I grew up as a kid.
Nerds and Beyond: Is he a Red Wings fan?
Robbie: Yeah, of course! I remember that part of it very specifically because it was a real joy to work with him. But I also remember, and this is always interesting for people who watch the show, a common criticism on the show — like for example, with Slash Fiction, at the end we actually changed the ending where they split up. They originally were going to be together but kind of mad at one another and then we were like, “Oh, it works better overall for them to split up.” I remember online, I wasn’t on Twitter then, but people were like “God dammit! Why did you split up the boys?” Sometimes it just shakes out that way for the overall arc. But with Time After Time, my original pitch was, “I would love to send the boys back in time, and you find out Elliot Ness was a hunter,” And I just very shamelessly wanted to put both guys in suits. I just thought they would look really awesome.
Nerds and Beyond: I think people appreciate that.
Robbie: I know I do. But, early on Phil and Bob were like, “This is cool. But we can’t produce 40 minutes in the past. We can produce 20 minutes in the past.” So that’s when we created the split. But as a result, it actually ended up being a better story because it’s about Sam desperately trying to get back to his brother. It made the story better. So I think that was also another brush with, here’s how the mechanics of the show can work to your advantage and how you can get the most bang for your buck. Because you know, we’re making a little independent movie every 8 days. We don’t have the budget of Game of Thrones, we have ⅙ of it. And we have to really push it. Because Phil’s a really great shooter, you can collaborate with him and he’ll say, “Here’s how I can get the most bang for your buck.” He did one funny thing. We had them carrying Tommy Guns, but they never shoot them, so Phil shot them shooting the guns for fun, and it ended up in the promo, but it’s never in the episode. And people asked, “Oh, is that a cut scene?” No, Phil just thought, “I can’t have these guns and not have these two awesome guys in these suits not shoot them,” So they shoot them, but they don’t shoot them in the actual episode.
Nerds and Beyond: So, season 7 episode 20. Introduction to Charlie Bradbury. The Girl With The Dungeons And Dragons Tattoo.
Robbie: So, that movie had just come out, the American adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I had originally wanted to call the episode The Girl With The Smaug Tattoo, but everyone was like, The Hobbit movies weren’t out yet, what are you doing? But Jenny Klein actually pitched, “How about The Girl With The Dungeons And Dragons Tattoo?” and I was like, absolutely! That’s perfect. A lot of times you pitch an episode, and you would say, “It’s kind of like this movie, it’s our version of that movie.” Originally, I pitched it as The Insider. That Russell Crowe and Michael Mann movie. Because it was a whistleblower in the Dick Roman world. It sort of evolved from there and this character started to come out who was this hacker, and kind of a nerd and a geek, and stuff like that. And it slowly evolved into Charlie Bradbury. We also needed a third hand in that episode because Jared and his family were expecting their first kid. So we were like, well we need to make sure we have scenes so he can,
Nerds and Beyond: So he can go.
Robbie: Yeah, it’s way more important for him to be there for the birth of his child. They actually ended up having the kid the next episode, so best laid plans. But it was a really nerve-wracking experience, because we broke the episode and I went off and I wrote it. And I really enjoy writing Charlie, and I wrote a whole backstory/history, that we ended up using down the road. But we hadn’t cast her. So it was really scary because, final draft allows you to count the number of lines. So I counted her lines and I was like, “Shit, she’s got a lot of dialogue here.” And then I got an email from Sera and it was short and sweet, and she was like, “Felicia Day cast as Charlie Bradbury.” And I was like, “Thank God.” And we actually went back in to the script and changed some stuff, because we knew Felicia was a really great actor, able carry scenes in ways that, not that the character hadn’t before, but we knew that she could hold her own. And then we shot, and I remember getting that first day of dailies and I had not met Felicia, we hadn’t talked, but it was like she had read that two-page document of her history, of her character’s history, without ever having met. Which was crazy. And it was really this first time she does the “I love you; I know” bit, which is obviously a callback to Empire Strikes Back. She played it with like, “I’ve heard this a million times, and it’s kind of old, but fun to play through.” And it was just such a great choice. Every single line she just took it and made it her own. I can’t remember, somewhere along the line we became pals. But it was fascinating because it’s always a collaboration, but you don’t always meet your collaborators. It was really great to begin that partnership with her, it was a lot of fun. And they had a lot of fun in post-production, really crafting the episode, and ratcheting up the suspense. It was an introduction to someone who I care a great deal about. I mean, Felicia’s just a wonderful person and has become a terrific friend. That partnership, we did a bunch of episodes together, was really special. It was really fun.
Nerds and Beyond: I feel like she’s just so iconic, and I can’t imagine anybody else in the whole world playing Charlie Bradbury.
Robbie: She understood what the part was supposed to be, and yet she really made it her own. And when we did bring her back, I really fed off of what she did in this first episode.
Nerds and Beyond: So, next episode, new season, season 8 episode 4, Bitten.
Robbie: Bitten! The title came from the fact that people oftentimes say “Bit” vs “Bitten” and it annoyed Bob Singer, so I thought that was a funny inside joke. Episodes like Bitten kinda started with Time After Time. Supernatural is a really special show because you can do things that most shows can’t. You can really push the boundaries of what can make the show work and not work. And I was a big a fan of the episodes that really pushed it to the point of breaking. I love that stuff. It kind of became my mantra each year, I wanted to pitch one episode where I was like, I wanna see if they’ll say no. And the thing that’s interesting about working on that show is, and it didn’t matter if it was Sera and Bob, or Jeremy and Bob, they never said, “No, how dare you?” It was never anything like that, it was always, “What’s the story?” And this one, I kind of knew I wanted the story to be from the kid’s point of view. And I just thought it would be interesting if the boys were kind of the monster of the episode, what these kids were afraid of. I knew going in, I’d have to warmly embrace how this might be received by the audience. And their reaction was very polarized, which is the nicest way I can put it. It’s been nice going to conventions because I’ll mention that it’s one of the lowest rated episodes of the entire series, and people’ll be like, “Oh no, I liked it!” And I’m like, okay good, there’s one, other than my mom, that liked it. But it was actually really fun to do because we had to really get out of our comfort zone with how we shoot episodes. And for me it was a blast to introduce these kids and, you know, really try to see what an episode would be like from the monster’s point of view. So I know that it’s not a warmly regarded episode, but for me it was really instructive about figuring out where that line is. How far you can bend this show, what that breaking point is, and what it means to break it. It’s okay to break it, but you gotta know why you’re breaking it. So it was definitely informative for me, personally. I enjoyed working on that episode.
Nerds and Beyond: I would one of the people that would be the, “I enjoyed it!”
Robbie: Okay, good. Alright, good. I got 2 now.
Nerds and Beyond: And I know I’m not the only one. But yes, at least 2-3. Another one I think that’s is a huge favorite, LARP And The Real Girl.
Robbie: Yes. LARP And The Real Girl was a lot of fun to work on.
Nerds and Beyond: I love it so much.
Robbie: We had talked about bringing Charlie back. At the beginning of the year, like I said, the showrunners have a vision for what they want. And then there’s usually a list of characters like, “Hey, we miss this guy, miss this girl, can’t we bring this person back? Is this person really dead?” There’s always a list, and every time we would revisit that list, Charlie’s name was always on it, and near the top. I think the only regret I have during my time there, is I wish other people had written Charlie. Because I think for some reason it sort of became like, my domain. Which is too bad, because I wish there’d been other people. And I hope, if they bring the character back down the road, that other voices get to explore that character.
Nerds and Beyond: Are you the only writer who wrote Charlie?
Robbie: I wrote all but her last episode. I wrote every single one but that one. So, this episode came from my own personal history, which is I know a lot of LARPers, and I encountered some LARPers in college.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you LARP?
Robbie: I don’t LARP, I only played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time this past year, my wife and I joined my friend’s game and we love it. It’s awesome. But I went to USC, and I cut through a building one time, where a bunch of kids were LARPing. And I didn’t know that they were LARPing, and they didn’t know I was just a civilian, and they kind of jumped out and attacked with their foam swords. They didn’t hit me, because you have to kind of announce what you’re doing, and I dropped my soda and my can of Pringles, and I was like, peeing my pants. They were like, “Oh sorry, buddy. We’re playing a game.” And I was like, “Okay.” And I had never heard of it really. I grew up around Dungeons and Dragons but I didn’t have enough friends that played it. I became fascinated with LARPing because it just seemed like such a great extension of role playing, which now that I’ve done role playing, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a writer’s room without being in a writer’s room. And I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve worked with for years now, the majority of them will be like, “Oh, I cut my teeth storytelling by playing D&D.” Because it’s very much a give and take relationship, where you’re trying to build something together. So I was always fascinated with it, and then in college I lived with some folks that LARPed, who got really, really into it. I watched this documentary called Darkon at the LA Film Festival, and it was on Netflix for a while. It takes a, I wouldn’t say it’s a critical point of view, but it takes an overview of one game that’s in, I think rural Pennsylvania. And I was fascinated with the way people could escape their lives, through this extension of a universe that they wanted to play in. This was a long time ago, this was before fan fiction had been popularized, like we’re at a convention where cosplay is the norm rather than the exception to the rule. And I just really respected it, and I wanted to do something that was fun, but without making fun of it. And it just felt like it was a way to bring Charlie back. I set the game in Heritage Park, which is a real place. You can visit, it’s in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Every time I’m back in Michigan I try to go visit Moondoor. Though it looks nothing like it’s depicted in the show. Because Vancouver and suburban Detroit are very, very different.
I hadn’t met Felicia in real life at that point, but I knew what she had done with that character, and I knew that we could really push the character even further. It was kind of like a trust fall, and I knew that Felicia could handle more. I love the dynamic that she brings out in both the boys, it’s a sisterly vibe, but there’s also, she’s not afraid to hold her own. The internet sometimes calls Charlie an author insert, but like, I’m nothing like that character. She has some of my dialogue quirks at times. But I would have ran in every single situation. I’m not smart. I’m not a hacker. I have none of the confidence that she has. I aspire to be that, maybe. But I really responded to what Felicia did as an actor, and bringing that character to life. There’s some overlap but, she’s not like that character IRL. So it was great to continue that process of building that character together. It’s always fun when you can bring a character back, but it’s more fun when you can show them growing as a character. That was the most fun of that part of the episode.
Nerds and Beyond: So next episode is season 8, episode 17, Goodbye Stranger.
Robbie: It’s funny, I’m looking at them back to back.
Nerds and Beyond: I don’t know if you know that, Rachel Miner, she’s here. She’s facilitating one of the panels.
Robbie: I’ve never met her IRL! (UPDATE (from Robbie): Shortly after this interview, we met in real life for the first time and I adore her even more. She is an absolute treasure of a human being!)
Nerds and Beyond: I think she was brilliant in this episode, just in general.
Robbie: Absolutely. I didn’t, in my time at Supernatural, write a lot of myth episodes. I mostly wrote like, weird episodes or stand-alones. But this is one of the times where I was asked to kind of help move the story along for the season, and I knew Meg was gonna be in it, and I knew there was a plan to kill that character. I am a huge fan of Rachel, from all of her work. But when she appears in her first episode as Meg, and I love everyone who performed as Meg, Jared’s performance as Meg is great too. But when Rachel comes in, she says one of my favorite lines in the whole show, a reference to a Paul Simon song, “These are the days of miracle and wonder.” The way she delivers that line, it’s a tough line to get out, it’s a tough line to give nuance, it’s a tough line to give subtext. But she just destroyed it. It was one of my favorite entrances to a character, even though we knew that character from before. It was always one of my favorite moments. I knew that Meg had been back in our universe for a while, and it was really important to me to make sure that we gave her the best send-off that we could. That was just pure joy. That whole episode, it was really special to get to work with Rachel. I just think she’s a really gifted actor. She has that thing that really great actors have which is, she just puts a spin on the line that you’re not really expecting. She can throw it away in a way that makes it feel like it really is something that came from deep down inside. I remember watching the dailies and she has that line which is a reference to Star Wars, and I was like, again, it’s a line that can come across as cheesy or it can come across as, oh it’s someone being foolish. But she delivers it in a way that it’s really clear that she has been living in that room, being tortured for quite a while. And could really just give two shits about who opened the door. That’s a hard thing to do, and it was a great choice. It’s not in the description, there’s no parenthetical there, she just had lived with that character so long that she knew exactly the right way to take the lines and make them more. That’s one of my favorite things about that episode, is getting a chance to work with Rachel and I have always loved that song [Goodbye Stranger]. Putting that in at the end. But, she’s a real treasure. I don’t feel guilty about any character I’ve killed, and I’ve pitched killing characters that I never got the chance to kill. I pitched killing every single–Whoever your fave is, I’ve pitched killing them. But that’s the only one I regret, just because I just wanted to write for her again. And I hopefully will get the chance to do so again, she’s a terrific, terrific actor.
Nerds and Beyond: She is. She’s really brilliant. Okay, Pacman Fever. Season 8, episode 20.
Robbie: Pacman Fever is a really special episode in my memory, because that’s the first time I went to set. Bob was directing it and I had come really close to convincing everyone to set the video game in space, but I failed. Instead we got Jensen in a really awesome military uniform though, so. That’s another example where originally in the first pitch it was hey, let’s put them all in the video game. But it was like, no, we can’t produce all the stuff in the 50s, we gotta split ‘em up. So we split ‘em up! So sometimes it comes from a practical place, I promise. But it was a really great, because I went up to Vancouver, and I asked Bob if I could shadow him for a couple of days. I wanted to learn about how he shoots. I think he’s a really, really terrific shooter. We talked a lot about craftsmanship and how important it is to have clarity as story. And I learned a ton on that trip. And I also got to finally meet Felicia in real life. I think I met the boys briefly at a comic con beforehand, but that was the first time I really got to hang out with them. And they are disgustingly nice, they are horrifically attractive, they both smell really good all the time, which is really weird. They just couldn’t be nicer. Actually, Jared’s family was visiting at the time, and I got to meet his parents, and his wife, and just really awesome people.
And also I got to meet the extended family, which is the crew. Most of that crew at that point had been together since season 1. You know, you’re going on 8 years and usually shows are kinda tearing themselves apart by this time, but they haven’t, they somehow found a way. When you watch the French Mistake, and it’s like, “At least they’re talking.” You can’t get them to shut up, actually. It actually is like, “You guys, come on, seriously, we have to do a take.” I think it’s really special. If you had to opportunity to visit, it’s a dream. You get to see how dedicated those two guys are. And Felicia as well. I was shocked at how they never took a take off, and their ability to bounce in and out of a scene. I remember talking to Jared and he’s sort of sick in that episode. He’s sitting and talking right where you and I are, and then he walks 10 feet over to the set, and then I see him on a monitor and I’m like, “Jesus, is Jared okay? Like…can someone get him some soup or like, a hug? Or something?” And he’s totally fine, he’s just acting. And then he comes back over and he’s continuing the story about some book that he’s reading, and you’re like, “Oh. Oh right. You’re an actor, that wasn’t real.” And it was the same with Felicia and Jensen. And again, especially with the boys, after 8 years, to see that, and it’s something I heard from other actors. You know, Curtis, and Timmy. When they went up there, they were like, “How are these guys this dialed in after this long?” But they care, they care and it shows. And that to me was a huge takeaway with that episode, meeting the crew and seeing how hard everybody works. It was like, well, if they’re bringing A-game every single time, I may not succeed on their level, but I gotta make sure that I’m being as dedicated as possible and working as hard as I can. Because they are. I can’t say I can rise to their level, but I wanted to try. So yeah, that was a really special episode memory-wise, because that was my first time up there and it was a blast.
Nerds and Beyond: Alright, Slumber Party.
Robbie: Slumber Party, that’s right! So, Slumber Party was my second time up in Vancouver. It was next season, and Bob was directing again and, this was another example like Bitten where I wanted to take a big swing. I was so in love with the set that Jerry built, the Men of Letters bunker. When I went up there the first time, Adam Glass was up there as well and we were hanging out, and we just couldn’t stop taking picture of it. I know it shows, but it’s a real place. You can walk around, those buttons light up! They don’t do anything, at least I hope not. I was obsessed with the level of detail that Jerry and his crew were able to recreate and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to live in that place for an episode? Is that a thing that we could do?” And I didn’t really have, you know, a story. But I had this idea about the history of the Men of Letters, and flashing back, and then playing the rest of the episode in real time and maybe bringing a character from the past to the present. I didn’t have any of the Wizard of Oz stuff, that came later. And I thought, in theory it’s a bottle episode, though I don’t think we had both bedrooms at that point.
Nerds and Beyond: The garage.
Robbie: Yeah, and the garage was not there. I may or may not have stolen a prop from that scene, I will neither confirm or deny. But it’s in my house and it’s really awesome. It was amazing to watch how they expanded the set and how Bob shot it. Because it’s not easy to shoot in that space and keep it alive and moving. But Jerry designed it in such a way that you can really shoot it from every single angle, from top, bottom, below. There were fake ceilings and everything. It was a blast to be up there, and maybe The Wizard of Oz was a bridge too far, but we kind of just took a swing and went for it. It was fun to be up there, and I was only up there for a couple of days. And Lynn, who wrote Fangasm, she and my friend Alicia were up there too, so I got to be a tour guide and hang out. That was the second time, and I think the last time I went up to go watch the shooting of an episode. It was great to get to continue to know the cast and crew and by that point I was friends with Felicia. I would send messages like, “Hey, I think you’re coming back in this episode,” and I would send her ideas about what I was thinking about the character, and not just character arc stuff, it was down to which t-shirt Charlie should wear, “What about this one?” and she was like, “What about that one?” “Well, that’s cool.” And then we would just work it out.
Nerds and Beyond: Novelty t-shirts!
Robbie: Novelty t-shirts, yeah. At that point we were in full collaboration, it was a lot of fun to get her feedback, and to get her sense of what we could do with the character moving forward.
Nerds and Beyond: I feel like I just want to go back to Pacman, and I feel like you were so complimentary about the work that the crew does and all of the amazing cast does, but I think that you as a writer, I’ve only heard them say amazing things about you. And I just wanted to say that, because I think it’s important to acknowledge that it goes in every direction.
Robbie: Again, for me it’s all about the collaboration and I was extremely fortunate on every episode to have the perfect collaborator, the perfect cast, the perfect director. I’m just happy to play my part.
Nerds and Beyond: Alright, First Born.
Robbie: So, First Born, it’s a funny one memory-wise. Again, I didn’t do a lot of the myth stuff, but I remember pitching this notion of, you know, we were talking about what it was gonna be consequence-wise, but not necessarily down to the nitty-gritty. And we were talking about biblical stuff, and Cain and Abel sort of came up pretty organically. And then the Mark of Cain, and then The First Blade, which I made a drawing of, I posted it online, my version looks so terrible.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you have the original drawing?
Robbie: No, I did a really awful–it looks like a boomerang with red marks on it. It’s terrible. Thank god we have an amazing crew and they did an awesome job and made it what it was. I had worked with Tim Omundson on Jericho and on Human Target. And I love him. Tim is just a really gifted actor, and most of the people on the show had known him from Psych, so they were like, “Well wait, isn’t he funny?” I was like, “Yes! He’s funny! But watch Deadwood. He’s terrifying. He’s an awesome actor. He can do whatever we need him to do.” And so it was great going in to writing the episode knowing that Tim was gonna play it.
I also remember that episode was the first time I got to work with John Badham. Who’s a legendary director and getting him talking about stories about, you know, shooting War Games, and what it was like to work with Matthew Broderick. And what it was like to craft I think one of the best, to this day, hacking movies of all time, was a real joy.
The other sort of strange memory about First Born is that I wrote a lot of the script on a plane to and from Japan. I was going to Japan with my best friend who had a movie coming out there. So on the 12 hours there I kind of finished my rough draft and then I did a little bit of writing while I was there. But I was in Japan, I wanted to see Japan, which is an incredible country. And it was a really awesome trip. Then on the 12 hours back I finished the draft, and when we landed I emailed that script in, so. With every episode I also remember some song I listened to while writing it, because I listen to one song on repeat usually. For this one I remember was walking through Japan,, through Shibuya and everything. Or we went to Kyoto and we went to Hiroshima, I went to the Miyazaki museum which is maybe the greatest place on earth. And I was listening to an Arcade Fire song the entire time. I remember eating a lot of sushi and working through that episode.
Nerds and Beyond: Alright, so, Meta Fiction.
Robbie: So, Meta Fiction was a really special one because I think I had one goal when I got on the show, which was to get Richard back on Supernatural, and I just kept failing. And it was never like, “No, you can’t bring him back,” it was always just, “What’s the story, what’s the story, what’s the story,” because his character had a pretty epic death and, you gotta justify it, so how do you do it? And when this episode started to take shape, in terms of movies, I kind of pitched this movie the 36th Hour, which is a classic movie. Bob in particular, he’s a huge cinephile, and I’m a huge cinephile so like, we would end up just talking about movies for hours and hours and hours, it’s probably one of the things I miss the most. We would clear out rooms. People would leave. We were in Jeremy’s office one time getting notes, when we just started talking about movies from the 70s and Jeremy left his own office because we were just rattling on.
When we knew Metatron was messing with Cas in that episode, I was like, well, this seems like a cool opportunity to bring somebody back in a way that would be surprising. And then pull the rug out part way through, but in a way that would suggest, was it him? Was it not him? So, it was great reaching out to Richard, because I didn’t want to reach out at all until it was on the board and it was locked in. And then I was like, “Hey, this is happening. Let’s talk about it.” And it was great because Richard and I are old friends. I could sit with him. We’d have lunch, and we would just talk about what the character was. He had great questions. And, you know, he knows the character better than I do. He’s played the character, Trickster/Gabriel, way longer than I’ve been around. So why not go to the source? He had great ideas, he had great insight into the character. We talked a lot about, is this real? Is this not real? How do you want to play certain scenes? It was just a great collaboration. Again, all credit to Richard because he really just got what the episode what trying to do, and was also able to honor what he had done previously with the character. So it was a lot of fun. I didn’t really mean to write three episodes with Fiction in the title, but this was the second one. This was also the first time I met Curtis. Curtis is another guy from Michigan, and I adore him. He’s a really terrific actor. He was a star on one of my all-time favorite very influential shows, Moonlighting. So, I invited him into the office ostensibly to talk about the show, but I just basically wanted to get him talking. If you get a chance, read his book that’s out now. Or read and listen to his audio version, because it’s him reading it.
Nerds and Beyond: He’s a performer, like, he’s a theater actor. You can totally tell.
Robbie: It’s like a one-man show. It’s a one-man show with a brilliantly trained theater actor. So that episode was my first taste of working with Curtis, and I was quickly addicted to that. He’s a joy, he’s a joy.
Nerds and Beyond: Alright, so, the next one. 200th episode of Supernatural, hug episode. I also think it was very well received all around. Fan Fiction.
Robbie: So Fan Fiction, I did not have that idea for the episode. It was the beginning of the year and we all knew that the 200th episode was coming. I thought it was gonna be like, you know, 6 or 7 episodes of Demon Dean, and that the 200th episode would be more kind of integrated into the plot like that the 100th episode was. But Jeremy and Bob had this idea about, what if the boys went to a high school that was playing a musical version of the show, a la what we’ve done before with the books. And I was like, “That’s terrible can I write it?” There was a great chance of failure, and like I said before like, I like one episode a year to try to be like, “Can I break this thing? How far can I push it?” And this felt like a great opportunity. The only real thing I changed from the original pitch was, I really wanted to set it in an all-girls school. Having crashed a couple of Supernatural conventions, the female-to-male ratio is not what was depicted in previous episodes of Supernatural conventions on the show, so I just thought, we should change it if we’re gonna do that.
But that was a really scary episode, you know. I knew that the show had a very intimate relationship with meta episodes and it’s not been afraid, certainly before I got there, to really push it as far as it would go. You can’t do an episode like French Mistake, or even episodes like Chuck Shurley addressing the fans of the “books.” Air quotes, because this is radio. Once the show’s opened that door, it doesn’t close. You can’t put that toothpaste back in the tube. So I knew that the episode had to kind of be a little scary, a little bit dangerous. But my intention’s always, I wanted to do a love letter to the people who supported the show, I never wanted to have it be something that people would feel upset about. I know I saw some negative feedback, some people really did not like it at all, and that was certainly not my intention, but I accept the criticism. I feel like the risk was worth the reward, hopefully. It was definitely a very scary episode to approach. Again though, great collaborators. Jay Gruska and Chris Lennertz, the show’s composers did all the heavy lifting. I’ve not a musical bone in my body.
Nerds and Beyond: That was going to be my next question.
Robbie: Yeah, none whatsoever. They gave me a bunch of musicals to listen to, and my secret weapon on this episode, as she is in my life, was my wife. She’s a writer as well, but she’s also a huge musical theater person. And she was like, “Hey, not everything has to rhyme. You can play around with it a little bit more.” She very kindly gave me notes on my scratch lyrics. But then Jay and Chris took the scratch lyrics and wrote all the music and adjusted the lyrics to make it match the melody, and all this other stuff. But that was hilarious because like, two weeks into it I was joining ASCAP, the musicians’ union, and I’d get letters from membership that’re from Justin Timberlake or something like that. It’s weird I’m part of musician’s union now. But it was so much fun. I wasn’t there for the shooting of that episode, but I was there for the recording of a couple of the songs. We went to Jay’s house, it was a really cool experience to see how he works his craft with the singer. Phil was there working as a director and he’s building this team. Phil had all the main cast of girls hang out with one another, and grab meals so they knew each other before they started shooting, and it really shows in the production of the episode.
The show’s not designed to do musical numbers. We had the casting department that did Glee, but we’re not used to shooting that kind of stuff. But again, Phil’s a genius. He and Nicole, one of the editors, went to a local theater production of a high school show of Beauty and the Beast, which was great because seeing it revealed that these are great productions. These kids know how to sing and some of these productions are really elaborate. So, we were trying to ride that line which is like, how is it funny but not dismissive of teenagers. We also wanted to respect teen artistry. I was an AV kid, and I shot all of the musical theater in my high school and even then the productions were elaborate. All the characters are named after people my wife went to high school with and did all of her theater work with, so those are all real life people.
Nerds and Beyond: I love Orphan Black, too, so that one line about Marie doing the Orphan Black show,
Robbie: She probably should’ve done that. Probably would’ve worked out better for her. It was a really fun episode to work on, and again, I was really grateful to both Jensen and Jared for being such good sports about the content and also playing around with it and making it their own as well. I had a great talk with Jensen about it even before we shot, and that was awesome. We didn’t get everybody into the episode, which I know was also a criticism of it, which is a completely valid criticism, but certainly our intention was to try to do something that really honored the history of the show and the symbiotic relationship with the audience.
Nerds and Beyond: There’s No Place Like Home.
Robbie: There No Place Like Home, this is the Dark Charlie episode, another Phil Sgriccia special. It’s funny, this was our Orphan Black episode, because we had to have the two Charlies in scenes a couple times. Again it’s a practical thing where you can have them in scenes together, but they can’t do this, they can’t do that. This is a fun one too because, I think by this point, we’d been allowed to grow the character of Charlie and show some of her history, but this time we really got into a bit more of what motivated her from her backstory. And it’s an unfortunately tragic backstory, but that is in keeping with what most hunters have. I think the thing that was most exciting for me about this episode was, seeing Felicia play someone dark. And something really evil. We would watch the dailies, and be like, “Jesus, she seems really mad!” She was great. And you know, she gave herself permission as a performer to take the character even beyond what was on the page. And I love the way Phil shot it, there was some great noir angles in it. But yeah, that one was a blast to work on, getting a chance to work with Felicia and continue to build that character and let that character continue to grow was a lot of fun.
Nerds and Beyond: Book of the Damned.
Robbie: Book of the Damned! That was also another fun one to work on. I really enjoyed working on that episode because again, I didn’t often do a lot of mythology episodes. So it was a lot of fun. I didn’t know some of the stuff that was going on at that point, because I was writing the episode before, so a lot of stuff had gotten broken at that point. So I didn’t know anything about the Stein family or any of that stuff. And so I was like, “Oh, okay! I think I know how to make this work.” It was great to be able to bring in Felicia again and let the character continue to grow and, you know, show that she can hold her own. And also there’s a nice scene, some of it I think got cut out, between her and Sam, Charlie and Sam, and Felicia and Jared hadn’t had a ton of scenes together, and they’re just really great in the scene. If you read the script and watched what they do, you can really get an appreciation for how much history they’re bringing as actors. For Jared it’s at this point, 10 years of playing this character. For Felicia too, it’s been 3 or 4 years of playing this character. So to get them to a point where they could be comfortable with that, and play what the characters share from their lives. In real life, they’re a couple of goofballs offset. They’re nothing like they are on the stage. But they really just brought something to it. And Jensen also as well, there’s a couple really great action moments in that where he was scary. I was like, “Jesus, don’t piss that guy off!” It was fun to get to play around with some of the myth for that season.
Nerds and Beyond: Angel Heart.
Robbie: So Angel Heart, it’s funny, Angel Heart and Don’t Call Me Shurley are interesting because I was not planned on writing those. I thought I was done after Book of the Damned, and I thought I was done after Safe House, the next year. And so they approached me about writing this episode, and I love Claire and I think Kathryn Newton is a delightful actor. I’ve never met her in real life, but I just loved the way she played the character. And I know that some people in the fandom were at first a little bit unsure about Claire, that she was a little bit pushy or whatever. But I thought Kathryn played the reality of what that kid would’ve gone through. And I thought there was a opportunity to talk about some stuff from Castiel’s past that was I think textually clear but maybe read as subtext to other people in terms of what happened to Jimmy Novak, what’s his responsibility. And it was a way to kind of put some of that stuff to rest.
Nerds and Beyond: I love their dynamic. The dynamic of Claire and Cas.
Robbie: The two of them as actors found a way to make it work. I had not gotten to write Claire until that point. The scene between her and Jensen, because they’re both golfing addicts, I put them on a putt-putt course and let them have some fun. But the report they have is great, because they are kind of two sides of the same coin in a way, like, it’s like in some ways he’s a preview of coming attractions depending on how she’s going to live her life. So it was really special to get to do that. And I remember actually, it’s funny, at the end of that episode, you know, because we were like, “Well what happens to Claire after that?” And I remember talking to Bob Berens and asking him, “Hey, like, do you think it would cool if they sent her off to live with Jody?” It was a group idea, but I remember talking about it with Bob, and Bob was like, “Yeah, I think that works, because of where Kat’s character wound up.” And that’s a fun dynamic, so it’s kind of cool. It was not my idea, but the fans of the show really responded to what the potential could be. And then obviously in subsequent seasons, you know, you got to see them all together. When I sat down with Bobo, he just sort of talked about what that dynamic could be. I don’t remember whose idea it was to send her there, I think it was maybe Bob’s. Or other Bob’s. One of the two.
Nerds and Beyond: Well, there’s really big excitement about Wayward Sisters.
Robbie: I’m thrilled. I can’t wait. I’m nothing but optimistic.
Nerds and Beyond: Okay, Baby! Which you’ve talked a lot about in other interviews. It’s also loved. Jensen’s official favorite episode, he’s said it several times now.
Robbie: That’s very kind of him. My favorite episode is Mystery Spot, that’s my go-to. But a lot of people ask me what’s my favorite episode of the ones I worked on, and I just see the things that I did wrong, and wish I had done right. But Baby was the most fun to write. It again was an episode I came in early into the season with like, “Here’s an idea that everyone should say no to.” I’d pitched sort of iterations of it before, but I love that character. People will ask me, who’s your favorite character? And you can’t pick one, because you’ll get murdered. But you can pick Baby, and I always do. And people think I’m joking, but I’m really not because she is a character on the show. She’s one of the few standing sets for seasons. I loved writing those scenes between the boys, and other characters, in that car. Cas would be in the car, Bobby would be in the car, whoever was in the car, because the show is a constant stream of detective moves and plotting and all this other stuff. But even though they’re moving in the scene, the story slows down, and you’re allowed to have these moments. And it goes back to the first episode you asked me about, which was that informative thing for me was that All Out Of Love scene. You could have cut that scene. And they did, for time. But it’s better for it because the director found a way to make it work. And it gives you a little grace note that doesn’t have anything to do with plot, but it has everything to do with character. And I just was like, I wanna do 42 minutes of that. I would’ve written 50 of those episodes. Jared afterwards, I remember, he was like, “We should do one of these a year.” And I agree with him, though it’s a challenge to produce physically. It’s impossible. It looks like it should be easy, but it’s fucking impossible.
Nerds and Beyond: The shot from above is beautiful. And the cast has talked about how they went out on the road and kind of did a lot.
Robbie: Yeah, they drove! All the Night Moves stuff, which again I have to credit my wife for, I had a list of songs, and she was like, “It’s gotta be Night Moves.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, you’re right. It’s gotta be Night Moves.” They just got out on the car and they, you know, there’s some scripted stuff and then there’s just them improvising and being bros. And it’s magic. It was really, really fun.
Nerds and Beyond: So, Into The Mystic.
Robbie: So, Into The Mystic, which is a strange title, because that song’s not in it. One of my fondest memories of that is getting to work with John Badham and getting to work with Dee Wallace who is just an absolute treasure. And a terrific actor. We all know her from ET and Cujo, and she is a really gifted and dedicated actress. But the biggest treat was great to work with Shoshannah again. I knew Shoshannah from Jericho. She had a really tough part on that show, and I thought she just blew everybody away whenever she was on-screen, like your eye just kind of went to her. And I always wanted to collaborate with her again. I’d never met her in-person on the show, our paths never crossed. But there was an opportunity here to work with her here. I had this idea about a character who was deaf, and was a hunter. That’s sort of where the emphasis of the story sort of started from, and as we kind of started to shape the story, I said, “Hey, it would be really great to work with a deaf actor, would it be possible if you could see if Shoshannah’s available?” Because you know, she’s an actor, she’s working, and she may not be available. And casting and my bosses watched her reel, and they were like, “Yeah, she’s great!”
Fortunately the timing worked out and she was available, and then I reached out through her representation, “You probably don’t remember me, but I was a big fan of your work in Jericho, and I wrote this episode.” This was before I had written the actual script. I’m not deaf, I’m not hard of hearing. I wanted to get her perspective on the character. I told her about basically what the episode was going to be about, a little bit of a history of the character, and then we just kind of bounced emails back and forth for a couple weeks as I was writing. And it was invaluable. Her contributions were invaluable to creating that character. And little moments within scenes that only come from the perspective of someone who is deaf. She’s a great storyteller, just by her nature, and she’s just a great actress. So it was great. When the script came out, I was like, “Hey, if there’s things that don’t work, let me know and I’ll get another pass of the script. This isn’t written in stone.” And so, again, we just continued the dialogue throughout the whole process. And then, you know, she had a great relationship chemistry-wise with the boys right away. And then she and Dee had great chemistry, and they were great. Shoshannah taught her a lot of the signing and things like that, and Dee really was dedicated to getting it right and making sure it was right. John was great, our director, he wanted to make sure that it was shot in a way that we could see the actual signing. Because a lot of times it gets cut around, and if you are a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, you miss what’s there. So we wanted to make sure that we got that stuff right. But you know, a lot of actors would be like, “oh, whatever, whatever,” but she was awesome. She was a great, great partner. I’m also grateful to, I can’t remember if it was Shoshannah’s agent or her manager, who made the introductions that set us on that path. Shoshannah’s a fantastic storyteller, and I’m excited about the writing that she’s doing now, too.
Nerds and Beyond: Yeah, I think there was a lot of outrage over the death of Eileen. Especially this past season, and I know that she’s also a character that we love. Characters can always potentially come back in Supernatural.
Robbie: It’s always a weird thing. You know that everyone has a ticking clock on that show. It’s a tough thing, because I wasn’t on the show when that happened, and people were like, “Oh, I’m bummed out that this character got killed.” And it’s a weird thing internally because I’m bummed too, but then also, well, if you’re bummed that means you cared about the character, and hopefully that means that we did our jobs. But Shoshannah is great, and you know, you never know with that show. And I think with the premise they have now for the new season there’s an opportunity to bring back a lot of people. And allow a lot of actors to really stretch themselves. I’d love to see her and a whole slew of another people brought back in. But yeah, that was a special one, to get to work with her.
Nerds and Beyond: Alright, Safe House.
Robbie: So, Safe House. I always love working with Jim Beaver because the guy is just a legend. And he’s also one of those few actors that you can give him anything and it sounds like it’s just completely authentic. Part of it is, you know, he’s a theater actor. But he just imbues every line with a lived-in quality. And I always loved the chemistry that he had with Steven Williams, who plays Rufus. And I wanted to find a way to work with them, because I was like, “Well, this is my last episode of the season, and like, maybe I’ll get like, one shot here and just see if I can get one by the goalie.” And I came up with this idea where it was kind of cutting back between the two stories, and really kind of just wanted to reflect on the long-term effects of being a hunter. What it’s really like. And also how amazing it is that those guys lasted so long in the hunting life. Like, those guys are ancient in hunting years and they’re not that old. So to have that in contrast with what Sam and Dean were going through, that got it past the hook phase and into the pitching phase. So yeah, it was a lot of fun to get write for those guys. Steven Williams, I’m a huge fan of from 21 Jump Street. So to get to write for that guy was a pleasure. I’ve not met either one of those guys in real life. But when it’s your last episode of the season and you want to make sure you don’t leave anything on field, I was like, I gotta really make sure this one is really fun. Finding that Willie Nelson song was really helpful. The way that it was shot, and the way that our post department put it together, it’s a really fun way to contrast. And yet, it’s not a contrast. They’re all in this hunting life together, which is a tough life, and it’s a lonely life. And the only people you have that really understand it are the people that have gone through it. Which I think is universal, whether you’re talking about grief or anxiety or whatever. So that was a really fun one.
Nerds and Beyond: Okay, so, last one! I’ll just say, it’s my personal favorite episode of Supernatural that has been written. So, Don’t Call Me Shurley.
Robbie: Don’t Call Me Shurley! Yeah, so, I thought I was done for the year. I don’t pack up my office at the end of the year, because it’s like, you know, why bother. Bob and Jeremy said, “Hey, we need you to write 20. And it’s the episode where Chuck comes back, we confirm that he’s God.” And I was like, “Okay, calm down, that’s a lot to handle.” I knew that it made sense and people had speculated, but I also knew that certain things had to be explained. And I had been watching the movie Amadeus, which is one of my all-time favorites. And there was something about that, lot of it is about how music is a language of God. And I was like, I just kept thinking about music. And I had this idea for the ending of the episode, because I kind of knew what the basic beats for what they needed in terms of plot for setting up what 21, 22, and 23 were, which wasn’t a lot. So, I went to Bob first, because Bob’s a musician. And I knew he was directing the episode, and we collaborated on a bunch of episodes as writer and director, and so we have a shorthand. And we also have a cinematic shorthand. Like I can pitch him a movie, and he’ll be like, “Oh, I know exactly what you’re talking about.” And I pitched him the ending of the episode, and the song, and the song was originally a placeholder. Because I was like, probably not this song, but maybe this song. And he was like, “I like it. It’s bold. Let’s figure out the rest of the story.” But I knew if I had that anchor, it was kind of like the overhead shot in Baby, I asked early on “Do we have that?” and Jim Michaels was like, “Yeah, we can make that work,” and I was like, “Okay, cool.” For some reason, that was like my anchor. And for this one, it was the ending, and it had nothing to do with Rob being a singer in real life. That was certainly a huge bonus. So, then I started to kind of engineer the episode knowing what the ending was. And then we worked out what the beats were going to be, and what we needed story-wise moving forward.
Then it was great, because I got to reach out to Rob and I had reached out to him for the 200th episode like, “So you’re back, but you say two words.” And he was like, “Okay! I’m game!” And I was like, “I’m really sorry, I did my best.” I’d met him socially by that point through Richard, and I wanted to work with him again. And I was like, “Okay, this time you’re back and you’re gonna have a shit ton of dialogue.” And I was like, “Are you cool with singing in the episode?” Because I wanted to check in with him. I mean Rob’s an amazing musician and a great performer, but he had played the character Chuck for so long, and now we were confirming that that character was God, like did this match what he was playing before and what could we do to make sure that it felt like it was all one cohesive thing. So it was great to get his insight really early on, and one of the things that we talked about was, it should still be Chuck. But there should be sort of a pivot point where it’s like, Oh, he’s scary. Which was amazing to watch the dailies, because you’re like, “Oh God, Rob is the nicest guy in the world! But then he’s kind of mean? Oh, I don’t like mean Rob, he’s scary.” So it was great to get to collaborate with him. And then Curtis and I had become buddies at that point, and I reached out to him, and I was like, “Hey, this is what it’s about, you’re a theater guy, so I’m assuming you’ll be cool with this.” But I was stuck with this one moment about the biographies, and Curtis came up with the two titles. And then I said to both of them, “Look, when the script comes to you guys, just so you know, I counted the lines, you have a shit ton of dialogue here. Let’s talk about it, let’s make this a collaboration.” And they were just the best partners. They really embraced it, Bob really embraced it, the crew really embraced it.
There’s a video somewhere of Rob singing the song at the end, and everyone’s watching. I wish they would put that on the internet, because it’s really beautiful. Because he just completely captivated everybody. No one’s watching a guy perform, they’re watching the scene in real-time. So it was really special to work on that episode with those guys. And to collaborate with Bob. I didn’t know it was going to be my last episode, I really didn’t. I would maybe have changed the song because people have asked if it was some kind of commentary. It’s not. We went around with other songs too, but we all just kinda kept coming back to it, and it was public domain. So it was like, it just feels like the right song. And I double-checked with Rob because I was like, I have a feeling you’re going to sing this song a couple times at conventions.
Nerds and Beyond: It was just put out on the Louden Swain live album.
Robbie: Yeah. I was like, as long you’re cool playing with it. And early on, Bob was great too, because Bob’s a musician he was like, “I wanna lock in the song now so that Rob has time to really play it, and make it his own.” Which he did. And that’s just him. It’s two takes. And he completely kills it. So it was a lot of fun to get to work on an episode that was structurally a little bit weird, it’s a little bit more like a one-act play. And then it kind of pivots in the middle, and then it’s about the boys and, you know, I’ve been trying to get the Samulet back in for like 5 years. But it was great because we found a way to do it that hopefully didn’t just have meaning for hardcore fans, but had meaning for the mythology of the show. So that was a blast. I did not know it was going to be my last one until the third or fourth day of prep. I was back east with my wife visiting family, and Bob and Jeremy had called because we’d gotten an early pickup. It was not an easy decision, and I asked for time to think about it. I love the show, I still love this show, I will always love this show. I’m extremely fortunate to have worked on this show, but I wanted to go out and try my own stuff for a while. And Bob and Jeremy could not have been greater. I mean Bob was knee-deep in prep so this was the last thing he wants to hear. But he was really kind and gracious. And I was involved in post on the episode. I didn’t know writing it, it was gonna be the last one. But it ended up being kind of a nice, for me, a good one to end on. It was not intended to be anything other than just another episode of the show, but it ended up kind of working out with a nice…
Nerds and Beyond: Yeah, I think we crowdsourced questions. And you’ve already been really gracious with your time, so thank you. But I think the number one question we got in so many different forms is if you ever would want to go back to Supernatural, or would go back to Supernatural? You have so much going on.
Robbie: I mean, I never say never. The show’s never gonna end, so hopefully. I sent the guys an email, and they were really very very sweet and kind, and I said, I’ll be back for season 20. So, I never say never. Right now I just really want to focus on my own stuff, but I am completely in debt to that show. I wouldn’t be at this comic con without it. My first editor, Ellie, was a Supernatural fan. That’s how I got into Marvel comics. I get to meet wonderful people like you. I get to go to conventions. I was speaking with some Supernatural fans and one of them had just watched all of it, like, in a month. Like two or three months ago. And then one of whom had been with the show since the very beginning. And to be able to be a part of that community in any way, shape, or form, whether it’s a writer or a fan is such a blessing. I said to the young lady, “I’m just now on the couch with you guys.” And I’m always gonna be lucky enough to be part of that show. So, I have no plans for to go back, just want to do my own stuff. And they have wonderful writers, and they have a wonderful crew. I’m very, very excited about the spinoff. And I’m really excited for Bobo. I think he’s a wonderful writer, and I think he’s a great guy to shepherd that process.
Nerds and Beyond: I think a lot of fans have actually started reading comics, and your comics, because of their love of your writing on the show. So I think that’s really amazing, too. Alright, so, last question.
Robbie: DID WE GET EM ALL?
Nerds and Beyond: ……………Almost all………..But I know we’ve gone a little bit long……
Robbie: No it’s fine, don’t WORRY ABOUT IT
Nerds and Beyond: Okay so, two questions then. Video games. I know that you’re a gamer. Can I call you a gamer?
Robbie: Yes, you can call me a hardcore gamer.
Nerds and Beyond: Destiny, specifically. You know, we’re at a comic con, there’s all sorts of fans here of different things.
Robbie: I’m literally wearing a Destiny hat right now. I play a warlock. I just got through the Leviathan Raid. Didn’t finish it, because a bunch of us had to leave. Which is a bummer. I love playing games as a way to unwind, I oftentimes will use them as kind of like a pivot from my day. Because I’m on the west coast and Marvel’s on the east coast, I’ll wake up to a bunch of emails from them, and I’ll work on Marvel stuff in the morning. And there’s literally Deadpool right behind us. Amazing. So I’ll work on Marvel stuff in the morning, and then I’ll just play like a strike or something like that on Destiny. Or do some whatever, leveling up a character. And then in the afternoon I’ll work on my TV stuff. It’s just a kind of a way to get out of my head for a little while and not think about the world. I try not to play late into the night anymore, because I’m just trying to be better about my sleep hygiene. But no, I love games, I love them all. I just played the Uncharted expansion, it was great.
Nerds and Beyond: And you’ve gone to PAX, right?
Robbie: I have, thanks to Kristin. Sorry, Peeardee. I wanna get it right. We’ve become really good friends.
Nerds and Beyond: She’s amazing. You know Child’s Play too, the charity that they do?
Robbie: Yeah! We’re gonna do another script auction this year, hopefully. We did one last year. She was kind enough to invite me to PAX. If you have the opportunity to go to PAX, I highly recommend it. I had a blast going to the room where you can play vintage games. Vintage for me, I guess.
Nerds and Beyond: I think they’re universally vintage.
Robbie: For you it’s probably antiquated, it’s from another era, another century. But for me it’s like, oh, these are like my childhood. You’re a young lady, I’m an old man. But they have these great rooms where you can also meet up with people, and sign up to play board games. So I ended up playing Settlers of Catan, and Pandemic, with people I’d never met before. And from all over the country, all over the world. And it reminded me what comic con used to be. Where it was a little bit smaller, a little more intimate.
Nerds and Beyond: Community-building. Yeah, they’re having a new convention for PAX, they’re having their first unplugged convention. So it’s just boardgames. I’m an enforcer, anyways, this isn’t about me. But I love PAX.
Robbie: It’s a really wonderful experience. They just understand how to create a safe environment for everybody. And an environment where everyone can really kind of just be themselves. I don’t know how else to say that. Yeah, I love PAX.
Nerds and Beyond: Okay, so official last question. So you are active on twitter in terms of activism. I don’t know if you would consider that to be true or not.
Robbie: It’s literally the least you can do, so yeah. I mean, yeah. I guess I am.
Nerds and Beyond: Social media activism, I think it counts for something. And you know, at San Diego Comic Con, you were on the intersectional feminism panel. I know you were definitely tweeting out during that time period as well. So just generally, what role do you think comic books or media in general have in addressing social inequities or really what’s happening in the world today.
Robbie: I mean, I think any art is holding up a mirror. In the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four hadn’t really been done in comics before. They were like a squabbling, fucked up family. That was great. The late great, unfortunately this community just lost him, Len Wein, when he did Giant-Size X-Men, he was like, “Hey, these guys are fighting for outsiders and fighting for their own rights, they should reflect a broader base of people in the world.” And he was a big part of diversifying the X-Men and making them look like the world looks. And that’s just a very important issue to me in general. I think representation is invaluable. I’ve seen its benefits in real life, in real time. I think for me it comes from two places. Number one, I just think it’s literally the least you can do as an artist is to try to reflect the world that you live in, but also the value that reflection has in the real world. I’ve had people that have reached out, whether it was a character like Charlie or Eileen. When people say, “I’ve never seen myself on TV,” it’s a very powerful thing if you let it let into your heart a little bit. Because for some people, they don’t realize what that absence does to people. What it does to how they see themselves. If you’re constantly looking at a TV screen and it’s this homogenized whatever, at a certain point it’s gonna drill down on an individual. So I think for me I think it’s just the basic, it’s literally what my job is.
But if I’m gonna be personal about it, it’s also just important to me. My wife is a person of color, my mom is biracial, my grandfather immigrated from Mexico to here. And I don’t see them on the screen. I don’t see them. And when I do, they’re a horrible stereotype. And that’s horrible. No individual person should be made to feel that way. It’s just bad storytelling to me, because it’s not the world we live in. You walk down these halls and you’re going to see every single type of person, every single type of representation, to not have that in your story to me, is just bad storytelling. But also it’s just a shitty thing to do. So, I know there’s been a lot of criticism towards comics in general about characters being changed different genders, and I’m like, that’s the history of comics right there. If you like Wolverine and all the characters that came from that era, a lot of it came from an intention to do that, and it spawns some of the best stories. And you know, you’re seeing it now in different media like, look at the different emerging voices that are coming out that didn’t have a voice before. A movie like Moonlight is epic to me. It’s like a fucking Lawrence of Arabia scale in terms of, you’ve never seen that depicted before and done by people who really understand what that experience is. It’s an authentic representation. That’s why that movie connected with people, because people are finally getting to see either themselves, or, “Wow, I’ve never seen that story from that point of view.” We have a massive empathy gap in this country right now, and probably all over the world, but I’m an American so this is the world that I know the best. And I think that empathy requires understanding and really great representative art, really great inclusive art can allow people to really empathize with people in a way that is powerful. It’s especially true in something like comics and movies and literature, where you can shine a light on a character and your audience can say, hey that person’s just like me, there’s literally no difference, there’s nothing at all different about us.
If you can change one person’s point of view, or just as importantly if you can show someone, hey, you haven’t been deleted by culture, here’s you, here’s a version of you, it’s worth it. And it doesn’t always have to be a positive kind of version of it, it can be a complex depiction. Like I have a love-hate relationship with the expression “strong female character.” On the one hand I respect it because I would like to see more strong female characters, but it becomes this binary thing. Where it’s like, damsel in distress or strong female character. No one calls Don Draper a “strong male character,” they don’t do it. They say, oh what a complicated character! But when a female character is complicated, it gets put into these two categories, which really frustrates me. But it also comes from a lack of vision in people putting it out there. You know, you look at network television, what Shonda Rhimes has been able to do in her time and it’s amazing. She signed some big deal recently, and I was like, “That’s the biggest deal in TV right there, she’s the biggest voice!” And she just practices what she preaches. And it’s not just putting it on the screen that we need to do, or putting it on the page. It’s also the creative side. Like I can do my homework, I can talk to people. We had a Native American consult on one of the comic books for Marvel, it was a great experience. But people from diverse backgrounds should be writing these stories as well. They also shouldn’t be relegated to writing just the story about that perspective. People will say all the time, “I’d like to see more women writing female characters,” like I wrote Silk and people said, “Oh, I think a woman should write that.” Yeah, you’re right. But a woman should write Spider-Man. A woman should write Superman. A woman should write Batman.
Nerds and Beyond: So it’s not just tokenizing the identities.
Robbie: Exactly. Diversity is important, inclusion is more important. And making people realize like we can all tell these stories. It’s a bee in my bonnet, it’s a personal issue to me, but I think ultimately if you want to be good at your job as a writer, part of your job is to reflect the world we live in. And if the world you live in is completely homogenized, you gotta get out of your bubble if you really want to tell a story that’s gonna connect with more people.
Nerds and Beyond: Alright, thank you Robbie! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. And maybe we’ll do it again next year.
Robbie: No, it’s a date, absolutely.
*Special acknowledgement to Scout Villegas for her assistance with transcription.