PaleyFest 2018 – Laughter, Introspection and Scooby Snacks
For the second time since its inception, PaleyFest hosted the cast of Supernatural for an evening of conversation about their characters, where the show has been and where its going. If you were lucky enough to score a ticket to the event, which took place on March 20th at the Dolby Theater in downtown Los Angeles, you were also treated to the premier viewing of this season’s fifteenth episode and first animated feature, “Scoobynatural.”
The outside of the Dolby Theater, which is a huge circular area surrounded my stores like Lucky Brand and Sephoria, was packed to the brim with Supernatural fans and passerby lookie loos. The Dolby Theater is right off of Hollywood Blvd, and we walked over several Walk of Fame stars to get from our parking spot to the actual theater, so tourists were everywhere. It was easy to see why the crowd was generating – a fan-owned version of Baby, the Winchester’s 1967 Chevy Impala, and a replica Mystery Machine were parked in the middle of the courtyard. Many fans took their pictures with the two iconic vehicles until the area was quarantined off. Shortly after, you could feel the anticipation from the crowd as they waited for the show’s leads Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins to show up for pictures. And when they did – boy, did it blow the roof off the place. My (very tall) friend was gracious enough to get some pictures, and our guys were all smiles, posing with each other and Scooby-Doo himself before being whisked away.
The Dolby Theater itself is a real piece of Hollywood history – amongst countless shows, it’s also hosted the last sixteen Academy Awards. It could hardly contain the fan excitement as we sat in our seats, eagerly waiting the start of the show. It opened with a small introduction and then launched into “Scoobynatural.”
Let me tell you, as a fan, its a real experience to get to watch something like that with hundreds of other people who are just as excited as you are. As this article will remain spoiler free, I will refrain from divulging in any of the details of the episode itself. (Though there is undoubtedly some terribly filmed pirated copies floating around the internet, I highly advise you to avoid them. Go into it unspoiled – I promise it’s worth it.) But rest assured, there’s something for every fan in the episode.
As an aside, prior to going to this event, I learned that there is quite a strong fanbase for Scooby-Doo and this is what I will say about that – this episode does remain true to Scooby-fandom. I was really impressed how they melted the two worlds together pretty seamlessly and stayed true to both mythologies.
But I digress – just wait until it airs next Thursday, March 29th. You’re going to love it.
After the episode aired, we were treated to the main event – a panel full of cast and crew. Samantha Highfill, a writer for EW and a big Supernatural fangirl herself, led the panel with Padalecki, Ackles, Collins and fellow cast member Alexander Calvert as well as writers Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner, executive producer Robert Singer and showrunner Andrew Dabb. Highfill dove right in with some questions, starting with this season’s unofficial big bad – the alternate universes.
Ross-Leming and Buckner were responsible for the original idea. Ross-Leming explained that they wanted to “play with the idea of our hunters being the hunted.” The cast and crew both seemed very excited about the prospect of these universes, not only for potential storylines, but also to be able to bring back some fan favorites. Though Dabb was quick to clarify that these AU versions of well known characters like Bobby and Kevin aren’t all that different from the ones we know and love. “They’re still the same people, they just haven’t been through the same experiences.”
Highfill moved on to talk about the Big Empty, another concept that’s been kicked around fandom for many years, but never really confirmed as actual canon until this season. When asked if it’s the last we’ve seen of the place, Singer speculated, “We might visit it again next year. We’re talking about it.” Which started a roar through the crowd, as season 14 is still yet unconfirmed by the CW. Padalecki, who’s been known to “accidentally” spoil plot points in the past (he spoiled Castiel’s return over the summer at JIBCON 2017 in an accidental reveal while discussing the voice over work for the Scoobynatural episode,) seemed thrilled to exclaim “Next year?!” with a grin. The cast laughed, and Singer jokingly said “Not on this show.” So no official word yet, but it certainly seems as if they’re preparing for season 14.
The questions then turned towards their individual characters and the journey that they’ve been on, and where they had yet to go. Padalecki talked about the end of this season, and how we might see some role reversals. “Life is cyclical, sometimes you are there for your family member or friend, and sometimes they’re there for you.” He points to the shows over 200+ hours of story line, and alludes to the fact that we may see some old themes again. Ackles summarizes, quoting The Big Lebowski, “Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.” (The actual quote from The Big Lebowski is about a bear, not a bar, but Sam Elliot’s southern draw made the other interpretation more famous.)
They then opened the floor to fan questions. Abi Perry was first up, asking the cast how they prep for a unique episode such as Scoobynatural, versus a standard season episode. Padalecki and Ackles heckled her goodnaturedly (as the rest of the cast often does with one another) but Ackles finally answered seriously. “If I can just stay true to who Dean is, then you can put that character anywhere.” He cited some of the other strange episodes they’ve had through the years, such as The French Mistake and Changing Channels, adding that’s the philosophy they’ve taken to playing Sam and Dean in every different sort of situation.
Rick Rodriguez, another fan, asked about the undeniable chemistry between Ackles and Padalecki – how did it come about, and was it instant? Ackles tells a story of Eric Kripke (Supernatural’s creator) sitting Ackles and Padalecki down during the second episode of the very first season and explaining, whilst pointing between the two of them, “This relationship is crucial to the success of this show. The show lives and dies with you.” Ackles and Padalecki both felt an intense amount of responsibility, which they say they continue to feel to this day. “He and I instantly grew up in that moment and said ‘You know what? We’re going to have to be super adults about this.’” Ackles adds with a smile, “And we can be children later when Misha joins the show.”
It was an evening for the record books, full of laughter and love. You can absolutely feel the respect, appreciation and affection the cast and crew feel for each other, the show they produce and the fans that consume it. They brought that wonderful mixture of professionalism and never quite taking themselves too seriously which makes them so captivating to watch and so easy to adore.
Afterwards, walking out of the theater, it was surreal to see Baby in that dark courtyard: dimly lit and empty, as if waiting patiently for a pair of brothers, an angel and a nephilim to hop in and drive her away into the rainy night.