Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Interview: Rob Benedict and Richard Speight, Jr. Discuss ‘Supernatural Then and Now’ Rewatch Podcast [EXCLUSIVE]

If you know Supernatural, then you know Rob Benedict and Richard Speight, Jr. Benedict played Chuck Shurley, also known as God, and had the honor of being the last season’s “Big Bad”. Speight played The Trickster, Gabriel, and Loki, and also returned as a director, directing multiple episodes of the later seasons.

These two are often the backbone of the Supernatural fandom, co-hosting Creation Entertainment’s Supernatural conventions, and also working together to create Kings of Con, as well as the Kings of Con Podcast, where the two best friends get together and talk about all types of things. So, it was no surprise that these two ended up being the perfect hosts for a Supernatural rewatch podcast called Supernatural Then and Now from Story Mill Media, where they rewatch the show starting from season 1, and discuss the episodes with some special guests.

We got the chance to sit down with Benedict and Speight to talk about doing the rewatch podcast, their favorite episodes, and how doing the podcast has changed their view on the series.

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Editors note: this interview was edited for clarity.

Nerds and Beyond: We’ve heard a bit of the backstory of how you guys got into doing this podcast. But, what was it about doing a rewatch podcast of Supernatural that intrigued you?

Rob Benedict: First of all the idea… I really had never, and Richard either, we’d never really sat down and watched the show from the beginning. That was just not something that we had done. I’ve seen lots of the episodes, but really never in order and never from the beginning. season 1 and 2… I really hadn’t seen it at all, maybe one or two episodes. So, that idea really appealed to me. Plus the fact that Richard and I have relationships with a lot of the actors on the show. So the idea of having our actor friends come on and talk about it appealed to us. And, just to be able to sort of find out more about the show that we were on was just a fun concept.

Richard Speight, Jr.: Yeah, and I’ll add to that. If they had called and said we want you guys to do a podcast about kumquats, I probably still would have said yes. Basically, Rob and I got into doing a podcast because we make each other laugh, and enjoy goofing around. So that was also the most intriguing part. If they had said this is a serious interview show you need to take it seriously, I would have said hard pass. But because Rob and I get to do what Rob and I do, it’s fun. That makes it worth the effort.

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Rob Benedict: Yeah, which is a great segue. We’ve got a new podcast about kumquats, we’re really excited [laughs].

Richard Speight, Jr.: Come on, quats [laughs].

Nerds and Beyond: You’re almost done with season 1 on the podcast. What has been your favorite episode you got to watch this season?

Rob Benedict: That’s a good question. I think the way the season ended was really great. To me, the season finale was really epic with Dad there and everything, and fighting what is essentially the yellow-eyed demon. But besides that, for me, there was just such a huge payoff and all season long you’re going, “What’s going on with Dad? Where’s Dad? Is Dad going to come back?” When they finally link back up with Dad and fight the big bad demon of the season, I thought that was really awesome. My sort of random pick for a favorite episode, I would say was “Scarecrow”, I kind of like “Scarecrow”.

Richard Speight, Jr.: I’m gonna say the pilot because that’s when you realize that all the pre-work Kripke had in developing the story, and working with Bob Singer and the network and McG and everybody and David Nutter and the casting… you see it all come together in what is still an incredibly well-executed pilot. If you look at that pilot, it stars four people; Sam Smith, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki. I mean, the cast is already stellar, and David Nutter [is the] most successful pilot director of all time… it’s just all right there. The show is so good. And the launchpad created for the series is so solid from a story perspective and from a style perspective, that it is just amazing how well it holds up.

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Nerds and Beyond: What is something that surprised you about the first season, or something you didn’t know until you watched it?

Richard Speight, Jr.: I’ll say this right now…

Rob Benedict: I know what you’re gonna say.

Richard Speight, Jr.: I had no idea Jeffrey Dean Morgan was actually in the show [laughs]. I thought he was in the pilot and then went away, and then were like, “Oh, Dad, we’re missing Dad.” I didn’t realize Jeffrey Dean Morgan was in the show so much in season 1. Every time he pops up, I’m like, “Oh, hey, there’s Dad. Oh, he’s in this entire episode. This is not like one little moment.” So that was the biggest surprise to me is that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was actually a major character in the season, not just the pilot.

Rob Benedict: Oh, and that makes sense why Jensen and Jared are so close with Jeff in real life.

Richard Speight, Jr.: Yeah, which never made sense if they just did the pilot together.

Rob Benedict: Honestly, I was surprised at how good it is. I know that Supernatural is a great show, but people always talk about it [and how it] really doesn’t get good until like season 4 when Castiel comes in. But the truth is, it’s awesome. The monster of the week thing, I feel like it’s always played down in the retrospectives like, well, “Season 1 and 2 [are] monster of the week,” but, I really enjoyed it. I looked forward to what genre they were going to go into next in terms of a monster, and the boys are just so appealing, charming, and fun to watch. It’s done really well, the care that they take in making it look cinematic. And the way the stories are told, I was like, “This is a good show! This is really good!” I looked forward to what the new monster was going to be, so I was surprised [at] how good it actually was.

Nerds and Beyond: You both usually host the Supernatural conventions, so you’ve heard a lot of quotes and references from the show, like “Saving people, hunting things.” What’s your favorite line from the first season?

Richard Speight, Jr: Well, you took one of the key ones, that whole, “Saving people hunting things.” Rob and I don’t watch it together, but we watch it similarly timed. And then I’ll talk to Rob basically right before we start the podcast, and whenever we do that we have this moment of like, “Hey! That’s a line from the show!” So even like, “Dad went on a hunting trip.” I’m like, “Yeah, he did! He did go on a hunting trip!”

Rob Benedict: And the family business.

Richard Speight, Jr.: Like right out of the gate, they’re dropping some immortal dialogue.

Rob Benedict: There are things like, I’ve mentioned this on the podcast I think, but my character that I play… when I was the writer, I had posters of my books around the house, and they’ve recurred in various places. They were covers of the novels I had written. So there was a cover that was “The Benders” and there was a cover for “Scarecrow” and “Route 666” so actually seeing the episodes that those were from was cool. I didn’t realize the benders [were] a family. I had no idea.

Richard Speight, Jr: Yeah, I thought it was some kind of syndrome.

Rob Benedict: [laughs] I thought it was gonna be like some kind of demon or something. “Oh, it’s a bender!” Well, that’s the demon that can bend your spirit or something. So yeah, just discovering things like that, like “Oh, it’s an evil family.”

Nerds and Beyond: I know you said you don’t watch the episodes together, but do you discuss anything beforehand? Or do you save your reactions for when you record?

Richard Speight, Jr.: We save it for recording. I mean, we might have a comment or two as we’re kind of getting going, but for the most part, we understand that what we’re doing… our discovery is the podcast. So even if we find ourselves starting to talk we’re like, “Oh wait, hold up.” Like everything else Rob and I do, there is no prep involved. Go do your own thing, hit record, and then see what happens.

Nerds and Beyond: Who is someone you’d love to have on the show, or that you look forward to interviewing as the podcast continues?

Rob Benedict: I’m looking forward to when we finally can have Misha on, that’ll be great. That won’t be for a few seasons, but that’ll be fun. But more recent than that, we’ll get to talk to Julie McNiven at some point, won’t we? I don’t know who shows up. I am excited. Talking to Rich comes in season three.

Richard Speight, Jr.: I think I come in in season two.

Rob Benedict: Season two, great! I’m looking forward to Rich. Rich is my answer.

Richard Speight, Jr.: It better be a full beard review, that’s all I’m gonna say. I’m looking forward to a lot of directors. I’m looking forward to talking to John Showalter, Tom Wright. I look forward to getting Ben Edlund on the show, Jenny Klein… some of the writers that really wrote some epic episodes. Jeremy Carver, Robbie Thompson… like I enjoy the behind-the-scenes stuff. Of course it’s fun to talk to the actors, but I’ve talked to the actors. And of course, it’s fun to meet the guest stars, but I’ve been a guest star. What’s fascinating to me is the people who were making the sausage behind the scenes, I didn’t know what they were doing, and I wasn’t aware of how it was playing out and talking to them, even people I’m now friends with… I still don’t know how Ben Edlund ended up on the show. I don’t know how Jenny Klein ended up on the show. I don’t know who called Robbie Thompson. I like those origin stories and how they got involved, how they clicked into the group or didn’t, what their struggles were, what their successes were, and what led them to create some of the best episodes of the show.

Rob Benedict: I’m wondering how the episode’s gonna go when you’re our guest. Like I guess I’ll do the whole intro by myself, and just have you on for the interview part.

Nerds and Beyond: Which of the episodes that you’re personally in are you excited to get to?

Richard Speight, Jr.: I don’t know. I kind of care less about those because I know them. I guess if I had to say one of them… I kind of feel like that’s when I will sound like a narcissist saying, “I can’t wait to discuss or work in…” But I guess “Unfinished Business” is a fun one for me because I directed it and was in it, so that’s an interesting conversation I guess with myself.

Rob Benedict: I’m excited about that too because I’m going to be 70 by the time we get to that one [laughs].

Richard Speight, Jr.: No kidding. Part of when you eulogize me can be the podcast with that episode.

Rob Benedict: I’m definitely excited to talk about my episodes, I have no problem talking about myself [laughs]. I’ll talk about… I would say my first one, “The Monster at the End of the Book”. I think that one because it’s my first one, that’ll be sort of talking about my origin story. Rich never listens, so it’ll be good for him to find out something about me.

Nerds and Beyond: Have you ever watched the episodes you’ve been in? Or will it be your first time viewing them?

Richard Speight, Jr.: No, I’ve seen them all once. If I directed it then I saw it a bunch in the editing process. But no, I always like to watch what the director did, how it played out. Like I know what I did, but I don’t know what the angle was that they chose to use. I don’t know what take it was, I don’t know what they cut. So I like to watch the finished products.

Rob Benedict: Yeah, I’ve seen all the ones that I’m in. And again, I think it’ll just be fun to talk about the early episodes. I am honestly looking forward to Rich’s first episode. [And] just to hear the origin story of why we’re here today even talking about it.

Nerds and Beyond: Are there any other episodes that you’re looking forward to watching and discussing, maybe that you have heard some of the other cast or crew talk about?

Richard Speight, Jr.: Unfortunately Charles Beeson passed away, I would have loved to talk to Charles Beeson about “Changing Channels” and some of the stylized episodes he did because he was such a gent and a gifted director. Oh, and “French Mistake”. I’ll stack that up against any episode of any TV show anywhere for [being] clever and well-executed.

Nerds and Beyond: So, a lot of people have asked me to ask you both if you really do plan on doing all 15 seasons?

Richard Speight, Jr.: That’s the plan right now.

Rob Benedict: We just made it through the first, so we’re on our way.

Richard Speight, Jr.: Something crazy would have to happen to have us not. I believe that podcast is built to last and hold everybody’s interests in that regard and I hope that Rob and I are along for the whole run.

Nerds and Beyond: Are you planning on taking any breaks in between seasons? Or just going one right after the other?

Rob Benedict: In terms of all we know so far is 1 into 2, and we’re going right into 2 from 1. So, [we’re] not taking a break. We might take a short break after 2, but I think the goal is to do two a year right, Rich?

Richard Speight, Jr.: Right, and there’s some discussions of doing seasons 1, 2, 5, 3, 4, 7, 6 and then resuming a normal pacing until we get to 15. And, we’ll do 15, then we’ll do 14 [laughs].

Nerds and Beyond: So fans know you have the Kings of Con podcast which you run and put together yourselves. How has doing that prepared you for this one? Are there any challenges or things that you’ve learned in doing this?

Rob Benedict: I think if anything we’ve learned how to work off of each other with a microphone in front of us. When we started this [Supernatural Then and Now] podcast… we kind of like buttoned up a little bit and you can hear if you go back and listen. It kind of took us three or four episodes in to kind of get our feet down. I think what it was is we realized, “Oh, it’s okay to bring that sort of looseness onto this podcast.” I think thankfully Steve [Hein], the producer, allowed us to sort of bring what makes Rich and I do our thing… that sort of looseness and making each other laugh. We brought that into the Supernatural Then and Now podcast.

Richard Speight, Jr.: You’re right, it did take us a while. I think part of what took us a while, [was] we were all getting to know each other. Steve was getting to know us, we were getting to know him and what he was looking for. So it was a bit of a courtship period there for a second. And then when we all kind of realized what we were going for, it became easier to do. I also feel like Rob and I doing the previous podcast, that was the greatest warm-up for this podcast ever. Because to Rob’s point… I know people were like, “Oh, you guys knew each other’s sense of humor,” but it’s different on a microphone, on a zoom. It’s not the same as being on stage with each other or doing a scene. So the vibe is different, the timing is different, [and] how to make it smooth. It takes a bit of practice and trusting each other in a different way. So it was a good warm-up for this.

Nerds and Beyond: Has doing the podcast at all changed your view of the series? Does it change the way you look at it a little bit?

Rob Benedict: Yeah, for sure. 100%. I said I’ve always known it’s a great show and we traveled the globe telling everyone how great the show is. We obviously really like the show. We’re proud that we are a part of it. But to sit down and watch it from the beginning, and watch it lay its foundation, I think has deepened my respect for what the show is and how good it was, and how good it remained for 15 seasons. Also just in terms of what Jensen and Jared brought to it back when it was a show that no one knew about and they were just starting out with it and with these characters. The characters of Sam and Dean really do draw you in and that’s a testament to the work that they’re doing. So it really just deepened my respect.

Richard Speight, Jr.: I think Rob said exactly what I would have said… I trusted the people involved and knew what it was like when I was around… the directing is consistently excellent, and Jared and Jensen are freaking TV stars. That chemistry, you can’t fabricate that. They’re so good at what they do. It’s easy to see that in seasons 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 when they know each other like the back of their hands. But, when they were complete strangers in episodes 1, 2, 3… that’s just talent. That’s just them figuring it out on the fly and nailing it.

Supernatural Then and Now releases weekly on Mondays. Make sure to check it out by listening to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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