With just days to go until the premiere of The Winchesters on October 11, fans are eagerly awaiting their first look at the Supernatural prequel. Starring Drake Rodger and Meg Donnelly as John Winchester and Mary Campbell, the new series is set to follow the origin story of John and Mary’s relationship as both look for their missing fathers. Executive produced by original series veterans Jensen Ackles, Danneel Ackles, and Robbie Thompson, The Winchesters is sure to be a hit for fans craving more from the extended Supernatural canon.
While attendees at New York Comic Con were able to watch a special screening of the pilot and get their questions answered at an exclusive Q&A, Nerds & Beyond also had the chance to chat with the cast and creative team during their press roundtable event. They discussed honoring the legacy of the original series, teased a bit about what’s in store for the fandom, and more!
Note: Responses may be edited for clarity.
Nerds and Beyond: One of the more consistent critiques Supernatural got over the course of its run was with diversity. Later in the show, characters like Charlie, Eileen, and the Wayward Sisters were added who really highlighted that, but now you have the first non-white series regulars in Supernatural history, and the first queer series regular after Castiel. Was that something that was a big goal for you guys in starting the show, making sure the representation was there from the beginning? Does that carry over to behind-the-scenes as well?
Danneel Ackles: Yeah, it was a goal, but it’s a reflection of what society truly is and truly was in the 70s. It’s just that television never was an accurate representation of us as people.
Jensen Ackles: Certainly not back then.
DA: We think it’s more than authentic, and that’s how we live our lives, so for us, it was like, “This is how it should be done and in the correct way.”
JA: And to touch on the latter part of your question there, Robbie has created those two characters, Latika and Carlos, and that was certainly important to him. We talked quite a bit about what that would look like. It wasn’t that we need to do this because we feel like we’re pressured. No, it was very natural and seemed like that made sense, of course that would be part of our Scooby gang, that totally makes sense! To touch on that latter part, yes, we have a very diverse writing staff. Also, something that we have done with our directors, we would be attempting this anyway, but the network has not only heavily encouraged us but also they basically mandated us to be very diverse with women or POC so that is happening. It’s one thing I think Mark Pedowitz did fantastically with The CW was bringing that diversity and being a champion for it in the industry. I feel like that will be a voice that is missed at the network and I hope the new regime that comes in picks up that sword and continues that fight because it’s an important one to fight.
DA: We’re also involved in the Warner Brothers Workshop Program. They bring in new writers and also directors and it’s up to each show if they are going to utilize that program or not and we have chosen to do that. So we are going to be bringing in new voices who are getting started both in the writing room and directors.
JA: And I also want to say too just to touch on that because you mentioned Supernatural and the mothership, we did have a lot of older white, straight men. That was just the nature of the show and how it was built and laid out. Everyone was always well aware that it was that and we needed to make an effort not to do that and to diversify. That said, the ones that were with us, our Bob Singers and our Phil Sgriccias, our showrunners, and our Jeremy Carvers, it’s not like “sorry guys never going to use you again!” John Showalter who was part of the mothership is a dear friend of ours and he is our producing director down there. That was important to us to have somebody, regardless of their ethnicity, regardless of their gender or whatever —
DA: Well, we just want to make sure someone isn’t drawing a devil’s trap up on a wall or something.
JA: [laughs] Yeah, we need some continuity there.
DA: We had to have some people that understand the rules of the game.
JA: Right, so we’re looking at things more from a “let’s make sure we’re getting this right, let’s make sure we’re bringing in people who can do that” but then “let’s also make sure we’re using every chance we get to broaden our horizons.”
Nerds and Beyond: Drake, you’re coming into it as a fan of the show, you’ve been watching John all these years. There’s some divisive opinions about John within the fandom as you know, how has it been for you trying to balance the lighter side of him with the somewhat shattered man we see in Supernatural?
Drake Rodger: It’s been exciting honestly because it’s where I live as an actor. It’s what I find really fun, the inside-the-head character. I’ve really kind of just played it as that fun, youthful, happy, not-yet-abusive father John. There is no change, he’s always there, it’s just clouded by this idea [he has] of “who I have to be.” So it’s been exciting, a really exciting challenge. As a fan, I also know what I want to see so that’s been kind of a cool outlet.
Nerds and Beyond: Supernatural is a show that has such an analytical fanbase which is fun and I’m sure daunting for you, knowing that people are going to look for little clues in every single episode. Even in the trailer, you have that reference to Slaughterhouse Five which works on the surface level but underneath it there’s so much more than that. Is there a certain pressure to knowing every little detail is going to be dissected?
Robbie Thompson: No, the lesson I learned on Supernatural after writing 18 episodes was there’s what I intend and then there’s what the audience sees. And the audience comes with their own perspective, but that’s also the beauty of it. It’s a dance with us. Once this airs, once you guys watch it in a couple hours, it’s yours now. It’s not mine. So what people choose to do with that is not only their own business but wonderful. It allows people to tell their own story with it, so I wouldn’t say there’s pressure. I think sometimes there’s pressure on the opposite end of wanting to put those things in and then you run the danger of it being the Easter egg show, you know what I mean? [laughs] I end up being like the Easter bunny anyway with little things here and there. We also have a fantastic crew in New Orleans. They’re either having watched it because they grew up watching it or they’re watching it now as we film for the show and are pitching things. The cast, Drake in particular, is like a walking encyclopedia. It’s really, really wonderful when you work with collaborators who want the show to aspire to what 15 years of Supernatural became, which was an unheralded, insane run that is probably going to be unmatched. We’ll try, but I wouldn’t say it’s pressure; it’s more fun actually!
Nerds and Beyond: I had the opportunity to talk with Felicia Day yesterday, she had so much to say about you and how happy she is you’re taking on The Winchesters and what a fabulous job you’ve done creating characters like Charlie and Eileen who’ve really come to mean a lot to the fandom in terms of diversity. You’re also bringing in Carlos and Latika on this show, and Jensen and Danneel had an awful lot to say about your role in creating them as well. Was it a priority for you to bring different faces, different ethnicities, different sexualities into the Supernatural world?
RT: 100% from the jump, yes. It was something that we all talked about. It’s not an indictment of Supernatural or anything like that but it was developed a long time ago. Things have changed, I think, for the better. Diversity is great, inclusion is better. So we had an opportunity from the jump to really differentiate ourselves by having more than just the two hander. Obviously, this is John and Mary’s supernatural love story, but within that it was who are the people with them? The thing that I really, truly loved about Supernatural whether it was season 1 or season 15 was that family don’t end in blood is really about, to me, is about the family that you find. There’s the family that you’re born into, and for some people like myself they are blessed, it’s a wonderful thing. For others they’re not as blessed, it’s a terrible thing. But then there’s the family that you make and that was really important to be as inclusive in that family as possible from the beginning.
For me, it’s just I want to see my family on screen. My mom is Mexican, my wife is Latin, and they don’t often get represented in a very favorable light unfortunately to this day. It really bothers me and it’s nice to be in a position and to have partners like Jensen and Danneel and a studio network that feel the same way. It’s 100% designed that way, it’s organic and easy to do. It’s not us shaking our fists. JoJo and Nida are national treasures, I wish they were here as well because they are a delight.
The Winchesters premieres October 11 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. You can find our other coverage of the show here. Be sure to check out On The Road Again, Nerds & Beyond’s podcast covering all things The Winchesters!