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The boys of “Supernatural” have more than their fare share of work to do, and with only two series regulars left on the show, it’s always a treat when Jensen Ackles or Jared Padalecki can carve out some time to hang with the press.
On a rare day off from shooting last week, Padalecki flew from Vancouver, where the show films, to Los Angeles, to be part of The CW’s “Bad-Ass Boys” panel at the Television Critics Association press tour. The next morning, he’d be back on set. “I’ll go straight to set from the airport, to shoot, and then come straight back the next day for Gen’s baby shower,” he said. “It’s not ideal, but I can’t complain.”
With his first child on the way with wife (and former co-star) Genevieve Padalecki, you’d think that the grueling schedule that “Supernatural” requires might be wearing on him. Padalecki tells us that the addition to their family — a boy, due in March — hasn’t made sticking with the show, now in its seventh season, more difficult.
It’s a good thing, too, because Padalecki and Ackles are both under contract for a potential Season 8, and network president Mark Pedowitz tells us that though there haven’t been any final decisions made about The CW’s fall schedule, there’s a “very strong possibility” that the show will continue for another year.
After a “One Tree Hill” themed cocktail party, we sat down with Padalecki, who — fresh from two People’s Choice Awards — was eager to talk about how much he and Ackles appreciate their fans. We also got some scoop on Sam’s mental state (he’s going to quit sleeping, and he’s asylum-bound) and what Castiel’s return in episode 17 means for Dean.
Zap2it: Your fans have raised $17,000 for kids with cancer in honor of your son, and he’s not even born yet. You might have an overachiever on your hands.
Padalecki: I hope so. It’s been ridiculous, seeing that. Our fans are amazing. We have such a unique fanbase, which I mean literally. We’ve found this weird pocket where if we had any fewer amount of viewers, we’d be canceled, but if we had more, we’d be coasting, and it wouldn’t mean as much.
Zap2it: You just won two People’s Choice Awards.
Padalecki: That’s what I mean. We beat “House,” and that show has 11 million viewers.
Zap2it: Not bad. There’s a little dirt on your shoulder, there.
Padalecki: Right? You’re like “How can they have five times as many viewers and still, we get more votes?” It’s because they’ve taken a maternal, or familial liking to us — I can’t think of the word; I’m pregnant. Basically, if we’d ended up becoming a hit show with 20 million viewers, it wouldn’t be as great an experience, because our fans would be nameless and faceless and get lost in it. We meet them at conventions, we recognize them and remember them, and they feel like a real family to us.
Zap2it: For the last few years, you guys have had to wait for news of pickup or cancellation, which is tough. With a baby on the way, no one could blame you if you were ready to wrap up Sam Winchester. Are you still hoping that The CW picks up Season 8?
Padalecki: Yes. Gen and I are both hoping for Season 8, actually. With as many hours as we work, and as much as I travel back and forth, it’s a crazy life, but on the flip side, we’ve built a family in Vancouver. Our crew, our cast — we’re close to everyone. We know what to expect. When I told them that Gen was pregnant and due in March, they were immediately like ‘Okay, we’re going to get you some time off.’ I didn’t even have to ask. You can’t do that if you’re doing some big movie with Tom Cruise. They’d be like ‘Who do you think you are? F*** you.’ We all really care about each other, from the writers, to the actors, to the fans.
Zap2it: The number of conventions you do, all around the world, is unprecedented.
Padalecki: It’s absolutely unprecedented. We’ve spent our summers that way for a few years. So much more than ‘Star Trek’ is what we’ve been told from the people who put on the conventions. We relate to the fans. Jensen and I are pretty casual guys, we’re pretty laid back, we’re Texas boys. He and I are just like ‘People are people!’ Not to say that people on other shows don’t know that, but I’ve been to conventions where there are people from other TV shows where there’s a distinct air of ‘I am the actor, and you are the fan, and I will use the royal ‘we’ when I address you.’ And it’s just like, f*** you, who do you think you are? These situations could be switched. Jensen and I get that. We know what it’s like to be a fan. If you tell me you’re a fan of my show, it’s no different from us saying that to a Dallas Cowboy or an actor we like, or a musician. I freaked out when I saw Mike McCready of Pearl Jam. I was grabbing my wife, like ‘Oh my god!’ and she’s like ‘Dude, I’m pregnant, I’m going to need that arm.’ I never thought I’d react like that. The fans are integral to our show. We’ve made episodes for them — not just episodes with them in mind, but episodes about them. I can’t imagine any other TV show ever being able to get away with that.
Zap2it: I spoke with Sera Gamble the other day, and we talked a bit about Sam’s upcoming mental breakdown. He’s been very carefully managing his hallucinations — keeping busy and developing this sort of OCD method of staying in control. I hear that’s all going to crash and burn pretty soon.
Padalecki: Yep. It’s been built up for over a season, ever since Death said ‘I can put a wall up, but he’s been to hell.’ There’s a point, for the audience, where if a character can get past any obstacle and can always find a loophole, it becomes kind of cheesy. The fact that I was in a cage with Lucifer, we don’t want to make light of it. We don’t want to go ‘Oh, Sam’s doing meditation, so he’s okay now! He’s worked it out through yoga!’ We want to crack him and have him go full-blown nuts. So, yes. In an upcoming episode, he does go bat-ass crazy.
Zap2it: Is he still trying to hide it from Dean?
Padalecki: He’s not being super up-front about it, but it gets beyond the point where he can hide it. Sam thinks he’s trying to protect Dean from the knowledge that he’s in pain. He’s going ‘No, it doesn’t hurt, I’m fine,’ while he knows he’s dying. It’s going to get so bad he can’t hide it from anybody. He’ll be checked into an asylum where they think he’s fully crazy, and honestly, he is. He kind of has been for a long time.
Zap2it: You like it when he’s completely off his rocker, though.
Padalecki: I do! It’s very fun. It’s more than that, though. What’s important to me as an actor and as someone who cares about the integrity of the show deeply, is I don’t want to — once you cross certain thresholds and certain barriers, I don’t want to go back.
Zap2it: Are there going to be lasting effects on him after this?
Padalecki: Yes. There’s an episode that we’re talking about right now where Sam isn’t sleeping. The longest anybody’s ever gone without sleep is like nine days, and they died, because your organs shut down. I wanted to make sure that we don’t have an episode where Sam hasn’t slept in a week, and he’s losing his mind, and then he suddenly gets it together and helps save the day. I want him to be human, and I want him to be effed up. What’s made these characters likable is that they are human. Sam had his issues with demon blood and whatnot, but the story is about two human beings, not about an angel and a demon chick. They come and go, but the audience can’t relate unless it’s about human condition and human emotions and the way nature and nurture affect you. You wrote about that in your article. I want to stay true to this guy going nuts and slowly degenerating.
Zap2it: Misha Collins is coming back for a few episodes this season.
Padalecki: Yeah, his first episode is the one where Sam goes crazy. We’re so stoked to have him come back. So, so stoked.
Zap2it: How do the Winchesters handle it?
Padalecki: Well, for Dean, it’s a double edged sword. He’s been really hurt by what Cas did. Sam and Castiel were never close; Cas always had a bone to pick with Sam because of the Ruby thing, which is understandable, the whole apocalypse thing.
Zap2it: It worked out pretty well for you, though.
Padalecki: Yeah, Jared’s alright with it. My demon child is on the way, I’m good.
Zap2it: So when Castiel returns, that’s really a Dean-centric story?
Padalecki: Definitely. Sam never took offense to the fact that Cas had a beef with him. Sam’s always been pragmatic and practical. He’s like, ‘Okay, I guess if I was talking to somebody who messed the whole world up, I’d be hesitant too.’ I think with Dean, it’s really hard for him to deal with Castiel’s betrayal. We’ve seen Sam wrestle with visions of Lucifer, and now it’s Dean’s turn to have that kind of a story. We’ll see Dean struggle to wrap his head around the Castiel issue. He’s like, ‘How do we forgive this guy? How do we trust him? That’s how we got hurt; that’s how we got burned.’ Dean’s once bitten, twice shy. We’ll see him wrestle with some of his own demons.
Zap2it: Sam and Dean, at least, seem to be back on track with their relationship. They trust each other again. You and Jensen have both said that you prefer that to the episodes where they’re keeping major secrets.
Padalecki: Personally, we’re close friends, great friends, and professionally, we’ve learned how to tell this story through the eyes of our characters, and Sam and Dean are the most important people in each others’ lives. When they’re on good terms, it’s — I don’t want to say it’s comfortable, because it’s hard work, but it’s more comfortable than trying to tell stories you don’t know how to tell. We know how to tell the story of Sam and Dean against the world, and we know the fans are receptive to it, so hopefully it’ll continue to play out that way.
“Supernatural” returns with new episodes Friday, Feb. 3 at 9 p.m. EST on The CW.