“Supernatural fans are very respectful. I got lucky to be on a show that has such cool fans. No really, I want to reiterate that – on a day to day basis if someone comes up to me, they’re respectful, intelligent, and they ask great questions.” Jensen Ackles
“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.” Jared Padalecki
This isn’t really a convention report but rather a collection of my memorable moments from the 2013 Salute to Supernatural in Vancouver (VanCon). It continues on from last week’s blog about why I fell in love with this show and its fandom … and how it continues to enrich my life. I congratulate you in advance if you manage to read through to the end. It seems that once I start writing (talking) about Supernatural (SPN), I can’t shut up.
It’s hard to describe a SPN convention to anyone who hasn’t been – or anyone who hasn’t watched the show – but I think it’s really just a big celebration. It’s the opportunity to meet the actors, talk about the show, and hang out with like-minded people. And, for those who’ve been to previous events, it’s like coming home to this crazy and loveable extended family.
Creation Entertainment runs three- and four-day conventions in different locations across North America. Vancouver was the obvious choice for me because, as many of you know, it’s my home away from home, where my brother lives. It’s also where SPN is filmed so crew members, production staff and, occasionally, writers (if they’re visiting the set) will drop in to mingle with fans at the convention. For me, there could be no other choice.
I might be stating the obvious, but the main reason I made this journey was to meet Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. There have been a few SPN conventions in Australia and other events, such as Armageddon; so I’ve been lucky enough to see Misha Collins, Richard Speight Jnr, Rob Benedict, Matt Cohen, Sebastian Roche, Jim Beaver, Corin Nemec, Traci Dinwiddie, Kim Rhodes, Ty Olsson, Ricky Worthy and Mark Rolston in the last two years. But I really wanted to meet the actors who portray the Winchester brothers – those wonderful characters (our boys) that I’ve grown to love over the course of eight seasons. I’ve shared their laughter and tears, their triumphs and anguish, and gosh, all the emotion (which I guess only other SPN fans will understand).
So, when I talk about VanCon it goes without saying that Sunday – J-Day – was the absolute highlight for me. Seeing Jared and Jensen at the Gold Breakfast and their afternoon panel was so much fun. The atmosphere in the auditorium, which was electric before they arrived, was totally insane once they got on stage. The cheers were deafening and there were flash-lights going off continuously as everyone took photos. When Jared left the stage briefly, about five minutes into the panel, Jensen hammed it up by pretending to be overwhelmed by all the flash-lights.
Jared and Jensen’s onscreen chemistry as Sam and Dean is totally complemented by their incredible comic-timing and obvious camaraderie when they are in front of a live audience. Of course, I wasn’t surprised as I’ve watched plenty convention videos on YouTube. But it was SO much better being there.
My favourite moment of the Gold Breakfast panel was when Jensen, who recently became a dad, had finally, jokingly, had enough of ‘new baby’ questions.
“It’s still about kids? For those of you who are new [to conventions] and wanted to talk about Supernatural, you’ve come to the wrong room …
“This is a seminar on parenting by a couple of rookies …
Jared was cracking up and we were all laughing. Jensen looked at Jared, shook his head, and said: “This is it! It was nine years … it took nine years for [the fans] to be bored of Supernatural and now it’s like … so … you guys have kids, right? Let’s talk about that.”
It was hilarious, as was the entire half an hour panel.
In the afternoon my favourite moment came after yet another question about children – what embarrassing moment in their lives would they not want their kids to find out about and what would they brag about?
Jared laughed and said “Mine is the same thing, funnily enough … because Thomas’ mommy and daddy had a [love] scene on camera … so I’m half embarrassed, but then I’m also like, man, I was working out really hard back then and I looked good.”
LOL … and then I think Jared was a bit embarrassed by what he’d said, so he ended up falling on the floor with laughter. Director Bob Singer, who was also on stage for this part of the panel, added to the hilarity and Jared’s embarrassment by talking about when he’d watched the dailies (footage) for that scene. He said he suspected something was going on there, because it was “SO hot”.
Jensen struggled to come up with an answer to the same question, so Jared kindly stepped in and said, smirking, “You know, I’ll answer the question for Jensen.” There was a brief pause for Jensen to throw up his hands up in mock exasperation, before Jared continued, “Google ‘Jensen shirtless cowboy hat’.”
The look between the two of them was priceless. Jared threw his head back with laughter while Jensen shook his head with disbelief. It led to more discussion about embarrassing photographs and Photoshop manipulation, to which Jensen said he would show his daughter all of those things so she could learn from his mistakes.
I can’t tell you how much fun I had on J-Day. But, honestly, I loved every day of the convention weekend. I enjoyed seeing every guest. I had fun with every photo opportunity. And I made a lot of new friends. It would take too long to cover everything and I think that SPN conventions have millions of little moments that mean something different to every person. It’s a rich tapestry of stories that collectively belong to the SPN family … and, for those interested, here are three of mine.
Friday – Karaoke Kings
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined getting on stage to sing karaoke with some of the stars of SPN. I hate karaoke. I get nauseas at the very thought of public speaking, let alone singing. One of the reasons I love photography is because I’m behind the camera, not out in front of it. I really, really don’t enjoy being the centre of attention. Not. At. All.
So I’m not entirely sure why I agreed to sign up with five other Australians to sing Summer Nights from Grease. I think I just got caught up in the excitement of being at VanCon. It was also a chance to do something outside my comfort zone. And, I figured (maybe secretly hoped) that there were so many people signing up that we wouldn’t be lucky (unlucky) enough to get called.
It was the early hours of Saturday morning before we heard Richard Speight Jnr call out for “The Aussies – Brenda, Owen, Katelyn, Monique, Rachel and Karen”. Shit. I wasn’t prepared for this. It was such a weird moment; a heady mix of exhilaration and absolute terror.
The stage was crowded as we joined Richard, Matt Cohen, Sebastian Roche, Rob Benedict, Chad Lindberg, Emily Perkins and Jim Michaels … and before I knew it I was singing in front of a huge crowd of enthusiastic fans. I’m sure I was off-key, but it didn’t really matter because there were so many other voices drowning me out. I have to admit, it really was a lot of fun.
Halfway through the song Sebastian started playing beach volleyball with the crowd – because that’s the kind of thing that Sebastian does – and I had a heart-stopping moment as the ball sailed over our heads and almost collected my safely-placed camera. LOL. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about.
This night was the perfect start to the convention weekend.
Saturday – Felicia Day and Robbie Thompson
Pac-man Fever is the one episode of Supernatural that caught me completely off-guard. It was written by Robbie Thompson and featured Felicia Day in her recurring role of Charlie Bradbury.
In that episode, we learn that Charlie’s mum is in a coma and that Charlie can’t let her go. She confides in Dean, “I sneak into the hospital whenever I can and… I read to her. She used to read me to sleep at night when I was a kid. She’d read me The Hobbit. She’s the reason I love the stuff I love.”
By the end of the episode, Charlie does let her mother go. But first, she sits by her bedside and pulls out a tattered copy of The Hobbit and says “One last time, okay?”
I was sobbing hysterically by this point – way more than is normal for a television show – and I barely heard the words Charlie was reading…
“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on, or to eat. It was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
But I know those words so well… I read an excerpt from the first chapter of The Hobbit at my father’s funeral six years ago. He’s the reason I love the stuff I love. He used to read me to sleep at night when I was a kid – The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and plenty of other stories. Many years later, when we went to see the first Lord of the Rings film, he actually said to me, jokingly, I just have to live for two more years to see the end of this trilogy. He did, but he did not get to see the movie version of The Hobbit.
It’s powerful writing that taps into other people’s experiences. This was the last thing I ever expected from an episode of SPN; that I would be reminded of my dad. It came completely out of left-field, which, I guess, is why my reaction was so intense. It resonated with me on such a personal level.
A week before VanCon neither Robbie nor Felicia was scheduled to appear. But they were both in town, working on the SPN set, and they ended up attending the convention. I was stoked, because this gave me the opportunity to talk to them; to tell them how wonderful that episode was.
I decided the best way to chat to Felicia was by purchasing an autograph token. The line was incredibly long, but I didn’t care. I took my moment. I told Felicia how much I appreciated her portrayal of Charlie. I told her about my dad and how much I loved Pac-man Fever. And her response was lovely. At first she was upset for me, saying “Oh, I’m so sorry”, but then she realised that I was complimenting her wonderful performance. She thanked me for sharing my story and suggested I find Robbie, as he’d love to hear it too.
Being a writer myself, I know how rare, and how wonderful, it is hear that your writing has inspired someone, so it was important for me to find Robbie. And I did, just before Felicia’s panel was due to start. He was mingling with fans in the foyer and I managed to quickly blurt out my thanks.
Robbie was really happy to hear my story. He told me that he wrote the episode for his father, who had read The Hobbit to him when he was a child and that his father had also passed away three years ago. He has crafted the character of Charlie based on his own experiences.
I’m so happy that I got to speak to Felicia and Robbie. It’s not often that you get the chance to tell someone what their performance or piece of writing has meant to you… and I’ll never forget it.
Sunday – Jared Padalecki Meet and Greet
I’m normally a fairly level-headed person. After all, my job as a freelance writer and editor has required me to interview and correspond with some fairly high profile people. And I generally don’t put anyone on a pedestal – actors, singers, sportsmen or politicians – because the only difference between them and any of us is that they have a public persona. We’re all human. We all have our struggles and insecurities, our triumphs and joy.
But I have to confess I was a bundle of nerves as I sat waiting for Jared to arrive at his meet and greet. I admire this man as an actor and as a person who is incredibly generous with his fans. Not to mention that I’m totally smitten by the character he has portrayed for nine awesome seasons. Sam Winchester.
So … yeah, I guess I have put him on a bit of a pedestal 😉
Luckily, all this was forgotten when Jared arrived. He bounded into the room with such unbridled enthusiasm and started talking, a mile a minute, about how happy he was to see us, as if we were all long lost friends. I immediately felt at ease.
The conversation initially revolved around acting. We told Jared how much we loved his performance in the season eight finale, Sacrifice, and he talked about how hard it was to shake the emotion of those scenes. We asked about all the different versions of Sam he’s played and he let it slip (accidentally on purpose) that there would be at least two more versions of Sam in season nine.
Jared was sooo excited about season nine – like really-big-kid-bursting-to-tell-us-a-secret excited. He cursed Jeremy Carver for not talking about said ‘secret’ at Comic-Con, because that basically meant he couldn’t tell us anything. And he joked that he’d lose his job for telling us as much as he had.
Of course, we now know why he was so excited – the whole Sam/Zeke/Gadreel storyline and the exhilarating challenge for him as an actor.
Early in the meet and greet I had the chance to ask Jared a question. I had something in mind, related to travel (because I am, after all, a travel blogger) but at the last minute I changed my mind and asked him an acting question. I guess I was a bit nervous about asking a non-SPN-related question and I thought I’d blown my chance. But then, most unexpectedly, I got to ask another question.
I knew that Jared and his wife Gen had hiked the Inca Trail, because he’d mentioned it when talking about the significance of the alpaca in season six’s The French Mistake. I’d also done this trek in 2011 and found it extremely challenging, so I was curious to know if he and Gen had enjoyed the hike and what were their highlights.
I’m so glad I overcame my nerves to ask this question because I think Jared really enjoyed answering it. Not only did he talk about the hike, but he also re-enacted a hilarious incident that occurred in Bolivia which involved Jared and howler monkeys (oh, the mind boggles). Of course, his spontaneous re-enactment got us all *howling* with laughter.
The cost of a meet and greet is ridiculously high – I still haven’t told my family how much I paid – but, for me, it was totally worth it. If I could afford it, I would do meet and greets with every single guest because it’s such a rare opportunity to interact with the actors in a much more relaxed environment. Half an hour is also not long, but Jared’s meet and greet never felt rushed to me.
And, if you think Jared Padalecki has amazing screen presence, imagine yourself in a small room with just him and 19 other fans, asking him a question. Jared has the knack of completely engaging with the person who has asked the question and at the same time keeping everyone else involved in the conversation. I don’t know how he does it.
Anyhow, I might’ve been a bit overwhelmed 😉 *understatement*
It has taken me a long time to write about my convention weekend in Vancouver and I think I’m still reflecting on the experience. Until now, I’ve never really been interested in meeting actors. And that’s because I love escaping into the exciting, often fantastical, worlds that have been created for us in movies and on television. Put simply, if I know too much about an actor there’s a danger that I won’t be able to disconnect from the ‘real world’ and then it becomes a disappointment, not a joy.
But, for some reason, this hasn’t happened with Supernatural. The more I learn about the actors, the more I want to support them. The more I delve into the SPN fandom, the more I want to be a part of it. For me, and for countless others, SPN really is more than a television show.
Here are a few more photographs from VanCon 2013.
I had a couple of photographs with Jared and Jensen, but here’s what happens when you ask them to make fun of your height. It’s just as well I love The Hobbit, because that’s exactly what I look like when I’m standing next to those guys 🙂
Postscript: When I got my ticket to the Salute to Supernatural convention in 2013, I thought it would be a one-time experience that I’d get out of my system once and for all. But now I can’t imagine not going again. It was one of the best weekends of my life and I’m totally hooked. I’m currently trying to work out how I can get back to Vancouver in August this year… and, if I make it, hopefully I’ll see a few of you there.
Next week: Location hunting in Vancouver
Thanks to Megan Jackson for the use of her beautiful black and white photographs, which were taken at the 2013 Salute to Supernatural Convention in Vancouver. To see more of her photographs, click here.