The news just came in that The CW’s Supernatural will be concluding its 15-year run after the upcoming 2019-2020 TV season, and as someone who has covered the show for many years, it felt as though the best way to process the news would be to reflect by writing about it.
I first became aware of Supernatural as “the show that Jensen Ackles was leaving Smallville to do, where he was paired with Dean from Gilmore Girls.” Even before Smallville, I knew of Jensen from some really good work on other shows, and I was a little bummed Jared Padalecki’s Young MacGyver series never went. (He probably was too, ultimately.) Back in those days, Smallville was still my only (and main) beat to write about on the internet, so my press interaction with the series was limited, though I did talk to Jensen briefly at a press tour the summer before Supernatural began.
Eric Kripke’s early vision for Supernatural — a Route 66 style show exploring urban legends, saving people and hunting things — was a great hook for a show, and casting two charismatic guys and then adding folks like Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the brothers’ dad built that base. It’s almost humorous now to think there was a time that the series was on the bubble for renewal, a far cry from the “we’ll keep going as long as the boys want to do it” that CW President Mark Pedowitz tells the press corps every year. With time, the show grew. Angels and demons entered the picture, with the most enduring surely being Misha Collins’ Castiel in Season 4. Supernatural also built quite a supporting cast roster — Bobby, Charlie, Kevin, Ruby, Sheriff Jody Mills, Lucifer, Crowley — and some of those people may have died a few times. More recently, the Winchesters’ mom and Alexander Calvert’s Jack have been in their orbit.
I think we all expected the show to end with the Season 5 finale. It would have been a fitting (but sad) one, save for that last cliffhanger shot of Sam. But it didn’t end there. Oh boy it didn’t.
My first actual press experience with Supernatural came with a set visit during the sixth season. We were on location, and even so, both Padalecki and Ackles were super kind. You can see a photo from that first gathering to your right. But even more memorable than seeing Supernatural on location was visiting their studio. In the days before the Men of Letters bunker, there were very few standing sets — sure, there was Bobby’s cabin, but beyond that it was often hotel room city.
Things you might not know about Supernatural behind the scenes, though:
They have a literal warehouse of items they can use for props — old beer bottles, antiques, weird set decoration, even “hooker boots”… they’re all there. That’s in addition to the wardrobe area where you can find a great supply of flannel and suits for the boys and trenchcoats for Cas.
Next to the stages there are trailers for visual effects. Unlike most shows that have outer companies doing their work, they do this in-house. This is especially beneficial if they need to recreate a prop; they can just go right next door to have and study the prop! It’s amazing what this group does on a weekly basis — whether it’s a creature, hellfire, turning day to night, or faking stabbing somebody, they make the magic happen.
There’s a very comfortable production office up in Vancouver for Supernatural, where the call sheets still look like they use the logo for the series from before it even premiered. Much like the Supernatural fandom has been a “family” it’s a family up there as well. A lot of our interaction up there was often with Co-Executive Producer Jim Michaels, who I will always remember as the guy who tried finding out where my Lois & Clark spoilers came from when I was 17.
Catering at the Supernatural set comes from a trailer called “The Green Machine.” The pancakes are huge and delicious.
Every time we’ve been up there, it seems there has been an Impala on display for us to take pictures with. The only time we were more excited was when we got to pose with Beebo from Legends of Tomorrow, but still: I bet every year at least 100 photos were taken of our journalist group with “Baby.” One year Amy Ratcliffe was able to start the engine which I’m sure was a treat. Taking pictures in the Men of Letters bunker became an annual tradition, and you can play “spot that Sam and Dean have the same bedroom, just rearranged!” Really, though, that bunker especially is a work of art.
I covered three major “red carpets” for Supernatural — two for Episode 200 and one for Episode 300. Each time, cast and crew members past and present treated us well and were prepared with great quotes. Props to Holly Ollis and Suzanne Gomez who have shepherded the publicity for the series oh so well over the years. I also had the privilege of visiting on a filming day for Mitchell Kosterman’s Supernatural fan documentary — worth it for either the time when one actor asked who I played on Supernatural (spoiler: no one), and being able to make a “Suite Life” joke in Kim Rhodes’ direction.
I also recall hanging out with some journalist friends just last month. We were talking about our favorite series finales. I remember saying “we’ll be getting together in 15 years and we still won’t be able to talk about the Supernatural finale because it won’t be over yet!” Oops.
As Supernatural was such a self-sufficient facility with a loyal fan base and an ability to reinvent itself every few years, I’m not ready for the prospect of them not being up there anymore, and hope that the crew all moves on to projects that are set up in a similar way. Any show The CW has moving into the future would be lucky to even be a fraction of what Supernatural meant to so many people. I’m happy for them that they get to go off on their own terms, and I fully expect that we’ll see the Winchesters again after 2020, but the thought of the highlight of every Vancouver trip not being there is still one that I’m processing.
Carry on, wayward sons. We still have a year left, so it’s no time to be emotional, but I appreciate having the opportunity to get this all out. Thank you Jensen, Jared, Misha, and everyone who took us on this journey. Thank you to new friends like Clarissa and Tina that made covering the show so much fun. And, to Sam and Dean: Get your brother out of Hell already, will ya?