4:30 am EDT, July 23, 2018

SDCC: ‘Supernatural’ stars and showrunners share season 14 insights

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After Supernatural’s Hall H panel, we caught up with the cast and creators in the press room to pick their brains about the upcoming season, which just began shooting.

Missed San Diego Comic-Con this year? We live-blogged the Supernatural panel in Hall H, where the cast appeared in front of 6000 fans to preview the upcoming season – including a first look at Jensen Ackles as the archangel Michael, who he became possessed by in the season 13 finale. After that was done, we joined the eight panelists to delve deeper into the news from the panel and find out what else they wanted to share.

First up, we spoke to the show’s newest star, Alexander Calvert, who stole hearts during season 13 as the nephilim Jack. This was Calvert’s first year with the cast at San Diego Comic-Con, and it sounds like that he’s truly one of the family now. In the season 13 finale, Jack – one of the most powerful beings in creation – lost his grace, a story that seems to have been crafted in order to allow Calvert to remain on the show.

Characters with extreme superpowers (like Rob Benedict’s Chuck, who puts the deus in deus-ex-machina) being on hand to fix things with a finger-snap can somewhat hinder the stakes of the Winchesters’ very human struggle. This year, Jack will face the same problems as he comes to terms with his own helpnessness, and Alex explains some of the mindset behind that. Watch our interview with Alexander Calvert below.

Next, we spoke with Robert Singer, the show’s longtime executive producer and regular director, who sung praises to Jensen Ackles’ talent and flexibility, as the actor takes on a huge change embodying Michael. Singer was also asked to share some hints about his namesake Bobby Singer – he and Mary Winchester will develop an interesting relationship this year. Given their established bond in the Apocalypse World, it sounds like maybe some romance is in the cards, and the Winchesters may be on their way back to being the weirdest nuclear family ever.

Singer also shared a bit about why now was the right time for Dean to finally meet his destiny as Michael’s vessel. Watch our interview with Bob Singer below.

Season 14 marks Misha Collins’ tenth year on the show, and Collins hints that his character’s relationship with Jack will reflect back on some of the issues that Cas himself faced back in those early days. And while the issue of Dean and Michael is, of course, going to be the most prominent story as the season opens, Collins reminds us that the imminent collapse of Heaven and the potential of all of its stored souls returning to Earth as ghosts is something that later episodes will need to deal with.

With their favorite person taken away from them and trapped in great peril, Castiel and Sam will be closer than ever, working as a team to save Dean and stop Michael. These two sides of the Team Free Will triangle don’t always get a ton of plot that sees them alone together, so it’s exciting to hear that – when the actors aren’t teasing one another – the pair’s friendship will be shown as very strong on screen. “We’re both watching out for one another, and checking in with one another. It’s [the relationship] one of true partnership.” Watch our interview with Misha Collins below.

Brad Buckner, one of the show’s writers and executive producers, talked to us about re-introducing Felicia Day’s Charlie Bradbury back into the show. Buckner and his writing partner Eugenie Ross-Leming were assigned to write the episode where Charlie died, and they leapt at the chance to bring her back.”From the moment that Charlie died, there was a little hole in the show,” he explains. I think everybody felt it, I know we felt it. That voice was missing.”

However, this Charlie has a different life story to the Charlie we once knew, and the way Sam and Dean relate to her will continue to be explored. “Sam and Dean look at this person […] it triggers all their sense memories. They just can’t help wanting to throw their arms around her and make her that kid sister that they had, and she’s like ‘I don’t really know you guys.'”

But because the threat from Charlie’s world is now here, she’ll be sticking around to help fight it, which means there’s a relationship they have to build between her and the boys, and how she fits into the team. She’ll also be going out on her own cases! “It not only adds back a really wonderful character, but it’s a cool way to open up the storytelling. There’s now more people than just Sam and Dean on the case.” Watch our interview with Brad Buckner below.

After Hall H got to preview a scene of Michael, Jensen Ackles was eager to get feedback on what everyone thought of his performance! He spoke at length about the process of shifting characters in the same familiar environment where he’s so used to playing Dean, and explained some of the tools he’d been using to craft Michael’s unique and elegant vibe, including a new fighting style – unlike hands-on tactician Dean, Michael in a fight barely has to lift a finger, doesn’t get his hands dirty, just makes what he needs to happen happen.

Earlier in the interview session, Brad Buckner clarified that we will see episodes where Ackles does not perform as Dean at all, and when we asked Ackles how he felt about that, he explained that it’s difficult to not slip into Dean when he’s working in the environment where Dean should exist – on the same sets, with the same people – as opposed to adopting a new character on a totally different project.

Ackles let us in on his motivational speech to himself while performing (“You are omnipotent, you are omniscient, you can do anything you want, you are the biggest, baddest archangel there is.”) And when asked about if he was worried about staying immersed as Michael when acting opposite Jared Padalecki as Sam – which hasn’t happened yet, from what they’ve shot – he got special permission to tease something else that he wasn’t sure he was allowed to reveal! Watch our interview with Jensen Ackles below.

Showrunner Andrew Dabb had a wide variety of things to share with our table, including some details of Michael’s masterplan, which Jensen Ackles also touched on – given that the Apocalypse World was actually a failure and a disappointment to him, his approach in the real world is going to be somewhat different, because he wants different results.

There also won’t be a ton of other big bads, but instead there will be more screen time for each and every hero, as the cast now includes so many well-established characters that the writers want to fully service. “We’re very confident now, where we were less confident before, at being like ‘You know what? We can go and spend half an episode with Alex Calvert being Jack, we can go spend half an episode with Mary and Bobby doing something,'” Dabb explains, also citing Charlie as an ongoing character for season 14.

Dabb also gave a lot of unexpected details about his plans for the show’s 300th episode, which he says will split the difference between the 100th in season 5 – “Point of No Return” was a very normal plot-driven episode – and the 200th in season 10, which of course was the extremely meta “Fan Fiction,” about a Supernatural musical performed at a high school. The writers’ current plan for 300 – Dabb credits the original seed of the idea to writer/producer Meredith Glynn – is to finally address the brothers’ bizarre situation, and how they’re viewed by the locals in Lebanon, Kansas. (Dabb took to twitter later to assure fans that Castiel will also feature!) Watch our interview with Andrew Dabb below.

Buckner’s writing partner and fellow Eugenie Ross-Leming then joined us. She dropped some hints about the more emotional facets of Michael’s influence on the world around him – it sounds as though he will be leaving some deep psychological scars in his wake. “His tentacles, the way he damages people, it’s more pernicious and it lasts longer.” These damage victims will of course include Dean, who will have to deal with that trauma as he is remembering being a trapped observer throughout the acts while his body was the perpetrator.

Ross-Leming and Buckner also brought the archangel Gabriel back last season, and Ross-Leming admits that this was simply because they wanted him back so badly that they found a way to make it happen. Gabriel actor Richard Speight, Jr is currently directing episode 2 of this season, which the pair also wrote, but no hints about what it is about so far! Watch our interview with Eugenie Ross-Leming below.

Lucky last was Jared Padalecki, who very kindly stayed a few extra minutes to make sure he spoke to everyone. As season 14 begins, it appears that Sam without Dean will be a very harried leader, juggling a lot of things at once, including looking after Jack, who’s now a broken, graceless kid, and looking after the 30 or so hunter refugees from another world, all living inside the bunker. Sam will have to deal with being slightly out of step with his new army, when it comes to the problem of Dean and Michael – Sam wants to save Dean, whereas the hunters want to kill Michael, and that difference of priorities may cause conflict.

Padalecki also spoke about the brothers’ destiny, and the parallels between Dean’s current predicament and what Sam has gone through on the show for many years, ever since he possessed by Lucifer. “Oddly enough, that’s been one of the greatest joys of doing this show – exploring Sam and his devil,” he admitted, relishing the way that season 13 faced that head on for his character, and he theorized that although Dean is not exactly the type to open up about his feelings, he has a support network right there who can actually relate to the same kind of trauma.

“Sam, wonderfully, is sort of uniquely qualified to do it. So is Cas. That’s almost a big blessing – I can see Sam and Cas saying ‘Dean, let’s talk about this, we’ve almost been there.’ Watch our interview with Jared Padalecki below.

‘Supernatural’ returns October 11 at 8/7c on The CW

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