8:45 am EDT, July 28, 2016

‘Supernatural’s’ Samantha Smith and Andrew Dabb preview a season of ‘strong female ass-kickerage’

Supernatural season 12 re-introduces Mary Winchester. Find out how Mary’s return will affect the brothers, and how she’ll deal with having a pair of hunter sons.

At San Diego Comic-Con 2016, we spoke to Samantha Smith and new co-showrunner Andrew Dabb about Supernatural‘s upcoming 12th season — and specifically how Mary Winchester will fit into the show.

Sam and Dean’s wayward mother returned from the dead in the season 11 finale, and when we pick back up in season 12, her presence will immediately cause a flurry of mixed emotions.

As both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have hinted at, Dean and Sam will find themselves feeling protective of Mary, who is of course a hunter like themselves, and there’s an added threat of their enemies trying to get to them through her.

Meanwhile, Mary herself will have to deal not only with the modern world, but her sons being all grown up.

Says Andrew Dabb, “She’s incredibly proud of Sam and Dean, because they’re heroes. But she’s conflicted, because she knows the dangers of this life probably better than anyone.”

And for Sam and Dean, “they have this idea of who their mother was, but they’ve never really gotten this extent of seeing how she sees them.”

Dabb also teases how different her relationships with the brothers will be. “Sam and her have a lot in common: they both walked away from hunting. They both came back,” he says. “But when it comes down to it, I think she’s actually more like Dean. She takes charge, she’s kick-ass, that’s kind of her go-to move.”

Ultimately, Dabb says, Mary may be “a vulnerable character … but she’s not a soft character.”

Meanwhile Samantha Smith teases the kind of action we can expect from Mary, and it sounds like she’ll be doing a lot of hunting!

Smith reveals the way she always imagined her character would have come back, which was at the very end of the series with John. So, when she got the call to return in the season 11 finale, “I was like, ‘Oh I guess the show’s over!’ [And then] wait, there’s a next year? And I’m in it?!”

Smith says it’s a “thrill” to return. “It’s my dream job,” she says, “I’m not 28 anymore, but now I’m hunting, they’re sending me to fight training and weapons training. The director called me and asked, ‘So how much fight training have you had?’ and I was like, ‘Oh, zero!’ So I’m like boxing and kicking… but that’s what I always wanted to do.”

When we told her how excited to were to have more women kicking ass on Supernatural (because duh!), she says, “Yes, thank you! There’s a lot of that this season, and not just me. They’re really bringing in this whole element of strong female ass-kickerage (laughs).”

Related: Supernatural at SDCC: Andrew Dabb is aware of season 11 criticism, wants to avoid “nostalgia cycle”

Next, Smith delves into the relationship Mary has to her sons, saying that she never wanted them to be hunters in the first place. Then add in that Sam and Dean are five and nine years older than Mary, “gigantic people,” yet “once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom.”

She likens her separation from the boys to giving kids up for adoption. “I see them, and they’re still my children. I think that that bond is there, and it’s gonna be fun to explore that.”

Because Sam was only a baby when Mary died, Smith suggests that she’ll connect more easily to Dean, “because I had a relationship with a four-year-old person. With Sam it’s a mother’s love, a mother’s bond. I just don’t know him… yet.”

Finally, we learned how much we can expect from Mary in Supernatural season 12. “I’m not there the whole season straight through,” she says, “but it’s definitely a chunk. And then probably more as the season progresses.”

Supernatural returns this fall on The CW!

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