Comic-Con ’07 – SUPERNATURAL Interviews

Ben Edlund

 

Ben Edlund: (pointing) That’s my wife, everyone! (general greeting to Ben’s wife) This is quite large, isn’t it? All right, let’s talk Star Trek! (laughs all around)

Can you tell us how you became involved with Supernatural?

BE: Well, I’d met with Eric Kripke, I think, the year before, when I was working on Tarzan, another show that he was working on, and I met with him on that in New York, to sort of test the waters a bit, and we got along really well. I didn’t have a chance to work on that (I was still working on Angel), and I just ended up with an opening and Supernatural started up. It was a very simple process, but I already knew him so it kinda made it easier.

I understand that you created this new character, Bella…

BE: Yes!

…who’s going to be one of the new additions to the show. Can you talk about the origin of that character and the third episode, where she’s introduced?

BE: Uh-huh! Yeah, you know, any time a character like that is introduced to a series, one person doesn’t exactly create that character; obviously, Eric had a lot to do with it…

 

Eric gave you all the credit at the TCAs.

BE: Okay, I’ll take it! There’s a lot that goes into it, and there’s a lot discussions and a lot of strategy, because that kind of thing—the balance of the show, you have to be careful with it when you introduce new characters. I think she’ll make a good agitant; she’ll be kind of chaotic, sort of serving her own interests, mercenary thief. Most of the people, the hunters involved in knowing whatever supernatural stuff is going on are fairly noble; even someone like Gordon, who might take his hunts too far, is still serving essentially a cause, and this is the introduction of a cause-less character which, I think, rounds up the basic philosophical playground by introducing some other viewpoint. That’s why I like her. I imagine she’s going to be very attractive! (laughs) I’m just gonna guess that she’s going to be very attractive! She’s on the wrong side, and that’s where she starts out; and of course, like with all the other characters, she has a run. Everybody on the show gets put through the ringer, so there’s a ringer being designed for her even know. Yes, she should be very interesting.

You have, by now, had a lot of experience coming on to shows and playing in somebody else’s sandbox. How has it been for you on Supernatural?

BE: It’s been good! I worked for quite some time in the Whedonverse, and that’s a pretty amazing ship. They function in different ways, you know. This is a very well run machine; both of them were. The work life—good people were found, and both groups have a very healthy—too healthy work situations, and I like that about it. But, I learned certain things from Joss Whedon, and now I’m learning certain other things from Eric Kripke, cos with Joss—well, his shows were insane, and that’s what I like about them! This show is really down to the ground. I remember working on Angel; I was working on a puppet show episode (“Smile Time”) and for the previous week’s episode –it was basically the same office- they’re working in a Nazi-submarine flashback episode (“Why We Fight”)! You really know you’re working on the strangest show on TV when those are back to back and no one’s really batting an eye, exactly. That was really great, because it was sort of a stream-of-consciousness explosion happening there. This is, to me—this is designed, it’s engineered. This is helping me with human character, because very clearly with Angel and Buffy, for example, or even Firefly, there’s such a language of those shows, there’s a distance from real emotion –even though those shows have very powerful emotion, there’s a different kind of heightened way to present them- and this is really way down, close to the ground, that needs very different kinds of writing, and that’s cool. I have fun.

You’ve used humor before in your work on The Tick and Angel and Firefly; you mentioned the “Smile Time” episode. Is it very difficult to use humor on this show?

BE: (ponders) No… It’s a different kind. It’s less dialogue-based humor; it’s more character humor. For “The Tick,” for example, a huge part of what makes that funny, for me, anyway, it’s the very precise dialogue, with very large words and a sort of musicality and broken metaphors. Here, the humor—I liken it to the very effective humor when it works. Remember how in “Aliens” they’d sort of turn on a dime and be funny for a little bit? Because it’s a tense situation, where there are dangerous dark things in a corner, it creates an environment where laughs are pretty easy to get; the problem being if your characters go out of character, if they stretch too far to try to get a gag or a joke, then you’ve lost all of the build-up tension and emotion that would have given you a good laugh to begin with. So it’s not difficult; it’s a certain kind of humor, different from The Tick, different from Angel. It’s closer to—the ghosts on this show, I feel, are very believable because everything is very believable. Comparatively, the Whedonverse is like Chinese TV! (laughs all around) You’ve got the Monkey King and it’s flying on a cloud and it’s great! The pig-faced monkeys are running around and you go, “That’s amazing! I don’t know what person I’m supposed to be in that universe, but it’s fantastic!” And then you have—this is much more two brothers, a more grounded relationship, you can picture yourself almost—you can smell the fried food in the back of the car! Anyway… is that an answer to anything you asked?

Yes! (laughs all around)

BE: Fantastic!

Everybody seems to have his or her own voice, and you seem to be the guy for a certain type of thing…

BE: Yes, jackassery! That is my claim to fame! (chuckles) Jackassery, yes! I think, by now, I have become, and not in any kind of terrible way, but I’ve become known—I hate this word, but I’ve become known for quirk. I’ve become known for quirk, so – If you’ve noticed, the episodes I’ve had on Supernatural, they’re not terribly heavy on myth as a rule; actually, they’re not even very heavy on monsters. They have a concept that—when I wrote, they had no visual effects. I like visual effects! (laughs) I don’t know where I’m going! (laughs all around) But it’s mostly character quirk and stuff, and that’s what I’ve become sort of associated with, and I’m glad because I always want to keep humor very close to the stuff I’m doing. It’s what I like.

Are there things in the show that you feel more
attracted to?

BE: Yeah… I found the show pretty attractive from the onset. When I first saw the last four episodes of S1, because I had to watch them all—it’s always very strange, because you spend your whole weekend on a TV show, and this worked well, because the end of the first season was really powerful. There’s something about the relationships on this show that makes them feel like they’re real enough to take seriously. I don’t know if I’m dissing anyone else; (to himself) cut it! (laughs) There are just different kinds of realities that we’re dealing with, but I’m always pushing him to ruin his show… (laughs all around) I keep coming up with the dumbest things; I wanted there to be a fish that granted wishes on this show! We talked about it a lot, and I had a whole thing, you know, I’m not mad about it… That’s where I earn part of my money, by pitching things that can’t be used and just entertain the room. (laughs) And then there are certain concepts that actually get in, you know. If anyone is the kite, I am the kite. Actually, the fish concept became the genie episode that came out really well. It was Eric’s directorial debut, and I think he did fantastic. There’s always stuff; I’m looking for a way to incorporate Tijuana Bibles—they’re little porno booklets, pardon me, everyone, that were passed out—They were big in the ‘30s. I don’t even know why I’m talking about that! (laughs all around) I’ve wanted to talk about pornography for a little bit; I felt this was a good place to do it… (laughs continue)

Is there going to be anything supernatural about the Tijuana Bibles?

BE: Well, that’d be the thing, it’s that they somehow carry an effect, probably something aphrodisiac. We’ll talk about another one: dinosaurs! (chuckles) You know, the Giant Sloth, and people keep saying it’s real down in South America. I think the Giant Sloth might be something the people would like…

Do you think that you’re over here, and Eric is over here, and at some point you guys come together and it becomes something like the genie episode?

BE: I think so; and I think that it’s a really healthy thing. I think that, for this show, my sort of sensibility isn’t exactly this show, but it’s compatible with it as long as I have some guidance, not only from Eric, but also from Bob Singer, who does a tremendous amount of policing the overall world of it, as do John Shiban and Sera Gamble, and all the other writers; their names are somewhere… (laughs) That becomes a collective that really does police the ideas. Eric will also ask, “Am I going too far with this? Or am I not going far enough?” Because we become the think-tank that defines the world of this thing, with a clear leader. I mean, what is good about this show, and was good about the Whedonverse too, is that when you have clear leadership, it makes things work really well, too. It’s the pursuit of a vision, and this show has a very clear vision to pursue. I’m just trying to mess it up with fish that grant wishes!

And porn Bibles.

BE: I don’t even know what to do with them; we’ve only had one conversation about them, but thanks for bringing them up again. I consider that my proudest moment! (laughs all around)

Maybe that’s what makes you so well suited for the stream of consciousness show with the monkey riding the cloud, and it needs to be…

BE: Brought down, exactly! But something’s up in that stratosphere of the stream of consciousness that can be brought back and made valuable for this show. That’s why I view myself as a kite on this show; certainly, there are other kites, I’m a box kite! (laughs) Other kites I’d like to describe to you, but we don’t have time!

Would you like to go back to having your own voice out there, with your own show?

BE: Yeah, I’ve been pitching pilots from time to time; what happens quite often is people say, ‘Well, that’s really well thought-out!” which is sorta like, “Well done! Good bye!” (laughs) A lot of my concepts are really dense, kind of weird. I have one the Sci-Fi Channel is looking at right now, and we’ll see. I think it could be cool, and if that were to be chosen, I’d be happy to be stepping into that. There’s an issue with that, which is that you don’t exist. I mean, the hours are tremendous. It’s a huge time commitment; I have a five and a half year old daughter, and there are issues; I mean, my wife’s around here somewhere, and I have to commit time to her… I have a dog! (laughs all around) There’s a tremendous amount of work and stuff to it, and there are certain rewards, so I pursue it, but not single-mindedly.

How does it feel when you see people dress up like the characters you create in Comic-Con?

 

BE: Initially, that was strange; having the toy line with The Tick was a really weird thing, something about people making stuff in China, you know, it was odd. “I’m making plastic in China! Even when I’m sleeping, I’m making plastic in China!” It’s more of just another surreal experience; it’s a thrill, and then, after a while, the main problem is the fluorescent lights.

Jensen Ackles
 

 

Jensen sat down, saw all the tape recorders in front of him, and said “Hi” individually to each one, and then a general one, moving over them from left to right. We had less time with him, as he’d been extensively interviewed by MTV News in another area of the room, but we made the best of it.

Eric mentioned at the TCAs that this season all bets are off, that it’s war and that it’s the season he’s been looking forward to since the start of the show…

Jensen Ackles: (with fake exasperation) Great!

How much has it changed for you?

JA: I think Eric brings up a valid point, in saying that he’s been waiting to get to season 3 because now, once you get past that freshman season, and you get your season 2 and you get through that sophomore slump that all shows have to get through, getting to season 3 is a battle in itself, so once you’ve won that battle for season 3, now you get to really explore the ideas that you may have held back because you’re trying to do everything you can to find an audience and to get support for the show with the network and the studio. There’s a lot of politics that come into play in the first two seasons, and Eric did a very nice job in doing that but also walking the fine line of staying true to his creativity. I think that’s not easy to do, especially in today’s television. I’m very excited about getting to season 3, because now we can really can sink our teeth into it, and figure out what’s gonna happen with these two guys, where they’re gonna go, who they’re gonna meet, how that’s gonna affect them, what storylines they’re gonna pick up, so it should be interesting.

All this time you’ve settled into your character and the writers…

JA: Have settled into the characters as well.

…and they can write to your strengths.

JA: Correct. That, again, goes into that fighting the battle and getting S3 and now
really getting to sink our teeth into it because this mesh of creativity is starting to form between the actors, the writers, the directors and the producers and now we’re kinda really hitting our stride and going, “OK, now I know how to do this!” I can trust the writers more now, because they go, “He wouldn’t do this.” or “He wouldn’t say this.” They can trust me, because they know if a guest director comes in and goes, “Here, why don’t you try it like this?” I can say, “No, he wouldn’t do that.” So, that protection of knowing who he is and what he would do and where he’s going is something that’s gonna be explored on S3 and S4 and S5. 

Do you feel protective of your character?

JA: Absolutely, yeah! I like playing the guy, you know, so anytime you enjoy doing something, you don’t want someone to ruin that for you.
 

Is it a challenge working on the pilot for a show that gets picked up and makes you go, “Great, I gotta go do 22 more of these”?

JA: (chuckles) It is, yes. When Jared and I first got cast for this show, we sat down and had a talk. He was coming out of, like, 5 seasons on Gilmore Girls,” where he’d just pop in for a day or two, do his bit and then have the rest of the week to go party with his buddies. I was coming off Smallville, and I know Tom (Welling), I’m good friends with him, and I knew how much he worked in the first few seasons before they started surrounding him with people to give him some time off, but he’d really had to establish who this guy was in the first two seasons. It was a lot of work for that guy! I did Dark Angel where the same thing happened with Jessica Alba, who was also working out of her mind, so I had some grasp on what to expect, but I thought at least, by now, we’d have some help! (laughs all around) And we are getting some help, which leads me to that, so I look forward to having someone to look at, because God knows I’m sick of looking at Jared! (laughs) And also someone to come in and share the workload a little bit, cos after 22 episodes and 9 months of doing that all day, every day, you don’t wanna burn out. You don’t wanna be like, “Man, I’m sick of this!” because it’s a great job, it’s a great gig, and I love playing this role, and I love this show, and I don’t wanna ever get tired of it, and I hope it helps the show in mixing things up a little bit, where not only the actors are getting refreshed and doing something new every day, but the audience is also getting something new and refreshing while still staying very true to what the show is and what it always was and will continue to be.

Okay, the last question and it’s a character’s question.

JA: Yeah!

What in the world is Dean’s problem with California, calling it “the wuss state”? What’s up with that?

JA: Dean calling California “the wuss state”? I don’t remember that!

Yeah, in the episode “Everybody Loves a Clown”, Dean is arguing with Sam and he tells him, “I thought that after Dad died, you were going back to the wuss state,” meaning California, “and now you wanna take this on.”

JA: Oh, okay! That’s right! And this is why, because in his mind, California took his brother away from him, so he has a bit of problem with that. It’s like, (becoming Dean) “You know, I had to drive all the way to California to drag your butt back to what you should have been doing. You never should have gone there in the first place.” It’s what it represents, the thing that took his brother away. It’s sappy, but in his mind, he’s like, (as Dean again) “Stupid state!” (laughs) Thank you, guys!

Eric Kripke
 

 

Eric shows up, very friendly, greets everybody warmly and asks where we’re from.

We’re from Whedonopolis.com and our connection to the show is Ben Edlund, who used to write for the Whedonverse.

Eric Kripke: Ah, yes! I love Ben! That could be your headline: “Eric Loves Ben!”

Then, before anything else could happen, Eric recognized Brian, from FutonCritic, and brought up the fact of a missed interview due to Eric becoming a father, at which point he proceeded to take out pictures of baby Jack, which he proudly showed everybody.

EK: Jack was born on Sam’s birthday in a super creepy way. He was born on May 2nd, which is the birthday of my main character. I’m highly disturbed and troubled by that development! (laughs) I didn’t even realize it until two months later, and suddenly I’m like, “Whoa! Is that Sam’s birthday?” And I just called my wife and we had this chilling, “Rosemary’s Baby” moment, but he’s doing great, and he’s healthy and chubby and very sweet.

Good, your wife’s okay, no…?

EK: No, no, my wife’s okay; we were worried, because 6 months to the day after Sam’s birthday, Mom was impaled and burst into flames on the ceiling, so November 2nd will be a tense day around the Kripke household! (laughs all around) But, we’re hoping for the best.

We noticed that last season in particular there were a bunch of episodes named after classic rock songs or classic albums.

EK: Yeah!

How does that come about? Do you write the episode and then pick a song to go with it, or do you go, “Well, I have this song title and I need to write something to go with it”?

EK: No, a lot of times we come up with an episode idea, and then pick up a title later. Yes, a lot of titles last season and a lot of titles this season are gonna be based on classic rock songs, and my personal preference is Led Zeppelin songs because that’s my obsession…

I could tell!

EK: No, really? Is it obvious? I mean, how many times does Jensen have to say in the show, “Zeppelin rules!”? No, it’s just because we love that music, and classic rock is such a big part of the show that it seemed natural to name a lot of titles after those songs. Season 2 had so much better titles than Season 1! Season 1 had a bunch of one-word titles, like (booming voice) “Bugs”! or “Scarecrow”! or “Nightmares”! (normal voice) And season 2 was like, “Houses of the Holy” and “What Is And What Should Never Be” and “Folsom Prison Blues”, you know. We got a lot more relaxed about our titling.

Okay, and since we’re talking music, what in blazes is Sam’s problem with Dean’s music? And given the chance, what music would Sam play?

EK: (laughs out loud) We have interesting debates about that all the time; about what Sam’s music would be, and you know, I hope that Sam listens to whatever cool modern music is. I don’t know any of them because I don’t listen to anything after 1980, so, you know… Green Day, I guess? I don’t know! Who is cool these days? Is Green Day cool? What band is cool these days?

Maybe Red Hot Chili Peppers

EK: Yeah, so he listens to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Fall Out Boy and maybe The Killers? I am so a stranger in a strange land when it comes to those bands that that’s why you never hear Sam’s soundtrack, cos I don’t know that music and I’d choose the wrong songs. All my friends call me “Old Man Kripke” because I don’t listen to any bands after 1980; that’s why Dean’s music always wins out, because I hate so much modern music that I can’t bear to listen to it in the editing room. (laughs)
 

You discussed a bit at the TCAs the arc for Season 3 and how it’s something you’d planned all along.

EK: Yeah!

It’s war, it’s good vs. evil. Can you talk about this a little bit, how much it’s changed and whether this is a vision you always had in mind?

EK: Yeah, you know, we have a 5-year plan, and on S6 things start getting really hinky and there’ll be weddings and Raven Symoné will join the cast… (laughs all around) But we have a 5-year plan that, by design, we kept huge gaping holes in the middle of it, because you don’t know how things are gonna evolve, and you pull certain storyline elements and you push certain other ones. For instance, the psychic kids storyline was supposed to go deep into season 3, but, quite frankly, I personally got so sick of it, that I said, “I’m tired of these psychic kids! You know that storyline we were gonna do in the middle of S3? Let’s go in the finale and wipe them all out!” But certain things last longer, you know, because when certain things are really playing, you start to stretch them out in terms of conflicts between the boys, etc. The general plan of the steps of “this season, we go to war; next season we have an escalation, etc.” All those things, we’re roughly keeping in line with.

Shows like Heroes and Lost have a lot of mythology, whereas your show seems very grounded. Is that on purpose?

EK: It’s a preference of mine, my own taste. I love Lost and I think it’s a terrific show. Personally, my own taste is not that kind of endless mythology, because the answers are never gonna be satisfying at the end of the day. I promise you, it’s so hard to go season after season after season mystery and then provide an answer that’s gonna be satisfying. I’m much more a fan of the early X-Files structure, I thought Buffy did it brilliantly; the idea of one mythology a year, or, going back to early X-Files, mostly stand alone episodes with a few of mythology interspersed, which is actually probably more our structure. That actually works for me; I like people to be able to join the party, I like to plant someone in front of the TV and say, “Two dudes with chainsaws in the trunk, fighting monsters, GO!” (chuckles) and have them just get it. For instance, I’m not into Heroes. I wanna be, but I missed it, and now I’m intimidated to pick it up, and unless I watch the entire first season on DVD, I feel like I’m out of the loop, and we don’t want our viewers to feel like they’re out of the loop; we want them to feel like they can join the party at any time. Not that those shows aren’t great shows; it’s just personal taste.

So less mythology in S3?

EK: Same amount as usual. It’s three stand-alones in a row, with a big mythology episode. I think we have a simpler mythology on S3; my own personal backseat driving of the first three seasons, or the hindsight is a better word of the first three seasons is, S1, we had a great mythology, a two-word mythology: “FIND DAD.” It was simple, it was emotional, it was clean, and the stand-alones were sort of hit and miss. S2, I’m very proud of our stand-alones; they were unique, and they were structurally interesting, and Ben came to the table, and we started doing, like, the Hollywood episode, and we sort of found our legs. I thought—the S2 mythology I wasn’t happy with; it was a little too dense and confusing, you needed a flow chart to understand it, like, “Here are all the psychic children, and here’s the Yellow-Eyed Demon”, and so we’re trying to learn from that, and we’re trying to have the same intensity we got from the stand-alones in S2 with a simple, pure, emotional mythology from S1 and hopefully that will be S3, and we’re hoping it’ll be the best season yet.

Facebook Comments

Post Author: System Administrator

Leave a Reply