"Supernatural" has enjoyed 15 years of masked and made-up characters roaming the set, but in the final weeks of production, a different type of mask was on the minds of cast and crew.
"It was weird not seeing the faces that you've been looking at for 15 years, because they're covered with a mask," says Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean Winchester — a nomadic hunter of demons and other supernatural beings — on the show.
"It was unique, but I feel like 'Supernatural' has been through a lot. Writers' strikes and network changes and characters dying and characters coming back and families and births and deaths," says Jared Padalecki, who plays Dean's younger brother and fellow hunter, Sam. "'Supernatural' is used to change, so let's embrace it."
One last change looms: "Supernatural's" final seven-episode run begins Thursday on the CW. When the show began, the CW was still the WB Network, and after the series airs its finale the completed 327 episodes will make "Supernatural" the longest-running sci-fi/genre show in the history of American prime-time broadcast television. (There's still a certain doctor to contend with in the U.K.)
How are you both doing during the pandemic?
Padalecki: It was a pretty big change. Going from the show where you're around a hundred-something people every day and you're seeing thousands of people on the weekends with conventions and things — I'd just done a marathon — and then it's like, "Hey. It's you and your wife and your kids and you're at your house. And you can't leave. And you're not filming. And you're not waking up and getting your hair cut and stuff like that."
Ackles: It was weird, the fact that the show got put on pause. I came home. Spent the most time I'd ever spent uninterrupted with my wife and kids. And then they call us back to work and I immediately have to go quarantine for two weeks and then have to go film for four weeks — so six weeks go by, which is the longest time I've ever spent away from them. Living our quarantine Zoom life.
What were your emotions going into filming this last season, given the times we're in?
Padalecki: A lot of the unknown. I felt like, we have been going in to shoot a TV show for 15 years in "normal times," and now it's like "Hey, we have some regulations." There are lanyards that have different colors and only certain people can be around certain people so we can contact trace if, God forbid, somebody contracts COVID[-19]. There's a taped-off entrance and a taped-off exit so we can keep it one-way. All of the food is individually wrapped and there's no browsing at craft services.
Between action and cut, it was business as usual. You're with your director and your cameramen and women and your cinematographer and with your fellow actors and actresses. And you're like "Got it. This is comfortable. This is like a warm blanket."
Ackles: The good news for our industry is that you're capable to be still working and utilizing these protocols to stay inside and stay healthy. I know that Jared and I, we take our cues from the reactions that we get from our crew members, which is essentially our audience. Our audience is the two-dozen people that are onstage with us. The guy holding the mike, the guy behind the camera, the one pulling the focus. We know that if we can make them laugh or make them cry or get some kind of emotion out of them, we're doing something. And that got taken away. So that was interesting. We just have to rely on our instincts and on each other to tell each other, "You hit it, you nailed it, you got it."
I miss shaking hands. I know that sounds weird. I just miss giving someone a bro hug. I know that sounds trivial, but that contact is an important part of what we do on a daily basis in terms of the tone that we set on our set.