Jensen Ackles’s Supernatural journey began and ended with a road trip.
Fifteen years ago Sam and Dean Winchester (played by Jared Padalecki and Ackles, respectively) began their drive across the country in a jet-black 1967 Chevy Impala, hunting monsters, demons, and, eventually, God himself. Ackles was 26 years old at the time (the same age as the James Dean–like figure he portrays on the CW series), single, and coming off a steady career on TV, including a popular role on Days of Our Lives.
The actor is now 42 years old and just finished filming the 15th and final season of Supernatural after the coronavirus pandemic shut down production for several months. To mark the occasion, he did what Dean would do: He took a road trip. But this time things looked a little different and not just because he lacked monster-killing weapons and the iconic Impala.
“It was a sprinter van,” he tells me, back at home in Austin, after driving to the East Coast with his wife, One Tree Hill actor Danneel Harris Ackles, and their three young children. And instead of fighting the forces of evil along the way, he questioned what life might look like without the show that's been a vital part of his identity for a decade and a half.
“I needed to get back home and start figuring things out and start unpacking my life that's been in Vancouver for 15 years,” he says. “What's the next move? Where am I headed next? What interviews am I going to do? Luckily, my wife was like, ‘Stop. Can you just take a breath for a minute and play with your kids on the beach?’”
So he did. But now he’s back, talking to me over Zoom with his new, prized commissioned drawing of Winchester brothers’ smashed-up Impala behind him (a gift from his wife by artist Alessandro Paglia), trying to put into words what it feels like to leave behind a 15-year legacy.
“How have you changed in the last 15 years?” he asks me. Well, I've watched a lot of Supernatural, to be honest.
Existentialism aside, Ackles is clearly ready for his next act, even if the show's massive, fervent fandom—known as the SPN Family—may not be. Back in March 2019, Ackles, Padalecki, and their costar Misha Collins devastated diehards when they announced they'd be ending the series on their own terms after more than 300 episodes. A bit of good news is that fans will still have the conventions that honor the show and cast meet-ups that take place all over the world. Eventually.
“I love how big it's gotten and how we feel like a traveling circus going from town to town,” Ackles says. “Obviously, we'll have to wait until we're all allowed to gather in large crowds again, but I think as soon as we can start going to concerts and festivals and movie theaters, we'll start those back.”
For now Ackles is preparing for his life beyond Dean Winchester, which includes his anticipated role as the first-ever superhero in season three of Amazon Prime Video's The Boys, as well as a new production company he's starting with his wife. He filled me in on all that, how the Supernatural finale changed due to COVID-19 restrictions, and, of course, how he got his hands on the iconic 1967 Chevy Impala—which he drove to Starbucks the morning of our call.
[quote] Glamour: I almost don’t know how to ask you how it feels to end a life-changing, 15-year project like Supernatural.
Jensen Ackles: I understand how rare it is and that it's a bit of a unicorn to have a show that runs this long and to be as intensely part of it as I have. I mean, you've got procedural dramas—you know, Law & Order and stuff—but a lot of those casts come and go. To have the same two leads in every single episode for 15 years, I think, is a pretty rare feat. So I'm proud that we did it. That was really the overwhelming feeling when we filmed our last day and our last scene. It wasn't a mourning process; it was more of a proud moment of “Look at what we've done.”