After years of speculation, the May 4 episode of “Supernatural” finally revealed what many fans have long suspected — that dorky author and former prophet Chuck Shurley (Rob Benedict) is God, and he’s been purposefully staying out of mankind’s travails for the past few seasons — but now that his troublemaking sister Amara (Emily Swallow) is threatening to obliterate his creation, it’s time for the Almighty to get back in the game. But will Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) believe that the nebbish writer who novelized their life story is actually the creator of the universe?
Variety spoke to Benedict about returning to the show in Season 11’s “Don’t Call Me Shurley,” poking fun at the series’ actual creator, Eric Kripke, and Chuck/God’s relationship with the Winchesters in episode 21, “All in the Family.”
When did you get the news that you’d be returning?
I got it officially in January, that I was coming back and it was going to be multi-episodes and confirm that I was God and all that stuff. Obviously there had been rumblings of it for a while, but I didn’t get the official word or believe it until [episode 20 writer] Robbie Thompson called me in January and said “this is happening.”
But you’ve known you were God for years, right? Kripke let you in on that secret a while ago.
Yeah, I always had that in my pocket – but obviously in TV and especially on this show, anything can happen. God could change his meatsuit, so you never know. But they’ve been so great about being loyal to those of us that have been recurring on the show and that the fans like, so it was really nice to get that confirmation that we get to come out of the closet as God.
And apparently that he’d been dating guys and girls along the way!
Exactly, come out of the closet and then come out of the closet!
How did it feel to be back on set? Obviously you snuck back last season for the 200th episode, but this was a much meatier role.
Right, last season I got to go back and say one line. [Laughs.] It was a different phone call from Robbie, because last season he called and said, “hey, you’re coming back!” and I said, “no way!” “Yeah, here’s the bad news, it’s just one scene.” I said, “hey, one scene is great!” He’s like, “yeah, but it’s just one line.” I was like, “okay!” So it was great, because we’ve been doing these conventions now for a long time and all these guys, all the other actors are some of my dearest friends. And on top of that, the set, they’re all the same guys that have always been there. A large percentage of the crew are the original crew from Season 1, so it’s such a homecoming, and it really was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on set, just being back and getting to have this meaty stuff. Especially last week’s episode, which was just a real special experience.
What were your discussions with the producers like – did they give you any direction for how to approach God?
It’s funny, there wasn’t a lot — they were available, but… Robbie told me about the episode and the biggest story conversations we had creatively were about the song and was I okay singing, which of course I loved: “are you okay with that song?” I said “yeah,” and there was a certain version of that song I needed to do. So there was a lot of discussion about that, but Robbie is such a good writer and he makes it very clear what’s going on. He’ll even have direction between lines like “this really falls on God” or “God’s made up his mind but he’s not showing Metatron yet,” or whatever it is, things that are great notes to play off of. But I’m so comfortable on that set because I know all of them. I feel very safe and Bob Singer directed and I feel safe around Bob, and first day on set, the first scene we shot was me and Curtis outside and I thought “here we go, I’m gonna give it a go and hopefully they’ll say so if they don’t like it” and they never said anything, so I’m like “okay, I think I’m on the right track” and it wound up being what they were envisioning. It all just kind of came together organically and smoothly.
In last week’s episode, he seemed pretty resigned to letting Amara win for much of the episode – what do you think was the catalyst that really got him back in the game, Metatron’s insistence that humanity was worth saving?
I think that was certainly something that struck a chord for God-Chuck, but there’s a part of me that thinks that this was always his plan. He invited Metatron to that bar to look back on his creation and to mull things over, but part of me just wants to think that even bringing himself that close to being back in the story, he was gonna come back. He just needed to go through that and needed Metatron to go through that for Metatron’s story, so I think it was a combination of things. For this character, it’s personal now, and the fact that it’s his sister that’s causing all of this damage and threatening to ruin his creation, I think that’s enough to get him back in the game.
How does he approach Sam and Dean after all this time, after ignoring them for so long – how does he justify himself to them?
That’s the thing, being this absentee father, he has a lot of explaining to do and I think in this week’s episode, first on the docket is A: convincing them that he is who he says he is, and secondly, if that’s true, then “what the F? Where have you been and why?” So he needs to get Sam and Dean’s trust because they’ve got a common bad guy – or bad girl – so he’s got to get their trust and get them on the same team again. And their relationship is very father and two sons, there really is something about it and that’s how it’s going to play out.
I love that he acknowledged that he’d put Castiel back together more times than he could count in last week’s episode – anything you can preview on the Lustiel front?
I can’t say too much other than that there’s some really interesting stuff. The fact that it’s Castiel, who he loves, being possessed by Lucifer, his troubled son, down the line is going to create quite a bit of drama.
Last week’s episode finally brought back Dean’s amulet – do you know where it’s been this whole time?
I can only give a Rob Benedict theory, which I’m sure is not as good as a fan theory, but I will say that Robbie did deliberately put it in there, and in the script it’s called the “Samulet” – we call it the “Samulet” in the script, and he deliberately said, “God starts to say where it’s been this whole time and then Metatron cuts him off, so he never gets to say.” Suffice it to say it’s back, and it’s glowing.
How did you feel about those lines that were at creator Eric Kripke’s expense, like the quip about his cancelled series, “Revolution”? Did Robbie reassure you that everything was kosher straight away?
When I first read the script, it was really funny. And then I talked to Robbie about it and he had called Eric and Eric pitched another thing… there was some reference to his pilot he just made, which I think is called “Time,” and Robbie said originally there was a line where I said something like “we may not have enough Time” or something, but it was too much. [Laughs.] Eric was really into it, so I knew that going into it – it was approved.
What was the most satisfying aspect of being back?
My favorite part of watching it back was watching the fans’ reactions on Twitter as it aired, and literally seeing them get it in the way that we wanted them to get it – all the parts, all the bits. You never know when you put something out there, but that’s what’s so amazing about this fanbase, time and time again, they get it, and they get what we’re going for. So that was very gratifying. And the most satisfying part of doing it was getting to perform that song; it was a really emotional moment and a really powerful moment even when we shot it on set, so to see them all appreciate that was again, very gratifying.