Jensen Ackles on Harnessing the Power of the ‘Supernatural’ Fanbase, Dean’s ‘Dire’ Decisions

The stars of “Supernatural” are no strangers to supporting charitable causes, with Misha Collins even co-founding his own non-profit organization to facilitate Random Acts of kindness, but in the tenth season of the beloved horror series, lead actors Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have become even more involved in raising money and engaging with their passionate fanbase — launching several T-shirt campaigns through Represent.com.

After debuting solo projects, the duo have joined forces for a joint T-shirt design, and Ackles spoke to Variety about why he felt that now was the right time to harness the energy of their socially-conscious fans for numerous good causes.

“I did the first campaign and that was more testing the water — I know [‘Arrow’ star Stephen] Amell has done one, Mark Sheppard has done one, Misha’s done one, and I didn’t have a cause that I was really fighting for, so it was more like ‘okay, well, I’ll see how much the fans want a t-shirt that I helped design, and then I’ll just put the money into a fund and use it for charity down the road,'” Ackles explained. “So that started the idea of creating a fund that fans could either donate to or we could raise money for that we could then utilize, and then we could get involved with more than one cause or charity — we could start spreading the wealth a little bit. That essentially gave us the idea for the second campaign.”

The new project utilizes the same message as Padalecki’s first campaign, “Always Keep Fighting,” which he felt inspired to start after losing a friend to suicide after a battle with depression. “He’d had friends that have dealt with depression and he’s even had a couple of bouts with it himself and been more than happy to talk about it, so it was like a perfect storm, so he jumped on that and I’m glad he did, because it really inspired a lot of people to see just how powerful the ‘Supernatural’ fans can be when that energy is harnessed and that movement and inspiration is harnessed,” Ackles said. “That inspired us to be like ‘you know what? Why don’t we see if we can get together and do something — instead of just for one particular cause or one particular charity, let’s see if we can’t raise money and then throughout the year get involved with multiple charities, multiple funds, and maybe alongside Random Acts at times as well — start joining forces with them as well since they have such a big, strong reach and such a well-established program over there.’ We thought that it would just be foolish not to at least harness this and start using this for as much good as we can.”

With their powers combined, the two have sold over 53,000 T-shirts through the new campaign so far (they started with the modest goal of selling 1,000), and according to Ackles, “We’ve established the fund and it’s in its infancy right now, and once the campaign is over and the funds start getting transferred, we’ll get a website up telling you what causes we’re getting behind, what charities we’ve vetted and we’re using this money for. It was just a way of collecting this power and energy that the fans have created and spreading it around.”

And while Padalecki and Ackles are fighting to make the world a better place off-screen, their characters are currently engaged in one of the most personal battles of their lives on “Supernatural,” with Ackles’ Dean still trying to resist succumbing to the Mark of Cain, a tenacious spell that is slowly but surely sapping his humanity.

In the run up to the May 20 finale, Ackles teased, “In true Dean fashion — because this is a product of his own choices — he’s being good old-fashioned stubborn Dean and wants to handle it himself, because he doesn’t want to hurt anybody else or be hurt by anybody else. He wants to go it alone and deal with it the only way he feels like he can, and unfortunately, that’s not gonna last very long, because he can’t deal with it. This is a power that is not something that he can control; it’s not something that he can fight back — as we saw with Cain [Timothy Omundson]. At the very end of that big fight sequence with Cain and Dean, when Dean [says], ‘please tell me that you can stop?’ and Cain says ‘I will never stop,’ it was just the verification that Dean needed to know that this is not something that he’s going to be able to control. So at this point, it’s like this slow decline in his will to survive.”

But Sam (Padalecki) isn’t about to give up on Dean — a decision that Ackles said will have major repercussions once Dean finds out the lengths his brother has been going to in order to try and free him of the Mark of Cain. “It obviously comes to a head; Dean figures out what’s going on behind his back and confronts Sam about it, in a way that only Dean does,” he admitted. “It’s kind of the final straw — Dean knows that even if he forces Sam to stop helping Dean fight this, Sam’s not gonna stop, and Sam’s going to put himself in danger by not stopping… that unfortunately forces Dean to make some pretty dire decisions.”

“Supernatural” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW. Come back to Variety next week for more from Ackles on the Season 10 finale.

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