In “Devil’s Bargain,” the first episode of a recurring guest star stint, Ackles introduces her character of Sister Jo — and proves the titular devil’s bargain to be literal.
Ahead of her first “Supernatural” episode, Ackles talks with Variety about why Season 13 was the perfect time for her to appear on the show, how her faith healer differs from what we’ve seen in earlier seasons, and what the dynamic is like between Sister Jo and the Winchesters.
What was it about this time in the show’s history and your own life that made it the right moment to come on “Supernatural”?
The show has a huge fan based and they’re all on social media, and somebody pointed out to me that in 2006, on Twitter, I said that if “Supernatural” goes to Season 13, that’s when I’m going to guest star. And they screenshotted it and sent it back to me, so I guess the universe was like, “Yep, it’s time.” But I think it was just more the offer because before there had been some talk of going on and doing something like a demon or a sexy-something, and this particular role really interested me, and I thought it was good, and I don’t have to play a love interest of Jensen’s, so it works.
Is this marking a turning point for you, where you want to come back to acting?
You know, I would love to, but we have twin one-year-olds and a four-year-old and we just had another baby, which is our brewery we just opened about 30 days ago. So I would love to [and] if the opportunity came up, and it worked like this, great. This is fun, and literally we had all our kids in the trailer, and I was just running back and forth, and [Jensen] was the babysitter. It just worked.
How different is Sister Jo from previous faith healers the show has introduced?
She’s an extremely powerful faith healer — powerful enough that Lucifer finds out about her and is intrigued. He wants to elicit her help. She’s powerful enough that she’s able to negotiate with him, and that makes her different.
Where does Sister Jo fit in when it comes to the female characters on the show? Is there anyone you would compare her to when it comes to the type of strength or abilities she exhibits?
She’s definitely in line with all of the [women] in the “Wayward Sisters” spinoff. All of those female characters are so strong, and “Supernatural” is great about writing strong, female characters, and I feel like the majority of them hold their own. So I feel like in that she fits in with how “Supernatural” writes women.
What is it about her meeting with Lucifer that either inspires her to want to make a deal or forces her to have to make a deal?
Lucifer in “Supernatural” is very charming and kind of sexy in an offbeat way. She’s a very strong woman, and I think that he intrigues her. She’s attracted to him and his power. I think they kind of like that about each other.
How quickly do things go south?
I don’t know that yet. We have talked about doing another episode sometime before the end of the year, so we might find out then how it all ends up, but as of right now, I don’t know.
Obviously she encounters the Winchesters pretty quickly — what does the dynamic look like when she does?
It’s good. She ends up helping them in a way. Because Lucifer has found her, that then attracts the Winchesters. That’s how they end up meeting, and she ends up helping them track Lucifer.
Is she genuinely helping them find him, or is she more aligned with Lucifer?
I think we can think about her as more aligned with herself. She’s a faith healer, but also a businesswoman. She thinks about herself first, and if she can help out somebody along the way, great, but she is No.1.
In the past, the show has gotten very meta, winking at actors’ past works or relationships. Does that happen with you — little nods to either your marriage to Jensen or previous collaboration in “Ten Inch Hero”?
Good God, no! At least not “Ten Inch Hero.” But no, I think they kept it pretty clean.
Do you feel like that’s better for the character because it just lets her live in the world of the show on her own?
Absolutely. I think it worked really well with Jared [Padalecki’s] wife Gen — I think it was great when they did “The French Mistake;” it played perfectly because she was Ruby before she was his wife. And I think that’s kind of been done, so they wanted this to be cleaner and she can be a standalone character.
How was it stepping onto the set to work with all of these people — cast and crew — that you’ve developed such close relationships with through Jensen through the years?
Very surreal. It was great. Most of my scenes were with Mark Pellegrino, not really the guys too much, though we had a few things together. Jensen’s so supportive and he’s so sweet, and then we get to set and he’s like the big prankster — laughing, making faces at me behind the camera. And I’m like, “Please take it easy on me. I haven’t acted in, like, six years. I need professionalism.” So we had, I think, just the right amount of interaction, but it was fun — it was really fun.
The pranks come up all the time, but were you off-limits for any kind of hazing?
I think so. Nobody really pranked me except just acted really goofy during all of our scenes that were supposed to be really serious.
Aside from the personal relationship, you also worked with Jensen years ago. How did it feel to work with him again now?
Not that call sheet numbers matter, but when we did “Ten Inch Hero,” I was like No. 4 and he was like No. 27, and I think that dynamic has totally changed. Now he’s directed and Jensen knows “Supernatural” from behind the camera and in front of the camera, and all of the little nuances that make the show so great, so I just really leaned on him more than ever. “What do I do here? How is my pacing?” He is the show, and he knows that, so I just really leaned on him for direction, so if everyone hates it, it’s all his fault.
“Supernatural” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.