For the last few years CW president Mark Pedowitz has said the networks’ long-running drama “Supernatural” will end when its stars, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, are ready to say goodbye — and only then. The duo has been on the show for 13 years, outlasting three showrunners and quite a few other writers, producers, and supporting cast members. They are authorities on their characters as much as the current executive producers — but they do not also hold producer titles of their own.
“We’re not in it for the personal glory,” Padalecki told Variety at the show’s PaleyFest event on Tuesday. “I have a lot of thoughts on the storylines, but when you have producers like Bob Singer and Andrew Dabb and Eugenie [Ross-Leming] and Brad [Buckner], you kind of just go, ‘I’m not the coach.’ I signed up as an actor, and I love my job as an actor.”
Ackles has stepped behind the scenes a handful of times to direct — and he says he wants to do that more in the future — but neither have asked for any other above the line behind-the-scenes responsibilities.
“We know what we do, they pay us very well to do it, that would be just a cursory type of thing,” Ackles said to Variety.
Still, both Ackles and Padalecki admit to often stepping back and looking at the big picture of a scene and offering their opinions on how it can be done better — and to the show’s production team’s credit, they both say that has been welcomed.
“It’s a mutual respect thing. They trust us, and we trust them,” Padalecki said. “There was one scene where we showed up on set, and we started reading through it and thought it was all wrong. ‘You read my lines, and I’ll read your lines.’ And so we did it the other way, and that was it.”
The duo then went to Singer, who was directing the episode, and asked him to listen to them read the scene saying the line that were originally meant for the other. He did, and he agreed that they were right.
“We do a lot of problem-solving on set, we do a lot of quality control, we keep the tone on set, and we take that very seriously — we feel very responsible for it,” Ackles said. “However, it works. And I think that’s something where they’re like, let’s not reinvent the wheel. Whatever we’re doing is working. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
However, in the back half of the 13th season of the series, both Ackles and Padalecki are finding other ways to experience new challenges to stay engaged with the storytelling and “love coming to work every day.”
For Ackles, that comes in the form of “playing a new character” as the season winds to a close, as well as seeing his long-time character of Dean on an upswing for a change.
“Dean was certainly out of sorts in the beginning [of this season]. There was a lot of loss in his life, and he was kind of at a loss. He didn’t quite know what road to take and how to get there and what to do when he got there,” Ackles said. “As the season progresses and they start getting wins, then he starts to get his confidence back, he starts to get his motivation back, and he starts to get excited about what the game plan is. As we get close to the end of the season here, we’ll start to see Dean step up in a big way.”
Padalecki notes that Sam is still struggling with the questions of what he’s here for and what he’s doing and why, especially in moments when he can’t save everybody. But it is this introspective version of Sam that Padalecki enjoys exploring.
“If he saves a million people but fails at saving three, he’s going to focus on the three,” Padalecki said, noting that Sam is a protagonist that “beats himself down” ala the Joseph Campbell and “Harry Potter” mythologies of the world. “Sam is the type to really beat himself up over his failures more than he loves himself over his successes. So as we saw [recently], Sam said, ‘Hey we can’t save everybody,’ so hopefully he’ll deal with that. He’s going to the nth degree this season to give it all he’s got and try to make this world a better place, and to me, that’s exciting.”
“Supernatural” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.