While “Supernatural” has breathed new life into broadcast television, going strong for 300 episodes and counting, the culture the show has bred outside of the show’s content has also proven to be invaluable for its stars.
Prior to booking the role of eldest Winchester son Dean in 2005, Jensen Ackles was best known for his stint on daytime drama “Days of our Lives,” as well as the then-WB’s Superman prequel “Smallville.” Spending 14 seasons on “Supernatural” allowed him to hone emotional acting chops, as well as action ability, and it also gave him his directorial debut (in 2010). But beyond that, he started his own business (Family Business Beer Co., a play on the Winchester family business within the show) and grew to have a whole new appreciation for his audience.
“‘Fan’ I don’t necessarily think describes these people in the way they should be described; it really is a support system,” he says. “Yeah, they watch the show but they really go beyond that. They show up to these [conventions] and give us their feedback; they support us when we do a charitable fundraiser; they go above and beyond. They wear the merchandise; they collect the Funko dolls; there’s a bigger investment in their part. And it was very clear to see that we needed to give back and reinvest in them. And we wanted to, and it empowers us to go and take risks and chances and do things outside of the show.”
Jared Padalecki appeared as Rory Gilmore’s first boyfriend Dean throughout five seasons of “Gilmore Girls” before signing on to play the younger Winchester, Sam. His time on the show not only advanced his own acting and afforded him “economic opportunities [such as] getting to travel and see fans in several different countries,” he notes, but it also provided him with a safe environment to be open and honest about some of his personal struggles.
“Because of the show and the fandom I’ve been able to be open that I’m in a long-time relationship with anxiety,” he says. “You assume people are going to look up to you for your appearance or your facade [but] for me with the help of my cast and crew and the extended #SPNFamily I’ve been able to say, ‘No, this is who I am.’ It’s been super humbling, and I’m really proud of our #SPNFamily because it’s a really wonderfully supportive group.”
Misha Collins was best known for a role on “24,” as well as guest starring on everything from “ER” to “NCIS” before joining “Supernatural” in its fourth season. Like Ackles, he, too, made his television directorial debut on the show (in 2014), and like Padalecki, he has been able to showcase another side of himself: his charitable side. Collins co-founded Random Acts, a 501(c)3 that has raised money for countless charitable causes including getting a Syrian refugee family into housing, built a Children’s Center in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake and formed a crisis support network. He also started GISHWHES, a world-record holding scavenger hunt.
“I’ve always wanted to leave some sort of positive mark on the world,” Collins says. “It feels like a really lucky thing to be able to take the good aspects of this fandom and just laser-point it toward these specific projects and really make a big impact in particular people’s live.”