After a season away, DJ Qualls is returning to “Supernatural.” In both the world of the show, and Qualls’ own life, a lot has changed in the time that has passed. But now, he is celebrating the parallel journey he has taken with his hunter-werewolf character Garth.
Garth was first introduced in the seventh season episode “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!” as a hunter with whom Dean (Jensen Ackles) had to team up to save his brother Sam (Jared Padalecki) from an odd situation. His hunting style was very different from the Winchesters’, but he became a trusted ally as time went on. In the ninth season, the brothers visited Garth when they heard he was in the hospital, only to learn he had been turned into a werewolf. Although the brothers’ mission is to “save people and hunt things,” this was a gray area, since the “thing” they would have hunted was once a person they called a friend.
“I think it was important for Garth to live,” Qualls tells Variety. “We’re in a time right now where we’re having dialogues that we’ve never really had about, ‘This is who I am as a person and you’re doing things to make me feel less-than.’ People are becoming more and more receptive to listening to that and saying, ‘Am I doing those things to you? If I am, I’m sorry, I’m going to try to change the way I think and the way I behave.’ And this is a way our world mirrors that.”
While Garth had to adjust to a new life after becoming a werewolf, Qualls says he is learning to navigate a new normal for himself after coming out as gay while onstage during a comedy show earlier this month.
“That was a really hard thing I had been dragging around,” Qualls says of not living openly. “I had been reinforced by a lot of people in the entertainment industry who either told me not to do it or said really negative things in front of me when I was a young actor that assured me it wasn’t cool to be myself and if I wanted this job I couldn’t be that. Now we’re in a place where it’s a different world — and newly so. So when I was on set, I really did make that parallel. Garth is also ‘other’ in this world, and he loves these people that he wants to love him back, and it’s a really beautiful thing in the way that the boys and Garth have been able to navigate that. I want that for the rest of us in this world: ‘I’m not like you, but I love you anyway.'”
Qualls says that both his time shooting “Supernatural” up in Vancouver, Canada, where it is “much more liberal [and] people don’t generally say unkind things,” as well as the “positive feedback” he has already received since coming out has helped his journey.
“Your whole life is just a group of experiences and impressions, and at some point it doesn’t even matter if the fear you’re dragging around with you is applicable today — it’s of its own entity, and the only way to get rid of it is to confront it. So I wanted to do it, and I’m not going to make a meal of it, but just saying it, I do feel I’m in a place now where it’s brand new territory for me to be authentically who I am. It’s a weird thing, but it’s exciting, and I’m proud to be in this position at this time in my life,” he says.
The last the Winchesters — and the “Supernatural” audience by extension — saw Garth, his abilities had been amped up due to drinking some of the archangel Michael’s grace. He was spying on Michael to feed Dean and Sam intel but his true allegiance was found out and he ended up locked in a trunk of a car. “Obviously,” Qualls says, “he got out of the truck.”
After the experience with Michael, Qualls says, Garth went “back home with the resolve that that part of his life really is over, and it’s almost like he’s on a path to become an elder in this community of werewolves.” In the final season episode, “The Heroes’ Journey,” Garth’s life as a family man is fully explored: he’s a husband and a father to an older daughter and twin sons. He’s also a dentist who has a steady clientele of werewolves.
“He’s come into his own, and that’s what happens to us when we get older: the exchange for you creaking a bit or your back starting to hurt is that you get wise, and Garth has gotten wise,” Qualls says.
When Garth “runs into a spot of trouble and asks the boys to come see him,” he takes on a slightly paternal role towards Dean and Sam, he continues. And when Dean and Sam attempt to help, only to “run into a spot of trouble” themselves, Garth steps up to try to save them.
“He makes a choice, rightly or wrongly, that he’s willing to give up [his family] because he loves these boys so much, and they won’t let him. And that says a lot about who they all are,” Qualls says. But, “he’s able to be helpful in a way that he’s never been helpful before and also proves things to himself that he probably knew he could do but now he gets to show it to Sam and Dean. I think that means a lot to Garth, and he walks away from this episode with a lot of pride.”
Although Qualls admits that he doesn’t know if “The Heroes’ Journey” will be Garth’s last episode of the series, he says he is happy with the way it ends, should it be the end for him.
“This guy is just good and this world needs that — that sort of reliable goodness. I think he’s been treated really beautifully and really well and with a lot of humor, but never laughing at him,” he says. “When people think about Garth, the people who love the show, they always have a smile on their face. It’s just that throughline of kindness and patience. People cheered on Garth’s journey, and that’s been a really great thing as an actor.”
“Supernatural” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.