In 2005, a series began that would stun many by its incredible longevity. Supernatural told the story of Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), two brothers whose mother was killed by a demon. That brought them into a life with their father hunting various creatures across America. Driving in their Impala, the show was low-key at first playing into urban myths. But it has expanded to include battles with Heaven, Hell and a variety of figures from the Devil himself to even darker forces. The series has incredibly lasted 13 seasons and more planned, moving from the WB to the CW and remains a huge success. It’s long outlived creator Eric Kripke’s five-year plan and can still pull in fans. They love how the show can balance itself with some dark drama, gripping horror but also manages to have flat-out comedy. It’s inspired a passionate fan base that just doesn’t seem to want to give it up.
As one might suspect, there’s a lot that goes into making a show last this long. The actors are key as the chemistry of the two brothers is aided by how Ackles and Padelecki are best friends in real life. The writing and plotlines are also good and the way the series can poke fun at itself lends more to its fanbase. Over the years, there’s a lot about the show that may surprise people from the origins of popular characters to various trivia bits. It’s amazing to see and even Comic-Con has the actors sharing plenty of great stuff from the set, and show just how well they get along with fans. Here are 20 behind the scenes secrets and why it looks like Supernatural might “Carry On” for quite a while.
20 The Fun Cameos
As one can expect, the show has had a few notable actors over the course of its 13 season run. The best ones are the stars who actually poke fun at themselves. One season 5 episode had the brothers hunting a renegade god on Earth who takes the form of Paris Hilton. In a fun scene, Hilton rants on how her kind was once worshipped but now people worship vapid reality stars and rich people who contribute nothing to society. It’s not hard to see the obvious parallels and Hilton showed she was a good sport poking fun at her own “famous for being famous” aura. Hilton herself tweeted how much she loved the role and gave props to the actors. Even those who weren’t fans of Hilton did enjoy the scene as producer Sera Gamble admitted to the Chicago Tribune that “we were shocked she went for it.”
Bigger was Snooki, the infamous star of Jersey Shore. The sixth season premiere has a freshly revived Sam hearing Dean talk about the show and asking “what’s a Snooki?” Snooki immediately tweeted that rather than be insulted, she loved the shout-out as she was a fan. The producers saw that and so in season nine, Sam and Dean are stunned to find Snooki answering a demonic summoning (“Well, that explains a lot,” Dean deadpans). It turns out the demon is using Snooki as she agreed to be a “meat suit” in exchange for her fame. She has a brief talk with them before they exorcise the demon with her looking wonderfully annoyed. She tweeted how much she loved it all and shows celebrities above letting themselves be mocked for the show.
19 They Use a Lot of Method Acting
A highlight of the series DVDs is a blooper reel which shows how easily the cast can lose it. That’s especially true in some nuttier scenes. For a sequence where a teddy bear is brought to life as a morose figure, they needed about two dozen takes before the actors could stop cracking up. It plays into other scenes and shows the great chemistry the actors have. This leads to a lot of stuff where they’re encouraged to improvise and often use “enforced method acting” to make a scene better. That was brought up right in the pilot where Jared leaps out to pull Ackles into a hotel room and really did surprise him before he was ready.
For the first Castiel scenes, Misha Collins was told to get in as close as he could to the other actors without the actors knowing he would. Collins explained to the Nerdist that he wanted to show how Castiel was unused to human interaction and thus not getting the concept of “personal space”. He felt it would be better not to let Ackles know about it first. Even guest star Mitch Pileggi got into it, sniffing Ackles’ neck without warning to get the right expression for Dean in that scene. Another fun bit was the script calling for a tripped-out Dean to sing “Eye of the Tiger” in the car. Ackles turned it into a full-fledged dance performance that had to be in the episode. It keeps up to show that a lot of fun scenes in the show aren’t scripted at all.
18 Even They Didn’t Want to Lose Charlie
One of the most beloved low-level characters of the show was Charlie Bradbury Played by popular genre actress Felicia Day, the quirky hacker showed up in season 7, finding out her boss was an evil demon and the Winchesters had to bail her out. She came off fantastic, with a fun humor and she was actually the rare woman not putting up with Dean’s charms (mostly as she played for the other team). The character had more unique appearances, including being split into two halves and seemed to get a happy ending by living with Dorothy (yes, of the Wizard of Oz fame) in a great send-off.
This made it harsher when she returned in season 10 and suffered a horrific fate at the hands of the family that inspired the Frankenstein legend. The backlash was massive with fans ripping into producer/writer Jeremy Carver for doing it. His defense was “It was where the story took us”, and it was not well-received. Stories abounded of the other actors not happy with the decision, and Misha Collins even took to Instagram to confirm it, saying “it’s just comical how bad everybody thinks that decision was and if I don’t see the proof right in front of my eyes I’m going to blow up.” At Comic-Con, when Carver was asked about it, not only was he booed but the rest of the cast visible turned their backs on him. An alternate universe version of the character recently popped up but even the actors think losing the real deal was a bad move
17 The “Theme Song”
Music is, of course, a key thing for Supernatural. Jay Gruska provides a great score to capture all the thrills and chills to enhance the dramatic scenes. There’s also plenty of rock songs as well, as Dean and Sam are fans of classic rock stuff, and Dean prefers old-style cassette tapes for the Impala. In fact, when Sam put an iPod in the card, Dean literally tossed it out. There is one song, however, that is identified with the show: “Wayward Son” by Kansas. Every season finale begins with a recap of the year with the line “the road so far” and the song playing as it brings folks up to speed and sets things up. It was even made a part of the 200th musical episode to show how it’s become so identified with the series.
Creator Erick Kripke has explained on Twitter that his family had an old jukebox in the basement and he fell in love with the song. It was just used for a lark for the first finale (back when they weren’t sure how long the show would last) and has become a tradition ever since. It reached its height at the 2017 Comic Con where a scene of the brothers getting into their car led to Kansas making a surprise appearance to perform the song live for the packed crowd. Fans now link the show with the song. This shows just how important music is to a show.
16 The Fans Are the Reason the Brothers Are Single
Genre shows tend to lean toward male viewers. Supernatural is different as its demographics are largely female. The reason, of course, is obvious: It has two incredibly handsome male leads who quite often go shirtless. Misha Collins even did a tweet on how “it’s the self-help show of two underwear models who fight demons” and few can argue with him. Both Ackles and Padalecki have taken their shirts off a lot and Collins has joined them too. Originally, Dean was to have a tattooed body but Eric Kripke joked at a convention “you want to cover that chest up?” That’s just led to more popularity with female viewers which has shifted stories.
It’s obvious neither brother has a good track record when it comes to romance. Each has lost slews of loves either through violence or letting them go. For a time, Dean was actually out of the hunting life, living a good life with a woman and her son. But when they came into danger, he had to let them forget all about him so they would be safe. More than once, Kripke is asked at conventions why the boys are so unlucky in love and is blunt that the female fans just don’t like the idea of either being “off the table.” So it’s the fans’ own fault for why the guys have such crummy love lives.
15 The Brothers Could Have Been Switched
It’s notable how so many actors on the show auditioned in different ways. Misha Collins thought he was going in for the role of a one-episode demon, not an angelic character. He also created the idea of Castiel having a growling voice, unaware he would be using it for so long and telling Variety, “I love the role but it’s hell on my voice.” Jeffrey Dean Morgan is loved as John Winchester but was actually the third choice after Marc Singer and genre icon Bruce Campbell both passed on the role. But the biggest has to be the fact that, had things gone differently, the brothers could be playing each other.
Jensen Ackles did indeed audition for the role of Sam with the idea his good looks could help fans connect with him. By all reports (and video footage from the series DVDs), Ackles did look good in the part. However, Eric Kripke decided Ackles had a natural funny humor that leant itself more to the sardonic Dean and asked him to go for that role. Jared had already auditioned and it was felt the chemistry between them was stellar enough for him to land the role of Sam. So as hard as it is to believe, the two actors could have switched roles to make this series look a lot different today.
14 Bobby’s Name Change
One of the single most loved characters of the show is Bobby Singer. A veteran hunter, Bobby has become a second father to Sam and Dean who taught them hunting and gives them support. Played by Jim Beaver, Bobby was adored for his gruff manner and humor (constantly calling the brothers “idjits” for their antics) but also has a good heart and loves them like his own sons. However, the character almost didn’t come to be. Originally, the season 1 finale was to have Sam and Dean going to seek aid from recurring character Missouri Mosley. However, actress Loretta Devine wasn’t available so they created Bobby instead. Before they knew it, fans were demanding more and the character was a hit.
His name was an issue as for a while, as he was known as just Bobby. Executive producer Eric Kripke wanted Beaver’s character to be named Bobby Manners after late producer Kim Manners. But as it happens, there really was a Bobby Manners living in South Dakota. So Kripke named him after the other main producer Robert Manners, joking at conventions that “Bob, to his eternal chagrin, wasn’t in that day.” It led to a character so loved that he pops up even after death and how an accidental character became a loved one for fans.
13 There’s More Than One Baby
Besides the Winchesters, there is one character that’s key to the show: Baby, Dean’s beloved 1969 Chevy Impala. It’s an icon of the show, the car the brothers use for their travels and Dean treats as his kid. One unique episode was told literally from the point of view of the car and how it handled everything: from a joyride with one of Dean’s flings to a demonic fight. Amazingly, the original concept was a 1965 Ford Mustang. However, that was too expensive for the show’s original budget. So they bought the Impala from a family in New Jersey (which was only the second car they ever owned) who got a kick seeing it on TV. A fun episode involving an altered timeline paid tribute to the original idea by Sam and Dean driving a Mustang.
The car is treated well on the show but there is more than one version. In fact, there are six although only two work: The “hero” version is the one used for the driving scenes and specially designed to hold in the cameras and mics. The “Stunt” version, as the name indicates, is used for action scenes like demon attacks and chases. The other versions are backups usually used for promotional photos and background items. One time, a stunt driver accidentally sent the Impala into a ditch and Jensen threw a fit that would make Dean proud and thus created a rule that only he gets to drive the car. So even the actors love the automobile as much as the fans do.
12 Mark Shepherd Isn’t a Fan of the Show Now
The series has a knack for introducing low-level characters who become favorites. A key example has to be Crowley. This suave British demon pops up as a guy who loves making deals although the drawback is ten years afterward, you get mauled by demon dogs and your soul stolen. Played by veteran actor Mark Sheppard, the character clicked with his dry dark humor and mocking of the brothers. While evil, he could be smart as he would aid in stopping an Apocalypse as he didn’t want to lose customers and had an odd honor (in a classic line, he rips into a character who is cheating on deals with “This isn’t Wall Street, this is Hell! We have a little something called integrity!”) He eventually rose up to become the King of Hell and doing well in the job with his genius lines. He even got depth by introducing conflicts with his witch mother and becoming something of an ally.
The 12th season finale had Crowley reaching the end of the road as he sacrificed himself to save the brothers in an alternate dimension. It sounds like it may not have been on the best of terms. When producer Jim Michaels sent out a tweet on “never say never” to Crowley returning, Sheppard fired back “With all due respect, your comment is inaccurate and misleading to the fans. There are NO plans to have me return to SPN at ANY juncture.” No one is sure why but it sounds like the former demon isn’t exactly the show’s biggest fan right now and one wonders what dark secrets he carries.
11 Jared’s Real Injury Had to Be Written In
As one might guess, the series involves a lot of stuntwork. Sure, the brothers may have makeup to look battered and bruised but more than once, they’ve suffered some real cuts and such with stunt work. Notable, however, is that sometimes injuries happen off set. While filming the very first season back in 2005, Ackles and Padalecki found themselves in a bar brawl. As Jared explained to the Toronto Sun, “when we started hearing them talking about the fight, we decided it was best to leave, but when we went back to the front, the guys there thought we were some of the guys they had been fighting with so they basically continued the fight again." The two got out of it okay but both have suffered. Ackles, for example, broke his wrist taking a fall in season two.
It looks like the guys love to roughhouse as well which can be tricky. One time, Collins knocked Ackles into a wall which is why an episode has Dean sporting a bandage with no explanation. The biggest was in 2014 when Jared found himself wrestling Orsic Chau (who plays seer Kevin) and ended up dislocating his shoulder. It was written into the first episodes of Sam suffering an injury fighting a demon and wearing his arm in a sling. Looks like all the damage of demons are nothing compared to what the cast can do to themselves.
10 Who Ruby Was Going To Be
On the series, demons take over the bodies of humans to walk the Earth (using the term “meat suit” for it). Thus, the brothers have to be careful handling humans at times, knowing they’re innocents being used and occasionally able to save a life. Among the biggest foes has been Ruby, a twisted demoness who actually aids the brothers against a bigger threat. She showed up as a wicked woman at first but then helping against a big foe. She is expelled from her human host who dies but returns in a new body. Originally, the actress the producers wanted in the role was one that would have been a huge favorite for TV fans: Kristen Bell.
The timing was right as Bell had just finished her breakout role in the beloved detective series Veronica Mars. The writers created the part specifically for Bell, giving Ruby a lot of sass and sarcasm. However, Bell turned the part down as, while liking the show, she wasn’t sure of taking on a demonic character and turned it down. The part thus went to Katie Cassidy (now seen on Arrow) and then later by Genevieve Cortese. Bell, of course, has gone on to a great career and starring on The Good Place but notable how close she came to joining the Supernatural world.
9 They Can’t Even Use Real Fake Badges
A drawback of the hunter life is that Dean and Sam can’t be up front on what they do. Thus, the authorities tend to think of them as either criminals or even hunted as psychotic murderers. That doesn’t stop them from impersonating federal agents to learn more about a case. They do a good job of it with the running gag that they always use the alias of some famous rock band or movie stars for their covers. Perry and Tyler, Ford and Hamill and even dragged Castiel into posing as Agents Crosby, Stills and Nash. Every now and then, they’re caught but amazingly are able to get away with it. However, while one would think they can be just FBI, they’re not and for a good reason.
The next time they flash their IDs, pause and look closely. They may have FBI initials but the names can be things like “Department of Investigation” or another play on Justice. The reason for that is because it’s illegal to have a copy of an FBI badge, even for a TV show. It’s not alone as other shows involving the FBI also have to change the details so they’re not an exact replica. Filming in Canada gives leeway but the badges are still altered so the show doesn’t commit a real crime.
8 Castiel Was a Software King
Incredibly, Castiel was never supposed to be a major character. The series had played with Heaven and Hell for a bit (after all, demons had to come from somewhere) but it was still something when in season four, Dean discovered he’d been brought out of Hell by an actual angel. Castiel was only supposed to be around for a few episodes and then leaving with the idea of other angel characters helping. But fans loved Misha Collins’ performance so much that he became a mainstay of the series. Naturally, folks were looking into his past work and trying to find his previous credits…but there almost were none.
Born in Boston, Collins had been in politics, even interring in the Clinton White House. He moved into acting in various minor roles but was also building a good company making educational software. He was thinking of sticking to that even as he got short parts in various TV shows before Supernatural came along. Since then, Castiel is a key to the series and Collins has been loved by fans for his banter and fun drive. He still does a lot of charity stuff, and fans are grateful he did not dedicate his time to computers.
7 The Background Bits
The series just adores throwing in unique background tidbits and “Easter eggs” for fans to enjoy. The most notable is the clock. At least once an episode you’ll see a huge clock with a sun-ray motif in the background. It can be in a house, a diner, an office building, it’s always there. No one is sure where it came from but somehow, it just ended up being used over and over and when fans started catching it, the producers kept it in. It continues as you can also see a deer’s head being used in many episodes. It can be a stuffed piece or a decal or even a sports mascot but it’s a tribute to the wildlife of Canada where the show films.
In recent seasons, Sam and Dean stumbled upon a bunker used by the Men of Letters, an organization dedicated to hunting demons. They use it as a base and the producers go wild on throwing background bits into it. John Marcynuk, Supernatural’s art director, told the Nerdist that he was basically given carte blanche to fill the place out as it’s gone from just two rooms to a huge center. He saw it as a way to put in items from past episodes as a trophy room and has called it “the show’s Enterprise.” It shows how the series loves to throw in bits for fans to use the freeze-frame for.
6 They Only Use One House
As it’s the CW, the budget for Supernatural has never been that huge. Most of that has to be saved for the CGI/makeup for the demons and other bits and thus saving money is a must. The entire budget for the first season of the show? $200,000. There are shows today who spend twice that much on a single episode. Which is why the show has been careful in utilizing sets and other bits in unique ways. That includes how they find themselves constantly reusing the same set. Whenever they do something at a hospital, it’s always the Riverview Hospital in British Columbia. It’s been a hospital, an asylum, and various other places, its huge halls lending itself well to spooky locations.
Even wilder, however, is that the show has only one house. It was first used as Bobby Singer’s home, a huge place packed with various items and looking old enough to be lived in for a while. While they use an outdoor place for exterior shots, the main house is a soundstage. It’s designed so that, whenever needed, they can break it up, rework the layout and then use it for everything from a suburban home to a cabin. The series has found a bigger place with Dean and Sam living in a bunker but whenever you see them in a house, just know it’s basically the same piece of real estate with a mild makeover.
5 The Trench Coat Budget
One thing that helps out Supernatural in terms of budget is its lack of need for a fancy wardrobe. As they’re on the road constantly, Dean and Sam naturally wear almost the same sets of jeans and leather jackets with rough shirts. They do need to replace sets torn up in their fights but overall prefer to stick to this low-key look. They only get fancier with the suits they use when impersonating federal agents. However, Castiel has forced the budget to change. As fans know, the angel is using the body of a human to be on Earth and thus has kept to the same outfits. This includes the trench coat which is now an iconic part of the character.
Eric Kripke based the idea on the famous DC Comic character John Constantine (who can now be seen on the CW show Legends of Tomorrow). Collins had flown to Vancouver for his audition and, eager for the job, basically agreed to the very first outfit they put him in. At various fan conventions, Collins gets a laugh by dryly noting that “had I known this would be the only outfit I would wear for the next decade, I might have put more thought into it.” As it turns out, it takes a lot to make those coats look good (no matter how damaged they are, they always appear fresh later). The producers have stated they’ve run through literally a thousand such coats over the seasons but it’s worth it given how it’s now a staple of the show.
4 There’s a Real Phone Number Used
The classic bit in TV is that when you see a phone number, there’s always a “555” area code to it. That’s to make it easier and prevent fans from calling that number up for real. However, Supernatural has played with that motif nicely. However, in “Phantom Traveler,” when father John gives out a phone number, it’s a real one. Naturally, fans had to call and were greeted by a message from Dean: This is Dean Winchester. If this is an emergency, leave a message. If you’re calling about 11-2-83, please page me with your coordinates.” As every fan of the show knows, that was the date the boys’ mother was killed by a demon which kicked the entire show off.
Later, it was changed to fit the storyline where the boys are tracking their missing father: “Dad, we really need to hear from you. Leave me a message, text me, check your jwinchester1246 gmail. Anything. We have new info.” The producers thought this would be a fun thing for the fans but were unprepared for one thing: The phone kept ringing constantly during shoots and ruining scenes. They’re not alone as Misha Collins once gave out his phone number to answer fan questions. Those who did were met by Collins’ unique sense of humor. It shows how they love to connect with fans in various ways.
3 They Love Mocking the Fan…And Themselves
A recurring theme in the show is Sam and Dean discovering that someone has written a series of novels on their lives. This has allowed the show to take some shots not just on their fandom but on themselves. For example, Dean is thrown finding the various fanfiction about them, including Sam and Dean as a couple (“they know we’re brothers, right?”). He also gets the great line on “for fans they sure do like to complain a lot.” They even go to a big fan convention and put up with shots on their adventures being far-fetched. A later episode has Dean explaining the events of the last couple of seasons to one of the book fans who laughs “that’s the worst fan fiction I’ve ever heard.” They’ve even used it to mock some of the worst written episodes of the show.
A bigger example is the 200th episode “Fan Fiction” where Dean and Sam see fans doing a musical based on their lives. Writer Robbie Thompson told MTV that “we knew it was an opportunity to make fun of ourselves and kind of celebrate the show in the way that only 'Supernatural' can.” The cast and crew insist any shots they take on fans are purely in fun. The fans enjoy it just as much as the cast does, and really, the best thing about the show is that it is not afraid to point out its own faults.
2 A Real-Life Marriage wrote off a Show One
It’s always intriguing when a TV romance turns into a real-life one. The fourth season of Supernatural has Dean returning from the dead to find Sam hooked up with a waitress. She was played by Genevieve Cortese, best known as the star of ABC Family’s first original drama series Wildfire. It soon turned out she was the latest host of the brothers’ old demonic frenemy Ruby who was helping Sam deal with new abilities. She and Jared Padalecki had a good chemistry. As it happened, it wasn’t just on screen. The two were soon dating and got pretty serious quickly. A plotline being tossed around was for Sam and Ruby to be married although i, of course, course have complications. However, in 2009, Padalecki popped the question and the showrunners decided having them get married for the series would be “too cheesy.”
Instead, it turned out Ruby was using Sam all along to free a bigger demon and ended up getting killed. A hilarious episode has Sam and Dean in a world where they’re Padalecki and Ackles, where they are written as very egotistical actors. They’re naturally rocked to find Sam married to “Ruby” with Cortese doing a fun job with herself as an icy wife. In real life, the duo have a great marriage with three children and love showing it off on social media. Sam may not have the best romantic luck on the show but he did land a great woman off-screen.
1 The Scooby-Doo Episode Was Harder Than It Looked
Supernatural fans are used to wild episodes. But nothing could possibly top Season 13’s “Scooby-Natural.” Thanks to a magical television, Dean and Sam are sucked into an animated world where they meet the iconic cartoon character. It’s based on a real Scooby-Doo episode but takes a turn when some folks are really murdered. Thus, you have the Winchesters having to educate the Mystery Machine gang on how this is a real monster, not some guy in a costume. The episode is an utter delight with Dean loving this cartoon world, hitting on Daphne, and there are some nice throwbacks to music. Fans couldn’t believe it was pulled off and it quickly has become one of the most popular episodes of the series.
The idea had been kicking around for years and they finally got the okay from Warner Bros. However, it was trickier than it seemed “There are more steps to this process — animatics, voice recordings — and you’re getting feedback along the way, but we’ve been along so long that, to their credit, they trusted us and let us have some fun,” executive producer Andrew Dabb told Variety. Padalecki and Ackles did their voice work in April of 2017, almost a year before the episode actually aired and the animated portions had to capture the feel of the cartoon while still maintaining a Supernatural vibe. Plus, Dabb wanted to ensure the Scooby-Doo characters were treated right. It all came together for a great episode that showcases how fun the show can be.
Sources: Supernaturalwikia, The Nerdist