‘Supernatural’ Bros Reunite! Jensen Ackles on Directing Jared Padalecki’s ‘Walker’

Supernatural reunion on Walker
Q&A
Rebecca Brenneman/The CW

It’s finally here, folks! The Winchester boys are back in town, and while they aren’t sharing any actual time on screen, former Supernatural brothers Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have teamed up once again, with Ackles directing this week’s episode of Walker.

Ahead of the hour — entitled “No Such Thing as Fair Play” and featuring a performance by Kansas — we had a quick chat with the ever-insightful Ackles about, well, a bunch because he’s awesome. Some of it we saved to avoid spoiling the episode, so look for more on Thursday night! And, by the way, he was calling from the New Orleans set of The Winchesters‘ pilot!

Well hello! How have you been?!

Jensen Ackles: Busy! Honestly, I thought after Supernatural, it would be like, “Oh, sweet, just gonna sit by a pool or a beach.” And yeah, no. I feel like I’m twice as busy as I was two years ago. [Laughs]

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The show focuses on Mary Campbell and John Winchester, played by Samantha Smith and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the original series.

Neither you nor Jared knows how to just take a break.

No, and I feel like that’s very telling as to why the show went 15 years. We are just workhorses. It’s in our blood, it’s in our DNA. We keep our heads down and we just keep going.

Originally, you were supposed to direct an earlier episode once you finished with The Boys up in Toronto, but after the tragic incident on Rust, that got rescheduled, and for good reason. So how did they land on this episode and did you get a say in it?

It was kind of the same way that they did in the beginning. They said, “Hey, these are several episodes that we don’t have a director for yet, and these are the potential dates in which they would prep and shoot and post,” you know? Then you pick one. And so I had originally picked the one back in November, thinking that that would time out perfectly. I would be done with The Boys, then I came home and did Rust in Santa Fe and then the tragedy struck. I was supposed to literally wrap on the movie and have, I think two days before I started prep on Walker.

And I was ready to do it, you know? For some reason, it was almost like I needed to get back on a set, right? I needed to get back on the horse. Everybody deals with trauma in their own way and I felt like this was how I was gonna deal with the situation: I would work through it. And even though that may have worked for me, doing it would have been insensitive and I thought, “You know, why don’t we just take a beat? I can’t handle this like I handle everything else and just shove it down and keep going.”

Rebecca Brenneman/The CW

And so I took a beat and spent time with my family and coped and healed and dealt with it. Obviously, they were very accommodating on Walker, without question. Then they told me the dates after the new year that were available if I, in fact, wanted to come back and still try to do one. And I said, absolutely. I looked at the dates and I was like, “Man, 214 would be really great…but you say, you’ve got somebody for that?” And they said they had Austin Nichols [who played Clint West] lined up and I was like, “Oh, I’m getting Austin to switch to me!” [Laughs] So Austin, God love him, he took a later one so that I could do this one.

So it really is who you know?

Yeah, it really is! [Laughs] I’m so thankful that Austin was able to rearrange a little bit for me and I was able to come in and do this episode. We knocked it out super fast and I will say, you know, it wasn’t Supernatural. I was like, “Wait a second, where’s the car chase? Where’s the big giant demon we’re supposed to kill? Where’s the green-screen stage? Like, what am I missing here? Oh right, this is a family drama!” [Laughs]

I’m guessing with Austin attached to the original version, the appearance by Kansas probably wasn’t part of the plan?

That was something that kind of came about late in the game and they ended up writing to it. It just so happened to fall in perfect harmony with the schedule and I actually did end up shooting it before I was supposed to be filming the episode. I shot it in prep. So it wasn’t in perfect harmony with the schedule, but it was close enough to where we could make it work.

Walker- Jensen Ackles + Jared Padalecki

Rebecca Brenneman/The CW

And at this point, you and Jared are basically band members, right?

I mean, essentially. Yeah, like I could easily step in and hit a high note if I needed to. [Laughs]

I’m sure everyone was asking what was it like working with Jared again, but I’m figuring you guys see each other all the time when you’re back home in Texas. But what was it like working on his set? Because this is an entirely different environment than what you guys were working on before.

Right. I’ll give a lot of credit to Jared. He gave a speech to the crew. I forget what day it was, we were a few days into filming… it was my birthday! That’s what it was. Yes, I spent my birthday on set with Jared yet again. [Laughs] I don’t even know how many that is, I’ve lost count. But he basically said, “Hey guys, I just wanna gather up and say we are all here not just because I did a show for 15 years, but it’s because I did it with him. And he is 50 percent responsible for why we’re all working on this show right now. It’s because of the success and the foundation that he and I built together.” And I thought that was so cool. I was walking a little taller that day. It was very sweet and so typical of Jared to give some good shoutouts and some honor. He certainly didn’t have to, but he does it because he’s that guy.

So, yeah, I felt like I was certainly a guest in somebody else’s house, but a very welcome, comfortable, familiar house.

For more on Ackles’ visit to Walker, hit up TV Insider after his episode airs!

Walker, Thursdays, 8/7c, The CW