‘The Winchesters’ Stars Tease the ‘Supernatural’ Love Story of the Spinoff

Meg Donnelly, Jensen Ackles, and Drake Rodger in 'The Winchesters'
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Supernatural fans can now rejoice. We know you’ve been missing TV’s longest-running fantasy series, but good news: There’s plenty of monster hunting, road tripping, rock ’n’ roll, sarcastic quips, and guest stars from the mothership ahead as the cult horror show prepares to welcome a new prequel, The Winchesters, to the massively beloved SPN universe.

And it’s in great hands. Jensen Ackles, SPN’s beer-swilling demon hunter Dean Winchester, older brother to Jared Padalecki’s bookish Sam, is executive producing, alongside his wife, Danneel (SPN angel Sister Jo), and SPN producer Robbie Thompson. Ackles notes that the “winning formula” for a great Supernatural series, however, goes deeper than the details — it’s about family and love. “All the demons and the car and the music and the dark alleys are great and fun, but [in Supernatural] it’s all being painted on the canvas of the relationship of the two brothers.” And for The Winchesters, he adds, “we’re definitely trying to make [a central relationship] the engine of the show.”

But instead of Sam and Dean, we’re driving into 1972 to meet the younger version of their badass parents — Vietnam War veteran John Winchester (Drake Rodger) and trained demon hunter Mary Campbell (American Housewife’s Meg Donnelly) — before they fell in love.

Meg Donnelly and Drake Rodger in 'The Winchesters'

(Credit: Matt Miller/The CW)

“When Danneel and I came up with this crazy idea,” Jensen says, “we would have been hard-pressed to find another set of characters that made more sense in spinning Supernatural off. Whether Mary and John are beloved or hated, the audience has an emotional attachment to them.”

Jensen, as the irrepressible Dean, also appears in and narrates the series. Dean is on a hiatus from Heaven — with his 1967 Chevy Impala — to track his future parents’ lives and chronicle them for his younger brother, though he is heard more than seen due to Ackles’ role as Sheriff Beau Arlen on the ABC drama Big Sky: Deadly Trails.

Wisely, The Winchesters covers both sides of its horror and family-drama roots in its first two scenes. Filmed in and around New Orleans, the action opens in a spooky cemetery where a fearsome creature chases Mary’s father, hunter Samuel Campbell (originally played by Mitch Pileggi; his face is unseen here as the role has yet to be cast). Without revealing the outcome, the mood quickly shifts, showing fans the memorable tale of how John and Mary met, literally bumping into each other in front of a movie theater in their Lawrence, Kansas, hometown.

Jensen Ackles in 'The Winchesters'

(Credit: Matt Miller/The CW)

Casting the 19-year-old Mary and John, portrayed by Samantha Smith and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Supernatural, wasn’t easy. “Because this is a legacy show, it was important to find actors that would care about that,” Danneel notes. Her husband agrees. “It was an asset that Drake and Meg had reverence for [Supernatural] and understood the gravity of stepping into those iconic roles.”

The spinoff, however, strays from the canon. John begins monster hunting right after he and Mary connect. In series lore, he was ignorant of the supernatural world until more than a decade later, only to become a hardened killer when he finds Mary, his wife and Sam and Dean’s mom, gruesomely murdered by the yellow-eyed demon Azazel (Fredric Lehne), the first major adversary of the mothership.

To be fair, inhabitants of both Heaven and Hell have meddled with timelines before in the franchise. “So, if you happen to have a character like Dean, who has the opportunity to go back and alter some things to see if it might work out a little bit better for his family,” muses Jensen, “what would that look like?”

Driven by a mysterious letter from his long-disappeared father Henry, John finds out his dad is presumed dead and that he was part of a secret society that monitored the supernatural, the Men of Letters. (Sound familiar, SPN fans?) Early in the hour, John battles a demon, learns magic is real and finds out Mary is a hunter — who is also seeking her missing father.

They hit the road and search for answers together, paralleling Sam and Dean’s trip three decades later. Against his mother Millie’s (Bianca Kajlich) wishes, John joins Mary — and later her hunter friends, the skilled Carlos Cervantez (Jonathan “JoJo” Fleites) and newbie Latika Desai (Nida Khurshid) — to find rare book dealer Ada Monroe (Demetria McKinney) in Texas.

Expect sparks between Mary and John, though the timing couldn’t be worse for romance. “Mary’s thinking, ‘When I find my dad, I’m done with hunting!’” Donnelly explains. “When she meets John and he’s getting into the hunting world, she’s torn.”

This is an abbreviated version of TV Guide Magazine’s The Winchesters cover story. For more on the Supernatural spinoff, pick up the issue, on newsstands Thursday, October 6.

The Winchesters, Series Premiere, Tuesday, October 11, 8/7c, The CW