Creator Eric Kripke Discusses The Essential Supernatural: On the Road with Sam and Dean Winchester
How did this all come about, and how did you get involved with it? Was it your idea being that you did the foreword to the book?
Eric Kripke: I wish it was my idea, but it was not. We have been publishing a lot of Supernatural guides over the years, and it is something really for the fans. It is to really give them a behind-the-scenes look of how the show is made. The writer has been great with doing those over the years. It has been nice to have a real guide and history of the show for the fans and, frankly, for the people who are making it. It helps to remind us what the hell we been doing over the years. (laughter) The Essential Supernatural Guide is the next step up from what we been doing at this point. It really makes an all-inclusive collection of everything Supernatural, and it's done with a tender loving care for the graphics and production design. It’s a really stunning guide of what Supernatural has been. We are all really excited about it. So when they ask you to do the foreword--of course I immediately signed on. Supernatural will always be my first child, and I am just incredibly proud of it. It is a job that everyone has worked so hard on over the years.
How was it for you to kind of look back on the show, and did it give you a little perspective?
Eric Kripke: With more than anything, I look back now that I am out of the dealerish grind, stress and anxiety of Supernatural--of course I am in the dealerish grind, stress and anxiety of another show. I am kind of watching it with other crew and look back at the experience when it really began in 2005 when it premiered. I look back emotionally--much the same way you look back on old photos of friends and family. I look back with nostalgia and I really look back with pride. We created something very special, and we had the right mix of writers, producers, and studio executives. We were allowed to get away with things that I don't think I will ever be able to get away with again. I didn’t realize how much creative freedom we had until I had left. I was able to tell stories about God and whether or not there is one and the Devil and faith. We really touched on some issues and it was very satisfying for me. There was some very bizarre episodes we got away with and having a character named Eric Kripke getting blown away with a shotgun.
Was there somewhere you wanted to take the show from the very beginning? Did you go in knowing that this would be the ultimate destination?
Eric Kripke: No, I really didn't. We had a storyline, and I had a storyline in the back of my head. There is this kind of side to your plan that I had watching it that did eventually escalate to chasing the Devil and facing the Apocalypse. But I totally started out with more B-movie aspirations. I was really a fan of horror movies, and I would probably have just been happy with a gory show that was part Evil Dead and part American Werewolf in London. My goal was a combination of first and foremost partnering with Bob Singer, who is a much classier writer than me. I was very interested in putting characters first and to sell that we had some really rich characters here and kind of explore that. We did and explored that and found it was better than a straight horror movie. By the second season I handed out a mandate to the writers that we were putting characters first and monsters second. It took me a minute to learn that lesson and once we did we just started running with that ball. The deeper we dived into the characters, the more we told stories about religion and faith, free will and what happens when you're dreaming the right things for the wrong reasons and vice versa. It just really helped deepen the show and it's one of the reasons it stuck around so long. The fans realized that it was asking questions in a way that very few shows on television are.
You mentioned the Erik Kripke character, but which major character on the show has the most "you" in it?
Eric Kripke: I would say it would have been Chuck. Chuck has always been my surrogate on the show. He is a writer with a really low self-esteem and spends a lot of time working in his pajamas.
The characters have to overcome many obstacles between them; why do you think that is so appealing?
Eric Kripke: I think the answer is simple actually. I think it is that conflict is the basis of good drama, and there is more storyline in play when there is more static between them and they don't entirely trust each other and they're hiding things from each other. Then you can just unveil things throughout the season and get some strong punches. I always felt even when I was running the show that when they were in agreement all the time--it was never as interesting as when there was something real to have conflict over.
It was a stressful position to be in to have one brother that was chosen by angels and one that was chosen by Lucifer that was in the same family. The semantic of the show has always been that families overcome everything. And if the show ever had one message, it was that nothing is more important than the bonds of family and it's more important than even the bonds of Heaven and Hell. So we give them lots of obstacles, but I believe at the end of the day that Sam and Dean will always come together. Because in the world view and my own personal view there is no stronger force than family.
When you looked at the book or had a chance to look at it, did it bring back any memories of filming the show?
Eric Kripke: The short answer is yes. There is so much incredible artwork, and some of my favorite photos in the book are conceptual artwork. Not necessarily the stuff that made it into the show but just stuff put together of what the creatures would look like. That really brought me back because while we were producing the show and having arguments about what Bloody Mary should look like and what’s our inspiration for the Wendigo, the artwork that is in the book is really honestly the photos and images that we would have those debates over. It is very, very honest and genuine in terms of what went into producing this show and the material that we used to end up creating the show. That was very exciting. But beyond that, there are several awkward photos of me directing throughout the book and that brings back memories. There is no harder job than directing an episode of TV, and Supernatural is one of the hardest shows that anyone has ever directed. Those long hours and figuring out how to do the scene where he kills Ruby and Lucifer rises. We are on the beautiful church set and for some stupid reason I chose that particular time in my life to try to go on a diet. I thought that it was wise that I was working 16 hours a day that I should seriously limit my caloric intake. I got so dizzy on set that I thought I was going to pass out. That just always strikes me as funny that there is no way to demonstrate leadership to your crew than to faint in front of them. (laughter) I left my director chair and went to my trailer to try and get my head back and then spent the rest of the shoot eating Doritos.
In the book there is a massive list of weapons, monsters, angels, and demons. Is there a book and does someone keep track of that? Do you keep a record of the mythology of the show?
Eric Kripke: It is really challenging, but that job goes to our writers' assistant, who at this moment is Jenny Cline, but it has been several writers over the years as well as our script coordinator. One of the coordinators compiled the Bible, I guess it would be the Satanic Bible, of all the different monsters and creatures. It is remarkably hard to keep it all straight. Not just the monsters themselves but almost every particular creature has its own set of rules. And those rules have to be consistent. The show has been able to run as long as it has because of the complexity of the universe that we have traveled and created. We have had so much time to explore so many corners of it and have those creatures that we have had. It has been really exciting to see that history unfold and it feels like it's our very own universe.
The mythology and lore are so true to the preexisting mythologies that have been told since the beginning of time. Has a myth pitch every changed the course of a season or changed any of the directions in your ongoing characters?
Eric Kripke: Yeah, I am not sure I can name any specific instances. Every so often you want to map out your plot mythology but never so specifically that you can't let a story surprise you. You want to allow the type of action of the writer's room so that you have the ability to take a left turn. The biggest one in our world is I had a storyline plot mapped out that always involved Sam and Dean meeting demons and climbing up that ladder to eventually fighting Lucifer. I really hadn't considered Angels, for example, to the point where people would pitch me Angel episodes and I would say no to them. Then in between Season 3 and Season 4, we were all talking about it, and I realized we were missing another side of the coin. Then we introduce Cass as a season opener in Season 4 and that idea of introducing Angels become such a huge part of the show but was not initially part of the plan. It came about through a discussion that there was a missing piece and obviously changed the course of the show. If you want to go where you are going, then you need a plan where the audience feels that it is going somewhere. In the same respect, you don't want put it down so tight that you can't be surprised.
We were just grabbing mythology from every religion and source. We looked at the Book of Revelations in Season 5 quite a bit. We took the time to look at the Book of Revelations and some of the aspects came out of that and we sort of pushed that into our Supernatural storyline. I like to think that we are grabbing from everywhere and that we have a very expansive worldview in which every world religion, every mythology, and every legend is all true.
Is there any mythology that you would have loved to get into the show that you didn't get to?
Eric Kripke: I am trying to think if there was ever a story that we didn't get to do. I think I accomplished everything I set out to do in terms of the story I wanted to tell. The only thing that springs to mind is that right before the writers' strike is when I was pitched Ghostfacers. The writer came up with a guitar and wanted to pitch a reality show and said here is the theme song and then he played it. I was so excited; then 48 hours later they called the writers' strike and I was so scared for a lot of reasons--you didn't know if the show was going to come back, didn't know if you'd get the ratings, and didn't know if we'd work on any more episodes that season. Everything was so up in the air, and I remember feeling at that point like I really hope we get back to work this year if for no other reason than to make Ghostfacers.
How much longer do you think we have and how much longer did you envision the series going on?
Eric Kripke: I made the mistake very early in my career on Supernatural that I had a plan that ended the show after five years. Bob [Singer] and Sera [Gamble] had a very difficult task of rebooting the storyline and we learned our lesson from that point forward to not make that same mistake again. And to create a more durable mythology and keep going if we wanted. I know Jared and Jenson are on board and our feeling is that we are happy to keep the show going as long as the network will have us. We are in a nice position for design to keep going and keep exploring as long as the episodes are good and keep making different stories.
Have you been following the current season and how do you feel about where Jeremy Carver is taking it?
Eric Kripke: I have been following it and I think he is doing great. I am really pleased with Jeremy overall. I was pleased with the job Sera did and very proud of what Jeremy is doing. To follow along with the showrunner from Episode 1, which is Bob Singer--he really provides amazing continuity and is the unsung hero of the whole show. He deserves more credit than he gets in terms of the show from the very beginning. It is fun to watch them. It is like watching your child go off to college. I check in with advice whenever they will listen and am really proud of how Jeremy and Bob are growing the show and how the show itself has grown.
You can visit the official Supernatural website to learn more about the show, and make sure to pick up the new book The Essential Supernatural: On the Road with Sam and Dean Winchester, written by Nicholas Knight, which is now available from several major retailers.
The next episode, "Torn and Frayed," is set to air on January 16, 2013.
Haunted by the death of their parents in a mysterious supernatural conspiracy, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) hunt down demons, monsters, and otherworldly creatures lurking in darkness. This stunningly comprehensive coffee table book dissects all seven seasons of the thrilling show and looks ahead to Season Eight – with deep insights from extensive cast and crew interviews, beginning with a revealing foreword written by the show’s creator, Eric Kripke. The book is visually breathtaking, with candid behind-the-scenes photos, revelatory production art, and collectible pullout elements, such as postcards, stickers, photos, and a map that details the cross-country adventures of Sam and Dean. Take a comprehensive and exhaustively detailed look at the hit Warner Bros. and CW TV show from an insider's perspective. This deluxe coffee table book dissects the show season by season, state by state, tracing the Winchester brothers as they travel across the U.S. in their distinctive '67 Chevy Impala, hunting all things that go bump in the night while seeking ways to keep humanity safe from all sorts of otherworldly threats that killed their parents. Illustrated with behind-the-scenes photos, exclusive production art, posters, maps, blueprints, and other elements, and packed with exclusive cast and crew interviews, plus a foreword from the show's creator, this is the ultimate visual guide for Supernatural and its legions of fans.