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SUPERNATURAL: Richard Speight, Jr. Discusses Directing and Previews the Next Episode

Supernatural will take a trip back in time on Wednesday with “Just My Imagination.” Sam’s childhood imaginary friend Sully (guest star Nate Torrence) makes an appearance in the present day, and he’s not visible only to Sam—Dean can see Sully, too. The episode will dive into the past to explore Sam’s relationship with Sully and why he needed him. I’m already sensing there will be some tugging at heartstrings, and I’m guessing Richard Speight, Jr.’s work on the episode will help with that. Supernatural fans know Speight as Gabriel and the Trickster, but for this episode, he’s moved behind the camera to the director’s chair.

It’s Speight’s first time directing an episode of television. We talked to him about having that experience with the Supernatural crew, what the tone of the episode will be, whether the Darkness comes into the picture, and more.

Nerdist: How much fun was it that your first directing experience was with people you all know?

Richard Speight, Jr.: It was freaking awesome. It was an amazing experience. I’ve never done anything more exhausting or more rewarding. It was with a group of people that I have gotten to know over the years and with whom I’ve worked in a different capacity. To switch hats and team up with them to do something else within the same universe was nerve-wracking and fantastic at the same time. It was really a great experience. And they were just the most gracious and welcoming group of people. There’s a lot of talk about “When will Jared set your pants on fire?” or “What kind of pie will Jensen hit you in the face with?” It wasn’t would the boys prank me and make a mockery of my efforts, but when and how.

And you know what? It never happened. God bless the kids. They decided not to scuttle the ship, for which I was greatly, greatly appreciative. Maybe that was the most off-putting thing of all. Maybe that was the prank. The prank was the lack of pranks. Because I was so ready for them to do something–cut my seat in half so when I sat down I fell to the ground or burn my notes. All I know is I was thinking it was going to happen at any given moment, and it never happened. In fact, at one point Jared said, “You know, I feel like I should screw with you because so many people think that I’m going to.” And I facetiously replied, “Surprise them. Let’s not and say we did.”

N: Maybe they’ll just save it for the next time you direct.

RS: That sounds awesome/bite your tongue.

N: In the episode, Sam’s imaginary friend is coming back. What’s the tone of the episode like?

RS: It is sort of a two-tone episode, like a black-and-tan beer, because it has a lot of fun elements and a lot of humor infused in this plot surrounding his imaginary friend, who’s played brilliantly by Nate Torrence, a TV veteran of a million shows. At the same time, it’s very dear and heartfelt. We see young Sam and learn a little bit more about his life as a young guy on the road and see his relationship with this imaginary friend Sully. And then we see why those two reconnect as adults–or, at least Sam as an adult–and learn what situation has brought them back together and why, once again, in a unique but similar way, they once again need each other. It’s a really fun, funny episode, but it’s also very sweet and very moving to me.

So, I think people are in for a fun ride because it doesn’t just take one road and go barreling down it. It veers in and out of a lot of unique situations and also a lot tried-and-true elements that make Supernatural Supernatural.

N: I feel like no matter what happens in Supernatural, no matter what crazy things–and there are a lot of them–that when the emotion is there, that’s when it’s truest to itself.

RS: Absolutely. Those guys, Jared and Jensen, know how to land a plane. It doesn’t matter how far off course the story may go in terms of the overreaching mythology of a given season, they always manage to find solid ground to stand on and always bring it back to what the core elements of the show are–which I think is very impressive. Writers give them great work to play with. Jenny Klein just killed it on this script, and the boys knocked it out of the park.

N: Even though the episode is going to be focused on Sully and Sam, does the bigger plot of the Darkness come in or not so much?

RS: Oh, absolutely. I don’t think you can do a Supernatural episode without touching on that somehow. Now, that’s not the core of my episode, but it is threaded throughout what’s going on in the big picture and how it’s affecting the boys, both together and separately. So, absolutely that is in there and is addressed, and it’s definitely involved in the core plot as well–certainly in the way the characters relate to each other it is.

N: Given that this was your first experience directing a television episode, what would you say is the most surprising thing you learned from the experience?

RS: I’ve never done something more exhausting, and I mean that from the first day of prep. You are on, making tough decisions and designing your material and plan, and you just are on, on, on until the second you call wrap on your last night. You are constantly balancing on a ball. You’re using every muscle–every creative muscle you have, every leadership muscle, every decisive muscle you have the entire day you’re prepping and shooting. And that does include the weekends, because there’s no downtime on the weekends either. You’re just prepping for the next week. It was one of the most all-encompassing, exhausting things I’ve ever done.

That said, it was also the most rewarding. It was the most fantastic thing I’ve ever taken on. I just had a blast! I love that show. I love those people. I have for ten years. I love everybody involved. I just have a huge affection for that entire group. Because of the convention world, I have never not been attached to the show, so I consider them all very close friends. And the crew I consider to be some of the most talented people in the business because this is not my first rodeo. I’ve been on sets for 25 years, and these people are amazing. Watching them do their thing day in, day out at that high level was fantastic.

It’s a different animal when you go in to do your scene, because you’re worried about your scene and your moment and how you’re doing in that moment with your scene. When you’re directing, you’re worried about your episode. That’s a much bigger thing to be worried about than one thing. So, it’s all-encompassing, and it requires you to be on your A game the whole time, all the time. To be flanked by some of the best people in the television industry is a godsend. They made my first directing experience one that I will never forget.

“Just My Imagination” airs on December 2 at 9:00pm ET/PT on The CW.

Images: The CW

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