Jensen Ackles’s Supernatural journey began and ended with a road trip.
Fifteen years ago Sam and Dean Winchester (played by Jared Padalecki and Ackles, respectively) began their drive across the country in a jet-black 1967 Chevy Impala, hunting monsters, demons, and, eventually, God himself. Ackles was 26 years old at the time (the same age as the James Dean–like figure he portrays on the CW series), single, and coming off a steady career on TV, including a popular role on Days of Our Lives.
The actor is now 42 years old and just finished filming the 15th and final season of Supernatural after the coronavirus pandemic shut down production for several months. To mark the occasion, he did what Dean would do: He took a road trip. But this time things looked a little different and not just because he lacked monster-killing weapons and the iconic Impala.
“It was a sprinter van,” he tells me, back at home in Austin, after driving to the East Coast with his wife, One Tree Hill actor Danneel Harris Ackles, and their three young children. And instead of fighting the forces of evil along the way, he questioned what life might look like without the show that's been a vital part of his identity for a decade and a half.
“I needed to get back home and start figuring things out and start unpacking my life that's been in Vancouver for 15 years,” he says. “What's the next move? Where am I headed next? What interviews am I going to do? Luckily, my wife was like, ‘Stop. Can you just take a breath for a minute and play with your kids on the beach?’”
So he did. But now he’s back, talking to me over Zoom with his new, prized commissioned drawing of Winchester brothers’ smashed-up Impala behind him (a gift from his wife by artist Alessandro Paglia), trying to put into words what it feels like to leave behind a 15-year legacy.
“How have you changed in the last 15 years?” he asks me. Well, I've watched a lot of Supernatural, to be honest.
Existentialism aside, Ackles is clearly ready for his next act, even if the show's massive, fervent fandom—known as the SPN Family—may not be. Back in March 2019, Ackles, Padalecki, and their costar Misha Collins devastated diehards when they announced they'd be ending the series on their own terms after more than 300 episodes. A bit of good news is that fans will still have the conventions that honor the show and cast meet-ups that take place all over the world. Eventually.
“I love how big it's gotten and how we feel like a traveling circus going from town to town,” Ackles says. “Obviously, we'll have to wait until we're all allowed to gather in large crowds again, but I think as soon as we can start going to concerts and festivals and movie theaters, we'll start those back.”
For now Ackles is preparing for his life beyond Dean Winchester, which includes his anticipated role as the first-ever superhero in season three of Amazon Prime Video's The Boys, as well as a new production company he's starting with his wife. He filled me in on all that, how the Supernatural finale changed due to COVID-19 restrictions, and, of course, how he got his hands on the iconic 1967 Chevy Impala—which he drove to Starbucks the morning of our call.
Glamour: I almost don’t know how to ask you how it feels to end a life-changing, 15-year project like Supernatural.
Jensen Ackles: I understand how rare it is and that it's a bit of a unicorn to have a show that runs this long and to be as intensely part of it as I have. I mean, you've got procedural dramas—you know, Law & Order and stuff—but a lot of those casts come and go. To have the same two leads in every single episode for 15 years, I think, is a pretty rare feat. So I'm proud that we did it. That was really the overwhelming feeling when we filmed our last day and our last scene. It wasn't a mourning process; it was more of a proud moment of “Look at what we've done.”
The finale of Supernatural was already planned before COVID hit. Did anything in the last two episodes have to change because of filming restrictions?
We had to drop some ideas we had for the final episode, but it didn't change the story. We were supposed to have a lot of familiar faces come back, and we were going to try to filter them into a montage. It was going to be almost a break from the story and a look at how far we've come—a little tip of the hat to the fans—and we would all be able to celebrate together. Obviously, we couldn't do that. So that part of the finale episode got nixed. But the story and how it ends up, that stayed the same.
You’ve been talking about wanting Dean’s Chevy Impala, Baby, for literally years now. Did you get it?
I've wanted it since the second episode. I was like, “Wait a second. What's going to happen to this car when it's over?” I've been angling to get that car since literally season one. I was thinking, Why wouldn't they give me the car?
Then as the years went on, I thought, Oh, I'm gonna have to fight for this now. So I kept seeing if I could put it in my contract, like for years and years, and the studio, the producers were like, “Don't worry, don't worry about it.” Wink. I was like, “Yeah, you say that now.” So, in my last contract that we had, I didn’t ask for a bigger trailer; I didn’t ask for more money or more time off or anything. I said, “I want the car.”
That car is sitting about 40 feet from me and my garage. I actually drove it to Starbucks this morning and picked up some coffee.
Your wife, Danneel, has been appearing on Supernatural since season 13. Do you two have any plans to continue acting together?
We've got a company now, Chaos Machine, and we're starting to produce things together. So it'll be a more of a producing team as opposed to an on-camera duo. That’s the thing with this industry...you never know where the roads may lead or what’s just around the corner. But she and I love that. And we certainly love a challenge.
You two already run a brewery, Family Business Beer Company, together while raising a seven-year-old and three-year-old twins. How do you work together as husband and wife versus as business partners?
Very similarly actually. Divide and conquer.
Speaking of behind-the-scenes roles...you’ve directed five episodes of Supernatural. Any plans to direct Jared Padalecki's new show, Walker?
I would absolutely love to, but with my new gig on The Boys, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to. We're trying to figure out scheduling.
They're in the midst right now of building my costume for The Boys, which is a custom-built superhero suit. That is way more intense than I anticipated, which is cool. But I have to literally be in L.A., like, every two weeks for the next three months. I think it's six fittings and they're each like three- to four-hour fittings. They're literally molding things to my body, so it's intense.
What will be on your playlist for you to listen to while they mold things to your body?
Actually, funny enough, that was the first thing they asked me. Laura Jean Shannon, the costume designer, she says this is important because every superhero [she’s worked on] has a type of music. So she was like, “What would Soldier Boy listen to?”
To be fair, the first time we see him, it's World War II. So we're talking the ’40s. So we listened to big band and swing the whole first day.
In addition to your new projects, you’ve also been posting a lot about Black Lives Matter this summer—from handing out supplies at a protest to giving over your social media accounts to Black activists and politicians. What have you learned?
Looking at my kids and being a father, I’m thinking, Wow, what kind of world are they gonna have? So I've started to listen a little more and I've started to want to understand other people's experiences so that I can make a better choice about the actions I take. I've gotten pushback—[in the past] even I've looked at actors using their platform to be political and been like, “You know, nobody needs to hear that. Just do your movies and do your show. You're not a politician.”
But I've now learned that, no, you've been given a platform now with social media. And even before that, when you would give an interview to a publication, there's a voice there that is yours and you get to choose how you use that. And I think that's a responsibility that people need to take seriously. So I’ve tried to do it as inclusively as possible.
Before I let you go, please tell me what fans can expect from the final episodes?
I've said a few times that the second-to-last episode really feels like the season finale and that the final episode feels like a series finale. The series finale, episode 20, is this beautiful throwback to the whole show—to what it was, what it has been, and what it is today.
Okay, one more! What’s the creepiest thing that’s happened to you on set, in honor of spooky season?
Anything that's kind of been paranormal or supernatural? I think that they stay away. If that stuff was to happen, it's not going to happen on our set because we've got too many tools to take them down.
If your lore is correct, that is...
Right? That's true. [Laughs.] Oh, it was pepper, not salt? Damn it!
Supernatural airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. E.T. on the CW. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Originally Appeared on Glamour